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Why Near Death Experiences Are a Terrible Argument for the Soul

This piece was originally published on Alternet.

Soul leaving body “But when people are near death, they have out- of- body experiences. Some of them, anyway. Doesn’t this prove that there’s an immaterial soul, separate from the body, that leaves the body and survives when we die?”

As I’ve written before: Most arguments for spiritual belief that I encounter are so bad, they don’t even count as arguments. But some believers in religion or spirituality do try to make real arguments for their beliefs, and try to defend them with evidence and logic. This evidence and logic are never very good… but they are sincere attempts to engage with reality instead of ignoring it. So I want to do these argumemts the honor of taking them seriously… and pointing out how they’re completely mistaken.

Today, I’m taking on, not an argument for God, but for some sort of soul, separate from the brain and the body, that sparks consciousness, animates life, and survives death. More specifically, I’m taking on the argument that near- death experiences are evidence of this immortal soul.

*

Out of body Here’s the argument being made. Sometimes, when people are near death, they have weird experiences: experiences that seem like their consciousness is leaving their body. These experiences are rare — even those who believe in the soul acknowledge that NDE’s only happen to a small proportion of people near death — but they happen. And there are some reports that people having these experiences see things they couldn’t have known were there. These experiences can only be explained — so the argument goes — by a soul, separate from the brain, that departs from the brain when it’s near death, and returns to it when death is staved off.

That’s the argument.

So here’s the problem.

Consciousness.Explained-daniel.c.dennett There’s this phenomenon — consciousness.

There are essentially two ways to explain it. Either it’s a physical, biological product of the brain — or it has a component other than brain function: a soul that is separate from the brain, and that survives when the brain dies.

And there are two sets of evidence supporting these two explanations.

The evidence supporting the “biological product of the brain” explanation comes from rigorously- gathered, carefully- tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research. An enormous mountain of research. A mountain of research that is growing more mountainous every day.

Phantoms_in_the_Brain I cannot emphasize this enough. Read any current book on neurology or neuropsychology… or at least, any current book on neurology or neuropsychology that isn’t written by a woo believer with an axe to grind who’s cherry-picking the data. Read Oliver Sacks, V.S. Ramachandran, Steven Pinker. We are getting closer to understanding consciousness every day. The sciences of neurology and neuropsychology are, it is true, very much in their infancy… but they are advancing by astonishing leaps and bounds, even as we speak. And what they are finding, consistently, thoroughly, across the board, is that, whatever consciousness is, it is intimately and inextricably linked to the brain. Changes in the brain result in changes in consciousness — changes sometimes so drastic that they render a person’s personality entirely unrecognizable. Changes in consciousness can be seen, using magnetic resonance imagery, as changes in the brain. This is the increasingly clear conclusion of the science: consciousness is a product of the brain. Period.

And this evidence has been gathered, and continues to be gathered, using the gold standard of evidence, methods specifically designed to filter out biases and known cognitive errors as much as is humanly possible: rigorously- gathered, carefully- tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research.

Now. Compare, please, to the evidence supporting the “independent soul” explanation of consciousness.

Including near-death experiences, and the supposedly inexplicable things that happen to some people during them.

The evidence supporting the “independent soul” explanation is flimsy at best. It is unsubstantiated. It comes largely from personal anecdotes. It is internally inconsistent. It is shot through with discrepancies. It is loaded with biases and cognitive errors — especially confirmation bias, the tendency to exaggerate evidence that confirms what we already believe, and to ignore evidence that contradicts it. It has methodological errors that a sixth-grade science project winner could spot in ten seconds.

And that includes the evidence of near-death experiences.

Bogus beer There is not a single account of an immaterial soul leaving the body in a near-death experience that meets the gold standard of scientific evidence. Not even close. Supposedly accurate perceptions of things they couldn’t have seen by people near death? Bogus. Supposedly accurate predictions of things they couldn’t have known by people near death? Bogus. The “shoe on the window ledge that the dying person supposedly couldn’t possibly have known about?” Bogus. The supposed eerie similarity of near-death experiences? Bogus. (The similarities that these experiences do have are entirely consistent with them all being created by human brains… and the differences between them are not only vast, but exactly what you would expect if these experiences were generated by people’s brains, based on their own beliefs about death. Christians near death see Jesus, Hindus near death see Hindu gods, etc.)

Gossip,_Norman_Rockwell1 These claims — and the claims that these experiences could not possibly be explained by anything other than a supernatural soul — are anecdotal at best. Second- and third- hand hearsay. Gossip, essentially. And like most gossip, it leaves out the parts of the story that are less juicy, less consistent with what we already think about the world or what we want to think about it… and exaggerates the parts of the story that tell us what we already believe or want to believe. Believers in the soul love to tell the bogus story about the shoe on the window ledge. They’re less likely to tell the stories about the people near death who saw things that weren’t there, or who made predictions that didn’t happen, or who saw people alongside them in their supposed out- of- body experience who weren’t actually near death themselves.

Skeptical inquirer And every time a claim about a soul leaving the body when near death has been tested, using good, rigorous methods, it’s utterly fallen apart. Every single rigorously-done study examining claims about near death experiences has completely failed to show any perceptions or predictions that couldn’t have been entirely natural. Again. And again. And again, and again, and again. And again. And… oh, you get the idea.

And I have yet to see a good explanation for a believer in near-death experiences of why they don’t happen to everyone: why they only happen to a small percentage of people who are near death. Are they saying that only about 10% of people have souls? Really? Is that an argument you want to make?

What’s more, believers in the immortal soul, and in near-death experiences as evidence of this soul, consistently fall back on bad arguments and poor logic to defend it. “You can’t prove with 100% certainty that it isn’t true; therefore, it could hypothetically be true; therefore, it’s reasonable to think it’s true.” “Neither side can prove their case with absolute certainty; therefore, both sides are equally likely; therefore, it’s reasonable for me to believe whatever I want to.” “Science has been wrong before; therefore, it could be wrong this time; therefore, I don’t have to provide any good evidence for why it’s wrong this time.” “Scientists are human, subject to as much human bias as anyone else; therefore, I don’t have to show exactly how their bias is affecting their conclusions in order to reject them.” “Lots of smart people believe it; even some scientists believe it; therefore, it’s reasonable to think it’s true.”

See no evil It seems clear that, for most believers in an immortal soul, this belief is unfalsifiable. It shouldn’t be; in theory, this is an evidence-based conclusion that should be open to changing upon seeing better evidence. But in practice, it clearly is. In practice, for most believers, there is no possible evidence that could convince them that they’re wrong. They will reject the best available evidence, and clutch at the worst, since the latter confirms their belief and the former contradicts it. (Which is understandable — death sucks, and we’d all like to live forever and see our dead loved ones again — but it doesn’t make their arguments very convincing.)

Now, many believers in the soul will argue that yes, they are biased in favor of their belief — but so are the scientists who’ve concluded that consciousness is a physical process and the soul doesn’t exist. But this makes no sense whatsoever. Scientists are human, too: they don’t want to die, and they’d be just as happy as anyone to learn that they were going to live forever. In fact, for centuries, most scientists did believe in the soul, and much early science was dedicated to proving the soul’s existence and exploring its nature. It took decades upon decades of fruitless research in this field before scientists finally gave it up as a bad job. The conclusion that the soul does not exist was not about proving a pre-existing agenda: quite the opposite. It was about the evidence leading inexorably to a conclusion that was both surprising and upsetting. What’s more, if any scientist today could conclusively prove the existence of the soul, they’d instantly become the most famous and respected scientist in the history of the world. What possible motivation could they have for being biased against the soul hypothesis?

This is patently not true for the claim about the immortal soul, and the claim that near-death experiences are good evidence for it. This claim is not only unsupported by any solid evidence, and flatly contradicted by plenty of solid evidence. It is also, very clearly, based on the most wishful of all wishful thinking — the deep, intense, completely understandable desire to not die.

So.

Given that all this is true.

Science_journals Given that the evidence supporting the “biological process of the brain” explanation is rigorously gathered, carefully tested, thoroughly cross-checked, internally consistent, consistent with everything we know about how the brain and the mind work, able to produce mind-bogglingly accurate predictions, not slanted towards wishful thinking, and is expanding our understanding of the mind every day.

Wishful thinking Given that the evidence supporting the “immortal soul separate from the brain” explanation is flimsy, anecdotal, internally inconsistent, blasted into non-existence upon careful examination, totally at odds with everything we know about how the brain and the mind work, and strongly biased towards what people most desperately want to believe.

Which of these explanations of consciousness seems more likely?

And which explanation of near-death experiences seems more likely?

Forget about the “you can’t disprove it with 100% certainty” fallacy. We’re not talking about 100% certainty. We don’t apply the “100% certainty” test to anything else in our lives, so let’s not apply it here. Which explanation is more plausible? Which has more credibility? If we were talking about any other question — if we were talking about global climate change, or evolution, or whether the earth orbits the sun — which set of evidence would you give greater weight to?

Mri_head_scan Yes, weird things sometimes happen to some people’s minds when they’re near death. Weird things often happen to people’s minds during altered states of consciousness. Exhaustion, stress, distraction, trance-like repetition, optical illusion, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, sensory overload… any of these physical changes to the brain, and more, can create vivid “perceptions” that are entirely disconnected from reality. It’s been extensively demonstrated. And being near death is an altered state of consciousness, a physical change to the brain. (What’s more, as my wife Ingrid keeps pointing out: Near death experiences are not death. What happens to consciousness when the brain is briefly deprived of oxygen tells us nothing about what happens to consciousness when the brain is decayed in the grave into dust and nothingness.)

So which explanation of this weirdness is more plausible? The physical one — the one that says, “Yeah, the brain does weird things sometimes when deprived of oxygen or otherwise altered, and these experiences are completely consistent with what we know about the brain”? The one that’s backed up by a mountain of rigorous, replicated research?

Or the supernatural one — the one that’s backed up by anecdotes, cognitive biases, bad logic, and wishful thinking?

Gravestone Look. I don’t want to die, either. Just about nobody wants to die. That includes scientists, and it includes researchers into neurology and neuropsychology and consciousness. When I was letting go of my spiritual beliefs, this was by far the hardest part: letting go of my belief that my soul was immortal, and accepting that death is permanent. It’s true that, when I think about it carefully, it’s impossible for me to imagine an eternal afterlife that wouldn’t be intolerable… but that doesn’t change my intense emotional attachment to life, and to the people I love. We evolved from millions of generations of ancestors who really, really wanted to survive: it makes sense that we would fear death, and want to stay alive. We evolved from thousands of generations of ancestors in social species; it makes sense that we would love other people and grieve for them when they die. And it makes sense that we’d want to believe that death isn’t final.

But if we care whether the things we believe are true, we can’t just believe that we’ll live forever, simply because we want to.

Reality wins. Reality is more important than anything we could make up about it. (And it’s a whole lot more interesting.) If we want to be intimately connected with the universe, we need to accept what the universe is telling us, through evidence, is true about itself. We need to not treat the world we make up in our heads as more important than the world outside our heads. If we want to be intimately connected with the universe, we need to accept the reality about it.

Even when that reality contradicts our most cherished beliefs.

Even when that reality is frightening, or painful, or sad.

And that includes the reality of death.

Eye If we find the idea of death upsetting, we need to not cover our eyes and ears in the face of death, and pretend that it isn’t real. We need, instead, to find and create secular philosophies of death that provide comfort and meaning. We need to find value in the transient as much as in the permanent. We need to see change and loss and death as inherent and necessary to life, without which the things we value in life would not be possible. We need to see death as providing inspiration and motivation to experience life as fully as we can, and to get things done while we still have time. We need to view death as a natural process, something that connects us with the great chain of cause and effect in the universe. We need to take comfort in the idea that, even though we will die and our death will be forever, the memories people have of us will live on, and the world will be different because we were here. We need to take comfort in making this life as meaningful and valuable as we possibly can: for ourselves, and for everyone else around us. We need to recognize how astronomically lucky we were to have been born into this life at all, and not see it as a tragedy because that life won’t last forever.

Hand outstretched When we let go of religious or spiritual beliefs, it can be painful to accept the reality and permanence of death. But we can take comfort in the knowledge that, whatever secular philosophies of death we have, they aren’t based on sloppy evidence and wishful thinking and an intense effort to avoid cognitive dissonance. We can take comfort in the knowledge that our philosophies of death are built on a solid foundation of good evidence, reason, plausibility, and the acceptance of reality.

And that’s more comforting than any spiritual belief I’ve ever held.

Also in this series:
Why “Everything Has a Cause” is a Terrible Argument for God
Why “Life Has To Have Been Designed” Is a Terrible Argument for God’s Existence
Why “The Universe Is Perfectly Fine-Tuned For Life” Is a Terrible Argument for God
Why “I Feel It In My Heart” Is a Terrible Argument for God

Comments

  1. Dave says

    You sure are angry. You also lack credibility. You believe there is no God yet you have not provided proof to support your belief. You also trivialize the experiences of people who ‘know’ because they have been there that conciousness is indeed seperate from the body. They come from every sector of society. Try as you may but you will never be able to tell them what they experienced cannot possibly have happened because you say so and because you fear if they are right it would shatter your world view and then where would you be? I suppose scared and angry – as you are now. The fiercer your argument the more threatened you must feel. I have no doubt by the desperation you have shown in attempting to make your point to seeming anyone who would care to listen (looks like I’m the 1st – and I don’t agree with you) that you already have some doubts creeping in that challenge your own beliefs. Unless you’ve had an NDE you realy can’t comment on their validity. I prefer to go directly to the source and speak with those who have had them. It really is a life changing event. You should try it. Or maybe you should’nt. I might make you more angry.

  2. DSimon says

    Dave, so expressing disagreement, especially emotionally, is a sign of having doubt in your own beliefs? From that argument it would follow that you have significant doubts in your own beliefs; otherwise why would you bother to defend them?
    Of course, that’s silly: The obvious reason for you to defend your beliefs is because you think you’re correct, and the truth is important to you.
    Us skeptics feel the same way; that’s why we don’t put very much weight in personal anecdotes, since we know of many many common ways they can be misleading.

  3. says

    You know so little about near death experiences that you have ignored 35 years of research on them. There is good solid evidence, scientific evidence, showing that consciousness does live after the death of the brain and body. Here is a link to some of that research. Now if you don’t believe in God I don’t care, but there is definitely a soul or spiritual existence.
    http://www.aleroy.com/blog/archives/3370

  4. David says

    WOW, you sound really angry and anxious and ever ready to misinterpret people with a different point of view, please back up your bogus lie that everything about NDE’s are anecdotes. Even Professional Skeptics like Susan Blackmore actually consider David Chalmers, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff some of the best minds in the field of neuroscience and guess what David Chalmers, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff do have evidence to back up the claim that consciousness is not solely the product of the brain. And if you did your research you will know that The level of consciousness and alertness during near-death experiences (NDEs) is usually even greater than that experienced in everyday life even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. This high level of consciousness while physically unconscious is medically inexplicable. Additionally, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and around the world, which refutes the possibility that NDEs have any relation to dreams or hallucinations.

  5. john says

    Cynic Detection
    You can spot a cynic by the words they utter. They will describe NDErs or the NDE phenomena in terms of “delusional, irrational, gullible, charlatans, superstitious, wishful-thinking, primitive and child-like thinking.” [4] To that I would add techniques used in the Lancet commentary such as implying that the whole experience was imagined or that the experiencer was fancifully filling in the gaps.[5] What better way to discredit an NDEr than to assume they are lying about their experience or convince others that the NDEr is of unsound of mind? The arguments of a cynic are designed to put one side at a power disadvantage over the other side. The net effect is to inflame, discount, or shut-down debate from the other side rather than trying to get a truth-finding dialog going between the two sides. However, look closer at what a false memory really is and the intellectual dishonesty of the writer is appalling. Yet hundreds of professionals who read the article, automatically agree with the commentary because they don’t understand the NDE phenomena.
    A wonderful quote that epitomizes the cynic mindset is by scientist-author Arthur C. Clarke, “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”[6]
    A cynic will frame arguments using certain styles of debate. These tactics include ignoring facts, inventing false explanations, raising the bar when their criteria for evidence is met, using double standards, character assassinations, grossly exaggerating and distorting trivial mistakes, or dismissing all evidence by classifying it as anecdotal, unreplicable, or uncontrolled
    The main problem with most of these skeptical theories is that they build their argument on the preconceived classical model of the brain. Based on Darwin’s theory of evolution this model sees consciousness as something that evolved out of biology. However, as many of us are able to conclude consciousness is clearly very different from matter and therefore they have no evidence how exactly this would have occurred and no idea what produces consciousness.
    The fact is that it’s all theory and classical science has no clue what consciousness is or what produces it. Also on a broader perspective classical science and materialism has a problem as new science has proven that the fundamental level of the universe is energy and our material world only consists of 5% of the universe – the rest is unknown dark matter and energy. So, if you hold on to strict materialism your world is pretty much flat.

  6. says

    I have work to do, and I don’t have time to reply line by line to each of these comments defending the validity of NDEs as evidence of an immaterial soul. I will simply point out that none of these defenses actually, you know, defend anything. None of them point to any rigorously gathered, carefully tested, thoroughly cross-checked, internally consistent, accurately predictive research backing up their claims. (The purported “link to research” links to nothing of the kind.) And none of them actually addresses the arguments I made in this piece. In fact, none of the commenters in question seem to have read the piece, as they are responding to points I didn’t make and attitudes I didn’t take.
    If i see better evidence, I’ll change my mind, For the time being, however, I remain unconvinced.

  7. John says

    ‘The evidence supporting the “independent soul” explanation is flimsy at best. It is unsubstantiated. It comes largely from personal anecdotes’- LOL, back that up with evidence please Greta. Remote Viewing does indicate that Consciousness could exist outside the brain, and just read carefully what the lovely skeptic Richard Weisman has to say about it:-I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven.
    Next your wonderful fellow skeptic Ray Hyman on Remote Viewing: -The SAIC experiments are well-designed and the investigators have taken pains to eliminate the known weaknesses in previous parapsychological research. In addition, I cannot provide suitable candidates for what flaws, if any, might be present.- Ray Hyman on SAIC experiments on remote viewing.
    And this is my all time favorite: Why do we not accept ESP as a psychological fact? Rhine has offered enough evidence to have convinced us on almost any other issue… Personally, I do not accept ESP for a moment, because it does not make sense. My external criteria, both of physics and of physiology, say that ESP is not a fact despite the behavioural evidence that has been reported. I cannot see what other basis my colleagues have for rejecting it… Rhine may still turn out to be right, improbable as I think that is, and my own rejection of his view is – in the literal sense, prejudice- Donald Hebb.
    Could it be Dearest Greta that Consciousness existing outside the brain just doesn’t make sense to you.
    All I can do is to send love and light to all of you Atheists.

  8. says

    John: And I say yet again, you’re not providing any links to any rigorously gathered, carefully tested, thoroughly cross-checked, internally consistent, accurately predictive research backing up your claim about consciousness existing outside. In fact, you’re not providing any links at all. All you’ve done here is quote a few skeptics who seem to cite good research that they’re ignoring. You’re not providing links to the research in questions. You’re not even providing links to the source of these quotations, so we can see the original context and see if you’re quoting these people accurately and fairly.
    As for this:

    Could it be Dearest Greta that Consciousness existing outside the brain just doesn’t make sense to you.

    It made sense to me for years. I believed in a non-physical soul that existed separate from the brain, animated consciousness, and survived death, for years. It was only when I started reading the mountain of evidence debunking this belief, and supporting the materialist hypothesis of consciousness, that I changed my mind.
    And as for this:

    LOL, back that up with evidence please Greta.

    I have done so. In this piece. I have provided link after link after link to evidence (a) supporting the hypothesis that consciousness is a biological phenomenon, and (b) debunking claims of an immaterial soul. You haven’t responded to any of it.

  9. John says

    Wrong again Greta, first of all you can check for your self how these hard nosed skeptics actually acknowledged Remote Viewing. Secondly, the hard fact is that neuroscience can’t explain how people have a conscious experience, where the mind is, what memories are, or where memories are stored. That’s pretty remarkable considering that the brain has been carefully mapped using CTs, MRIs, PETs, and EEGs to find out which parts of the brain are active when a person is performing activities. In spite of all the brain mapping that’s been done, they can’t locate the mind and they can’t find memories.Many neuroscientists are also saying that even if someone could locate mind and memories in the brain, that still wouldn’t explain who has the conscious thought. In other words, yes there’s a thought, but who is thinking? Who requested the thought? Yes, the brain shows activity when there’s a thought, but what caused the brain to show activity? How does a human being have a conscious experience?

  10. Dwayne says

    Greta, I must admit, I came to your blog thinking that Atheists are kind and loving people but all I got after going through your posts about Death is fear and depression and also frustration on how you refuse to keep an open mind about an afterlife. Why do Atheists have to be so mean spirited, I along with many other people believe in God and an afterlife, how does that in anyway make us irrational or dangerous, I have nothing against Atheists, I will never vote against them or tell them what to believe. What I can’t stand is their arrogance and downright meanness.

  11. John says

    Dear Dwayne, why do you feel depressed about Atheism, it is just another belief system, don’t get upset, read this quotes that I am about to put here and be strong. And please remember Sam Harris has said that some kind of afterlife is possible, in fact in his book The End Of Faith he actually said Science can never tell us for sure if there is or isn’t life after death. So cheer up brother.

  12. John says

    February 2001 issue of the journal Resuscitation by Dr. Sam Parnia: “The brain function these [near-death] patients were found to have while unconscious is commonly believed to be incapable of sustaining lucid thought processes or allowing lasting memories to form,” Parnia said—pointing to the fact that nobody fully grasps how the brain generates thoughts.
    “The brain itself is made up of cells, like all the body’s organs, and is not really capable of producing the subjective phenomenon of thought that people have,” he said.”
    Stanislav Grof, MD, Ph.D., Freudian psychoanalyst, assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and Chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, summarized his conclusion after his lifelong study of the mind and the brain:
    My first idea was that it [consciousness] has to be hard-wired in the brain. I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how something like that is possible. Today, I came to the conclusion that it is not coming from the brain. In that sense, it supports what Aldous Huxley believed after he had some powerful psychedelic experiences and was trying to link them to the brain. He came to the conclusion that maybe the brain acts as a kind of reducing valve that actually protects us from too much cosmic input. . . . I don’t think you can locate the source of consciousness. I am quite sure it is not in the brain―not inside of the skull. . . . It actually, according to my experience, would lie beyond time and space, so it is not localizable. You actually come to the source of consciousness when you dissolve any categories that imply separation, individuality, time, space and so on. You just experience it as a presence
    The same conclusion was reached independently by other brain specialists. Sir John Eccles, internationally recognized brain researcher whose work has had a major influence on brain research, concluded
    . . . that the mind is a separate entity from the brain, and that mental processes cannot be reduced to neurochemical brain processes, but on the contrary direct them. And . . . a mind may conceivably exist without a brain.
    Sir Cyril Burt, educational psychologist renowned for his studies on the effects of heredity on intelligence, wrote in his book, The Gifted Child,
    The brain is not an organ that generates consciousness, but rather an instrument evolved to transmit and limit the processes of consciousness and of conscious attention so as to restrict them to those aspects of the material environment which at any moment are crucial for the terrestrial success of the individual. In that case such phenomena as telepathy and clairvoyance would be merely instances in which some of the limitations were removed.
    Another brain specialist, Wilder Penfield, was a ground-breaking neuroscientist and physician. While performing surgery on patients, he noticed that stimulating a part of the brain cortex could cause the patient to recall a memory. However, while recalling the memory, the person’s conscious awareness was still active, aside from the memory, and no stimulation of any part of the brain could cause any of the actions we associate with the mind: beliefs, problem solving, decisions, or any of the other activities that happen when a person is “thinking.” The mind activities went on even when he was stimulating the brain cortex, and were completely unaffected by any stimulation he applied to the brain.
    He could stimulate small segments of memories, but he couldn’t locate the mind inside the brain.
    He summed up the conclusions he formed on the basis of these experiments:
    . . . none of the actions that we attribute to the mind has been initiated by electrode stimulation or epileptic discharge. If there were a mechanism in the brain that could do what the mind does, one might expect that the mechanism would betray its presence in a convincing manner by some better evidence of epileptic or electrode activation.
    The mind, he writes, “makes its impact on the brain” but isn’t in the brain.

  13. Dwayne says

    WOW, John, amazing, amazing, amazing, thank you for your research and for your courage in coming here.

  14. says

    No, John. Not so amazing.
    Here’s what you’ve offered:
    (a) some interesting studies showing that the brain functions oddly, in ways we wouldn’t expect,
    (b) other people’s references to purported research — research which you yourself do not link to,
    and (c) some opinions of some people who agree with you.
    None of the research you’re pointing to (but still not providing links for) is conclusive evidence, or even strongly suggestive evidence, for consciousness separate from the brain. All it suggests is that we don’t completely understand consciousness or brain function. Which is true. I have never claimed otherwise. But the fact that we don’t completely understand these things doesn’t mean that they are therefore best explained by anything supernatural or non-physical. To support a claim of consciousness separate from the brain, you need more than research saying, “Wow, consciousness and the brain are really weird!” You need research — rigorously- gathered, carefully- tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research — clearly showing that consciousness is capable of existing separate from the brain.
    Which you have yet to show us. Because it doesn’t exist. As I said in the piece — with links, which I actually provides and which you are apparently unwilling to offer:
    “And every time a claim about a soul leaving the body when near death has been tested, using good, rigorous methods, it’s utterly fallen apart. Every single rigorously-done study examining claims about near death experiences has completely failed to show any perceptions or predictions that couldn’t have been entirely natural. Again. And again. And again, and again, and again. And again. And… oh, you get the idea.” (Links in the original.)
    And the opinions are just that — opinions. Opinions are not research — even the opinions of scientists.
    Sorry. You’re still not convincing anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.

  15. says

    As to this:

    Greta, I must admit, I came to your blog thinking that Atheists are kind and loving people but all I got after going through your posts about Death is fear and depression and also frustration on how you refuse to keep an open mind about an afterlife. Why do Atheists have to be so mean spirited, I along with many other people believe in God and an afterlife, how does that in anyway make us irrational or dangerous, I have nothing against Atheists, I will never vote against them or tell them what to believe. What I can’t stand is their arrogance and downright meanness.

    Dwayne: I am aware that letting go of belief in an afterlife can be scary and depressing. I went through it myself. Which is exactly why I write so much about positive, comforting, meaningful atheist and humanist philosophies of death. I even linked to much of that writing in this very piece. See above, the paragraph that reads:
    “If we find the idea of death upsetting, we need to not cover our eyes and ears in the face of death, and pretend that it isn’t real. We need, instead, to find and create secular philosophies of death that provide comfort and meaning. We need to find value in the transient as much as in the permanent. We need to see change and loss and death as inherent and necessary to life, without which the things we value in life would not be possible. We need to see death as providing inspiration and motivation to experience life as fully as we can, and to get things done while we still have time. We need to view death as a natural process, something that connects us with the great chain of cause and effect in the universe. We need to take comfort in the idea that, even though we will die and our death will be forever, the memories people have of us will live on, and the world will be different because we were here. We need to take comfort in making this life as meaningful and valuable as we possibly can: for ourselves, and for everyone else around us. We need to recognize how astronomically lucky we were to have been born into this life at all, and not see it as a tragedy because that life won’t last forever.”
    Click on the links in that paragraph. They go into some detail about some ways to see life and death without a belief in an afterlife, and that still make death bearable, and life feel meaningful and joyful.
    Letting to of belief in an afterlife can be difficult. But most atheists have done so successfully, and are happy to have done so. I, for one, find my current philosophies of death far more comforting than the ones I held when I believed in an afterlife… because they offer the comfort of knowing that I’m not fooling myself into believing something just because I want it to be true.
    And finally: I am entirely baffled by this idea that it’s “arrogant” for people to think they’re probably right about something.. or that it’s “mean” or “mean spirited” to try to persuade other people that their ideas are mistaken. We do that all the time with every other topic: science, medicine, politics, philosophy, sociology, art. Why is it that religion and spirituality, alone among all other ideas, should get a free pass?

  16. Dwayne says

    Hi Greta, as I have said, I came to your blog wanting to learn more about the Atheist/Humanist perspective on death. There is absolutely nothing in Science that can dismiss an afterlife, in fact rigorous studies on Death Bed Visions, OBE’s and NDE’s have not till this day found the neuronal mechanism on how it works. Dr.Chrales Tart did induce an OBE where the person saw a number in a place that was high above or hidden indicating it was not a hallucination. There is prove that consciousness is a product of the brain, the brain may very well be something like a radio.
    Let me just end by shaking your belief system a bit:
    David Berlinski received his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University and was later a postdoctoral fellow in mathematics and molecular biology at Columbia University. He is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle : The defense of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has now fallen into the hands of biologists who believe in suppressing criticism when possible and ignoring it when not.
    It is not a strategy calculated to induce confidence in the scientific method.
    A paper published recently in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington concluded that the events taking place during the Cambrian era could best be understood in terms of an intelligent design – hardly a position unknown in the history of Western science. The paper was, of course, peer-reviewed by three prominent evolutionary biologists.
    Wise men attend to the publication of every one of the society’s papers, but in this case, the editors were given to understand that they had done a bad thing. Their indecent capitulation followed at once. Publication of the paper, they confessed, was a mistake. And peer review? The heck with it.
    “If scientists do not oppose anti-evolutionism,” remarked Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Council for Science Education, “it will reach more people with the mistaken idea that evolution is scientifically weak.”
    Scott’s understanding of “opposition” had nothing to do with reasoned discussion. It had nothing to do with reason at all. Discussing the issue was out of the question.
    Her advice to her colleagues was considerably more to the point: “Avoid debates.” Everyone had better shut up. But in this country, at least, no one is ever going to shut up, the more so since the case against Darwin’s theory retains an almost lunatic vitality.
    Look: The suggestion that Darwin’s theory of evolution is like theories in the serious sciences – for example, quantum electrodynamics – is grotesque. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to 13 unyielding decimal places. Darwin’s theory makes no tight quantitative predictions all.
    Look: Field studies attempting to measure natural selection inevitably report weak to non-existent selection effects.
    Look: Darwin’s theory is open at one end since there is no plausible account for the origins of life.
    Look: The astonishing and irreducible complexity of various cellular structures has not yet successfully been described, let alone explained.
    Look: A great many species enter the fossil record trailing no obvious ancestors and depart for Valhalla leaving no obvious descendents.
    Look: Where attempts to replicate Darwinian evolution on the computer have been successful, they have not used classical Darwinian principles. Where they have used such principles, they have not been successful.
    Look: Tens of thousands of fruit flies have come and gone in laboratory experiments, and every last one of them has remained a fruit fly to the end, all efforts to see the miracle of speciation unavailing.
    Look: The remarkable similarity in the genome of a great many organisms suggests that there is, at bottom, only one living system. But how then to account for the astonishing differences between human beings and their near relatives, differences that remain obvious to anyone who has visited a zoo?
    But look again: If the differences between organisms are scientifically more interesting than their genomic similarities, of what use is Darwin’s theory since its otherwise mysterious operations take place by genetic variations?
    These are hardly trivial questions. Each suggests a dozen others. These are hardly circumstances that do much to support the view that there are “no valid criticisms of Darwin’s theory,” as so many recent editorials have suggested.
    Serious biologists quite understand all this. They rather regard Darwin’s theory as an elderly uncle invited to a family dinner. The old boy has no hair, he has no teeth, he is hard of hearing and he often drools. Addressing even senior members at table as “sonny,” he is inordinately eager to tell the same story over and over again. But he’s family. What can you do?

  17. Dwayne says

    I don’t think your jab at Religious folks being less prepared for death is fair. All Religions teach us to be mindful of death. Some religions like Buddhism actually have graveyard meditations where you sit down in a graveyard and meditate on the impermanence of all things. Even in Christianity you can’t go far without hearing about Death, it’s all over the scriptures. I am not just talking about an afterlife, but also the purely physical process of Death and Dying and how everything is transient.

  18. Dwayne says

    In my opinion Atheism and Atheists/Humanist see death as something that will happen in the future not now, so they push death away with their neat philosophies. Spirituality on the other see’s everything as constantly coming and going, everything is being born and dying at the same time, the trick is to not identify with the perishable but instead find the unchangable love that has always been there.

  19. Dwayne says

    NDEs correspond to the “quirky” principles found in quantum physics.
    Aspects of quantum physics which supports NDE concepts include the properties of light, a multi-dimensional reality, zero point, quantum interconnectivity, quantum consciousness, quantum synchronicity, space and time interconnectivity, time travel, teleportation, non-locality, singularities and the concept of subjectivity.

  20. Dwayne says

    Experiencers of NDEs are profoundly changed in ways that cannot occur from hallucinations and dreams. No matter what the nature of the NDE, it alters lives. Alcoholics find themselves unable to imbibe. Hardened criminals opt for a life of helping others. Atheists embrace the existence of a deity, while dogmatic members of a particular religion report “feeling welcome in any church or temple or mosque.”
    Nancy Evans Bush, president emeritus of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, says the experience is revelatory. “Most near-death survivors say they don’t think there is a God,” she says. “They know.”

  21. says

    Dwayne: Are we debating NDEs and consciousness that survives death, or are we debating evolution versus intelligent design?
    If the former: Before pursuing this any further, please, PLEASE, click on the links provided in this piece — links that specifically debunk the claims you’re making. If you can’t respond to this debunking, why should I respond to your claims, or take them seriously? And if you’re going to refer to research, PROVIDE A LINK to it. I’ve asked everyone in this conversation to do this time and time again: nobody will do it, and it’s making this conversation a waste of time. If I can’t see the research you’re talking about, I can’t be expected to respond to it.
    If the latter: I’m sorry, but you are absolutely flat-out wrong. There is a MASSIVE body of evidence from every relevant field of science overwhelmingly pointing to the conclusion that evolution happened entirely as a result of natural selection, with no intervening designer in the mix. Far from being an outdated theory, it is the very foundation of the entire science of biology: biology doesn’t even make sense without it, and it has been corroborated again and again and again, by the fossil record, comparative anatomy, genetics, geology, chemistry, and more. The specific details of the theory as proposed by Darwin have been refined, but the fundamentals remain more sound, and better supported, than ever. Even current field observations have seen evolution happening in process.
    Citations:
    Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
    The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
    Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters by Donald R. Prothero
    And that’s just a minuscule portion of the massive number of books, papers, articles and more, all explaining and defending the theory of evolution, and citing the overwhelming body of evidence supporting it.
    The reason many in the scientific community suggest not debating with ID supporters is not an attempt to silence anyone — it’s because debating gives credibility to an idea that has been discredited over and over and over again. And if you look at the history of the ID movement, you’ll see that it was a thinly veiled attempt to get religion taught in the public schools — not a serious scientific hypothesis. (This link will take you to a site where you can watch “Judgement Day,” the PBS Nova special on ID, or read a transcript of the show.)
    The fact that you are attempting to argue against evolution makes it clear that you either are unfamiliar with current scientific thinking, or are deliberately ignoring it because it contradicts what you want to believe. If the former: please get better informed before asking anyone to take your ideas seriously. If the latter — as I strongly suspect, given your previous comment defending your belief in the soul based on the fact that you find atheism scary and depressing — then I have no reason to take any of your ideas seriously. I am willing to engage with believers on these topics — but not if they express such a callous disregard for the scientific method, or indeed for the truth.

  22. says

    Experiencers of NDEs are profoundly changed in ways that cannot occur from hallucinations and dreams. No matter what the nature of the NDE, it alters lives. Alcoholics find themselves unable to imbibe. Hardened criminals opt for a life of helping others. Atheists embrace the existence of a deity, while dogmatic members of a particular religion report “feeling welcome in any church or temple or mosque.”

    First of all, and for what seems like the fiftieth time: SHOW ME A LINK. You can’t expect me to respond to research if I can’t see it.
    Second, even if this were true: So what? What does it prove? Yes, altered states of consciousness often affect people’s lives deeply and profoundly. Drug experiences, trance-like repetition, sensory deprivation, sensory overload… all of these and more can be intense, life-changing experiences. That doesn’t prove that they are anything other than altered states of consciousness, brought about by physical changes to the brain.

    Nancy Evans Bush, president emeritus of the International Association for Near-Death Studies, says the experience is revelatory. “Most near-death survivors say they don’t think there is a God,” she says. “They know.”

    And yet again: So what? Even if this were true — and again, you haven’t shown me any actual research to show me that it is — so what? For centuries, most people “knew” that the Earth was the center of the universe. They were mistaken. Personal experience and intuition are important — but they are far too fallible, far too subject to bias and cognitive error and wishful thinking, to be seen as a reliable source of information about what is and is not literally true in the non-subjective universe. (More on this: Why “I Feel It In My Heart” Is a Terrible Argument for God
    And finally — and once again, seems like the fiftieth time — GIVE US LINKS TO THE RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE YOU’RE CITING. If you can’t do that, I’m not going to continue this debate. If I can’t see the research you’re talking about, I can’t be expected to respond to it.

  23. Dwayne says

    In no way do imply that evolution didn’t happen. I am afraid you think I am an Anti-Evolution irrational idiot. I respect Science and I can care less about the debate. I see Evolution as a Spiritual process, it makes me feel so connected to everything on the planet, so I have nothing against it. I love how all of us come from Africa ( I am white by the way) and I love the fact that Atheists are not racists. My only issue with Atheism is about Life After Death. We do have a body of evidence that does indicate that Consciousness survives death, and Greta I will never ever allow any Atheist to suppress that. Give me some time I will be back with more scientific backed prove of the Afterlife. I have a massive amount but just give me a few day’s, I am in the middle of an exam now.

  24. Dwayne says

    The 9 Lines of Evidence From Evidence of the Afterlife
    1. Crystal-clear consciousness. The level of consciousness and alertness during NDEs is usually greater than that experienced in everyday life, even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. In addition, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and cultures.
    2. Realistic out-of-body experiences. Out-of-body experiences are among the most common elements of NDEs, and what is seen or heard is almost always realistic. Even if out-of-body-experience observations include events that occur far from the physical body, and far from any possible sensory awareness of the patient, they are almost always confirmed to be completely accurate.
    3. Heightened senses. Heightened senses are reported by most people who have experienced NDEs, and normal or supernormal vision has occurred in those with significantly impaired vision, and even legal blindness. Several people who have been totally blind since birth have reported highly visual NDEs.
    4. Consciousness during anesthesia. Many NDEs occur while a person is under general anesthesia, at a time when any conscious experience should be impossible. Although there is speculation that these NDEs are the result of too little anesthesia, some result from anesthesia overdose.
    5. Perfect playback. Life reviews in NDEs include real events that took place in the lives of those having the experience, even if the events were forgotten or happened before the person was old enough to remember.
    6. Family reunions. During a NDE, the people encountered are virtually always deceased, and are usually relatives of the person having the NDE; sometimes they are even relatives who died before the patient was born.
    7. Children’s experiences. The NDEs of children, including children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or NDEs, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults.
    8. Worldwide consistency. NDEs appear remarkably consistent around the world, and across many different religions and cultures. NDEs in non-Western countries are incredibly similar to those that occur in Western countries.
    9. Aftereffects. It is common for people to experience major life changes after having NDEs. These aftereffects are often powerful, lasting, and life-enhancing, and the changes generally follow a consistent pattern.

  25. says

    1. (snip)
    1. (snip)
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    9. (snip)

    Once again: LINKS, PLEASE. If I can’t see the research you’re talking about, I can’t be expected to respond to it.
    Not that any of this is persuasive anyway. Even if these points are true — and I know that many of them are not, and you would know that too if you looked at the research I cited and linked to in this piece — almost all of them are entirely consistent with NDEs being a physical process of the brain. And the ones that aren’t consistent with this view have been debunked. Heck, most of the ones that are consistent with this view have still been debunked.

    Evolution was not random.

    Nobody says it was. Evolution happens through a combination of random mutations and the entirely non-random process of natural selection: i.e., living things that are better adapted to survive and reproduce in their environment are more likely to pass on their genes to the next generation. It’s not random at all.
    But “not random” does not in any way imply “intervention by an intelligent designer.” There is not one shred of positive evidence supporting the idea that any outside intervention happened at any point along the process. And there is a significant amount of evidence strongly suggesting that this never happened — mostly in the many, many ways that the “design” is shot through with clumsiness, half-assedness, inefficiency, “fixed that for you” jury-rigs, pointless superfluities, glaring omissions, laughable failures, and appalling, mind-numbing brutality.
    More on this:
    Why “Life Has To Have Been Designed” Is a Terrible Argument for God’s Existence
    By the way, the theory you’re advocating is better described as “theistic evolution,” not “intelligent design.” Again, I suggest you look up the history of the “intelligent design” movement. Theistic evolution is the theory that evolution happened but God had a part in it. Intelligent design was a deceitful, underhanded attempt to get religion and creationism taught in the public schools, when the Supreme Court specifically ruled that it couldn’t be. When you defend “intelligent design,” you’re going to get people who are passionate about science and the separation of church and state very, very upset indeed.

  26. Dwayne says

    Skeptics attempt to ascribe NDE perceptions to lights and other possible perceptions of a dying brain. However, lucid projectors have out-of-body experiences by will without a dying brain condition and can still see “beings of light,” and even perceive the characteristic “tunnel” often associated with NDE’s. More importantly, they are able to make accurate observations of distant physical environments and interact among themselves while projected. For instance, in van Lommel’s study, one patient recognized the nurse who removed his dentures while he was in a coma.

  27. Dwayne says

    Together with Rodrigo Medeiros, Patricia Sousa runs the Image Target Project, an experiment that invites people from all over the world to drop by a locked room in Miami with a computer monitor displaying a picture. The picture is randomly selected by a computer. A similar experiment by Wagner Alegretti and Nanci Trivellato brings dozens of projectors together to a ballroom for a weekend of eight OBE attempts. After several editions, these experiments have captured relatively rare but uncanny OBE and remote viewing observations of photographic precision.
    It seems that no matter how the credible and persuasive the experimental evidence, there is no replacement for personal experience. After innumerable experiences outside and inside the body, non-physical reality is self-evident for this author, hundreds of colleagues, and many thousands throughout the world. As they say, proof is in the pudding. Have your own experiences!

  28. says

    For the eighty billionth time, Dwayne: Please provide links to the research you keep citing. If we can’t see the research you’re talking about, we can’t be expected to respond to it. We can’t evaluate whether it’s credible: whether the testing conditions were rigorously controlled, whether double blinding and placebo controls were in place, whether there was any way for conscious or unconscious cheating to take place, whether the tests were replicated, etc. I have, in this piece, provided multiple links to careful research that contradicts every one of your claims. You have not said anything to indicate that you have bothered to even check these links — and you keep citing “research” that we can’t look at and critique for ourselves.
    I have now asked you this again and again and again. Please do not waste my time, and the time of my other readers, by repeatedly citing and referring to “research” that you won’t show us.
    As for this:

    It seems that no matter how the credible and persuasive the experimental evidence, there is no replacement for personal experience. After innumerable experiences outside and inside the body, non-physical reality is self-evident for this author, hundreds of colleagues, and many thousands throughout the world. As they say, proof is in the pudding. Have your own experiences!

    This, more than just about anything else you’ve said, makes me realize that debating with you is almost certainly a complete waste of time.
    Do you really not understand how deeply biased personal intuition and experience is? Do you really not know about the countless cognitive errors and biases that it’s subject to? Do you really not understand that the whole freaking point of the scientific method is to filter out these errors and biases, to the best of our ability? Do you really not understand that the whole point of the scientific method is that it’s way too easy to fool ourselves into thinking that whatever we already think, or whatever we most want to think — so we have to be scrupulously careful, and jump through dozens of hoops that are specifically designed to make sure we aren’t doing that?
    If you’re just going to say, “My experience trumps everything,” no matter what good, solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence is presented to you showing that the conclusions you’ve drawn from your experiences are mistaken… why on earth should anybody waste their time debating with you?

  29. Dwayne says

    WOW, WOW, WOW, Anger, Anger.
    Anyway here is the prove that you asked for, I can’t send you the journals because I this is from my school library :
    Summary and review of further papers related to material suggestive of quantum coherence in living matter
    1.) Coherent spin transfers between molecularly bridged quantum dots – Ouyang M. & Awschalom, D. – Hameroff has suggested this as a method of sustaining coherence in microtubules.
    2.) Memory depends on the cytoskeleton, but is it quantum? – Andreas Mershin & Dimitri Nanapoulos – Experiments demonstrating the involvement of microtubules in memory
    3.) Evidence for coherent proton tunnelling in a hydrogen bond network – Horsewill et al
    4.) New insights into enzyme catalysis – Scrutton et al
    5.) Quantum afterlife: a way for quantum benefits to survive after entanglement ends – Based on Seth Lloyd
    6.) Whole Brain – based on Raphael Gaillard – Evidence relative to consciousness and synchronistic activity in the brain
    7.) Quantum entanglement in photosynthetic light harvesting complexes – Sarovar et al – Further evidence of quantum coherence and entanglement in biological systems.
    8.) Coherence dynamics in photosynthesis: Protein protection of excitonic coherence – Lee, H. et al – Further evidence for quantum coherence in biological tissue
    9.) Coherent intrachain energy migration in a conjugated polymer at room temperature – Elisabetta Collini & Gregory Scholes – Extension of the concept of protein protection developed by Engel et al.

  30. says

    And once again, Dwayne: Without links, I have no way of knowing what these papers say, or whether they actually support your claims, much less whether their methodology and logic are valid.
    And also once again: Since you have already admitted that you think personal experience trumps credible and persuasive experimental evidence, why on earth should anyone take seriously your claims of scientific support for your beliefs… or indeed bother debating with you at all?

  31. John says

    Congratulations Brother Dwayne, I am really impressed with your research. This just proves my point, whenever a hardcore materialist is faced with something that is against their world view, suddenly they raise the bars for the evidence presented. It’s funny, you gave us peer reviewed journals, if only she took some time to go to google scholar to check them out herself. Don’t waste your time with these hard core skeptics Dwayne, as you know life is eternal, death is just a horizon, relax your clutch on life, there is simply no such thing as Death. What we call death is moving from one frequency of existence to another. Greta keeps saying the Physical Universe is all there is and there is so much too it, what I am saying is that the physical world is such a small portion of reality. Greta and all the other hard core skeptics will understand that someday. God Bless you brother Dwayne.

  32. John says

    LOL, this made me laugh
    Tears in Heaven – Atheist Despair Version
    By Scott Thong
    Tears in Oblivion
    You won’t know my name
    I don’t believe in heaven
    Things won’t be the same
    ‘Cause there’s only oblivion
    Religion’s wrong
    Farewell, so long
    ‘Cause you know that I just long
    For oblivion
    You won’t hold my hand
    ‘Cause we won’t be existing
    You won’t help me stand
    We won’t know what we’re missing
    No joy above
    No long lost loves
    There’s no faith, hope or love
    In oblivion
    Atheists have no hope
    In life after death (~ooo)
    Once you die you’re gone
    And then that is that, that is that~
    [Sentimental guitar bridge]
    Beyond the door
    It’s blank I’m sure
    And I know I’ll be no more
    In oblivion
    Life’s a short, sad game
    Atheists just despise heaven
    Even though it’s lame
    Atheists prefer oblivion
    Hope that we’re right
    ‘Cause Hell’s a fright
    And that’s why all atheists fight
    For oblivion
    Now just watch the atheists fight
    For oblivion

  33. John says

    Just another small quote to annoy Atheists:
    In regards to atheism and mental and physical health, there is considerable amount of scientific evidence that suggest that theism is more conducive to mental and physical health than atheism.The prestigious Mayo Clinic reported the following on December 11, 2001:
    “ In an article also published in this issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Mayo Clinic researchers reviewed published studies, meta-analyses, systematic reviews and subject reviews that examined the association between religious involvement and spirituality and physical health, mental health, health-related quality of life and other health outcomes.
    The authors report a majority of the nearly 350 studies of physical health and 850 studies of mental health that have used religious and spiritual variables have found that religious involvement and spirituality are associated with better health outcomes.[2]
    ”
    In regards to data that relates to mental health and atheism, in December of 2003, the University of Warwick reported the following:
    “ Dr. Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, said: “Religious people seem to have a greater purpose in life, which is why they are happier. Looking at the research evidence, it seems that those who celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas are on the whole likely to be happier

  34. John says

    Concerning atheism and suicide, although there are recent studies relating to atheism being a causal factor for suicide in some individuals, an early proponent of atheism being a causal factor for suicide in some individuals was the Reverend Dr. Robert S. MacArthur.
    In 1894, the NY Times declared regarding atheism and suicide:
    “ Dr. Martin urged that a great cause of suicide was atheism. It was, he said, a remarkable fact that where atheism prevailed most, there suicides were most numerous. In Paris, a recent census showed one suicide to every 2,700 of the population. After the publication of Paine’s “Age of Reason” suicides increased.
    In 2004, the American Journal of Psychiatry reported the following:
    “ Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects were younger, less often married, less often had children, and had less contact with family members. Furthermore, subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide. In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder. No differences in the level of subjective and objective depression, hopelessness, or stressful life events were found.

  35. John says

    So please my dear friends, keep an open mind about Theism too.
    Theism is not as bad as Atheists will have you believe.

  36. says

    This just proves my point, whenever a hardcore materialist is faced with something that is against their world view, suddenly they raise the bars for the evidence presented.

    I would just like to point out that I did not raise the bar. I kept the bar exactly the same: Provide me with links to rigorously- gathered, carefully- tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research, clearly showing that consciousness is capable of existing separate from the brain. Not references to research, not citations of research, not other people’s opinions about research. Actual links to actual research, which we can then look at and evaluate. (And not half-assed research with lousy nethodology, or research showing that the brain works differently than we’d thought but not unequivocally supporting a hypothesis of consciousness capable of existing separate from the brain.)
    This is the standard I have been requesting from the beginning. So far, neither you nor Dwayne has done this. Until you do, I see no reason to take your claims seriously.
    As to your argument that theists are, on the whole, happier than atheists: Yes, in many circumstances, that may well be true. Religion is the dominant culture in most countries, and religious believers have access to social support networks that atheists don’t have. What’s more, atheists in many countries (including the U.S.) are outsiders, largely reviled and despised, and that takes an emotional and psychological toll as well. When these factors are taken into account — such as in countries with high levels of atheism, or among atheists who belong to atheist support networks — this happiness difference disappears. And your suicide statistics are actually very telling. They don’t show less depression among the religious — simply less suicide among those who are depressed. (Very likely due to religious prohibitions on suicide.)
    In any case: My argument about atheists being better prepared for death than theists was not about atheists being happier or better able to cope with life overall. It was limited to that one area.
    And more to the point: None of these arguments is an argument for why your God/soul hypothesis is correct. A case you have yet to convincingly make.

  37. says

    Oh, and by the way, John: Five consecutive comments on one post in ten minutes is pretty much a working definition of “comment hogging.” Please don’t do it again. Thanks.

  38. Eclectic says

    In case anyone doesn’t know, to make a link to, e.g. Greta Christina’s Blog, you type <a href=”http://gretachristina.typepad.com/”>Greta Christina’s Blog</a>
    The fact that NDEs are consistent does not in the slightest suggest that they are providing access to some otherwise invisible truth; rather, they show that the brain (mis)behaves in consistent ways under near-death stress.
    Amputees pretty consistently have phantom feelings in the amputated limb, but that’s due to the still-existing nerves that used to connect to it (see the “Neurological basis” section of the linked article), not any persistent spirit of the limb itself.
    Likewise, many hallucinogens produce characteristic geometric patterns. That doesn’t mean the hallucinations reflect reality, rather, they reflect the structure of the brain.

  39. John says

    Ok fair enough, before I get to the Scientific research, let me just point out where I come from being an Atheist just doesn’t bother anyone, I don’t understand why it’s so exclusive to American Atheists to mercilessly complain about discrimination about being an Atheist. I find it too hard to believe, we are talking about America here not some Muslim Nation. Maybe American Atheists could be in fact an annoying lot, that’s why they keep being singled out by the larger American population. And you keep complaining about separation of church and state, I don’t understand what’s the big deal about it, fine I agree that the Church shouldn’t stop same sex marriage but other than that I don’t see anything wrong with lawmakers constructing laws from a Spiritual perspective. Now, moving on to the Scientific facts, how many times do I need to tell you that those titles given to you by Dwayne are from Journals, please look it up. What we are saying is that the brain is very likely a hologram and/or a quantum computer. I can’t give you those links because they require student passwords, just type it under google scholar, you will atleast be able to read the abstracts. You can’t even show us that the brain produces Consciousness in the first place.

  40. John says

    Thank You Greta, please do forgive me if I was rude to you in anyway. I understand what you and others are saying, but I just hope and pray that some how there will be an afterlife where we will be united with our loved ones again, I don’t care about God, I just care about my grandparents, I miss them and hate living in this world without them. Thinking that somehow they are somewhere in a better place gives me hope to carry on. Even Christopher Hitchens said that there might be an afterlife without God, or God without an afterlife. And Christopher Hitchens praised Dinesh D’Souza’s book Life After Death.
    Love and Light,
    John

  41. DA says

    “Atheists consistently remain most-reviled group in America, even by non-Christians.”
    Most hated in America? We’re number one! In your face, Islam and Scientology!

  42. John says

    Nope I disagree, I don’t think Atheists are the most reviled group in America. It just doesn’t make sense, learn to look beyond your Atheism. Why oh why would people hate you just because you don’t have the same beliefs as them. I don’t hear about Buddhist hating Hindus because they have different beliefs, I don’t hear about Christians hating Jewish people because they have different beliefs. I know Atheists love playing the victim role. But it’s just not going to work. Just like Greta Christina say’s reality rules.

  43. John says

    This video of the Psychic Michelle Whitedove is really amazing.

    We are getting closer to the truth. There is an afterlife and we don’t have to accept the miserable Atheistic point of view that this is all there is, nothing after death, oblivion theory.
    I also recommend everyone to check out Tony Stubbs amazing, amazing, amazing book Death Without Fear. Tony talks in detail about the afterlife.
    Love and Light,
    John

  44. Maria says

    Why oh why would people hate you just because you don’t have the same beliefs as them.
    So… how’s the weather in Naivetyville? Sunshine and rainbows as always?

  45. says

    It was on a different subject, but someone needs to tell John this:

    Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar.
    You don’t live there.
    Grow the fuck up.

  46. Doug from Dougland says

    Absolutely fantastic themann1086. That says everything I would have liked to say to John’s assertions with the addition of glow sticks. Bravo
    (trying so hard not to make a “you-the-man” pun)
    Screw it, you themann.

  47. Eclectic says

    John, I’m trying to track down the source. The Daily Mail says it got its news from New Scientist, and only describes the original source as “a leading social science journal”, and the NS web site is being slow for me.
    Ah, look, The New Scientist Article (see how much nicer it is when there’s a clickable link?), which links to a preprint of the actual paper. Now, that is what should have been linked in the first place.
    I’m supposed to be working, and it will take me a while to digest the paper, but I’m including the links now to help anyone else interested in the subject.
    One major point is that “statistically significant” is usually set at p=0.05, a 5% chance of happening by accident. Which is enough to get your attention, but will (by definition) happen 1 out of every 20 experiments even if there’s no effect at all.
    The claimed p=1.34×10−11 is a whole different matter entirely.
    I strongly suspect some problem with experiment design or methodology (this sort of thing has been tried a lot in the past; there was a real boom in the ’70s), but if I’m wrong and the author is right, that’s wonderful! As Randi said, if someone claims his million dollar prize using a genuinely new discovery about the world, that’s money well spent.

  48. says

    New Scientist is… well, to be blunt, it’s a rag. It’s the same magazine that ran with a “Darwin Was Wrong” cover a year or two ago. They frequently run borderline pseudoscience.
    That said, it could be legit. If I find the time I’ll give it a look.

  49. Eclectic says

    It’s a 61-page paper, and definitely not obvious crap. Richard Wiseman has a blog post about it, and he’s going to replicate it, with some errors he’s spotted corrected.
    Even though this is a pretty picked-over field, Daryl Bem (the author of the study) has some interesting ideas. In particular, he’s looking for unconscious signs, like subtle changes in response times, rather than conscious knowledge. That’s very different from most earlier attempts, and makes it intriguing.
    Skeptical does not mean reactionary. The study appears serious and thus is being taken seriously.

  50. Henry says

    Wow Greta… I truly cannot believe the tons of patience that you have had in all these comments! Really, congratulations on being so eloquent and precise in your arguments. All we atheists and/or skeptics ask is one single piece of credible, palpable, real evidence, to even begin a rational discussion. As Greta said: ONE link, at least! Keep up the good work, great job!

  51. greg says

    hi Greta
    so i am surprised that in an article claiming that anecdotal evidence is not worth using, your first four links to evidence (all the ‘bogus’ links) are all exactly that, anecdotal, case-by-case examinations of individual experiences
    where’s your standard of evidence now?
    in your article/comments you allude to the fact that not much is known about how the brain works, and yet you continue to demand ‘rigorously gathered, carefully tested, thoroughly cross-checked, internally consistent, accurately predictive research’ … obviously this type of research cannot explain much of what goes on, and yet this seems to be the sole thing you value (well, with the exception of the anecdotal evidence you site)
    there is a word in the anishnaabe language for the divine, it translates to ‘the great mystery’ in english. from my perspective, that seems to be a more holistic approach to ‘understanding’ the world than a materialistic/scientific approach that admits it only knows about a small amount of what is out there (/in us) but then goes on to discredit anything outside it’s realm of expertise.
    it’s like if you’re looking in a certain direction, your range of view can see some things really clear (maybe with the help of glasses) but if you don’t turn your head to look around, you’re only getting a partial look
    if you really want science, here’s an article about research on remote viewing: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-510762/Could-proof-theory-ALL-psychic.html … sorry i checked out where some of the researcher’s articles are published but i don’t feel like paying to be able to access the first-hand results from the particular journals, so you’ll have to make do with this article for now (and note, you may be in luck, they were planning further research and maybe it turned out negative? who knows … but it seems the initial results were pretty conclusive in the positive)

  52. Maria says

    it’s like if you’re looking in a certain direction, your range of view can see some things really clear (maybe with the help of glasses) but if you don’t turn your head to look around, you’re only getting a partial look
    And the woos are spinning their heads around and round, making themselves all dizzy and seeing a lot of stuff that isn’t there…

  53. greg says

    yeah Maria that happens to me all the time … when i turn my head, i see things that people who won’t look around claim aren’t there … and then they call me things like ‘woo’ and ‘dizzy’ to try and undermine my confidence in what i can see with my own two eyes (and i won’t even get into seeing with the third eye, that’s getting a bit much for people with a such a limited field of vision)
    on a related note, i think it’s funny when people will believe in whatever can be ‘proven’, but won’t believe in their (or others’) actual lived experience (you know, the real world where things happen that aren’t necessarily confined to an ‘accurately predictive’ subset of reality)

  54. Maria says

    (and i won’t even get into seeing with the third eye, that’s getting a bit much for people with a such a limited field of vision)
    Oh please do, by all means. Let’s see just how unlimited these woo ideas of yours actually are :-)

  55. greg says

    did you know that LSD came to be because Albert Hoffman had done a bunch of experiments, and put them all aside, and then had a dream about a specific number (of the experiment), went back to that specific one in the drawer, tried it out and well the rest is history, ‘tripstory’
    (oh but that’s anecdotal… :)
    i would imagine there’s probably a post somewhere on this blog saying how dreams are completely and totally biological creations that have no spiritual manifestation or inspiration

  56. Maria says

    i would imagine there’s probably a post somewhere on this blog saying how dreams are completely and totally biological creations that have no spiritual manifestation or inspiration
    Ahhhh… Okay, I get it now! :-) We are being trolled. He’s pulling our collective leg. Ha, ha, that’s a good one. I really fell for it there for a while :-D

  57. greg says

    yeah sorry for providing that link, just trying to get you to click it, it’s probably a virus right?
    (infecting your mind with the god virus :)
    i guess troll = someone who doesn’t agree with everything on this blog?

  58. Maria says

    Sorry, greg, I honestly thought you were yanking our chains. Guess I was wrong and you are sincere. But it wasn’t because you disagree with us, it was because of the sheer bizarreness of the ‘third eye’, and ‘next you’ll be telling me dreams aren’t spiritual’-stuff, and similar comments.
    I have to check your stuff out another time though, I’ve caught a nasty flu, and am going back to bed.

  59. greg says

    the third eye comment was just for fun, the dreams comment was based on the idea that many faiths consider that dreams can be messages from god / spirit(s) … if NDE’s need to be taken apart by atheists to convince others (/themselves) there is no spirituality/god, then i would assume that dreams would also need to be a necessary target

  60. John says

    ND’s r nt d t chmcl blncs f th brn, whn y tk th vdnc frm PS phnmnn nd jn t wth th dt tht w r gttng frm Qntm Mchncs t s nt s dffclt t ndrstnd th mnd brn dlt. Lf s trnl, Dth s mrl lvng n rm nd ntrng nthr frqnc f xstnc whr y wll mt ll yr lvd ns gn. Mrr Chrstms nd Hpp Nw Yr

  61. Maria says

    the third eye comment was just for fun
    Then I wasn’t wrong then after all, was I? You’re a troll, plain and simple. All apologies retracted.
    And it seems another troll got around the ban again as well.

  62. says

    Despite having been banned from this blog, John is continuing to attempt to comment from multiple IP addresses. It has been repeatedly explained to him why he has been banned, but he is ignoring these explanations. His comments have therefore been disemvoweled, as will any future comments from him.
    And to anyone else reading this: Do not start arguments about religious beliefs on an obituary thread. It is grotesquely cruel. Thank you.

  63. says

    when i turn my head, i see things that people who won’t look around claim aren’t there … and then they call me things like ‘woo’ and ‘dizzy’ to try and undermine my confidence in what i can see with my own two eyes

    What makes you think we won’t look? Atheists and materialists keep saying, “Show us some good evidence, and we’ll change our minds.” But we’re not just going to take your word for it. Personal experience and intuition are useful and important… but by themselves, they do not constitute good evidence for anything other than an individual’s subjective state of mind. They are too flawed, too subject to confirmation bias and other cognitive errors, for us to treat them as unfiltered fact. It is well- demonstrated that people are much more likely to believe what we already believe, and what we most want to believe… and we exaggerate experiences that confirm these beliefs, and discard experiences that contradict them.
    This is why, when we care about whether the things we think are really true, we subject those ideas to rigorous testing, using methods carefully designed to filter out these biases over time: control groups, double blinding, placebo controls, replicating studies, etc. And when subjected to this sort of examination, religious and spiritual experiences inevitably fall apart, and are shown to be entirely natural phenomena.
    (And if you think you have evidence for supernatural phenomena that can stand up to this sort of testing, I suggest you contact the James Randi Educational Foundation. They have a million dollars in escrow for anyone who can prove, using good scientific methodology, the reality of paranormal, supernatural, or occult phenomena.)
    What’s more, different people’s personal religious experiences are wildly different from one another, and even completely contradictory to one another. And an outside observer has no way to tell which of these experiences is more likely to be an accurate “perception” of the spiritual world. There are people who “experience” or “perceive” God as a loving creator and guide; as a harsh and rigid judge; as an impersonal energy force animating all living things; as a personal being with specific thoughts and desires; as someone who hates homosexuality; as someone who loves homosexuality; as someone with no opinion on homosexuality… etc. etc. etc. As an outside observer trying to decide which religious belief is likely to be correct, if the only evidence I have is people’s deeply biased personal experiences, how am I to choose between them?
    Finally, as for dreams, I have no idea what your point is. The precise neurological purpose of dreams is still uncertain (although there is some promising research being done)… but there is no doubt that, whatever function they serve, they are an entirely neurological phenomena. Yes, dreams sometimes provide people with inspiration and ideas and new ways of thinking. So what? Lots of entirely natural, physical things do that. How does that in any way support the idea that dreams are a supernatural phenomena?

  64. Locutus7 says

    Steve Zara said it well: the afterlife is not a location, it is not a state of mind, it is a desire.
    A desire to see one’s dead loved ones, a desire to live forever, a desire to escape the pains and indignities of growing old.
    We call that wishful thinking. And if you allow wishful thinking to subvert your reasoning abilities, you will remain disconnected from reality.

  65. greg says

    “but there is no doubt that, whatever function they serve, they [dreams] are an entirely neurological phenomena.”
    this is crazy making talk. yhour argument: because it is connected with a physical process, therefore it must be solely a physical process.
    this is not a rational argument, this is dogma.
    i’ve seen this argument in a number of threads on this blog, and it doesn’t add up. there is no evidence that states it is solely a physical process, there is only evidence that shows that indeed there is a physical process going on.
    why can you not see the difference? does it conflict with your beliefs?
    and i do not see why this makes me a troll… ???

  66. Locutus7 says

    Greg,
    Let’s say you have a laptop in front of you. And it is playing a video, pretty images of butterflies. For simplicity, let’s say this laptop is NOT connected to the web of servers we call the internet.
    Now, you take a hammer and smash your laptop, hard drive and all. Where do those vivid images of butterflies go?
    If the brain is smashed, that is where your thoughts and dreams and personality goes.
    Not to a special transcendent place devised in the pre-scientific age by illiterate goat-herders. But rather they simply cease to exist, as they – both the computer images and the mental constructs of the brain – are only properties of a physical entity.
    Make sense? If not, please propose your mechanism for the transfer of personality to your transcendent place. With evidence.

  67. greg says

    aha … scientific fundamentalism (and dismissal of our ancestors and ‘non-advanced’ cultures to boot)
    if it can’t be proven with ‘evidence’ (of course, only a limited type of such), then it is ‘without a doubt’ not true
    gotta love that train of thought … actually it might not be scientific fundamentalism, just close-mindedness

  68. DA says

    “and dismissal of our ancestors and ‘non-advanced’ cultures to boot”
    You wanna live like our ancestors, have fun. A ticket to Somalia is nice and cheap.

  69. Bruce Gorton says

    aha … scientific fundamentalism (and dismissal of our ancestors and ‘non-advanced’ cultures to boot)
    How much do you actually know about less-advanced cultures?
    As to our ancestors – our ancestors were the ones who pioneered the scientific method and had the forethought to teach us to not repeat their mistakes.
    We pay attention to our ancestors, which is why we don’t live like them. Every parent dreams of their child doing better than they did – and that’s what we’re doing.

  70. greg says

    our ancestors lived much more in harmony with the natural world than we do … i think ‘science’ would back me up on that … we may have more ‘knowledge’ but perhaps are lacking in ‘wisdom’
    Somalia is the product of colonialism, imperialism, – modern inventions … do you really think it was like that before foreign armies came to Africa?
    and i guess there’s really nothing more to be said about these atheist assertions of fact when all that really exists is that we don’t know … so let’s stop making them, shall we?

  71. DA says

    “our ancestors lived much more in harmony with the natural world than we do”
    All due respect, can we define our terms? What does harmony with nature mean? When whole human populations were wiped out by disaease, famine, etc, was that good or bad?
    “Somalia is the product of colonialism, imperialism, – modern inventions … do you really think it was like that before foreign armies came to Africa?”
    I think most of the primitive world was like Somalia is now. It used to be a matter of course that, for almost everyone, life was a torurous, impoverished, short affair liable to end in any number of outrageous ways.
    Also, plenty of barbaric hellholes were never under colonial occupation. Saudi Arabia is a good example of what happens when people try to live in the modern world by ancient precepts.

  72. Doug from Dougland says

    our ancestors lived much more in harmony with the natural world than we do … i think ‘science’ would back me up on that …
    Aaah, those halcyon days of almost constant starvation, disease ridden samps, seasonal warfare, deaths from predation and the systematic hunting and slaughter of any species that either posed a threat to us or proved too easy to kill…. boy I miss those days. We really lived all nature-like and such, none of our unnatural antibiotics or endangered species lists to fog things up.

  73. greg says

    interesting, i just came across this interview with Chris Hedges (author of ‘I don’t believe in atheists’ as well as some other good books and online articles)
    here is a quote from the interview:
    “Unfortunately, what they [atheists]‘ve done is offer a Utopian belief system that is as self-delusional as that offered by Christian fundamentalists. They adopt many of the foundational belief systems of fundamentalists. For example, they believe that the human species is marching forward, that there is an advancement toward some kind of collective moral progress — that we are moving towards, if not a Utopian, certainly a better, more perfected human society. That’s fundamental to the Christian right, and it’s also fundamental to the New Atheists.
    You know, there is nothing in human nature or in human history that points to the idea that we are moving anywhere. Technology and science, though they are cumulative and have improved, in many ways, the lives of people within the industrialized nations, have also unleashed the most horrific forms of violence and death, and let’s not forget, environmental degradation, in human history. So, there’s nothing intrinsically moral about science. Science is morally neutral. It serves the good and the bad. I mean, industrial killing is a product of technological advance, just as is penicillin and modern medicine. So I think that I find the faith that these people place in science and reason as a route toward human salvation to be as delusional as the faith the Christian right places in miracles and angels.”
    http://www.salon.com/books/int/2008/03/13/chris_hedges

  74. says

    if it can’t be proven with ‘evidence’ (of course, only a limited type of such), then it is ‘without a doubt’ not true
    gotta love that train of thought … actually it might not be scientific fundamentalism, just close-mindedness

    No, Greg. None of us is saying that if something can’t be demonstrated with solid evidence, it therefore cannot be true. We are simply saying that, if something can’t be demonstrated with solid evidence, there is no reason to think that it’s true. We are saying that, in the absence of solid evidence for a proposition, we will provisionally reject it until we see better evidence.
    There are literally an infinite number of possible propositions that can’t absolutely be disproven, but that we have no good reason to think are true. I can sit here all day and make them up. Without good evidence, how are we to decide which of these propositions to accept? You seem to use intuition… but we know for a fact that intuition is deeply flawed, biased towards what we already think or what we want to think, and everyone’s intuition says something different, even contradictory. If you don’t accept the intuition of Fred Phelps or Osama Bin Laden about the nature of God and the soul… why should we accept yours? For that matter, why should you accept yours? Do you really think that everyone else’s intuition about spirituality is flawed… but that yours is flawless, and needs no confirmation or careful testing? (More on this: Why “I Feel It In My Heart” Is a Terrible Argument for God)
    See, here lies the basic problem I have in debating you, and people who take the position you do. I can make all kinds of arguments as to why dreams in particular, and consciousness in general, are almost certainly entirely physical phenomena. But if you’re not even interested in whether there’s any solid evidence backing up your position… then what point is there debating you? If you can’t provide any solid evidence backing up your position… then what possible reason does anyone else have to accept it, or even to take it seriously?
    You accuse atheists and materialists of being close-minded. But we are the ones who are saying, “Hey, we could be wrong, give us some good evidence showing that we’re wrong and we’ll change our minds.” In fact, I’ve even written an entire piece spelling out in detail exactly what evidence would persuade me that God or the soul or the afterlife was probably real. Can you do the same? Can you tell us what evidence would persuade you that God or the soul or the afterlife was probably not real?
    And if not, if nothing anyone could ever say on this topic could possibly change your mind, if you’re just going to keep trusting your flawed intuition despite being unsupported by any good evidence outside that intuition… then why should any of us waste our time debating with you?

  75. says

    Greg: As for atheists’ supposed “faith in science and reason as a route toward human salvation”: No. No, no, no. Atheists and materialists do not have faith in science as a route toward human salvation. We have confidence in science as a route towards a better understanding of reality.
    The scientific method is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used to do harm or good. I don’t know any atheists who think science and technology will always work for the betterment of humanity.
    But there is one thing that the scientific method is massively better at than anything else. And that is a clearer understanding of what is and is not literally true in the external, non-subjective world. Not a perfect understanding — just a clearer one. A better one. A closer approximation.
    There’s a reason atheists and materialists care about science. And that’s that it works. It has been demonstrated, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of times, to be the most reliable method we have of figuring out what is and is not true. It works. It’s not perfect, but it’s better by several orders of magnitude than any other method of understanding the world that we’ve come up with. It makes predictions about what will happen, and which causes will produce which effects, that are accurate beyond anything our ancestors could have imagined. And it has shown us things about reality that are radically counter- intuitive, from the earth not being the center of the universe to matter not being solid.
    You keep talking about how scientific evidence is limited, and how your hypothesis of supernaturalism is supported by these other forms of evidence. My question: What reason do you have to think that these other forms of evidence are more reliable than the scientific method? Do you have any good reason for rejecting this demonstrably effective method of understanding reality… other than the fact that it tells you things that contradict what you already believe, and what you would most like to believe?
    More on this:
    The Slog Through the Swamp: What Science Is, And Why It Works, And Why I Care
    “A Different Way of Knowing”: The Uses of Irrationality… and its Limitations

  76. greg says

    Doug – I only saw that piece from Hedges after having made basically the same argument myself, saying that we are not necessarily doing better than other ‘non-advanced’ cultures or our ancestors way of living … and i thought it kind of fitting that he described atheists as having the kind of attitudes that at least two people here had just expressed
    Greta – the problem was that the ‘fact’ was presented as being true when in fact it is simply unknown. i’ll quote it again, “but there is no doubt that, whatever function they serve, they [dreams] are an entirely neurological phenomena.”
    so say i had a dream(s) where i got information that i had in no way been exposed to in my life. yes it’s anecdotal, but isn’t that enough evidence for me to know there’s something else going on? or should i just dismiss it because no scientist has studied my dreams and done double-blind etc etc studies on me. you can argue for how people can deceive themselves, are too subjective, etc, but perhaps you might also worry about how often people forego their own personal experiences/truth in order to believe in some socially-constructed worldview that is in conflict with what they know … and really all the science says is that dreams are connected to biological processes. i don’t think you will be able to reference any science that proves dreams are not connected to some higher/divine intelligence, so really there’s nothing contradicting the truth that i experience for myself… which you seem ready to reduce to something i would ‘like’ to believe, rather than being anything substantiated, seemingly because you would ‘like not’ to believe it, and if you can frame it as something that i am making up in order to conform with my desires/beliefs, then you can more easily dismiss it, yes?
    did you look into the research i linked to that apparently proves that remote viewing is a real phenomen? that article actually contains the quote someone else had given earlier, from a skeptic saying that regularly this would be good enough proof, but that a different (higher) standard of evidence was needed for remote viewing, basically due to it being something we don’t accept as being valid – so you can get the context to the quote that you had asked for previously

  77. Indigo says

    That’s your argument, greg? “You can’t prove dreams DON’T come from God!”?
    How’s this: you can’t prove I’m not an invisible dragon who’s learned how to type. You can’t prove that every time you forget where you left your keys, they weren’t moved by secretive gnomes. You can’t prove that your next door neighbour isn’t a highly advanced robot. And so on.
    Please start by bringing us the evidence that dreams DO come from a higher spiritual plane. Then we can talk about it.

  78. greg says

    Indigo – the problem is you (obviously, as you narrowed down all that i said into one sentence) don’t accept personal evidence.
    or the evidence/testimony of cultures all around the world, throughout history, that speak of their relationships with spirits, entities, the divine – and the only culture ever to totally discount that overwhelming testimony is our modern day, secular, science-rules-all society
    so i guess we won’t be talking about it.

  79. says

    the problem is you (obviously, as you narrowed down all that i said into one sentence) don’t accept personal evidence.

    No, Greg. The problem is that you do accept it — apparently without question — when it fits what you already believe or what you want to believe. And yet you reject other people’s personal experience when it contradicts your beliefs.
    The serious problems with using personal experience as a reliable source of data have been addressed in this thread. Ad nauseum. The fact that personal experience is demonstrably unreliable; the fact that it’s subject to confirmation bias and a wide assortment of other cognitive errors; the fact that different people have wildly different and even contradictory personal experiences of God and the soul and so on, and that we have no way of sorting out which of these “perceptions” are more likely to be true… these ideas have been pointed out to you, again and again and again.
    I again ask the question that you have yet to respond to: If you don’t accept the intuition of Fred Phelps or Osama Bin Laden about the nature of God and the soul… why should we accept yours? For that matter, why should you accept yours? Do you really think that everyone else’s intuition about spirituality is flawed… but that yours is flawless, and needs no confirmation or careful testing?
    Can you please address these points, and make a case for why, despite these flaws, personal experience is still a more reliable form of understanding reality than the rigorous testing of evidence using methods specifically designed to filter out these cognitive biases to the best of our ability? If not — if all you’re going to do is say over and over again, “Personal experience, personal experience, personal experience” without making a case defending it — then I don’t see any reason why any of us should continue to spend time discussing this with you.

  80. says

    or the evidence/testimony of cultures all around the world, throughout history, that speak of their relationships with spirits, entities, the divine – and the only culture ever to totally discount that overwhelming testimony is our modern day, secular, science-rules-all society

    Really, Greg? The argument from popularity? “Lots of people believe this, therefore it’s true”? Or “Lots of people used to believe this, therefore it’s true”?
    There’s a reason modern society is beginning — I repeat, beginning — to abandon the idea of the supernatural. And that’s that we have been coming up with better explanations of phenomena. We have come up with a method of sorting through ideas and figuring out, through rigorous gathering and examination of evidence, which ideas are more likely to be true. And when ideas about God or the soul or whatnot are subjected to this method, they always, always, always fall apart. Over the centuries, natural explanations of phenomena have replaced supernatural ones thousands upon thousands of times. Supernatural explanations of phenomena have replaced natural ones exactly never. Why on earth would you assume that this time, for this particular phenomenon, it’ll be different?
    And you have yet to address the question of why, despite the fact that so many people around the world and throughout history have believed in God and the soul, these beliefs are so radically different and even wildly contradictory. If these were real phenomena, why wouldn’t we all perceive it in the same way? And if we’re just going to take people’s word for it, how are we to decide whose word to take?
    Yes, lots of people throughout history have believed in God and the soul. Lots of people throughout history thought the earth was flat, too. That didn’t make it true. This is basically the same argument from personal experience that you keep making… except it’s arguing from the personal experience of lots of people who agree with you. But that doesn’t make it a better argument.

  81. greg says

    so to be specific, about dreams.
    there is scientific evidence that they are part of a biological process. other than that, is there evidence that explains the content of dreams? that is, evidence that you will take as ‘standarized’ or whatever?
    if not, then perhaps looking at some of the other available evidence would help.
    “The fact that personal experience is demonstrably unreliable; the fact that it’s subject to confirmation bias and a wide assortment of other cognitive errors; the fact that different people have wildly different and even contradictory personal experiences of God and the soul and so on”
    i’ll go in reverse order.
    is it wrong that people have diverse experiences (of God and the soul and so on, as you say)? or is there room for diversity? should everyone’s experience of life be the same? or perhaps we should discount the experiences people have while they are living because different people have different experiences? not to mention that people perceive things differently, even if they are the same phenomenon. people are subjective beings, i think that is a proven fact. i think that with the claim to alwasy need ‘objectivity’ you might miss out on a lot of the things that are not objective
    confirmation bias and other cognitive errors: so if something happens that confirms a hypothesis, even if it isn’t replicable, then it should be dismissed as having no validity? and i’m not sure what other cognitive errors you are talking about … also interesting to note is the quantum physics experiments where the results changed based on what was being measured, a principle that was in effect for the kind of experiments that you would hold to be the ‘gold standard’ of possible knowledge, and yet the only way they were replicable was if the intention of the experimenter was the same…
    personal experience is demonstrably unreliable: unreliable for what? to base one’s perspective of things on? must we always defer to the outside experts instead of being able to trust our own perceptions? it seems that is a specific world-view/attitude that is profoundly disempowering to individuals who might have ‘different’ experiences than the ‘normal’, or even to anyone who has to struggle for their own answer to what the meaning of life is … but i guess it is nice to be able to dismiss whoever’s individual experiences you don’t want to accept (which interestingly enough is what you accused me of doing)

  82. says

    is it wrong that people have diverse experiences (of God and the soul and so on, as you say)? or is there room for diversity? should everyone’s experience of life be the same?

    Greg, did you notice how you subtly shifted the grounds of the question there? Did you notice how you equated people having different experiences of God and the soul and so on with people having different experiences of life?
    Of course I love the diversity of human experiences of life. I think it’s wonderful that people have different experiences of art, food, love, friendship, travel, emotions, values, pop culture, etc. That is a huge part of what makes life interesting and worthwhile.
    But there is an important difference between having a diversity of subjective experiences in people’s personal lives… and having a diversity of perceptions of what is literally true in the non-subjective world.
    The question of whether God or the soul really exist is not a subjective question of what is and is not true for you personally. It is a question of what is literally true about reality. And when we’re looking at questions of what is literally true about reality, that’s when we need to be rigorously careful about making sure that our perceptions and our understanding are accurate, and that they correspond with reality to the best of our ability. (Or at least, we need to do that if we care whether the things we believe about reality are likely to be true.)
    More on this:
    “A Different Way of Knowing”: The Uses of Irrationality… and its Limitations
    Blind Men and Elephants: Religion, Science, and Understanding Big Complicated Things

    but i guess it is nice to be able to dismiss whoever’s individual experiences you don’t want to accept (which interestingly enough is what you accused me of doing)

    I am not dismissing whoever’s individual experiences I don’t want to accept. I am dismissing individual experiences that are not corroborated by solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence. And I have stated, again and again, why I am doing that: because individual experiences are far too subject to cognitive biases to be relied on as the sole source of data.
    And yes — you are doing that. You still haven’t answered the question of why you accept your own personal experiences as a reliable source of information, but not the personal experiences of people whose beliefs you disagree with, such as (I hope) Fred Phelps or Osama Bin Laden. Why do you think their spiritual perceptions are flawed, but yours are flawless? This is a crucial question that cuts right to the heart of this debate, and you really need to answer it if you expect anyone to take you seriously.

    confirmation bias and other cognitive errors: so if something happens that confirms a hypothesis, even if it isn’t replicable, then it should be dismissed as having no validity?

    Yes. That is exactly correct. You seem to be unfamiliar with the wide variety of cognitive errors that make unconfirmed and unreplicated personal experience an unreliable source of information. Here’s a link to information about a whole bunch of them. You may want to look into them if you’re going to continue this conversation, as it cuts to the very heart of the point you keep making.
    And finally, I literally have no idea what your point is about dreams. Are you trying to argue that dreams are weird, and we don’t understand why we dream about the things we dream about? No argument there — but so what? Dream content is weird, but all the evidence we have points to the conclusion that it’s generated by the brain. There is no reason I know of to think otherwise. And you haven’t yet given me one.
    Or are you arguing that dreams have content that our brains could not possibly have obtained or generated naturally? If so, you really need to give me some good reasons to think that, since I have not seen a single good, careful study showing that this is the case. The rare occasions when dreams seem to be precognitive or whatever are easily explained by natural means, such as (once again) confirmation bias, and hindsight bias, and retrospective falsification, and so on. Again — look at the link above about cognitive errors. If you’re going to keep arguing that individual personal experience, even when it’s contradicted by other people’s personal experience, is a more reliable source of information than carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence, you really need to find out more about the deep flaws in personal experience, and why skeptics are so skeptical of it, and why we expect it to be confirmed before we accept it.

  83. Locutus7 says

    Greg,
    I will share a confidence with you: whenever I access this blog, I am in a dream state. It appears to be a recurring dream. Which means you are a figment of my mind. The reason I’m telling you this is so you can make preparations, because if I awaken from this dream, you will cease to exist.
    Although, now that I think of it, maybe the nightly episodes of flying giraffes and talking butterflies is my recurring dream, and this is reality.
    Okay, I’m going to pinch myself, to see which state of consciousness is real. Farewell, if you are a dream apparition.
    Well, this is apparently real. I’m glad. I would miss Greta and her blogs. And Greg lives to continue his tortuous journey toward atheism. Now, I need to have a serious chat with a butterfly.

  84. Indigo says

    greg – a friend of mine was once approached by an earnest classmate, who told her that he’d had a spiritual revelation that they were meant to be together. Apparently he was a bit befuddled when she didn’t instantly leave her boyfriend and leap into bed with him.
    Now, maybe he had a dream that they were dating or having sex and took this as A Sign. Or maybe he had some tummy-jolting feelings about her that he interpreted as coming from God (or the Goddess, or the World Soul, or whatever) that were this Sign.
    Or it’s quite possible that he was just lying to get her to sleep with him.
    So are we to take this sort of “spiritual revelation” seriously, because it’s based on personal experience? Or is it poor interpretation of circumstance at best, outright deception at worst? And if it’s the latter, why shouldn’t other experiences that can be explained just as easily be interpreted any differently?

  85. Locutus7 says

    Humans are masters (or mistresses) of self-deception. Truly understanding this about yourself is a major step towards wisdom.

  86. greg says

    Greta, a couple of things
    one, you seem to confuse my reference to diverse personal experiences with personal perspectives. and you seem to think that other peoples’ personal experience somehow ‘contradict’ my own. i do not see how what happens to me can be contradicted by something that happens to someone else; i would posit that it still happened how it happened to me. perhaps you are still confusing personal experience with personal perspective or belief
    please respect the difference between what is ‘true’ in terms of has actually happened, versus what is being claimed as ‘true’ simply due to belief. without differentiating these, the discussion gets really muddled and incoherent.
    you ask why i accept my personal experience as being true, when you have all these explanations about why we shouldn’t trust ourselves. well, let me start by saying ‘scientific evidence’ does not explain a lot of reality. so if i would like to go any farther in understanding reality, beyond limiting myself to what can be proven, then i need to start somewhere, and to me my personal experience is a valuable learning tool. perhaps to others, it is something they need to negate?
    sorry it is too long a list of ‘cognitive biases’ for me to read it all at this point, so perhaps my part in this discussion should come to an end.
    but you asked, why dreams? well they seem to be rather similar to near death experiences – visions, or hallucinations, or whatever you want to call them, happening when we are not ‘conscious’. you say “all the evidence we have points to the conclusion that [the content of dreams] is generated by the brain” – but I ask, when you say “I am dismissing individual experiences that are not corroborated by solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence”, are you not dismissing most of the experiences that have happened in this world? and so your basis for understanding things is a small fraction of reality, so i hope you ask yourself, is it representative of reality as a whole? and if not, well what does that say about the basis of your beliefs?
    and you ask why i think that other peoples’ spiritual perspectives might be flawed, but mine flawless? perhaps i don’t think that (particularily the mine being flawless), but perhaps i do think there’s a reason people have spiritual perspectives that go beyond indoctrination or denial or lower intelligence or lack of understanding, and that there is something going on that is beyond what the science can show (but that is experienceable on the personal level)
    and ps Locutus7 “Humans are masters (or mistresses) of self-deception. Truly understanding this about yourself is a major step towards wisdom.” – i’m rubber, you’re glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you. :) jk, not dismissing this piece of wisdom – but why do you feel that you (and other believers in atheism) are above or beyond self-deception, and others (who hold some spiritual faith) are not? [and no need to answer, it's a rhetorical question]

  87. greg says

    ok i’m gone
    but just had to repay the dropping of wisdom. here’s one: “when we talk or write or argue about things, we aren’t really trying to convince others of our point of view, we’re trying to convince ourselves”
    and i’m not saying this applies to only some of us

  88. DSimon says

    why do you feel that you (and other believers in atheism) are above or beyond self-deception, and others (who hold some spiritual faith) are not? [and no need to answer, it's a rhetorical question]

    Greg, there’s no need for it to be rhetorical!
    The answer is: we don’t think we’re immune to self-deception, but we are perhaps more aware of how pernicious and prevalent it is, and do our best to find ways of working around it.
    Reality is what refuses to change no matter how hard we believe one way or the other. We want the maps we hold in our minds to be an accurate guide to the territory outside. Figuring out when to update those maps is tricky, but it’s an important art to learn.

  89. DSimon says

    when you say “I am dismissing individual experiences that are not corroborated by solid, carefully gathered, rigorously tested evidence”, are you not dismissing most of the experiences that have happened in this world?

    Indeed, but not unwisely so! When it comes to evidence, quality is more important than quantity. It’s like a single needle instead of a whole haystack. Or actually, it’s like tuning in on one frequency to pick up a radio station, instead of listening to the whole spectrum, most of which is just noise.
    Individual anecdotes aren’t that useful no matter how many of them they are, because they can’t really be considered to accurately reflect the outside world. Adding lots more of them doesn’t solve that problem more than a little bit.

  90. Eclectic says

    A point I have made before, but bears repeating: when someone sais “I experienced X” and I say “Actually, I don’t think that’s what happened”, I’m not accusing you of lying. Lying requires the intent to deceive, and it’s quite likely that you are accurately trying to describe what you experienced.
    But compare it to trying to accurately draw something that you saw. Or are even looking right at. A person who can do that is admired for their skill.
    The hardest part of learning to draw in perspective is to bypass all the ways that your brain “fixes” the image that you see, making people at different distances look the same size and generally interpreting the image.
    Not having the skill to bypass that natural process is hardly a sin, but it’s still a desirable skill to be able to do so.
    Similarly, the brain has all kinds of well-known cognitive biases, and it takes actual effort to avoid them.

  91. says

    You said why only 10 percent of ndes have the experience, my answer to that is it strongly appears that ndes are a under-reported phenomena this was found out by Dr. Penny Sartori’s study. It obviously sorta ends the conversation, when you mention that the Skeptical Inquirer actually does research, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but they do zero research nada zilch. What science tried to prove the soul exists?. The only brave souls i know of that actually gathered a massive amount of evidence for the soul is Psychical research. You also have to go with probability theory when it comes to the fact that only a tiny percent of nde are hallucinatory where the majority are not. I also want to know what you think of the fact that their probably are parellel universes, where duplicate copies of myself live in and that consciousness transfers over to these other universes. The only universes you experience are the ones where you are still alive. Also the fact that these universes have different laws of physics and probably made of different type of matter. The evidence supporting this comes from the fact that atoms can be in multiple places at one time. As well as mathematic equations that fit this theory as well as cosmological observations.

  92. Eclectic says

    Leo: How does the incidence of NDEs matter the tiniest little bit to an argument that they’re not hallucinations?
    If anything, a higher incidence suggests that they’re a natural effect, just like chemical-induced hallucinations, optical illusions, or dizziness.
    Your ramblings about parallel universes seem to have no evidentiary basis whatsoever, so I’m ignoring them…

  93. Tim says

    I listened to your performance on Skeptiko. Brave of you to go on there but I was astonished by your sweeping statements and lack of Knowledge about NDE’s.
    Kindly cite the research that shows that everything (in the NDE ) is explicable by current neuroscience. Please don’t quote Skeptics such as Keith Augustine and Gerry Woerlee etc. They are not researchers, merely closed mind sceptics.

  94. Leo MacDonald says

    Another thing i like to point out is the fact that in a lot of nde cases when the brain is losing oxygen and brain activity in the cerebral cortex is nil. The cerebral cortex is considered to be very important for consciousness. And here we have cases of patients who undergo a nde/obe and have no cerebral activity but probably have deep brain activity in the lower functions of the brain. Lower functions cannot take over higher functions of the brain that is neuroscientifically impossible. So here we have even brain chemistry evidence pointing towards the fact that its not caused by the brain.

  95. Makyui says

    John:
    “I don’t think Atheists are the most reviled group in America. It just doesn’t make sense…”
    Prejudice and bigotry rarely make sense.
    Maybe instead of just assuming it based on a gut feeling you have, you should look at the evidence?

  96. Richard says

    1) To get and to retrieve an experience – consciousness is needed. In an unconcious state we donÂŽt have experiences: e.g. during sleep, we have a time where we dream and we have a time without any experiences. But we are not dead.
    This means: people who had a NDE must have been in a state of consciousness.
    2) In MoodyÂŽs book ÂŽLife after LifeÂŽ, the NDE of a lorry-driver is reported. He was able to observe the surrounding while he had a NDE. This means: he did not lose his consciousness and he was not dead.
    But up to now NDEs are only seen as a process which occur while ÂŽdieingÂŽ – other alternatives were not examined. This is a big mistake – since 35 years.
    Therefore NDEs donÂŽt say anything about the existence of a soul, about God or a afterlife.

  97. Leo MacDonald says

    Richard,
    How do you explain well collaborated nde cases where the patient sees and hear things while being unconscious, as well as very little brain activity in the cerebral cortex. Are you saying nde’s are somehow a complex hallucination?.

  98. Richard says

    Leo
    The possibility o measure brain activity is very limited. E.g. a EEG can measure only some effects until 2-3 mm deep at the surface of the brain. And there are only a few electrodes.
    NDEs are no hallucination! During NDEs it is possible to observe the brain at work.
    Death is not reversible, therefore all persons who reported a NDE must have been alive and conscious during this experience.
    To hear/think the idea ÂŽI am dead/I will dieÂŽ is a trigger-stimulus, a fixed action pattern, which will start a NDE. (People without this stimulus usually have no NDE – even in dangerous situations: e.g. When the heart-beat stops, after 15-20 seconds a person will lose consciousness. 80% have no NDE when/after the heartbeat has stopped. When you read the NDE-Literature thoroughly, most of the NDEs were started when a person has heared that he/she was declared dead – or when the person has thought by her-/himself to be in a state of dieing. This is a fixed stimulus!)
    But the stimulus ÂŽI am dead/I will dieÂŽ is an invalid paradox to an organism which is obviously alive (an ÂŽinvalid inputÂŽ as we know it from computers).
    This is the reason, why the brain has to search especial thoroughly in his memory to find a comparable experience (Have I had this stimulus already – and what have I done in this situation).
    But there is a problem! In awareness, our brain has only a limited ability to process sensual stimuli. To perform its job, the stimuli are weighted and unimportant impressions are more or less suppressed/ignored. This phenomenon is known as ÂŽun-/inattentional blindnessÂŽ (you can find it in Wikipedia – to see the Gorilla-experiment is recommended).
    Due to this suppression – of extern stimuli – it is possible to observe/watch the own brain performing its important job – a scan of the episodic memory (for the stimulus/information ÂŽI am dead/I will dieÂŽ)!
    By its contents we can identify it as the episodic memory.
    More information in my next article

  99. Richard says

    Leo – here is part two:
    Before I will continue to explain the secrets of NDEs, we have to talk about about ÂŽstate dependent retrievalÂŽ: This term describes HOW and WHAT we remember – when recollecting experiences from the memory.
    The recollected memories are state dependent – because the result depends A) on the state (physical, mental, emotional) when we hade made an experience and when we had stored it in the memory – and it depends B) on the state (physical, mental, emotional) when we recollect an experience from the memory. Thus it can be, that we evaluate even foetal experiences with an adult mind – when we remember it. This is the trick (!!!) to whom we have to pay attention if we want to understand course and contents of the NDEs!
    ÂŽTrigger-StimulusÂŽ, ÂŽun-/inattentional blindnessÂŽ and ÂŽstate dependent retrievalÂŽ are well known by brain-/memory research.
    Leo – this is the basic knowledge to understand NDEs
    next information in part three

  100. Richard says

    Leo – here is part three
    LetÂŽs have now a closer look at several experiences in the order of a persons life and evaluate(>) it with the mind of an adult person.
    The life cycle of our memory will be started up when its neurons are able to receive and store sensual impressions – approximately to the end of the 5th month in foetal life.
    1) Our first expressions occur when the foetal skin is touched in mothers belly (but we can not her nor see anything) > when we recollect this experience (as an adult person) it if felt as a state of quietness and peace.
    2) During the 20-24th week of pregnancy, the acoustic sense(ear) begins to work. Noises of the surrounding are coming from maternal speaking, heartbeats, digestion, brathing and from outside (e.g. music) > when we (adult) remember it, these noises will sound to us very unpleasant, like a loud buzzing or ringing.
    3) The next foetal sense to develop its activity is the optical sense.
    The more optic sensors of the eye deliver activity to the optic nerves, the more light can be seen – even when some activity comes from neuronal flashes > When the developement of the optical sense is remembered (adult) very quick, it might be felt as an illusion like the movement through a dark tunnel towards a light.
    (The visual perception of light which change from dim towards very bright is reported with NDEs. This represents the state of foetal and early baby light perception = prenatal/postnatal)
    4) After birth, a baby is almost blind, it does not know that it was born, it does not know the meaning of spoken words and the phenomenons ÂŽmotherÂŽ and ÂŽlightÂŽ.
    Because of this inability for distinction, several sensual impressions are combined and stored as emotional experience in the memory > when we recollect (adult) these emotional experiences, the mother is felt as a communicative ÂŽbeing of lightÂŽ, with an own personality and source of love and affection. The emotional perception of a baby is translated into language-terms and emotional/mentalknowledge of an adult person. A thrilling experience.
    5) From 2nd to 5th year on, children develop their own identity and they learn language to describe objects and emotions > When we recollect experiences, we are often able to recognize and ascribe situations and persons to a certain age
    END: NDEs are sometimes stopped by a trigger stimulus (e.g. when a person is thinking ÂŽI donÂŽt want to die/My familiy needs me/…) by medical treatment, when the person fell asleep or lose consciousness
    Leo – when you compare my explanation model with the NDEs then you can see, that NDEs are explainable. Look at the headlines of Dr.Moodys book ÂŽLife after LifeÂŽ, to see that this might have known already 1975.
    OBEs are only a virtual simulation of the actual situation by the brain. They are often obviously wrong: e.g. in MoodyÂŽs book – when a man saw his body as the cadaver which had already the ash grey colour of a dead corpse.
    Dear Leo
    Up to now, NDEs where always seen only(!) as result of a dieing process. The explanation model, which I described here, was never discussed – this is a big mistake of scientists.
    My text is only a short article – it is possible, to explain much more details.
    And – this explanation model show also, that NDEs are no hallucination. I hope Leo, your question is answered.

  101. Seeker of the truth says

    I agree with Leo, and Richard you have given us a lot of speculations which in no way tells us how many people that have had NDE’s report having such clear experiences, meeting deceased loved ones that they didn’t even know were dead, and come back with knowledge that they couldn’t have known if it wasn’t for a genuine mind brain separation.
    Let’s go through some findings of NDE’s which have been validated by many other researchers:
    Consciousness During Anesthesia. Many NDEs occur while under general anesthesia- at a time when any conscious experience should be impossible. While some skeptics claim that these NDEs may be the result of too little anesthesia, this ignores the fact that some NDEs result from anesthesia overdose. Additionally, the description of a NDE differs greatly from that of one who experiences “anesthetic awareness.” The content of NDEs that occur under general anesthesia is essentially indistinguishable from NDEs that did not occur under general anesthesia. This is further strong evidence that NDEs are occurring completely independently from the functioning of the physical brain.
    Perfect Playback. Life reviews in near-death experiences include real events that previously took place in the lives of those having the experience, even if the events were forgotten or happened before they were old enough to remember.
    Children’s Experiences. The near-death experiences of children, including very young children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or near-death experiences, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults. This refutes the possibility that the content of NDEs is produced by preexisting beliefs or cultural conditioning.
    Crystal-Clear Consciousness. The level of consciousness and alertness during near-death experiences (NDEs) is usually even greater than that experienced in everyday life even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. This high level of consciousness while physically unconscious is medically inexplicable. Additionally, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and around the world, which refutes the possibility that NDEs have any relation to dreams or hallucinations.

  102. Seeker of the truth says

    Richard you said The visual perception of light which change from dim towards very bright is reported with NDEs. This represents the state of foetal and early baby light perception = prenatal/postnatal
    It is important to remember that the tunnel is only experienced by less than 40% of people. Being born is a frightening experience, however people that have NDE’s don’t have fear they come back literally changed.
    And the usual skeptical objections like Endorphins, lack of oxygen, excessive Carbon Dioxide, Rapid acceleration inducing NDE’s, not one stand under Scientific Scrutiny.

  103. Richard says

    Dear Seaker of the truth
    Here some answers:
    meeting deceased loved persons
    Even when a person was dead, before we were born – we often have knowledge from/about them when family/friends tell us many informations about such a person.
    anesthesia
    1 of 700 to 1 of 400 persons who had medical treatment under anesthesia have conscious experiences of this situation. This is due to the fact, that anesthesia donÂŽt have always the same effect at a certain concentration. Some persons are more or less sensible
    Perfect playback
    Kryptomnesia is the expression which you need. We can remember moch more and much better as we usually think
    childrenÂŽs experiences
    They have to follow the same rules as those from adult persons. Because the course of life (from 5th month of pregnany up to the actual date) is the same with all people.
    Crystal-Clear Consciousness
    When the brain is concentrated on a topic, other impressions are supressed – thus crystal-clear consciousness is only an effect of un-/inattentional blindness.
    Elements follow the same order
    This is normal, because the developement is the same with all people (as already mentioned at: childrenÂŽs experience)
    Birth remembered as a change of light (dim > very bright)
    NDEs follow the same order therefore we can distinguish: noise = acoustic sense is working, tunnel experience = optical sense is working, Change of light = birth, beeing of light = how mother and other sensual experiences are seen by the baby, … .
    You can see, that the change of light is part of a certain order – thus it can be identified as birth. Obviously birth is no frightening experience – so forget, wereever you have head such fairy tales. Additional a baby does not know what a birth is – at that age it has no knowledge about that.
    Only 40% have a tunnel experience
    Thats normal – usually people have not all the core experiences, but only some of them. (But in my model I have to explain them all!)
    E.g. persons who had a near miss accident – often have only a life review from the actual age down to an age of 5-6 years. But no OBE, no prenatal, no birth and no erly child experience (e.g. landscapes in phantasmal colours).

  104. Richard says

    Dear Seeker of the truth
    I forgot this hint:
    In NDEs we rember us usually only of family members and persons which we had met during our life or from whom we have been told (ancestors). Thus they are part of our own memory.
    When we would have been in an afterworld, then we should have met there people from all continents, cultures and ages. Because if an afterworld exists, it has to be full of those people.
    This is also a hint, that NDEs represent only contents of our own memory.

  105. seeker of the truth says

    My dear friend Richard, there are also cases of NDEr’s meeting deceased loved ones that were young and healthy but no one knew they were dead. I agree that some people have different reactions to anesthesia, however we have strong evidence from the Pam Renyolds case also many independent researchers have documented blind folks seeing in color for the first time and reporting extraordinarily accurate detail ( please read Kenneth Rings Mind Sight ). The birth order thing that you brought up, philosopher Carl Becker, who draws on research in the field of infant perception to show that newborns cannot see anything as they emerge from the womb. Even if they could, newborns don’t have developed mental faculties and cannot be expected to have recollections of the birth process. In any case, the birth canal is not like a tunnel through which a child gracefully floats; it is a tight, compressed passage from which a newborn emerges, typically head first and sometimes chafed or bruised.

  106. seeker of the truth says

    And Dear Richard, here is a beautiful article on NDE’s by Dinesh D’ Souza:
    The best empirical evidence for life after death comes from people who have had “near death experiences” (NDEs). These are people who have gone to the edge and come back with a report. Certainly they haven’t crossed over; in that sense, death remains, as Shakespeare put it, the undiscovered country. But so-called NDEs give us the best chance to make at least an initial map of that unknown territory.
    NDEs were first publicized in 1975 by physician Raymond Moody in Life After Life. Moody described 150 cases of people very near death, or pronounced clinically dead, who reported experiences of moving through dark tunnels, seeing themselves from outside their bodies, encountering the spirits of dead relatives and friends, seeing celestial beings, being dazzled by a bright light, reviewing their whole life in an instant, and then reaching an impassable barrier before being returned to their earthly bodies.
    Recognizing that his reports would sound fantastic to many, Moody cited numerous examples from history to show that NDEs were not uncommon. Plato reports one in the last pages of his Republic. The eighth-century monk Bede gives a similar account in his history of the English people. The Tibetan Book of the Dead instructs dying people to prepare to give an account of their lives as they go through the darkness into the radiant light of pure reality. Even the atheist philosopher A.J. Ayer wrote of a near death experience in which he found himself in a realm where “the laws of nature had ceased to function” and where he was “confronted by a red light, exceedingly bright.”
    Gallup surveys and studies around the world have subsequently shown that such experiences occur frequently. The stunning implication is that consciousness can survive the termination of bodily functions — that death may not be “final exit.”
    Recognizing the implications of NDEs, atheists have labored hard to refute them. One explanation, favored by Carl Sagan in Broca’s Brain, is that at the end of life we, in a sense, return to the womb and once again experience the original birth process. An ingenious idea: it would account for several features of NDEs, such as the tunnel, the sensation of floating, the movement from darkness to light.
    But Sagan’s hypothesis has been largely discredited by the work of philosopher Carl Becker, who draws on research in the field of infant perception to show that newborns cannot see anything as they emerge from the womb. Even if they could, newborns don’t have developed mental faculties and cannot be expected to have recollections of the birth process. In any case, the birth canal is not like a tunnel through which a child gracefully floats; it is a tight, compressed passage from which a newborn emerges, typically head first and sometimes chafed or bruised.
    A second explanation is that NDEs reflect distorted brain states. Psychologist Ron Siegel suggests they are dreamlike experiences of a kind that people have when they take hallucinogenic or mind-altering drugs. Those who take recreational drugs do experience a range of perceptions from wild colors to soaring sensations to drowsiness to decreased vision. During this time however, most of them know they are on drugs. Also they don’t have anything like the coherence of the near death experience. Finally people who have NDEs aren’t typically on recreational drugs — many aren’t even on anesthetics, narcotics or painkillers.
    Neuroscientist Michael Persinger claims he can simulate the NDE by placing a helmet on subjects and electrically stimulating parts of their brains. Persinger’s helmet is a hit-or-miss device; atheist Richard Dawkins tried it, and it had no effect on him. Others have a spiritual feeling but not the particular features of the NDE. The bigger problem is that this is an artificially induced state. If I tell you that I am being blinded by the sun, you cannot prove this is a mental illusion by showing me that you can also blind me with a flashlight. NDEs not only occur with no external inducement; they also happen to people whose hearts and in some cases brains have stopped functioning altogether.
    Perhaps the most plausible explanation for NDEs is given by psychologist Susan Blackmore, who seeks to account for them through her “dying brain hypothesis.” Blackmore suggests that when the brain breaks down, its mechanisms of pattern recognition continue to generate images. In other words, the brain attempts to reconstruct a memory model of reality that seems perfectly real, even though it does not reflect anything outside the brain itself.
    The strength of Blackmore’s theory is that it explains important features of the NDE. The tunnel is the result of constriction in the visual pathways. The lights are a kind of special effect generated by a brain cortex that is deprived of oxygen. A breakdown in body image and the brain’s model of reality can account for the feeling of being outside one’s body. The life review is a consequence of the brain’s memory systems trying to organize themselves as they fail and falter. The same memory systems conjure up images of deceased relatives and friends. Finally, the impression of timelessness is fostered by a self that is disintegrating and relinquishing all experiential notions of time and place.
    The only problem is that Blackmore offers no empirical evidence that dying brains actually generate all these experiences. It seems obvious that they don’t, because if they did, then virtually everyone who is dying would have an NDE! Moreover, as those who have watched a loved one die can easily testify, dying brains tend to produce faded recollections, incoherence and disorientation. These symptoms are radically different from the perceptual clarity and bliss of the typical NDE.
    If NDEs are the result of a dying brain, then a breakdown of mental faculties has already taken place, but in fact most people who report NDEs are now living normal lives. So how have their brains reversed the dissolution and gotten all their normal perceptual faculties back? This reversal defies medical explanation and Blackmore provides none.
    The bottom line is that near death experiences have so far withstood all efforts at refutation. The critics continue to speculate — it may be this and it may be that — but on balance NDEs suggest that consciousness can and sometimes does survive the cessation of heart and even brain functions. True, NDEs don’t tell us much about what the afterlife is really like. Nor do they indicate how long this postmortem awareness continues: “survival” is not the same thing as “immortality.” Near death experiences do seem to show, however, that death is not always the end; there may be something more.

  107. seeker of the truth says

    Dearest Richard, please keep in mind that Pam Renyolds NDE happened when she was literally brain dead, they had stopped her bodily functions, even closed her eyes and ears and she reported event that took place in the operation theater with such clarity it shocked her neurosurgeons.

  108. Richard says

    Dear Seeker of the truth
    A recollection of the birth process is not possible – thatÂŽs right (and that is exactly, was I said. Only the light impression before and after birth is remembered dull>bright)
    Baby are able to see strong contrasts – soon/imediately after birth – but only within a range of 25-30 cm. A famos experiment was, when a scientist made a grimace directly in front of babys. The faces he pulled were imitated by babys already 45 minutes after birth (I have forgotten the name of the scientist, but maybee you can find it with google). This mean the baby saw him and was able to react (it must have knowledge about the own face in the memory)
    I wrote also, that the tunnel experience is the developement of the optical sense in fetal state. This is no(!) recollection of the birth tunnel.
    The case Pam Reynold is very interesting – because her body was cooled down to a unusual cool temperature. No reliable informations were available how the anesthesia would work! Thus it might be possible that she has reached consciousness once or several times.
    The article of Dinesh DÂŽSouza describes all the nonsense and rubbish about NDEs, which we can read since 1975 when Moody published his book ÂŽLife after LifeÂŽ.
    Read it thorougly! NDE are only seen as the result of a dieing process! No other alternatives were examined! This is not scientific – thats only rubbish.
    Please read through my articles here – this/my view was nowere discussed up to now.
    When you do scientific analysis you have to investigate all possiblities and then(!) it can be said, which theories has to be excluded (and why). But in the case of NDEs no scientific analyses were performed. Moody wrote, that NDEs could be the result of a dieing process – and since today this is the way NDEs are seen.
    Except of some excellent christian theologians like Prof. Dr. Hans KÃŒng: He said always that death is for us not reversible – therefore a person who reported NDEs was never dead nor in the otherworld.

  109. Richard says

    Dear Seeker of the truth
    No I have found the name of the man who made grimaces in front of a baby. The earliest imitation was 42 minutes after birth. The name is: Andrew N Meltzoff

  110. Richard says

    Dear Seeker of the truth
    Some informations to Pam Reynolds can be found with Google > [Pam Reynolds Keith Augustine]
    You will find an article, which is very interesting. E.g. her operation was 1991 but Shoboms fist interview with her was 1994 – thus she had 3 years to discuss the operation and to get special knowledge.
    In the same text of Keith Augustine is the article ÂŽMariaÂŽs ShoeÂŽ. Over several years, this NDE was described as example to give the proof for the possibility of a paranormal perception of a soul that could leave the body.
    I would have been disappointed if we would have such a soul. Imagine: you are suffering the greatest danger in your life – and your soul leaves you and your body alone to go for a sightseeing tour after an ugly smelling shoe.
    The NDE-idea of an unreliable sould that would leave the body as soon as possible when there is a problem – has to be discussed. I would expect from my soul that it would stay with me as long as possible.

  111. Alexander1304 says

    Hi all,
    Just want your opinion about this.
    I have no idea how to regard this cite,which tries to present some non-religious case for an afterlife,and this article in particular:
    http://www.cfpf.org.uk/articles/rdp/katsman/ph-m-model.html
    I thought that the concept of Ether was long abandoned in modern physics….What do you guys think?
    Is this artice valid science at all,or it is strict pseudo-science?

  112. Frank Incense says

    “I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.” -Bertrand Russell

  113. says

    Hi Greta,
    Have you heard of Dr. Jeffrey Long’s book “Evidence of the Afterlife”?
    How do you explain the NDE’s of people born blind? Or of those with a flat brainline, such as Pam Reynolds? Or of those with 360 degree vision during the NDE, which is impossible and inexplicable?
    Also, have you seen the SCEPCOP treatise debunking all the skeptical fallacies, at http://www.DebunkingSkeptics.com

  114. says

    How do you explain…

    How do I explain phenomena that have never been rigorously documented by any reputable neurologist or neuropsychologist, as recounted by Some Guy On The Internet, with no citations to any serious, scientifically sound, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed research?
    I don’t. I dismiss it for the pointless trivia that it is.
    A massive body of careful research into neurology and neuropsychology overwhelmingly points to the conclusion that consciousness, whatever it is, is a biological phenomenon produced by the brain. And this conclusion is being further buttressed by new research every day. If serious research is done countering this conclusion, I will consider it. But if you can’t point to any serious research, please don’t waste my time. Thank you.

  115. says

    I know this is an old entry, so you may not be reading comments anymore, but I have an honest question (with no “Oh, you’re so wrong!” intentions) – is it possible that the brain is merely a signal receiver, much like a TV receives cable? You can see consciousness working in the brain, you can damage the brain and have it affect consciousness, but that’s just because the brain is the receiver. If you break your TV, it will still be receiving cable – but you won’t be seeing it, because it’s broken. It’s something I’ve wondered about. I’ve had a lot of issues with losing my spirituality as well, so this isn’t wishful thinking or an attempt to prove you wrong (I honestly don’t know either way). Just a thought.

  116. Davide Pintus says

    I’m an atheist as well, but while I don’t believe NDEs to be anything supernatural your argument on how scientists cannot be biased against them because they are afraid of death doesn’t hold water.
    Let’s face it, anything with vaguely “magical” feelings is ridiculed and attacked, either because deemed unworthy, for prejudice or at least in one case of my knowledge for fear of having another hope for an afterlife crushed.
    There is spectacularly bad research in the field of NDE and I see nearly no serious effort from most researchers and writers to understand what causes them: the point seems to be disproving any dualistic fantasy.
    Also, we are far, far away from understanding the inner workings of the brain,let lone consciousness. Sure, we are making giant leaps (expecially thanks to new scanning technologies), but ask for an explanation to twenty different experts and they’ll give you twenty different answers, none of which very convincing.

  117. Scott says

    Hey Greta, just a quick question:

    I’ve been searching your blog attempting to find your scientific credentials, and thus far, I haven’t found anything. My prime concern is with your seemingly irrelevant use of what you deem as ‘science’, in your article. As someone who’s completed both my undergraduate, and graduate courses in theoretical physics, I get a little put off when I see fundamentalists throw the ‘scientific’ arguments around in support of their respective beliefs (Religious, or non religious). You throw arguments around such as:

    “A massive body of careful research into neurology and neuropsychology overwhelmingly points to the conclusion that consciousness, whatever it is, is a biological phenomenon produced by the brain.”

    This argument in and of itself is absolutely fallacious, and unscientific. You’re implying that scientists cannot even define the parameters of consciousness, yet they have already figured out its causation? Science just simply doesn’t work that way, and as such, neurology and mostly neuroscience tends to be viewed as the rompus little child in the scientific community. Neuroscience tends to make conclusions too quickly, and make them based on minority statistics and incorporate it (know knows why?) into reports as error (yes, you can fudge theoretical error). Physicists learned long ago that correlation and causation are two entirely different monsters, however, because neuroscience is such a relatively new field, it hasn’t come to those conclusions yet. Simply because you can show that brain processes change based on neurological stimulation does NOT imply there’s a causal relationship. I think, in more ways that one, you’re drawing premature conclusions based on insufficient evidence (Much like the NDE researchers, mind you.). I ask that if you’re to report on things profound and interesting (Yes, NDES are profound and interesting), that you do so in a more objective way.

    1) Carbon dioxide might be more copious in the brain, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot, as carbon dioxide isn’t a hallucinogen, or known to cause any of the affects of NDEs.

    2) Apoxia could very well explain the tunnel vision in NDEs, but the problem here lies in that you must take the chronology of NDEs into affect. Apoxia occurs generally in the beginning of the experience, and should you attempt to provide reasonable evidence to follow up explanations with the other aspects of the nde, oxygen deprivation pretty much annihilates all the other explanations, so you’re going to have to come up with another theory for the tunnel vision. (retinal blood loss, maybe?) Also, most nders dont identify the ‘tunnel’ with apoxia, even if theyve experienced both.

    3) As far as OBEs go, sensory deprivation COULD account for the OBEs, but thats assuming that your sensory organs are deprived (such as in the case of virtual reality, where they are being tricked, per your link) but sensory deprivation would also deprive you of the majority of your hearing (but not all), and the accuracy of your (we assume oxygen and blood deprived) brain to conjure up accurate visual images of the world around you is starkly improbable. (We cant even do this when fully aware, and functioning)

    4) You pester people for links, yet the ones you provide aren’t even peer-reviewed studies. Just things from knowingly skeptical blogs (I think all of them had the word “skeptic” “atheist” or “humanist” in them, using phrases such as “Some NDErs report seeing living persons in their NDEs”, without providing raw statistical data. And who is Keith Augustine, and where are his scientific credentials (as well as yours)?

    All in all, I came to this blog expecting at least some other side to this debate, but I see that the skeptics corner is filled with nothing but pandering, unscientific, angry bloggers who vehemently attempt to contort science to their materialistic view. At least the NDE kooks are trying to rationalize this phenomena, rather than load up a bunch of bad speculations, and shoot them out of a shotgun.

    Very saddening….

  118. mnb0 says

    “At least the NDE kooks are trying to rationalize this phenomena,”
    Like The Flat Earth Society, you mean?
    When I claim that I will upward when jumping from a bridge, what will you do? I bet you will write something like

    “But if you can’t point to any serious research, please don’t waste my time. Thank you.”

  119. says

    Science will never be able to prove the validity of near death experiences, because they are, in themselves subjective. Subjectivity cannot be trusted.
    There will never be a control group for “experience-rs” to compare to, and there must always be a third party to analyze the data given.

  120. Patrick Gillespie says

    Hi Greta, I’m coming quite late to this argument, but thought I’d make some observations nonetheless:

    //The evidence supporting the “biological product of the brain” explanation comes from rigorously- gathered, carefully- tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research.//

    Yes, absolutely correct.

    //Changes in consciousness can be seen, using magnetic resonance imagery, as changes in the brain. This is the increasingly clear conclusion of the science: consciousness is a product of the brain. Period.//

    Yes, but it’s not as clearcut as you would like readers to believe. There still is no scientific explanation for what gives rise to consciousness. This, as you know, is what Chalmers calls the “hard problem”. It’s possible, and the evidence leads one to conclude, that correlation (the correlation of neurological activity found in resonance imagery) is synonymous with causation. However, your suggestion that this is a settled argument in scientific circles is wrong. Much more accomplished neurologists than you, remain unconvinced – Sir John Eccles for example. You may assume, at this point, that correlation equals causation, but doing so remains an expression of your beliefs, not a reflection of current science (as opposed to “scientific thought”).

    //And what they are finding, consistently, thoroughly, across the board, is that, whatever consciousness is, it is intimately and inextricably linked to the brain.//

    I don’t know who “they” are, but “they” appear to be individuals who are sympathetic with your beliefs. As a more general matter, however, your statement is not true. If it were true, then the Near-Death Experience (NDE) or, for my purposes, the After-Death Experience (ADE) would not exist. What the ADE provides evidence for is the following:

    If consciousness is inextricably linked to the brain, then a new explanation for what gives rise to consciousness must be offered. There is clear evidence (veridical evidence) that lucid, narrative consciousness occurs after cardiac arrest. Consciousness when, by any current understanding of the brain, no consciousness should be possible. We would expect an MRI to show no signs of consciousness, and yet it occurs.

    //And this evidence has been gathered, and continues to be gathered, using the gold standard of evidence, methods specifically designed to filter out biases and known cognitive errors as much as is humanly possible: rigorously- gathered, carefully- tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo- controlled, replicated, peer-reviewed research. //

    Yes, but since this method has never been applied to individuals experiencing ADEs, your belief that they don’t occur when patients (and veridical evidence) suggest they do, is not based on scientific evidence, but beliefs. Period. No rigorously gathered, carefully tested, thoroughly cross-checked, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, replicated or peer-reviewed research has demonstrated that ADEs do *not* occur when experients say they do. The AWARE study is currently attempting to take some steps in this direction.

    //The evidence supporting the “independent soul” explanation is flimsy at best. It is unsubstantiated. It comes largely from personal anecdotes. It is internally inconsistent. It is shot through with discrepancies. It is loaded with biases and cognitive errors — especially confirmation bias, the tendency to exaggerate evidence that confirms what we already believe, and to ignore evidence that contradicts it. //

    The reductionist explanations of ADEs also suffer from the same failings. For example, some individuals try to explain away the tunnel as a result of hypoxia (leading to anoxia), but this explanation fails in cases where tunnels were experienced under otherwise physically healthy conditions.

    Thousands of new ADEs are being reported every year, possibly every month. They are all anecdotal, but a small percentage of individuals have provided *evidence* of lucid and conscious awareness when such lucidity should have been impossible. The timing of the consciousness has also been verified by third parties. The manner in which you dismiss all ADE’s ala-carte, is more reflective either of denial or willful ignorance. The evidence cannot all be dismissed unless you’re willing to place your belief system before the evidence — which, at this point, you seem all too willing to do.

    //There is not a single account of an immaterial soul leaving the body in a near-death experience that meets the gold standard of scientific evidence.//

    But this is a meaningless assertion unless you’re going to hold all your assertions to the same standard. For example, there is also not a single explanation for how the brain gives rise to consciousness that meets “the gold standard of scientific evidence”. Period.

    Before “scientific evidence”, comes evidence. Interpret that evidence how you will, the evidence provided by the ADE exists. You either explain how someone can be lucidly conscious after cardiac arrest (and before resuscitation) or you explain how and when this consciousness is produced. You have not done that anywhere in your article.

    //These claims — and the claims that these experiences could not possibly be explained by anything other than a supernatural soul — are anecdotal at best. //

    You reveal your bias in this statement. You are a metaphysical naturalist rather than a methodological naturalist. In other words, your statements entail a belief system rather than anything science based. For example, there is no reason to equate non-local consciousness with a “supernatural soul”. The eventual explanation for non-local consciousness, even the survival of individual consciousness after irreversible death, might be entirely *natural*. As of yet, your statements on the matter reflect your belief system rather than the state of current science. They reflect scientism.

    //And every time a claim about a soul leaving the body when near death has been tested, using good, rigorous methods, it’s utterly fallen apart. //

    The same is true of every reductionist explanation of the NDE. The same is true for every attempt to explain how the brain gives rise to consciousness. Your statement is also false. In fact, your statement is silly. To whit, no claim of non-local consciousness has ever been tested. Scientists don’t know how to do it.

    //In practice, for most believers, there is no possible evidence that could convince them that they’re wrong. //

    The same could be said of your own position. Insofar as my willingness to debate this matter goes, I am not a believer. I go strictly by the evidence; and it seems that I, and others in the scientific field (I am not), are much more aware of that evidence than you.

    //Yes, weird things sometimes happen to some people’s minds when they’re near death.//

    Indeed they do; but there are two points to be made here. First, being “near death” is of no consequence from an evidential standpoint. It’s when weird things sometimes happen to people’s minds *after* death, after cardiac arrest, when the pupils are dilated and the brain has flat-lined, that is at issue. You apparently simply refuse to admit such evidence exists; but despite your claims, it does. Your attitude is anti-scientific. Secondly, even if it can be established that the lucid consciousness of the ADE occurs before cardiac arrest or during resuscitation, the mystery is in no way solved. It is clinically demonstrated that only a fraction of the oxygen (needed for lucid consciousness) is supplied to the brain even after a heart beat is restored. Nevertheless, this is when some skeptics claim that these events occur. Well, then they are flouting every current neurological model of the brain known to science. The lucid, narrative consciousness of the NDE should not be possible. Some other explanation for how the brain produces consciousness must be offered. Of course, not skeptic has provided such a model.

    // If we want to be intimately connected with the universe, we need to accept what the universe is telling us, through evidence, is true about itself. //

    Good advice. You should take it.

    //We need to view death as a natural process, something that connects us with the great chain of cause and effect in the universe. We need to take comfort in the idea that, even though we will die and our death will be forever, the memories people have of us will live on, and the world will be different because we were here. //

    Now you sound no different than the evangelist. You are proselytizing. You are expressing your beliefs.

    It’s a fascinating and curious thing to see how the ADE, or NDE, can reveal those who have fallen into the trap of their own belief systems from those who truly understand the scientific method. I don’t, at this point, include you in the latter.

    Instead of sounding off on a subject of which you clearly have little knowledge, my suggestion is to educate yourself. Get in contact with someone like Sam Parnia. Google is not a substitute for real investigation. Go talk to the doctors in cardiac units. Read and talk to neuro-scientists, and not just the ones who confirm your personal biases.

  121. swiffer says

    Interesting series of blogs. However the ingenuous comments of Patrick Gillespie have stung me into making a comment. Aside from new-age drivel such as “connecting with the universe”, the main thrust of his argument is a poorly argued misunderstsnding of human physiology.

    He cites Sam Parnia as an expert and the contaminated AWARE study. Regettably Sam Parnia in his two books and articles reveals a lack of any understanding of research done on cardiac resuscitation and modern studies such as those of Adolf Fick, who published the “Fick Equation” in 1870. I call this “modern” because it seems to have been published too recently to have entered into the schooling of Sam Parnia. This equation reveals what Parnia, and his believing follower Gillespie, claim is nonsense. People can be fully conscious with a cardiac output as low as 1.7 liters per minute — a level of cardiac output readily achieved during manual external cardiac massage.

    I could go on and on about the nonsense propounded by Patrick Gillespie, but will restrict mysel to demonstrating that belief in a soul is nonsensical, and no more than an ages old illusion based uponb faulty interpretation of sensory signals and false hope.

    Patrick is correct about the fact that Greta does not distinguish between proof and aternative explanations. Materialist say that because the brain is capable of producing all phenomena claimed by believers in dualism to be manifestations of a separable immaterial soul. However the interaction of a soul with a physical body also procuces these same phenomena by activating the body — the conduit of the soul. Therefore claims by materialists that there is no soul are reduced in the world-view of believers in the soul to equally valid alternative explanations.

    Nonetheless the illusory nature of the human soul is surprisingly easily revealed.

    One of the key, or core attributes of the soul is the ability of the soul to remember. This is revealed by the fact theat the apparently disembodied soul during NDEs and OBEs is able to remember these experiences and even tell of veridical aspects.

    However the daily clinical experience of anesthesiologist and gastroenterologists with the drug midazolam reveals the nonsensical nature of the soul as the seat of memory. During conscious sedation with this drug, people are conscious and copoerative, yet they remember nothing of what they said or did while under the influence of this drug. Nor do they remember what they said or did in response to oher people while under the influence of the drug. The soul is supposedly unaffcted by midazolam, and the soul controls all speech, responses to others, actions and movements. This means the soul should remember all that was said and done while conscious, speaking, and coperative under the influence of midazolam.

    This fact, and many other examples of the failure to demonstrate memory ability in the soul extensively discussed in the book “Illusory Souls”, reveals the soul to be something without memory. A soul without memory is very different to that believed by Patrick. A soul without memory:

    – is not the vehicle of personality in an afterlife.
    – has no awareness greater than a drooling demented person in an afterlife.
    – experiences neither heaven nor hell.
    – learns nothing from earthly life, which means reincarnation as proposed by many believers is also nonsensical and without purpose.

  122. Patrick Gillespie says

    //Aside from new-age drivel such as “connecting with the universe”, the main thrust of his argument//

    You’re not off to a good start, Swifter. I never used the words “connecting with the universe”. But I welcome your comment because it allows me to debunk misleading arguments like yours.

    //He cites Sam Parnia as an expert and the contaminated AWARE study.//

    I never “cited” Sam Parnia. I recommended that Greta contact someone *like* him.

    //People can be fully conscious with a cardiac output as low as 1.7 liters per minute — a level of cardiac output readily achieved during manual external cardiac massage. //

    This information is utterly irrelevant. There *is* no “cardiac output” after cardiac *arrest.* Period. Neither, or so modern neuroscience claims, is there the possibility of lucid consciousness; and yet lucid consciousness, according to the evidence, does occur after cardiac arrest.

    //I could go on and on about the nonsense propounded by Patrick Gillespie//

    But you don’t, blowing hot air instead.

    //but will restrict mysel to demonstrating that belief in a soul is nonsensical//

    So what? Who cares?

    After you’re done babbling on about your “angels-on-a-oin” theories of the soul, explain *what* exactly is producing lucid consciousness after cardiac arrest.

    I’ll be waiting.

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