Monday, February 10, 2014

Why the Concept of "Natural Afterlife" Is Nonsense (2)

If you ask a serious, decently informed person if s/he believes a perpetual motion machine is feasible, the person will likely respond: "Of course not! It's nonsense!" This shows the person may at least have had some basic exposure (maybe in high school physics) to the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  In a more advanced course, i.e. Calculus Physics taken in first year university, two statements express the 2nd law. They are:

(I) The Kelvin -Planck statement:

It is impossible to construct a heat engine, operating in a cycle, which produces no other effect than absorption of thermal energy from a hot reservoir and the performance of an equal amount of work.

II): The Clausius statement:

It is impossible to construct a cyclical machine that produces no other effect than to transfer heat continuously from one body to another at higher temperature.

These are often generalized in another form to read:

The entropy (degree of disorder of a system) increases in all natural processes

Thus, for example, gasoline once burnt in your car engine cannot be captured from the exhaust gases and used over again.. Also, any energy process will also have a large part of any energy produced coming off as unusable waste energy. There is no way, or any process that can deliver 100% usable energy.

In terms of biological -organic systems it means that death is the highest entropy state. This means that once one is dead he remains dead.  There are no "Lazarus-type" resurrections.  Once one's life is extinguished it remains so. In other words, if one adheres to the laws of the natural world there can be no personal afterlives, i.e. peculiar to the individual which are contingent on a lower entropic state (e.g. dream ideation or experience) that pre-existed the person's demise.

However, the supernaturalist doesn't adhere to physical- natural laws, so of course, he is at liberty to invent "afterlives" - even eternal, or "timeless ones".  No biggie. He can even invent "heaven" and "hell" plus "purgatory" - if he happens to be Catholic.

The point is, that unless one is a supernaturalist, he cannot invoke a timeless state contingent on a "dream state" condition that had to involve a particular energy regime associated with synapses in the brain. In other words, a "natural afterlife" which demands indefinite preservation of a synaptic state pre-brain death,  must be as much nonsense as perpetual motion machines.

Let's delve into this further.

According to Bryon Ehlmann,  a proponent of this "theory":

The natural afterlife is timeless. Again, it is the final moment of your NDE. It is like a paused movie scene and the feelings and memories you have at the exact point at which the movie was unknowingly paused. Since it is timeless, no further events happen within the dream. You, however, are never aware of this and that your dream was not just “paused,” but actually stopped since you too were “stopped.”

Now consider: He at once invokes the presumption this "natural afterlife" is timeless. But what must happen in terms of the 2nd law, i.e. to be "timeless"? The answer is that the entropy of the dream- sustained system - whatever it is-  must be zero. However, the natural afterlife proponents decline and indeed reject nonlocal consciousness (e.g. of the Stuart Hameroff or Bohmian type), which means they are hoist on their own petards.  This means they are left with explaining a "dream state" system they invented that has arrived from a higher entropy state to a lower one, something completely disallowed for closed systems. (Wherein the entropy must always increase, unless it can avail itself of external energy, i.e.  green plants in terms of sunlight).

Consider that in the instants preceding actual death, and possibly with an NDE in train, successive brain states evolve leading to one final state:

{s1, s2, s3, s4……………sn}   ®  Ã

Entanglement and increased entropy of neuronal states is dictated by:

ENT (Ã) = -Tr à ln Ã

Where Tr denotes the trace  (of diagonal elements)  of the  corresponding density matrix.

This means, using our model from the previous blog post, that synaptic function must begin to slow, i.e. as neural transmission and efficiency begins to recede. The person is headed toward a maximum entropic state as are the specific portions of the brain which create the ideations, dreams, thoughts a person has.

The entropy then will be the total aggregate of accessible states:

ENT(Ã) = ln Ã

Conservation of probability requires:

P/ t = / t (Tr(Ã)) = 0

In other words, the process must be one for which any change in the defined state  Ã   tends to zero , given there can be NO further entropy change. However, the natural afterlife bunch are asserting there is a change from what would be maximum entropy (at death) to a defined zero entropy ("timeless") state, post death, i.e. in their NED (never ending dream scenario). Hence, they are postulating a major contradiction of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

If one agrees that the synaptic cleft dimension (see last post) is scaled to allow application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (as Physicist Henry Stapp has shown, i.e. in his 'Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics') then it is feasible to obtain a rough estimate of the final energy state potential just before death. I.e. let us imagine the last workable synapse firing to generate an ideation. For this estimate we will allow a   time indeterminacy or:

2 τ = 2 x (10-34) s

Then using:
ΔE Δ t ³  h/2π

the calculated energy change (‘indeterminacy in energy’) is:

ΔE » (h/2π)/  Δ t


ΔE »  1.05 x 10-34 J-s/ (2 x (10-34) s) » 0.5 J

So one half joule is available - which means for the end state to be sustained this energy must also be sustained, e.g. in the alleged "timeless" state. This is roughly equal to the energy given off by a half-watt bulb (say in a small flashlight) for one second..

It is also useful to estimate how much information - as bits-  this amount of energy corresponds to. We already know that one bit has 0.693 kT of energy (in joules) where k is the Boltzmann constant and T is the ambient temperature. Then the number of bits would be:

N(bits) = (0.5 J) / (0.693kT)

Taking k = 1.38 x 10-23 J/K and T = 300 K (about typical room temperature), one obtains:

N(bits) = (0.5J) /  [(0.693 x 1.38 x 10-23 J/K) ( 300 K)]

N(bits) = 1.74 x 1020

This would be the total number of bits in the final ideation (dream state)  that would need to be sustained in the timeless state. (The only assumption made is that any given 'frozen'  dream image contains information, it cannot be content or information free, or it doesn't exist - especially to the person allegedly experiencing it.) Thus persistence of the dream image/content  cannot be done without energy, any more than a paused TV image can be sustained without electrical energy. But where is it coming from? The natural afterlifers reject non-local consciousness as even remotely possible, indeed they dismiss consciousness entirely! This leads one to believe they are making the error first identified by Prof. Daniel N. Robinson (op. cit., p. 6):

"The claim 'I am conscious of the rabbit in the garden' is different from the claim 'I know there is a rabbit in the garden'.  There is a difference between being conscious of and being conscious. The former is always subject to error. Being conscious or aware is to be the possible subject of an experience, the self."

He also expands on the  notion of self-reference, and takes to task those who believe it to be merely an epiphenomenon of the brain, by way of the 'Mary' problem. 

A bit of digression here: Central to discriminating opposing Materialist models of mind are qualia. The term refers to subjective properties perceived in the material world, including colors, shapes and sounds (music). Arguably, none of these have objective existence but are tied to our neural processing and mode of consciousness. The qualia problem is often also called the Mary problem since it presents a hypothetical character (“Mary”) who inhabits a black and white world, but knows everything about colors in physics terms. Still, though she knows what color signifies – a particular wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum – she has never experienced it.  The qualia problem helps to distinguish between what many call monistic physicalism and what I refer to as quantum physicalism. Monistic physicalism in its most rudimentary form can be summarized by Victor Stenger’s comment[1]:
It does not matter whether you are trying to measure a particle property or a wave property. You always measure particles. Here is the point that most people fail to understand: Quantum mechanics is just a statistical theory like statistical mechanics, fundamentally reducible to particle behavior
And the biggest contradiction to Stenger’s interpretation is[2]:
Although Y is a real field it does not show up immediately in the results of a ‘single measurement’, but only in the statistics of many such results. It is the de Broglie –Bohm variable X that shows up immediately each time.
In Stenger’s monistic physicalism, reality is structured around locality (predicated on particles), and quantum wave mechanics and its inherent potentiality never enters the field Y  to the extent of overturning particle dominance. In this way, emergence and holism are kept at bay. Conversely, J.S. Bell’s awareness of the hidden variable X enables quantum waves to supersede particles and in turn, demands the brain is treated as a quantum mechanical device.
On account of the latter position, physicist Henry Stapp has correctly noted[3]:
Brain processes involve chemical processes which must, in principle, be treated quantum mechanically. In particular, the transmission process occurring at a synaptic junction is apparently triggered by the capture of a small number of calcium ions at an appropriate release site. In a quantum mechanical treatment, the locations of these calcium ions must be treated quantum mechanically
 All of this means, again, that the only "natural afterlife" plausibly (albeit improbably) on offer or even remotely feasible based on physical laws, is the one described in the previous post to do with de Broglie waves.
Bryon Ehlmann writes:
  The natural afterlife is relative. Others know that you are dead and that your brain is no longer functioning and that your last dream—what would have been an NDE had you recovered—has ended, but you do not. For you, the NDE becomes an NED.
But this really says nothing, not anything a physicist can hang his hat on, i.e. in terms of energies available, entropy, neural thresholds etc. So whether the 'natural afterlife is relative" is roughly like whether one million angels can dance on the end of a pin, or one thousand.  Others "know you are dead" - ok, fine, but if they have sense they will have an EEG attached at the last instant to see if any mercurial action potential causes wave spikes that might indicate a final dream state. (Better yet, keep the EEG attached over time to see if any tiny wave forms re-appear  - after all a 0.5 J end state in stasis ought to be detectable electrically!)
Bottom line: a dream state or dream, final or not, must have energy to support it as I showed. It can't persist indefinitely in a metaphysical vacuum, following death,  no matter how many words (or clever analogies)  the natural afterlife crew churns out.  (See A.J. Ayers'  Language, Truth and Logic).  Those interested in seeing Ehlmann's detailed responses to an earlier blog post of mine on the after life can go to this link.
Then make your own decision!
 Ehlmann's comment in his link response,  that:

"The deBroglie wave afterlife is described using phrases such as “de Broglie waves,” “essential energy associated with the microtubules disperses out from the brain and becomes ‘entangled’ in a larger, undifferentiated whole,” “quantum coherence,” and “quantum wave states are stored in a multitude of microtubules” as well as by numerous mathematical equations. The complexity is enough to make one’s head spin!"

Is really irrelevant. He mixes up the use of precise language (which any serious person ought to strive to employ to avoid ambiguity), with constructs that others have invoked. Thus, the terms "de Broglie waves", "quantum coherence" and "entanglement" are all well known within the context (QM) in which they apply. Their use doesn't make for 'complexity' but rather exactitude in referencing and distinguishing elements of a hypothesis related to the underpinning physical theory - something Elhmann would do well to attend to more.

"Undifferentiated whole",  likewise, is merely another term (synonym) for quantum nonlocality - which again is basic to discussing anything to do with quantum mechanics. Since de Broglie waves encompass quantum mechanics, it is natural for this term to appear. That doesn't mean the basis is "complex", only that the person approaching it from a more generic (anecdotal) perspective hasn't adequately done his homework.

Where the complexity actually arises is in the use of "micro-tubules" (an added structure of the brain inside neurons) but which is really due to Hameroff and Penrose, not me. Technically, the de Broglie wave hypothesis requires no special additional structures since these decay anyway at the time of death - the only thing really left are wave forms, i.e. the  de Broglie  waves themselves.  NO unheard of violations of natural law are required here, unlike the violations of the entropy law by the NED team.

Ehlmann maintains he is a "skeptic" and he:  "will wait until (my)  theory of de Broglie waves is published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal".  Of course,  this is ridiculous. I make no claim to having a "theory" that is in any way significant enough to qualify to be published in a journal. I only offer the de Broglie wave hypothesis as a scientifically plausible, albeit improbable, explanation for a possible afterlife scenario.  I offered it as part of two blog posts-   because I maintain the 'natural afterlife' proposition of Ehlmann et al isn't plausible at all.

Let me also again clarify that my own POV is that death means the end of whatever had previously existed, including ALL formerly conscious states, ideations and any residual derivatives of them.  That means I implicitly accept the scientific world view of entropy as defining the "arrow of time" (at least in the classical realm) and that death means one has reached a maximum entropy condition. This maximum entropy automatically rules out any "timeless state" embodying any kind of ideation, or "dream" - since such state would have entropy zero.  Others can go along with the natural afterlife if it makes them feel better, but I believe they will only be fooling themselves.

[1] Stenger, God and the Folly of Faith, 155
[2] Bell,: Foundations of Physics, (12,) .989
[3] Stapp, H. op. cit., p. 152


Bryon Ehlmann said...

Again, just like in Copernicus’s previous post on Feb. 9 (see my related comment), he gets many things wrong in this post.

To begin with, the correct spelling of my name is “Bryon Ehlmann.”

And once again, Copernicus is “attacking a straw man”—his version of a “natural afterlife” (or at least his understanding of it) that is NOT the natural afterlife as presented in my articles.

Copernicus states:
“In other words, a ‘natural afterlife’ which demands indefinite preservation of a synaptic state pre-brain death, must be as much nonsense as perpetual motion machines.”

The natural afterlife DOES NOT demand an “indefinite preservation of a synaptic state pre-brain death,” certainly not in any physical sense whatsoever.

Copernicus goes on to state:

“However, the natural afterlife proponents decline and indeed reject nonlocal consciousness (e.g. of the Stuart Hameroff or Bohmian type), which means they are hoist on their own petards.”

I don’t know who these “natural afterlife proponents” are who “decline and indeed reject nonlocal consciousness.” Certainly, not me! In a recent comment to Copernicus’s post “More Afterlife Twaddle & Threats: Is There No End?” at, I stated “I cannot claim that the deBroglie wave afterlife isn’t real.”

By far the wisest statement made by Copernicus in this post is the following.

“Byron Ehlman [sic Bryon Ehlmann] writes:

‘The natural afterlife is relative. Others know that you are dead and that your brain is no longer functioning and that your last dream—what would have been an NDE had you recovered—has ended, but you do not. For you, the NDE becomes an NED.’

But this really says nothing, not anything a physicist can hang his hat on, i.e. in terms of energies available, entropy, neural thresholds etc.”

Yes, totally agree! So why in this post does Copernicus as a physicists try to “hang his hat on” physics in a vain attempt to argue that the natural afterlife is nonsense? Again, such arguments are nonsense in regards to the natural afterlife since it is timeless, delta(time) > 0, and doesn’t even physically exist after death.

Moreover, claiming as I do that the natural afterlife is relative to—i.e., only perceived by—the dying person is NOT arguing “roughly like whether one million angels can dance on the end of a pin, or one thousand” as Copernicus states. We all know that our dreams and hallucinations, and the last moments of such, are only relative to us.

Copernicus states:

“Bottom line: a dream state or dream, final or not, must have energy to support it as I showed. It can't persist indefinitely in a metaphysical vacuum, following death …”

My bottom line: the natural afterlife DOES NOT “persist indefinitely” in any physical way following death and thus needs no energy to support it!

Finally, Copernicus quotes me in his Addendum in regards to the complexity of the deBroglie wave afterlife. My quoted statement was made only in the context of arguing whether the deBroglie or the natural afterlife was more complex. I took “complex” to mean complex for most people to understand, even those scientifically inclined, not merely complex for physicists well-versed in quantum mechanics.

Copernicus said...

Ok, look, I take it back that the natural life is 'nonsense'. Obviously, I took the NED meme too literally. See my post today on 'Resolving the issue of the Natural Afterlife'.

Basically, as I show the NED model is no after life at all, since as you noted it inheres BEFORE death not after. Ergo, not an AFTER life.

Anyway, maybe we can finally concur on the subjective time aspect.

If not, then alas, this debate will have to end, and we shall have to agree to differ. You are clearly coming then from a Platonist-idealist stance and me from a Physicalist-Materialist one (which rejects images, perceptions, ideations can arise without energy.

Bryon Ehlmann said...

Oops! Correction: That's delta(time) = 0 in my previous comment.

Copernicus said...

"My quoted statement was made only in the context of arguing whether the deBroglie or the natural afterlife was more complex. I took “complex” to mean complex for most people to understand, even those scientifically inclined, not merely complex for physicists well-versed in quantum mechanics."

Fair enough, but my own interpretation - which I would argue is more consistent with the discussion - was in terms of Ockham's Razor. In other words, which hypothesis posits the fewer assumptions.

Once one removes the 'microtubules' assumption (which isn't needed, as I noted in the addendum) the de Broglie wave hypothesis becomes the simplest to account for a natural afterlife.

Indeed, following on from my post yesterday, it become the ONLY one - since you have conceded the NED- option isn't a true AFTER-life. It is merely based on a pre-death perception. Hence it can't qualify.

In this case, it *is* nonsense to assert it IS an afterlife or a sound afterlife hypothesis when it is only a facsimile of one.

Again, when I use the term AFTER life, I mean literally the entity persists AFTER life, i.e. in a post death state. I don't attempt to 'square the circle' logically (as the NED'ers or NALs seem to do) by conflating a pre--death perception with a true AFTER life.

On this basis, I'm afraid this exhange will have to rest, though I have proposed a device - subjective time - that makes your NED model easier to accept, at least as an ersatz afterlife!

Copernicus said...

Btw, when I wrote that the NED'ers "reject non-local consciousness" I didn't mean the de Broglie wave hypothesis. I meant the existence of consciousness beyond and apart from the body, or brain.

Given QM validates nonlocality, then by extension this would apply to human consciousness as well. This is what I meant, which I believe you did say you reject. Hence, in that sense you accept reductionism or that no more consciousness is manifest than that the actual molecules and biochemistry of the brain can support - and that while a human lives the manifestation of consciousness arises as an epiphenomenon of the brain.

Bryon Ehlmann said...

I am not one to reject any possibility when I have no concrete evidence or logical argument to refute it. Thus, I do not reject "the existence of consciousness beyond and apart from the body, or brain." I would only argue (and have) that such non-local consciousness is not generally accepted and well-established science.

Copernicus said...

Bryon Ehlmann wrote:

"I would only argue (and have) that such non-local consciousness is not generally accepted and well-established science. "

Well, cosmic strings aren't 'well-established science' either - but the math for them is still used consistently in cosmology.

But in the case of NLC I'd suggest that whether or not the science is 'well established' depends on who you ask, and also the basis for the experiments.

For example, Dr. Robert G. Jahn showed how student participants in his lab at Princeton Univ. could (telekinetically) disturb random number generators on computers, as published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. (Vol. 1, No. 1).

The empirical data is certainly compelling, based on firm QM, and is at least as scientifically sound as my assorted papers showing the existence of SID flares on the Sun.

In this respect, perception is relative, as I guess it also is in your 'natural afterlife' thesis.

Copernicus said...

I should add that the best theoretical explication for nonlocal consciousness was articulated by David Bohm ('Wholeness and the Implicate Order') what he referred to as the 'Holomovement'.

This was done by positing a hyper-dimensional reality (e.g. 5- dimensional) in which mind was enfolded as part of an "implicate order". To enable a unified mental field within this higher dimensionality, Bohm appealed to "hidden variables" obeying Heisenberg relations such that:

Heisenberg relations such that:

(delta p)(delta q) > h/ 2π

where p, q denote two hidden variables underlying a sub-quantal scale uncertainty relation. From this (leaving out lots of details) he developed an agent to assist in the nonlocal action of distal variables, and called it the "quantum potential", defined:

V_Q = h(f' - f), where h is Planck's constant.

On average, the greater the number of possible states, the greater the difference (f' - f) and the greater the quantum potential.(See, e.g. the illustration of the computation for such a potential for a pair of Gaussian slits, from Bohm, D. and Hiley, B.J.: Foundations of Physics, Vol. 12, No. 10, p. 1001)

Bohm's hypothesis also makes much more sense than many others, i.e. to account for the (1982) twin-photon Aspect experiment. While some have tried to explain that nonlocality as arising from 'superluminal' signal propagation, Bohm's higher dimensional implicate order treats in a natural way,i.e.

We aren't seeing a photon's information "move faster than light", but rather are seeing a SINGLE photon already connected in a higher dimensionality. This also affords the best explanation for nonlocal consciousness.

(delta p)(delta q) > h/ 2π

Copernicus said...

Excuse the last Heisenberg relation in the previous comment which somehow crept in!

Unknown said...

Copernicus, what do you care what someone believes or doesn't. For as much good you scientists do for humanity, you have done equally if not more worse for humanity.

Copernicus said...

FYI, I don't really care what a person believes or doesn't. However, I reserve the right (based on free speech) to comment, criticize any such beliefs - whether natural afterlife, denying global warming, accepting a flat Earth - or whatever. Call it part of my remit being education. At the same time I don't see what this has to do with your claim of "doing equally worse for humanity". Such as what? Be more specific if you can. Also, when you address this bear in mind that many of the "horrors" claimed to be from science (such as in weapons) were actually originally taken out of the scientific context by militarists who then devised technologies that debased and perverted the original discoveries. That some scientists may have then engaged in such ill-conceived and detrimental projects (like the Manhattan project) is undeniable but that doesn't give anyone license to generalize the way you have done.