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Chris also sent me this letter. It's very good, and a sound voice which has been needed.

I have a web page on skeptical fallacies that readers of this post may also find interesting:

http://www.geocities.com/chs4o8pt/skeptical_fallacies.html

Hi Michael,

Don't have time to comment in detail right now, but wanted to quickly note a nice little synchronicity. I'm currently 'moving' to a new computer, so cleaning out all my old computer's files and folders. Whilst doing so yesterday, I came across a note to myself to read in more depth Keith Augustine's online article "Hallucinatory Near Death Experiences". It's sitting open in the Firefox tab beside this one, waiting for me to go over it again - first time I've looked at it in at least a couple of years!

Kind regards,
Greg

Not to mention,
"I literally had the feeling that I was everywhere in the universe simultaneously." - mark horton's NDE,
http://www.mindspring.com/~scottr/nde/markh.html

and:
"If the apparent separateness of subatomic particles is illusory, it means that at a deeper level of reality all things in the universe are infinitely interconnected." - excerpt from The Holographic Universe, http://www.earthportals.com/hologram.html#zine

There is something very strange about our Universe.
"Everything we call real is made of things that cannot be regarded as real." - Niels Bohr

Grossman letter is excellent. It destroys the the skeptic's fallacies in a few words.

I have a web page on skeptical fallacies that readers of this post may also find interesting

Your web page is very good, I included it as a link in my blog (I have a collection of anti-skeptics links, both in english and spanish).

Another good and detailed exposing of skeptical fallacies is this article:

http://www.suppressedscience.net/skepticism.html

But in the case of debunkers of NDEs, I'd recommend all of you this article:

http://www.nderf.org/NDE%20Rhetoric.htm

ZC

What about Augustine's reply to Grossman?

Grossman's final point contradicts his first one. The point from William James is a point about what can be logically proven, not about what can be better empirically supported.

One of my favorite rebuttals to the septics ... uh, skeptics .... is Winston Wu's (very long) treatise that I discovered thru Victor's site several years ago when I first began my afterlife research.

Original version here:

http://www.victorzammit.com/skeptics/winston.html

And updated 2008 version here:

http://www.happierabroad.com/Debunking_Skeptical_Arguments.htm

This post reminded me of Winston's article, which I haven't revisited in some time. It was quite impressive on first reading.

Grossman's final point contradicts his first one. The point from William James is a point about what can be logically proven, not about what can be better empirically supported

It's a crude misrepresentation of Grossman' letter.

Grossman's mention of William James is to refute Augustine's claim that "a survivalist interpretation of the phenomena … is severely undermined by the overwhelming evidence for the dependence of consciousness on the brain"

The dependence of conciousness on the brain isn't disputed; the issue under dispute is the type of dependence (if it's a productive/causative dependence; or a trasmissive dependence). And it can't be decided by neuroscientific evidence alone, because it's consistent with both hypotheses.

It was made clear in the debate between Carter and Augustine:

http://www.parapsychologyandtheskeptics.com/reprints.htm

Grossman doesn't mention James to dismiss scientific evidence based on logical possibilities or unsupported speculations; he mentions James to argue that the evidence of mind-brain dependence is consistent with dualist too (so, it isn't an argument against a survivalist interpretation)

Michael: I highly recommend that you read my reply to Grossman, published immediately after his letter, before glowingly endorsing Grossman's comments. Addressed to me, Grossman's comments are irrelevant straw men, as I never make the arguments Grossman easily refutes. Ironically, Grossman demonstrably commits the very fallacies he derides--as I decisively show in my reply to him.

In my published reply I responded to all of the points you cite in this entry, and more, quite adequately. If you disagree with me about that, you are certainly free to excerpt parts of Grossman's letter here, and excerpt the parts of my reply dealing with those points, and show exactly how my replies are inadequate. Can you actually show where I go wrong, or is your disagreement with my conclusions just bluster?

Is it disagreement because my arguments fail (where one could show exactly where they fail), or is it disagreement because nonsurvivalist interpretations of OBEs and NDEs are just not your cup of tea? What's really at work here: objective facts or personal tastes?

In short, are you a genuine seeker of truth, or just another pundit with his own ideology to push?

If you care about evaluating arguments and evidence in order to ensure that your beliefs actually track reality, in the way that you check a map against the road to ensure that the map accurately tracks the terrain, then Grossman's rhetoric should not appeal to you at all. I'm disappointed to see it endorsed here without so much as the slightest effort to determine if I replied to it, and if so, what my replies were. Is there no need to look through Galileo's telescope because you already know how the universe works?

Whether an idea like survival or extinction is personally more appealing to you (or anyone else) does not matter. Who is associated with an idea is equally irrelevant.

All that matters are the facts out there in the world, and what best explains those facts. Can you handle debating the issues on these real terms, or will you follow Grossman's lead of mischaracterizing your opponents, and then tearing down a caricature of their arguments?

It would be more convincing for survival proponents to respond to my actual arguments than what they wish I had said. A failure to engage with what I actually argue, after all, might be taken by independent observers as an indication that you cannot refute my arguments, and are just pandering to a crowd particularly eager to hear confirmation of what they already think.

Is that really an impression you want to risk leaving with those who have no dog in this fight, one way or the other?

Honestly ask yourself if you would endorse the same sorts of arguments given in favor of survivalist interpretations of NDEs, if they were instead presented in favor of the existence of something that you don't care about, like the existence of Yeti. Do they still look convincing to you? Do they really?

Keith, I've presented the pros and cons of evidence for psi throughout this entire blog, as even a casual perusal will show you. I also critiqued your lengthy article on NDEs (see the last link in my post). I'm sorry to say that I'm unimpressed with most of your arguments - although I have repeatedly acknowledged a debt to you for pointing out the weaknesses in the Pam Reynolds case.

The point from William James is a point about what can be logically proven, not about what can be better empirically supported

This would be true if there were no empirical data to support the idea of extracerebral consciousness. But even in James' day there was such evidence, and there is much more today. See Irreducible Mind, by Kelly & Kelly et al, for a thorough overview.

I, for one, believe that the transmission theory (in some form) offers the best explanation of the available empirical evidence, so (from my perspective) we are not talking about a mere logical possibility ungrounded in any evidence at all.

Keith,

If you post your reply to Grossman here (as a comment), we could critically examine it.

Leaving aside your rhetorical questions and false dilemmas like "In short, are you a genuine seeker of truth, or just another pundit with his own ideology to push?" or your subtle and irrelevant ad hominem implications like "Whether an idea like survival or extinction is personally more appealing to you (or anyone else) does not matter", I'd like to comment some things:

"Addressed to me, Grossman's comments are irrelevant straw men, as I never make the arguments Grossman easily refutes."

But Grossman's comments weren't addressed to you. In his letter, he wrote: "This letter will not be a response to anything Augustine wrote, but rather is directed more to the scientists who might be ‘‘taken in’’ by some of the fallacious reasoning that he and other debunkers customarily employ"

You misread Grossman even in obvious points.

Do you never wrote "a survivalist interpretation of the phenomena
… is severely undermined by the overwhelming evidence for the
dependence of consciousness on the brain
"? Is that a caricature created by Grossman?

I'm disappointed to see it endorsed here without so much as the slightest effort to determine if I replied to it, and if so, what my replies were.

As Grossman's letter wasn't addressed specifically to you, a reply from you (except in the points where you were mentioned, like the above quote) is irrelevant, because all the fallacies mentioned by Grossman are commonly employed by debunkers and are well-known for all of us here.

Even if those fallacies aren't used by you in the articles of that journal, they're used by all the paranormal debunkers (as showed in the above links).

Is there no need to look through Galileo's telescope because you already know how the universe works?

It's a interesting question coming from a person who's Executive Director and Scholarly Paper Editor of Internet Infidels, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting metaphysical naturalism (a philosophical position that, if it's true, implies the impossibility of afterlife and inmortality. Who doesn't need to look through Galileo's telescope? Who's promoting a philosophical position with all the answers regarding the existence or non-existence of an afterlife?)

It would be more convincing for survival proponents to respond to my actual arguments than what they wish I had said.

Your materialist hypothesis have been responded and refuted in the Journal of Near-Death Studies by the NDE scientific researchers. Also, Carter responded to your main arguments.

Sorry Keith, but your hypothesis is only convincing to your followers (surprise, all of them strong believers in metaphysical naturalism and materialism!).

and to keith,
and i'm sure that you don't have any ideology to push as well? why is that for people such as you are labeled as seekers of truth, while other 'woo-hooes' become pundits of ideology? that's a double standard isnt it. and by making such implication about michael, you obviously did not really take the time to read his entries, as he had culminated over the years- of which i think were sound and logical.

yes, people likes of us would like to believe that conscious-survival is real, but dont come here telling us that we're pundits or new agers who just like to hear ourselves talk- that's the job of dogmatic skeptics. being a consistent reader on this blog and being educated in medicine and science, i sure don't see anything like that here.

it's you who are in fact creating a straw man, by implying michael to be a pundit, and trying to take away his credibility. and you should know that in science, it's not about what looks most convincing- but rather, it's about what evidence is there. conviction is a personal belief, and you just dig a trap for yourself for saying that.

do i really care what you say? do i, really?

“Edwards puts the last nail in the coffin for a version of astral body theories when he observes that:”
“If the astral body is an exact duplicate of the regular body it must die along with the regular body ... If the secular body died as the result of a brain tumor or as the result of being shot through the heart, the astral brain and astral heart must have been similarly injured (22).”

This quote from an article in the skeptic magazine by Keith Augustine.

These words are the words and quotes of materialists. In defense of the materialists it appears to our senses that materialism is all there is. The world looks pretty solid and complete in the physical form.

This is the power of paradigms. It is impossible to look beyond our existing paradigm. It matters not how much evidence exists from different sources contradicting one’s paradigm it will seldom change or alter the existing paradigm. Now personal experience may alter one’s paradigm but not always.

Augustine's response seems so unconsciously ironic, and its emotionality betrays the unconvincing rhetoric attempted. Amazing that he would accuse anyone else of "bluster". The history of the quest for knowledge is rife with such difficulties, including the obdurate. No doubt most, including Mr. Augustine, take comfort in that observation, but inevitabilities don't require the conviction of all observers.

“It's a interesting question coming from a person who's Executive Director and Scholarly Paper Editor of Internet Infidels, a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to defending and promoting metaphysical naturalism”

So much for objectivity and this person accuses Michael P of not being objective. I learned many years ago that if a person belongs to any organization be it political, religious, or whatever this association almost always bias their research and their beliefs.

When I started my own personal research 17 years ago into such questions as life after death and the meaning of life I made a consciousness decision not to join any organization. To say this last 17 years has been a roller coaster ride would be an understatement. Just when you think you have found some truths some new evidence comes along and shakes your newfound evidence.

But after much research and evidence you begin to see a pattern and this evidence starts to cross validate. This cross validation does not prove anything but it does deal with empirical evidence and probabilities, which is at the heart of science. A proof comes from personal realization, which is a rare phenomenon for our human species.

Wow! Given the hostility of some of the responses here, I'm obviously an outcaste in this clique, so I think it best for me to make the briefest possible responses and then just be on my way. My apologies for getting involved in this discussion in the first place; in retrospect I should've just kept my mouth shut since no one here seems to want to hear from me. But now that I have opened that can of worms, I'll say what I think warrants a minimal response, and then leave this blog to commentators less objectionable than I.

To Michael: The primary point of my original comments concerned your endorsement of Grossman's essay, not your endorsement of psi. And I am aware of your selective comments on parts of my online NDE article. I am more concerned about a number of important points in my article that you failed to address, but suffice it to say that for those points that you did address, Grossman's distinction between what is merely logically possible and what is a "real scientific possibility" would certainly seem to apply to your speculations, say, about why Dannion Brinkley's prophetic visions were so off the mark. Maybe Brinkley essentially had a disembodied hallucination; and maybe full-bodied apparitions can sense the electromagnetic signatures of security cameras so as to avoid materializing in front of them. And maybe my daughter's toys come to life at night, but only when no person or recording device is looking at them. No doubt those possibilities are consistent with the evidence, but the simplest explanation of these facts is far more plausible. And I'm sorry that of all the well-argued points made in my essay, you only found those concerning the Pam Reynolds case to be of value, though I suppose I should be happy to even get that concession.

Regarding the William James quote: my main problem with some survival proponents is the double standard that "survival evidence" is allowed to be adduced in favor of survival (even when that evidence is of admittedly questionable quality, like the failure to produce mediumistic materializations with the lights on or when infrared cameras are present), while counterexplanations for that evidence like misreporting are deemed out of line; and yet when neuroscientific arguments against survival are produced, it is perfectly acceptable (not out of line) for these proponents to invoke a catch-all counterexplanation like the transmissive hypothesis, seemingly capable of explaining away any imaginable contrary neuroscientific findings, and thus making their survival hypothesis immune to falsification even in principle. It is as if the only evidence that is conceivable is that which could confirm what you already believe. So when Michael talks about "empirical data to support the idea of extracerebral consciousness," he fails to acknowledge the possibility of "empirical data which contravenes the idea of extracerebral consciousness." Any evidence adduced for the latter can be explained away by a catch-all version of the transmissive hypothesis which makes no falsifiable predictions whatsoever about what mind-brain correlations should obtain if it is true--which is just to say that all logically possible mind-brain correlations can be accomodated by this catch-all transmissive hypothesis. Again, evidence can support your view, but never count against it. How scientifically minded is that? (By contrast, I can imagine evidence that would support the existence of the Christian God--unmistakably miraculous events--as well as evidence that would count against it--gratuitous suffering, divine hiddenness, and so on.) But all of this is a topic for a whole other paper, literally.

To Tom: I'd be happy to provide a prepublication copy of my reply to Grossman for personal use, but reprinting it here would require JNDS permission, and I don't think I should have to do your work of investigating all of the relevant evidence for you. If you read Grossman, you should at least read anything that responds to him, I would think, and I have already provided my response. You should dissect my response, not I.

I also don't think the choice between a pundit and a seeker is a false dichotomy: you are either one or the other. A seeker can imagine evidence that would count against his own view, whereas a pundit--at least as usually understood--would advocate his position no matter what the evidence, whether it supported him or counted against him. I made that comment in the hope that the posters here would try to post more like seekers than pundits, that's all. Grossman is rather obviously a pundit against materialism; it's evident in his explicit comments about overthrowing materialism. So there was some basis for me thinking making this point explicit might be useful here.

You are also incorrect that Grossman's comments didn't concern my paper--they were addressed to scientists who might be taken in "by some of the fallacious reasoning that [Augustine] and other debunkers customarily employ." Obviously that must mean that I am employing such reasoning, too. The point of Grossman's letter was directly to "counteract" (for lack of a better word) the publication of my NDE critiques, both explicitly and implicitly. If they were meant for someone else they would not have been published when and where they were, nor cited me by name as being an example of someone who uses rhetorical parlor tricks typical of skeptics. It was a blatant attempt to discredit me by association. It amazes me that no one sees the parallel between "Augustine's argument is no good because he's a skeptic" and "Obama's presidency will be no good because he's black." Are not both cases irrational? Why not cite the results of Obama's record, or the actual arguments Augustine uses? Grossman's letter is no less prejudicial. And you'd never see me argue that we can just dismiss any evidence Michael Sabom produced because he's a believer. If you read my reply to Grossman, I discussed in a little more detail exactly what the evidence for dependence of consciousness on the brain *for its existence* was.

Is there no need to look through Galileo's telescope because you already know how the universe works?

On being a proponent of naturalism, so what? What makes you think that affirming the proposition "naturalism is probably true" means that one has to hold that proposition as a dogma? I also happen to be a hard determinist, because I can see no sense in how there can be free will if either all human actions are caused, or some human actions are uncaused. Neither amounts to free will as usually understood. But if someone could show me how free will were possible, and gave positive reasons for thinking that we actually had it, I would change my position. Ditto for naturalism if there was any compelling evidence for the supernatural. Don't blame me if supernatural entities hide themselves like Descartes' demon or the toys that come to life when no one is looking. Don't shift the burden away from your lack of evidence--because the real reason for scientific skepticism is that the evidence isn't clear. The evidence that the Holocaust happened is quite clear. Proponents of the supernatural don't have evidence of comparable strength. That's just the way things are; don't kill the messenger.

There is also a difference between a response and an adequate response, or a response that settles the issue. Don't pretend that because Carter replied to me, even if you liked his reply better, he has settled the issue. The issue has a life of its own, independently of anything I or Carter says. The issue concerns facts that have nothing to do with either one of us. We are just presenting different facts so others will consider them and evaluate them, adding our own analyses to put them in a little context. The popularity of Carter's position is no indication of its truth. Survival either does or does not happen, and the facts are what we use to get some semblance of which is more likely.

Incidentally, I have no "materialist hypothesis" since, although I think materialism might be true, I also think that property dualism could be true, or that Platonic realism could be true, neither of which are compatible with materialism. I'm rather agnostic about that; it's just that I don't reject materialism out of hand as you do. Maybe materialism is true, maybe not. What I think is highly likely to be true is some form of naturalism, though. But even here, that depends on an assessment of evidence. Again, it's not my fault there is no evidence for the supernatural as strong as the evidence for the existence of extrasolar planets, or the Holocaust, or what have you. The evidence is what it is, and I think it more likely that the supernatural/spiritual does not exist given how meager to evidence for the supernatural/spiritual.

To william: Regarding my comment that Paul "Edwards puts the last nail in the coffin for a version of astral body theories"--note the qualification "a version of." I don't think Edwards refuted astral body theories, but I presented that point as a sampling of the arguments that have been presented against them. Susan Blackmore did a much better job of showing how astral bodies theories seem to at least border on the incoherent in the "Reassessing the Theories" chapter of her _Beyond the Body_. I couldn't improve upon her assessment by summarizing it, so I just refer people to it. And please stop talking the rhetoric of paradigms, and stick to talking about arguments and evidence for survival, the paranormal, or the supernatural. Anyone can attribute some sort of paradigm to an opponent--what matters is evidence, and arguments based on it.

One final point to all: I don't label anyone a pundit because they advocate a position, even a position I disagree with. "Pundit" applies to the dogmatic manner of one's advocacy. In my response to Neal Grossman, I asked why Grossman's letter could not be more like Michael Sabom's excellent one right before it--and Sabom is a Christian with at least survivalist inclinations when interpreting NDEs. Sabom is no pundit, because his letter preceding Grossman concerned (gasp!) actual evidence relevant to my arguments. That's all I am asking for--for commentators to address the actual arguments and evidence I offer. You don't have to agree with it, as Sabom didn't. Grossman chose the road of rhetoric, and I was disappointed to see Michael Prescott and others here eating it up without any critical comments, given that a higher road was available to them, present in the sort of argumentation typical of a Bruce Greyson or a Michael Sabom.

I don't think there's anything else to say to the others here that isn't already addressed in the above, except this general disclaimer. If you take nothing else away from what I said here, please take away this: being unconvinced of the reality of the supernatural, paranormal, or survival doesn't make one a dogmatic, close-minded, or "hard-core" skeptic; it simply makes one a skeptic. Please stop stereotyping people simply for disagreeing with you. If a particular skeptic doesn't stereotype believers, at least have the courtesy to return the favor. Farewell.

"overwhelming evidence for the dependence of consciousness on the brain"

Can TomC or anyone else explain how neuroscience accounts for normal intelligence in some cases of microcephaly (eg following hydrocephalus)? Is the view taken that the cerebral matter is still there, but compressed against the skull or in the brain stem? Clearly, the weight of the useful cerebral matter is hugely reduced.

(Not that this is strictly relevant to the transmission versus causative theory)

"being unconvinced of the reality of the supernatural, paranormal, or survival doesn't make one a dogmatic, close-minded, or "hard-core" skeptic; it simply makes one a skeptic." -Keith Augustine

I'm afraid I don't understand this argument. Many people on this blog have first or second hand (from trusted friends or relatives) experiences of paranormal phenomena. This opens our minds to its reality. "Close-minded skepticism" would therefore be a refusal to accept the evidence of our own (or our loved-ones) experiences, wouldn't it? This basic lack of trust in others is actually a form of insult.

That’s a good point Teri. It brings to mind Rupert Sheldrake’s argument to Richard Dawkins, pointing out that it’s extraordinary not to believe in telepathy when for many people it’s a common, everyday experience.

Keith is trying to protect and outdated worldview. We know now that reality is much bigger than we ever imagined.

to Pete,
as far as i know, brain size and intelligence have no correlation- another example:
man with small brain

for neuroscience, there is very limited research because you can't take biopsy on the brain like u do with organ (especially when there is nothing wrong to the subject). also, i have not read any autopsy result on people with small brains either- there might be, but you gonna have to dig it up in medical journals.

brain seems like a paradoxical organ. why is that some people are handicapped after suffering brain damage, while some people can have very little brain mass and yet have no neurological problem whatsoever. i dont think there's an explanation for the lucky cases where patients with microcephaly have no neurological or developmental issues.

I once did an internship with a neuropsychologist in neurosurgery department of the university of virginia hospital. her area of focus was on people with brain tumors, especially with children. after being there for 2 years and collecting data, i got to see how brain tumors slowly destroyed patients emotionally and neurologically, and how they also affected to families of the patients. my experience led me to the materialistic view of the brain- the co-dependence of brain and consciousness.

however, there are simply too many cases out there such as NDE, OBE, and medium communications that provided evidence showing that while there is co-dependence, there is a possibility that consciousness can be detached from the brain. given the accounts of people with NDE and OBE, we see that they experience expanded consciousness as if merging with the universe- so why wouldnt it be possible that the brain is an organ as a highly specified network for consciousness to interact, resulting in limited perception and sensations.

to Keith, i know that i was coming off as being hostile, but that was in response to your hostile post- if you dont think that you came off as demeaning and hostile in your first post, well, now you know. your second post was much better, and more thoughtful. so what i'm trying to say is that when you leave a post implying that people like michael p (and indirectly, others who left posts on this blog) are pundits and condescendingly asking rhetoric questions about our 'lack of genuine scientific inquiry minds' - what do you think would happen?

you dont like to be labeled as dogmatic skeptics (as you said repeatedly in your second post) as people on here don't like to be labeled as pundits/woo-hooes, then perhaps you should start pay more attention to what you write and think about how others may perceive it.

after reading on this blog for over a year, i can honestly say that most people who left messages here are no pundits (i can't say for all because i do notice some to be a little narrow-minded on the other extreme)- most of us are genuinely trying to find the truth, and try our best not to be clouded by our belief and fear. yes, i think sometime we all get a little emotionally invested into what we think is right, and many of us here do take criticisms very well- when criticisms are valid and not one like those described in Stan Wu's article about skeptics. we've had many heated discussions, but it's not fair to say that we're blinded by our beliefs and fear....i myself have struggled with transmission theory and the survival of consciousness...i can see that why most scientists would think what's more convincing, a material brain, or a radio...that's why i'm still struggling with the theory, but to say that there are no evidence supporting survival of consciousness is just not a well-informed conclusion. and when someone begs to differ, we all should slow down so we don't jump the gun and start calling people names- because that's what you'll get in return.

we dont like to be lump in the same group with the likes of sylvia browne, and most of us here have shown that we're nothing like that- if you do take the time and read about what we wrote.

I have to respond to here.

Keith,

Calling people a pundit because they disagree with you. No one likes to be called names.

I have always considered that materialism could be true. Of course you can say I don't consider materialism which is downright false.

I think we know the evidence Keith, it was summarized in the article the case against immortality. Their is ways to falisfy the transmission theory one would be to demonstrate that the brain is a generator. Now you can say that has already happened. But what most of us argue is that the brain is a complex receiver of consciousness.

For example some of the evidence Keith uses is from the brain split experiments and Wilder Penfield's experimental findings. Benjamin Libet's finding that brain activity precedes a conscious decision, which is routinely presented by sceptics, in their dull way, as 'another nail in the coffin for dualism' (Blackmore, Dying to Live, p. 237), and which of course is open to contrary interpretations, as Libet himself pointed out. Wilder Penfield's experimental findings on the neurological basis of memory is also used by sceptics in an anti-dualist sense which Penfield himself did not endorse.

Keith,

"On being a proponent of naturalism, so what? What makes you think that affirming the proposition "naturalism is probably true" means that one has to hold that proposition as a dogma?

If a person is promoting and defending a philosophical worldview (religious, political, etc.) I have reasons to think she's convinced his position is right, not only "probably true".

It's not a logical question (proposition X implies proposition Y), but a psychological one. The person will try to defend his worldview (because it makes sense of his understanding of reality, on pain of cognitive dissonance in cases of contrary evidence).

When people like Richard Carrier invents ridiculous arguments like the "no blue monkeys flying out my butt" to refute God, I have reasons to think he's convinced that God doesn't exist, not that it's "improbable". (And the silly and fallacious nature of his arguments give us a reason to think that his position is more emotional than rational)

Incidentally, I have no "materialist hypothesis" since, although I think materialism might be true, I also think that property dualism could be true, or that Platonic realism could be true, neither of which are compatible with materialism

You're playing with words. You defend the materialist hypothesis as the explanation when arguing against the afterlife. I quoted you: "Second, it is simply false to characterize the explanatory value of materialism and dualism, with regard to the overwhelming evidence for mind-brain dependence, as on a par. Materialism clearly explains such evidence better in demonstrable ways"

http://www.parapsychologyandtheskeptics.com/Augustine%27s-article.pdf

Is the above quote compatible with your comment "Incidentally, I have no "materialist hypothesis"? Is your hallucinatory hypothesis compatible with materialism, or with platonic realism or the other theses?

Who's playing with words and using rhetoric? You assume that readers here are ignorant of your writings, and try to fool them with a suppossed open mind mentality (I think X might be true, but Y too) when fact is that your philosophical worldview is compatible only with X, not with Y.

Clearly, you're convinced that the materialist hypothesis is the best explanation (and it implies that non-materialist positions aren't correct; except if you believe, simultaneosly and illogically, in the current probable truth of incompatible and contradictory positions)

Don't pretend that because Carter replied to me, even if you liked his reply better, he has settled the issue

I never claimed that Carter's reply "settled the issue". I only claimed that he responded to you.

Please, don't misread other people's commnents.

Any evidence adduced for the latter can be explained away by a catch-all version of the transmissive hypothesis which makes no falsifiable predictions whatsoever about what mind-brain correlations should obtain if it is true--which is just to say that all logically possible mind-brain correlations can be accomodated by this catch-all transmissive hypothesis

The trasmissive hypothesis (TH) isn't an ad hoc hypothesis to dismiss the evidence (like Hales' ad hoc hypothesis of abducted children to explain away Stevenson's research).

The TH is one of the hypothesis posed to explain the data. But you want to force it to be refuted by the mind-bran dependence, and it can't be refuted by it, because the hypothesis is logically compatible with it.

It's like pretend refute materialism using the mind-brain dependence argument (it can't be done, because materialism is logically compatible with mind-brain dependence)

You're assuming that logical compatibility is wrong per se; Grossman's point was the use of a logical possibility (without empirical support) to dismiss the evidence and the inference from it to the survival hypothesis, not that all logical possibilities or compatibilities are wrong.

Your consistent misrepresentations of Grossman's points makes me to be skeptical of the possible efficacious and relevance of your reply to him.

Finally, the TH makes falsifiable predictions:

-It predicts that mind can causally influence the brain (confirmed by recent neuroscientific studies; the placebo effect, etc.).

-It predicts veridical cases of NDEs.

-It predicts that materialism can't explain consciousness (because, according to TH, consciousness isn't a property of matter).

-It predicts survival of consciousness after death (supported by empirical afterlife research discussed in depth in this blog)

By all the above reasons, I consider the TH the best explanation to the current data.

“Edwards puts the last nail in the coffin for a version of astral body theories when he observes that:”
“If the astral body is an exact duplicate of the regular body it must die along with the regular body ... If the secular body died as the result of a brain tumor or as the result of being shot through the heart, the astral brain and astral heart must have been similarly injured (22).”

Wait a second, what dualist says the astral body is made of ordinary matter?. None that I know of. This is a straw man. I see the astral body as a different type of matter but isn't affected by death. But this different type of matter can mimic the physical body.

Keith wrote,

So when Michael talks about "empirical data to support the idea of extracerebral consciousness," he fails to acknowledge the possibility of "empirical data which contravenes the idea of extracerebral consciousness."

I do acknowledge this possibility. It seems to me, however, that the data in favor of extracerebral consciousness are very strong, even robust. Again I point to the book Irreducible Mind as an up-to-date compendium of evidence (although even that massive volume omitted a good deal of material).

There are certainly cases that have been debunked, and cases that are open to doubt, but in my opinion the weight of the evidence in toto favors survival. Survival, to me, is an inference to the best explanation.

yet when neuroscientific arguments against survival are produced, it is perfectly acceptable (not out of line) for these proponents to invoke a catch-all counterexplanation like the transmissive hypothesis

If there were no evidence for survival, then the transmission hypothesis would be no better than an ad-hoc logical possibility. But there is a great deal of evidence for survival. The transmission hypothesis (or something similar) seems necessary to cover all the data - the data of neuroscience and the data of parapsychology. At least, I can't think of another hypothesis that would satisfactorily cover both data sets.

Incidentally, Keith seems to assume that I'm emotionally wedded to the idea of life after death, but as I've written elsewhere, I actually have very mixed feelings about the prospect (and find reincarnation positively dismaying).

Thanks TomC - the link is interesting -I bet Michael P thinks all civil servants have a small brain like that -only joking, Michael!!
But there was also a case (I think it was from Zerdini) that showed someone with an IQ over 120 with a very small brain, which seems even harder to explain. The radio analogy breaks down a bit here, as you couldn't take too many components out before it would simply cease to function altogether. Despite what you say about tumours (obviously distressingly true), the fact that a damaged brain can often redirect function and self-repair is truly a wonder. I suggest we can explain it best by accepting that the whole organism has a purpose and co-ordination imposed from beyond the physical.

"I, for one, believe that the transmission theory (in some form) offers the best explanation of the available empirical evidence, so (from my perspective) we are not talking about a mere logical possibility ungrounded in any evidence at all."

My view, based on the last few decades of neuroscience research, is quite the opposite. It is becoming more and more clear that many brain functions are the result of processing going on right there in the brain, which can be modified in various ways by damage, electrical stimulation, or drugs.

The only observation I’ll make here has to do with a single sentence in Augustine’s second comment. The balance of his post and the subsequent responses accomplish nothing beyond enhanced polarization while restating arguments that have been presented for millennia. The statement that deserves reflection is: It is as if the only evidence that is conceivable is that which could confirm what you already believe.

I’d suggest that this single sentence encapsulates the essence of the entire debate on the survival question. Both sides are highly susceptible to cherry-picking data. I’d further suggest that it is in the failure to recognize our susceptibility to variations on this that all human conflicts arise.

William suggests the solution in his mention of paradigms, which Augustine in turn dismisses when he writes, “Anyone can attribute some sort of paradigm to an opponent--what matters is evidence, and arguments based on it”.

I think what matters is paradigms, not evidence and arguments. It is individual paradigms that make most arguments immaterial and ineffective, with the exception of arguments that confirm what we already believe. Interestingly, both sides of the survival debate appear to agree with Augustine’s statement. So both sides get busy looking for evidence and constructing arguments based on that evidence, blissfully unaware that by doing so they are accepting and operating within the paradigm that tells them that what matters is evidence and arguments based upon it.

I do sense that there’s a difference between my perception of the problem and most others, though. The MS Word dictionary defines a paradigm as “in the philosophy of science, a generally accepted model of how ideas relate to one another, forming a conceptual framework within which scientific research is carried out”. Most everyone recognizes that it is the dominant paradigm of any given age that ultimately determines the general tenor of the age, and further understand that our age is also operating within a given paradigm. Many also suspect that at some time in the future, a new paradigm will reign supreme. Some go further, anticipating what that new conceptual framework might look like.

I agree that there will come a day when a new paradigm will rule. Where I sense differ with most though, is in that I don’t think the conflicts and debates will cease upon adoption of any “new conceptual framework”. Conflicts and debates will cease only when the day comes that it’s widely recognized that we’re always operating within a conceptual framework. There’s no choice at all involved in that. The choice, and the free will we do have, has to do with recognizing it for and within ourselves.

At times I think it’s pointless to involve myself in these threads. I already know that consciousness survives death, and I also know that it’s impossible to demonstrate it to anyone else. It will never be proven to anyone’s satisfaction within the context of any currently accepted paradigm. It is their own paradigms that prevent people from discovering their own immortality for themselves, and until more people see past their own paradigms, the conflicts and debates will continue.

My view, based on the last few decades of neuroscience research, is quite the opposite. It is becoming more and more clear that many brain functions are the result of processing going on right there in the brain, which can be modified in various ways by damage, electrical stimulation, or drugs.

Jim, your view is reasonable, but it doesn't exclude other interpretations. Dualist Interactionism is consistent with "many brain functions are the result of processing going on right there in the brain, which can be modified in various ways by damage, electrical stimulation, or drugs"

I suppose you mean "mental functions are..." not brain functions.

Anyway, the point is that evidence of neuroscience is consistent with:

1)Materialism

2)Dualism

However, in my view, only dualism is consistent with afterlife evidence (mediumship research, etc.), not materialism.

The only alternative of the materialist is dismiss (as fraud, delusions, etc.) the afterlife evidence because he knows that evidence refutes his worldview.

This is one of the reasons of "organized skepticism/debunking" obsession with parapsychology and other research that challenge materialism. (And it explains that organized skeptics are philosophical materialists).

The materialist will be tempted to uncritically (or with less critical thinking) any evidence consistent with materialism: but he'll be hyper-critical of evidence that refutes materialism (even he'll invent ad-hoc hypothesis or unsupported assumptions to dismiss it or doesn't take it seriously)

In that sense, Michael H' reflections are right.

It's naive to think that philosophical materialists are neutral regarding phenomena that refutes their worldview.

They'll interpret the evidence with the glasess of philosophical materialism (that is, that afterlife doesn't exist, and eny evidence supporting it is fraudulent, or flawed or product of wishiful thinking).

ZC

“Both sides get busy looking for evidence and constructing arguments based on that evidence, blissfully unaware that by doing so they are accepting and operating within the paradigm that tells them that what matters is evidence and arguments based upon it.” --Michael H

How true!

In the bedroom, we have the phenomenal Miss Evidence. She is a bold, seductive mistress. We’re all deeply enamoured of her. She’s flesh and blood, and she sets the pulse racing.

Then when we go to sleep, we dream of her coy alter ego, the noumenal Miss Mind. This beautiful young angel will never be bold and open. She projects herself into the world, but she never appears in it. Try to forget her when you awake. You’ll look for her in vain –she’s a coy mistress.

One thing I should have mentioned in the main post is that I'm not too fond of using derogatory language against one's opponents, as for instance when Grossman characterizes skeptics as "fundamentalist materialists" and "materialist ideologues." A more neutral term, such as "philosophical materialists" or "naturalists," would be preferable, I think.

In general, I hate debates like this, because they accomplish nothing and only exacerbate the debaters' mutual suspicion and hostility. Still, for those who do like to participate in debates, Grossman's main points are useful and, I think, well-taken.

You can hear an interview with Grossman (in Alex Tsakiris' Skeptico podcast):

http://www.skeptiko.com/index.php?id=21

PERHAPS WE ARE JUST ALL MISTAKEN... JUST MAYBE.


Hi Michael, Hi Keith, Hi Chris (Carter - if your around here with us...),

Well, Michael, I have sent one email to you some years ago, I think, and I also have had a very brief email-exchange with Chris and a more voluminous email talk with Keith Augustine. Actually I am almost a die-hard spiritualist and I have an anti-pseudoskeptics site at the link below (it will be moved to another url soon):

http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/criticandokardec/criticizingskepticism.htm

Going straight to the point, I read all the material from the NDE journal, that is, all the articles that kind of gravitated around Keith's article (which he wrote through an invitation from Bruce Greyson, if my memory serves me well). I did not read Keith's reply to Grossman, but I did read Grossman's article that someone from Spain sent to me about a month ago. What I felt, while I read Grossman's article, was that he wasn't really (that is, successfully) addressing what Keith had actually said in his article. I disagree with Keith in lots of points (in many of his articles, and in these ones from the Journal of Near Death studies specifically). But the points and vices that Grossman pointed out do not seem, to me, points that really depict Keiths writing and ideas.

As a matter of fact I think that it was I that brought Keith's attention to a few of the things that he ended up writing in his article, especially the items regarding the Pam Reynolds case (the fact that van Lommel et al, 2001, and Stephen Braude, 2004, understood the case wrongly; and the fact that indeed, as Keith had suspected in his first version of his online article on hallucinatory NDEs, Pam Reynolds did not stay long flatlined).

But I do see lots of weaknesses in Keith's views, and I might talk a little more about it later. Also, I see problems (lots and lots and lots of problems...) with two quite opposing books that I am reading right now: Irreducible Mind (read 40% of it) and Consciousness Explained (read 65% of it). I think this is all very natural because this subject is amazingly tricky indeed (Nature seems to be playing hide and seek with us...). And I have managed to have healthful exchange of ideas with many a materialist, and Keith belongs to this group. He has never, I think, fallen in love with my ideas at first sight. But he seems to... listen.

Anyway, we all know we are in times of war regarding this issue of Religion vs Atheism (Dawkins/Dennett/Stenger/Harris and other madmen like them vs creationists and etc...). So, I think, some amount of bombing is to be expected.

Best Wishes to all,
Julio Siqueira
-

"(Nature seems to be playing hide and seek with us...)" ..Julio Siquiera

That's probably true.

Keith sounds a lot like Ray Kurzweil in his responses to various critics. For Kurzweil, when you examine his rebuttals to people like Searle, Kurzweil seems to think that if he sings and dances fast enough, you'll forget the logical arguments made against him, because his responses to them are so weak.

Keith's response was so emotional that I was not motivated to learn more about what I assume is his rational argument, but it sounds like the same thing.

What I felt, while I read Grossman's article, was that he wasn't really (that is, successfully) addressing what Keith had actually said in his article

Julio,

I think Grossman's letter is clear about his objectives: It intends to address the common errores of professional debunkers, not to refute each point of Augustine's papers.

Grossman used some quotes of Augustine to illustrate the errors, not to refute Augustine's papers.

In the same way, when he mentions philosopher Hales' use of a ad hoc and arbitrary logical possibility to dismiss reincarnation evidence, he isn't "refuting" the papers of Hales. He's only exposing one of the common errores of debunkers (illustred by Hales' dismissive ad hoc and unsupported speculations about abducted children by aliens)

If any person comes and says "Hey, Grossman's letter isn't addressing Hales' criticisms", that person is reapeating a completly trivial point. In fact, that person would be arguing against a straw man.

We can't force Grossman's letter to make it say we want it to say.

I'll offer one example that illustrate Grossman's correct spoting of common debunkers errors and fallacies (specifically, his point about "evidence" and "proof").

In the book of one of Keith's friend, Richard Carrer, Carrier offers the following suggestion: a little known secret of thinking like a genius: it doesn’t matter where your ideas come from, or how many turn out to be harebrained, so long as you only trust the ones that are soundly proved

Keep in mind Carrier's use of "soundly proved" concept. If we take that suggestion seriously, then we should conclude:

1)We can't trust in scientific theories, because most of them aren't "soundly proved" (because, as Grossman's explain, empirical science works with evidence, not with proofs. In general, scientific hypotheses aren't "proved", they're supported by aculumative evidence).

2)We can't trust in Augustine's hallucinatory hypothesis, because it isn't "soundly proved".

Carrier's notion of "soundly proved" is pure nonsense (from a epistemological perspective), and in his book you can read all kind of irrelevant and fallacious speculations very far of that notion. For example, Carrier argues that "Currently the most credible explanations of the nature and origin of the universe belong to “multiverse theory,” the idea that our universe is just one of many"

It could be true, but is the multiverse theory a soundly proved theory?

Is metaphysical naturalism soundly proved?

Is atheism soundly proved?

Is Keith's case against inmortality soundly proved?

My point is that Grossman's points are correct and useful to see the fallacies used by debunkers to dismiss evidence that contradicts their worldviews.

If Grossman't letter is interpreted in that sense (a sense made explicit by Grossman himself), we can see its relevance to this debate on NDEs (or any other controversial topic that, if it's true, refutes metaphysical naturalism and materialism)

Well I decided not to be so dismissive, so I went to Keith's site to get a better idea of his thinking. There I found an essay called "Death And The Meaning of Life" and, that being a matter my own thinking comes round to face now and again, I thought I'd see what the man thinks.

You can find it here: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern//features/2000/augustine1.html

Now it's a brief essay and if I get to writing my own thoughts on the matter, they will not look like Keith's or end up where he has in his conclusions.

But I found an interesting comment down in the footnotes that read: "[1] We have no more reason to believe that human consciousness continues to exist after death than we have to believe that water buffalo or other animals continue to have experiences after they have died."

We have no reason to believe???

Who exactly is this nebulous "we" and how did they get the power to speak for all of us and what we have experienced?

Keith presumes too much. No doubt, years of thinking things like "the burden of proof is on he who makes the claim" has accustomed Keith to responding to such questions as that with a "Well if you have evidence, show me," to which I would then respond:

Nope. If you want to know, it's your job to find out for yourself, not mine to convince you through words on paper, which would be impossible to do anyway. And whether you finally do know is not due as much to the evidence that is there or the experiences it is possible for you to have as it is due to your own willingness to explore it for as long as it takes for that life changing event to happen, a length of time which will differ for each person.

If you want to climb the mountain, you've got to go where the mountain is.

But I found an interesting comment down in the footnotes that read: "[1] We have no more reason to believe that human consciousness continues to exist after death than we have to believe that water buffalo or other animals continue to have experiences after they have died."

Umm no reason to believe?. How about our inner life?, experiences, empirical evidence that support psi and survival after death. Now if that isn't reason to believe that what is?. Tom, the multiverse theory doesn't fit well with materialism. I mean the mystics have been saying for a long long time now that their are other realities/universes/dimensions.

I find it a bit amusing that - in light of several people making mention of checking out Winston Wu's commentary on the skeptics - and his thoughts on the topic in general - when you visit his site (www.happierabroad.com) most of the evidence I found was the cacaphony of opinions he shares on how much easier it is to score with women outside the good old US of A. Plus - he's got PLENTY of photo evidence to boot. ( My favorite was the collection from the Philippines - although the women he met in Russia weren't bad either)

I didn't quite get to his rebuttals of the skeptics yet, but I will after reading the ebook he wrote on the best countries to start with when your ready to say goodbye to life at home and reclaim your libido overseas. (I'm On page 12 - and highly recommended already)

Hi Tom,

I will comment on some points, some now and perhaps some other later today.

First some things that you said:

"Carrier's notion of "soundly proved" is pure nonsense"

I think that what Carrier really means (in the bottom of his heart, well hidden...) is: make sure to stand by the most powerful ones! And it doesn't matter if they are right or not. All that matters is that they are in power. At this time in History, God knows why, materialism is in power in science. And power, as we all know pretty well, is often to be found hand in hand with lying...

"Is metaphysical naturalism soundly proved?"

Well, IMHO, only for those who overlook the tricky aspects of the mechanical-causation (either deterministic or probabilistic) world view. Sadly, most scientists and philosophers do it... And I think Keith is among them (to a great extent). Also, it helps (if one really wants to keep the materialist faith) if you can carefully brush all the evidence for the afterlife under the carpet (a laborious but perhaps achievable feat :-) ).

"Is atheism soundly proved?"

Atheists often do not even have a good definition of what is "god" to them... (see my demolition of CSICOP's physicist Victor Stenger's book, where he wanted to prove God does not exist and almost ended up proving that his own book actually did not exist, that is, is a book good for nothing)

http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/criticandokardec/amazon_reviews.htm#stenger_went_bananas

"Is Keith's case against inmortality soundly proved?"

Keith's online article "The Case Against Immortality" is, in my opinion, filled with problems and incorrections. I sent my comments about it to him many years ago. He reacted with attention and respect. But I think he did not use any feedback from me to improve that text, and I believe he did not get convinced by my points (though I consider my points against his article very informed and convincing indeed).

I will finish this message here, and I will try to send another one in a short time from now about the first three of the four fallacies that Grossman mentions, and why I think Keith is kind of "innocent" in regard to these.

Best,
Julio
-

I agree with your last comment, Julio.

Hi again, Tom,

I did not read Keith's reply to Grossman. But I will comment on the first three of the four fallacies that Grossman talks about in his letter, and to what extent Keith can be criticized on these grounds.

Grossman begins like this:

"This letter will not be a response to anything Augustine wrote, but rather is
directed more to the scientists who might be 'taken in' by some of the
fallacious reasoning that he and other debunkers customarily employ.
I will discuss four such fallacies, three briefly, the other at greater
length."

So Grossman gives the impression that his letter (just as he said) "will not be a response to anything Augustine wrote." But right after that he says:

"Augustine committed the first fallacy in his very first sentence,
when he claimed that 'a survivalist interpretation of the phenomena
… is severely undermined by the overwhelming evidence for the
dependence of consciousness on the brain' "

So actually, in my view, Grossman is indeed responding to things that Keith wrote, and this is all very natural and positive. But taking to what Grossman is saying in the paragraph above, Grossman is reminding us, among other things, that correlation is not the same as causation. This is a rather deep and extensive issue. But basically Grossman is right, and Keith, IMHO, is rather weak in dealing with this in his writings. However, the extract that Grossman refers to (taken from Keith's article) is not necessarily an example where Keith has gone wrong in this regard.

I myself can make some heavy criticism against this extract from Keith, especially when he rates it as "overwhelming evidence." But I think that, basically, Keith's phrase is defensible and right. The "dependence," or better, the tight (but not unbreakable...) correlation of brain events to consciousness events makes it very bizarre for one to entertain (like I do) theories of post death survival. So the virtues of our survivalist theories (and there are many) do not come from the brain-consciousness correlations. They come from elsewhere.

I will stop here for now.

Best,
Julio
_

CONTINUING:

Fallacy number2. Grossman says that:

"A second kind of error that Augustine and his fellow materialist
ideologues frequently commit is to believe that a hypothesis of the
form 'some As are Bs' is refuted by producing many As that are not
Bs. Survival researchers have amassed considerable empirical
evidence to suggest that the hypothesis 'Some NDEs involve veridical
perception' is true. Augustine's counterargument appeared to consist
of little more than producing examples of NDEs with nonveridical
perception. But the fact that some NDEs have hallucinatory features
does not argue against the hypothesis that other NDEs do involve
veridical perceptions."

There are lots of problems in this above. Skeptics have indeed done a very poor-quality job most of the times, it seems. But Grossman says that "Augustine’s counterargument appeared to consist
of little more than producing examples of NDEs with nonveridical perception." I think this is not what skeptics have done in regards to this, and it is not what Keith has done, in my opinion. What skeptics have tried to do (often with the help of "non-skeptics" like me and Kenneth Ring - see "Dying to Live" and "Mindsight" for an interesting feedback on that regarding Ring and Blackmore) is to show that, 1, many instances of "paranormal veridical perception" coming from NDEs seem to be invalid or poorly grounded (like when they tried to refute the Maria's Shoe case), and, 2, many instances of possible veridical paranormal perception in NDEs seem to have been either misreported or inflated or misunderstood (like in the Pam Reynolds case regarding veridical perception during flatline stage) and also the veridical perceptions that did occurr (as is INDEED the case in Pam Reynolds case) might have happened (might) through the use of normal sensory organs. I must stress that when skeptics use this strategy above (which I labelled number 1 and 2 - Please do not confuse it with fallacies number 1 and 2 from Grossman) they often go astray, that is, exaggerate, come to unwarranted dogmatic conclusions, etc. But this is very different from what Grossman is talking about. So I agree that there is indeed a bad bird in the bush that has to be shot. But Grossman is not aiming correctly at it in this passage of his above (that is, his description of how Keith has fallen prey to fallacy number 2).

So, my view is that Keith has not indeed fallen prey to this fallacy number 2. Instead, he has tried to apply strategies number 1 and 2 that I mentioned above (and... just by the way, he kind of went a little astray while applying it, and it would be far more productive if Grossman has spotted it and commented and critized it)

Breaktime...

Julio
-

Ladies and Gentlemen:

As it's possible we'll have much more to go on after we've all died, I suggest we agree to revisit the topic at that time, if we can.

For me, one of the most intriguing parts of Deborah Blum's _Ghost Hunters_ came as the psychical investigators themselves began to die and attempted to communicate with their living compatriots.

This could be true here, too; should Mr. Augustine or Michael or any of us pass away unexpectedly others might find ways to pass comments on from them. (Of course the blog itself might vanish should this happen to Michael, requiring the creation of a new forum.)

Should Keith or Michael's words be carefully recorded by a ouija board enthusiast, entranced keyboardist, or voice channeller then posted to such a forum, however, we'd still have nothing more than words on our screens, in a strictly physical sense. This would, unfortunately, bring us right back to where we started.

I suspect there is a way to break this logjam of understanding, to settle the question to everyone's satisfaction, but I'm not sure anyone will discover this before my own demise.

As we've seen from Professor James' work of over a century ago, simply acquiring information theoretically known only to a dead person is insufficient -- that information could have been acquired by some other means.

Exactly what does anyone believe _would_ be sufficient?

Regards

Bill I.

Third fallacy of four,

Grossman said "The third fallacy involves a deep confusion between the concept of evidence and the concept of proof. Science deals with evidence, not proof."

Trying to be as concise as I can, this distinction between proof and evidence in science is highly problematic, and even intricately dynamic and often contradictory. And although there is indeed the problem that Grossman pointed out (that is, the manipulation from the part of the skeptics of these terms as a means of unfairly "refuting" paranormal claims), I think the actual dynamics of the issue is quite different from what he portrayed.

When it comes to NDEs, the evidence that we have is what is at issue. The evidence is not the same as (not as robust as) the one for psi in Ganzfeld, for example.

Let me put it this way: name one NDE case where we can be very confident indeed that there has been veridical paranormal perception. It is very hard to find indeed.

So when Grossman tries to show that Keith is guilty of this third fallacy, I just think that it is very difficult to have a case against Keith when the issue is NDE. That is the point.

That is all I can say for now. I wonder what Michael will think of all these...

Best Regards to all,
Julio
-

Exactly what does anyone believe _would_ be sufficient?

I imagine that life after death will only be commonly accepted as an empirical fact if it becomes a practical part of our everyday lives. Suppose a machine were invented that allowed us to dial up our deceased friends and talk to them whenever we want, and we could buy this machine at the local Rite-Aid for fifty bucks. Every household would have one. Talks with our dead Grandma would be as common as phone calls to our living relatives.

Far-fetched? Obviously. But the idea of phone calls would have been dismissed as magical thinking 200 years ago. So who knows?

If a device like this ever does come to pass, it will take the mystery out of death and make the afterlife no more remote from us than a distant country. Otherwise, I think there will always be something exotic and implausible about surviving death, at least for most people (even for many of those who profess to believe in it).

Electricity was a mysterious and exotic force until it was harnessed and put to practical use in our homes. Now we take it for granted. Will we ever take the afterlife for granted, as an obvious and undeniable fact? Only if we find a way to incorporate it into our daily lives.

Of course, a machine isn't really necessary. If everybody developed the talent of mediumship, the same result would be achieved. Is this possible? I have no idea. Fun to think about, though.

I suspect that a lot of things we accept have not been proved to us categorically beyond a doubt. We are left therefore with degrees of proof. In law things are either proved beyond reasonable doubt or on the the balance of probabilities. If we applied these standards to the evidence provided over the last 150 years I wonder what the outcome would be? If we are seeking absolute cast-iron guaranteed proof that no-one could resist I wonder whether we would ever be satisfied about anything. Eg - did the Apollo missons land on the moon or not? Just a thought...

"...name one NDE case where we can be very confident indeed that there has been veridical paranormal perception. It is very hard to find indeed."

Confidence is subjective, Julio. Skepticism can be produced regardless of the facts as they are described, and the only real fix to this is to see things for oneself.

If you believe (not you, specifically), as skeptics do that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," then that seems to be an equivocation fallacy. All things regardless of how strange they seem to you are equally real regardless of how much trouble you may have in accepting them. All facts are equally facts. So when you change your definition of evidence depending on the kinds of things that may be real, it seems you're equivocating on the meaning of evidence, and thereby drawing a false conclusion.

Imagine you're holding a bar that runners must jump over. And when you see someone that you don't like coming down the track you raise the bar so that he trips over it and plants his face into the deck.

It's sort of like that.

And while it is true that some people do need extraordinary evidence, that is a matter of their own subjective threshold, not a matter of logic or reasoning. All it really means is that some things are so weird to them that they have a hard time accepting them. But not everybody has that prejudice.

I agree with Michael P on this one. The day will come will it will be common knowledge that we survive death. How far off that day is I have no idea. I suspect a lot farther off than we realize. I have noticed that most people (even spirits) thing change will come faster than it actually does.

I wonder how Keith would respond to such books as “no living person could have known” “the edge of the etheric” and “the open door.” Surely books like these would not make one a believer but would it give a person pause for thought. Maybe give even an ultra skeptic pause for thought. I doubt it. Again the power of our beliefs.

Keith is big into the word infidels without realizing that being an infidel can be as powerful of a system of beliefs and lead to paradigm paralysis as being a fundamentalist Christian. This came as a big surprise to me when I started my research over 17 years ago. As I was more atheist than anything else I thought to myself at least the atheists would be opened minded and rational. Wow! what a surprise to find that most were as centered in their beliefs as anyone else.

A quote from Keith’s website: “Imagine how deep the regrets must be for the former missionary, seminary student, or long-time minister after realizing that this life is probably the only life that one will ever have.” I found the word “probably” an interesting word in this sentence.

Keith may find this website interesting concerning a long time minister: http://www.beyondreligion.com/

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