Episode 20 The Big Questions


Episode 20

Nicky Campbell presents a special edition of The Big Questions asking just one question - is there life after death?


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Transcript


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Today on The Big Questions, life after death.

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APPLAUSE

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Good morning. I'm Nicky Campbell. Welcome to The Big Questions.

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We're back at Shelfield Community Academy in Walsall

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to debate one very big question - is there life after death?

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Welcome, everybody, to The Big Questions this morning!

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Now, this week, the blockbuster American film, Heaven Is For Real,

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was released over here.

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It is based on the true story of a four-year-old boy, Colton Burpo,

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who survived a near-death experience during emergency surgery.

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The child later described to his parents how he had visited Heaven,

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sat on the knee of Jesus, patted his multicoloured horse

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and caught sight of Mary, John the Baptist and Satan.

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But Colton also knew about things that had happened at home

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when he was struggling for life and this convinced his pastor father

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that his son had gone to Heaven and watched over them all -

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he had experienced life after death.

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Well, to debate whether life after death is possible,

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we have assembled theologians from several faiths,

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people who have heard from dead people and dead animals,

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experts on death, psychologists, sceptics, atheists

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and former believers. You can join in, too,

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via Twitter or online. Just log on to...

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..and follow the links, to where you can continue the discussion online.

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There will be lots of encouragement and contributions

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from our very lively Walsall audience. Is there life

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after death?

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Dr Conor Cunningham,

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theology and philosophy, University of Nottingham.

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Let us talk about the soul, first of all.

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There you are. What's a soul?

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A soul is not what we tend to think, certainly in the Christian tradition,

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where we think of it as something I've got in my pocket, like a wallet,

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and it floats off to Florida -

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read "heaven". Rather, it is the very possibility of the body, at all.

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So, for someone like St Thomas Aquinas,

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the soul is the form of the body. That is how you recognise something -

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a giraffe, a tomato, a collar... Different.

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And that is how we live our entire social lives.

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That is why we think someone killed someone, because they killed

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someone who had a form - a soul.

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It is actually... It's the Nicky soul...

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..not the collar soul.

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-We are different.

-It's a body, isn't it?

-You may have been a giraffe!

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It's body. Your body. Your corporeal form, as they put it.

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Yeah. And the point here, I mean - I shouldn't jump ahead -

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but you do not have... Cos we think

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of the soul as being something spiritual. It's not, at all.

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Erm...the soul is the possibility of any body, whatsoever.

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There aren't any bodies without a soul.

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It just happens that ours has a nature which is subsistent,

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which means, by that, that its rationality, its ability

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to think...

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to write, from Origin of Species

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to...whatever...King Lear,

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it has the ability to transcend its corporeality.

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And this is one thing that people must remember,

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and Aquinas said this quite clearly, St Thomas Aquinas, said,

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"The body is there to ennoble the soul",

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whereas we, in Western culture, tend to think that the soul is there

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-to ennoble the body.

-Right.

-The body enables the soul to be.

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So what about - and more and more scientists are acknowledging this -

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what about the cognitive, the more sentient species,

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the ones closest to us - bonobos, chimpanzees -

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but also extraordinary elephants? Their own self-awareness,

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their own cognition, their sense of self, their ability with,

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you know, to plan ahead, episodic memory.

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-Absolutely.

-So...

-Sorry.

-Are we unique or not?

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We are unique, but uniqueness has to be very careful.

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Anyone who wins the Premier League - Man City -

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is still part of a league, yeah? They are still part of a league.

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Just so we are unique, we might win the Premier League,

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but it doesn't mean we're not the same players playing the same game.

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We're still playing football. Right down at the bottom -

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-QPR have just got up yesterday.

-So, what, are QPR dogs or something?

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No, no!

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-But it's...

-So, it's, kind of, a league table?

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Yeah, it's like, I would say, it's like a Jewish thinker said,

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"What we have forgotten is that, from evolution, we are connected

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"to other animals."

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-And everyone thought, "Boo!"...

-OK, so, it's...

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..like it's a bad thing, but, no, it's not.

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-Because it means they're connected to us.

-So, everything has a soul,

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but humans have a slightly elevated form of soul.

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So, at what stage in our journey from tree-dwelling apes

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to bipedal hunter-gatherers

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did we go "Woosh! Right, there you go, you've got a special soul."

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-At what stage?

-Well...

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Was it homo erectus, was it homo ergaster, what was it?

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Well, anthropologically, we all came from Africa, obviously,

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early Africa paradigms.

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And then when we got to Europe, we all went,

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"Hey, let's have a cappuccino,"

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and suddenly there was a massive burst

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in our cerebral potential, so sort of 40,000 years ago.

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-So, it was a gradual thing?

-It was massive.

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-So the soul didn't appear all of a sudden?

-No.

-It gradually appeared.

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Chris French, does this make any sense to you whatsoever?

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Well, I mean, in general terms, the idea that we've evolved

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from simpler species, perfect sense, absolutely.

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That's biological fact.

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But that does raise that whole question of, for those people,

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and there are many of them, I don't think we've got one here,

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but there are many people who believe that humans

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are the only species with a soul,

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then obviously evolution is a problem.

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Because when did souls suddenly come into being?

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I mean, did they come along with the opposable thumb, or what?

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How did it work?

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And I mean, again, in terms of whether or not we have souls,

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it all depends on how you define it.

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For a lot of people,

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and again, I don't think we've got an example here,

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but for a lot of people, the soul is essentially

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kind of consciousness, but in some way it survives bodily death.

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Now, I don't have any problem at all in accepting that we all have

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consciousness, and I think we are a long way from understanding

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exactly how consciousness arose and how it worked, etc cetera.

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But the idea that we have an immortal soul, a consciousness

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that survives bodily death, then I've got big problems with that.

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We've got a... Consciousness?

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You see, this is the point I disagree with.

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Because I think if we are going to be...

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We think of the supernatural as something extra special.

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It's up here, it's the Florida holiday you always wanted,

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the Willy Wonka ticket that you get to go the Chocolate Factory,

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the gold ticket.

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Then the natural is just here, like the floor, the shoes,

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like toenails and stuff.

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But the point is that any good atheist, philosopher or scientist

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will tell you, there isn't any consciousness.

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It's not, it's a life after death.

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The big, big, big debate, is there life before death?

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And I would argue...

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-No, no. It's not a near-death experience...

-I'm going with it.

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It's mere life experience we want.

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And I think that consciousness is completely wiped out

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without a theological framework, a metaphysical framework.

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Chris, there are 10 billion neurons in our brain,

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and they're connected. Through the neurotransmitters

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they have a thousand connections, each of them.

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-I mean, it's mind-boggling how the mind boggles, isn't it?

-Absolutely.

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Is that consciousness?

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-I mean, again...

-In there?

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The nature of consciousness is something that philosophers

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have debated for centuries, and they still argue about it.

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It's referred to in philosophy as the hard problem.

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How could it be that subjective self-awareness can arise?

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-Something that seems to be, whether it is or not...

-Transcendent?

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..something different to this physical body, this physical brain.

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How can one arise from the other?

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It's called the hard problem in philosophy for a good reason,

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because nobody's solved it yet.

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And I personally don't think that a theological framework

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-actually helps us very match.

-Reverend...

-Sorry...

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-I will be back, I will be back.

-It's David Chalmers who coined

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-the hard problem.

-The hard problem.

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Let's spread the love. Sorry. Reverend Dr Andrew Pinson.

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The hard problem, solve it for us.

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Because you know the complexity of the brain,

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it could be one of those God of the Gaps things.

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Something we just do not yet understand.

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I'll just agree with Dr Cunningham about this idea of the soul.

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Originally, it meant organising principle,

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or living principle, animating principle.

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We use the same word for the word animal, in fact.

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And the Ancient Greeks saw is a great difference

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between the matter that's is dead, and the matter that is living.

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Even though the matter is almost exactly the same,

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the animating principle is not there in the case of the dead being.

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But what the Greeks also suggested is that human souls are different,

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because we have the ability to step outside the flow of time.

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We have the ability to understand ideas, concepts, abstractions,

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numbers, and so on.

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And so there must be something rather special about the human soul.

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So even before consideration in Christian theology,

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for example, people in ancient Greece were already thinking

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that there must be something immortal about this special kind

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of human soul. And just to add about the uniqueness...

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Can I just refer you, before you do that, to Chris's previous point?

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At what stage in the ascent of man

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and our progress to become bipedal apes and the primates we are now,

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the very bright primates, did we get this soul?

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I think there is a fallacy here,

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because people sometimes think with complex systems

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that you change the inputs continuously

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and you've got a change of output that is continuous.

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But imagine another situation.

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Imagine if you raised the Earth's temperature.

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Suddenly the Gulf Stream might switch off, for example.

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Something like that might happen with complex systems like living

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systems. You have a certain number of changes accumulated.

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If suddenly you get a change of state, like a phase,

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like ice melting or something, and the capacity human beings have

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seem to be different in kind, not just in degree.

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So Chesterton said, a bird builds a nest.

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It doesn't build a nest in the Gothic style.

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We don't see ants building statues of famous ants.

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But what about the more self-aware animals?

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There's extraordinary scientific work...

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There are certainly animals...

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It's interesting you cite the example of elephants.

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-We think elephants can point.

-They grieve.

-Very sophisticated.

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Grieve, perhaps, yes.

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Certainly, some animals seem to get towards some of these capacities.

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But nevertheless, what human beings do seems to be different in degree.

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-Killing each other by the million.

-Good and bad.

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-But there's an explosion of potential.

-Chris French.

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I think it is that question of, it's a matter of degree.

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We're talking about a kind of continuum here.

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And so the notion that you either do have consciousness or you don't,

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or you do have a soul or you don't, I think is a fallacy.

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It's an emergent problem. And so therefore to say...

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In terms of all the things you mentioned there, counting, planning,

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all these other things, even language, debatably,

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animals do demonstrate these things.

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We're realising more and more about the cognitive ability of animals.

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And there's nothing you can really point to that says,

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this is something that only humans have got. It's a fallacy.

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-Jackie, you speak to animals, don't you?

-Absolutely.

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-Spoke to me earlier!

-I'm just amazed

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that people can think that only humans have cognitive thinking,

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only humans have the soul, have emotions

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-and that we should be above...

-Scientists no longer say that.

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-But we're talking about the soul. You believe animals have souls?

-Yes.

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-You say you communicate with animals.

-Absolutely.

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But we're talking about how they think, and as Chris was saying,

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they can do absolutely amazing things. Same with elephants.

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They can travel for miles.

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There was a story about a man who'd died and saved some elephants.

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They tracked and found his grave and stood there,

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-and that was all recorded.

-Lawrence Anthony.

-Yeah.

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And they do absolutely amazing things.

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And it's beyond my understanding to think that people think

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that they are like robots, or they just do because they do.

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They are on the same level, but unique. They are different.

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An animal is an animal, but they think

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-and do amazing things as an animal.

-What do they say to you?

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Oh, they have problems. It's like horses. Horses get problems.

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So, therefore, if you think of it, a horse, it's a big animal.

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If they didn't want us to ride them and compete and jump and stuff,

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they can just say no. And some do.

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So, they have problems.

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When we talk to an animal, they can actually understand what we say,

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and sometimes there's problems where they don't understand.

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They have misconceptions about things, the same as children do.

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And then you'll get, say,

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an animal that's been abused by somebody, and people will know this,

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animals get seriously abused and yet they go to another home

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and with love and care people can actually turn that animal round.

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And not just to be, "Oh, I'll have a biscuit."

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Look at the cat the other day that attacked a dog to save that child.

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-That just shows...

-Well, empathy is more and more observed, isn't it?

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But have you talked to dead animals?

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-Absolutely. This is basically... I think...

-Some people will scoff.

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Oh, absolutely. But this, to me, our bodies are just the energy.

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And if I can talk about the energy field, NASA invented a machine

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to measure auras, and so therefore they are measuring our energy field.

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It's been done.

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A man had a leg amputated, it still showed up in his picture.

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This is our soul, our core.

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So when we leave this physical body, then yes, they go to spirit.

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And I don't just...

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There's lots of people that do my job, you talk to them,

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you tell them stuff, the owners know about their animals.

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I wouldn't know the animals, but I can tell them stuff

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that that animal shared with them when they were living.

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-You look a bit sceptical, Chris.

-I'm looking very sceptical indeed.

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-I'm sorry, Jackie.

-No, no bother at all.

-Even more so.

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Would you be as sceptical with any other belief system?

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Whether they spoke about virgin births, or resurrections...

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-Personally, yes.

-..on night flights to wherever?

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Are you equally sceptical?

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-Are you equivalently sceptical of all?

-Yeah.

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-So no religion would exist then?

-Are you an equal-opportunities sceptic?

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Exactly, yeah. I'm an atheist, so, you know.

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The thing is, we get a lot of these kind of claims.

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As far as I am aware, and please do send me the details

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if I'm wrong, Jackie, NASA have not got a machine that measures auras.

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-They have.

-There are lots of claims related to these kind of things,

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like Kirlian photography et cetera.

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It can all be explained in terms of conventional physics and chemistry.

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But these are claims that we can actually put to the test,

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-and indeed, I spend a lot of my time...

-Falsifiable.

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The idea that Jackie can actually read animals' minds,

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we could put that to the test.

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I've tested lots of psychics with lots of claims,

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under properly controlled conditions,

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-and they don't seem to be able to do what they think they can do.

-Jackie?

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It's interesting. You use the word supernatural, OK?

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It is supernatural. Super, as in very natural. But it's like exams.

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That's true.

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Somebody goes for an exam and they can be cracking at school, but you

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put them in an exam, under pressure, and it's like, this is harder.

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And I know you say that.

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But why don't you say, just follow, say, 10 psychics' work,

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follow what they do.

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I've changed animals that were going to be put to sleep and stuff.

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Can I take you back to what we're discussing,

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which is the basic point that,

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you are actually theoretically in agreement, because

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if there is such a thing as a soul, you are closer to Jackie's position.

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You are saying if there is a soul, animals have one.

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I wouldn't deny animal consciousness.

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Again, it depends how you want to define the soul.

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Personally, I don't find it a very useful concept,

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and I certainly don't believe in the immortality of souls.

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-Let's get the Muslim perspective. Good morning, sir.

-Good morning.

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A cardiologist. And also an Imam. Mr Hamed, isn't it?

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-Dr Hamed, yes.

-Dr Hamed, I do beg your pardon.

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What is a soul, and where do the souls come from?

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I am commenting on the soul in Islamic belief, which is part

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of the monotheism, believing in one God, is that it is part of God.

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Now, animals do have souls, but they are different from humans.

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That is why in the Koran there is a verse,

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"We dignified the human beings."

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So, human beings have been dignified by God to have the willing

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to do things.

0:16:430:16:45

Unlike other souls, which... You can communicate with them, you can feel

0:16:450:16:48

that your animal, whether it is a horse or a camel or whatever,

0:16:480:16:51

feels your emotion. That is different.

0:16:510:16:54

But the soul of human beings is quite different, and there is a

0:16:540:16:57

difference, also from conceptive matters, in between brain and mind.

0:16:570:17:01

And that is what the philosophy talks about.

0:17:010:17:04

There is quite a difference between that.

0:17:040:17:06

All animals have brains, but they don't have a mind.

0:17:060:17:09

See, this is the...

0:17:090:17:11

There are animals, you will appreciate that there are animals

0:17:110:17:13

which have cognition, and also, they think, some have mental cognition.

0:17:130:17:17

-They have.

-They not only know they are an animal,

0:17:170:17:19

-they

-know

-they know they are an animal, which is metacognition.

0:17:190:17:21

There are animals with self-awareness. It's a spectrum.

0:17:210:17:24

-You think it's animals, and it's us.

-Yeah. As I'm saying,

0:17:240:17:30

-their cognition is different from the cognition of human beings.

-That's what you believe.

0:17:300:17:34

Scientists may disagree with you, but that's what you believe,

0:17:340:17:36

and that's fine. What about souls? Where do they come from,

0:17:360:17:39

and how are they handed out?

0:17:390:17:41

From an Islamic perspective, it all comes from God.

0:17:410:17:43

And usually the human being created as a small flash

0:17:430:17:46

in the womb of the woman.

0:17:460:17:49

And then, after a certain period, usually around 120 days...

0:17:490:17:52

-Do the souls pre-exist?

-The souls pre-exist from God.

0:17:520:17:56

Everything God created and is there, but it will come to that body,

0:17:560:18:00

to that flesh at that time, at 120 days.

0:18:000:18:03

Where are the souls right now that have not yet come to flesh

0:18:030:18:06

and come to bodies? Where are they now? Are they in a special place?

0:18:060:18:10

There's a very special saying... HE SPEAKS IN ARABIC

0:18:100:18:14

The translation is that God takes our oath from before we existed,

0:18:140:18:19

that you recognise that there is one God,

0:18:190:18:22

and that the place of mercy to everything, to the whole universe.

0:18:220:18:27

And then everybody accepted that.

0:18:270:18:28

That's why we all, whether you are humanists, atheists,

0:18:280:18:32

at certain times, when the plane crashes

0:18:320:18:34

or when someone has a difficulty or has a divorce,

0:18:340:18:36

then we all come back to our source of love, God.

0:18:360:18:40

Whether we believe in it before or not, that will come.

0:18:400:18:44

-Again, Chris, you're looking agitated.

-I know, I don't agree.

0:18:440:18:48

There is this statement, "No atheists in foxholes".

0:18:480:18:51

It's just not true.

0:18:510:18:52

I know lots of atheists and humanists who've gone through

0:18:520:18:55

very difficult times and they don't resort to praying to God.

0:18:550:18:58

They just don't believe there is such a thing.

0:18:580:19:00

Deborah, I'm so sorry not to have come to you sooner.

0:19:000:19:02

Because I see you've been moving around in your seat.

0:19:020:19:05

You want to come in. So, the soul.

0:19:050:19:08

Is there anything more, anything greater,

0:19:080:19:10

anything that transcends the sum of the parts of the neurons

0:19:100:19:14

and axons and dendrites and neurotransmitters?

0:19:140:19:17

I think the first thing we've got from what we've got so far is that

0:19:170:19:20

you've got to start with your definitions very, very carefully.

0:19:200:19:23

And the colloquial definition of a soul starts with a personality

0:19:230:19:27

and a character, a consciousness, and something

0:19:270:19:30

that can last after death.

0:19:300:19:32

So that's a very colloquial definition.

0:19:320:19:34

And it's not the definition that Conor started with.

0:19:340:19:37

So, if you are going to believe in something like that,

0:19:370:19:40

it's frankly quite hard.

0:19:400:19:42

We'd all like to. I mean, I'm a total atheist,

0:19:420:19:44

but I would like to, why wouldn't I want to last?

0:19:440:19:47

I just don't think that the evidence is particularly compelling.

0:19:470:19:50

But Mark Twain said something like, "I was dead for billions of years

0:19:500:19:55

"before I was born and it didn't trouble me in the slightest."

0:19:550:19:58

Absolutely. That's the thing, it's just an in-built preference of ours.

0:19:580:20:02

It's the way we look at the world.

0:20:020:20:03

It must be the single hardest thing to escape,

0:20:030:20:06

the thought that we have our perspective.

0:20:060:20:08

You know, this is me looking at things and interpreting things

0:20:080:20:11

and talking to you.

0:20:110:20:12

It's very difficult to imagine this without me

0:20:120:20:14

as a witness in the middle of it. And I think that's the failure.

0:20:140:20:18

Let's get a Buddhist perspective on this from the Venerable Choesang.

0:20:180:20:23

-Good morning.

-Good morning.

0:20:230:20:25

A senior nun of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

0:20:250:20:30

-Good to have you here.

-Thank you.

0:20:300:20:33

-For you, the soul is on a journey, isn't it? Through many lives?

-Yes.

0:20:330:20:37

We don't refer to it as a soul, although I would use that

0:20:370:20:41

when I'm talking within a Western society.

0:20:410:20:43

We talk about it being an essence of mind,

0:20:430:20:46

and that essence of mind is what's released from the body on death

0:20:460:20:49

and goes forward to the next life.

0:20:490:20:52

So all sentient beings have an essence of mind,

0:20:520:20:54

and that essence of mind grows with a cognitive ability,

0:20:540:20:58

depending on what type of animal they are.

0:20:580:21:02

So, you wouldn't go from an insect to a human, perhaps, but once

0:21:020:21:06

you've been a human you probably wouldn't go back to being an insect.

0:21:060:21:09

Although you could travel backwards a little,

0:21:090:21:11

depending on what you're going to be.

0:21:110:21:13

So we see all sentient beings as being very precious,

0:21:130:21:17

that they all have that essence of mind.

0:21:170:21:19

And the Tibetans actually studied for over a thousand years the mind,

0:21:190:21:22

rather than the reaction with the body,

0:21:220:21:25

and came up with the fact that mind is everywhere.

0:21:250:21:29

It's in every cell of your body.

0:21:290:21:30

And scientists now are actually proving that one.

0:21:300:21:33

And so the brain is just like the motherboard

0:21:330:21:36

that puts the thought into action.

0:21:360:21:40

But your essence of mind is throughout your body.

0:21:400:21:43

And it gathers at the point of death, and then

0:21:430:21:46

leaves your body at some point after the heart has stopped beating.

0:21:460:21:49

And you believe that what we are now is dictated

0:21:490:21:52

-by what we have done previously in a previous life?

-Yes.

0:21:520:21:56

-And earlier in this life.

-What about your own situation?

0:21:560:21:59

-Because you have had illness in your life.

-Yes.

0:21:590:22:02

Have you considered why that was?

0:22:020:22:05

Yes, it really helped me to understand, actually.

0:22:050:22:07

Because rather than be thinking that somebody out there

0:22:070:22:10

defined how my life was going to be, to understand Buddhism

0:22:100:22:13

and realise that I was in control of my life,

0:22:130:22:16

and the fact that I was born with a disability,

0:22:160:22:19

and I have met mothers that have been born with a disability,

0:22:190:22:22

knowing it comes from a previous karma is actually much more

0:22:220:22:25

acceptable than that there is a God figure out there defining

0:22:250:22:29

-that that is going to be my life.

-Was it your fault?

0:22:290:22:33

No, it's just the culmination of a previous life.

0:22:330:22:36

So I'm no longer responsible for how I behaved in a previous life,

0:22:360:22:40

-but at that time I was responsible.

-Right, OK. So are you a changed...?

0:22:400:22:46

Are you a changed essence of person, or essence of human?

0:22:460:22:50

But you're the same essence?

0:22:500:22:52

Yes, your main propensities will go forward.

0:22:520:22:55

You see some children, they'll be only 18 months old

0:22:550:22:58

and they'll go stamping on animals and they are always angry.

0:22:580:23:01

And then you get others that want to mother everything,

0:23:010:23:04

and you see babies that are born with the wisdom of ages.

0:23:040:23:07

So you see this essence of mind that's come forward

0:23:070:23:09

-from a previous life.

-Deborah?

0:23:090:23:12

I think there's a couple of things there.

0:23:120:23:15

First of all, we can end up imbruing other people's characters,

0:23:150:23:18

especially when they are very tiny, with specific characteristics,

0:23:180:23:21

and bringing those things out.

0:23:210:23:23

And however you choose to find the comfort in your own life

0:23:230:23:26

is of course your own business.

0:23:260:23:29

But the belief in predestination, sorry, in karma and reincarnation

0:23:290:23:34

and things like that, can sometimes be downright offensive.

0:23:340:23:37

I have a friend who has very, very bad cerebral palsy. She's an atheist.

0:23:370:23:43

But she has family members who are Hindu,

0:23:430:23:47

and they believe in some way she has deserved this. They think it's OK.

0:23:470:23:51

And they don't want to listen to her whining.

0:23:510:23:54

Yes, we wouldn't use words like, you deserve it.

0:23:540:23:57

-It's a culmination of previous karma.

-Have you got any idea?

0:23:570:24:02

Is it possible to get any inkling, any glimpse, of previous life?

0:24:020:24:09

-Can you find out?

-Yes.

0:24:090:24:11

When you become more of a senior practitioner,

0:24:110:24:14

-your past lives do start bouncing in.

-Have yours bounced in?

0:24:140:24:17

We all see this, don't we? You have a deja vu moment.

0:24:170:24:20

And we say that's because you've recognised a place,

0:24:200:24:22

or you've recognised a person from a previous life.

0:24:220:24:25

And yes, they do start coming. Not in order.

0:24:250:24:27

They just come bouncing through when you are in your other practice.

0:24:270:24:31

Lots of bits of evidence are put forward by people

0:24:310:24:35

who believe in reincarnation, deja vu would be one example.

0:24:350:24:38

Apparently retrieving past lives through hypnotic regression,

0:24:380:24:42

all kinds of other things.

0:24:420:24:44

All of these can be explained much more plausibly with a lot of evidence

0:24:440:24:47

to support it in terms of what we know

0:24:470:24:49

about science and human psychology.

0:24:490:24:52

Are you telling us that when you see someone and you think,

0:24:520:24:55

"I've seen this person before, I know this person from somewhere,"

0:24:550:24:58

it's not because you knew them in a previous life?

0:24:580:25:00

I'm saying exactly that, yes. I mean, we know, for example,

0:25:000:25:04

that what's happening in the temporal lobes of the brain can sometimes

0:25:040:25:08

give you that feeling of deja vu,

0:25:080:25:11

that feeling that you recognise that person, even though you don't.

0:25:110:25:14

And certainly with respect to memories of past lives,

0:25:140:25:17

there's absolutely no doubt at all in my mind that we are dealing

0:25:170:25:20

with false memories there.

0:25:200:25:21

They may feel very real, but they're actually not.

0:25:210:25:24

I want to come to you in a second, but...

0:25:240:25:25

I've actually investigated two young children that have come out

0:25:250:25:28

with previous lives that they've had,

0:25:280:25:30

which no way they could have had that information.

0:25:300:25:32

What was the information?

0:25:320:25:34

One was that he was a water carrier in India,

0:25:340:25:36

and he explained about his bicycle and how his legs became bent, and

0:25:360:25:39

he explained what the carrier looked like, and what his village was like.

0:25:390:25:43

He was four years old.

0:25:430:25:45

And then another one was, even at two and a half,

0:25:450:25:48

this little girl was talking football to her father,

0:25:480:25:50

and maintained that she could drive a car.

0:25:500:25:52

And she'd crashed her previous car.

0:25:520:25:54

And what glimpses have you had into your previous lives,

0:25:540:25:58

since you're quite spiritually advanced?

0:25:580:26:01

I've come up with some previous lives, and one of them,

0:26:010:26:03

in particular Tibetan life,

0:26:030:26:05

has actually been proven by the high Lamas.

0:26:050:26:08

But it's not something we actually discuss openly with people,

0:26:080:26:12

-just within our own groups.

-But it's interesting to get a sense of it.

0:26:120:26:17

Gail, Gail Millington. Morning.

0:26:170:26:20

You're a past life regression therapist.

0:26:200:26:23

-So this part of our conversation is absolutely for you.

-Yes, absolutely!

0:26:230:26:30

And your husband, I believe,

0:26:300:26:32

-you've been married to him in previous lives as well?

-Yes.

0:26:320:26:35

-CONOR:

-So was I.

-So were you what?

-I was married to him as well!

0:26:350:26:38

That's quite a revelation!

0:26:390:26:41

I think it's quite easy to be very flippant about this.

0:26:410:26:44

-Yeah, Conor. Put it back in your box.

-Sorry!

0:26:440:26:46

So how do you know that you knew him before, in previous lives?

0:26:460:26:49

Four times, I believe. How do you know that?

0:26:490:26:52

Well, because of being regressed myself.

0:26:520:26:54

And I think that,

0:26:550:26:57

certainly with doing regressions with other people, as well,

0:26:570:27:00

I mean I'm not in total agreement with what the previous speaker

0:27:000:27:05

mentioned in terms of karma, because I believe that we...

0:27:050:27:10

There's nobody that judges us other than ourselves

0:27:100:27:12

when we pass over to the other side.

0:27:120:27:14

And that we decide when we reincarnate what lessons

0:27:140:27:19

we want to learn from the forthcoming incarnation.

0:27:190:27:24

So my concept of the soul would be the immortal essence

0:27:240:27:30

that goes from one incarnation to another.

0:27:300:27:33

It's not that far away from what the Venerable Choesang was saying.

0:27:330:27:36

No, it isn't too far away.

0:27:360:27:38

But I don't believe that it's for... That it's karmic,

0:27:380:27:42

why the lady has found herself in ill health.

0:27:420:27:47

I think that she has chosen that to enable her to do what she does now.

0:27:470:27:53

She's been brought to this point in time,

0:27:530:27:55

and perhaps doing what she does in terms of her Buddhist belief,

0:27:550:27:58

as a result of the disability.

0:27:580:28:01

I'll come back to what Venerable Choesang was saying

0:28:010:28:03

in a second - just to explore this a little bit more -

0:28:030:28:05

What were you in a previous life?

0:28:050:28:07

Were you sometimes a man, and was your husband a woman?

0:28:070:28:10

Most of the time it was as it is at the moment.

0:28:100:28:13

-But it has been different?

-There has been differences.

0:28:130:28:16

But, yes, times as a Shaman, various other scenarios.

0:28:160:28:22

But are you the same person? You were a Shaman, were you?

0:28:220:28:25

Yes, in one life.

0:28:250:28:26

Are you the same person as the person who was a Shaman?

0:28:260:28:29

-When was this?

-No, that was a soul progression. The soul progresses.

0:28:290:28:34

The same soul, but not the same person?

0:28:340:28:36

-Absolutely not the same person.

-When were you a Shaman?

0:28:360:28:38

-Hundreds of years ago.

-Hundreds of years ago, yeah.

0:28:380:28:41

Do you know when specifically?

0:28:410:28:42

-I can't remember when it was, to be honest.

-No.

0:28:420:28:44

But it was hundreds of years ago. But there's no linear time.

0:28:440:28:48

When you are doing regressions, you can go back

0:28:480:28:51

to any particular life that's going to help you specifically

0:28:510:28:55

in your current life now, so you don't go back to a specific...

0:28:550:28:59

I believe it's the higher self that chooses the life that you need

0:28:590:29:04

to go back to which is going to be most beneficial to help you now.

0:29:040:29:07

-Deborah?

-For what it's worth, and I can assure you it isn't worth a lot,

0:29:070:29:10

I'm a qualified hypnotherapist.

0:29:100:29:12

A quick course while I had nothing else to do. And it was fascinating.

0:29:120:29:17

It's good for anxiety, that's about all.

0:29:170:29:19

And one of the most amazing things about hypnosis is just how it really

0:29:190:29:23

frees your imagination. If you can let yourself go with it,

0:29:230:29:26

you can come up with the most amazing things.

0:29:260:29:29

And you can come up with something that's historically plausible,

0:29:290:29:32

like you were a Viking raider, or you can come up with something

0:29:320:29:35

completely bizarre, that you were on an alien spacecraft.

0:29:350:29:37

So that, by itself, having a peculiar experience under

0:29:370:29:41

a hypnotic trance is not at all bizarre.

0:29:410:29:44

-It's totally predictable.

-What you typically find

0:29:440:29:46

is that the stories that people typically come up with,

0:29:460:29:49

the narratives, and they've got all the images in their heads

0:29:490:29:52

-that make it seems very real...

-So, it's sincere.

-Totally sincere.

0:29:520:29:55

But it corresponds to the Hollywood version of life in Ancient Rome,

0:29:550:30:00

or wherever it may be. It's not the historically accurate version.

0:30:000:30:04

It's fantasy.

0:30:040:30:06

There is an awful lot of supporting evidence that's been done

0:30:060:30:10

specifically by Dr Ian Stevenson, for example,

0:30:100:30:14

where he has actually researched

0:30:140:30:17

quite specific cases of reincarnation.

0:30:170:30:22

And nobody is going to give you absolutely concrete proof

0:30:230:30:27

that this is the case, but there is a growing raft of evidence.

0:30:270:30:30

-You have communicated with, or been in the presence of people who have spoken to dead people?

-Absolutely.

0:30:300:30:35

-What are they saying? What are the dead people saying? What's the message?

-It varies.

0:30:350:30:39

It's very specific to the person concerned.

0:30:390:30:43

There isn't a general message. It's very specific for a specific person.

0:30:430:30:49

Right. We're going to talk about life after death soon.

0:30:490:30:52

But is there an unpleasant place and a pleasant place,

0:30:520:30:55

or is it all fine after?

0:30:550:30:57

No, I don't believe there is such a place as hell.

0:30:570:30:59

So, it's all kind of... Jackie, what's it like?

0:31:010:31:04

What are the dogs telling you?

0:31:040:31:07

To me, it's just your energy is free,

0:31:070:31:10

and yes, we do get some visual stuff,

0:31:100:31:12

but what I would say is, talking about a general message...

0:31:120:31:15

It's like you hadn't seen somebody for say, 20 years,

0:31:150:31:19

and somebody goes, "Here, have a phone, talk to them."

0:31:190:31:22

OK, the information you have to work out, but at the end of the day,

0:31:220:31:24

they will tell you stuff about you, about them, things you shared,

0:31:240:31:28

and that is where evidence comes in.

0:31:280:31:31

Rather than just, "They say hi."

0:31:310:31:33

Manoher, good morning. So what about the...

0:31:330:31:37

Does anything chime with you about the journey of the soul

0:31:370:31:40

that you have heard so far?

0:31:400:31:42

Not entirely.

0:31:430:31:45

I mean, my biggest question really would be, given that we

0:31:450:31:50

can map memories to brain function and stuff,

0:31:500:31:54

so it's a very physical thing, I'd be curious, as well as language,

0:31:540:31:58

communication and stuff, I'd be curious as to know exactly

0:31:580:32:02

how something that was immaterial had memory.

0:32:020:32:05

And also, could communicate.

0:32:050:32:08

That would be my biggest question about any of this.

0:32:080:32:11

What is the Sikh belief about the journey of the soul?

0:32:110:32:14

-Are you a believer?

-Am I a believer? I'm very much a religious person.

0:32:140:32:21

But however, the assumptions would be that all religions are set up

0:32:210:32:26

in the same way with their beliefs. So there is something physical,

0:32:260:32:30

and then there is something non-physical - that is the soul.

0:32:300:32:33

And that a soul then migrates and carries karma and stuff.

0:32:330:32:37

This is the impression that people generally have of Eastern religions.

0:32:370:32:41

I think the place to start with Sikhism would be that you start

0:32:410:32:46

with a closed system, and make the assumption that everything

0:32:460:32:49

is divine, whether it's material or immaterial.

0:32:490:32:52

And that anything that is living, given that everything is divine,

0:32:530:32:58

there is no soul to be moved on from here to there or anywhere else.

0:32:580:33:02

There are cycles of birth and death, we know that.

0:33:020:33:05

There are multiple types of existence,

0:33:050:33:07

multiple types of animals and plants that have evolved over time.

0:33:070:33:10

So that isn't problematic.

0:33:100:33:12

What is more interesting from a Sikh perspective is, what any theory

0:33:130:33:17

you have about the soul or consciousness,

0:33:170:33:20

what it does ethically.

0:33:200:33:22

So, if you make the assumption that one type of animal has

0:33:220:33:27

a more elevated soul or consciousness than another,

0:33:270:33:30

does that then lead you to behave differently towards that animal?

0:33:300:33:35

Well, there used to be views, didn't there, in previous times,

0:33:350:33:38

-that one race had a superior type of soul to another.

-Indeed.

0:33:380:33:42

So there is a kind of a road to hell on that one, isn't there?

0:33:420:33:46

Any thoughts from the audience, while we're on souls?

0:33:460:33:49

Right on the centre. While we're on souls.

0:33:490:33:52

I find it quite interesting, the indestructible aspect

0:33:520:33:55

of the soul, is it in the brain, is it in the mind?

0:33:550:33:58

People who have had brain injuries, it's also affected their mind.

0:33:580:34:01

Is it in the heart? Say if somebody has had a heart attack or

0:34:010:34:03

heart transplant, does that mean their soul has moved on as well?

0:34:030:34:06

So I think we have to be very careful,

0:34:060:34:08

and concepts such as karma and rebirth can be quite offensive

0:34:080:34:12

for many people who have been oppressed for generations.

0:34:120:34:15

Political elites that have used them,

0:34:150:34:17

and said, actually, you are in the state that you are,

0:34:170:34:19

you are suffering, because of what you've done in the past.

0:34:190:34:21

-You have to be careful.

-Thank you.

0:34:210:34:23

-Gentleman just back there, hello.

-It was Phineas P Gage who,

0:34:230:34:27

a while ago in the 19th century, there was a rock mining accident

0:34:270:34:30

and a pipe went through his head

0:34:300:34:32

and it destroyed most of his left frontal lobe.

0:34:320:34:34

This changed his personality,

0:34:340:34:36

and people who thought before he was a nice, kind person,

0:34:360:34:39

found that he was aggressive and mean to people.

0:34:390:34:42

Surely this takes away from the fact that the soul

0:34:420:34:45

-is what is your personality.

-It's biochemistry.

0:34:450:34:48

It's backed by biochemistry, yeah. What about life after death?

0:34:480:34:52

-Andrew Pinsent, what happens? Is there such thing as hell?

-OK.

0:34:520:34:57

I think the best way of describing it,

0:34:570:35:00

CS Lewis summed it up in just one short phrase. He said,

0:35:000:35:02

"In this life we write the title page of what we are to be in eternity."

0:35:020:35:07

One thing a Christian and atheist would agree about,

0:35:090:35:12

when we leave this life we cease to change.

0:35:120:35:15

That becomes the pattern of our eternity.

0:35:150:35:17

As to whether or not we have another life or not, I think

0:35:170:35:21

we really have to draw for the most part on revelation.

0:35:210:35:25

Of course, as a Christian,

0:35:250:35:27

there's all kinds of additional information on this.

0:35:270:35:29

The continuity of the personality of Christ, the resurrection,

0:35:290:35:34

that he knows his friends.

0:35:340:35:38

You've also got the sense of a life, ultimately, an embodied life,

0:35:380:35:42

actually, ultimately an embodied life.

0:35:420:35:45

Embodied, we have our physical bodies. At which stage in our life?

0:35:450:35:48

-In terms of the resurrection of the dead.

-When we're 30, when we're 20,

0:35:480:35:51

when we're 40? At what stage?

0:35:510:35:53

Actually, there are differences of view on that.

0:35:530:35:55

I wouldn't want to give a definitive suggestion.

0:35:550:36:01

But there is some sense in which, we were meant to be body and soul.

0:36:010:36:04

We were created as body and soul.

0:36:040:36:06

And if there is a God, a loving God, God wants us to be body and soul

0:36:060:36:10

eventually, in some kind of new existence.

0:36:100:36:14

In this life, we write the title page of what we are to be in eternity.

0:36:140:36:18

Is it not a very anthropocentric view to say that, looking at

0:36:180:36:23

the world through human eyes to say, we will be reunited with our bodies?

0:36:230:36:27

Is that almost a kind of medieval version?

0:36:270:36:31

An attempt to understand, an attempt at solace,

0:36:310:36:33

an attempt at consolation?

0:36:330:36:36

For many, it's just an utterly ridiculous concept.

0:36:360:36:39

Well, what otherwise can we look through, except our own eyes?

0:36:390:36:43

that doesn't make it either valid or invalid.

0:36:430:36:45

But the very question about our bodies when we are 15, I'll have one

0:36:450:36:48

-when I was 21, I think.

-OK, I'll give you the view...

0:36:480:36:51

Thomas Aquinas thought we all ought to be 30 years old,

0:36:510:36:54

that's roughly the time that Christ died, for example.

0:36:540:36:58

And did he have a divine revelation?

0:36:580:37:00

Or was he just a philosopher writing and working it out as he went along?

0:37:000:37:05

Well, he suggested it as a possibility. As a probable thing.

0:37:050:37:10

-Chris French.

-But the issue raised by this gentleman here,

0:37:100:37:15

I mean, supposing somebody suffers some form of brain damage

0:37:150:37:18

that completely changes their personality before the age of 30?

0:37:180:37:23

Does that mean that that's the version of them

0:37:230:37:25

that goes onto the afterlife? It just doesn't really make sense.

0:37:250:37:28

It's arbitrary, it's about trying to make out we are God's special

0:37:280:37:31

creation, and really evolution knocked that on the head.

0:37:310:37:34

-The theory of evolution knocked that on the head.

-Conor?

0:37:340:37:37

Yes, I just disagree. First of all I think that story is not true.

0:37:370:37:40

-But there is actually better versions than that.

-Which story?

0:37:400:37:44

Phineas, with the pole through the head.

0:37:440:37:47

But if your hippocampus is damaged, your personality changes.

0:37:470:37:50

But the better one is actually the guy who became a paedophile

0:37:500:37:53

through a tumour in his brain in Texas, and they took it out,

0:37:530:37:56

and he was fine again,

0:37:560:37:58

and it grew back again and he went back to paedophilia.

0:37:580:38:00

So that's a better classic example.

0:38:000:38:03

I think the thing we're doing here is,

0:38:030:38:05

I still think we're doing the natural-supernatural thing too much.

0:38:050:38:08

And I think that we are... If atheism is true,

0:38:080:38:13

materialist reductionism is the case, fair dos. That's absolutely fair dos.

0:38:130:38:19

But if that's the case, there are no atheists.

0:38:190:38:22

It's as bad as me thinking that Nicky, whose body

0:38:220:38:25

I saw two years ago, clothed, two years ago, is completely different.

0:38:250:38:30

-Different cells.

-You're completely different.

0:38:300:38:33

-You're already resurrected.

-Yeah.

-In that sense.

0:38:330:38:36

But we still call you Nicky. So, how are we doing that? It's form.

0:38:360:38:39

-It's regeneration.

-And that's why we hold people accountable for crimes.

0:38:390:38:43

-Hitler, genocide, rape, paedophiles.

-But the memories are still there.

0:38:430:38:48

-Yeah.

-The old memories and the new memories

0:38:480:38:50

and the memories that have formed. That's continuity.

0:38:500:38:52

But the point is, what they call HADD,

0:38:520:38:56

hyper agency density device

0:38:560:38:57

or something like that, where we make false positives,

0:38:570:39:00

like lovers sitting on a summer's day looking up at the sky and seeing

0:39:000:39:04

clouds and going, "That looks bit like a horse,"

0:39:040:39:06

"That's a bit like the Isle of Wight, that looks a bit like..." But it's not, is it?

0:39:060:39:09

We are doing it by looking at each other, thinking... What's your name?

0:39:090:39:13

-Chris.

-Chris! I'm making a false positive, thinking it's Chris.

0:39:130:39:19

It's not true.

0:39:190:39:21

Because Chris is simply a material aggregation which has no form.

0:39:210:39:24

-But it's called Chris.

-It doesn't exist.

-Pete.

0:39:240:39:26

Do we spend too much time...and it's very persuasive, isn't it?

0:39:260:39:29

This idea, it's a very powerful idea. It's a very consoling idea.

0:39:290:39:32

The idea that we go on, we see our loved ones again,

0:39:320:39:34

we see our dog again.

0:39:340:39:36

I'd love to see the dog that died when I was 11 years old.

0:39:360:39:38

I still get weepy when I think about that dog. It's persuasive, isn't it?

0:39:380:39:43

-Can I have a word later on?

-Give us his name.

-It's persuasive, isn't it?

0:39:430:39:47

It is. I think there's something about it that is comforting

0:39:470:39:51

and consoling, the sense that everything stops at the grave

0:39:510:39:55

is actually quite terrifying for both those who are saying farewell

0:39:550:39:59

to relatives, and also when people reach the end of their lives.

0:39:590:40:03

You definitely have a sense that, "Is this it?"

0:40:030:40:05

I hope there is something more than this.

0:40:050:40:07

And maybe there is, maybe there isn't.

0:40:070:40:10

But I don't think, in the end, we are ever going

0:40:100:40:12

to come up with an answer this side of wherever it is.

0:40:120:40:15

There's a lovely Talmudic story which says that just before a baby

0:40:150:40:18

is born, an angel takes this baby

0:40:180:40:20

and shows it the entire secrets of the universe,

0:40:200:40:23

then places his finger on the baby's lips,

0:40:230:40:25

and the baby forgets everything.

0:40:250:40:27

And we then spend the rest of our lives remembering.

0:40:270:40:29

Now, we're not doing a very good job, let's be honest.

0:40:290:40:31

A couple of comments and I'll come back to you. Guy at the back.

0:40:310:40:34

-I'd just like to say...

-No, you go first, you've got the microphone.

0:40:340:40:38

I really do agree with that in the sense of,

0:40:380:40:41

I work in a hospice where I've seen many patients deteriorate.

0:40:410:40:45

And going back to what you said about when people are backed

0:40:450:40:49

into a corner, you could say that they turn to religion.

0:40:490:40:52

That's not true. A lot of people are very, very upfront about it.

0:40:520:40:56

"I'm going to die, I don't believe that there's anything after death."

0:40:560:40:59

-And they're fine about it.

-Yeah.

0:40:590:41:01

And some people who have been religious for their entire lives,

0:41:010:41:05

for years and years, will then renounce their faith.

0:41:050:41:08

I've seen that happen as well.

0:41:080:41:09

When you are in that situation,

0:41:110:41:13

-some people do actually consistently stay atheist.

-And at the back? Hello.

0:41:130:41:18

I think it's been well established in neuroscience for a long time

0:41:180:41:22

that when you damage certain parts of the brain

0:41:220:41:26

you lose certain abilities of the mind.

0:41:260:41:28

So if you damage the prefrontal cortex you lose the ability

0:41:280:41:31

to feel compassion for people, for example.

0:41:310:41:33

In philosophy, this is called the causal argument.

0:41:330:41:35

But what's been said, although no-one has said it directly,

0:41:350:41:39

is that at complete destruction of the brain at death,

0:41:390:41:42

that the cognitive faculties stay intact,

0:41:420:41:45

rise off the brain and live on for all eternity.

0:41:450:41:47

Which, to me, poses even more difficult questions

0:41:470:41:50

than it seems to answer.

0:41:500:41:52

I mean, Pete, interesting points from our contributors there.

0:41:520:41:57

But you can understand, as I say, it's a seductive idea, isn't it?

0:41:570:42:00

You can understand, for example, why Christianity really took off.

0:42:000:42:04

In Roman times, which is when Christianity began, the Jews,

0:42:040:42:09

and of course, Jesus was a Jew as well,

0:42:090:42:12

were having a particularly tough time under the Romans.

0:42:120:42:14

They were oppressing them and persecuting them,

0:42:140:42:16

and killing them quite randomly.

0:42:160:42:18

And yet the rabbis,

0:42:180:42:19

who were the ones who were bringing the Judaism into the world

0:42:190:42:23

as we currently know it, 2,000 years ago,

0:42:230:42:26

were continuing to insist that the people carry out these

0:42:260:42:29

various commandments, and the more commandments they observed,

0:42:290:42:31

the more God would be pleased with them, and all would go well.

0:42:310:42:35

And this was not a very persuasive argument,

0:42:350:42:38

because evidence was clearly to the contrary.

0:42:380:42:40

Things were NOT going well. The Romans were giving the Jews a difficult time,

0:42:400:42:44

and nothing they did made any difference.

0:42:440:42:45

And the Jews complained to the rabbis, because they're very good at complaining,

0:42:450:42:49

and said, why are we doing this stuff if it isn't working?

0:42:490:42:52

So, the rabbis said, "OK, there'll be a life after death

0:42:520:42:55

"and it will all be better in that one."

0:42:550:42:57

And that was where the whole concept of life after death emerged.

0:42:570:43:00

It's fascinating as to why it emerged,

0:43:000:43:03

because... Professor Tony Walter, Death Studies, Bath University.

0:43:030:43:06

It's really interesting relating different cultures, different

0:43:060:43:10

periods of time, with what people believed and why they believe it.

0:43:100:43:14

-Give us some examples.

-Yeah.

0:43:140:43:16

Just take something like belief in hell, which is distinctly

0:43:160:43:19

out of fashion nowadays.

0:43:190:43:21

-Not for some of the people that appear on this programme, I have to say.

-Yes!

0:43:210:43:25

But in the Middle Ages,

0:43:250:43:26

probably more people did believe in everlasting flames

0:43:260:43:29

for ordinary sins.

0:43:290:43:31

But that was a time when you could be hung for stealing a sheep.

0:43:310:43:34

But not any sheep. If it was the Lord of the Manor's sheep,

0:43:340:43:37

then you'd be hung.

0:43:370:43:38

The point was, the size of the punishment in the medieval system

0:43:380:43:41

was actually not dependent on the size of the crime

0:43:410:43:44

but on the status of the person you had offended against.

0:43:440:43:48

So, minor sins against an almighty God

0:43:480:43:50

merited actual eternal damnation.

0:43:500:43:53

So, in that legal system, then it feels plausible.

0:43:530:43:55

But once you move to modern legal systems,

0:43:550:43:58

where punishment fits the crime, as it were,

0:43:580:44:00

that notion of eternal damnation doesn't make any sense any more.

0:44:000:44:03

So you get a kind of relationship between legal systems

0:44:030:44:05

-and what people think about life after death.

-Add also tribal systems.

0:44:050:44:08

Surely if we're talking about the desert tribes of the seventh or

0:44:080:44:11

eighth century, or 2,000 years ago, you can understand the patriarchal

0:44:110:44:15

reasons for what they were saying and why they were saying it.

0:44:150:44:18

Oh, yes. Absolutely.

0:44:180:44:19

What people believe about life after death depends on all sorts of things.

0:44:190:44:23

Partly what they've been taught, but also,

0:44:230:44:25

as you've just described, very specific historical circumstances.

0:44:250:44:30

But also, very specific personal circumstances.

0:44:300:44:33

And I think it's not necessarily the most helpful way to see

0:44:330:44:36

afterlife beliefs as a way of coping with bereavement.

0:44:360:44:39

People who are grieving very often have a very clear sense

0:44:390:44:43

of an ongoing relationship between them and the person who has died.

0:44:430:44:46

And actually some of the things they say about what happens

0:44:460:44:49

after death is actually a way of articulating those relationships.

0:44:490:44:52

Whether you believe those relationships to have some kind

0:44:520:44:55

-of spiritual distance or not is a question, obviously.

-Dr Hamed.

0:44:550:45:00

-Let me talk about health.

-I'll tell you about health.

0:45:000:45:04

I have to set the agenda because I know how long we have got.

0:45:040:45:07

It doesn't make sense, what you told him,

0:45:070:45:09

that there is 11 billion cells in our brain,

0:45:090:45:11

and we still think that there is no God. It doesn't make sense.

0:45:110:45:14

In any school now, any judge... You will be Hitler-like,

0:45:140:45:18

and somebody who is saint-like, and everything is fine.

0:45:180:45:21

-There should be a God.

-OK, hell.

0:45:210:45:23

-And that's the concept of hell.

-Life after death,

0:45:230:45:25

or, you know, life before death, as somebody said,

0:45:250:45:29

hell is very graphically described in the Koran, isn't it?

0:45:290:45:37

It is precisely described, the same number, the hell and heaven.

0:45:370:45:41

So, it's fair.

0:45:410:45:42

Women hanging by their breasts if they've committed adultery...

0:45:420:45:46

-But also, heaven as well.

-This is a misconception.

0:45:460:45:49

-Adultery can be punishable for men and women.

-It's not only for women.

0:45:510:45:56

People are hung by...?

0:45:560:45:58

It's a misconception that Islam punishes women only. It's not that.

0:45:580:46:00

I'm talking about one example. Are women hung by their breasts or not?

0:46:000:46:04

People can be punished differently. There are all kinds of punishment.

0:46:040:46:09

-Men can be punished also.

-I never said they couldn't.

0:46:090:46:12

But you've got to eat devils' heads.

0:46:120:46:13

It's all very graphic, very horrible. It sounds to many people like...

0:46:130:46:16

But there's also a very, very pleasant life,

0:46:160:46:19

-that you have rivers of wine...

-Alcoholic wine?

0:46:190:46:23

Alcoholic, but it will not give you the effect of alcohol.

0:46:230:46:26

-So, what's the point of having it alcoholic then?

-The point is...

-LAUGHTER

0:46:260:46:30

The point is that God, that is the concept.

0:46:330:46:36

God asks you not to do something, and that's what you have done.

0:46:360:46:39

All right. Can I ask you something? Can I ask you something?

0:46:390:46:42

It says that you will be served by dark-eyed maidens and youths, yeah?

0:46:420:46:48

Yes, people who are serving you, like a servant.

0:46:490:46:52

Like anybody who is wealthy,

0:46:520:46:54

and you will go on to find many people serving you.

0:46:540:46:56

-So people are serving you?

-Yeah.

-What about them?

0:46:560:46:59

Can't they enjoy the rivers of wine? Why do they have to spend their time

0:46:590:47:02

serving people who are enjoying the rivers...?

0:47:020:47:04

Yes, I know, but let's come back

0:47:040:47:06

to why we are human beings and these are animals.

0:47:060:47:10

-From an Islamic concept...

-Why is it youths and dark-eyed maidens?

0:47:100:47:15

I'm sorry to say it, but there's a kind of...

0:47:150:47:17

There's something very seductive about that for some people,

0:47:170:47:20

and again, it's playing on very earthly desires,

0:47:200:47:23

if you don't mind me saying so.

0:47:230:47:24

Look, God gave us the will to come into this world

0:47:250:47:29

and do whatever we like, obey and disobey.

0:47:290:47:33

That is the difference between us and animals and other creatures.

0:47:330:47:36

They do have a soul, but their soul is different from ours.

0:47:360:47:39

-And we have a higher level of soul.

-I wasn't asking that.

-In hell...

0:47:390:47:44

I was asking about the earthly desires. It's in the Christian heaven as well.

0:47:440:47:47

-Chris French, do you know what I mean? Let me move to Chris.

-Well, exactly, yeah.

0:47:470:47:52

Sadly, I hate to point this out, but it's beliefs like that

0:47:520:47:55

that lead people to drive jet planes into skyscrapers.

0:47:550:47:59

-You won't get that happening from an atheist.

-Well, I mean...

0:47:590:48:03

THEY ALL TALK AT ONCE

0:48:030:48:05

Point of order.

0:48:050:48:08

But human beings are responsible for it whatever their beliefs.

0:48:080:48:12

But this whole idea of, the betrayal of heaven and hell in the terms

0:48:120:48:17

which the people at which the betrayal is aimed would understand.

0:48:170:48:21

Exactly. I think it goes back to the point being made over here.

0:48:210:48:23

It depends on the kind of specific historical contact,

0:48:230:48:26

the way that these ideas are put out.

0:48:260:48:29

It's not to say that they are deliberately made up,

0:48:290:48:31

but they fit their times certainly.

0:48:310:48:34

So if you looked back at the way that hell was betrayed in earlier

0:48:340:48:38

centuries, then it was a useful means for people to actually probably

0:48:380:48:44

-avoid getting hung.

-Deborah.

0:48:440:48:46

I think it was brilliant that the Rabbi Pete brought up the point

0:48:460:48:49

that, and that probably not a lot of people know, that many thousands

0:48:490:48:52

of years before that, the Jewish religion

0:48:520:48:56

-wasn't particularly preoccupied with the afterlife.

-Not at all.

0:48:560:48:59

It kind of happened at the same time as Christianity.

0:48:590:49:03

And if you look at, say, the story of Odysseus,

0:49:030:49:06

when he went and he had to seek the wisdom of Teiresias,

0:49:060:49:09

who had already died.

0:49:090:49:10

So, Odysseus had to go to the Underworld to speak to him,

0:49:100:49:14

and he had to give him a sacrifice of blood so he could drink the

0:49:140:49:17

blood, drink the life, in effect, to even be able to speak.

0:49:170:49:21

Hell was a very miserable place.

0:49:210:49:22

It was a very dark place full of shades,

0:49:220:49:24

and they were just shuffling around.

0:49:240:49:26

So you can see with each culture that their hell

0:49:260:49:29

very much corresponds

0:49:290:49:30

to their current ideas, as you said.

0:49:300:49:33

So in our idea of heaven there would be no mobile phones?

0:49:340:49:38

Something like that?

0:49:380:49:39

If other images weren't too ingrained.

0:49:410:49:43

What about, if I may, moving on... What about near-death experiences.

0:49:430:49:48

Ken, you've looked into this, haven't you?

0:49:480:49:50

-And you work in a hospital?

-Indeed, yes.

0:49:500:49:52

We have been conducting some research

0:49:520:49:54

which is due for publication imminently.

0:49:540:49:57

And it's very interesting to hear the various philosophical

0:49:570:50:01

perspectives. Of course from a scientific angle

0:50:010:50:05

we aren't particularly troubled by those varying views.

0:50:050:50:10

What we are trying to discover, of course,

0:50:100:50:13

is something about the brain

0:50:130:50:15

and the mind and consciousness, with the perspective of trying to address

0:50:150:50:20

some of the failures that we have.

0:50:200:50:22

When we recover people from cardiac arrest there's a small

0:50:220:50:26

but unfortunate percentage of those individuals who have a modicum

0:50:260:50:29

of brain damage. And part of our enquiry is to try and understand

0:50:290:50:34

what's going on at cellular level so that we can bring into being

0:50:340:50:38

appropriate interventions,

0:50:380:50:40

medical interventions, such as therapeutic...

0:50:400:50:42

So what do people think is happening? Do they think they are floating above themselves?

0:50:420:50:46

-What sort of things do they describe?

-About one in 10 patients

0:50:460:50:49

who recover are able to describe feelings of otherworldliness,

0:50:490:50:55

of having a consciousness whilst they are clinically dead.

0:50:550:51:00

And I'd like to make the point,

0:51:000:51:02

some folks get cardiac arrest mixed up with heart attack.

0:51:020:51:05

What we're talking about here are people who are dead.

0:51:050:51:09

Their heart has stopped, their breathing has stopped,

0:51:090:51:11

and if you measure their brain activity,

0:51:110:51:14

they flatline on their brain, too.

0:51:140:51:16

So unless they have an advance directive,

0:51:180:51:21

such as a Do Not Attempt CPR order in their medical notes,

0:51:210:51:26

-we will attempt to resuscitate.

-What do they say about what has happened?

0:51:260:51:30

What they say is that they have a very positive feeling,

0:51:300:51:34

they feel spiritually uplifted.

0:51:340:51:36

All of the people that I spoke to who gave accounts of that

0:51:360:51:41

were very positive about it,

0:51:410:51:43

and otherworldly is the best word I can use. They wanted to go back.

0:51:430:51:48

One particular gentleman

0:51:480:51:50

was absolutely desperate to go back there. He was euphoric about it.

0:51:500:51:53

-Has anyone had an experience like this? You have?

-Yes, I have.

0:51:530:51:59

Many years ago, in my teens,

0:51:590:52:01

the short version is, in my teens I had an exploded appendix.

0:52:010:52:05

I went in for an operation and I remember a dream,

0:52:050:52:08

a very specific dream that felt, to this day, like reality.

0:52:080:52:11

If I close my eyes I can see where I was.

0:52:110:52:13

I officially flatlined, I officially died.

0:52:130:52:16

Somehow they managed to get me back to life.

0:52:160:52:18

The dream, the short version is,

0:52:180:52:20

I was in what seemed like a place that was burning, with people

0:52:200:52:24

screaming, lots of faces of anger and trying to grab at me.

0:52:240:52:27

And something or someone that was bright and shiny

0:52:270:52:29

came towards me, held my arm.

0:52:290:52:32

And I can remember these words so clearly, "Come with me."

0:52:320:52:36

And I remember being taken away. I woke up.

0:52:360:52:38

I do believe now, God that cares, I believe that actually happened.

0:52:380:52:43

I can't explain where I was. I believe it, I really do.

0:52:430:52:46

I believe for some reason I was brought back to life,

0:52:460:52:49

and I realise that some of the ladies and gents on this front row

0:52:490:52:51

will probably dismiss this.

0:52:510:52:53

-No, but I think they believe that you believe it.

-Yeah.

0:52:530:52:55

-That's the key thing.

-I believe it actually happened.

0:52:550:52:59

-Conor. OK, Jackie.

-On your studies, just looking at the evidence,

0:52:590:53:04

have you had people that have flatlined

0:53:040:53:07

but then actually told you what has been going on in the physical

0:53:070:53:10

-round them, in the hospital, things that have happened?

-Yes.

-Yes?

0:53:100:53:13

So how have they told you? That shows something, doesn't it?

0:53:130:53:17

The very first time I encountered a patient, it was entirely unplanned.

0:53:170:53:22

I went to see a gentleman

0:53:220:53:24

who had been involved in quite a prolonged resuscitation.

0:53:240:53:26

He had been in cardiac arrest for at least 15 minutes,

0:53:260:53:29

so he was clinically dead for 15 minutes.

0:53:290:53:32

And we were very pleased to have reversed that process.

0:53:320:53:35

And I went to see him, one of those brief moments,

0:53:350:53:38

when I had nothing better to do,

0:53:380:53:40

I thought "I'll go and see this gentleman."

0:53:400:53:42

As I walked towards him, and this is a long time ago now,

0:53:420:53:44

he had a face on him that suggested to me that he recognised me.

0:53:440:53:48

He said, "Hello, how are you?" And he was very familiar.

0:53:480:53:52

And I said to him, "I get a sense you know me."

0:53:520:53:55

And he said, "Yes, I saw you at my resuscitation."

0:53:550:54:00

And he described in very great detail the whole processes that were

0:54:000:54:04

-going on around him.

-Absolutely.

0:54:040:54:05

And he can't have got that information from watching television

0:54:050:54:09

because on television it's largely inaccurate.

0:54:090:54:13

-Well done, thank you.

-Who wants to go first? Deborah?

0:54:130:54:20

It's interesting, the definition of death,

0:54:200:54:23

and that's exactly what it is. It's a definition.

0:54:230:54:25

Who knows what it is? It might be a semantic thing.

0:54:250:54:28

It doesn't necessarily mean there is an activity we can't detect.

0:54:280:54:31

Also, to get a good, statistical analysis of that you would have

0:54:310:54:34

to get all of the false positives.

0:54:340:54:36

You would take loads of stories

0:54:360:54:38

and see which ones of them actually didn't happen, where they thought

0:54:380:54:41

something happened in the operating theatre where it didn't.

0:54:410:54:44

And third of all, even if you have very, very...

0:54:440:54:47

You might not have sight, but if you have something like a sound,

0:54:470:54:50

you can make a story from all sorts of clatterings.

0:54:500:54:52

There was one I read on Pim Van Lommel's paper where

0:54:520:54:58

somebody had had their teeth taken out and they were put into a drawer.

0:54:580:55:01

If you can feel your teeth being taken out, you can hear

0:55:010:55:04

a drawer being opened and you can hear a drawer being closed,

0:55:040:55:06

it's reasonable for him to have then

0:55:060:55:09

retroactively made up a story that then fits that.

0:55:090:55:11

Chris, what about this feeling of euphoria?

0:55:110:55:14

Could that be a biochemical... I don't know? Chris French?

0:55:140:55:18

Yes, it absolutely could be.

0:55:180:55:20

Whenever there's kind of physical, or even psychological stress,

0:55:200:55:23

then the body releases natural...

0:55:230:55:25

Whether you believe in that, it's quite reassuring to know

0:55:250:55:27

-that when that point comes we're going to feel...

-It is.

0:55:270:55:31

I'm sure Ken will back this up, there is a minority

0:55:310:55:33

-of people with negative near-death experiences.

-Very few, yes.

0:55:330:55:36

But it does happen. Like this gentleman described at the beginning,

0:55:360:55:39

some people don't get that happy ending. I'm very glad you did.

0:55:390:55:41

Thanks for your contribution, by the way. It's good to see you here.

0:55:410:55:46

But all of the different components of the near-death experience

0:55:460:55:50

do occur in other contexts,

0:55:500:55:52

where we can have a better idea of what's going on in the brain.

0:55:520:55:55

Essentially, it's this question of, is it a very rich,

0:55:550:55:57

very profound but hallucinatory experience?

0:55:570:56:00

One of the things that always occurs to me,

0:56:000:56:02

we've heard this story of this kid Colton who went up

0:56:020:56:05

and saw Jesus and a coloured pony, and Mary and Joseph.

0:56:050:56:09

Suppose he'd been a Jew? He'd have said, who are these people?

0:56:090:56:12

He'd have been in for a shock.

0:56:120:56:14

The point is, everybody has their own experiences,

0:56:140:56:18

or life-after-death stories coming from a particular cultural place.

0:56:180:56:21

You have particular cultural references with death as well.

0:56:210:56:24

Sorry, you had your hand up earlier. A quick point.

0:56:240:56:27

So, when you die, it's not just... you stop. There's still blood,

0:56:270:56:32

there's still oxygen going in your brain.

0:56:320:56:35

What if these experiences are things like your temporal lobes,

0:56:350:56:39

which deal with memory? What if that's the connections dying,

0:56:390:56:42

and you're remembering things?

0:56:420:56:44

And that's the explanation, and it's hormones that give you

0:56:440:56:47

this euphoria, and it's actually quite a natural, nice death?

0:56:470:56:50

Yeah, that's what we're kind of saying. Venerable Choesang,

0:56:500:56:53

Nirvana, let me move on to Nirvana as we move to the end.

0:56:530:56:55

Bliss, you reach this state of bliss. It's quite nice being alive.

0:56:550:57:00

It can be great being alive.

0:57:000:57:02

Why do we want to have this state of sort of floatiness?

0:57:020:57:04

Well, there's a misunderstanding.

0:57:040:57:06

Nirvana is actually living with equanimity,

0:57:060:57:08

and it can be in this very lifetime.

0:57:080:57:10

OK.

0:57:100:57:12

Whereas Buddhahood and Nirvana are different places,

0:57:120:57:14

and Buddhahood is when you go out as an energy being after a death,

0:57:140:57:18

and you don't have to be reincarnated.

0:57:180:57:20

You can come back if you wish, but you don't have to.

0:57:200:57:24

You are free from birth?

0:57:240:57:25

Yes, free from a gross birth that we experience.

0:57:250:57:29

And they can actually be out there at one with all the energy,

0:57:290:57:32

and work at an energetic level.

0:57:320:57:35

And same from what others were saying earlier.

0:57:350:57:37

If you're at an energetic level,

0:57:370:57:39

we don't use all the concepts that we have here in a body.

0:57:390:57:42

We can see and hear and think it's kinesiology,

0:57:420:57:46

it's all totally different. It all comes in a completely different way.

0:57:460:57:51

We have a framework of how we discuss it now,

0:57:510:57:53

but it wouldn't be the same framework

0:57:530:57:55

that we would use for that particular experience.

0:57:550:57:59

-Well, that was...

-Can I...?

-No, we're finished. We're over.

0:57:590:58:02

No, we've reached the point of Nirvana.

0:58:020:58:05

Thank you all very much indeed for your contributions.

0:58:050:58:08

As ever, the debate will continue on Twitter and online.

0:58:080:58:11

We're not on next week because of Whitsun,

0:58:110:58:13

but we'll be back from Brighton on June 15 for the last show

0:58:130:58:17

of this series, so, don't miss that.

0:58:170:58:19

For now, it's goodbye from everyone here in Walsall.

0:58:190:58:21

Have a really, really good Sunday.

0:58:210:58:23

Thanks for watching The Big Questions.

0:58:230:58:25

Nicky Campbell presents a special edition of The Big Questions, from Shelfield Community Academy in Walsall, asking just one very Big Question:

Is there life after death?

Amongst those taking part in the debate are: the philosopher and theologian, Dr Conor Cunningham; Prof Chris French, a psychologist of paranormal belief; the past-life regression therapist, Gail Millington: Deborah Hyde, editor of The Skeptic Magazine; the physicist and theologian, Rev Dr Andrew Pinsent; Venerable Choesang, senior nun to His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet; Professor of Death Studies, Tony Porter; Manoher Singh from the Sikh Studies Forum; Jackie Weaver, The Animal Psychic; Rabbi Pete Tobias from Elstree Liberal Synagogue; Ken Spearpoint, researcher into near death experiences; and Dr Amer Hamed, a hospital imam.


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