Jun 092014

Question by Deep Thought: A serious question for atheists about death (read details for question)?
We know the brain is made up matter and energy (our thoughts are made up of energy that can measured in the form of “brain waves”, and our brains emit electrical energy) This energy makes up our consciousness (at least I think most people can agree on that).

We know that energy is neither created or destroyed, but it is only changed from one state to another (see law of conservation of energy).

I have heard many atheists say that when we die we just die and we are gone. There is nothing of us left and no after life…our consciousness ceases to exist. So my question is this:

By what mechanics is a persons consciousness completely destroyed at death, and how do you “get around” the laws of conservation of energy?

Please note: I am not trying to convert anyone here, I am just curious if any of you have thought about this and reasoning.

Forgive if me if this question was already asked, I didn’t see it anywhere and maybe some didn’t get to answer it anyway.
Honestly, I just thought of this a half hour ago when I read someone’s question and it made me think about this.
Road Horse™ (Not To Be Cloned) – but in your answer you admit that it does go somewhere? Isn’t this a bit contradictory?
terafloo…interesting analogy, but we can retrieve data from a “broken” computer. Hmmm, I wonder if we’ll be able to retrieve thoughts from a “broken” brain someday ;-)
The Reverend Soleil – LOL..well serve me up and call me a pork chop :-)
Skepticat (UKB Operative) – so in a sense, we do continue on, even if we are worm food :-)
vic91106 – hmmm, I wonder if it would be possible to measure the amount of energy the system that makes of the body brings into it, and then measure the amount of energy expelled. That would be interesting to see.
vic91106 – I’m in agreement. For those who are saying the energy does convert, in that eventually we rot and then the worms eat us, transferring energy to them. I thought about that, and that sounds good, but doesn’t quite work. The worms, and microorganisms break down the matter that is left behind (no longer receiving energy), and convert that to energy. At the point of our death there appears to be a sudden drop in energy contained within our body/brains. As for computer analogies, they are decent analogies, but the problem is we are alive, the computer is a machine (like comparing apples to oranges). So now I’m left to ponder exactly what life is…evidence suggests it isn’t merely a material thing, and it is apparently related to energy (some of which appears to be electrical energy)…pretty darn fascinating. I’m glad I asked this question :-)

Best answer:

Answer by Dumpling
When you die the electrical charges in your brain cease to happen.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

  17 Responses to “A serious question for atheists about death (read details for question)?”

  1. The “energy” of your brain is the chemical reactions that occur. When you die those reactions cease, and you begin to decompose (a whole new reaction.)

  2. “By what mechanics is a persons consciousness completely destroyed at death, and how do you “get around” the laws of conservation of energy?”

    By the same mechanics your cellphone’s energy gets deployed or the heat in a hot dog escapes it…

  3. The neurons in our brain create thought, or consciousness. They decompose. Energy is released as heat or is consumed by whatever decomposes us when we die – the energy is not our consciousness. It is simply energy.

  4. “how do you “get around” the laws of conservation of energy?”

    You don’t. Every atom in your body moves on to do something else.

  5. Well, though the atoms that comprised our consciousness will continue to exist after our death, the exact configuration that allows them to make us a person will dissipate. Our consciousness relies on specific configurations of billions of neurons. As soon as those connections break down and our neurons stop firing because of lack of blood flow, it’s unrealistic to expect our consciousness to continue in any way.

    It’s similar to a computer. Just because of the conservation of mass and energy, we can’t expect the data on a damaged computer to continue to exist somewhere in “data heaven” or something.

  6. Our consciousness is a side effect of the electrochemical processes of the brain, fueled by our metabolisms.

    When you die, those cells are no longer receiving infusions of new energy from your metabolism, and those chemical reactions cease.

    Then the chemical bonds of the molecules making those brain cells begin to break down, and microorganisms begin to consume our bodies, using the energy in those chemical bonds to fuel their own metabolic processes.

  7. The brain isn’t a closed system. Energy is constantly being manufactured via metabolism and supplied to the brain and body. While we’re alive, that energy is constantly being used — converted, as you say, into electrical energy, or in the case of the body, mechanical energy. When metabolism stops, the brain and body uses up whatever energy it has left, and then stops. Out of gas.

  8. I would agree that mental energy is transformed at the time of and after death. However I do not agree that consciousness is attached to it. When I die, I loose awareness of self therefore there is nothing to distinguish, which inevitably means I rejoin the ALL through varied means.
    I do not see the merits in “heaven” or “hell” apart from emotional comfort or distress respectively.

  9. I’ve thought about this before too in my Christian days.

    Energy, properly defined, is the ability to do work. Energy is released from biochemical processes within the brain. If the brain decays, the matter left over will become worm food and so the energy will be transferred to worms. If the brain is burned as in cremation, it will be released. Either way, energy isn’t some unified thing that stores memories. It’s just simply the ability to do work and that ability is transferred to other places in nature.

  10. An excellent question.
    It hinges on whether or not consciousness is actually a form of energy or if it is a form of “work” in the sense that physics uses that term.

    Work, of course is not conserved, so that may be the key right there. Given the current scientific understanding of the subject, I can only conclude that consciousness is an effect or a “work” result of the energy used by the brain.

    Very interesting topic.

  11. The energy isn’t destroyed, it changes form into potential energy contained in decomposing biological tissue. However, the brain does not continue to emit electrical energy after the brain ceases functioning, and neurons do not continue to fire. Therefore, since consciousness is for all intents and purposes a result of brain activity, it ceases to exist at the moment that normal brain activity stops.

    By way of example, when I turn off my computer, the energy that was used to run my computer is not destroyed. However, that does not mean that Windows is still running programs on another plane of existence.

  12. The wisest man ever to set foot on this Earth has this to say…

    Ecclesiastes 9:5,10 (NIV) For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward* (*The grave is the final reward!), and even the memory of them is forgotten* (*Not true in all cases, but what the heck this is God’s word!). [10] WHATEVER your hand finds to do, DO IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT* (*without any restriction just be wise!), for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.

    Ecclesiastes 3:19 (NIV) Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is vanity.

    The writers of the Book of Job admitted the same destiny for humankind…

    Job 7:9 (NIV) As a cloud vanishes and is gone, so he who goes down to the grave does not return.


  13. The energy processed to help us store the information that we consider consciousness comes from ingestion of food, water and sunlight. When our bodies cease to process that matter and energy, we cease to process information, and the matter that makes up our brains converts to bio matter that is used by other living things.

    But there is no reason to think the memories and thoughts we save in our brains exist after the brain matter has been reprocessed.

    We can see this in Althimers when people have thier brains attacked by plaque. Anyone with a loved one with Althimers can attest that they turn into a new person as thier memories are lost. Thier behaviors change and they are not recognizeable, emotionally as the person they once were. This shows us that the ‘soul’ is corrupteable by physical properties, and that after we die, we cease to exist.

  14. Once you stop receiving oxygen to the brain, any ‘brain waves’ quickly dissipate as heat. It’s like a car running out of petrol – it might keep on rolling for a short while, but quickly comes to a halt.

  15. This question has always bugged me.
    I would love to believe that the “soul” or the “energy” in our body does get converted into something. But, I have no idea what. And I do know that their are no ghosts that roam this earth (at least I haven’t met one).
    But then, where does this energy go? Does it get converted into something else? Again, I don’t know.
    But I don’t agree with the dust to dust, ashes to ashes theory.

  16. the consciousnes is created by the interations of the brain. it is not merely the electricity or merelty thr nerve receptors but the thing that happens when these forces interact in certain ways. It interacts in ways even professionals don’t fully understand much less us. if you wish to look further into nero psychology or biology then by all means do so.

    energy can come go or change forms. it can disapte as heat as usually happens. We can look at the various atoms making our brain or body. They come and go, die off and become waste products. That atom will go else where and be part of something else. You have no experience of where your atoms, heat or electricity went.

    For example we die and rot in the ground, then all our parts and atoms get spread around. The maggots get some and some fertalizes the grass, maybe a vulture got a chunk before they found you. Now your atoms are spread out and part of nature, sounds romantic and nice. Which is fine but you have no experience of these events, you don’t see the field of grass you fed or crawl around with the maggots. You can’t think about it or reflect on things assumingly…. cause your brains gone, long gone. no eyes to see, nothing that makes you you any longer.

    So there is still philosophical debate as to what are we? what makes our consciousness? what makes a human human? It’s called the mind body problem i believe. Are we mind or are we body? what is the mind and consciousness? I don’t think it’s simply electricity or energy. there is electricity in my toaster. there is energy in a bullet but these are not conciousnesses nor do they have one.

    conservation of energy- so is to say that because energy is not destroyed a candle will burn forever or a nuclear explosion will stay always exploding.

  17. Another thing that we know about energy is that it dissipates when radiated. The electrical energy in our bodies ceases to be generated at death, and any residual energy is radiated away.

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