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Read my argument below. We are not talking about death of consciousness alone. Consciousness is being conscious of sensations. So if somehow the sense organs stop working, consciousness will not be evident. But a personality is not just consciousness. It is a conglomerate of several factors. We have volitions, perceptions, ideas, emotions, and so much more. So we need to understand exactly what a "personality" really is. I also think we need to carefully examine what we mean by a sense of personality, a sense of "I" with regard to some particular thing. Until we understand these things well, whether we believe in life after death or not is irrelevant. To make a scientific analysis of this matter we need to understand nature as she actually is. Until then, we can only say that we have no scientific evidence of any phenomenon that proves that the sense of personality is somehow sustained after death. We seem to have some startling observations made on little children, but the study of the phenomenon is still not fully developed.
Before saying that there is no life after death, we have to consider this carefully: whose life are we talking about? Who is living in the body in the first place? To be sure we are just made up of molecules and cells and each and every second this whole mass of a body is constantly changing, growing, decaying. After death, the decay process continues and the body's elements return to nature. But this debate topic has assumed that somehow a personality is present even right now as we "live". What exactly marks a personality's death?
To put it simply we have to say that it is the death of the mind in the body. If the mind ceases, we call the person dead - or brain dead to be precise. Until brain death occurs, the stopping of blood circulation, respiration, lack of food, dehydration, all of these can bring us close to death, but not real death. Death happens at the moment the brain can no longer sustain mental activity requisite for life to "exist". I'll digress for a moment to remark that the bacteria and living organisms living inside our bodies continue to live and consume the decaying body after the consciousness has ceased in the body. In this sense, perhaps one may argue that "life continues". But I can see that the question is not about the life of other organisms after death, but about the life of the personality that has just died.
I don't want to make the philosophical error in calling "mental death" as "consciousness death". Why do we restrict life to be sustained only be consciousness? Is it enough to be conscious of stimuli for sustaining life? Is the need to respond to stimuli not necessary? In my opinion, the "personality" or mental image we form for the "person" that we are, is composed of not just consciousness, but also the sensations that precede consciousness (you need to sense something to be conscious of it), but also our free volition (even thinking is a form of volition, memory is also a form of volition, because hardened memory becomes habit and habit is a form of volition too), our perceptions (whether we characterize a stimulus as pleasurable, unpleasant, or neither), and finally, our sense of what we consider to be "our body". The notion of personality we have developed revolves around these basic characteristics. So when I say "death", I mean the death of the "personality" or the notion of identification that we have with regard to all these characteristics.
I was very interested in the process of death and therefore tried to read as much as I could about it. In order to know the process of death one needs to observe it very carefully under controlled conditions. As an example, it is possible to artificially sustain heart beat and lung respiration in a body and still have the person brain dead. It is impossible to revive the person no matter what you do to the heart or lungs. At the same time, it is possible for a person's heart to have completely stopped, we use an artificial external blood circulation mechanism to supply blood to the brain, allow the rest of the body to become a "vegetable", but continue to sustain "brain life". This latter phenomenon is sometimes called "coma", but this form of coma is a little more extreme than the ones known in the medical community. This process will lead to slow death unless this person gets food and water. So obviously that is being given artificially.
How do we know that the "personality" is still "alive"? She can hear, what is being said and the mental activity shows that she is struggling to respond, but her body functions have gotten totally paralyzed. In other words, she can hear (some sensations are intact), she is conscious of the sensations, can characterize them as pleasant or unpleasant, and struggles to respond to them, even though the body doesn't respond to the mental signals of volition. This also means that she still retains some sense of "my body" with regard to the completely non-responsive nervous/muscular system. The only thing active is the brain; the heart and lungs are kept artificially active to support the brain with oxygen. In fact she is aware that she is a female - that means identity with the body is still intact. This is what we could call "personality".
Now, when it does, all of them die instantly. The nervous system is no longer sensitive to stimuli (no sensations), consciousness of the stimuli is gone, perception and response volition are obviously no longer present, but we don't know if the sense of identification with some body is still active or not. Scientists don't know how to characterize this sense of "clinging" (if you may call it). If it has always been there with the "personality", is "clinging" (or a sense of identity built around some body) the only thing essential for "personality"?
Another experiment was performed to see if the sense of identification with the current body could somehow be suspended. Such mental states are rumored to exist in the world of hypnosis. Hypnotists argue that the sense of identification with the body could be suspended without the person dying. This is possible if the "person" now assumes a new personality. This is sometimes observed in personality disorders. The person starts identifying with a completely different sense of "I". Whether this is really true or not is not clear. We do know of psychopaths that do have personality disorders, but controlled observations to understand their "sense of personality" have not been made. "Hard" scientists like neurobiologists shy away from this, because this field is not considered to be truly "scientific".
In this situation therefore, we don't know what exactly happens after death. However, interestingly, some people seem to report knowledge of some other human being that lived in the past. People called this "reincarnation", but to be honest, the person dead is not the same as the young child living now. They are different. But there is a personality association disorder, in the young child due to which, somehow he seems to identify with the person that is dead. Many of the children that associate with such dead personalities, have a hard time with these "memories" - they give them nightmares.
To some people this phenomenon is indicative that there is life after death. However, the fact that some children report experience as a different personality cannot be construed to imply that they have a correct sense of personality to begin with. Studies have to be done to analyze what these children are reporting. Is it that they can currently sense something that a dead person sensed when he was alive? Or is it that they are conscious of the dead person's past sensations? Or are they somehow able to "remember" (carry on the memory and volitions) of the dead person? Here let me point out that I do not mean "remember" in the same sense as "one's own" memory. I mean it as if memory is somehow persistent but without a correct sense of "my own". Finally, do these kids somehow have a sense of identification with that dead body? If so, that would mean a startling possibility that the sense of clinging to a personality has somehow survived. But as one stops associating with the previous personality and begins to associate with the present, these children seem to "forget" what they considered to be their "previous life". In other words, memory of something seems to be connected with a sense of personality. And the sense of personality seems to be dependent on what one clings to. If in the present life, one clings to a body that is long dead, there will be personality disorders, and "memories" will come up.
So now if we were to give credence to the possibility that a personality somehow continues in some other way, the only way I can think of is that the personality is sustained by clinging. If there is no sense of clinging, a personality cannot be sustained.
So whether life continues to exist after death is really questionable. The only philosophical answer we could fathom is that if clinging to a personality exists, that may somehow sustain a sense of personality. This in fact is exactly how we retain memory of our personality while living. We need a sense of clinging to the body and need to appropriately respond to stimuli. Our response to stimuli is conditioned by our old habits since childhood, our acuity with regard to certain sense organs, etc. If a sense of personality error occurs, it almost always is accompanied with a strange set of habits and volitions.
In summary, I can only say "I don't know". But I think a lot more research about the process of death will be required before we can conclusively say what happens after death.