From all the evidence I have, from almost 50 years of interest in the subject of what we are and how we work – from many different perspectives, including biochemistry, neurophysiology and systems – it is clear to me, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, the our conscious awareness of being is an emergent property of the extremely complex sets of hardware and software systems that are the human brain.
That being the case, death is simply that – the end. When those systems degrade below the level that they can restart – that is the end of us.
After death, as the various levels of systems that maintain our form degrade, the molecular forms simply degrade and our molecules return to the general pool and cycle through other living forms.
All life is more like a fountain than a statue. It seems clear to me that life is a set of forms that all life is more like a fountain than a statue. It seems clear to me that life is a set of forms that have evolved in matter, that use a flow of energy to create a meta stable form in space and time from a flow of matter. It seems clear that all forms of life on this planet share a single common cell ancestor some 3 billion years ago.
It seems that our particular genetic line of life has evolved an extremely complex neocortex consisting of billions of pattern recognition complexes that allow us to form complex models of reality and have complex software entities that experience the software model of reality as reality itself. This seems to be how we experience the qualia of existence that we experience. It seems that we all initially accept most of our information from whatever culture we happen to be born into, then follow our individual paths as to what we do with that starting set, what choices we make, what distinctions, abstractions, intuitions, we give focus and attention to.
It seems clear to me that as soon as the systems supporting these abilities including access to our memories (an integral part of who we are) degrade, beyond restart, then we are no more.
Despite cultural stories to the contrary – it seems to be just that simple (in a sense – not that humans are simple – we are, each and every one of us, mind numbingly complex).
I have a certain sympathy with the “don’t know” argument.
We are so complex.
We each have about 10,000 times as many cells in us as there are people on the planet.
To get a handle on that number, if you were to look at 3 cells per second it would take a million years just to give them a third of a second glance.
Each cell has roughly as many molecules in it as we have cells in our bodies.
If we could somehow take a snapshot of our bodies, and freeze frame it, and blow it up so that we could see all the molecules, and we looked at 100 molecules per second, and had been since the universe began, we would be about 1% of the way through looking at that one single snapshot.
Our molecules operate at a frame rate that is faster than our consciousness by many orders of magnitude.
Sure we can understand the broad principles of the major systems of life, and should I study humanity for the rest of eternity I am certain I could be discovering new and interesting subtleties every week. We are that complex.
And acknowledging all that complexity, it seems probable beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that our awareness is the result of many recursive levels of evolution by natural selection, more latterly mixed with volitional choice as the ability to choose emerged from the systems below it.
So I am extremely confident that we are fundamentally a software entity residing in a software model of reality contained within a biological hardware processor that is the human brain, I am profoundly aware of my ignorance of the details of all the subtleties that make each of us the utterly amazing entities that we are.