“Near-death” experiences: can they prove or dis-prove the concept of “afterlife”?

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Discussion by: raised_atheist
NPR featured a critical care physician, Dr. Parnia (@ Stony Brook University). http://m.npr.org/news/Books/172495667
“Resuscitation medicine is now sometimes capable of reviving people after their heart has stopped beating and their brain has flat-lined.” Dr. Parnia studies resuscitation medicine. He made a few not very clear (at least to me) comments.  For example: “And so what our discoveries have started to do is to question the way we consider the relationship between the human mind, what is classically been called the psyche or the soul, and the brain itself. And it may be that the human mind, consciousness or soul may be able to function when there is no brain function at all. “
I say this with due respect to Dr. Parnia and his work: Stony Brook’s Web site lists his qualifications as an internal medicine physician by training with specialty in pulmonology, critical care, and sleep medicine. However, Dr. Parnia’s comments are very much related to neoroscience.  I am wondering, if any neuroscientist who might be familiar with Dr. Parnia’s work has commented on his conclusions.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1JarYYWDfQ

Sorry about the long post!

49 COMMENTS

  1. NDEs don’t prove an afterlife (I won’t herein rehearse the fallacies involved in thinking otherwise) but, since an invalid proof isn’t a disproof, for NDEs to disprove an afterlife would require an argument like, “NDEs show the brain works like this and the mind correlates with brain function like this, and therefore a brain-independent mind is implausible”. NDEs are probably not the best way to make that case; we should incorporate our full knowledge of neurology. For example, each aspect of the mind empirically relies on a particular kind of brain activity; lose that functionality in the brain, lose it in the mind.

    A question for anyone who believes in an afterlife to consider: Phineas Gage suffered a horrific but nonfatal accident in 1848 which damaged his brain, and his personality thereafter changed so much his friends said he was “no longer Gage”. He died in 1860. Did a version of Gage go to the afterlife in 1848, 1860, or both; in 1860, did the “original” or “second” Gage go, or both; and why are the answers what they are? (Some people believe in an afterlife that doesn’t “start” until Armageddon, but most of my question’s awkward challenge remains even for them.)

  2. Well that’s all very well, but what hypothesis does Dr. Parnia put forward to explain how the mind functions otherwise than as a consequence of the biological/chemical/neurological functions of the human brain? Unless there’s an elegant theory backed by convincing evidence, statements such as “And it may be that the human mind, consciousness or soul may be able to function when there is no brain function at all” have no value at all.

    On a slightly different tack, and in a slightly different vein to Jos Gibbon’s argument, a friend of mine sincerely believes that he will go to heaven when he dies. Setting aside the fact that his somewhat licentious behavior would surely condemn him to the other place, his belief is that he will inhabit a heaven where he is perenially 45 with his family also unchanging. So what about his children? Do they go to “his” heaven, or their own, where they can be independent? Or are those he loved condemned to inhabit a heaven designed to satisfy his own desires and not their own?

    Another thing that undoes theories of an “afterlife” is the idea that you somehow rewind your physical condition to the prime of your life and health, rather than the decrepit condition upon death. Logically heaven should be a repository for dead souls – how much pleasure would that be?

    Heaven, hell and the afterlifes are so riddled with inconsistencies that their existence would be an offence against science, logic and reason. There are far more rational explanations for near death experiences; so much so that even a fairly blunt Occam’s Razor should suffice to dispel the mystical nonsense.

  3. I listened to most of that interview as it was broadcast and it had me practically tearing my hair out at this idiot’s poor reasoning. I generally really like Fresh Air on NPR, but in this instance Ms. Gross let way to many of Dr. Parnia’s stupid assertions stand unchallenged.

    Dr. Parnia’s “research” into near death experiences (NDEs…which he likes to call “AFTER death experiences”) is not research at all. That’s why he is publishing a popular book on the topic instead of peer-reviewed articles. At one point in the interview he said that the “alternative theory” explaining NDE’s (the dying brain hypothesis, some version of which is almost certainly the explanation for the NDE phenomenon) has “absolutely no scientific evidence” to back it up, but only a few moments later he freely asserts that “we now know” what happens after death. Talk about an evidentiary double standard!

    At another point, Parnia is discussing out of body experiences (OOBEs) and the protocol he is using to “study” them. He places “images” in and around patient rooms and operating theatres and ERs (places where OOBEs are likely to happen) in locations where the patient could not see them while “in their body” but could see if they were floating above their body. (No mention in the interview that this exact method has been used many times before and never produced any evidence of OOBEs.) In describing this “research” he goes to great pains to lay out the fact that if dozens of patients reporting OOBEs are able to describe the images they saw when out of body, then we would have to concude that OOBEs are real, but if none of them could we would have to conclude they are not. At the end of this long set up the interviewer asked the obvious question, “So have any patients reported seeing the images?” He immediately starts making excuses and rationalizations. “Well OOBEs are extremely rare, so we’re having a hard time getting a large enough sample.” And of course, “darn it, we placed the target image above the head of the bed, and the OOBE patient reported floating at the foot of the bed!” So of course the study is just inconclusive so far. They’re really working on their protocols. Yawn.

    It’s all dressed up with impressive sounding (irrelevant) credentials, and talk of “new” research, but there is absolutely nothing new about any of the claims being made about NDEs. No new data, no discoveries, nothing that hasn’t been refuted over, and over, and over.

    Just a few month’s ago, another doctor named Eben Alexander was making the talk show rounds to flog his own book about how his own personal NDE during a coma converted him to belief in an afterlife and is definite proof of the existence of Heaven. Sam Harris tore his arguments apart in an extended article.

    Here’s the biggest flaw – in a nutshell – with NDE advocates’ reasoning. The entire NDEs-prove-an-afterlife argument rests on the assertion that these experiences happened when the brain was completely inactive, therefore consciousness must be independent of the brain.

    The problem is that we cannot accept this assertion at face value because:

    a) The “experience” could just as easily have occured before or after any state resembling brain death. (Actual brain death is in fact permanent and fatal 100% of the time.) We have no way to verify the timing of memory formation relative to brain scans when the patient is not conscious.

    And:

    b) It is very difficult to verify that there was in fact no measurable brain activity. There are many types of brain activity and they require different types of tests to verify them. Most of these types of tests are not typically performed when a patient is undergoing attempts at emergency resuscitation. It is entirely possible, for example, that a patient showing no activity on a CT scan would still have brain activity that would appear on an fMRI, PET, or EEG. Sam has the actual expertise to distinguish between the various types of tests and what they do and do not verify.

    Couple all of this with the fact that the experiences reported by NDE subjects have also been reported by other subjects whose experiences had known triggers (mostly chemicals of a psychedelic nature.) The chemical processes that happen in a brain under oxygen deprivation are known to share some characteristics with psychoactive substances. So much for “absolutely no scientific evidence” for the dying brain hypothesis.

  4. Dr. Parnia hasn’t actually released the results of his study yet so it is hard to say anything about it.

    There is lots of evidence that the mind arises from the workings of the physical brain and there is nothing to the mind but the brain. People who survive having their brain physically damaged generally have various changes in personality, intelligence, and other facets of what we consider the mind. There is no evidence that the mind survives the destruction of the brain.

    Near Death experiences are remarkably similar to the experience you get if you reduce the oxygen supply to a person. This indicates that near death experiences are simply hallucinations caused by the brain malfunctioning from lack of oxygen. There is also some evidence that near death experiences depend on the culture you come from: Christians see angels, Hindus see Shiva.

    Lots of info here (Infidels.org)

  5. In reply to #2 by Matrix7:

    There are far more rational explanations for near death experiences; so much so that even a fairly blunt Occam’s Razor should suffice to dispel the mystical nonsense.

    A nice feature that mystical nonsense can always be relied upon to come equipped with is self-invalidation.

  6. To paraphrase the Buddha ‘can a fire burn after the fuel is exhausted?’

    Here’s an experiment: go buy some cans of whipped-cream and let them sit for a while at room temperature. Keep the nozzle pointing up and place it in your mouth. Inhale the gas and hold it. Repeat. Eventually you will leave your body. Another much more dangerous experiment that can result in death: get some ketamine (you can order it online from China or India) and inject it into a muscle. You will have an NDE. Another experiment (not deadly but can cause psychological harm): get some DMT (good luck with that) and ingest it in any number of ways. You will have an NDE.

    There is a logical problem with NDEs being independent of the brain. If the mind operates independently of the brain for any amount of time, how is there any memory? How can the brain access that info later? The biggest problem with the assertion is metaphysical dualism, which is completely thrown out. Metaphysical dualism is impossible and absurd. If you claim the mind can act independently of the brain, that’s dualism. That’s claiming fires continue to exist when removed from fuel.

  7. In reply to #6 by godsbuster:

    A nice feature that mystical nonsense can always be relied upon to come equipped with is self-invalidation.

    To paraphrase Hegel, ‘everything that exists is rational.’

  8. In reply to #7 by This Is Not A Meme:

    To paraphrase the Buddha ‘can a fire burn after the fuel is exhausted?’

    An excellent question, and he/you are quite right. The ‘soul’ or ‘self’ doesn’t even exist in some traditions as we understand it in the West, and if anything seems like a desperate need to ward away the fear of oblivion and ultimate insignificance; a last gasp of the ego.

    NDE’s and other brain activity should certainly be more thoroughly researched though. If anyone is interested, here’s a really interesting paper making a case for quantum mechanics being needed to understand consciousness as we know it (though nowhere does the paper indicate, at least to me, that it would survive as we understand it after death). While the work in here is fascinating, I feel that coming up to the conclusion that quantum theory is needed to go further and just sort of stopping and making crazy assertions is a huge cop-out. http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/9502012

  9. In reply to #9 by GospelofJudas:

    here’s a really interesting paper making a case for quantum mechanics being needed to understand consciousness as we know it (though nowhere does the paper indicate, at least to me, that it would survive as we understand it after death).

    Good. Unfortunately, people do sometimes try to use QM’s weird properties to defend woo, including a quantum-induced afterlife.

    coming up to the conclusion that quantum theory is needed to go further and just sort of stopping and making crazy assertions is a huge cop-out.

    Well, the important thing is that QM Is already well-established.

    I’ll have a read through this article to see if I can follow the physics of it.

  10. I listened to that NPR show last week. Lately there has been several shows on NDEs in the media including books, magazine articles, etc. I guess this is a trend; be prepared for more to follow. I recall Dr. Novella poignantly saying these are near death experiences and NOT DEATH otherwise it would be permanent.

    I would expect some mental distortion of perception if my brain was shutting down. Unless the death was extremely quick, I wouldn’t expect an instant snap of a change. Even a dying light bulb makes a flash, pop and fizzle when it’s dying.

  11. In reply to #4 by BanJoIvie:
    Thank you very much for providing such well argued for criticism of the interpretion of NDE as a proof for “afterlife”. I took the liberty to edit the Wikipedia entry on “Near-death experience” by using your comments (added a section on criticism of such interpretation). Please take a look at it and modify it, if you need to.
    Actually, the discussion of many of the articles is quite inadequate there, as their limitations or methodology flaws are not even mentioned. It would be great to edit the whole entry. Thanks again!

  12. PLEASE HELP sustain any changes done to the Wikipedia entry on NDE. MY ADDITIONS WERE DELETED!!! I tried to undo the deletion. We will see, how long my “undo” will last. The whole article/entry on NDE appears presented in a very biased way as NDE studies and pseudostudies are basically used as an argument for the idea of afterlife. Please contribute to that entry!
    In reply to #13 by raised_atheist:

    In reply to #4 by BanJoIvie:
    Thank you very much for providing such well argued for criticism of the interpretion of NDE as a proof for “afterlife”. I took the liberty to edit the Wikipedia entry on “Near-death experience” by using your comments (added a section on criticism of such interpretation). Please take a look at it and modify it, if you need to.
    Actually, the discussion of many of the articles is quite inadequate there, as their limitations or methodology flaws are not even mentioned. It would be great to edit the whole entry. Thanks again!

    • In reply to #14 by raised_atheist:

      PLEASE HELP sustain any changes done to the Wikipedia entry on NDE. MY ADDITIONS WERE DELETED!!! I tried to undo the deletion. We will see, how long my “undo” will last. The whole article/entry on NDE appears presented in a very biased way as NDE studies and pseudostudies are basically used as an argument for the idea of afterlife. Please contribute to that entry!
      In reply to #13 by raised_atheist:

      In reply to #4 by BanJoIvie:
      Thank you very much for providing such well argued for criticism of the interpretion of NDE as a proof for “afterlife”. I took the liberty to edit the Wikipedia entry on “Near-death experience” by using your comments (added a section on criticism of such interpretation). Please take a look at it and modify it, if you need to.
      Actually, the discussion of many of the articles is quite inadequate there, as their limitations or methodology flaws are not even mentioned. It would be great to edit the whole entry. Thanks again!

      I was actually editing Wikipedia last night. A much more fun topic then this, the music of Rory Gallagher (btw, if you like rock and blues and haven’t heard his music stop whatever you are doing right now and go watch this movie of his Irish tour: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX6gOYdIFqA)

      Regarding NDE’s and Wikipedia I can help add support for your changes. For anyone who is interested and wants to take part here are some Wikipedia tips: 1) Never get personal or snarky when defending something you wrote. There is a process in Wkipedia for resolving disputes and the more you stay away from personal attacks the better your case will look 2) You MUST have good supported references for anything you write, especially on a controversial topic like this. Refs to journal articles are best. Anything that is Original Research shouldn’t be in Wkipedia. So for example on the NDE page someone had posted some text about their personal experience. That should be removed regardless of what positions it takes because it doesn’t meet the standards of Wikipedia.

      • In reply to #23 by Red Dog:

        I was actually editing Wikipedia last night… the music of Rory Gallagher

        I have a fond memory of seeing Taste live in Belfast, 1969 or 1970.

        I was right at the front, close to the speakers.

        I think that counts as a Near Deaf Experience. (Just to bring you back on topic :)

  13. They’d save a whole lot more lives if they were more conscientious of washing their hands and getting rid of the incompetents, the alcoholics and the senile; but that will demand real miracles.

    Anyway, after merely two millennia, medical science is able – randomly, rarely – to re-enact the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? Not bad … Give it some time and some science and an MD is as good as god. What does this say about the miracles Jesus performed, or about the saviors of the emergency room. The trick is telling the god from the fraud.

    … But don’t be too hard on these guys pedaling their books, the standards for publishable work in medicine are not quite as high as in hard science.

    One more thing … Are the experiments double blind? Have they been repeated elsewhere by independent researchers? What is their control group? Have they controlled for ESP?

  14. Parnia has been trying to test a hypothesis that NDEs demonstrate that somehow the consciousness is not contained in the brain for awhile now. The lack of any outcomes from his experiments is starting to tell its own story.

    You might like this talk by Sean Carroll that explains why consciousness existing independent of the brain is impossible based on our understanding of physics

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vrs-Azp0i3k

    Michael

  15. In reply to #2 by Matrix7:

    Well that’s all very well, but what hypothesis does Dr. Parnia put forward to explain how the mind functions otherwise than as a consequence of the biological/chemical/neurological functions of the human brain? Unless there’s an elegant theory backed by convincing evidence, statements such as “And it may be that the human mind, consciousness or soul may be able to function when there is no brain function at all” have no value at all.

    I don’t think he needs to provide an explanation himself. But some evidence that there is a phenomena that needs explaining would be good!

    Michael

  16. I had a girlfriend that showed me how to pass out within a few seconds merely by hyperventilating, then standing up while she pushed on my chest, can’t remember if I held my breath or breathed out at the time. Worked perfectly anyway, I passed out and dreamt for hours, flying over mountains, etc. No real religious images or anything, but I’m not generally a religious person. Came to, and said “Wow, how long was I out for.” She said “12 seconds”. Tells me that the brain goes into hyper mode when deprived of oxygen. Certainly doesn’t prompt me to believe in the afterlife, more the opposite. And no I didn’t need to redo the experiment, once was enough.

  17. In principle, science could validate the notion one step at a time, so long as you emphasize that it’s simply another natural mechanism and not something supernatural. For instance, you’d have to prove that people with NDEs actually have experienced things that don’t leave a trace on the brain. More generally, you’d have to find an absence of correlation between brain activity and the patient’s reported experiences, and this would have to be consistent – which at present is contradicted by the strong correlations between the two which neuroscience has repeatedly discovered.

    If they are separable, then it is hypothetically possible that consciousness could continue after the brain is destroyed. However, it would still need a mechanism of its own to account for it, and that would have to be connected to the physical world as we know it, which would then have to expand into this unexplored area of investigation, akin to finding a new dimension or parallel universe you could visit. It might be akin to the discovery of spectra beyond the visible light we naturally see.

    The trouble is that the evidence for this would have to be spectacularly watertight, it would contradict the current findings of neuroscience, and the case must be well supported at every step with strong results, because if true, it would require an exceptionally huge revamping of our current science.

    The first step, of course, is to prove that consciousness does exist independently of brain activity, but you have to make sure this is the case. In our current incomplete stage of neuroscience, there’s plenty of wiggle room for doubting it, not least of which is how to measure brain activity at all levels. EEGs (which I believe Parnia is using) only give information on the superficial areas of the brain like the upper surface of the cerebral cortex, not on deeper structures like the limbic, inner cortical, and subcortical systems.

  18. I heard this guy on NPR as well and was also kind of appalled at what he said and the soft ball questions that were lobbed at him. The one thing he seemed to be claiming that I thought was interesting was that NDE’s have a lot of similarities across cultural boundaries. That would be interesting from a scientific standpoint if it were true. For example, if I have an NDE and see things that look liked winged angels its not very surprising. Even though I rejected those beliefs a long time ago they were the ones drilled into me from my earliest days so it wouldn’t at all be a surprise that my brain defaults to them in traumatic situations.

    On the other hand if someone from a tribe of canniballs sees angels in an NDE that is scientifically interesting. It seemed clear to me that this guy was more interested in selling his book then presenting or doing objective research but I wonder if others know how true was his claim?

    BTW. even if there WERE strong cross cultural similarities in NDEs there are still many more plausible explanations then that the soul exists separately from the body. One topic I find very interesting lately is understanding the built-in common sense reasoning that is probably to some extent hardwired into our brains from birth. Concepts such as cause and effect, agency, etc. It could be that cross cultural similarities in NDEs map back to these basic mental modules that we all have from birth and that our brains default to in a crisis.

  19. Here is an interesting link I found on the Wikipedia NDE page: http://anthropology.uwaterloo.ca/WNB/NearDeath.html

    Its a study of NDEs in a primitive tribe that doesn’t have traditional Christian beliefs about Heaven and Hell. Note that MOST of the things that are commonly reported in NDEs are missing from their reports. No hovering in space, etc. But two things that are common were reports of seeing dead loved ones and the feeling of being in a happy place. I think this shows how NDEs may give us insight into how our brains are hard wired to deal with concepts like life after death and why religions evolved to be such an influence on human culture.

    • In reply to #29 by Charles Pegge:

      Another compelling piece of testimony. This time the personal story of a neurosurgeion who contracted a very nasty bacterial meningitis, which does unspeakable things to brain tissue, and is almost always lethal or inflicts permanent brain damage:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYZoX4N5_YQ

      Actually his reports simply show that he did not do his homework on the neuroscience, which would show that his experiences were pretty much normal responses to oxygen starvation etc, but he simply assumed that his memories of the hallucinations were real. It is also well known that damage to certain areas of the brain produces increased spiritual feelings.

      We have discussed his claims before.

      http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2012/11/29/dr-eben-alexander-s-tells-of-near-death-in-proof-of-heaven#

      http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2012/10/10/is-the-afterlife-full-of-fluffy-clouds-and-angels#

      Charles Pegge – 31

      It is indeed a challenge to devout atheists,

      Not at all! The science behind these reports is reasonably clear that these are the usual medical symptoms.

      but I trust the intelligence and integrity of these guys,

      Really? You decide to believe a story because it is what you like to hear, and their religious view matches yours!

      and their judgement is clearly not coloured by religious doctrine.

      Well, if it matches yours, it couldn’t be! … Could it??

      The funny thing is, that those who believe in different afterlives see their different gods – when THEY HALLUCINATE from oxygen starvation of the brain!

      • It can’t be just Oxygen starvation or other brain damage. People often have NDE’s when they are in mortal danger and think they are about to die. The brain is completely operational. Massive release of neurotrransmitters possibly.

        Not sure what you mean by hallucination. To have a rational discussion, we would need to define this term more precisely, rather than as a perjorative term.

        I think it could encompass many different psychic phenomena. It could be optical illusions, or even a visual solution to mathematical problem, or something that is real but outside normal perception.

        When people go blind they often see very strange images and animations due the visual cortex being deprived of external stimulation, but these are understood for what they are, and they have no profound impact on higher cognition, unlike many NDEs.

        • In reply to #36 by Charles Pegge:

          It can’t be just Oxygen starvation or other brain damage. People often have NDE’s when they are in mortal danger and think they are about to die. The brain is completely operational. Massive release of neurotrransmitters possibly.

          There are other ways of inducing “spiritual experiences”. – Exhaustion, sleep deprivation, hallucinogens, drug side effects, psychosis – Shamen have been using them for centuries.

          Not sure what you mean by hallucination. To have a rational discussion, we would need to define this term more precisely, rather than as a perjorative term.

          “Delusional imagery or sounds would do”, but if you want more detail;-

          http://www.adr.org.uk/factsheets/hallucinations.pdf

          Hallucinations are “false sensory perceptions, unfounded on external realities, and outside the cognitive control of the affected individual. ” Hallucinations caused by drugs are commonly visual. They can be an isolated adverse effect but often occur as a part of drug-induced psychosis.

          Hallucinations may consist of unformed abstract shapes of flashes of light; or can be more vivid in colour and have complex forms such as animals or people. Somemay manifest as a misperception, such as a hanging coat taking the form of a person.

          Drug-induced auditory hallucinations may be unformed tinnitus, bangs, whistles or thuds, although they may take the form of singing [see re:ACTION No 5, 1994].

          Patients sometimes re-experience the hallucinations as ‘flashbacks’, mainly after use of recreational drugs such as lysergide (LSD), cannabis, ketamine and ecstasy. It can sometimes be difficult to establish if a hallucination is caused by a drug or an underlying illness.

          Up to 30% of adverse drug reactions in primary care may be neuropsychiatric.

          Just science really.

          I think it could encompass many different psychic phenomena.

          I think the scientific term is PSYCHOLOGICAL phenomena. “Psychic phenomena” have consistently turned out to be fakes or hallucinations, on closer inspection.

          It could be optical illusions, or even a visual solution to mathematical problem, or something that is real but outside normal perception.

          Scientific instrumentation is what we use for detecting real things “outside normal human perception”. – (Radiation outside the human visible spectrum, ultra-sound, magnetic fields, distant objects, micro and macro scales etc.) We also use it for detecting brain activities, when brains are imagining real or unreal objects.

  20. I had a NDE some years ago. I was thrown off a horse and she kindly kicked me in the head as I was flying off her rump… I was resuscitated by a nurse who luckily was on the ride. I was unconscious for over 5 minutes and I saw lights and flashes and lots of very rapidly flashing images like stills not a movie of my life up to that time. When I woke up in hospital I was kind of strapped down with something keeping my head perfectly still. I had brain damage to the area of the brain that controls speech and took years to talk properly again. But as I was aware of the research done on NDE’s I just thought to myself, cool I have experienced something I had an interest in and I could just be glad I didn’t die. Once the brain is starved of oxygen, the death sequence begins in all your cells and once the last neuron has fired, brain is now dead and beginning the process of decaying. There is nothing after that. Remember what it felt like before you were born? Nothing, it’s a calm blackness without pain, anxieties or anything else. Death just puts us back there, we no longer exist. I rather like that idea. Eternal peace without having to spend eternity singing praises to a vile god. Bring it on.

  21. I am glad you lived to tell the tale. The back end of a horse is not a good place to be at the best of times. I somewhat doubt there is a vile god at the other end, demanding worship for the rest of eternity, but the continuity of consciousness, is a possibility more credible to me than total anihilation of self. This has little to do with religious doctrines, which at least in the Christian tradition since the rule of Emperor Constantine, is mostly concerned with keeping the minions obedient to their lords and masters,

    What lies beyond the velvety blackness?

  22. If you are “near death” you aren’t dead yet. Post-death or Near-life experiences might be more fruitful to study.

    As I understand it, everything in the universe is a field of some sort or another. So our brain state or mind is a field which is locally concentrated for a while and then diminishes. While it is being actively generated / modulated it propagates into the universe in all directions. Theoretically, could a distant observer(s) somehow overcome SNR problems and reconstruct this mind? ( Maybe L. Krauss has some thoughts on this? )

    Somehow this field becomes established…this is “ensoulment”.We might consider this field to be analogous to the “soul”, its creation (from nothing?) would be “en-soulment”, and its ever-expanding propagation into the universe as “eternal life after death”. The universe is gradually being saturated with the combined fields of ALL life forms from the time of their origin; could this be considered the “mind of god”? Are the interference patterns of these fields an evolving hologram of the universe of mind?

  23. I understand your point of view Alan, and I appreciate your detailed rebuttal of mine, But my concern is that to make your model of reality work,
    you would have to consider all NDE subjects as naive, foolish, mad or fraudulent, which is quite a tall order,
    especially when neurosurgeons are on the list.

    The evidence, in my opinion, should be spared destruction upon the bed of Procrustes.

    • In reply to #38 by Charles Pegge:

      I understand your point of view Alan, and I appreciate your detailed rebuttal of mine, But my concern is that to make your model of reality work,

      you would have to consider all NDE subjects as naive, foolish, mad or fraudulent, which is quite a tall order,

      Not really! Accepting convincing delusions whilst in a susceptible state is hardly surprising, especially when the symptoms match other reports from similar circumstances.

      especially when neurosurgeons are on the list.

      If you looked at the earlier links @35 you would see that the neurosurgeon’s claims were examined and found to be unresearched by a neuroscientist, much more experienced in investigative work. Deluded neurosurgeons who make unsupported anecdotal claims, merely discredit themselves – as was noted on the earlier discussions.

      The evidence, in my opinion, should be spared destruction upon the bed of Procrustes.

      Mystical claims are usually stretched to fit preconceived supernatural notions, where as scientists look at case studies and evidence – or in these cases – the absence of credible supporting evidence, together with the refutations from physics.

    • In reply to #38 by Charles Pegge:

      I understand your point of view Alan, and I appreciate your detailed rebuttal of mine, But my concern is that to make your model of reality work,
      you would have to consider all NDE subjects as naive, foolish, mad or fraudulent, which is quite a tall order,
      especially when neurosurgeons are on the list.

      There are already links to earlier discussions about this particular neurosurgeon.

      Neurosurgeons with brain diseases, pumped full of pre-medication, under anaesthetic on an operating table, and unconscious, do indeed have to be naive, foolish, or fraudulent, to claim that they are reliable witnesses while in that condition.

      Only dedicated wish thinkers, would take such claims as reliable testimony!

  24. Our senses are fallible, and that is while we are healthy and living. I wouldn’t doubt they are just as fallible while our brain is oxygen starved or damaged and in it’s death throws. I don’t see how NDEs could be used so readily to claim an afterlife…

  25. @Alan4discussion

    What about all the other people who have these NDEs experiences, and who are profoundly transformed by them? What evidence do you have that they are all ‘delusional’ or ‘wish-thinkers’? How would you measure these psychological dispositions?

    • In reply to #43 by Charles Pegge:

      @Alan4discussion

      What about all the other people who have these NDEs experiences, and who are profoundly transformed by them? What evidence do you have that they are all ‘delusional’ or ‘wish-thinkers’? How would you measure these psychological dispositions?

      Obviously it is not possible to examine every case where people have had hallucinations, but the studies which have been done show common symptoms and circumstances.

      Nobody is suggesting that these strange experiences cannot affect the subjects psychology and change their lives. Shamanistic activities have been changing mental attitudes and outlooks, by using these methods for centuries.

      You quoted a neurosurgeon as an authoritative case, and now that I discredited those claims, you have just moved on to other vague unevidenced claims.
      The physics of energy measurements, pretty well rules out any “out of body activities”, as anything but delusions, tricks of memory, drug effects, psychosis, hallucinations, or fakes.

      Those making such claims have singularly failed to produce any credible scientific evidence. All they have produced is stories which fall apart on closer examination.

    • In reply to #43 by Charles Pegge:

      @Alan4discussion

      What about all the other people who have these NDEs experiences, and who are profoundly transformed by them? What evidence do you have that they are all ‘delusional’ or ‘wish-thinkers’? How would you measure these psychological dispositions?

      My life was transformed by very nearly dying. After a head on car crash I was taken to hospital unconscious and recall even now the vivid images of being underwater and coming up into the light for air. I very nearly died, not because I was badly injured (extensive bruising and a few broken bones only) but because I was trapped in the vehicle and the minibus I had collided with had burst into flames. The strapping young students in the minibus were able to lift up my car, though, and bodily carry it to safety, otherwise I would have been burnt to death. I was very, very lucky.

      Since then all my childhood fears of dying seem to have left me. I felt fantastic when I left the hospital. Everything was better brighter and more to be treasured. The effect lasted for several years and even now I use the memories when I need an emotional pick-me-up.

      In short people who nearly die often may well be transformed about their attitude to the remainder of their lives. That they attribute it to vivid dreams is probably just their spooky woo post hoc narrator ignoring the obvious reason for the feelgood, they nearly died and got a second chance.

      Good Catholic Graham Greene produced a similar mental tonic for himself in gloomy moods by putting a bullet into his service revolver going up onto Hampstead Heath, giving the chamber a spin, putting the gun to his head and pulling the trigger. He got lucky and happy on every occasion.

  26. I like exploring both sides of the argument and the Colin Blakemore Telegraph article is the best I’ve seen so far. He is one of the grandees of British science and rightly so. So, if you know of any research papers in the public domain, Alan, then let us have the links. Argument and opinion without evidence, will not shed light on this subject. (I say opinion because scientists in the public eye often like to pronouce on subject which are not within their field of expertise, and we end up with ‘appeal to authority’ arguments’)

  27. Perhaps this is why mountaineers like to dangle themselves over 1000 ft precipices, inducing a large shot of adrenaline and endorphins :-)

    However, the more lasting impact of your NDE seems to be that fact that you lost your fear of death, and your view of life was transformed. The movie special-effects part of the experience was of lesser importance, would you say?

    • In reply to #47 by Charles Pegge:

      Perhaps this is why mountaineers like to dangle themselves over 1000 ft precipices, inducing a large shot of adrenaline and endorphins :-)

      However, the more lasting impact of your NDE seems to be that fact that you lost your fear of death, and your view of life was transformed. The movie special-effects part of the experience was of lesser importance, would you say?

      Absolutely. My parents spoke of their wartime experience anticipating the bombers and the like as when they felt most alive. We perceive, it seems, only with the aid of contrasts. Freedom means most to the prisoner and little to the long free.

      My NDE was not such a thing really, as my death was only near as a retrospective concept. The special effects were perhaps the result of partial consciousness with restricted breathing.

  28. My theory of the white light and tunnel is this: Your brain has 4 types of visual cortex sensor inputs (normally getting stimulus from rods and cones). One for Red, Green, Blue, and one for brightness. When the RGB inputs (not from the eye but directly on the cortex itself) are all firing at once OR all reducing at once, that is experienced as white. The brightness sensors/neurons don’t balance against others (as R G and B ‘balance’, or offset), so when they reduce it is a continuum effect of brightness to darkness, which MUST be centered at one specific location, creating the experience of a tunnel. That is, the ‘center’ of your field of view, must have MORE neurons than the peripherally connected neurons. Its similar to blacking out, except for experienced as MUCH more vivid because of my final point: Euphoria/Happyness. Even the term Nirvana originates to mean “not feeling” rather than “feeling”. Freedom from suffering. All consciousness is essentially a form of pain. Happyness is, rather than BEING something, is simply the LACK of pain. So when someone experiences all these profound things all at once and it’s TOTALLY new, it will yeah, change your life I’d say.

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