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What a great conversation here lately! Congratulations, Michael, on bringing us all together for it.

When I was growing up, it was impossible to image how the Cold War would ever end. People of my generation grew up fearing that a nuclear exchange could erupt at any moment, bringing massive death and devastation. It was difficult to imagine a scenario by which the situation could improve.

Then, in the late 80’s and 90’s, as the USSR collapsed, the situation changed dramatically, and for the better. It happened because Communism was revealed to be an emperor without clothes, unable to feed its people and to allow men and women to feel good about themselves.

I think that as more and more people discover that science doesn’t have all the answers, Scientism will suffer a similar fate.

Pam Reynolds' case was completely explained here:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#pam

I’ve also enjoyed Michael’s posts and the associated commentary of the last few days. I think it’s great that there’s a place for open minded discussions about these things. And kudos to Michael for bringing Grossman’s paper prominently into the discussion.

I guess that what I got from the Grossman piece didn’t have so much to do with the examples he cited for the existence of NDE, but rather the emphasis he placed on the shaky ground that materialism finds itself on today, ground that seems quite similar to that which collapsed beneath the church in the few centuries following the Renaissance. And he recognizes quite clearly the irrationality displayed by those that are so easily dismissive of this evidence, despite the tremors beneath their feet.

If there would be anything that I might take issue with in Michael’s evaluation of Grossman’s paper, it would be the comment that the resistance of philosophers to this evidence was not germane to the conversation. I actually think this is a very important point.

Let’s not forget that what we now call materialism was borne from the efforts of some very courageous individuals who were willing to suffer greatly to defend the idea that the universe was something that could be known through investigation. People died to defend that idea; it was no simple matter and it took a long time. Philosophy has not forgotten that.

In my initial post I stated that it seemed to me that the issue had more to do with metaphysics than with science, and I referenced Willis Harman’s Global Mind Change. In essence, Harman identifies our current paradigm of materialism as M-1 and Cartesian duality as M-2. I sense a hint of affinity for dualism in Grossman’s paper, and I think that Michael’s main point of these last two posts is also based on dualism: let’s let science investigate the material world, but we need to develop other, intuitive-based methods to explore the spirit worlds. (Michael - If I’m misrepresenting your thinking, please correct me.)

I actually believe the ultimate solution will come from an entirely different metaphysic, and I’m hopeful that I may live to see it happen. I think the metaphysic that will bring everything together is what Harman coined M-3, the concept that consciousness is primary.

I’m hopeful that I may live to see that happen, because I think that is what research in numerous fields is pointing to. As I mentioned in the previous post, several physicists have drawn analogies to consciousness controlling elemental particles. Some biologists are beginning to embrace Gaia theory, and many are much more aware of the processes involved in complex systems. There’s a small, growing school of psychology known as Health Realization that points to consciousness as primary, with some impressive, though anecdotal results.

The elephant in the room though, is consciousness itself. Although neuroscience has made some major strides in identifying how various portions of the brain are affected by various experiences, there is not a single theory out there that even begins to explain how conscious experience itself could arise from matter alone. It has been suggested that perhaps the brain is not simply a creator of experience, but operates as a receiver and/or filter of consciousness. This would be what one would expect if consciousness is indeed the core stuff of the universe.

Regardless, I agree with Michael that paranormal research alone will not lead to the scenario Grossman envisions. I do think that it’s entirely possible though, that a multidisciplinary approach may lead to an acceptance of an entirely new paradigm for humanity. I hope it happens soon, because a few moments of dispassionate observation of the state of the world often leads me to believe that we don’t have the luxury of a lot of time.

Vitor, the Reynolds case was hardly "explained" in this lengthy piece, nor were the other NDE/OBE aspects. The entire thing is one long "it's more likely that this happened" run of speculation, with a gratuitous dig at healing prayer thrown it for spite. I've read the entire piece and found to be a typical example of self-congratulatory skepticism.

I have come to beleive more lately that in order to believe in the afterlife, one has to have sense of being created for some definite design,or greater Order following this physical reality;material life span and, that has not been influenced by my religious upbringing. Or accidental as the big bang implies to me but a Progenitor,Thats where God enters the picture. Not necessarily all scientists are closed minded and demands proof to our spiritual attribution to our being and all that we are in a purely biological gene system. Kurt Godel, celebrated for his incompletness theorems. the implications of which are far reaching for the foundations of mathematics and computer science. He proved that mathematical systmes are essentially incomplete: not everything that is true can be proved to be so.In later life he turned his attention to a variety of other problems, including relativity of which Einstein was a personal friend to him. he published few papers during his lifetime, butwho's impact is now being appreciated,they have affected virtually every branch of modern logic, during the past decade other paers of his have been translated from obsolete german shorthand he used and also hiis formalization of the so-called ontological argument for the existence of God, have begun to attract attention as well. You can read his work in mathematical formulated arguments here, there is even one argument for Santa Claus as to the extreme to which pointsout clearly that logic doesn,t always win the day.
http://www.stats.uwaterloo.ca/~cgsmall/ontology.html

Lucyjane D

"I think even the most die-hard materialist ought to grant the following argument: If souls are real, that is, if nonmaterial objects exist, then it should be possible to study them, to acquire data about them, to construct generalizations and theories about them, and so on; which is to say, it should be possible to study them scientifically."

A perfect example of why I think this article is so awful. How can a trained philosopher make such a blatant category mistake? How the hell can the "nonmaterial" be an object? How exactly can scientists study the "immaterial" when scientific inquiry is based on empiricism?

I disagree with the whole notion that science can only be applied to material objects. Psychology is regarded as science yet often I feel many of the conclusions that are largely regarded as "fact" in psychology are far more hokey than even the most out there topics in parapsychology/psi research/etc. and nobody questions that psychology is science. And a lot of the stuff astrophysicists today are presenting as fact (especially "dark energy" which I believe is perhaps the fakest thing ever concocted and mislabled as science) can never be confirmed. These people who are given the title of scientist talk about infinitely many parallel universes that can never be empirically verified and yet the news plasters it all over that these universes nobody will ever see are "fact."

Maybe it's just me but who the hell cares what the skep-dicks believe? So they'll never stop believing in materialism, big deal. There are people who to this day refuse to believe the earth is round and nobody pays them any mind. It shouldn't be the position of science to be their lap dog and struggle endlessly to prove to them that something is real.

I think this video may be able to explain more lucidly
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wX_W1BB_0M

I disagree with the whole notion that science can only be applied to material objects. Psychology is regarded as science yet often I feel many of the conclusions that are largely regarded as "fact" in psychology are far more hokey than even the most out there topics in parapsychology/psi research/etc. and nobody questions that psychology is science. And a lot of the stuff astrophysicists today are presenting as fact (especially "dark energy" which I believe is perhaps the fakest thing ever concocted and mislabled as science) can never be confirmed. These people who are given the title of scientist talk about infinitely many parallel universes that can never be empirically verified and yet the news plasters it all over that these universes nobody will ever see are "fact."

Maybe it's just me but who the hell cares what the skep-dicks believe? So they'll never stop believing in materialism, big deal. There are people who to this day refuse to believe the earth is round and nobody pays them any mind. It shouldn't be the position of science to be their lap dog and struggle endlessly to prove to them that something is real.

I think this video may be able to explain more lucidly what I am trying to say.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wX_W1BB_0M

Sorry if this posts twice.

I'd like to point out a couple of other serious flaws in the Augustine piece that supposedly refutes NDEs. The most egregious is where he claims that 1 or 2 of every 1000 patients who go under general anesthesia experience the kind of awakening he cites in the Reynolds case. That means, if we're generous, that there would be about a .2% chance of a patient awakening under these conditions. To put this in the common statistical parlance of psi experimentation and gauge the odds of the Reynolds information being due to chance (awakening), p=.002.

So how does that make this the most likely reason for the recollections of Reynolds or any patient who has veridical perceptions under anesthesia? In any other field, such a tiny probability would be dismissed out of hand. Why is it presented as the likely explanation? Because Augustine concluded a priori that since the out-of-body perception COULD NOT be true, there MUST be some physiological explanation, and awakening must be it, no matter how unlikely it is.

How does this not violate Occam's Razor, the principle that skeptics love to cite? A possible cause that occurs one in 500 cases is the most likely answer?

I wrote my own (partial) response to Keith Augustine's essay here.

One of the points Augustine makes involves the famed "running shoe on the ledge" story. Augustine claims the case was decisively debunked. I took issue with this alleged debunking in a five-part series of posts that began here.

In any case, these endless arguments, which often boil down to minutiae, are one reason why I'm no longer convinced that gathering reams of scientific data will ultimately change the establishment view.

Michael H wrote, I agree with Michael that paranormal research alone will not lead to the scenario Grossman envisions. I do think that it’s entirely possible though, that a multidisciplinary approach may lead to an acceptance of an entirely new paradigm for humanity.

I think that's possible, but I suspect that if that day comes, it will be a long time from now. But I could be wrong.

Another aspect of the Reynolds case that Augustine glosses over (in the interest of serving his predetermined bias) is the fact that her case is probably the only one in which a person had a classic NDE while being monitored to determine that her brain stem activity had ceased.

He focuses on the veridical perceptions, but set those aside and look at the rest of the event. Reynolds claims a classic NDE. Now, we know there is no way to objectively verify when the purely subjective aspects of her NDE occurred; they might have occurred while she was coming back to consciousness after her surgery. However, the fact remains that unlike patients who have had an NDE after, say, a cardiac arrest, this brain death was planned. Her brain stem activity at some point reached zero. Yet she claimed to have this profound experience.

That said, this discussion illustrates why NDEs are problematic as survival evidence. There are just too many ways to interpret the data, and few ways to obtain objective evidence. By the way, despite Augustine's shot at Steven Braude, Braude has actually written on several occasions that he does NOT consider NDEs very good evidence for survival, yet he does conclude based largely on other evidence that it is more likely than not.

I love near death experiences because they parallel what Michael Talbot says about the Holographic Universe. They corroborate one another.

And I doubt we'll ever be allowed to know absolutely 100% for certain there is life after death because death of a loved one is the most powerful lesson in separation that anyone ever experiences in this life; and experiencing separation is what teaches the soul what it means and how it feels to be a separate, unique, individual.

Another stimulating posting from Michael, with the attendant responses showing that there are those of us who are thinking in parallel on the subject of consciousness and its perpetuity.I agree wholeheartedly that the scientific method as currently conceived cannot yield the answers to the questions raised, and a more holistic approach (one admitting the subjective experience) is more likely to advance our understanding. It seems that Michael H. and I are thinking along the same lines, because I have been considering the theories and findings of the quantum world along with the vast evidence of psi and consciousness research as indicating that fundamentalist science has made a significant error which has lead to its fear of dualism when confronted with the accumulated evidence of postmortem survival of the mind (soul). Simply put, science has wrongly assumed that consciousness is an "emergent property" (a vague term tantamount to "magic") which evolved somehow from physical existence. There is evidence which strongly suggests (and experience seems to verify) that the reverse is actually the case: that MIND came first, the observing mind necessary to collapse the wave function and make for an observable physicality which we call the Universe. Chris Carter noted at some length in his book "Parapsychology and the Skeptics" that John von Neumann's interpretation of quantum physics appears to be the one in most congruence with observation, that:"...the entire physical world is quantum mechanical, and so the process that collapses the state vectors (wave functions) into actual facts cannot be a physical process:the intervention of something from outside of physics is required. Something non-physical, not subject to the laws of quantum mechanics, must account for the collapse of the state vector: the only non-physical entity that von Neumann could think of was the consciousness of the observer." Of course, such a consciousness existing BEFORE the inception of the physical Universe would suggest a God-like entity, and materialst science recoils at such a thought, remembering the battles against religion fought by their scientist predecessors. As a result, these practicioners become the True Believers in Scientism, behaving in the same close-minded manner as other religious believers. They confuse religions (which are human creations) with the concept of a larger consciousness, but the latter does NOT confirm the existence of the former. There is no evidence which points to one "true" religion, though there are certainly subjective experiences which have been interpreted through the filter of religious belief which cut across ALL extant religious practices and beliefs. NDEs have been reported which are variously interpreted in specific details of the experiencers particular belief system, while maintaining an common overall scenario. The PK experiments of physicist Helmut Schmidt appeared to indicate that conscious intent influences the outcome of wave function collapse. The implications of this observation, as uncomfortable as science may find it, will not disappear. Not all scientists are afraid to confront these notions. As stated in the July 2005 issue of the science journal Nature, Dr. Richard Conn Henry, professor in the Henry H. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, offered simply: "The only reality is mind and observations, but observations are not of things. To see the Universe as it really is, we must abandon our tendency to conceptualize observations as things." Even the redoubtable Dr. John H. Wheeler has stated, "Useful as it is under everyday circumstances to say that the world exists 'out there' independent of us, that view can no longer be upheld." Physical reality overwhelms us with its immediacy, our bodily senses flooding our conscious thoughts to such a degree that it can obscure what is underlying. That it is so implies that this physical existence is of importance as intended, seemingly, by that larger, overarching intelligence (God?) whose intention started it all, whose presence is apparently encountered during the Near Death Experience. What can be said or known about such a conscious entity (likely not as separate as we might like to think as we thrash about in our illusion (?) of individuality) may well be beyond the purview of both science and religion. Neither of those vehicles will transport us to our ultimate destination, but our questions WILL drive us there. All we need now is the proper conveyance.

You know, I think that you are confusing things. The problem is not with science, but with closed-minded scientists. I believe that the scientific method could help with the study of the afterlife. Truth is a continuum, and even if science cannot totally explain the afterlife, it could help to verify that it exists. You're right that it has not been proven that science can be used to totally understand the afterlife, but it also has not been proven that science cannot be used to totally understand the afterlife. The problem is with scientists that refuse to believe even when evidence proves it. It is a problem of people misusing science, not necessarily a problem with science itself.

The scientific method is based on probabilities and what are the probabilities that all the phenomena from NDE's to bed side visitations to direct voice to automatic writing to past life hypnosis to past life memories of children to children speaking a foreign language to apports to materializations and much more that we have been discussing on this blog are invalid?

The Darwinists would love to have this much evidence. Recently a scientist named Paul Davies appeared on a radio talk show and admitted that scientists have no idea how the universal laws came into existence and why they work with perfection.

But yet when someone suggests that the universe is intelligent they scoff and say no way; it is a material universe and matter creates consciousness. They will stretch their theories to utmost limits to maintain their materialistic paradigm.

Many scientists and paranormal researchers call consciousness the hard problem. From my point of view much of consciousness and awareness research is a paradigm problem.

No confusion here, Mark. You have noted yourself that science can only "help" with a study of conscious continuance, but because consciousness is of essence non-material, the employment of empiricism to attempt to study it is equivalent to using a backhoe for analyzing a symphony. There is no point of contact between them.Those scientists who mistake a zeal for materialism with the defense of truth only reveal their fundamental error (as Michael pointed out in this original post): that materialism is a philosophical position, not a "proven scientific fact". As also noted, science is a method, and empirical science deals only with evidence, not "proof". As such, science never "proves" anything,it only gives a relative probability to a given hypothesis. It will help, yes,we can get closer, but the vehicle runs out of road short of the destination, regardless of the beliefs of any particular scientist. Even such bright lights as Newton and Einstein were shown to be wrong (or, perhaps more charitably, incomplete in their knowledge and certainty). Einstein, to his credit, acknowledged that his theories were incomplete, but he never accepted the ideas of the quantum physics his work made possible. Many physicists today find their field hard to accept in its implications, and try not to get metaphysical in their considerations. But, as William James concluded long ago, there is no avoiding metaphysics when wrestling with the problems presented by consciousness (and its survival after physical death), so the question comes down to employing good metaphysics or bad metaphysics. Here's hoping that science (and philosophy) can help us discover/create the most useful metaphysical vehicle, as well as the travel map. Our questions provide the fuel.

@Alex:

A perfect example of why I think this article is so awful. How can a trained philosopher make such a blatant category mistake? How the hell can the "nonmaterial" be an object? How exactly can scientists study the "immaterial" when scientific inquiry is based on empiricism?

I noticed that too, but perhaps we should give Grossman some leeway:

"...there are clear philosophical precedents for positing literally immaterial structures"

Writes Stephen Braude in Immortal Remains (p295); going on to reference Leibniz and Whitehead. If I remember correctly, Grossman is a fan of Spinoza so maybe there is something there, too.

In dreams, or an idealistic universe/realm, objects are/would be non-physical, it could be argued...

"The problem here, as I see it, hinges on the word "real." Let us grant that "souls are real." I believe this to be true. But I believe it to be true in the sense that souls participate in an order or level of reality that is different from the reality we experience every day. In other words, souls belong to a higher, or at least different, plane of reality. And it is not at all clear to me that science, a set of empirical methods designed to explore this reality, is cut out to explore some other plane of reality that may be fundamentally different from our own."

Let us not forget that the soul can interact very intimately with physical reality else we won't be here at the moment. I think it's in this interaction that it can be researched. It's not easy but it can be designed. For example the thing Sam Parnia is trying now, putting objects in hospital rooms which can only be seen if you're floating close to the ceiling. This is a good way to show the OBE reality of NDE's.

"As Grossman points out, this sort of person confuses science with materialism. Science is a method of inquiry, while materialism is a philosophical position. The two should not be conflated, but very often they are."

This is I think the most interesting point that Grossman is making. Because most of the time when reviewing evidence for NDE's, psi, etc belief systems play a huge role.
Why is there so much reluctance? Is the evidence really not compelling enough or is there a huge bias because it just seems that the evidence shows that materialism is not everything? Trying to explain the evidence away with reasons that people are deceiving thesmelves and lying is only more plausible if they belief in the materialistic assumption. Cause an after life theory would destroy there whole philosophical idea.
I think it would be interesting to really show the difference and similarities between theories about parallell universe, dark matter, studies in social sciences etc and compare them with paranormal research. If it shows that the amount of evidence and the way of reasoning to accept the evidence is similar but only the ones which are materialistic are accepted as true then I think it's obvious that it's not really about science but a philosophical issue...

greets,
Filip

Wow – There’s some good stuff flying around here. I think that Kevin, Filip and I are on the same page in suspecting that the issue really boils down to metaphysical assumptions.

The other aspect that intrigues me personally about the idea that consciousness was here first is that it dovetails perfectly with what mystics across all cultures have said for centuries. I suspect this is what is meant when the Self-realized refer to the illusory nature of existence, the “divine joke”, the nothingness that contains all things. Hindus call this Brahman. Taoists call it Tao. The Native Americans call it The Great Spirit. Buddhists call it Mind. The western religions call it YVWH, God or Allah. They all refer to the same thing. It appears the wise understand this.

There’s actually a huge difference between the metaphysics of duality and a metaphysics that posits consciousness as primary in existence. Duality suggests, as the name implies, two separate realities; the physical world is forever divorced from the spiritual world. Spirit relates in some way to the physical world, yet remains external to it somehow. This seems to be the metaphysics underlying the western religions.

Consciousness as primary (M-3) would necessarily be very different. Ultimately M-3 would mean that from the perspective of the consciousness that is core to existence, there is no objective reality. From that perspective, reality would be seen as entirely subjective, entirely “inside-out”. M-3 would also imply that the experience of that consciousness would be available to anyone open enough to experience it, and that everything and everyone that we can ever know is ultimately that consciousness.

Again, this is what the eastern faiths have pointed to explicitly, but it also appears to be what western mystics have realized as well. I don’t know how many Sufi’s were crucified for stating this, but it wasn’t an insignificant number. And consider what Jacob Boehme had to say:

"When thou art gone forth wholly from the creature [human], and art become nothing to all that is nature and creature, then thou art in that eternal one, which is God himself, and then thou shalt perceive and feel the highest virtue of love. Also, that I said whosoever findeth it findeth nothing and all things; that is also true, for he findeth a supernatural, supersensual Abyss, having no ground, where there is no place to dwell in; and he findeth also nothing that is like it, and therefore it may be compared to nothing, for it is deeper than anything, and is as nothing to all things, for it is not comprehensible; and because it is nothing, it is free from all things, and it is that only Good, which a man cannot express or utter what it is. But that I lastly said, he that findeth it, findeth all things, is also true; it hath been the beginning of all things, and it ruleth all things. If thou findest it, thou comest into that ground from whence all things proceed, and wherein they subsist, and thou art in it a king over all the works of God." [The Way to Christ, 1623]

If this is not a description of an experience of a higher level of consciousness, then what is it? Merely self-delusion?

It occurs to me that not only would the materialists would be troubled by the idea of M-3, but the western religions would be as well.

Michael, the debate between K. Augustine and NDE specialits, like Bruce Greyson, is a never ending story. There are two issues of the journal of Near Death Stdies, where scientists like Charles Tart, Jan Holden, ... and K. Augustine discuss these anecdotal cases. K.A. try to demonstrate the flaws. Both issues are published this year. Interesting to read.
I recommend S.Braude s book Immortal Remains. Braude, although he thinks that there is postmortem survival, shows the philosphical flaws of NDEs regarding them as postmortem evidence. Even R. Moody has shown some critical points a lot of years ago.

Even, if the study from Parnia/van Lommel find veridical OBE, I doubt this, this could be also discussed as a form of remote viewing.

"To these reasons, I would add another one -- the sense that the afterlife is simply "too good to be true."

The descriptions, given by some mediums, of the next life , relative to the pain and suffering experienced here on earth,are "much too good".
The contrast is incredible.

I followed a Daily Grail link to Michael's first article, posted two comments to it, then came across the new "further thoughts."

One chief factor that leads me to believe this will all change, despite over one hundred years of inconclusive "psychical research" is that we are changing, all of our basic shared conscious assumptions regarding the nature of reality with us.

I submit that this very electronic medium we communicate on is just one of a number of indicators, but this requires treating external reality as being symbolic of inner reality, this treatment itself being reflective of this change.

That is, the Internet is built on technologies initially created by those beginning to experience this change in consciousness and connects us, nearly instantaneously, in a way that symbolizes our inner connectivity, transcending time and space as it does so.

The question of non-material existence also changes, drastically, as we change; so, too, shall ways to demonstrate its reality, even as science itself must become much more expansive, in a certain sense.

At this moment, as briefly elucidated in my comments to the previous article, I believe the best way to approach this would require long-term concerted effort by many, and not necessarily those with official scientific credentials.

This many would include both the living and those of other realms, sharing a common intent.

Communication is becoming easier and easier in this regard (if you follow the history of Spiritualism, trance writing and channelling, and "psychical research," it's plain that what once required rare talents and deep trance states no longer does so -- see
Exercise 7. Your Subliminal Self at the Keyboard
(it's currently the last exercise, at the bottom of the page) as one example of how rank amateurs could begin to approach this.)

I suspect that with enough on-board, including a blend of those with a talent (a creative, artistic talent, really) for the "translation" of mediumship, with those tending more towards logic and technical accomplishment -- and, again, this would involve both the living and the "dead" -- we might get somewhere, quickly.

Of course I could be quite wrong, but I strongly believe the strict material view is waning. How long this waning will continue, and when we shall begin to see more official acceptance of alternative views, is anyone's guess.

Regards

Bill I.

“The other aspect that intrigues me personally about the idea that consciousness was here first is that it dovetails perfectly with what mystics across all cultures have said for centuries.”

This is an excellent point that is not often discussed in books. This “fact” that mystics from all cultures and religions are telling us pretty much the same stories about what they see and feel.

When we are experiencing life it seems so real but when we look back over our lives it appears as a dream. I suspect mystics receive a glimpse of reality but since we do not see the reality they see we pay little attention to their words. Kind of like a NDE if we don’t experience it we pay little attention to what they tell us.


Of course I could be quite wrong, but I strongly believe the strict material view is waning. How long this waning will continue, and when we shall begin to see more official acceptance of alternative views, is anyone's guess.
I have noticed from reading old books published over 100 years ago that people tend to be very optimistic about how soon some things will change such as a strict materialist view. Of course we never know when a breakthrough event such as the Internet will happen to hasten that change in the worlds consciousness.

"I disagree with the whole notion that science can only be applied to material objects."

I never made that claim. I'm not even sure how to define the category of the "material." My point is there has to be some element of conceptual clarity before you can incorporate phenomena into a theoretical framework. When Grossman writes of "immaterial objects," he runs into all sorts of contradictions. You're certainly right about psychology, but the failure of psychology should be extremely worrying to someone like Grossman. If we still can't account for basic phenomena such as intention, memory, etc., what makes him think that we're going to gain any sort of insight into the workings of psi?

"There is no way for the relevant information, conveyed in sound waves or light waves, to travel from the waiting room, through corridors and up elevators, to reach the sense organs of the unconscious person. Yet the person wakes from the operation with the information. This kind of case -- and there are lots of them -- shows quite straightforwardly that there are nonphysical ways in which the mind can acquire information. Hence materialism is false."

I should also point out that even if these NDE experiences are real, our inability to reduce them to physics certainly doesn't mean that the "mind" is some "spiritual" phenomenon or that we have some sort of soul. Overall, I think Grossman's polemic will be convincing to only the most zealous of believers. There are much better ways to introduce people to the evidence than trying to beat them over the head with bad philosophy.

In the preface to his book, The Supreme Adventure: Analyses of Psychic Communications, published in 1961, Dr. Robert Crookall stated: "The writer is convinced that the survival of bodily death (and of communication of survivors with mortals) is as well established as the theory of evolution." This conviction was based, at least in part, on his comparative study of alleged communications from the afterlife.

Crookall, a prominent nuts and bolts geologist by profession, took his start from a suggestion made by the philosopher Henri Bergson that a study of non-evidential information contained in non-verifiable statements "that purport to come from the dead...might provide evidence in support of the theory of survival." The idea was, simply put, that a consistent pattern of the experience of the transition from this world to the next might emerge. Coming from sources whose provenances were widely separated in time and place, collusion could be eliminated as an explanation. The inference was that these communications were related to a non-individual reality. If they all told essentially the same story they must be authentic. Crookall found that they did, indeed, tell the same story.

Such an approach would, as Crookall put it, "...bypass the 'deadlock' or 'stalemate' in the direct evidence for survival." [i.e., super ESP would be ruled out]. It would also be "...independent of ecclesiastical or scientific authority, of the good faith of any mediums and of the nature of any 'controls' concerned."

Crookall believed that his comparative analysis could "...pierce the veil that obscures death and the immediate hereafter."

This method is not that of science, although Crookall said it was replicable. (If you don't believe me, try it yourself, he said). It more closely resembles the textual criticism of historical studies. If the scientific method is not working, maybe Crookall should be revisited.

As to the question of consciousness, we have always assumed that we are multiple consciousnesses observing one material universe. Alternatively, we may be one consciousness observing the mutiple probabilities we each call our own universe, which probabilities interact in ways that make them appear to be _almost_ identical. Memories of our individual observations is what makes us think that we are seperate.

>If the scientific method is not working, maybe Crookall should be revisited.

Thank you, vogt. I was unaware of this book, though I have read some of Crookall's work on OBEs. I've just ordered a copy of The Supreme Adventure and am very interested to see how his comparison of these reports works out in detail.

By the way, a preview of the book is available in Google Books.

I think this method of comparison may be right up my alley. It's what I was trying to get at when I said (rather indistinctly) that I'm persuaded in part by the parallels and patterns that emerge from evidence collected in different venues.

For instance, I remember reading an account of a medium who was apparently channeling the spirit of someone who died by the guillotine. The spirit described his own death, saying that at first he was unaware that he had died, but then his point of view shifted to outside his body, and he saw that the blade had fallen and his head had been cut off. The narrative matched the out-of-body stage reported in most NDEs, but the reading by this medium took place several decades before NDEs became well-known. Unfortunately I don't recall where I read of this research, but it struck me at the time as quite remarkable that the story channeled by the medium would match up with reports given by NDErs decades later.

It is possible that this approach - of finding patterns even in cases that are "non-evidential" in scientific terms - could be very productive.

markL. My take on this is that consciousness is that which allows/permits us to feel separate and unique but awareness is this oneness.

So I would agree with your statement:” Alternatively, we may be one consciousness observing the multiple probabilities" if you changed the word consciousness to awareness.

Don’t know if this makes any sense but I see a subtle but profound difference between awareness and consciousness. Awareness is a pure and static reality whereas consciousness is a less than perfect flow of thoughts (i.e. subjects) that perceives objects and this makes ITS reality dynamic. (Perceived separate Beings interacting with one another)

As we advance in our level of consciousness we become more aware of our oneness with the universe or that that is until I suspect we reach a point of having all the intelligence and vitality and creativity of that that is: i.e. pure awareness.

Stated simply: god experiences itself thought the “medium” of consciousness.

It is like god wants or it is the necessity of god to continually rediscover itself through an evolution of consciousness journey. These statements are not meant to be absolutes just my thoughts after years researching and thinking about awareness and consciousness as they apply to the mysteries of life.

In positing that consciousness preceded physicality, I realize that the idea opens up an entirely new line of questions which are of an even higher level of difficulty than the primacy of consciousness itself.The nature of such a Primal Mind as can conceive of and generate a physical universe is clearly beyond my comprehension, though I CAN imagine consciousness as being in whatever sense "eternal" because precognition demonstrates the minds ability to access what we describe as the "future" as well as the "past" and "present". Such experiences of foreknowledge indicate that our conceptions of space/time (and observed nonlocal effects verify this) are clearly imcomplete at best, and utterly wrong at worst.

Einstein often cited the importance of imagination in the scientific enterprise, offering his own "thought experiments" as an example. We also know that the subconscious seems capable of access to information of complete verity or complete confabulation or a mix in between, thereby giving us multiple opportunities to drive down the wrong road to dead ends or unintended destinations. That we have indications of any form of "afterlife" not only gives us cause for considering that "afterwards", but also reason to examine our "present", our lives and our intentions and actions. I like to think of this as a gift of sorts, and try not to become TOO involved in the puzzle of it all.

To Kevin I have to say that, with all due respect, I do not believe that anything you said necessarily proves that you are right. It's certainly true that we cannot, in our current state, directly perceive the afterlife, but it might be possible to build a machine that does, and relays that information to our own perception. Not all science has to be directly observed by us to be science. It is possible, then, that someday we will be able to use our current scientific method to understand and study, and even possibly to fully understand the afterlife. I think most of what you wrote was true, and even saying that science is never going to totally be able to study and understand the afterlife might even be probably true, but there is also a possibility (like the one I just gave in this post about the machine being built, and yes, it may be unlikely, but still a possibility) that science will someday be able to totally study and understand the afterlife. Anyway, my original point in my first post was that Michael seemed to me to be saying that we should try to come up with another method to learn about the afterlife, and that science is the wrong method, but I do not necessarily believe that science is the wrong method. It may be, but once again, nothing that was said proves that. Michael also made the point that scientists have been studying this for a long time and still don't believe in it, for the most part. However, this happened with bat sonar, too, as well as other things. The problem, even if science does turn out to be inadequate with respect to the afterlife, is not necessarily science itself, but with scientists choosing not to believe even when they have good evidence.

Mark,
It's certainly true that we cannot, in our current state, directly perceive the afterlife, but it might be possible to build a machine that does...

Have you heard of Spiricom, by any chance? I heard about it ages ago and while I'm not sure exactly what's going on in this, I think it's interesting.

“I like to think of this as a gift of sorts, and try not to become TOO involved in the puzzle of it all.”

I hear ya but for me it is a great challenge to my mind. Is it worthwhile? Time will tell but I have always suspected that we humans do not exist to stay in ignorance forever. Sometimes the beauty is in the journey of discovery.

Build a machine to prove an after life. Some believe they have proved an after life using radio waves and picking up entities messages from the other side. I have listened to some of those messages and it appears to me they have a long way to go.

If we cannot even measure or know what the other 95% of the universe is or looks like I suspect we have a long way to go to prove an after life with a machine. Maybe someday those intelligent beings in those ufo’s will give us a hand in that direction. Oh that’s right ufo’s don’t exist because they have not landed on the white house lawn.

Like they would want to chatter with our 26% approval rated politicians. Sorry my idea of humor.

Since so much of this discussion is based on the validity of out-of-body experiences (OBEs), you might want to listen to NDE researcher Dr. Jan Holden's 2006 presentation at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center titled "Veridical perception in NDEs." You can get it as a DVD or an audio file at http://www.iands.org/conferences/2006_conference_presentations/. (Scroll down to her presentation and then click on one of the links.) Although it cannot answer the arguments presented here, it will at least establish a baseline for the data that exists – and the challenges involved in this type of research.

Also of interest is an NPR interview with Dr. Sam Parnia who is doing a hospital-based clinical study of OBEs. You can access the interview at http://www.iands.org/nde_archives/near-death_experience_(nde)_video/audio_accounts/radio_broadcast_about_ndes.html

I know I'm pitching in pretty late to the argument, but the reason the hallucination explanation doesn't fly for NDEs to me is because the rare times that I've had the pleasure to hallucinate-- it's primarily been surrealistic and nonsensical.

One time I read a book by Robert Monroe where he talked about going OBE and traveling to some space-ship commanded by anthropomorphic pig people, or something equally strange. This sounded like an hallucination. Pam Reynolds' case sounded like an NDE.

I'd like to point out a couple of other serious flaws in the Augustine piece that supposedly refutes NDEs. The most egregious is where he claims that 1 or 2 of every 1000 patients who go under general anesthesia experience the kind of awakening he cites in the Reynolds case. That means, if we're generous, that there would be about a .2% chance of a patient awakening under these conditions. To put this in the common statistical parlance of psi experimentation and gauge the odds of the Reynolds information being due to chance (awakening), p=.002.

This is incorrect. 0.002 is the prior probability that a randomly selected person subjected to these conditions will have an "awakening". The figure you're looking for is the posterior probability that a person had an "awakening" given that they subsequently reported an OBE-like experience. We can't calculate that probability without first knowing how likely it is that someone will report an OBE without also having an "awakening", and if we could do that we wouldn't need to be arguing against "chance" because we'd already have evidence that the awakenings do not explain all such cases.

Just to illustrate the difference between the two probabilities:

Someone reports that they've spotted Elvis. We object that it was probably someone who looked very much like Elvis. "No," replies the spotter, "only one in a million people look like Elvis. So the probability of that having happened is 0.000001, which is incredibly unlikely."

The spotter is using the argument you've presented.

To get the right answer, we have to ask "what is the probability that a randomly selected person is a fake Elvis, given that the person looks like him?"

That probability is actually very high, because there are thousands of lookalikes, and only one true Elvis. This is the opposite of the spotter's mistaken analysis using a prior probability, and although we can't draw the same conclusion for the OBE reports for the reason I gave in the first para, the example should be enough to show that the low prior probability of an "awakening" does not count against their use as an explanation — in other words, it isn't really a "serious flaw" of Augustine's, at least not on statistical grounds.

Marcos, I stand corrected. That is why I am writer, not a statistician. Thanks for the insight.

”Don’t know if this makes any sense but I see a subtle but profound difference between awareness and consciousness. Awareness is a pure and static reality whereas consciousness is a less than perfect flow of thoughts (i.e. subjects) that perceives objects and this makes ITS reality dynamic. (Perceived separate Beings interacting with one another)

“As we advance in our level of consciousness we become more aware of our oneness with the universe or that that is until I suspect we reach a point of having all the intelligence and vitality and creativity of that that is: i.e. pure awareness.”

William, I generally agree with the premise here, but it seems to me that consciousness and awareness are terms that are interchangeable to a degree. I use consciousness to mean the capacity of awareness. In our normal waking state we are aware of the thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions that are unique to us, that is, we are normally aware of the contents of our consciousness, but not of our consciousness itself. In a dream state we are aware of the contents of the dream, but again, not usually aware of the consciousness that is operating within.

It appears to me that what NDE, medium communication and other paranormal phenomena are pointing to are different levels of conscious experience, but again, rarely with cognizance of consciousness itself – these appear to be reports of the contents of consciousness from other levels of existence. Testimony supporting other levels of existence also appears to be confirmed from those who have deep meditative experiences, reports from people in crisis situations and the testimony of mystics throughout the centuries.

When this is combined with the mysteries that physics itself has discovered, as Kevin has expanded on above, it has to call into question core assumptions of the very nature of reality itself to anyone who is genuinely open minded.

The skeptics choose to ignore ALL of the above, which just indicates to me that they are more completely hoodwinked by the contents of their consciousness than those willing to consider these things as having a measure of validity. Even Sam Harris, to his credit, has acknowledged this here:

http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/sam_harris
/2007/10/the_problem_with_atheism.html

In the end, I guess it all just brings us right back to Michael’s main point: science may be inadequate to prove postmortem survival.

For if consciousness is indeed primary, then your conclusion “god experiences itself thought the “medium” of consciousness” could never be objectively demonstrated, though it could be subjectively realized.

As far as the nature of that realization, it would finally come down to: We are That.

Synchronicity? In any case, here's an interesting story on anesthesia awareness from today's Los Angeles Times:

http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-unreal3dec03,1,2771083.column?coll=la-headlines-health&ctrack=2&cset=true

Oh dear, that didn't copy too well. Let me try again:

http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-unreal3dec03,1,2771083.
column?coll=la-headlines-health&ctrack=2&cset=true

While we are at it. If anybody has some good books about the objectivity of science more specially the lack of it let me know.
I'm going to write a thesis about this.
Especially Michael H & Kevin, we seem to think on the same line, it would be interesting for me to have a little conversation so if you guys could send me an email that would be great. mail is: dareshdaresh@yahoo.com

“For if consciousness is indeed primary, then your conclusion “god experiences itself thought the “medium” of consciousness” could never be objectively demonstrated, though it could be subjectively realized.”

Not sure this is a conclusion of mine but I know I write with a style that makes it look like a conclusion. I have always felt and others have commented my writing style is suspect.

It would take way too long for me to try and explain why I feel there is a subtle but profound difference between awareness and consciousness. Awareness can exist without consciousness but consciousness has some levels of awareness within it. Sympathy and compassion are also used interchangeably but they are profoundly different.

As far as consciousness cannot be objectivity demonstrated but can be subjectively realized. At this time this may be true but I suspect as we raise our level of human consciousness we will be able someday to objectivity demonstrate our conscious abilities.

Do psi experiments demonstrate this objective conscious ability? In the mental realms of existence entities appear to be able to demonstrate their conscious abilities my transforming their appearances. Also is telepathic communication objective demonstrations of our consciousness.

I just want to comment on how delightful it is to see so many new posters with so many impressive intellects. It's one of the qualities that makes this consistently one of the best blogs on the paranormal around. Thank you, ladies and gents.

For anyone interested, there’s a link today at The Daily Grail to an article that briefly encapsulates the consciousness problem currently facing science:

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn
/opinion/points/stories/DN-achenbach_02edi.ART
.State.Edition1.368eab3.html

>While we are at it. If anybody has some good books about the objectivity of science more specially the lack of it let me know.

I thought Alternative Science, by Richard Milton, was good. Also A Jealous God, by Pamela R. Winnick. And The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science, by Tom Bethell.

All of these books have their detractors, so don't take any of them as the final word, but they are interesting, iconoclastic reads.

Richard Milton also has a Web site called Alternative Science, but when I just tried to access it, I got an error message. Maybe it's gone. Anyway, the URL is http://www.alternativescience.com/

I really do not agree with Richard Milton on evolution. I think the evidence is far too large to discredit actual evolution itself. The methods and patterns of evolution? Sure, those are debatable through and through but this guy, from what I've heard, sounds very strongly like a creationist and that's something I just don't agree with.

Actually, all those books you listed seem to go very strongly against conventional science. I agree there's a lot of problems in science, but these books seriously sound like conspiracies out of control. While I believe in parapsychology as a very legit avenue of study and likes the means to some answers, these books seem unduly skeptical of EVERYTHING to the point of paranoia. Blech.

Finally, as a third post, as a homosexual I find the theory that only gay people pass on AIDS (unless you're a complete slut, for lack of a better term) to be nothing more than homophobia. There have been loads of confirmed cases of straight transmission of AIDS among straight people with very little sexual contact at all. When you make such ridiculous arguments as these, it can cast doubts on the rest of your arguments.

“I really do not agree with Richard Milton on evolution. I think the evidence is far too large to discredit actual evolution itself”

It is an of interest to me how two people can read the same book and come away with completely different views. I find the evidence for evolution spotty at best. To be taught as fact and not as a theory tells us the power of accepted beliefs and materialistic thinking and how science has become scientism.

As far as Milton a creationist I am not sure that is correct. It is common to call anyone that does not believe in evolution creationists. I think the gaps in the so-called evolutionary process is wide very wide.

From my point of view the jury is still out on evolution and we should investigate all theories. Maybe with the exception of the one where people are riding on the backs of dinosaurs.

I have not read the book and therefore have not seen his case, but I'm just saying that I disagree with his general view that evolution is not correct. I hope I didn't come off as criticizing the claims he put forth; I am not doing that since I have not reviewed said claims. I'm just saying that in general, much of the evidence of evolution makes perfect sense and evolution on the whole, to a lesser extent (adaptations) has been viewed in the labs within a few years.

To think that over the course of billions of years, that a species adapting millions of times will not produce drastically different creatures is somewhat a hard concept for me to wrap my mind around. Again, while I believe the mechanisms of evolution are up for debate (group selection vs natural selection, gradual evolution instead of quick spurts, etc), evolution on the whole is quite well grounded in science.

While the fossil record is far from complete (and will remain that way indefinitely), there have been scores of links between creatures, which can be seen by changes in body structure and other things like vestigial structures.

I agree with William that I think we need to study all avenues of the development of life; it's just that evolution right now seems to be almost a 99.999% certainty.

As for abiogenesis, though, who knows. While the "primordial soup" theory is the most popular, there's next to no actual proof of it (or any abiogenesis theory). Indeed, the only proof we have whatsoever of abiogenesis is the fact life itself exists. Aside from that? Sky's the limit.

Anyways, I've rambled enough and I've probably been totally incoherent, so I think I'll stop here.

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