October 16, 2013 at 10:29 am
Did Matt continue his conversation with the last caller? If he did is there anyway to hear what was said? I would have loved to hear how the caller answered the question Matt asked as the credits were rolling.
October 16, 2013 at 10:45 am
Just wanted to make an observation about the near-death-experience caller. The terminology that he used as part of his claim was that “people see their close relatives”, which on the face of it seems a fairly strong testimony. However, it should be pointed out that people usually, if not always “see” things with their eyes and in the cases that the caller was using this cannot have been the case. The correct term to use, in my opinion should have been that people “imagine seeing their close relatives” which doesn’t sound so convincing. Also, if you are clinically dead, then you are hardly at your most alert and lucid status (often due to the drugs given). Days before my mum died, in hospital care, she would hallucinate about all sorts of things.
John Kruger says
October 16, 2013 at 10:57 am
That is exactly my problem with “out of body” or “afterlife” experiences. People “see”, “hear”, and “feel” all sorts of things, but without any organs to do so (if the out of body experience is to be believed). I can’t help but wonder why people who are possessed of their bodies are unable to similarly see hear and feel when their respective organs are damaged beyond use. The “spiritual senses” are pretty shy, it would seem.
There is also no way to avoid the testimony of a brain’s experience while it was dying, which has to cast a lot of doubt on such testimony. Occam’s razor has to fall on the side of a malfunctioning brain and chop off a mysterious and un-evidenced spiritual existence.
October 16, 2013 at 10:58 am
The whole episode was worth listening to just to get Matt’s summary of the old testament. Mark the tape on that one. Too funny, except perhaps that a lot of people take that outrageous story as fact.
Matt Gerrans says
October 16, 2013 at 11:28 am
A big problem with after life experience research is that usually the medical staff are focused on trying to resuscitate the patient, rather than performing double blind experiments to measure the patient’s perceptions.
Even if they did do such experiments (unethical as that would be) and did discover that the patient did have some perceptions, however amazing, it would not really shed any light on the question of what happens after death. If someone is revived, they were not dead, but in a pre-death state; it seems to me that the definition of “dead” is that you cannot be revived. If you can, then you weren’t quite dead, however close.
October 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm
It seems to me as if there are similarities to the stuff a person makes up as dreams when waking up.
Does anyone have an idea what the material is, this caller talked about? I would really like to see if the conclusions of the – i hope – scientific papers are as convincing as the caller told …
Stephanie Austin says
October 16, 2013 at 12:17 pm
I’m blanking on the “scientist” that he was talking about but he came out with a book that “proves” there is an afterlife. I think he’s that neurologist that had an experience himself so totes that makes it true!
October 16, 2013 at 12:42 pm
Since I was unable to edit my post:
Dr. Sam Parnia was on Coast to Coast radio back in 2011 talking about his new book, Erasing Death. The Amazon reviews are interesting. According to Google the AWARE study results were supposed to be out last month.
October 16, 2013 at 2:55 pm
Well, mostly dead is slightly alive.
Even though states like “alive”, “dying” and “dead” are not sharply separated, in the end I can’t take afterlife experiences too seriously because they all hinge on some level or another of dualism, which is one of those untestable theories that have no real value (besides convincing yourself of stuff you really want to be true even though there are no good reasons to think that they are).
October 16, 2013 at 5:19 pm
Yes, I think that is why it doesn’t fly for me, intuitively.
You can take the conversation there with that kind of person by simply saying let’s grant all your “scientific” evidence and testimony of crackpot “scientists.” Fine, let’s say the evidence says there is life after death, for argument’s sake (because it really doesn’t). Fine and dandy. Now explain souls. How do the connect to bodies? Why are bodies needed if the souls are immortal? Why is our consciousness limited to the body? Why can’t we communicate or even detect souls? What is the purpose of the physical universe and what universe do souls exist in? When do souls begin to exist and do they ever cease to exist? What keeps the soul “attached” to the physical body that is hurling and spinning through space at astronomical speeds? Where is your evidence for any answer to any of these questions? And so on.
October 16, 2013 at 7:00 pm
I think Matt’s point about the power of suggestion really needs to be taken seriously.
My mom is getting older, has Parkinson’s, and I have seen instances where doctors will ask her if she is having Specific Problem ABC, and she always says yes no matter what it is they say–it’s just the tone of voice the doctor uses, the sense of concern, and the fact that it was suggested to her (plus she feels like she must answer quickly even when she isn’t sure, as the doctors are usually talking and moving very fast and she can’t really keep up with understanding what is going on).
This became a problem when they asked her if she felt like she was losing energy right before it was time to take another dose of meds. Of course, she said yes (she feels tired all the time, so it wasn’t really remarkable that she felt low energy before a time for meds), so they upped her meds to 4 times per day instead of 3, which ended up having several side effects for months because she really wasn’t having the problem that their question was supposed to get at. Her meds were fine at 3 times a day.
If you tried to get at the truth of these circumstances from her after the fact, she wouldn’t really remember any of it clearly and mix and match things into a story that might seem to make sense at the time she’s telling it–and she would believe it, but it wouldn’t be what happened (or be the same story she would tell next time).
Even people without neurological problems, however, remember how they PERCEIVED things, or how what little they do remember perceiving fits a preconceived idea of how the story of this memory should go (and they may not even realize that they don’t remember several things that did happen).
The plural of anecdote is not data…mostly because the plural of badly remembered perceptions often tell similar stories due to wishful thinking, and the fact that wishful thinking across humanity is very similar. We see the similarity and think it indicates the truth of something…and it does, but that truth is just really mundane and uninteresting. (E.g., lots of people want to believe in OBEs and NDEs, misperceive or misremember a series of events because it fits better with a more interesting narrative THAT THEY HAVE HEARD BEFORE, and suddenly they are part of a larger, more interesting story–at least more interesting than brain dysfunction and rotten memories.)
October 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm
October 16, 2013 at 7:40 pm
The biggest problem with NDE experiences is that the way our memory works is that whenever we remember something, we are not “replaying” something as though our brains recorded it onto a DVD. Rather, our brains “reconstruct” the memory using various bits and pieces of information. For example, think about your last birthday party. You will likely remember the location, the people, the cake, the food, and activities. However, what your brain is doing is taking a whole heap of those things from various memes such as “Cake” and presenting it as part of that memory. Each time we remember something, we are literally building that memory right now, and memory is labelled differently to imagination. It’s very much like a picture puzzle, but a puzzle where your brain will fill in all the gaps with ‘phantom pieces’ that match general expectations for that scene. Think about a dream where in the dream, you “remembered” something that needed to have happened earlier in the dream but you didn’t actually dream that part: you’ll realize that the difference between “this is a memory” and “This is your imagination” is how your brain ‘labels’ it.
Another interesting point to note is that the brain can remember or ‘flag’ things subconsciously that we do not consciously remember. For example, if you learn a set of facts and then ‘forget’ them, and are later tested on them, compared to someone not taught those facts, you will get more correct in that test. Take the case of Henry Molaison for example. Brain surgery damaged his short-term memory to the point he could not remember anything new after 1957 until his death. He did not recognize his nursing staff and never remembered anything that happened after that time. However, in tests he showed improvement on motor skill learning tasks: at some level he was gaining skills he didn’t know about. Both of these things show further how memory is not like a DVD: you cannot simply say “I remember X, therefore X happened”, or vice versa. For NDEs, just because someone does not remember being told features about Aunt Flo, doesn’t mean they haven’t been told about Aunt Flo, or that they won’t invoke an Aunt Flo “meme” when appropriate.
When someone “remembers” something in an NDE, was it something that happened, or was it a mislabelling of a reconstruction of what they expected to happen, a reconstruction that they began after they were revived, on the basis that they expected that they would be have an NDE and therefore, constructed one post-event? “Oh, I saw myself in the hospital room (which I was already in) and saw the nurses come in (what a surprise) and they performed CPR (like I saw on TV) and then I came round and they confirmed that’s what happened”. Is any of this really that impressive?
NDEs are only impressive to people who don’t know how the brain and memory works.
October 16, 2013 at 8:08 pm
i noticed the NDE caller said something like the person’s memory was gone or not functioning, so the “experiences” had to be actual experiences. i just wonder how they remembered the experience then, when recalling it to someone later. did the spirit-being memory get downloaded to the physical-being memory at the point of crossover. yeah, that must be it.
and how do spirits work and how can they “see” dead relatives? what are they “seeing” with if their bodies and brains don’t work? i guess spirit beings have the same senses and brain functions as physical beings. and if that’s the case, why didn’t god just create us without the physical brains in the first place? why not just start with the spirit being?
so we can be born here and choose eternal teams. but angels could choose teams.
ok, stop asking questions.
October 17, 2013 at 3:22 am
Well, also the term “imagine” is loaded. It already implies that it is made up. Isn’t it better to say “remember” or “seem to remember”?
October 17, 2013 at 3:27 am
Some would say that “Orch-OR” (Hameroff and Penrose’s creation) would provide such a potentially scientific explanation. But even is that is dualistic in a certain sense.
October 17, 2013 at 5:53 am
Nope, that would imply that those things really happened. The correct term is ‘hallucinated’, that is things which register in the mind without going through the senses.
Curt Cameron says
October 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm
The NDE caller was bringing up all the talking points from the crowd who are into that. I listen to the Skeptiko podcast (don’t let the name fool you – its host is a complete creduloid). He gets fairly prominent guests frequently and his main point is that the evidence for consciousness outside of the physical brain is completely demonstrated and it’s just the meanie materialist atheist scientists who are so wrapped up in their materialist dogma that they won’t even look at all that evidence.
For example, recently he had John Searle from Berkeley, a philosopher who’s written a lot about consciousness, and the arc of the interview is very typical, something like this:
Guest: Talks about his writing, work, whatever.
Alex: But how does that relate to all the evidence we have showing that psychic powers and NDEs are real phenomena?
G: I’m not aware of any data that shows that – the data I’ve seen is highly anecdotal, and the psi research that’s been done is highly unconvincing.
Then after the interview Alex whines about how can a person who is a supposed leader in the field of consciousness not be aware of the huge amount of hard data that shows that consciousness cannot be just due to the physical brain? These people put themselves out as being in the forefront, but they haven’t even looked into this area that would completely undermine their conclusions! Alex even says explicitly that the old dictum “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is not valid for consciousness claims.
It’s pretty much the same thing, all the time. I’ve looked at this supposed data, and it’s completely unconvincing to anyone who isn’t already married to the idea that this stuff is real.
Adam W says
October 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm
Rather odd that those who claim to experience NDE always somehow seem to perceive the God(s) of their religion, eg Christians see Jehovah, Islamists see Allah, Shintoists and Hinduists see their deities, Mormons report seeing Joseph Smith wandering about in Heaven, etc, and Unitarians see a bunch of everyone else’s Gods.
Hmmm, I wonder why THAT would be?
October 17, 2013 at 5:40 pm
Yes. Matt’s summary of the bible was a trip down cookoo land. Too bad the caller was too fixated to get the humor. Too into the complicated explanations he was trying to manufacture to support his current understanding. In those cases it’s just better to paint some graffiti on those walls and enjoy the scenery.
October 17, 2013 at 5:46 pm
It sounds like the doctors need to be reminded of their training and to avoid leading questions, especially those with no supporting scientific evidence. Lazy physician.
The use of leading questions is also how religion indoctrinates from early ages. Children want to please authority figures and end up building patterns of belief in the brain.
October 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm
The one thing I found myself silently screaming to Matt during the afterlife caller was, even if Matt granted him every premise, every claim for there to be conciousness outside the body, it still in no way proved the *christian* god. Maybe all this so-called “evidence” actually is proof for the Hindu system etc. Similar rhetoric could have been effective with the last caller as well. Matt mentioned that it becomes an unexplained phenomena but didn’t tie it back to the religion of the caller.
Still, an excellent show, and I am always up to hear one of Matt’s rants about the insanity of the bible.
October 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm
I talked with the last caller afterwards. It was just your standard theistic garbage of justifying atrocities by claiming they were not bad. You know the type. “Slaves really wanted to be enslaved” type garbage.
October 18, 2013 at 3:10 am
We should not forget that for most believers its “my god or nothing”. I can understand -as silly as it is, looking at it from the outside- that this general rule of thought. The fact that other gods are probable (not impossible) is outside of their views of the world.
So the argument of “proof of A god is not necessarily proof of YOUR god” never gets understood.
Jim Ramsay says
October 18, 2013 at 7:49 am
Wow, yes, I was totally blown away.
Timestamps: Starts off with a nice quick discussion on free will around 51:11, but really gets going at 53:10.
Good job Matt, that was “inspired”.
October 18, 2013 at 8:05 am
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t at some point the podcast of the show include the conversations you’ve continued after the live show ended?
I hear you guys say sometimes “We’ll continue this conversation after the show if you want to hang around” and I keep wondering if we can’t listen in to that too?
October 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm
Regarding the “Near Death Experience caller”, anyone interested in the topic should Google Dr. Susan Blackmore. She was a true believer in magic and parapsychology but “converted” and became an extremely incisive and articulate scientist. She debunks many of the oft-repeated claims that came up during the call, e.g. that people only see dead relatives (apparently children experiencing NDEs do report seeing living friends) or that people only experience NDEs after brain death (there are a wide variety of triggers that suggest a physiological pathway producing the core phenomena)
October 18, 2013 at 5:55 pm
A suggestion for future shows:
If someone claims that there are studies on a particular topic (not a website, not an article in a magazine but actual scientific studies), then have them email you the links to the peer reviewed journals (there are ways of getting access to just about anything for free if you know someone in academia, hint hint) and then let them call back once you’ve had a chance to read them.
The claims the caller made were fascinating. But it’s not fair for me to just claim I don’t believe them. make him prove that such a study has been published. It would allow us to read about the methodology, results and conclusions. Otherwise for all we know they made it up, or got it from a theist source where someone made it up or exaggerated what the study actually said. (I hear people do this all the time.) People making affirmative claims need to put up or shut up. If they are going to call into the show and make these claims (and it’s the main part of their claim, not something tangential they couldn’t have prepared for) and don’t have the name of the journal and the date of publication handy, then they need to email you that info and then call back after the host and cohost have had a chance to read it. I rather doubt the study says what the caller claimed but I’ll go look on jstor and see what I can come up with.
October 18, 2013 at 5:59 pm
how do we know how long someone can store memory from hearing after they are “clinically dead”. My understanding is that there is such a term because there’s a lot we can’t be sure of and hospitals needed a protocol. There’s nothing definitive about that. Just the usual “this is the best understanding we have about this at this time” sort of thing. Even machines don’t turn off all at once. I can’t imagine the body (including the brain) does either. I think we have a lot of assumptions about death that aren’t actually based on any sound scientific study.
October 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm
Now that would be a study that I would want to read. What kinds of NDEs to people in nonwestern cultures claim to have had?
BTW, of course people claim to have seen dead relatives. Isn’t that supposed to be one of the benefits of being a theist? You get to see you long lost loved ones again? If you believed that, why wouldn’t that be your hallucination as you were dying? (Personally I’d rather see all my old dogs again, but that’s just me.)
October 18, 2013 at 6:46 pm
There were actually two of them, and they were talking and diagnosing so quickly it was difficult for ME to keep up. I suspected at the time that mom said that (that she was losing energy before her next meds) that she was just agreeing with what was suggested, but I’m not her so I couldn’t really say she DIDN’T feel that way.
I do wish they would have told her that if she had side effects to switch back to 3 times a day and contact them. They didn’t tell us of any possible side effects, so she ended up with involuntary movements, singing, humming, eye movements, etc, sometimes for an hour or more a day…although sometimes not at all (although once it seemed to last most of a day). This went on for months before her new neurologist bumped the meds back down. I honestly wasn’t sure what the cause was, or if it was just the Parkinson’s, but as soon as those meds were reduced all the side effects stopped.
October 18, 2013 at 9:54 pm
Here’s the wikipedia entry for Dr Sam Parnia. It has some links to his articles and books.
October 19, 2013 at 5:04 am
Yeah that’s kind of his schtick really; Gish Gallop them to death on the air and if that doesn’t do the job editorially well-poison them off it.
Most of the mainstream folks he has on think they’re being asked on to talk about what they know. Really they’re being quizzed on what he knows, with no preparation.
What’s funny is I’ve heard him interviewed elsewhere and he seems genuinely convinced he’s such a nice, generous, fair, open hearted guy and interviewer. Really he’s the Bill O’Reilly of kooks.
October 19, 2013 at 10:48 am
How about “experience”?
October 19, 2013 at 6:33 pm
The recording of the stream over at ustream usually has the pre and post show. But that was quite borked this week.
October 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm
The NDE caller seemed like he was clutching at straws, throwing a lot of different assertions out there and mingling a lot of different claims from different sources. However, I think Matt was incorrect in at least one of his statements–I believe he said that once there is clinical death, then that is the end, there is no coming back. (I may be misquoting, but I think it was something to that effect). It’s important to note that our understanding of the process of death, and the brain’s experience of this process are still not well studied and characterized. “Clinical death” occurs at the moment when the heart stops spontaneously beating, but of course resuscitation beyond this point is not uncommon. “Biological death” is typically a couple minutes after the heart stops, but the official timestamp is decided by the doctor, who, in their professional judgement determines the likelihood of resuscitation is almost nothing, but very rarely they are wrong even on this point. So death is still a fuzzy line, and more study is needed. And it’s a very interesting subject to study, although very difficult to conduct research in a controlled environment, obviously. Dr. Parnia seems like he has the proper professional, scientific approach to his research, and is merely trying to document the experience of the brain in resuscitation events, to the best of our current ability. I will definitely be looking forward to the results of his long-term study, as well as further research in this area by him and others.
Here’s a link to the AWARE study:
Igor Fetir says
October 19, 2013 at 10:18 pm
Hey, can someone tell me how come this show doesn’t post its content on youtube?
This has to be the dumbest, most irresponsible and laziest thing I’ve ever see any media group (not)do.
October 20, 2013 at 5:25 am
Let me point out a few things:
First, the show has existed for like 15 years without youtube. They’re doing okay. Second, fans usually makes sure that the episodes get to youtube anyway. E.g. here’s this show.
Third and most importantly, all the people involved are volunteers, sacrificing their spare time for this. If you think this is a very important thing, why don’t you join the fan effort to make sure the episodes are available? Don’t accuse others of being lazy when you clearly can’t be bothered to get off your ass.
Jack Ellis says
October 21, 2013 at 9:25 am
I found an NPR interview with Dr. Parnia, one of the referenced NDE specialists.
He talks about the study the caller mentioned and how it’s not really going well in terms of verifying NDEs. The other doctor, Jeff Long, just comes off like a snake oil salesman and I can’t really find anything credible about him.
October 21, 2013 at 9:32 am
The caller, as well as those crazy doctors, should also read this study.
It talks about how studies in mice showed a sudden increase in brain processes following cardiac arrest before dropping off.
Sir Real says
October 22, 2013 at 4:27 am
I don’t know if it’s true or not but I have heard about how someone can have a near death experience when on the drug ketamine. Which makes me wonder are they having this near death experience before there is no measurable body and brain activity or after?
Jonathan the last caller was just too unreasonably biased and doesn’t want to be reasonable. I do find it quite amusing when someone is more certain of their own ignorance then the truth and can only come up with excuses and flawed logic. Which only proves that Matt is an ace when flying solo.
October 22, 2013 at 5:44 am
Now explain souls. How do the connect to bodies? Why are bodies needed if the souls are immortal? Why is our consciousness limited to the body? Why can’t we communicate or even detect souls? What is the purpose of the physical universe and what universe do souls exist in? When do souls begin to exist and do they ever cease to exist? What keeps the soul “attached” to the physical body that is hurling and spinning through space at astronomical speeds? Where is your evidence for any answer to any of these questions? And so on.
While I don’t believe that it is, if the universe was a simulation it would explain at least some of these. If we were just the equivalent of WoW avatars, we’d connect more or less through an electronic link, though there might not be any obvious evidence of it. Our bodies would be needed because our souls, immortal or not, simply aren’t here. Thinking about it, this would explain away the time delay between our brains starting to perform an action, and our appearing to decide to do so. As for purpose… maybe this is entertainment, or school, or the 9-5? What keeps the soul attached? User id number!
Granted, there’s no evidence for it, and I don’t believe it… but it would explain it.
November 23, 2013 at 4:00 am
I’m not too happy with how Matt handled the end of the life-after-death debate. I agree that if someone really saw something it’s not proof of the Christian worldview, or of a heaven, and I agree that if there is some study out there, it’s only evidence once the study is finished and has come out, not when someone tells anecdotes of it. But he could at least have let the caller finish his interesting story of what they found there.
Bryan Logie says
July 16, 2014 at 7:23 am
I’m sorry I missed this one. Just found the video(s) in my Internet wanderings one night. I just wanted to say I’m so sorry that time ran out at the end! I was excited to hear the exploration into how the caller decided who the “evil one” was. Fascinating discussion and I picked up a few pointers. Discussing my atheistic views with certain friends and family is always hard because it sometimes makes me angry, having grown up in what I consider the repressed intellectual state.of religious belief. I need to learn to remain more calm as Matt seems to be able to do so well here. Thank you so much and please keep up the good work!
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