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Right on. Does the author at least mention molded ear pieces, producing the 90dB clicks?

FYI: Recently on the NDERF site a (hard-to-track-down) study done at Yale was reviewed which indicates just how much "brain energy" is required to maintain consciousness. Anesthesia reduces energy and consumption about 45%, which is way lower than the baseline needed to sustain any consciousness, much less any sort of higher cognitive functioning.

Here's a link to the review:
http://www.nderf.org/brain_energy.htm

And here's a link to the study's abstract:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19549837

I think you make a good point about seemingly small errors. When reading something like this, although often authors make extensive references, it can be tiresome to flip back and forth between the book and the reference texts (even if one has easy access to them). We are therefore to some extent at least trusting the author's attention to detail. When an error like this is made I find it substantially reduces the trust I can place in everything else the author asserts unless I have personally read the reference material.

It also allows those who are 'confirmed sceptics' rather than 'sceptical but open-minded' to raise objections and introduce doubts which may be unreasonable and thus unfairly devalue the information provided by the author.

"Does the author at least mention molded ear pieces, producing the 90dB clicks?"

He mentions the ear pieces and says they "clicked constantly," but doesn't specify the decibel level.

Thanks for the links.

The full article - Baseline brain energy supports the state of consciousness - is here:

http://www.pnas.org/content/106/27/11096.full.pdf+html

"He mentions the ear pieces and says they "clicked constantly," but doesn't specify the decibel level."

I had these same "earplugs" in for a test of my brainstem response during a diagnosis for tinnitus. Believe me you cannot hear anything except those clicks when you have these things on. The skeptics should try it once. They will never say Reynolds heard the conversation in that room again.

"I had these same 'earplugs' in for a test of my brainstem response during a diagnosis for tinnitus."

Interesting. Are the clicks continuous, or would it be theoretically possible to hear brief snatches of conversation between the clicks?

"Would it be theoretically possible to hear brief snatches of conversation between the clicks?"

I've wondered that myself, but the footnote in IM (292) says 11.3 clicks/sec., so I doubt it. And GregL's own experience seems to confirm it. I wonder though whether the 95dB level also mentioned could be accurate. From what I've been able to find, that level should cause hearing damage if left in over an hour. Perhaps the clicks, rather than a continuous sound, prevents that?

Another interesting post Michael. Because this author makes such an egregious error in relation to such a seminal case, this casts doubt on the validity of the rest of the book. I will not be buying!

"I will not be buying!"

Although I felt I should point out this error, I don't want to cut into the author's sales. His book looks interesting, and it got a very positive review from a reader on Amazon; follow the link (in the main post) and check it out.

There aren't too many people who take the scientific evidence for the afterlife seriously. Stephen Martin deserves kudos for addressing this subject, even if I've found fault with one detail of his presentation.

'Stephen Martin deserves kudos for addressing this subject, even if I've found fault with one detail of his presentation.'

Presumably this book is written on a commercial basis so one could argue that if there wasn't an opportunity to make money re-hashing old information the publishers wouldn't have supported it. I don't know who Stephen Martin is and haven't read the book though in fairness.

This is why books should be sent out to several friends serving as copy editors. Maybe offer $25 for every substantive error found. It can be done easily over the internet, and suggested corrections can be made using MS Word's wonderful Markup feature. The author can approve or reject each with a click. I've proofread several books this way.

"Interesting. Are the clicks continuous, or would it be theoretically possible to hear brief snatches of conversation between the clicks?"

They were not continuous but very rapid. 11.3 clicks per second could very well be correct. Although, my recollection is a bit slower, maybe 6 clicks per second. They were so loud that I was angry with the doctor. I was worried that they would further damage my hearing. I don't think there would be any way to hear snatches of conversation. I'll bet you could not hear yourself talk.

As I understand it, one of Keith Augustine's criticisms of the case is that the plugs might not have actually been switched on while Pam was in the early stages of anesthesia, since as I understand it, he argues that they would not have been needed at that stage in the operation. Keith's suggestion is that Pam could still have heard what was going on during the early stages of the operation, when the veridical details were reported happening. Without knowing exactly when these plugs started clicking, or how effective they are when inactive there is still some potential wriggle room for the sensory leakage argument. Can anyone comment on this?

"As I understand it, one of Keith Augustine's criticisms of the case is that the plugs might not have actually been switched on while Pam was in the early stages of anesthesia"

My comment is that Keith is stretching. I would not say that it is impossible to hear without the clicks turned on, but you still have some pretty effective sound reducing apparatus on or in you ears. My own opinion is that she did not hear anything once the plugs were in. I have always privately scoffed at this part of the skeptics argument.

"you still have some pretty effective sound reducing apparatus on or in you ears."

Plus, she was under anesthesia. And it couldn't have been just the preliminary stages of anesthesia, because she remembers that the operation was underway.

"Irreducible Mind" (p. 419) addresses this subject well:

"The issue is not whether there is brain activity of any kind whatsoever, but whether there is brain activity of the specific form regarded by contemporary neuroscience as the necessary condition of conscious experience. Activity of this form ... is abolished both by adequate general anesthesia and by cardiac arrest."

A footnote adds: "Representative of people who have completely missed the mark here is Woerlee (2004)."

The reference is to Gerald Woerlee, who addresses NDEs that occur in the operating room by saying there could be some residual brain activity even under anesthesia. He is right that such minimal, hard-to-measure brain activity is possible; but it would not be sufficient to maintain consciousness, according to the available evidence.

The links provided by David (above) provide additional support for the "Irreducible Mind" argument; they report a study showing that a very significant amount of brain activity is required to maintain a state of consciousness.

Dr Spetzler has consistently stated that he doesn't accept that 'Pam' heard or sensed any of the information through normal channels. He simply says that he doesn't know how she got the information.

I may have missed this, but has anyone ever laid out an estimated timeline of Reynold's narrative against a timeline of the procedure? I am sure a min/max timeline could easily be developed, if it hasn't already. We know her NDE began at about the time the Midas Rex bone saw was being put to use. Does the narrative last long enough to continue into the time that her brain was drained of blood and flatlined? That would be interesting

@GregL: In fact there is, on wiki - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pam_Reynolds%27_NDE

GregL: "but has anyone ever laid out an estimated timeline of Reynold's narrative against a timeline of the procedure?"

I honestly don't think that you can accurately improve upon my basic timeline:

http://www.infidels.org/images/timeline.png

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#19

When I first thought of representing the timeline graphically, my intent was to do exactly what you suggest: correlate the elements of Pam's NDE with events in the operating room.

The problem is that there is no reliable way to do that except for the beginning and end of anesthesia, and her OBE, since it provided details about what was happening in the operating room at a certain time. The rest of the experience provides no such markers; you can guess at a timeline, but multiple timelines would be compatible with her testimony: some with the whole NDE occurring before hypothermic cardiac arrest; some with it continuing through hypothermic cardiac arrest; and some with it beginning before hypothermic cardiac arrest, ending, and restarting as warm blood was reinfused into her brain. The data cannot distinguish between these possibilities in logical space.

GregL: "Does the narrative last long enough to continue into the time that her brain was drained of blood and flatlined?"

In his response to my print paper on this, Charles Tart said that Sabom's account in Light and Death made it seem as if the NDE couldn't have lasted that long, but that is because all the details of Pam's NDE are not included in Sabom's account. Without knowing what other "omitted details" there are, I don't know if that's a plausible answer or not. You be the judge.

Keith

I read the wiki timeline yesterday, and yours this morning, and saw that large gap between the start of the OBE and the cessation of brain activity. It is apparent that we can never know if Pam was having an NDE after her brain was shut down. Although I am in the other camp, I can see how it is possible that this NDE can be viewed as multiple experiences later reconstructed into a whole. Benjamin Libet's experiments may also lend some credence to this view.
I think, however, that when discussing the possible spiritual explanation for NDE's we must consider more than just the NDE but include related phenomena, cutting edge physics and consciousness studies into the picture.

Assuming 'Pam' wasn't given enough barbiturates(0.2 per cent chance) to quieten her brain, she made a mind model(mind modelling is just a theory and nothing more)based on the buzzing natural D sound of the bone saw.She made this 'mind model' while Spetzler was cutting into her head but of course,she had no anxiety whatsoever associated with this brutal and frightening proceedure as the barbiturates(working selectively) were keeping her calm(allegedly)...and the model that she came up with...well, naturally, an 'electric toothbrush-shaped bonesaw,' because heh, what else could a bone saw look like?
Well,actually a bone saw could look like a dozen different implements,some quite bizarre looking,especially when one is having ones skull cut open under the influence of a tranquilliser. It could look like an angle grinder(they make a whirring, buzzing noise or an electric plainer for instance. My point is, we don't have to lose our confidence in Pam Reynold's experience because of so called discrepancies in time-lines etc.
Dr Alan Hamilton has said that he knows of two other 'real' cases like this one(the Sarah Gideon amalgam). I take him at his word.

"Dr Alan Hamilton has said that he knows of two other 'real' cases like this one(the Sarah Gideon amalgam). I take him at his word"

Can you provide more details? I have not heard of another case.

I emailed Dr Hamilton several months ago and he very kindly responded. I printed the email(because I thought it was very interesting) and I have it in front of me. I'm sure he won't mind if I reproduce the first paragraph.
"I would be happy to clarify the origins of Sarah Gideon. You are correct of course that the name Sarah Gideon is a pseudonym. However,Sarah Gideon is an amalgam of three different patients who all presented with various aspects in their surgical and hospital courses that raised questions of how the brain may be able to work separate from electrical brain activity. Of course, Pam Reynolds is one of the most famous accounts."

He goes on to say that the story is based on three real patients and three real experiences. I inferred that the two anonymous patients did not wish to be indentified, so unfortunately it cannot be pursued any further.
I doubt whether it would have made any difference to the skeptics,anyway.

And lest anyone think I make a habit of emailing famous brain surgeons, I don't. I was just so curious that I couldn't resist. It just shows what a nice chap he is. And I did buy his book.

“I doubt whether it would have made any difference to the skeptics, anyway.”

Your doubts are well founded. I have blogged on several atheist and materialist blogs over the years and it is interesting in how they perceive themselves as having no bias or even beliefs and all paranormal evidence is anecdotal or fraud or hallucinations without doing much if any research.

After time one begins to see that it is a human phenomenon to be unable to perceive our bias especially paradigms, which appear to be hidden from our view.

Atheists and the religious are fascinating to communicate with and it often leaves me wondering about my own level of bias and how much the paradigm effect has on my view of the world.

Now the ultra skeptics they are in a world all their own with their bias and materialistic beliefs.

As Socrates is quoted as stating: an unexamined life is not worth living. Well trying to get in touch with our bias is no easy task.

I am half way through the book. My initial feeling is that it is some kind of odd advert for reincarnation and I really do wish people would invest in thorough proof reading.

I have now finished it. One for the bin I think and grossly overpriced. I feel slightly ripped off.

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