Friday, August 12, 2005

Zombie Canines

Zombie Dogs are being created by mad scientists at Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research:

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.
Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.
The animals are considered scientifically dead, as they stop breathing and have no heartbeat or brain activity.
But three hours later, their blood is replaced and the zombie dogs are brought back to life with an electric shock.

I have already made an argument that if the afterlife exists for humans, then it exists for all life forms. Not all afterlife-belief systems accept non-human species as going to the afterlife, and I will address this in a moment. But for now, let's accept this assumption and assume that if an afterlife exists, then it does for dogs as well as humans.

At this moment, we have two possible explanations for these dogs' reanimation and their afterlives:

1. The dog's soul leaves the body to the afterlife realm upon clinical death, and then instantly travels back into the dog's body once the heart and body functions are restarted via electric shock.

2. The soul is not a separate component of the dog, but merely the combination of physical processes of the body, and the body's processes can be stopped and revived many hours after clinical death, provided that the body's cells do not suffer too much damage. In other words, everything is purely material and there is no afterlife.

Which proposition makes more sense? Presuming that "souls" are immaterial and thus not able to be observed or measured (a popular pro-afterlife argument), it would be impossible to prove either proposition to be wrong, because the immaterial-ness of the soul would make both propositions unfalsifiable.

How can we choose between these two propositions when a soul's immaterial properties make both propositions unfalsifiable? Two words: Occam's Razor. Occam's Razor states that given a set of equally possible options, the simplest one is the best one. Clearly, proposition #2 is the simpler one. It involves less layers of complexity and less entities.

While afterlife-believers insist on immaterial souls, thinking that it helps their argument, we find that it actually harms their argument. By using the immaterial soul argument, we make both propositions unfalsifiable in terms of material observation, and when both propositions are unfalsifiable, we must use Occam's Razor to arrive at the simpler proposition: That there is no separate soul component which can leave the body upon suspension of body functions and then return upon restarting of those functions.

Now, many afterlife-believers will argue that only humans have an afterlife, or that only humans have souls which survive bodily death. Besides the obvious problems with this argument (which I brought up in my Reducibility in Life Forms and the Afterlife blog entry), there is also the problem that the Safar Centre plans to test this on humans within a year.

What happens if the human experiences the same results as the dog? What if the human dies for a few hours and then comes back to life upon restarting of the heart? Maybe the human will report going to heaven or some other afterlife realm for a few hours. Maybe not. But wouldn't the same arguments and propositions that I mentioned with the dogs still apply to the humans? Wouldn't Occam's Razor still be applicable? I believe it would.

What I would like to see is that they test this on many humans. They should test it on a handful of afterlife-believers, and a handful of non-afterlife-believers. Would they all report the same dreams? Would only the afterlife-believers report an out of body experience? Of course, I suspect that there would be no dreams reported, because to be clinically dead, brain functions must cease. And being a non-afterlife-believer myself, I believe that if there are no electro-chemical functions occurring in the brain, then there are no dreams or memories occurring either. But that's just me.

I really want to see some humans go through this. I want to see both pro-afterlife and anti-afterlife humans go through it and report on their experiences, if any, during their clinical death period. At any rate, the anti-afterlife camp is currently leading in this race, thanks to a wonderful little tool known as Occam's Razor.


Anonymous said...

So ,did the study say the dogs exhibited the same behaviors that they did before they had died, after they were reanimated?

That is the main problem I see with bringing back a person from the dead. The brain would deteriorate rapidly without oxygen. Would the revived person's brain be mostly intact? I guess that's what they are after.

That is why, at present, cryogenics is unreliable. The freezing harms the brain's neural connections. Reanimation would be useless until a way to prevent this is discovered.

CADman904 said...

Did you read the article? There was a salt solution that was introduced into the blood stream as the blood was removed. The solution causes the body to go into a state of hypothermia. Basically the body becomes an "organ bank." All tissues are left intact - no harm done but the dogs, or soon to be people, they are clinically dead. That's why this is such an interesting finding.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Unfortunately, I don't think the experiment on humans would work out the way you're hoping. Discover magazine had a really good article recently about the science behind near death experiences. It's worth a read. Unfortunately, it's premium content, so you'll have to pay for it or go to the library. Basically, it says that there are physical causes of NDE and that these experiences cause fundamental changes in the areas of the brain involved in religious feeling. Your proposed experiment could end up turning non-believers into believers.

Francois Tremblay said...

If zombie humans are made, then wouldn't that prove the Voodoo religion is the right religion, and Christianity is wrong ? ;)

Aaron Kinney said...

Thanx for the article I Am. Im gonna have to pick up a paper copy of that. Maybe I could use that info about NDEs in relation to these zombie experiments if and when they ever test it on humans.

If we can get a human clinically dead for three or more hours, I wonder if the human would be able to account for that time when he was revived? I wonder if there would be a way to track brain changes in relation to the NDE phenomenon?

Theres gotta be a way somehow to show that its all in their heads.

Anonymous said...

Occam's Razor is a completely heuristic tool that gives right answers only slightly more often that it gives wrong ones. It is used only as a tool to determine which hypothesis to test first, not to determine what is true and what is false. Occam's Razor gives different solutions based on different amounts of knowledge on the subject, and even different imaginations of the investigator. For instance, you stated that there are only two possibilities that would account for the data in the resuscitation experiment. Untrue.

3. The dog's immaterial soul remains in the body upon clinical death, and is unaffected. The soul remains trapped in the body indefinitely.

4. The soul remains in the body upon clinical death up until a point where the material body is incapable of resuscitation. At that point, the immaterial soul leaves the body for an afterlife in another spot.

5. Dogs do not have a soul (your argument to the contraty being inconclusive at best).

Your attempts at disproving the afterlife are as fruitless as the apologists' attempts at proving the existence of God. I tend to agree with you that an afterlife is highly improbable, but to state that I know for a fact that it does not exist would require an act of faith, which I am not good at.