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Several months ago, I posted about this case of Maria and the Shoe on a message forum online in defense of the Veridical Nature of NDEs, and someone quoted Keith Augustine's summery of the debunkers and said laughingly that it had already been "debunked" and "there, with two quick seconds of googling, I have punched death blow holes in your silly so-called 'veridical' case".

Then he and another skeptic went on to say that she could have seen the blue shoe from the ground level walking by or driving by the place in the days or weeks prior (of which there is zero proof or indication to suggest she might have), could have overheard the staff inside the building talking about seeing a blue shoe on the third floor ledge (of which there is zero proof or indication to suggest she might have), etc.

However, P.M.H. Atwater also addressed this case of the debunkers in one of her books, and put forward what they couldn't explain in regards to this case...

"A team of scientific debunkers investigated the blue-shoe case. They took photographs to prove that Maria could have seen the shoe from the window. They could not explain, however, how she saw the scuff mark and the shoelace caught under the heel, especially since she was confined to bed at the time. Nor could they account for most of the other details she saw while out-of-body." - P.M.H Atwater, "The Complete Idiots Guide To Near-Death Experiences"

Even if she had seen the blue shoe from the ground level, walking by or driving by, days or weeks prior (of which there is zero proof or indication to suggest she might have) it would have been a featureless blue blur that is obviously a shoe, but without specific details. Even if she had overheard from staff (of which there is zero proof or indication to suggest she might have) that there was a blue shoe on the third floor ledge, it's ridiculous to think they would have spelled out each and every intimate detail of it, or would have gotten close enough themselves to examine it in detail.

Michael, are you suggesting Beyerstein is the Johny Cochran of skeptics>
Maybe he would say something like:-
" If the shoe shows, psi blows. "?

Hi, Michael I came across these objections to near death experiences not being proof of psot-mortem survival but rather hallunications

In addition to all of these alternate (naturalistic) explanations for the principal features of NDEs, there are at least a dozen various facts (some of which pertain to those mentioned in the passages from Augustine’s article and Shermer’s book, above) which strongly suggest that NDEs are almost certainly a purely naturalistic phenomenon, viz., that they are not veridical:

(1) None of the patients who report NDEs could have been brain dead, for brain death is irreversible.

(2) NDEs occur in only one-third of all cases where there is a near-death crisis.

(3) The details of NDEs depend almost exclusively upon the individual's personal and cultural background.

(4) Physiological and psychological factors affect the content of NDEs. Noises, tunnels, bright lights, and other beings are more common in physiological conditions directly affecting the brain state, such as cardiac arrest and anesthesia, whereas euphoria, mystical feelings, life review, and positive transformation can occur when people simply believe they are going to die.

(5) The core features of NDEs are found in drug-induced and naturally occurring hallucinations.

(6) The panoramic life review closely resembles a form of temporal lobe epilepsy. There are even cases where epileptics have had OBEs or "seen" apparitions of dead friends and relatives during their seizures.

(7) Computer simulations of random neural firing based on eye-brain mapping of the visual cortex have produced the tunnel and light characteristic of NDEs.

(8) The fact that naloxone- an opiate antagonist that inhibits the effects of endorphins on the brain- terminates near-death experiences provides some confirmation for the endorphin theory of NDEs.

(9) NDEs can be induced by direct electrical stimulation of brain areas surrounding the Sylvian fissure in the right temporal lobe.

(10) The tunnels described in NDEs vary considerably in form. If NDEs reflected an external reality, then one would expect consistency in the form of tunnel experiences reported.

(11) NDE cases have been reported where the patient has identified the "beings of light" as the medical staff making resuscitation attempts.

(12) Children who suffer NDEs are more likely to see living friends and family members than ones who have died.[22]

Hi Michael Prescott,

U make very good points.Keep it up.
There aren't that many skilled writers to my knowledge who have such a delightful blog on such interesting subjects.

Once again.Thanks for sharing.

Bryan,

Can anyone imagine the mental pain an ultra skeptic would have to endue if they allowed or accepted just one paranormal event as valid? Their whole system of beliefs would come tumbling down.

Paradigm shifts are rare, very rare. Usually it takes a significant emotional event in one’s life for a personal paradigm shift to occur.

This same phenomenon is true with a religious fundamentalist that believes every word in their scared book is valid. Their whole world comes tumbling down if they accept just one word as invalid.

Religious fundamentalists and ultra skeptics are two sides of the same coin.

The daunting part is how much are we missing in our perception of reality, as we are of the same species as these people that we can clearly see are very biased.

The ultra skeptics and religious fundamentalists have much to teach us about the mind and how our cherished beliefs can overwhelm our supposedly lucid and rational minds.

Newsweek mentions NDE's this week. It was mostly about cardio-resuscitation, but they did briefly talk about near death experiences. There were also some pictures from one of P.M.H. Atwater's book that some NDE'ers had drawn of their experience. By the way, the last sentence of the excerpt I quote here has an extremely holographic flavor about it. In almost every NDE that I read I see parallel's to Michael Talbot's description of what one might expect in a holographic Universe. Wish I was a better writer so I could write a book about it. It just seems so obvious to me.

"Anthony Kimbrough, a Tennessee real-estate agent who suffered a massive coronary in 2005 at the age of 44. Dying on the table in the cath lab during angioplasty, he sensed the room going dark, then lighter, and "all of a sudden I could breathe. I wasn't in pain. I felt the best I ever felt in my life. I remember looking at the nurses' faces and thinking, 'Folks, if you knew how great this is, you wouldn't be worried about dying'." Kimbrough had the odd sensation of being able to see everything in his room at once, and even into the next room."

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19751440/site/newsweek/page/6/

MP,

Your debunking of the skeptics is much appreciated....

I also wish people don't term skeptics debunkings as "Alternate explanations" but as "unscientific speculations"

Every time people see the "may have", "could have", "should have" their antennas should go up and question the process of debunking that was done...

But as we can all see Skeptics do get a lot of value out of such acts... they have managed to cast doubts on many unsuspecting minds and that is enough to create further doubts...

Michael - Great series of WWWTW posts, and I've yet to read them all in full. Very insightful analysis of claims and claimed debunkings.

In response to the objections reported by Leo:

1) Some of those patients who had NDEs had zero electrical activity in the brain, so, yes they were, if not brain dead, at least brain frozen. Without electrical activity, how is there neurological activity? Mental activity, however, is another question. It remains that mental activity continued without neurological activity.

2) Yes, NDEs do not always occur, nor are they always remembered. Why exactly is this a problem? Research on NDEs is a lot like Sheldrake's on telepathy - the claim is not that everyone has them, just some.

3) Actually, these details do not have this dependence. The "environmental" aspects (tunnel, light, things around, etc.) appear virtually universal. The "personal" details differ from person to person - obviously, you are more likely to meet your family members than other people. But there are many commonalities.

4) Yes, these factors do affect what happens. Again, what difference does it make? A very important thing here is that these phenomena occur together and in an integrated experience during the NDE.

5) Sometimes, and there a few notable cases. But what exactly does this show? The main difference is this: when you hallucinate and have these experiences, you're conscious. But when you're NOT conscious, NDEs still happen, even when uninduced, so...

6) But what is the content of these experiences? Is there interaction with these people, is there the gaining of information as a result?

7) This mapping was done - I assume it's Cowan's work to which you refer - in a brain that is oxygen-deprived and dying. But NDEs occur even when the brain has oxygen.

8) I don't think that it does, but I'm not too familiar with this theory. Could you or someone else elaborate on it?

9) Yes, they can be induced by this, as well as by other methods. So to this my initial views are the same as on 5)

10) We would expect this, yes, if there is a physical tunnel through which we travel, and of course, if we all go through the exact same one!

11) Certainly - NDE experiences occasionally have such features. Perhaps people are mistaken about who are the beings of light, or, and I find this more likely, these are the last "beings of light" witnessed, and this occurs when the person is regaining consciousness and sees dimly a bright hospital room.
But, if not, we see the obvious corollary - if these beings were trying to resuscitate the person, obviously he/she was unconscious, and yet having a real, i.e. with a basis in reality, experience - mental activity occurring in the absence of neurological activity.

12) My natural response is simply that children know more living people than dead ones - they haven't lived as long to see close friends and relatives die. There's no need, I think, to make NDEs and OBEs and their possible content mutually exclusive.

My apologies for not quoting directly, but I think this comment is long enough already!

(1) None of the patients who report NDEs could have been brain dead, for brain death is irreversible.

Nobody is saying they were brain dead, just EEG-flatlined and well on their way, the brain takes a while to fully die, which is why people can be reanimated.

But of course, during that time the brain's capacity to "hallucinate" and memorize is physically impossible.

(2) NDEs occur in only one-third of all cases where there is a near-death crisis.

Exactly, if NDEs are just a standardized physiological response to dying why are they so relatively uncommon?

(3) The details of NDEs depend almost exclusively upon the individual's personal and cultural background.

Not quite, it is a consistent feature of a NDEs that they don't tend to rigidly reflect the expectations of the experiencer, particularly the more religious ones, the NDEs hardly resemble notions of Christian or Jewish heaven. Saint Peter, Christ, Moses, pearly gates, harp music, and angels with wings are entirely absent (with the exception of a very few who believe that the being of light is Christ or another religious figure in spite of the fact that this being possesses none of the appropriate physical attributes), in fact people returning will often end up less religious/dogmatic and more spiritual.

This is why NDE research is openly condemmed by certain religious groups, they feel threatened by it.

(4) Physiological and psychological factors affect the content of NDEs. Noises, tunnels, bright lights, and other beings are more common in physiological conditions directly affecting the brain state, such as cardiac arrest and anesthesia, whereas euphoria, mystical feelings, life review, and positive transformation can occur when people simply believe they are going to die.

"The euphoria associated with an NDE is said to come from lack of oxygen to the brain. Such euphoria is identical with the pleasant sensation we experience sometimes when fainting. The most common reason that this occurs is a medical situation known as orthostatic hypotension. Here, a sudden change in the position of the body (such as getting out of bed too quickly) causes dizziness or fainting due to a lowering of blood pressure in the brain.

However, the euphoria associated with fainting usually lasts at most a few seconds before leading to complete loss of consciousness. NDE victims many times describe a kind of euphoria of "being in a quiet and peaceful space" initially after leaving the body. However, this euphoria usually lasts for longer periods, and does not lead to unconsciousness. Such experience is usually followed by the "tunnel experience" or observing the events occurring around the body in what many times appears to last a period of minutes.

The other type of euphoria associated with NDEs is associated with the "being of light" and it also appears to last up to several minutes, and does not lead to unconsciousness. Instead, it leads to the "past life review". In both cases, the NDE euphoria experience differs in both duration and in what follows from the normal experience of hypoxia.

The question also arises as to why most people who have a temporary lack of oxygen to the brain as in the case of those who faint from an intense experience of horror, pain, or fear (neurogenic shock) do not experience NDEs. Shock or the lack of perfusion of oxygen to the brain is very common in many medical situations but is not associated with NDE-like experience at all. For instance, patients who sustain a great deal of blood loss but do not stop breathing also have brains that are starved for oxygen. NDEs are not associated with such situations. It is only when the heart stops beating and breathing stops and the body appears to be dead that NDEs occur. This simple observation calls the hypoxia-related theories into question."

(5) The core features of NDEs are found in drug-induced and naturally occurring hallucinations.

"Ketamine certainly does not cause NDEs to occur though it appears to sometimes cause the dissociation where the mind separates from the body in a way that appears similar to what occurs in many NDEs.

Why is it that during NDEs, such "hallucinations" consist of swimmers seeing themselves drowning. Why do people with allergic reactions in their home or children hit by cars while riding bicycles see themselves flying through space following ambulances to emergency rooms? Why do people in hospitals repeatedly watch themselves being given CPR?

The scientific answer to such questions brings us back to the projection of fantasy worlds and social conditioning arguments but, as stated earlier, if the mind is so good at creating hallucinations of accident scenes, hospital rooms, and operating room procedures, why is the same mind so bad at creating hallucinations of God the Father, angels, Saint Peter, Moses, and heaven?

The fact that a specific drug can cause "hallucinations" is not a new or unusual discovery. Therefore, the importance of ketamine research depends on the quality and contents of the hallucinations and their similarity to the NDE experience if they are to help researchers understand near-death experience better.

Without precise statistics, it is difficult to know the contents of the hallucinations of patients under ketamine influence but I suspect that their subject matter does not mimic the complex, detailed, and highly structured kinds of out-of-body experiences of people who have NDEs. Dr. Jansen, so far as I am aware, does not claim that they do this either."

(6) The panoramic life review closely resembles a form of temporal lobe epilepsy. There are even cases where epileptics have had OBEs or "seen" apparitions of dead friends and relatives during their seizures.

Sure, but they had otherwise functional brains with measurable EEG activity, such vivid hallucinations and the capacity to remember them aren't physically possible when the brain is flatlined, as is the case with many if not most NDEs.

(7) Computer simulations of random neural firing based on eye-brain mapping of the visual cortex have produced the tunnel and light characteristic of NDEs.

Huh? Human brains aren't digital computers.

(8) The fact that naloxone- an opiate antagonist that inhibits the effects of endorphins on the brain- terminates near-death experiences provides some confirmation for the endorphin theory of NDEs.

"Terminate" how exactly?

(9) NDEs can be induced by direct electrical stimulation of brain areas surrounding the Sylvian fissure in the right temporal lobe.

"Olaf Blanke, a neurologist at the Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland, made the "discovery" while performing surgery. He stimulated the right angular gyrus, a small region in the brain's right hemisphere, of a women and triggered out-of-body experiences. The patient told doctors, "I see myself lying in bed, from above, but I only see my legs and lower trunk." Subsequent zaps with the electrodes were reported to replicate the effect.

Normally, for a scientific experiment to be worthy of mention, it would require rigorous design and execution followed by a careful analysis of the results. In most cases, it would need to be performed on a number of patients, and a double blind approach would be taken that involved patients who would be given placebo drugs or stimuli. This makes sure the results were not spurious and attributable to something other than the specific intended stimulus of researchers.

In Dr. Blanke's case, we have a situation where one or more doctors interacting with a single patient inadvertently applied a stimulus (stimulation by a electrode to the brain) and "caused" an out-of-body experience. The patient was also prone to "a brain disorder that causes seizures", and therefore not an ideal subject for such an experiment. The credibility of the patient was not questioned, and it appears that an earlier milder stimulus did not cause an OBE but only a change in body image where the body image was distorted in the patient's view (the arm and legs were first shortened and later appeared to be flying up towards the patient's head).

Having read many out-of-body experience descriptions myself, I have never read about one where only half the person's body (the lower half in this case) appeared. The patient's preception seems quite confused and distorted when compared with more common out-of-body experiences where the person sees his or her entire body in an OBE state. The theory also fails to account for the overall environment that is perceived as in the case of an OBE were the body of the person is seen against the backdrop of an operating or hospital room. There seems to be no explanation as to how the angular gyrus portion of the brain is able to construct a three-dimensional birds-eye view of the the surrounding environment which contains the physical body. The brain would be required to somehow contain a holographic model of the room in order to create such a reconstruction and then be able to place the person's body image in the midst of the hologram. The theory would also require the person to be able to move and change the point of view within the hologram as is common in many NDEs and OBE"

(10) The tunnels described in NDEs vary considerably in form. If NDEs reflected an external reality, then one would expect consistency in the form of tunnel experiences reported.

They often tend to change over the duration of the passage through, the field starts out as a pinpoint or small circle, which may or may not increase in size during the "tunnel experience". It generally does not decrease in size. In some cases, the light at the end of the tunnel gradually grows to engulf the individual as he or she nears the end of the tunnel. The tunnel experienced during an NDE is usually 3-dimensional and surrounds the individual while.

(11) NDE cases have been reported where the patient has identified the "beings of light" as the medical staff making resuscitation attempts.

Then they weren't truly EEG flatlined, were they?

(12) Children who suffer NDEs are more likely to see living friends and family members than ones who have died.

As Eteponge mentioned a few months back:

PMH Atwater in her book, "The Complete Idiots Guide To Near-Death Experiences", states that in those cases where children and people saw living friends and living relatives, it was merely as an introductory calming event to ease the transition of the person to the other side, and that after this initial calming phase ended, the "living person" disappeared, and did not reappear in the rest of the NDE event.

Hi, Prescott

I made a meticulous evaluation of a reincarnation' study by skeptics and I saw many methodological faults too.

See at:

http://br.geocities.com/existem_espiritos/born_again_critica

Best wishes,
Vitor

I haven't done the impressively extensive reading into NDEs that people like Marcus obviously have. Nice work, gents. But I'd like to weigh in on two points:

The question about NDEs only occurring in 1/3 of patients: It's possible that everyone who flatlines has an NDE, but that many don't remember them, just as all people dream but many of us (myself included) only rarely remember our dreams. Since the NDE is a subjective event and the only basis we have for knowing it exists is a patient narrative, we don't really know how many people have them.

The issue of the tunnel of light being different: Any two people are likely to view and experience the "objective, real" world in a different way. Differences in anxiety levels, attitude and self-esteem affect how two people will see the events of the world around them. Differences in sensory abilities will affect how they view the actual physical environment. I don't see why the so-called tunnel would be any different. Perception is reality.

Tim: “Perception is reality."

Tim would you agree that maybe “perception is our perceived reality?”


Do any of us really know what reality is at this point of our journey?

It is a small thing but wanted to use this quote to demonstrate that I doubt if any of us really know perfect reality.

It appears to me that maybe the mystics get glimpses of reality. What they tell us about those experiences of the reality they see is often described as ecstasy.

Maybe a NDE is a glimpse of reality rather than a permanent state that we are in when we cross over. I say this because those that come through a medium tell us a different story than what a person that has a NDE usually tells us.

The point I was trying to make was that it's silly to expect every aspect of an NDE experience to be identical, because as supporters argue it has an objective reality, when people do not even perceive our so-called "objective" reality in the same way.

If our thoughts create the post-death environment, or participate in creating it, then we would expect variations in NDEs. What's impressive to me is how many overriding similarities there are.

Ok agree with you Tim on that one. Sorry that was a very minute point.

Just came back from talking to a librarian and she was telling me about how her friend had a NDE. Her friend told her that she saw Jesus and asked Jesus if she could come back because she has small children.

But she admits that she really was torn to stay, as it was so beautiful and peaceful over there wherever over there is. But as the librarian was telling me the story and all the details it had most of the elements of a valid NDE.

Interesting to me is that her friend said she saw Jesus, when I was doing my research into NDE's I never met anyone that actually saw someone like a person that claimed to be Jesus but they saw some kind of peaceful light or an entity in the distance and because of the peace and love they experienced they assumed it was Jesus. Who else would most Christians expect to meet but Jesus?

That's very valid, I think. People with deep religious beliefs are going to assume any "loving presence" they meet (another very common aspect of NDEs) is going to be God or Jesus or Allah, while people with no particular doctrinal beliefs are probably just going to see the presence as Oneness or the Over-Soul or the Universe.

God is just a human label for the indescribable.

Thanks a lot Mark and DB and Tim for answering those objections that Keith Augustine mentions. I'm so tired just like the rest of you are of answering these old pobjections time and time again so I thought it would be different to see what your answers would be all I got to say it they go well we what my answers would be.

You all study what can not be verbally explained, scientifically proven, religiously refuted. All NDE's are different in nature yet the owncome the person is left with, both good and bad is the ultimate same. This comes to us all oneday. Perhaps the non eperiencers are lost.

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