I recently patched up a small research proposal titled Understanding Human Consciousness. It is a five pages long draft in pdf format. I think it is nice and can be improved by the passage of time. My interest in neuroscience grew between 2008 and 2009 while I started reading books about self help. Awaken the Giant Within was the first book that I read on this subject. It is a brilliant book but I believe that there is a lot more to neuroscience than feeling good alone.
As I progressed further on the way I cam across ideas of Ray Kurzweil about downloading human consciousness on to computers. I also came across the books of Marvin Minsky which I think are very nice. Emotion Machine and Society of the Mind are two of his really nice books that are worth mentioning. Unfortunately I could not finish reading both of them.
The journey did not stop here. In 2011 I had a chance to read Sam Harris. I would again like to mention that he raises very cogent questions in his The End of Faith. It is indeed a very thought provoking book. Specially the questions he raises about why people believe in one religion or the other are rousing. His concern that such beliefs should be explainable by reason is rational. The other question he raises is that whether any afterlife exists or not. Although I would like to assert that he himself is quite judgmental about that question already.
As the reading journey continued I had a chance to read Irfan. Irfan introduced me to Western Spiritualism. From Irfan I came to know about the various contemporaries of Charles Darwin who were spiritualists and believed in an afterlife. Most notable among these are Alfred Russel Wallace and Sir Conan Doyle. It was quite interesting to read from The History of Spiritualism that he attributed much of the world’s misery to materialism and advocated for the adoption of some kind of religion by the humanity. It was quite interesting for me to know this as I thought materialists, or so to say atheists, to be a lot more benign people before this.
Anyhow, introduction to spiritualism gave me a chance to read and skim through many academic papers regarding invocation of spirits and souls, and other aspects related to spiritualism. For instance, there are quite a few tracks in spiritualism that study the ectoplasm, a viscous material that possibly comes out of the mouths of the mediums as they communicate with the dead. Similarly, there are also papers that study the minds of mediums to figure out what sort of people are more conducive for becoming mediums.
I do not remember the source of the papers but I am sure they can be found through the website of Society of Psychical Research. In the meantime I have also been reading papers on neuroscience from the point of view of mental and physical health as well. They are quite numerous. The conclusion they draw is that most of the mental and physical functions of human body and personality are localized in the brain and that there is no evidence for the presence of a non-physical mind i.e. a soul or a spirit. The burden of coming up with a proof is normally left with the reader.
So given this I thought that I should at least write a research proposal that could sum up all the reading I have been doing over the years. I think that it looks nice. It does not have any citations or references at the moment and I hope to be able to add a few citations by the due course of time. Here is the link to the proposal.