Instigator / Pro

There is no proof that death means no consciousness.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 5 votes and with 18 points ahead, the winner is...

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Three days
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Two weeks
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Contender / Con

Death: Body is no longer alive
Consciousness: Being aware of anything
Evidence: Scientific proof

Round 1
There is no evidence about anything after death. Scientists only assume eternal oblivion because they think it's the most possible, because they are known to not like 'unrealistic' answers.
Free Round
Round 2
You present your evidence against me.
One may wonder where the proof is of consciousness at all. Does Pro declare the Kritik that consciousness itself isn't proven in the first place?
Round 3
You didn't present evidence.
Pro has opted out of clarifying if he/she/they believes/believe that there is in fact a consciousness that is proven at all.

This leaves Con able to establish it.

Anaesthetics, dream/sleep analysis, MRI scans and much more rely or link heavily to our ability to scientifically ascertain whether or not a living being is conscious. The primary organ we measure to determine this is consistently the brain but based on heart rate and other clues, you can at least determine if someone is emotionally arouse in any way that would imply consciousness (which is the difference between a subconscious dream and pure unconscious stasis).

The proof we are conscious at all is solely physical, that includes even the sounds out of our mouth and movements we make to display consicousness on a so-called 'spiritual' level. There is not one iota of true proof/evidence one individiual can present to another that proves they are conscious other than that which is physical.

It is likely Pro will bring up anecdotes and anecdotal evidence, however, the biggest issue with that is that the only people we have ever got anecdotes from that imply there could be a 'light' or some kind of thing after death, not only can be explained to have experienced an illusion but themselves are still alive to tell the tale. In other words, for all we know that 'light' they saw and the experiences they had while nearing death were what one experiences to lose consiousness, it could be the real god saying 'goodbye' to their conscious 'soul' or whatever equivalent there may be.

We have absolutely no way of verifying the stories and again, every single person who can testify that there is consciousness after death are all still alive because they experienced near-death, not true death or else they'd be dead. It is even possible that what they are recalling was 'god/s' himself/herself/itself/theirselves rebuilding/healing their consciousness and shoving it back into their body, since it was deemed the wrong time to end it.


What concrete proof or genuine evidence at all is there that 'consciousness' occurs in animal beings?

When I say “I am conscious” I am stating that I can see objects distributed in space around me, that I can hear, smell and touch these objects and attend to different aspects of them. A report of a conscious experience can be spoken, written down, or expressed as a set of responses to yes/no questions—for example, when patients communicate by imagining playing tennis or walking around a house in an fMRI scanner (Monti et al., 2010)2. People can be asked to subjectively assess the clarity of their visual experience (Ramsøy and Overgaard, 2004), and their level of awareness of a stimulus can be extracted using indirect measures, such as post-decision wagering (Persaud et al., 2007)3.
When people are not explicitly reporting their consciousness they can still be considered to be conscious on the basis of their external behavior. For example, Shanahan (2010) has argued that enhanced flexibility in the face of novelty and the ability to inwardly execute a sequence of problem-solving steps are a sign of consciousness, and the Glasgow Coma Scale uses motor responsiveness, verbal performance and eye opening to measure the level of consciousness in patients (Teasdale and Jennett, 1974). An overview of some of the different techniques for measuring consciousness is given by Seth et al. (2008).

I will use “c-report” to designate any form of external behavior that is interpreted as a report about the level and/or contents of consciousness. This paper will primarily focus on verbal c-reporting, on the assumption that similar arguments can be applied to any form of behavioral report about consciousness. C-reporting will be interpreted in the fullest possible sense, so that every possible detail of a conscious experience that could be reported will be assumed to be reported.

One of the key problems with c-reporting is that it is hard to obtain accurate detailed descriptions of conscious states. Consciousness changes several times per second and it is altered by the act of c-reporting, so how can we describe it using natural language, which operates on a time scale of seconds? Shanahan (2010) has suggested that this problem could be addressed by resetting our consciousness, so that multiple probes can be run on a single fixed state (see section Platinum Standard Systems). People can also be trained to make more accurate reports about their consciousness (Lutz et al., 2002), and there has been a substantial amount of work on the use of interviews to help people describe their conscious states4. These problems have led to a debate about the extent to which we can generate accurate descriptions of our consciousness (Hurlburt and Schwitzgebel, 2007).
C-reports are typically transformed into natural language descriptions of a state of consciousness. However, natural language is not ideal for describing consciousness because it is context-dependent, ambiguous and it cannot be used to describe the experiences of non-human systems (Chrisley, 1995). It is also difficult to see how natural language descriptions could be incorporated into mathematical theories of consciousness. One way of addressing these problems would be to use a tightly structured formal language to describe consciousness (Gamez, 2006). Chrisley (1995) has made some suggestions about how consciousness can be described using robotic systems, although it is not clear to what extent these proposals could be play a role in a mathematical theory of consciousness.

Measurement of Unconscious Information (Uc-Reports)
The absence of a c-report about the level and/or contents of consciousness is typically taken as a sign that a person is unconscious or that a particular piece of information in the brain is unconscious. People can also make deliberate reports of unconscious mental content. For example, forced choice guessing is used in psychology experiments to measure unconscious mental content and visually guided reaching behavior in blindsight patients is interpreted as a sign that they have access to unconscious visual information. Galvanic skin responses can indicate that information is being processed unconsciously (Kotze and Moller, 1990) and priming effects can be used to determine if words are being processed unconsciously—for example, Merikle and Daneman (1996) played words to patients under general anesthesia and found that when they were awake they often completed word stems with words that they had heard unconsciously.
All of these types of unconscious reporting will be referred to as “uc-reports,” which are any form of positive or negative behavioral output that is interpreted as the absence of consciousness or the presence of unconscious information. While there will inevitably be gray areas between c-reports and uc-reports, it will be assumed that there are enough clear examples of both types to justify the distinction in this paper.
Other sources in the quote.

Let me explain what is written here. The ability to measure consciousness doesn't stop at the conscious beings themselves directly having their brains scanned, that is part of it. It includes behaviour and signs of brain activity that are strictly conscious. In an experiment on anaesthesia patients it was discovered that people unconsciously were taking in sounds, namely words, and involuntarily recalling it when asked later to complete words from stems of the first few letters of the words. It's possible there were coincidences as some people may simply think of words that the experimenter used, however, it is important to note what was just proven:

You can experience and not be conscious at the same time.

In general all spatiotemporal activity in the brain, other than emotions and dreams (though you're partially conscious during dreams), is conscious activity. The article and scientists themselves concede that we can't 100% determine if someone is magically experiencing something or not, however this debate is about proof and/or lack thereof regarding consciousness after death.

When we die truly then we are dead and can't be studied to prove we're still conscious (or at least our dead body's brain shows absolutely no signs of it), I don't mean 'die' and come back because of CPR and eletrically stimulated heart beats saving one's life but true death is where we don't come back.

I want you to imagine, for a second, being electrocuted to save your life. It is likely your body would surge to see a flashing light at several points during it and your brain would be too starved of oxygen and conscious (ironic, I know) activity to properly comprehend the situation. You may well think it's god you're seeing or a glimpse of the afterlife, you could be even partially dreaming a full on auditory and visiospatial hallucination (to be clear, it is actually normal to hallucinate inside of dreams, what's abnormal is experiencing it while moving around with your body or during awake states of mind).

When we discuss proof of there being no conscioussness, we first need to understand precisely what consciousness is to then discuss how we go about proving or disproving it. If there are both no direct MRI signs of consciousness and furthermore no 'c-report' signals (explained inside the quote) to imply the dead body has any consciousness, we then lack any and all proof that there is a remaining consciousness.

I presume Pro may bring up ghostly experiences and such phenomena, however this doesn't actually prove that there is a conscious being and furthermore it's only proof for the ghosts at best (but I do not concede or admit that). Ghosts would be an extreme exception to the rule surely, the rest had their consciousness 'pass on' to the abyss and are at peace, not existing or experiencing anything anymore (or so a scientist would conclude, based on the evidence).

I ask Pro to prove consciousness is real first, then we will understand how to prove it's not occuring (since all evidence for it will be lacking).

What signs is it that a dead body shows of consciousness? What signs are there that there is a conscious 'spirit' or 'soul' that still exists when the body has died? Where is this evidence? I wish to see it, in absence of it there is indeed 'no proof of consciousness' and thus there is conversely proof of a lack of consciousness by default.
Round 4
I shall reiterate the concepts:

  1. Pro must explain how consciousness at all is proven or alternatively has to take the stance that consciousness itself isn't proven at all, Pro has decided to take neither stance so Con in Round 3 had to fight both angles at once.
  2. When we analyse how to prove consciousness being present, we realise that dead bodies lack any and all signs of consciousness, which is de factor proof of lack-of-proof-of consciousness.
This basically sums up the entire debate.

How are we to conclude that the dead are conscious if the only ways we know to prove it are all absent in a dead body?
Round 5
I said that there is no proof. 
And yet there is, for if all signs if consciousness are absent, how then can one conclude anything other than lack of consciousness?