The Myth of an Afterlife ch 6

Chapter Six No Mental Life after Brain Death The Argument from the Neural Localization of Mental Functions Gualtiero Piccinini and Sonya Bahar

In a thorough, rigorously argued chapter, Piccinini and Bahar outline their position as follows:

To make our case, we will sample the large body of neuroscientific evidence that each mental function takes place within specific neural structures. For instance, vision appears to occur in the visual cortex, motor control in the motor cortex, spatial memory in the hippocampus, and cognitive control in the prefrontal cortex. Evidence for this comes from neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, brain stimulation, neuroimaging, lesion studies, and behavioral genetics. If mental functions take place within neural structures, then they cannot survive the death of the brain. Therefore, there is no mental life after brain death. 

Before I get into the meat of their argument in my next blog post, I just want to highlight a methodological point they make

Fourth, our argument is as close to a refutation of substance dualism as anyone can get in this kind of case. We cannot definitively prove that nonphysical minds don’t exist anymore than we can definitively prove that unicorns or fairies don’t exist. But the overwhelming thrust of the empirical evidence is that there are no unicorns, no fairies, and no nonphysical minds. The burden of proof is on the believers. If they want to affirm that something exists, it’s their job to produce evidence for it. Our point is that there is none.  What evidence there is supports the conclusion that the mental functions are localized in the brain.

Clearly, the responsibility is on those making the existential claim.