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.
My dear Sweet Potato,
Thank you for your concern about my welfare but it did happen nearly forty years ago and as I’m still here, the after effects must have been negligible.
You said, and I quote,
“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”.
Well I’m not at all surprised that only 30% reported out-of-body consciousness and that a mere 5% of those were veridical. I remember being interviewed by a small group of so-called researchers to establish whether I had an ‘afterlife
experience’ and I was surprised at how quickly they departed when I told them that I had none.
These were the days when fads such as Kirlian Photography made a reappearance in the 1970’s along with the now discredited Erich Von Daniken with his Chariots of the Gods bestseller.
I learned later on that these researchers were part of that lunatic fringe called born-again Christians who were desperate to find truth that god and jesus existed (we, of course know that they do not and I look back with amusement the time when my home was picketed by JW’s from a nearby Kingdom Hall when I converted two of their flock to atheism).
True scientific research has found not one shred of evidence to support NDEs and the minorities who did report such things were in the main those that had some form of religious upbringing or experienced hallucinations due to the Adrenalin rush which the body produces in order to keep the body alive.
The fact that I am one of the 70%, I would say that my sample of evidence is a very sizable sample to be statistically valid.
I actually don’t like the word ‘faith’ as it is usually associated with religious connotations. I would much prefer to use the word, conviction and indeed, it is my conviction that no afterlife exists. I can say it with certainty through personal experience, but also (like the 70% majority), from good old commonsense.
You seem to be arguing more against dogmatic religion, rather than against the proposition that the evidence supports the reality of the afterlife. I am not arguing in favour of a religion, and have no desire to do so. I am just pointing out that there is plenty of evidence to support the notion that the afterlife is real, and nothing more than theory and wishful thinking to support the idea that the afterlife is not real.
While you are in the 70% of people undergoing life-threatening physical trauma that did not experience a classic NDE, those NDEs do occur and are real to those 30% who experience them. And the small percentage of NDEs that are veridical are real too. They must therefore be taken into account by anybody who wishes to assert, as many often do, that there is "no evidence" for an afterlife.
And, as I have already mentioned, there are many other forms of evidence besides NDEs.
Changing your terminology from "faith" to "conviction" does not alter the fact that there is no actual evidence to support your viewpoint. What you consider "commonsense" may make sense to you, but there is nothing in there to convince anybody else, who has their own version of "commonsense". You have nothing on which to base your assertion that there "just isn't" an afterlife.
The most commonly held belief in the world is the one that says: "I know that I am right. As soon as everybody else comes to their senses and agrees with me, the world will finally be a pleasant place to live in." But if anyone wants to persuade another to join them in their conviction, they need to be able to point to some evidence. You have not done so. I have done so, even though I am not really concerned whether or not you wish to be persuaded by it. I am merely pointing out that your own position is unsupported by evidence, and that you therefore do not have any basis for being as assertive as you were.
It seems that I have to place my reply to Michel Poisson's remarkable outburst here, as he appears to be able to place a comment and not leave a place for replying to it.
If he had followed the discussion between myself and Robert Wort properly, he would have seen that I did indeed point to the kind of evidence that he seems to consider impossible.
And in response to his question, yes, there have been three occasions in the past when a friend of mine has died, and the first I knew of it was a direct communication from the dead friend him/herself. On two of those occasions, had the friend not told me herself, I would not have heard about the death in time to get to the funeral.
Michel's suggestions that I read about the physiology of death, and tranasfer my discussion to the "Thinking Ape" discussion are red herrings and somewhat off the point. I am here discussing evidence for the afterlife, when the consciousness has left the physical body, and not the physiology of the body that has been abandoned by the consciousness, nor about biology of any kind.
There is plenty of evidence in respect of Near Death Experiences, and the objections raised to it by materialist sceptics have all been answered. There are also other forms of evidence, such as past life recollections by children (myself included when I was a child, many years ago), communications from the dead (as mentioned a couple of paragraphs back), mediumistic communications of various kinds, death-bed visions, and others. Materialists have only ever given partial explanations for such phenomena, and have never managed to explain them away completely.
My website at http://www.roseandlotus.net/ gives pointers to a number of remarkable pieces of evidence that will be difficult to explain away, and links to other websites and sources that analyse them in greater depth.
Michel Poisson should take a closer look at what is really out there, before bursting forth with irrelevant demands and unwarranted claims and spouting from a position of obvious ignorance.
This web site claims to be a site for thinking atheists. Atheists, by definition, are people with a lack of belief in God. The definition does not include any requirement for a lack of belief in an afterlife. I believe that my approach is in harmony with the ideal aspired to, or stated, in the establishment of this site. Michel's outburst, on the other hand, shows more evidence of emotion and anger, rather than of actual thinking.
Thank you, Michel, for pointing out out the reason for the quirky "no reply button" behaviour. I am clearly not particularly familiar with Ning.
But, you do seem to have painted yourself into an intellectual corner. You require evidence of an afterlife to be presented to you (on the basis that whatever you believe is the default, and anything else has to make its case before you will deign to consider it), but at the same time refuse to believe that such evidence can exist, even when some is pointed out to you, and will therefore not consider it.
I can image you as a late nineteenth century physicist confidently proclaiming that flight in a heavier-than-air machine is impossible (as many at the time did), and, on the basis of that certainty, refusing to look at the evidence of the Wright Brothers when it eventually came available.
The default position in any argument is to say that one does not know what the answer is. The default position in reference to whether or not there is an afterlife is to say that one does not know. To assert that there is one, is a remarkable claim, and calls for evidence. To assert that there is none is just as remarkable a claim, and also calls for evidence, if one is to make such a claim with any kind of confidence in its truth (which many people in different places on this website do, although the supporting evidence is remarkably thin). To assert that the answer is unknowable is also a remarkable claim (especially when there are plenty of sources offering such evidence, as indicated in my website, and in many others as well). To claim that your particular assertion should be chosen as the one that requires no evidence, and that the others must provide incontrovertible, but impossible, evidence to overcome it, does come across as a tad arrogant.
When I was a small child my parents had what at the time was called a radiogram, which comprised a combination of a radio receiver and a gramophone. To me as a child it was fascinating, with the glass tubes inside that lit up, and the amazing sounds, music and stories, that came out from the speaker. I assumed that the sounds came from small people that lived in the glass tubes. When their lights went out, the sounds stopped. It was obvious that that was where the sounds originated from. When eventually the radiogram ceased to function, I assumed that the little people inside must have died.
Now of course, I know better, and that my childhood self was mistaken. The sounds of course did not originate from within the glass tubes, but from a radio station. But trying to determine from studying the physiology of the brain, or the biological processes of a dying body, whether or not there might be a life after death would be like looking in the remains of the worn-out radiogram to determine whether there was still a source for the music and stories.
If someone spends his life looking only at brain physiology, it will not be surprising to hear him come to the conclusion that the brain is the source of consciousness. If, on the other hand, someone else, who has been looking in other places, finds evidence there of the existence of consciousness, then the person who looks only at the brain is not in a position to cry "nonsense".
You should not assume that my lack of interest in discussing biological matters on this website implies a lack of knowledge or interest in biology and its functions. Just as, as you say, I do not know who you are, so too, you do not know who I am. Who either of us is, and what either of us might know about things that do not impinge on this discussion, are matters that are not really relevant here.
You talk about my "delusion", as you confidently call it. Can you explain how my delusion was able to provide me with the information that got me to those two funerals I mentioned earlier, that I might otherwise have missed?
Alternatively, if you go to my website (http://www.roseandlotus.net), go to page 6 (It is clearly marked), and find the links to the story of James Leininger, and then provide a plausible explanation of his story that does not in any way involve the continuation of life after death, then I will be impressed, I promise.
You do not need to repeat your assertion that stores do not provide evidence. It is a piece of sophistry that does nothing more than shore up your reasoning that boils down to: "Since the afterlife does not exist, then evidence cannot exist to show that it exists, therefore it does not exist."
In fact we base our perception of the world, and our beliefs of what constitutes reality, on our experiences, the stories that happen to us. Our own experiences provide the background by which we formulate a philosophy of life. It is clear that your experiences and mine are different in at least some respects. That, however, does not put you in a position to judge mine as necessarily "delusional".