An online publication called The Express reported that physicist Sean Carroll claims to know what happens when we die as if it was some recent revelation, but it was actually old news. In this particular interview, Dr. Carroll said:
Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there’s no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die.
But in fact, several years earlier Dr. Carroll had appeared as part of “Atheist Q+A” on a podcast titled The Point With Ana Kasparian, and pretty much said the same thing.
Sean Carroll certainly talks a good game, boasting that reason and scientific evidence support his atheistic worldview. He has also asserted that the laws of physics support his contention that monism is true, which would mean that consciousness and the human brain had been proved to be inseparable. This would also mean that when our physical body dies, our consciousness would immediately cease to exist, as if a light switch had been flipped.
There’s a couple of little problems with his claim. For one thing, Dr. Carroll simply isn’t being honest when he submits a claim that no evidence exists which might contradict his current worldview, and that he would take such evidence seriously if it did.
Furthermore, he couldn’t be more wrong — and physicists should always keep in mind that “wrong” is not an absolute state, but remains subject to gradation.
Dr. Carroll failed to clarify in the Express interview that he wouldn’t actually look at any evidence which might conflict with his current beliefs, especially if said evidence allegedly conflicted with the so-called “laws of physics.”
In case you’re wondering how might I know what Dr. Carroll believes, the answer is pretty simple. Several years ago, I wrote and asked him.
After watching his performance on “Atheist Q+A”, I emailed Dr. Carroll to question his audacious claim that he knew what happens when we die. Specifically I asked Dr. Carroll if he was familiar with any of the more famous examples of corroborated veridical NDE information, such as the rather well-documented case involving Pam Reynolds.
Dr. Carroll’s polite but terse reply was something to the effect that he didn’t bother to investigate any phenomena which might contradict the so-called “known” laws of physics. In other words, Dr. Carroll doesn’t care that hard scientific evidence appears to completely destroy the arguments for monism by preemptively assuming that it isn’t possible for such evidence to exist.
However, Dr. Robert Spetzler, the surgeon who operated on Pam Reynolds, claimed that the unusual preparation of the patient for the standstill operation made it literally impossible for Pam to have overheard and later recall specific details of a conversation between two surgeons on her team by using her normal sense of hearing. Nor should she have been able to describe the equipment used in her surgery with uncanny accuracy, given the fact she was heavily sedated, with her eyes taped shut before the special equipment used for her surgery was ever removed from its packaging.
This seems to leave only two different possibilities as the most likely explanations of Pam’s alleged experience: either she truthfully and very accurately recounted details of an out-of-body experience in which she learned new information that could be easily corroborated using eyewitness testimony and medical records, or with her doctors Pam conspired to produce false evidence of dualism, as part of some bizarre, elaborate fraud.
“Other” explanations simply won’t work in Pam’s case. Hallucinations don’t include specific details that can be verified as true and accurate memories upon investigation. The rare condition known as anesthesia awareness doesn’t explain how Pam could hear in spite of clicking nodules secured in her ears for the purpose of drowning out any ambient noise. The specific details of actual events and descriptions of objects that Pam accurately recalled after her surgery could never be dismissed as lucky guesses.
All Dr. Carroll needs to do to prove his claim that the human mind ceases to exist when the physical brain no longer functions would be to compare the EEG record from Pam’s surgery with the other records from her surgery. If the EEG shows any sort of brain activity at the same time the conversation between the cardio-vascular surgeon and Dr. Spetzler took place, it would be a significant step toward confirming Dr. Carroll’s belief that Pam’s experience literally cannot be possible. Conversely, absence of brain activity at the time of the conversation would confirm that either supernatural phenomena or a very bizarre conspiracy was at work.
In either event, someone with Sean Carroll’s credentials should be able to investigate these claims to the same degree as Dr. Michael Sabom, but apparently Dr. Carroll is more committed to justifying his atheism than to seeking real truth.