What Happens When We Die? There Are Multiple Possibilities
David Eagleman is a neuroscientist and a New York Times bestselling author. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine, where he also directs the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his work on time perception, brain plasticity, synesthesia, and neurolaw.
Beyond his 100+ academic publications, he has published many popular books. His bestselling book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, explores the neuroscience "under the hood" of the conscious mind: all the aspects of neural function to which we have no awareness or access. His work of fiction, SUM, is an international bestseller published in 28 languages and turned into two operas. Why the Net Matters examines what the advent of the internet means on the timescale of civilizations. The award-winning Wednesday is Indigo Blue explores the neurological condition of synesthesia, in which the senses are blended.
Eagleman is a TED speaker, a Guggenheim Fellow, a winner of the McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Communication, a Next Generation Texas Fellow, Vice-Chair on the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Neuroscience & Behaviour, a research fellow in the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Mind Science Foundation, and a board member of The Long Now Foundation. He has served as an academic editor for several scientific journals. He was named Science Educator of the Year by the Society for Neuroscience, and was featured as one of the Brightest Idea Guys by Italy's Style magazine. He is founder of the company BrainCheck and the cofounder of the company NeoSensory. He was the scientific advisor for the television drama Perception, and has been profiled on the Colbert Report, NOVA Science Now, the New Yorker, CNN's Next List, and many other venues. He appears regularly on radio and television to discuss literature and science.
So we have no idea what happens after we die, and I’ve taken that lack of our knowledge as an opportunity to write fiction about it. I have a book called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, and the idea is to shine a flashlight around the 'possibly' space to illustrate how interesting is the vastness of our ignorance.
Because what I see happening sometimes is there are people who have, let’s say, fundamentalist religious beliefs who believe one thing, and then, on the other hand, you’ve got neo-atheists who are acting very certain about their position. And the fact is we just don't know. We don't know enough to pretend like we’ve got it all figured out. We would need to know a lot more than we do to act as though we have certainty about what's not going on.
So this all led me to start a movement called possibilianism, which has now spread worldwide, I’m happy to say, and essentially represents a third voice. This voice I think is the voice of the scientific temperament, which is one of having multiple possibilities and being creative in generating the possibilities and being okay with uncertainty and having lots of hypotheses on the table.
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