A near-death experience has two components. The person has to be near death, which means physically compromised so severely that permanent death would occur if they did not improve: they're unconscious, or often clinically dead, with an absence of heartbeat and breathing. The
second component [is that] at the time they're having a close brush
with death, they have an experience. [It is] generally lucid [and]
How do you respond to skeptics who say there must be some biological or physiological basis for that kind of experience, which you say in the book is medically inexplicable?
There have been over 20 alternative, skeptical "explanations" for near-death experience. The reason is very clear: no one or several skeptical explanations make sense, even to the skeptics themselves. Or [else ]there wouldn't be so many.
You say there's less skepticism about near-death experiences than there used to be, as well as more awareness. Why is that?
Literally hundreds of scholarly articles have been written over the last 35 years about near-death experience. In addition to that, the media continues to present [evidence of] near-death experience. Hundreds of thousands of pages a month are read on our website, NDERF.org.
In the book you say that some critics argue that there's an "Oprah effect": that a lot of people who have had near-death experiences have heard about them elsewhere first. How do you account for that in your research?
We post to the website the near-death experience exactly as it was shared with us. Given the fact that every month 300,000 pages are read [by] over 40,000 unique visitors from all around the world, the chances of a copycat account from any media source not being picked up by any one of those people is exceedingly remote. Our quality-assurance check
is the enormous visibility and the enormous number of visitors. (See what happens when we die.)
You say this research has affected you a lot on a personal level. How?
I'm a physician who fights cancer. In spite of our best efforts, not everybody is going to be cured. My absolute understanding that there is an afterlife for all of us — and a wonderful afterlife — helps me face cancer, this terribly frightening and threatening disease, with more courage than I've ever faced it with before. I can be a better
physician for my patients.
You say we can draw on near-death experiences to reach conclusions about life after actual death. But is that comparing apples and oranges?
Scientifically speaking, interviewing people that have permanently died is challenging. Obviously, given that impossibility, we have to do the next best thing. If these people have no brain function, like you have in a cardiac arrest, I think that is the best, closest model we're going to have to study whether or not conscious experience can occur
apart from the physical brain. The research shows the overwhelming
answer is absolutely yes.
You raise the idea that your work could have profound implications for religion. But is whether there is life after death really a scientific question, or a theological one?
I think we have an interesting blend. [This research] directly addresses what religions have been telling us for millenniums to accept on faith: that there is an afterlife, that there is some order and purpose to this universe, that there's some reason and purpose for us being here in earthly life. We're finding verification, if you will,
for what so many religions have been saying. It's an important step
toward bringing science and religion together.
Is there any aspect of human experience that you don't think science can touch?
Oh, absolutely. What happens after permanent death — after we're no longer able to interview people — is an absolute. To that extent, the work I do may always require some element of faith. But by the time you look at [the] evidence, the amount of faith you need to have [to believe in] life after death is substantially reduced.
It’s quite obvious that you are not an atheist as this discussion would not have been broached in the first place.
The notion brought forward by those about the possibility of an afterlife is brought about by one main factor. Fear!
I can understand that many fear death and I can also understand why such people hope that an afterlife is possible, but sometimes you need to be brave and face the fact that there is no afterlife.
Many believe in spirits; I do too! But only the type that comes in a bottle (a nice brandy after a good meal is very agreeable on some occasions).
You ask for evidence, but the burden of proof really relies on those who believe - and there is none. There are plenty of stories, but none of them are backed up by cold, hard, documented and scientifically tested proof.
If the belief in an afterlife makes you feel more comfortable, then by all means, believe in it if you wish, you might as well throw in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy while you’re at it, but don’t let me stop you. Just as long as you don’t try to force your opinion down our throats like all religions do.
I very much doubt that any harm will come to you from a genuine atheist, but if you do fear death, I’d definitely advise you to look over your shoulder when a Christian, Hindu or Muslim is behind you; I’m afraid their track record in peaceful dialogue is very poor indeed.
Have you looked at the evidence? I have no fear about life after death, its reality or not. But I have looked at the evidence, and the only honest answer is that there must be more than these three dimensions of space, and that consciousness does indeed continue after death.
If you can show, by pointing to evidence, that this is wrong, I will pay attention, but if you merely repeat the old unfounded myth that it is fear that causes people to believe in Life After Death, then I can only think that it is Faith alone that can support your myth-based belief. I am here to stand for rational belief, not Faith or Myth.
This website is for thinking, not for faith-based belief such as yours.
As for your continuing to mention atheism the way that you do, did you realise that there is an entire major Religion, Buddhism, that believes in an afterlife, and does not believe in God? I am not a Buddhist, but I still see no need to confuse disbelief in the afterlife and disbelief in God as being the same disbelief. I am happy to disbelieve what there is no evidence for, but when there is actual evidence, I will base my belief, or lack of it, on my appraisal of that evidence, not on a myth (however popular that muth might be).
Actually I have looked at the evidence Kumera,
From personal experience.
I was helping someone bleed his brakes on his car and I was in the car up on a hoist.
He had gone to get some tools and I decided (rather stupidly I must confess) to jump out of the car rather than wait for him to lower the hoist.
I managed to get myself caught in the seatbelt as I came down and before long, I was getting strangled and lost consciousness.
By the time he returned, I was completely out of it and he quickly lowered the hoist and tried to resuscitate me, but to no avail.
When the ambulance arrived, they were more successful but I was clinically dead for an unknown period of time.
I was one of the very lucky ones obviously and managed to escape any brain damage.
What I can tell you is this.
There was no bright light, no angels waiting for me; in fact no sensation at all. Complete nothingness in fact.
What I do recall was the intense pain of revival and that was indeed extremely unpleasant.
I do not have a ‘faith-based’ belief in no afterlife. The point is, I have no faith at all.
Human beings on the cosmic scheme of things are not particularly special and it would be chauvinistic to believe it is so.
We are merely electro-mechanical machines. More complex than computers perhaps, but the Universe has about 15 to 20 billion years head start on us, but like any machine, when you turn off the switch, we turn off completely.
I am sorry to hear of your accident, and hope there are no ongoing medical issues as a result of it.
However, I am not surprised that you have no recollection of consciousness during your clinical death. Only 30% of such physical traumas produce reports of out-of-body consciousness, and less than 5% of those are veridical (which means that the subject reports information gleaned while "out of the body" that he could not be expected to have obtained by any physical means). So, you are simply one of the majority.
Accordingly, while you have indeed experienced a small piece of evidence, it was too small a sample to be statistically valid.
And, NDEs are only one of the approximately thirty different types of evidence that are available that point to the reality of the afterlife.
You say that you have no faith at all, and yet you had enough faith in your belief to be able to say to me in your first post that there just isn't an afterlife. It definitely takes faith to be able to say that with such certainty, without solid supporting evidence.