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Keith, we are never going to agree on even the basic facts,let alone the interpretation of them and further discussion is fruitless. In parting this thread I'll give you my explanation, though I recognize that you will find it completely lacking.

"Fear-death experiences are "pure speculation"? Not quite. They have been documented by multiple independent near-death researchers. Your refusal to look at their documentation doesn't change that fact......Since you seem to look down upon it so thoroughly, I'm curious as to what part of a transcendental model of NDEs is not "unsubstantiated and unprovable theory"?


I would say that in those cases of NDE that you call fear or expectation induced what is happening is that there is a surrender and an acceptance of death that releases the higher self to the transcendental experience. Spiritual teachers across the globe throughout all of the ages have taught that this sort of "surrender" is necessary if higher consciousness is to be experienced.

This is proven sprititual theory as far as adepts are concerned.

A final word from me on cross cultural comaprison of NDE would be to read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This ancient and definitely non-Western text not only contains descriptions with many elements in common with modern western NDEs, but it also contributes major answers to the larger questions of what NDEs are and how - or why - there are variations.

For Vitor:

A conjurer, who went as a sceptic to an Alec Harris séance in Cardiff, saw his father, brother and son materialise.

A.G. Fletcher-Desborough described his “unique” experience in Liverpool Evening Express.

“I examined the cabinet which he used. Having been on the stage as an illusionist and magician, I knew exactly where to look for such things as panel and floor escapes, and ceiling and wall slides.

“I was satisfied nothing could make an exit or an entrance in any way. There was no chance for deception.”

A short stout man materialised from the cabinet, walked straight to him and mumbled the sitter’s name, Bertie. “It was my father and, in his mumbling way of speaking, gave my family pet name used by my parents. No one but the family knew it.”

He was followed by a young man who hobbled, grasped the sitter’s hand and said: “Bertie! I am your brother Walter.” This brother, the conjurer explained, had his left ankle shot away in the Boer War.

“No one there knew I had a brother. So who learnt his name and that he hobbled when walking in life? There certainly could have been no deception in this case.”

Then from the cabinet walked a stiff upright young fellow. Like the others he came towards the conjurer. Then he swerved and throwing out his arms, “embraced my wife saying in a very pathetic voice, ‘Mother, Mother, I’m your son, Ronnie’”

This was their third son, born under fire during the Sinn Fein rising in 1916, and captured in Singapore Harbour by the Japs and beheaded.

“He turned to me after embracing his mother and put his head against mine. I recognised his voice.” No one among the sitters or the medium knew the intimate characteristics of those who materialised.

“Why all these manifestations on my behalf?

“Because I was an unbeliever.”

Rather (Monty)Pythonesque, I think. :-)

Cyrus: I'm quite pleased to say that I believe NDEs are related to the afterlife based on the trust of countless thousands of anecdotal experiences.

In that case, I've got thousands of testimonials about how my product changed people's lives for the better to share with you. Care to buy my product? :)

Cyrus: I don't care about science in this regard.

I never claimed that you have to take a scientifically minded approach to what you're willing to believe. That's your call to make. But in order for something to count as empirical knowledge, as opposed to an educated guess, it needs to have conclusive scientific evidence backing it up.

I don't know what the hell you're talking about with your "existence-cannot-exist" koan. How long would trilobites have to be extinct before they exist again? (Presuming that they haven't been embraced by the light for the last 250 million years.)

Cyrus: I still trust my fellow human beings, and I am not drenched in negativity or self-pity, or angst, all of which I believe are pre-requisites to a dark and pessimistic worldview.

Negative life experiences are the only prerequisites to pessimism. Ask a Holocaust survivor. Parents that carefully shelter their children from the negative realities of life are the only prerequisites for a naive optimism. But at some point that sheltering has to end, and the shock of finally discovering the reality of life (as in The Truman Show) might lead to a profound sense of disillusionment at the time.

You may "still trust [your] fellow human beings," but I'll bet you also get that used car independently inspected before shelling out thousands of dollars for it. Or you should, at least.

Cyrus: Your comments relating to the afterlife and Holocaust denial...

Please stop referring to "Holocaust denial," since I never compared belief in the afterlife to antisemitic disbelief in the Holocaust, which is what is usually meant by "Holocaust denial." I was talking about facing up to unpleasant realities, instead of avoiding thinking about them, nothing more.

Cyrus: You are just inciting people, and perhaps getting some cheap thrills by convincing yourself that you have the power to crush people's spiritual worldviews through your "skeptic" rationale.

Wow! If explaining the reasons for my point of view is "inciting," or "crush" others' spiritual beliefs, pardon me for not keeping those reasons to myself, so as not to upset anyone else's insecurities. Shall we cease doing science altogether because it might "unweave the rainbow" for the overly sensitive?

"I don't know what the hell you're talking about with your "existence-cannot-exist" koan. How long would trilobites have to be extinct before they exist again? (Presuming that they haven't been embraced by the light for the last 250 million years.)"

Oops, it went over your head. I should have known better.

It's a simple abstract philosophical problem that contradicts materialists who insist on the non-existence theory of death.

If non existence cannot be observed, felt, experienced--as it is impossible to live in or dwell within this void of time and space, then non-existence, as a state of being, cannot exist.

Now, ask your hard-headed materialist skull the question: how did you come into existence in the first place?

What's the latest rationale? I think the best I've heard is "random quirk in the universe". A completely random set of circumstances made "you" exist as "you" out of nothing.

If it took 100 billion years for this random occurrence to happen again after you die, then you would have no awareness of it, because the space in between would be a non-existent gap.

Therefore, the experience of death would be an instantaneous rebirth as some other form of conscious existence.

However, if you can't wrap your mind around this, I understand. I've seen some very unpleasant side-effects of materialist disease that could argue this notion, such as the belief that consciousness and existence itself is not even real. There was a branch of materialism that actually promoted this idea, wish I could remember the name of it.

"I never claimed that you have to take a scientifically minded approach to what you're willing to believe. That's your call to make. But in order for something to count as empirical knowledge, as opposed to an educated guess, it needs to have conclusive scientific evidence backing it up."

Even science requires belief. There is scientific data supporting the supernatural. Incredible volumes of data. You choose not to believe in it.

"Wow! If explaining the reasons for my point of view is "inciting," or "crush" others' spiritual beliefs, pardon me for not keeping those reasons to myself, so as not to upset anyone else's insecurities. Shall we cease doing science altogether because it might "unweave the rainbow" for the overly sensitive?"

Nope. It's your basis or motivation for continually arguing in the domain of a subject that cannot be won. People have drawn conclusions very different from yours. Counter viewpoints are fine, debate is fine, disagreements are fine, but in this thread in particular (as i've seen in the past) your style of argument turns from debate and discussion into pure rancor.

Forget "unweaving the rainbow". Again, that's just you misconstruing my point (intellectual slight-of-hand comes second nature for you). The point is that i don't know what motivates you to argue a point into the ground when there is no consensus happening on either side of the aisle. When it's time to back out, agree to disagree, and move on, I still don't see it happening, you just keep fighting and fighting.

That's what makes me think your motivation is more in the ideological, a desire to shape or crush philosophies or points of view, and it has nothing to do with "scientific" debate.

Keith wrote, "But in order for something to count as empirical knowledge, as opposed to an educated guess, it needs to have conclusive scientific evidence backing it up."

I think that's true, which is why I would call my view on the afterlife a "belief system" rather than a hard, cold fact.

To me, a belief system is a point of view that we are justified in adopting but not compelled (by the data) to adopt. It's a point of view buttressed by evidence that is (at least) suggestive, but not coercive. It's an inference to the best explanation, bearing in mind that my notion of the best explanation may not be shared by someone else, and that the rules of inference are not nearly as clear-cut as the rules of deduction.

Reasonable people cannot disagree with the proposition that the Earth is round, so belief in a round Earth is not a belief system. (In other words, Flat-Earthers are unreasonable.) On the other hand, reasonable people can and do disagree about life after death; the evidence is not conclusive. I think the evidence is quite good - it's good enough *for me* - but I can see how it might not be good enough for someone else.

Cyrus wrote, "You are just inciting people, and perhaps getting some cheap thrills by convincing yourself that you have the power to crush people's spiritual worldviews through your 'skeptic' rationale."

Keith replied, "If explaining the reasons for my point of view is 'inciting,' or 'crush[ing]' others' spiritual beliefs ..."

Cyrus didn't say that you actually can crush others' beliefs. He said that you have "perhaps" convinced yourself that you can do so.

Frankly, it seems to me that there is some truth in what Cyrus says. Though you're good at debating the evidence, Keith, you frequently adopt a sneering, belittling tone. You sometimes convey the impression that only those who hold your point of view are intelligent, rational, or willing to face reality, while all who disagree with you must be either stupid, crazy, or motivated by fear and denial.

Since the greater part of humanity holds views contrary to your own, you seem to be led, by the logic of your position, to the conclusion that people in general are stupid, irrational, dishonest, and cowardly. I think this is what Cyrus means when he says he finds you cynical. He's not saying (I think) that we should trust everybody implicitly and believe everything we're told, but merely that we ought to give people the benefit of the doubt wherever possible. If otherwise sober and sensible people describe paranormal or spiritual experiences, there is nothing naive or inane about taking their claims seriously (while reserving the right to investigate further).

The whole argument about having the courage to face reality is a red herring anyway, since the point at issue is what exactly *is* reality. If reality includes a supernatural dimension, then arguably it is materialists who lack the courage to face reality.

The bottom line is that arguments about motive are a double-edged sword. They can always be turned back against oneself. They are also rather vacuous, since as a point of fact we can never know another person's motives with certainty.

Personally, I think it's generally best to assume that most people have honest and respectable motives. We may get conned occasionally, but in my opinion this is a small price to pay for retaining a basic faith in human goodness. The alternative is to assume that only we ourselves and a few like-minded friends are "good," while everyone else is "bad," or at least profoundly defective. I tried that approach to life in my Ayn Rand days; I don't recommend it.

Well said, MP!

Michael wrote,

"Since the greater part of humanity holds views contrary to your own, you seem to be led, by the logic of your position, to the conclusion that people in general are stupid, irrational, dishonest, and cowardly. I think this is what Cyrus means when he says he finds you cynical. He's not saying (I think) that we should trust everybody implicitly and believe everything we're told, but merely that we ought to give people the benefit of the doubt wherever possible. If otherwise sober and sensible people describe paranormal or spiritual experiences, there is nothing naive or inane about taking their claims seriously (while reserving the right to investigate further). "

Yes that's what I meant. I personally could not submit myself to a way of viewing life where I automatically discount the experiences of others.

The justice system agrees with me on this. A person can be convicted of murder without DNA evidence based on eyewitness testimonies of many reliable people.

There is no presupposition that "all people are inherently delusional and confused, regardless of circumstance".

What bothers me, Keith, is that it's possible to be on the other side of the aisle and still interact and discuss the common theme we are all interested in: the nature of existence, the supernatural, etc. It's possible to be involved, have healthy discussion, mutual respect, without resorting to political fervor. You come in fighting, ready to belittle people around you.

This isn't politics. We're not fighting over abortion rights, and we're not trying to sway the votes of a third party.

If your ultimate goal is to "win" the intellectual argument, consider that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Be open-minded, listen, talk, discuss, and present contrary opinions from a vantage of intellectual curiosity, not intellectual superiority.

If you practice this behavior, you and your infidels.org colleagues and others who consider themselves "skeptics" (a term I find laughable, to me you are not a skeptic in the slightest bit, maybe philosopher or hard-lining secular humanist, but not a skeptic) will find themselves:

- more accepted
- have an easier time getting points across
- more popular, not seen as internet jerks.

Try it,

MP: Though you're good at debating the evidence, Keith, you frequently adopt a sneering, belittling tone. You sometimes convey the impression that only those who hold your point of view are intelligent, rational, or willing to face reality, while all who disagree with you must be either stupid, crazy, or motivated by fear and denial.

It get frustrated when people who have done no homework on the topic under discussion (like "fear-death experiences") nevertheless challenge the basic facts of that discussion, facts that have already been established independently of the discussion at hand, simply because they never bothered to investigate it. Would you not get frustrated by someone who repeatedly insisted that there are no hellish NDEs? Why would I want to waste my time arguing back and forth that hellish NDEs happen, when no one but a single person who never read about them and refuses to do so now argues that they do not happen?

Your impression probably does not concern my reaction to those who merely reject my point of view, but my reaction to those who refuse to acknowledge facts that are agreed upon by all investigators, whatever their point of view. Like the fact that fear-death experiences happen, or that hellish NDEs happen.

I do get frustrated when individuals ask me to educate them when they are unwilling to educate themselves, or challenge me on erroneous facts ('Pam saw a bone saw well before flatline, therefore her experience occurred during flatline!?'), simply because they didn't even bother to check those facts before making their challenge.

MP: Since the greater part of humanity holds views contrary to your own, you seem to be led, by the logic of your position, to the conclusion that people in general are stupid, irrational, dishonest, and cowardly.

So it's not anything that I said, but the position that I hold, that forever brands me in a negative way. What you're saying, in effect, is that anyone who holds my position must be bad, and therefore in order to be good, persons like me would have to switch positions to a position more like yours. Is that it?

The greater part of humanity held views about the shape of the Earth contrary to those of Eratosthenes during the time he lived, because they thought the Earth flat, but he knew better, since the greater part of humanity didn't even know the facts he knew or what they meant had they known them. Did correctly disagreeing with the greater part of humanity automatically mean that Eratosthenes must've seen his contemporaries as "stupid, irrational, dishonest, and cowardly"--or simply uninformed about the facts, or lacking the requisite knowledge to make sense of them (like a layman trying to do a forensic analysis of a crime scene)?

MP: If otherwise sober and sensible people describe paranormal or spiritual experiences, there is nothing naive or inane about taking their claims seriously (while reserving the right to investigate further).

Otherwise sober and sensible people report technological craft of apparently no terrestrial origin, cryptoids, and a host of other things that you don't believe in. Shall we conclude that, because you don't accept all such widespread human testimony, you view those who do as "stupid, irrational, dishonest, and cowardly"?

Basically you are saying that if people report it, we should believe it, until proven erroneous. But you only say this for paranormal claims, and reserve the right to be skeptical of other kinds of "fringe" claims. If that point was valid, though, it would be valid across the board, not selectively.

MP: The whole argument about having the courage to face reality is a red herring anyway, since the point at issue is what exactly *is* reality.

It's not a red herring, because I was following up on a digression to another topic raised by W Vogt. If W Vogt had never posted here, there would've been no mention of having the courage to face reality. That was his issue, not mine. He said that he feared annihilation and wondered why anyone would want him to dissuade him of any glimmer of hope that there might be an afterlife, implicitly even if it was a fact that there was no afterlife, given that the belief was comforting. He changed the issue from what reality is to why anyone would want to reveal a depressing reality, not me.

MP: If reality includes a supernatural dimension, then arguably it is materialists who lack the courage to face reality.

If supernatural things were demonstrably real, and some people refused to acknowledge their reality, that would indeed be the case.

The issue is whether they are demonstrably real. So far they are not. The change of subject to motivation was not mine, but Vogt's.

Cyrus: ...your style of argument turns from debate and discussion into pure rancor.

For example?

Cyrus: I personally could not submit myself to a way of viewing life where I automatically discount the experiences of others.

I'll leave this one to Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason:

But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.

Cyrus: The justice system agrees with me on this. A person can be convicted of murder without DNA evidence based on eyewitness testimonies of many reliable people.

And the Innocence Project was created the reverse the ill effects of convicting people based solely upon testimonial evidence.

Cyrus: It's possible to be involved, have healthy discussion, mutual respect, without resorting to political fervor.

This "healthy discussion, mutual respect, without resorting" to fervor that you speak of--might it look something like this:

* "Oops, it went over your head. I should have known better."

* "...ask your hard-headed materialist skull the question..."

* "I've seen some very unpleasant side-effects of materialist disease..."

* "...(a term I find laughable...)"

(Nevermind that "materialist" is your term, not mine. "Naturalist" is a more accurate term for my position, since qualia or abstract numbers are not supernatural under any conception, even though they are considered nonphysical by some philosophers.)

Cyrus: There is no presupposition that "all people are inherently delusional and confused, regardless of circumstance".

But when DNA evidence is available, it trumps eyewitness testimony, because it is more reliable than testimony. And that's because testimony alone is subject to error. And so-called "spectral evidence," which is testimony to in-principle unverifiable claims, is no longer accepted in courtrooms, since relying upon it led to the Salem witch trials.

Cyrus: If non existence cannot be observed, felt, experienced--as it is impossible to live in or dwell within this void of time and space, then non-existence, as a state of being, cannot exist.

Unconsciousness cannot be observed, felt, or experienced, and yet it exists. If a non-fatal blow to the head can cause it temporarily, a fatal blow to the head can cause it permanently. The "we cannot conceive of our own nonexistence" arguments are overrated. We can indeed know what a dreamless sleep is, and the only difference between it and death would be that the latter is permanent--a dreamless sleep from which one never awakes.

Cyrus: If it took 100 billion years for this random occurrence to happen again after you die, then you would have no awareness of it, because the space in between would be a non-existent gap. Therefore, the experience of death would be an instantaneous rebirth as some other form of conscious existence.

I don't accept Nietzsche's 19th-century theory of eternal recurrence, or that of the Hindus from whom he borrowed. I accept 21st century cosmology, which tells me that there will be no matter in the universe by the time of the Deep Freeze or the Big Rift. And well before then, all stars will stop shining for good, making the conditions for organic life anywhere impossible. We'll have gone extinct well before the last star stopped shining anyway. In fact, we'll almost certainly go extinct well before our Sun kills all life on Earth when it expands into a red giant star, which is "only" about 5 billion years from now--not long in cosmological time. Human beings have only been around for maybe 150,000 years so far; I doubt we'll be around even a million years from now.)

See Fred Adams and Gregory Laughlin's The Five Ages of the Universe on the likely cosmological future of the universe.

In short, I don't believe that the physical pattern that makes up my brain and body now will ever be repeated in the history of the universe. Eventually all that's left will be background heat and evaporating singularities.

Brace yourself for the eschatological onslaught... :-)

I just wanted to say although I disagree with some of Keith's viewpoints, he has been, for the most part, one of the most reasonable people to participate in this discussion.

Can't we all get along? Disagreement is fine, but let's see each other as *people*, rather than looking at each other as *positions*.

as a follow-up and general reflection:

I love talking about these issues at bonfires with beer, smores, and friends :)

Sam,come on man.
Calling Keith Augustine's debating technique reasonable is like calling crop sprayers subtle.

Keith, "I.... get frustrated when people who have done no homework on the topic under discussion (like "fear-death experiences") nevertheless challenge the basic facts of that discussion, facts that have already been established independently of the discussion at hand, simply because they never bothered to investigate it."

No one challenged in this way; not in this comments thread.

This is the type of dishonesty that undermines your ability to engage in reasonable discussion.

That a falling mountain climber can have an something like an NDE, while falling, even though he is relatively unharmed after impacting the ground, was never questioned. The fact of this type of NDE was known, to me at least, prior to you mentioning it.

What was questioned, and dismissed, was your conclusion that this type of NDE is caused by fear or expectation of death.

You are only frustrated because somone doesn't agree with your theory; a theory which is unproven speculation and for which there is ample evidence running contrary (like comabt troops not having NDEs in combat).

You never even did offer any reasonable proof other than to say something about doing homework and then your usual "what else could it be?". Neither of these are anything remotely resembling conclusive proof. Not in any science class in which I was ever enrolled nor in a court of law.

And that's another disturbing aspect of your debate style. You demand rock solid proof from anyone putting forth a paranormal interpretation, but you, yourself, are quite comfortable - nay satisfied - with a myriad of unproven speculation.

This approach works with your infidel buddies because they are already convinced. You are just like a preacher man, fanning the flames of the loyal flock's faith.

If you want to be taken seriously outside of your congregation you might want to consider some of the suggests that have been here.

But yes, Keith, it is frustrating to try to have a discussion with someone who hasn't done his home work.

Have you gotten caught up yet on the fact that anesthesia does kill patients of even routine procedures? Or that it is not too rare for a patient under anesthesia to die - due to the ane.s and/or other drugs - and be rescusitated? Such that it may not be anesthesia that causes NDEs (as in drug induced hallucinations), but that anesthesia is assocaited with NDEs because the patient is actually dying or dead?

Maybe these will pique your interest (just the first few google hits):


http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,216578,00.html

http://expertpages.com/news/mortality_anesthesia.htm

http://www.prlog.org/10527116-wrongful-death-due-to-anesthesia.html

http://www.physiciansnews.com/spotlight/200wp.html

Erich: That a falling mountain climber can have an something like an NDE, while falling, even though he is relatively unharmed after impacting the ground, was never questioned. The fact of this type of NDE was known, to me at least, prior to you mentioning it.

Erich: What was questioned, and dismissed, was your conclusion that this type of NDE is caused by fear or expectation of death.

Alright Erich, let's put it another way. I've noted that there are numerous studies that conclude that fear alone sometimes causes NDEs. You know "of them"--but do you know of their discussions or examples of "fear-death experiences"? Why do I have the dig them up for you, when you are unwilling to do so yourself?

Nevertheless I will, because if I don't you'll never be forced to acknowledge their existence:

"A marine sergeant was instructing a class of young recruits at boot camp. He stood in front of a classroom holding a hand grenade as he explained the mechanism of pulling the pin to detonate the weapon. After commenting on the considerable weight of the grenade, he thought it would be useful for each of the recruits to get a "hands-on" feeling for its actual mass. As the grenade was passed from private to private, one 18-year-old recruit nervously dropped the grenade as it was handed him. Much to his horror, he watched the pin become dislodged as the grenade hit the ground. He knew he only had seconds to act, but he stood frozen, paralyzed with fear. The next thing he knew, he found himself traveling up through the top of his head toward the ceiling as the ground beneath him grew farther and farther away. He effortlessly passed through the ceiling and found himself entering a tunnel with the sound of wind whistling through it. As he approached the end of this lengthy tunnel, he encountered a light that shone with a special brilliance, the likes of which he had never seen before. A figure beckoned to him from the light, and he felt a profound sense of love emanating from the figure. His life flashed before his eyes in what seemed like a split-second. In midst of this transcendent experience, he suddenly realized that grenade had not exploded. He felt immediately "sucked" back into his body" (Gabbard and Twemlow 1991, p. 42).

Now that's one example from one study. How much more homework do I need to do for you? Will quoting one example/discussion from each study suffice (for 5 instances)? What about 3 each (for 15 instances). Just what would it take to demonstrate that fear alone can cause NDEs?

Erich: You are only frustrated because somone doesn't agree with your theory

That's incorrect. That people who are dying, or who otherwise think that they are dying, expect to die is not controversial. Nevertheless, I conceded that it is possible that NDEs occur when there is neither a medical threat nor an expectation of dying, but that if that happens, it must be pretty rare, given, for example, that Greyson, Kelly, and Kelly's definition of an NDE states that they occur "to people who have been physiologically close to death, as in cardiac arrest or other life-threatening conditions, or psychologically close to death, as in accidents or illnesses in which they feared they would die." If experts like Bruce Greyson, who have been studying NDEs since Moody put them in the spotlight, define NDEs in this way, there must be good grounds for such a definition.

That fear sometimes causes NDEs is a fact; I've mentioned that there are five studies documenting it, and you've mentioned none disputing it. Indeed, the five studies I had in mind, cited in my original article, had nothing to do with mountain climbing fall survivors, so if you wanted to add Albert Heim's late 19th century work, or Russell Noyes and Roy Kletti's follow-up on that work in the 1970s, that would add even further supporting evidence. On top of that, there are people who had NDEs when jumping from a bridge, but who didn't die when they impacted the water. But if you want to pretend that fear has nothing to do with such experiences, feel free; it's not my job to convince you of what research has already found.

Finally, dissociation is theorized as a cause of NDEs, but the rationale for theorizing it is not ideological, but data-driven, which is why near-death researchers who disagree with me posit it as well. Paraphrasing or quoting from my original essay:

1. As Carlos Avarado points out, citing the studies, dissociation has been consistently positively correlated with OBEs across studies.

2. Kenneth Ring and Christopher Rosing found that NDErs have significantly greater dissociative tendencies than non-NDErs, and suggested that childhood trauma makes victims more prone to dissociation and thus NDEs. Ring and Rosing view dissociative tendencies as a psychological defense mechanism to "tune out" physical threats to one's well-being while simultaneously opening a door to "alternate realities."

3. Harvey J. Irwin found that NDErs were more likely to have suffered childhood trauma than non-NDErs, and consequently theorized that NDErs are predisposed to dissociate during unexpected highly stressful situations in order to "escape" from the pain or anxiety of their environments.

4. Susan Blackmore considers "cases of severe pain, shock or fear [where] there is a strong incentive to dissociate oneself from the source of the pain" (Blackmore 1987, p. 57).

5. William Serdahely wrote: "For example, the woman who was sexually assaulted was able to dissociate from the trauma by having an out-of-body experience" (Serdahely 1995, p. 194)

6. Willoughby Britton and Richard Bootzin found that NDErs show a greater (but nonpathological) tendency to dissociate than non-NDErs.

7. In his commentary on my part 2, Peter Fenwick wrote that most spontaneous OBEs "are probably dissociative states in which the experiencer will gain no veridical perception away from the body" (Fenwick 1997, p. 46).

So the causal chain is quite reasonable on the basis of the data:

Expectation of death -> fear -> dissociation -> NDE

Of that chain, that fear causes NDEs is the only thing that I claimed was fact, and that is something which I can back up with the literature.

The rest of that chain is somewhat hypothetical, but well supported by the data, and thought to be the case my multiple near-death researchers.

Indeed, no part of that chain even requires you to deny that something leaves the body, as Kenneth Ring certainly thinks that something leaves the body in NDEs.

So let's be real here; it's not my theory that expectation of death can cause fear, which in turn can cause dissociation, which in turn can cause OBEs/NDEs. It's a data-driven theory which I find most likely, but which Carlos Alvarado, Harvey J. Irwin, Kenneth Ring, William Serdahely, and Susan Blackmore, at least, also seem to find most likely.

Erich: This approach works with your infidel buddies because they are already convinced.

My "infidel buddies" aren't necessarily interested in NDEs enough to have any opinion on whether the hypotheses which I lay out about them are true. Of all the previous or current members of the board of directors of Internet Infidels, only Jim Lippard comes to mind as someone interested in this topic.

Erich: You are just like a preacher man, fanning the flames of the loyal flock's faith.

What loyal flock is that? If there are people out there who appreciate my work, they are largely anonymous and unrevealed to me, so I have little idea of whether they are numerous or sparse, even among skeptics. I suspect that most skeptics are simply unaware of my work since I rarely hear anything from them.

Erich: Have you gotten caught up yet on the fact that anesthesia does kill patients of even routine procedures?

Are you aware that drivers can be killed while routinely driving to work?

Your presumption is that if an NDE occurs under general anesthesia, that NDEr must have come medically close to death while anesthetized. But you provide no evidence that this has happened, and the research itself describes such anesthesia as "uneventful," contrary to your presumptions. But I have no expectation that you'll let the facts get in the way of your presumptions, since you haven't up until this point and show no signs of budging.

Erich: Or that it is not too rare for a patient under anesthesia to die - due to the ane.s and/or other drugs - and be rescusitated?

And cardiac arrest while anesthetized has nothing to do with
uneventful general anesthesia
. These people are being monitored, so if something medically happened the attending physicians would know about it. You're basically accusing every physician whose patient reports an OBE/NDE while anesthetized of a cover-up. And you think I'm being unreasonable? You're not one to judge, friend.

"In midst of this transcendent experience, he suddenly realized that grenade had not exploded. He felt immediately "sucked" back into his body" (Gabbard and Twemlow 1991, p. 42). - Keith Augustine
-------------------------------------------

I find it rather comforting that the Creator the Universe (whomever or whatever that was) saw fit to design "it" so that we don't have to actually be inside or inhabiting our physical bodies at the exact moment of death?

NDE's also make it clear that the soul is only loosely attached to the body and so we also don't have to stay "inside" our bodies until it actually starts to decompose. I find that comforting. Who wants to be forced to stay attached to the body while it rots? All this constant bickering about how "dead" someone actually was when their soul exited the body is irrelevant. That's not how the system works. I reiterate, it's irrelevant.

For most at the exact moment of death, before the cells are even completely dead, I am confident "the real me" will pop out of this body and within seconds will be "in the light," where I'm hoping that my beloved mother, whom I haven't seen since I was fifteen years old, will be waiting there to greet me.

We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. The soul uses the body to learn about the physical universe, what time and space look and feel like, what it means and how it feels to be separate, and make memories of what it was like to live in a 3 dimensional + 1 time universe. The soul will use these memories to re-create whatever kind of reality it wants to because Heaven seems to be a place where thoughts are things and consciousness creates reality.

The soul's lessons are embedded in our everyday lives and it is holistically imprinted with what it needs to learn regardless of who we are, or where we live, or what we believe. Everyone experiences duality and separation, time and space, and what it was like to live in a 3 dimensional + 1 time Universe. Belief is irrelevant, aggreement is irrelevant, acceptance is irrelevant. You will become unassimilated and resistance is futile.

Michael, there's a possibly apocryphal claim that Western military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan have been stopping local traffic by holding up the palm of their hands.

Now in both the Middle East and the Far East, the open palm is taken as a peaceful gesture: in Buddhism, for instance, it connotes: look, my open palm is empty of a weapon - and as a result locals, taking the gesture as an invitation to drive on by, have been shot to death by military personnel in fear they were suicide bombers on the attack.

Conversely, the Western military gesture to continue driving is to present the back of the hand and to beckon, but supposedly some locals've interpreted this 'concealment' of the palm as an aggressive gesture indicating they were being set-up, as a result of which they've turned around to head back where they've come from, only to be shot as terrorists fleeing.

Now whether or not any of this's true or not, it's a good illustration that some apparently common features in Western and Eastern NDEs mightn't be anything of the sort; and conversely, some which appear the exact opposite may in fact signify exactly the same thing.

It's what I call the interpretation problem, because people don't grasp just how much of what we perceive is merely a contemporary interpretation.

Two hundred years ago, beating an uppity black man might've been seen as an act of disciplinary kindness, in the same way some people beat their dogs to teach them good behaviour - some still recommend this as a tried and tested way to bring up kids.

Similarly, most people these days tend to think a man striking a woman's an appalling thing, yet I have female cousins and nieces who swear blind when their men gives them "a slap" it's a reassuring indication of love because it shows he's still interested; and the BBC soap Eastenders seems to go one better and say, while it's utterly wrong for men to harm women, it's perfectly acceptable for women to assault and even murder men.

And that sociological observation, what's socially acceptable varies - like fashion - from age to age, culture to culture, location to location, context to context, brings me to another point.

In all the spiritual traditions - from Sumerian, Ancient Egyptian, Hindu, Greek, Nordo-Germanic, South American onwards - there's this constant awareness that not only is one age inevitably superseded by another, but so are the gods themselves.

Even Jesus claimed he was only the latest upgrade of the Mosaic tradition, Muhammed was styled the final definitive instalment of a long sequence of prophets extending back into time out of mind, and Gautama very explicitly stated he was merely the latest incarnation of an endless chain of primordial Buddhas.

My point being, not only is it inherent in the scientific method what we take for reality is merely the latest interpretation predicated on whatever means're available to us to test and generate those interpretations, but all the spiritual traditions - including the supposedly incomprehensibly wacky ones like Gnosticism - take exactly the same tack.

In which case, shouldn't we expect NDE reports to vary from age to age, culture to culture, individual to individual, etc?

Don't think 'the bit' about Jesus is quite right, Alan. Jesus didn't say there was anybody else coming... he'd fulfilled the old testament prophesies and that was meant to be that.

I am in the military

A fist means stop in Iraq. They would not stop for an open hand. It has no meaning to them at least with traffic.

Been to Iraq. When you want to move traffic forward you just wave them on like you do in the US.

The fact that the soul can exit the body before the body is completely and utterly dead is a great kindness and shows a little bit of God's love for us. I doubt anyone would prefer to stay in the body till it starts to decompose and rot. That would be pretty disgusting and gross.

Keith wrote, "What you're saying, in effect, is that anyone who holds my position must be bad, and therefore in order to be good, persons like me would have to switch positions to a position more like yours. Is that it?"

No, I don't think you're a bad person. I just think you've adopted a view of humanity that is somewhat disrespectful and uncharitable. I used to hold the same kind of view in my Ayn Rand days. I wouldn't say I was a bad person then, but I was less tolerant and less kind than I might have been.

A book you might enjoy reading is "Nasty People," by Jay Sherman. Sherman makes the point that *all* of us are "nasty people" in some circumstances, and *all* of us are victims of "nasty people" in other circumstances. It's part of the human condition. But there are ways to become aware of these traits in ourselves and others, and to counter them, so that we no longer are either victims or victimizers. Then when people are nasty to us, we don't have to be nasty back. And this in turn makes it less likely that they will be nasty to us in the future. It's a short but surprisingly deep little book.

As for fear-death experiences, I don't think anyone familiar with the literature disputes that they occur. The question is whether they are purely a psychological defense reaction, or whether they are an actual out-of-body experience prompted by the expectation of imminent death. Is the person fantasizing about a heavenly experience in order to avoid facing the (apparent) fact of his own impending death, or has his soul actually, albeit momentarily, separated from his body? If the soul can separate from the body on other occasions, as in sleep or deep meditation, then why not when faced with death? Perhaps the connection between body and soul is more tenuous than we assume. The physical body is pretty fragile, and the soul is thought to be indestructible, so it may make sense for the soul to be easily jettisoned from the body in a crisis.

I see it kind of like a pilot hitting the eject button as his plane is going down. In some cases, maybe the plane wasn't actually in a death spiral and the pilot hit the button too quickly. It's his *belief* that the plane is going to crash that makes him eject. Whether he is motivated by fear or simply by his training is debatable; the expectation of imminent death produces paralyzing fear in some people, while other people seem to react by becoming energized and focused, even exhilarated.

An interesting question to me is whether NDEs are caused solely by expectation of death, or if they can be shown to also be caused by the actual beginning of the death process, regardless of expectations.

If NDEs really are a sort of psychological defense mechanism brought by on by fear of imminent death, it seems to me to be one of the least likely traits that could ever possibly evolve through natural selection. Especially considering how complex the NDE process must be to produce so particular and vivid an experience.

Keith, I don't know how else to state what I already have such that you will comprehend. Once more - and yes, I am aware of all of the instances that you cite - you cannot prove that "fear" caused the NDE like experience.

To say it did is completely sloppy thinking. Fear may have been present in some instances, but that doesn't make it the cause of the NDE.

Science 101, correlation does not equal causation, OK?

Oops. I got the author's name wrong. Jay Carter (not Jay Sherman) is the author of "Nasty People."

Amazon page:

tiny.cc/oz9jf

The title of the book is somewhat misleading, since the point is not to accuse other people of being nasty or mean, but rather to see how certain blind spots and insecurities in all of us can lead to counterproductive behavior. It's a dynamic that crops up in many social interactions. Becoming more aware of it can help us to discourage this kind of stereotypical behavior in ourselves and others.

I think anyone can benefit from reading this book. I certainly did.

I ask the readers to see if these Keith's statements are logically consistent:

First inconsistency

I never believed in an afterlife or a spiritual realm, even as a child, for one simple reason: I've never encountered anything remotely like such things.

Look that the explicit reason for Keith's skepticism is his personal experience.

He still admits that personal experience would quelle his skepticism: "And my skepticism could be quelled by... (an) unambiguous personal encounter"

In other words, Keith's personal experience counts both in favor of his skepticism of the spiritual and as a possible evidence for it (if he experience it).

But when it comes to other people personal experiences, he appeals to Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason:

But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only

If it's true, why should we rely in Keith's skepticism based on his personal experience?

His personal experience, being personal, only counts for him, not for us. So we have no basis to be skeptical based on Keith's personal reasons to be skeptic.

Keith problably will reply (in addition to using some clever tu quoque) that he is not claiming that his personal experiences should count as evidence for others. But then what's the point of bringing his personal experience in this discussion?

If his personal experiences justifiy his skepticism, then Zerdini's personal experiences justify his belief in survival. So appealling to personal experiences is trivial and useless since that it produces incompatible results.

On the other hand, Keith's anti-spiritual belief is based on lack of experience of the spiritual; not a positive evidence for its non-existence (at most, the latter is an inference from the former to the latter; and an inference refuted by other people's experiences, like Zerdini's, who appealing to personal experience can relate positive evidence for the spiritual).

So Keith's lack of experience is not comparable to people with POSITVE spiritual experiences.

Second inconsistency

Keith's epistemology seems to be based on sensory perception when he argues against the immaterial (implying that immaterial spirits, God, etc. cannot exist because they're not observable):

Their reality was not convincing to me in the way that the reality of trees was. So I didn't put much stock in them. That is the genesis of my skepticism; I never believed in the first place

The implication of that quote is that in order to believe in something, that something has be convincing in the same or similar way than a tree (i.e. through sensory perception); otherwise skepticism is warranted.

But look how Keith argues when he needs to defend the reality of the non-observable things in order to contradict Cyrus:

Unconsciousness cannot be observed, felt, or experienced, and yet it exists.

In other words, non-observable things can exist. If it's correct, then why something need to be convincing in the same (observable) way than we observe a tree in order to believe in it? Is our knowledge of abstract entities like numbers convincing in the same way than a tree is?

This is why I've reapeated several times that Keith is more interested in winning short-term arguments than in being logically consistent in defense of his position. There is not point in arguing with someone like that.

Third inconsistency

Keith compares souls with abstract entities in order to justify skepticism regarding them:

So when I heard of such things as souls, and knew that biology or psychology textbooks didn't so much as use that word, they seemed like mere abstractions to me, ideas that could be true but for which we had no clear evidence. They were abstract possibilities, not facts.

So if a soul is like a "mere abstraction" to him, and for this reason he's skeptical of them, then Keith should be skeptical of abstract objects like propositions, numbers and values.

On the other hand, Keith considers an spirit like something supernatural; but abstract numbers (what Keith should reject) is included by him as an unproblematic part of nature even if they're not physical:

"Naturalist" is a more accurate term for my position, since qualia or abstract numbers are not supernatural under any conception, even though they are considered nonphysical by some philosophers

But how does Keith explain that a physical beings like humans can have epistemic access to nonphysical things like numbers?

And if qualia is nonphysical, how does Keith explain that a physical brain produces a nonphysical property? How does he explain that a nonphysical property like qualia can have efficacy on the physical world (i.e. in case of reasoning as a logically previous condition to write coherent arguments in this blog)?

Keith cannot defend these beliefs, except with fallacies like tu quoques

Fourth Inconsistency

In his writing works and comments here, Keith ask for "incontrovertible" evidence for the paranormal in order to accept it.

In the thread "No so blind", Keith wrote: "Your incontrovertible evidence of veridical paranormal perception simply doesn't exist. No misdirection will change that fact. Only providing such evidence, as AWARE aims to do, or as Ian Stevenson's combination lock test aims to do, will change it"

He's asking for incontrovertible evidence for the paranormal ir order to accept its existence.

But Keith has said too that he would accept the paranormal based on his personal experience: "And my skepticism could be quelled by... (an) unambiguous personal encounter"

And here we have the obvious inconsistency: How would Keith conciliate his personal experience of afterlife with the (controvertible) evidence for it from parapsychology? Would Keith accept his personal experience OVER the controvertial scientific evidence?

He faces a dilemma: If he accepts his personal experience over the scientific evidence, he cannot dismiss anymore the personal experiences of afterlife of people like Sandy or Zerdini.

And in this case his "uncontrovertible" objection is purely rhetorical and intented to win arguments, since that controvertible evidence (like Keith seeing a ghost or talking with a deceased relative in his house, evidence that wouldn't convince any scientist) can convince him of the existence of the afterlife.

In other words, Keith would accept personal evidence for the afterlife, even if it's scientitically controvertible.. Hence, uncontrovertible scientific evidence is not a necessary condition to have a rational belief in the afterlife.

Given that Keith (predictably and smartly) "forgot" to answer to my "10 questions for Keith" in the "no so blind" thread, I'll write them here again.

I hope Keith won't chicken away again from these questions. But I predict that if he dares to reply to them, he'll do with TU QUOQUES, MISREPRESENTATIONS OF THE QUESTIONS and FALSE ANALOGIES. Let's see if my prediction is confirmed...:

1-Keith is the executive director of an naturalist organization whose explicit mission and purpose is the promoting and defense of a naturalistic worldview

http://www.infidels.org/

My straightforward question is: What does "promotion" and "defense" of a naturalistic worldview mean, imply or entail when examining the evidence for survival?

2-Is accepting the evidence for survival (and hence for the supernatural) compatible with that explicit purpose of your organization? Does not it causes a conflict of interests?

3-If afterlife evidence were discussed in a cour of law, and based on the explicit purposes and mission of the secular web and infidels, does Keith think that such court of law would accept the testimony of a person who belong to an anti-survivalist organization as an unbiased expert testimony about NDEs?

4-How does Keith Augustine avoid, psychologically, that the purpose of your organization conflicts with the (possible, for the argument's sake) evidence for survival?

What method do you use for attaining such impartiality and objectivity, in spite of your professional and personal commitments with an organization with an explicit anti-survivalist mission?

5-How do you explain that most leading NDE researchers don't accept your hallucinatory hypothesis?

6-If your answer for the question 5 is that most NDE researchers are biased against the hallucinatory hypothesis, what prevent a member (like you) of the secular web, whose explicit mission is explicitly anti-survival, of having a similar bias (in favor of the hallucinatory hypothesis)?

7-You have said that a positive AWARE result will convince you of the survival hypothesis for some NDEs. What would you consider, exactly, a "positive" evidence in the AWARE study?

8-In reply to Gerald's question, Vitor mentioned a paper entitled "A CASE OP APPARENT COMMUNICATION THROUGH A MEDIUM BY A PERSON LIVING, BUT SUFFERING FROM SENILE DEMENTIA." Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, nº 21, May 1923, pp. 87-92" which can be downloaded here:

Download link:
http://www.4shared.com/file/235208907/3f6d871a/piper1923.html

Gerald apparently didn't dare or want to comment or answer to it, in spite of being a relevant paper and straightforward reply to his explicit question.

My question for you is: Don't you consider such paper as evidence against the production hypothesis and in favor of survival?

I'm not asking if it's "uncontrovertible" evidence, only if, in your view, it is evidence at all.

9-What would happen if, after examining the evidence for survival, you're reasonably well satisfied that the evidence is good but it's even controversial for other people?

Would you accept the evidence based on your own personal critical evaluation, or you'd dismiss it because it's even controversial for other people?

Perhaps I could formulate this question in a better way like this: What kind of claim would Keith Augustine accept to be true based on scientific evidence, even if it's still controversial for mainstream science?

Or would you surrender to the "controvertial" status of the evidence for mainstream science, even if you conclude after personal examination and in depth research that the evidence is good?

This question is intented to see the degree of Keith's intellectual independency as a free thinker.

10-Would you abandon or leave the infidel organization if positive evidence for survival is found in the AWARE study?

Erich: Fear may have been present in some instances, but that doesn't make it the cause of the NDE.

In that case, cardiac arrest may have been present in some instances, but that doesn't make it the cause of the NDE. Correlation is not causation, after all.

Did the recruit who dropped the dummy grenade have his NDE at that exact moment (a moment of fear) purely by coincidence? Is it just a coincidence that the NDE ended at precisely the moment the recruit realized that there was no threat?

Since you doubt that fear had anything to do with why the recruit had his NDE, why not go for total epistemic skepticism about NDEs while you are at it? That is: what reason do you have to believe that an actual experience caused the report of an experience? Could reports of NDEs exist even if there were no NDEs?

How far do you want to take it?

By your reasoning, there is no reason to think that any precipitating factor is ever a cause of an NDE. If one can doubt an immediately precipitating psychological factor consistent across NDErs as a cause, then one can doubt an immediately precipitating medical factor consistent across NDErs as a cause, too. Does it ever end?

Maybe smoking has nothing to do with lung cancer, if consistent correlation is not indicative of causation. Sometimes correlation is indicative of causation, as you yourself believe.

Perhaps you can enlighten the rest of us why fear is not a candidate cause of NDEs, but cardiac arrest is a candidate cause.

What makes cardiac arrest relevant to the NDE's occurrence, but fear irrelevant to its occurrence?

I'll bet you can't answer the question, but I'll take a stab at one: both are causally relevant to the occurrence of NDEs, such that if they were not present in the cases under consideration, an NDE would not have occurred (i.e., a counterfactual approach).

Your untenable position entails that if the recruit had not been afraid, he would have had his NDE nonetheless. That's so incredibly implausible that it speaks for itself.

Keith,
I'm not convinced by your arguments, but you would make a very good crapet salesman.

OOPS,
I meant carpet, sorry.

Keith, I hope I'm not conforming to the charasteristics of one of those "nasty" people, but you are really flying off the handle now. You appear to have abandoned all attempts at scientific reasoning.

I am saying that we don't know what triggers an NDE. Many flatlined people - brain or cardiac - don't have NDEs. Most people in extremely fearful situations don't have NDEs.

Some minority of people in these situations do.

We don't know what makes the difference. I don't. You don't.

You are the one who wants to be all scientific about the topic. Fine. Let's do it.

First, you presume/assume fear is the dominant mind set in those accounts that involve situations like the grenade or a fall off a mountain. Why? Is this based on some "everybody knows" type argument. That is not science. I have already proposed one alternative; surrender of ones ego to oblivion. I am not saying that my alternative is correct. I will say that it is coherent with spiritual doctrine. Doesn't matter. There are alternatives to your supposition of fear, but you stubbornly refuse to consider the possibility. That is not science.

Second, and worse from a scientific standpoint, the correlation between fear and NDE is miniscule to point of statistical insignificance. I must reject that explanation.

I am one who works with statistics every day and I will happily go farther into that arena with you if you wish.

Aside from personal experiences, I accept the survival hypothesis based on the meta statistical probabilities associated with details in NDE reports (actually I have accepted my own experiences only on the same basis).

You, on the other hand, with your scattershot "could have been this", "could have been that" case by case "debunking" offend my sense of analysis and that is my main probalem with you. There is no science. There is no meaningful analysis. There is only dogma.

In your hyperactive cleverness you become incoherent.

You, on the other hand, with your scattershot "could have been this", "could have been that" case by case "debunking" offend my sense of analysis and that is my main probalem with you. There is no science. There is no meaningful analysis. There is only dogma

Erich, this "it could have been" kind of fallacy is used in order to appeal to logical possibilities compatible with naturalism as a way to disbelieve in survival.

Neal Grossman explained how this "could have been" fallacy is used by afterlife debunkers like Keith:

http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/GrossmanLetter.pdf

(As expected, Keith replied to Grossman's charge with a tu quoque fallacy)

To be honest, I'd suggest not to engage in a debate with Keith about the afterlife. Whoever has debated with Keith these matters will tell you that it's impossible to have a constructive dialogue with him.

You'll feel intellectually offended each time you see your arguments intentionally misrepresented, or replied to with double standards, tu quoques and false analogies about Big foots, the bermude triangle or ufos used as "arguments" against your points.

If all of this fails, Keith will try to make you feel guilty adopting a smart victimization strategy, for example, in his reply to Michael: "What you're saying, in effect, is that anyone who holds my position must be bad, and therefore in order to be good, persons like me would have to switch positions to a position more like yours."

Look in Keith's simplistic "Good vs. Bad" reply, implying that if Michael is right, Keith must be "bad" (hence, he tried to make Michael felt guilty by his comment)

I've mentioned this kind of victimization strategy before.

Personally, I get very annoyed by Keith's continuous use of tu quoques and false analogies about Yeties and ufos, because it's an insult to logic; but his victimizations really get me angry (because in addition to being pathetic, they're clearly manipulative).

But I think it provides evidence that the case for survival is not so bad after all. If to argue against it you need to use a bunch of logical fallacies, tu quoques and false analogies about Yetis and victimizations, then perhaps it's due to the case not being so easily refutable using the cold instruments of reason, logic and evidence alone.

Perhaps Keith would be a good conversational partner regarding sports or other naturalism-irrelevant matters. But not about the afterlife.

In any case, I confess to being very curious about Keith's replies to my above "10 questions for Keith"

Keith,

You wanted me to point out how I feel your debating style matches the rancor of a politician. Alright, I’ll show you some techniques that you use.

Everyone is guilty of some of this to an extent, including myself. So, I hope this post will at least be educational.

If you are wondering why things turn so sour, so fast, perhaps this will shed some light.

- Tactic 1: Using condescending tactics

Being condescending serves two purposes in politics: the first is that it presents the opponent in a lower (“beta” if you will) status compared to the other person in the debate. The second is that it gets the emotional juices flowing. When you upset your opponent, his or her argument will slowly fall to pieces. Humans are very sensitive, and will pick up on a tone that’s “snippy” or hostile.

Case in point: me. As I read your posts, I got ticked off by your writing style which came across as very aggressive to the collected integrity of people who post here. So, I started to belittle you (calling you “laughable” as a skeptic). It’s true that this further erodes civility. I agree 100% that this and other statements I made towards you were me falling into the same line of discourse that I can’t stand. I apologize.

Ex. 1: Erich writes: “Well, how does an unconscious, flat lined person, like Pam Reynolds and numerous other operating room cases have a psychological reaction?”

Keith writes, “Do you even bother to read what I've already written on this case before asking me about it?”

This has the tone of a boss scolding an intern. This is not a good way to keep things civil.

Ex. 2: Erich refers to an argument of Keiths as “pseudo-intellectual”. This is incredibly condescending and clearly set things to a sour note. The fact that something is being thoughtfully discussed makes it intellectual. To call it non-intellectual turns things personal. I would be highly, highly offended.

- Tactic 2: Intellectual superiority in a prefix (or “I guess I’ll deal with these ignorant opinions now…” )

Or in your case

“Leo, do you even bother to read what I've said about this case before commenting?”

(Whether he read it or not, this is not necessary)

“Although I regret the change of subject, I'll play along with the predictable derail from the opening post.”

The opening post is predictably derailed? Perhaps because the people who post here are, naturally, flakes who digress into other points due to their lack of brains? That might not be your intended interpretation, but it’s very easy for people to translate it that way. People may not come out and admit it, but they will read things like that, feel offended, and become more hostile towards you.

And, to say you “play along” has a connotation that this is something you don’t take very seriously, that this is just a circus of idiots. Again, feels like political rancor. A debate with mutual respect would never require setting up a post with a sense of condescension to the opponent.

A non-hostile response: “I feel this topic has swerved from my original intended subject. But, I’ll go ahead and address these points as well.” To word anything less politely than this amounts to fire-and-brimstone arguing.

- Finally, tactic 3 – Intellectual sleight-of-hand.

It is very easy to take a point somebody else tries to make, and VERY slightly change the meaning to create a new context. The new context becomes easier to address. Ex:

I wrote,
Cyrus: “I'm quite pleased to say that I believe NDEs are related to the afterlife based on the trust of countless thousands of anecdotal experiences.”

Issue presented: Is anecdotal evidence of the same caliber as scientifically tested evidence?

Keith writes, “In that case, I've got thousands of testimonials about how my product changed people's lives for the better to share with you. Care to buy my product? :)”

New Issue: Can fake testimonials of anecdotal evidence sway the public?

The question is no longer whether anecdotal evidence has value in the NDE, the issue becomes fake testimonials written for business purposes. Attempting to link these two pieces almost fits, but it doesn’t. People don’t sell most NDEs. Very, very few become books. Business testimonials are far different from accounts of personal experiences related to consciousness which are researched by professionals.

It would not be intellectual sleight-of-hand to argue that anecdotal experiences, as they relate to consciousness, are unreliable due to the subjective nature of the experience. But, this argument would not be as strong as the conveniently constructed business analogy. Why? Because the NDE has many defined elements and anomalous circumstances which are too compelling to be dismissed by the notion that an NDEr could be simply making stuff up like a book-salesman.

Instead of choosing the less-favorable but more accurate argument, sleight-of-hand is used to reframe the context of what I wrote.

In summary, to Keith: You are coming into a lions den of people with different viewpoints from yours. To create posts to challenge our well-researched opinions in a way that is anything but CIVIL and POLITE will ALWAYS be a disaster.

You blame hostile reactions as our insecurity by you "unweaving our rainbows". No. It's hostility against somebody who bounces in with arrogance and rancor.

I guarantee you, that if your first posts in a new topic by Michael Prescott had a simple sentence like...

"Hi, I know everybody here shares very different opinions from my own. I respect your research and ideas, but I have very different conclusions about survival after death. For an example, allow me to share some information about my work on the NDE."

Is this so hard to write? To express some respect would go a very long way. I've been reading MP's posts for a long time and people around here generally don't argue with flames and pitch-forks--and not everyone who posts here agrees, some people around here are skeptics. The fact that only YOU turn things this sour makes me think it's largely attributed to your lack of respect, "coming in with guns blazing" style of posting.

Yep. When you go into a saloon with guns drawn, you'll be running out with bullets flying.

ZC: Look that the explicit reason for Keith's skepticism is his personal experience.

My God, an empiricist relying on experience to decide what's real. Has the world turned upside down?!

ZC: In other words, Keith's personal experience counts both in favor of his skepticism of the spiritual and as a possible evidence for it (if he experience it).

My God, an empiricist bases his conclusions on actual experiences, rather than merely imagined ones! Shall we shun scientists for testing theories based on actual observations, too?

Tell me, ZC, does your personal experience, or lack thereof, with little grey aliens, have anything to do with your inclination to believe or disbelieve in them?

ZC: But when it comes to other people personal experiences, he appeals to Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason

As you undoubtedly do when it comes to the things that you don't believe in.

I can feel it coming already: tu quoque, tu quoque! But it would only be tu quoque if you conceded that you should believe in greys, reptilians, Nordic aliens, chupacabra, etc, simply because other people report personal experiences of such. Do you concede that you should believe in all those things? Multiple people have reported them.

If you can be justifiably skeptical of their "Forteana," I can be justifiably skeptical of yours. At least I'm consistent with my skepticism, rather than being a cafeteria believer, favoring only the testimony I like and throwing out all the rest.

ZC: If it's true, why should we rely in Keith's skepticism based on his personal experience?

ZC: Keith problably will reply (in addition to using some clever tu quoque) that he is not claiming that his personal experiences should count as evidence for others.

Would that reply be unreasonable, ZC? Am I bound by some straw man of yours to hold that my personal experiences should count as evidence for others? I would think that each person's own personal experiences ought to count for evidence for oneself.

When William James held that mystical experiences might be evidence for the mystic, but are not necessarily evidence for anyone else, was he wrong?

Why do you even make an argument whose refutation you anticipate?

ZC: But then what's the point of bringing his personal experience in this discussion?

To allow you to pursue this red herring, of course.

I mentioned it only because william had conjectured that many atheists "feel hoodwinked by religious beliefs that are often religious dogma so they have become nonbelievers in spite of the evidence." I wanted to resist his conjecture by noting that it did not apply in my case, as I never had religious beliefs to become disillusioned about later. I never bought the fairy tales in the first place.

What's the point in william bringing his conjecture to this discussion? And once brought, is if off limits for me to reply to it? Do I need your permission about what to respond to here, Ms. Hall Monitor?

And what's your point in digressing from the opening entry, about sociological NDE motifs? To reply to other comments that deviate from that? If you're allowed to do it, so am I.

ZC: If his personal experiences justifiy his skepticism, then Zerdini's personal experiences justify his belief in survival.

As I've said myself before on this blog--so what's your point?

ZC: So appealling to personal experiences is trivial and useless since that it produces incompatible results.

I never said that my personal experiences were a reason for anyone else to believe whatever he or she believes. To each his own. I'm sure Zerdini feels the same way.

Nevertheless, my personal experiences, like Zerdini's, surely have something to do with why each of us believes what we do. As is the case for ZC herself. Can I go back to judging reality by my experiences of it now, just like everyone else does, Ms. Hall Monitor? I promise I'll ask for your permission first next time!

ZC: On the other hand, Keith's anti-spiritual belief is based on lack of experience of the spiritual; not a positive evidence for its non-existence.

And your positive evidence for the nonexistence of the Loch Ness monster is what, remind me?

ZC: So Keith's lack of experience is not comparable to people with POSITVE spiritual experiences.

My God, you've solved the puzzle! ZC's lack of experience with chupacabras is not comparable to people with POSITVE experiences of it!

ZC: Keith's epistemology seems to be based on sensory perception when he argues against the immaterial (implying that immaterial spirits, God, etc. cannot exist because they're not observable):

Wrong, though this is a common canard by unreflective religious people ("Just because you can't see and touch it doesn't mean it's not real!).

Since you know that I believe in electrons, ZC, you know that this is false--so why do you say this? Guess what makes electrons different from gods? I can detect electrons by their effects even if I can't see them with my eyes. The effects of gods, by contrast, are nowhere to be found.

ZC: The implication of that quote is that in order to believe in something, that something has be convincing in the same or similar way than a tree (i.e. through sensory perception); otherwise skepticism is warranted.

You know that that's not true, since you knew that I believed in things that I can't see or taste, like electrons, before making your post. Why do you start from straw man, then?

There is no implication from that quote. My point was simply that trees obviously existed, and spirits did not obviously exist. The same point could be made about physical things, like chupacabras.

ZC: In other words, non-observable things can exist.

I can't observe what's inside of a black hole, and yet the inside of a black hole exists, yes. Care to offer any different straw men?

ZC: If it's correct, then why something need to be convincing in the same (observable) way than we observe a tree in order to believe in it?

No one ever said that it did, other than you while generating your straw men.

The point about trees was that they had been observed (and so obviously existed), not that they could be. Chupacabras could be observed, but wasn't, and so did not obviously exist. I put spirits in the same category as chupacabras. Potentially detectable, but not detected.

ZC: Is our knowledge of abstract entities like numbers convincing in the same way than a tree is?

Nope. Did anyone say that it was? And, as a matter of fact, I don't commit to the existence of abstract entities; I simply don't rule them out. I'm agnostic about whether or not they exist, since the pro and con arguments are a wash.

ZC: This is why I've reapeated several times that Keith is more interested in winning short-term arguments than in being logically consistent in defense of his position.

Sure--it's easy to make someone else's position inconsistent when you get to assign what his position is, instead of letting him decide that himself. I could use straw men on you, too, but I see no need to argue fallaciously. When you have reason on your side there is no need to make fallacious, easily exposed arguments like those I'm responding to now.

ZC: Keith compares souls with abstract entities in order to justify skepticism regarding them

It's funny that you say that, because I regard abstract entities as "ideas that could be true but for which we [have] no clear" reason to affirm. They are abstract possibilities with pros and cons that are hard to weigh, not facts. Did I ever say that they must exist, rather than that they might?

ZC: On the other hand, Keith considers an spirit like something supernatural; but abstract numbers (what Keith should reject) is included by him as an unproblematic part of nature even if they're not physical

Actually, I don't regard abstract numbers, Platonisticly conceived, as a part of nature, though on an Aristotelian conception, they would be a part of nature. I don't deny that there could be more than nature. What I reject is that anything outside of nature causes changes within nature, for if that were the case, we should see those events that could not be naturally produced, and yet, while there are claims of such, there is never any unambiguous evidence of such.

ZC: But how does Keith explain that a physical beings like humans can have epistemic access to nonphysical things like numbers?

I don't! That's one of the cons of Platonic realism. One possible solution to that problem is to posit Aristotelian realism instead. Or nominalism for that matter.

You seem to sense some problem with naturalism here, but there isn't one. Your problem is a problem for Platonic realism. To see that, humor me, ZC. Suppose you are a Platonic realist, and a supernaturalist. How would you explain how humans can have epistemic access to nonphysical things like numbers? Can you do it? Does the human mind go through a wormhole to Platonia, and then make a return trip, or something like that?

The fact that you can't answer shows that this is a problem for Platonic realism, and that denying naturalism doesn't make the problem go away. The problem remains even if you suppose that the supernatural exists.

ZC: And if qualia is nonphysical, how does Keith explain that a physical brain produces a nonphysical property?

I didn't claim that there necessarily are nonphysical qualia, only that there might be. If you really want to know the answer, though, read David Chalmer's The Conscious Mind (1996). I'm agnostic as to what the correct solution to the mind-body problem. I just don't think it's substance dualism. But there are any number of alternatives to that; neutral monism, perhaps.

ZC: How does he explain that a nonphysical property like qualia can have efficacy on the physical world (i.e. in case of reasoning as a logically previous condition to write coherent arguments in this blog)?

Epiphenomenalism is self-stultifying, IMO, for exactly that reason. It's basically the parallel problem for Platonic realism. The solution, it would seem, would be any other mind-body theory than epiphenomenalism. But that doesn't mean substance dualism is true. Maybe Aristotle's hylomorphism is closer to the truth of the mind-body relation. Most of these theories are empirically indistinguishable, as far as I can see, so choose between them is a nonstarter as far as I'm concerned. But this is not the case for substance dualism versus it's monistic alternatives (whether property dualism and the substance monism that it assumes, neutral monism, nonreductive physicalism, reductive physicalism, or something else). Saying there are two substances that can exist independently of each other seems to have different testable implications than any theory that claims that there is only one substance.

ZC: He's asking for incontrovertible evidence for the paranormal ir order to accept its existence.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, yes. I know you guys tend to attack that heuristic, but you accept it, rightly, in other circumstances, such as when the extraterrestrial visitation hypothesis is the issue instead.

ZC: And here we have the obvious inconsistency: How would Keith conciliate his personal experience of afterlife with the (controvertible) evidence for it from parapsychology? Would Keith accept his personal experience OVER the controvertial scientific evidence?

Yes, I would!

I know you like playing stump the skeptic, ZC, which is probably why you are not worth talking to. But that's fine--I'll answer you for the sake of the lurkers.

If an extraterrestrial spacecraft hovered 10 feet over me, I could not deny that this had happened. My experience, being subjective, would not be scientific evidence, and I would not expect other people to believe that extraterrestrials are visiting us just on my testimony. They would understandably want something more concrete than that--a piece of the craft, say. Just as I would if I were in their place, and they were in mine.

The difference is that, in real life, no extraterrestrial spacecraft has hovered 10 feet over me, so when other people claim such things, I want more than their testimony. I want a piece of the craft. Given that this is a pretty extraordinary claim, I don't think that's too much to ask for. And probably you feel the same way about extraterrestrial visitation.

Now just apply the same rationale to beliefs involving spirits, and you'll see that we reason in the same way, only I do so consistently across the board, while you arbitrarily make an exception for the sorts of ideas that you favor. Some people believe in extraterrestrials and not spirits, and some believe in spirits but not extraterrestrials; but provided that a person has not personally experienced either, one should be equally skeptical of both, or equally credulous about both, to be consistent.

ZC: He faces a dilemma: If he accepts his personal experience over the scientific evidence, he cannot dismiss anymore the personal experiences of afterlife of people like Sandy or Zerdini.

If I personally saw a technological craft of no conceivable terrestrial origin 10 feet above me, then I would have knowledge that someone who has never seen such a thing lacks.

That would not be scientific knowledge, but personal revelation. I would know it, but others would not. Thomas Paine's point is unimpeachable. But given that I know that extraterrestrial visitation sometimes does happen (in this scenario), I would have much less reason to doubt that someone else saw such a craft. That doesn't mean other people should become less skeptical. Those who have experienced no such revelation would understandably want better evidence than my or others' say-so.

A personal revelation that there are some extraterrestrial spacecraft is a different situation from when the very existence of any such craft is what's in doubt.

ZC: And in this case his "uncontrovertible" objection is purely rhetorical and intented to win arguments, since that controvertible evidence (like Keith seeing a ghost or talking with a deceased relative in his house, evidence that wouldn't convince any scientist) can convince him of the existence of the afterlife.

Just as your personal experience of a craft 10 feet above you would convince you that such craft exist. Are you convinced that such craft exist just based on the testimony of, say, the former governor of Arizona? Why or why not? If you are not convinced, is that because of "purely rhetorical" tactics, or because you really don't think there are any extraterrestrial craft?

ZC: In other words, Keith would accept personal evidence for the afterlife, even if it's scientitically controvertible.. Hence, uncontrovertible scientific evidence is not a necessary condition to have a rational belief in the afterlife.

I never said that it was a necessary condition--for someone who has had a personal revelation. Those who have no experience with spirits, or greys, or reptilians, or chupacabras should remain skeptical, however, that there are such things, in the absence of clear scientific evidence for them. But if a chupcabras jumped on top of your windshield and stared you down, that's a different story, obviously.

Given that Keith (predictably and smartly) "forgot" to answer to my "10 questions for Keith" in the "no so blind" thread, I'll write them here again.

ZC: I hope Keith won't chicken away again from these questions.

I didn't chicken out before, ZC; I had to choose between replying to Julio's critique of my JNDS exchange and answering you, not having had the time to do both; and I poorly chose to reply to Julio's critique (and I only say poorly because Julio decided not to publish my reply with his critique, making it wasted work).

ZC: But I predict that if he dares to reply to them, he'll do with TU QUOQUES, MISREPRESENTATIONS OF THE QUESTIONS and FALSE ANALOGIES. Let's see if my prediction is confirmed

Well if you already know what I'm going to say before I even say it, why bother actually replying? If you've already fixed it in your mind that I can't reply nonfallaciously, it kind of kills my motivation to even bother, since you wouldn't concede a nonfallacious reply even if I made one.

As for chickening out, I noticed that you conveniently said nothing about my refutation of your tu quoque allegation in that "None So Blind" thread. Why is that, I wonder?

ZC: My straightforward question is: What does "promotion" and "defense" of a naturalistic worldview mean, imply or entail when examining the evidence for survival?

Any naturalism with empirical content to it entails that survival after death doesn't happen, IMO. But didn't I say this to you before? I wonder why you bring it up now... :)~

ZC: 2-Is accepting the evidence for survival (and hence for the supernatural) compatible with that explicit purpose of your organization? Does not it causes a conflict of interests?

Is accepting the evidence for black holes (against the hypothesis that neutron stars are the farthest phase of stellar collapse) compatible with the explicit purpose of an astrophysicist who has argued for the last 20 years that neutron stars are the farthest phase of stellar collapse? Does that astrophysicist have a conflict of interest?

I know that you'll view that as tu quoque, but I'd really like to know your answer. Because there have been people who insisted--most astrophysicists at the time, as a matter of fact--that neutron stars are the farthest phase of stellar collapse. They don't say that anymore, now that compelling evidence of black holes has been presented to them.

Your presumption would seem to be that it would not be possible for people to change their minds in the face of undeniable evidence. But do you assume that trusting wives would continue to be trusting once shown undeniable video evidence of infidelity? Do you really think that they would believe that the person on tape must be their husband's evil twin? Why, then, do you assume the worst of me? Is it that the principle of charity cannot be granted to "the enemy"?

ZC: 3-If afterlife evidence were discussed in a cour of law, and based on the explicit purposes and mission of the secular web and infidels, does Keith think that such court of law would accept the testimony of a person who belong to an anti-survivalist organization as an unbiased expert testimony about NDEs?

Does the fact that an astrophysicist has 20 years of research arguing that neutron stars are the farthest phase of stellar collapse disqualify him as an expert in astrophysics? Would his astrophysical expertise make it impossible for him to acknowledge the existence of black holes, or would it force him to concede their existence since he would know better than anyone that there is no room for doubt (being an expert in astrophysics and all)?

ZC: 4-How does Keith Augustine avoid, psychologically, that the purpose of your organization conflicts with the (possible, for the argument's sake) evidence for survival?

I am part of a naturalistic organization because I think naturalism true. I think naturalism true because the evidence for the supernatural is no better than ambiguous. So, to be clearer, your question should be: given that promoting naturalism conflicts with granting the existence of the supernatural, how could you ever grant the existence of the supernatural (or something like that--your question is vague). And I suppose that my answer would be: the same way that an astrophysicist can grant that black holes exist.

ZC: What method do you use for attaining such impartiality and objectivity, in spite of your professional and personal commitments with an organization with an explicit anti-survivalist mission?

My being part of an organization, of whatever sort, does not require me to sign an oath attesting that my views will always line up 100% with those of that organization. Obviously, I got involved with a naturalistic organization because I was already a naturalist. That doesn't entail that I must forever be a naturalist.

Does eating at a particular restaurant regularly of late require you to eat there for the rest of your life?

ZC: 5-How do you explain that most leading NDE researchers don't accept your hallucinatory hypothesis?

I suspect that those who are attracted to becoming near-death researchers are those who already think that they are more than hallucinations, just as those who are attracted to becoming UFOlogists are those who already think that UFOs are more than what conventional explanations alone would suggest. Just out of curiosity: Do you really think that this is false?)

ZC: 6-If your answer for the question 5 is that most NDE researchers are biased against the hallucinatory hypothesis, what prevent a member (like you) of the secular web, whose explicit mission is explicitly anti-survival, of having a similar bias (in favor of the hallucinatory hypothesis)?

Those who are attracted to promoting naturalism are likely already naturalists, yes.

The question is why they are naturalists. And the reason could very well be that the evidence for supernatural explanations has been historically weak, unlike the evidence for natural ones.

So is a naturalist likely to find the prospects of finding good evidence for the supernatural to be pretty dim? Obviously. The question is why that naturalist finds the prospects for supernaturalism to be dim. And here one could appeal to empirical considerations of the sorts that naturalists have appealed to. (I could go into them, but I'll pass since this comment is long enough.) In addition, future empirical considerations could change that naturalist's mind, since at the end of the day the basis for the person's view is the empirical considerations at hand.

I think the question of bias is a red herring, since biases, whether over here or over there, are made irrelevant by scientific evidence. Bias did not prevent astrophysicists from conceding that black holes exist, once the evidence for them was clear. Did it?

In any case, you've changed the question from 5 to 6. Question 5 was not about bias, but about why near-death researchers tend toward a certain view. And I gave a reasonable answer.

Why do you think most who've published studies in Lancet about NDEs think of NDEs as hallucinations? I imagine your answer would be similar to mine. If that means that there's an anti-survival bias by Lancet authors, then you'd have to suppose that everyone's biased, and we can't trust anyone. But bias is a red herring, since opening Ian Stevenson's combination lock--compelling evidence--would settle the issue whether there are biases or not.

ZC: 7-You have said that a positive AWARE result will convince you of the survival hypothesis for some NDEs. What would you consider, exactly, a "positive" evidence in the AWARE study?

I don't know enough about AWARE to answer that question (methodological details haven't been published). But in general, an NDEr's report of a very specific target, like a lottery number out of sight of any living people, and then its replication just to make sure that the design of the experiment wasn't flawed in such a way as to allow the target to be seen normally by living people after all.

ZC: 8-In reply to Gerald's question, Vitor mentioned a paper entitled "A CASE OP APPARENT COMMUNICATION THROUGH A MEDIUM BY A PERSON LIVING, BUT SUFFERING FROM SENILE DEMENTIA."

I've written enough, so I'm not going to dig up what you might think is relevant from that paper. Ask a straightforward question based on it if you want an answer. I've put in enough of the work in writing up until this point.

ZC: My question for you is: Don't you consider such paper as evidence against the production hypothesis and in favor of survival?

Be specific. Ask: "Don't you think that fact X provides unambiguous evidence against brain production" or something like that.

ZC: 9-What would happen if, after examining the evidence for survival, you're reasonably well satisfied that the evidence is good but it's even controversial for other people?

Good, but not decisive? Hmmm... I suppose that I would conclude that it is reasonable to believe in survival (not that I've ever denied that!) but not compelling. That's pretty much what Ian Stevenson said, actually.

ZC: Would you accept the evidence based on your own personal critical evaluation, or you'd dismiss it because it's even controversial for other people?

It depends upon what you mean by "controversial." If it was scientifically uncontroversial, I would accept it. That is, if the scientific community granted it, but some flat-earthers were still around denying it, I'd go with the scientific community. But I'm not sure if that's really what your asking. If it isn't, I don't know what you're asking, so rephrase the question.

ZC: Perhaps I could formulate this question in a better way like this: What kind of claim would Keith Augustine accept to be true based on scientific evidence, even if it's still controversial for mainstream science?

That's better, but still kind of ambiguous. There are different levels of confidence in one's conclusions. I could tentatively entertain something that's still a matter of scientific debate. But accept it as a fact? I don't think there's anything I'd accept as a fact that was still a matter of scientific debate (barring a personal revelation, that is).

ZC: 10-Would you abandon or leave the infidel organization if positive evidence for survival is found in the AWARE study?

If undeniable evidence for survival were found, I'd lobby for changing our mission to the defense and promotion of rationalism, rather than naturalism. Rationalism understood as the view that one should form one's religious positions solely on the basis of reason, and never on the basis of faith, (second-hand) revelation, tradition, or authority.

Rationalism is rather generic and epistemological, but in line with our current mission. I would not lobby for defending supernaturalism, because there are too many false supernaturalistic views as it is. If I had to pick some alternative metaphsical view, it would be something other than naturalism, but I don't know what (positively) it would be. It would be minimal supernaturalism, one that does not affirm one iota more than whatever supernatural things had thus far been scientifically demonstrated (in line with me being personally metaphysically conservative--not positing more than you need to to explain the world).

ZC: In any case, I confess to being very curious about Keith's replies to my above "10 questions for Keith"

You wrote this before I finished replying to your previous comment. In light of what you said before this sentence, I'm not sure I want to further participate in discussions with you. Discussions take time and effort, time and effort that you do not appreciate, and thus time and effort that would best be spent on something more enjoyable.

If you've already decided that everything I've said or even will say is always going to be a fallacy, or a claim of victimization, you destroy any motivation I might have to answer your questions. But maybe discouraging my participation here is all that you ever wanted anyway, so that you could have your own little skeptic-free ghetto.

You cite what I asked MP while ignoring that I was replying to his explicit statement that my position implies that I view everyone else as "stupid, irrational, dishonest, and cowardly." Clearly that's me playing the victim, rather than MP saying anything negative about me. Because, after all, it is our role models that think others are "stupid, irrational, dishonest, and cowardly," right?

Cyrus: This has the tone of a boss scolding an intern. This is not a good way to keep things civil.

And do you know why it has that tone? Because people ask me questions, as if I'm obligated to answer them in detail, when they won't even take the time to get the issues right in the first place.

You know what else I find profoundly frustrating? People who ask you a question that you already answered the last time he or she asked it. It's as if they're purposely trying to waste your time by rehashing what's already been addressed instead of moving on to some other question.

Cyrus: “Leo, do you even bother to read what I've said about this case before commenting?”

Leo's comment indicated an ignorance of understanding what he was talking about, since the fact that Pam Reynolds visualized a bone saw does not change the fact that she visualized it under anesthesia about 2 hours before flatline. He had claimed that the fact that she visualized it indicated that her NDE occurred during flatline. There is no way you could get that implication if you knew what you were talking about, so it was a frustrating waste of time having to dispense with it.

Cyrus: The opening post is predictably derailed? Perhaps because the people who post here are, naturally, flakes who digress into other points due to their lack of brains?

Wherever you're getting this from, it's you reading that into this. Yes, a predictable derail, because comments on this blog are often derails. Nothing about that fact implies being flaky or stupid.

And I'll play along because I have the option of not answering at all, given that the comment had nothing to do with the subject of the blog entry itself. I'll play along because an answer would be demanded of me even if I didn't answer. If I don't answer, it'll be construed as my inability to answer, my being afraid to answer--as ZC just stated explicitly in her first comment here!

Cyrus: The question is no longer whether anecdotal evidence has value in the NDE, the issue becomes fake testimonials written for business purposes.

Actually, I thought the issue rather had something to do with not taking testimonials, whatever the source, at face value on "trust" without being able to vouch for yourself what you're told. Hence, the mention of getting that used car independently inspected before shelling out thousands of dollars for it.

Cyrus: People don’t sell most NDEs. Very, very few become books. Business testimonials are far different from accounts of personal experiences related to consciousness which are researched by professionals.

Money isn't the only commodity. So is having people pay attention to you, or thinking that you're special because you've "touched God." Now I'm not saying that NDErs are necessarily seeking this. I'm simply pointing out that there are other things to sell than books.

Cyrus: To express some respect would go a very long way.

Respect is earned, not given away. You get what you give. There are many people here that I don't (often) address because I have no desire to criticize them, like Zerdini. And now that Kris has addressed me respectfully, I've returned the favor, acting as if it has always been this way without so much as a mention of his former behavior (sorry to mention it now, since I don't want to salt any wounds).

In all due respect, President Obama bent over backwards trying to accomodate Republican senators, and where did it get him? It allowed them to stall long enough to turn public opinion against health care. Even incredibly watered down healthcare with most of the substantial reform ripped out. People who are determined to fight you will fight you no matter what you do. When dealing with such people, is it really better to turn the other cheek, or does that just encourage them to step all over you, over and over again?

I tried the "careful not to offend" approach back in the Rovin' thread, and it just encouraged destructive criticism. So there will be no more politeness just for the sake of appearances. Being tactful to someone who calls you a liar is about as wise as inviting over for dinner the guy who punched you in the face.

ZC wrote, "This is why I've repeated several times that Keith is more interested in winning short-term arguments than in being logically consistent in defense of his position. There is no point in arguing with someone like that."

I'm sorry to say I've reluctantly come to the same conclusion. I do think that a serious discussion with someone who holds a skeptical view of NDEs would be useful, but I'm afraid it's not going to happen here.

ZC's analysis of Keith's inconsistencies, coupled with Cyrus's analysis of his tone and style, leads me to conclude that Keith is mostly interested in scoring points via sophistry and arguments from intimidation.

I wish it were otherwise, since I was hoping a good discussion would come out of this thread.

ZC wrote, "If all of this fails, Keith will try to make you feel guilty adopting a smart victimization strategy ... Look in Keith's simplistic 'Good vs. Bad' reply, implying that if Michael is right, Keith must be 'bad' (hence, he tried to make Michael felt guilty by his comment)"

Playing the victim does seem to be a consistent tactic. Characteristically, Keith elicits hostile responses by making snide, belittling, or subtly insulting comments. Then he reacts as an innocent victim, complaining about how unfair and harsh his reception has been. It's like mooning a crowd and then bursting into tears when they boo. I'm not saying he does this intentionally, but the pattern of behavior is consistent across many threads.

By making everything personal, he makes it impossible to have a serious exchange of ideas - which is a shame, because he is knowledgeable and intelligent.

Since I kind of lured Keith into this discussion by quoting him at length, I think I should apologize for getting things started. It did not work out the way I'd hoped.

Keith writes,
"In all due respect, President Obama bent over backwards trying to accomodate Republican senators, and where did it get him? It allowed them to stall long enough to turn public opinion against health care"

But this isn't the senate. The difference is that nobody wins with nothing at stake. If you're trying to pass a bill, if you know it's right, then I do think it should get passed hell-or-high water, and Democrats' biggest weakness is trying to appease Republicans. I'm with you on this one--

But like I said again and again, this isn't politics, it's a discussion. There's no bills here. Just your political party (Naturalism?) versus the party of..er.. everything else?

"Today on C-SPAN, a naturalist debates random people with varying viewpoints on spirituality and science on the internet. The naturalist employs the use of 10,000 word responses and daring analogies. Will this change reality as we know it? Stay tuned to C-SPAN for complete coverage...

Anyway, this is my last contribution to this thread, I did want to mention one last interesting bit you wrote.

Keith writes
I don't think there's anything I'd accept as a fact that was still a matter of scientific debate (barring a personal revelation, that is).

Presto, now it all makes sense. You see, other people have personal revelations that they can't prove, so that's why people believe things you don't believe.

If you came face to face with an apparition of a deceased person, you could never prove to others what you saw, but that would be your personal revelation. Your peers would think you were crazy.

This stuff happens to a fair amount of people and it turns their worlds upside down.

Science versus personal revelation, that's the question, and I believe the answer is the revelation is more relevant, at least to the individual.

Debate solved.

ZC offers alleged evidence of my inconsistency, and I painstakingly show that every one of her claims is false. Nevertheless, MP agrees with ZC without so much an an attempt to show that even one of my responses to ZC was inadequate.

A logical inconsistency is something easy to show, and difficult to refute, if it really exists. If my alleged inconsistencies were real, you could erase all of the ZC's inferences, and all of her attributions, and just lay direct quotes from me side by side, one contradicting the other, without comment. You could use my own words, and only my words, to do a reductio ad absurdum.

But you can't do that because others' commentary is the only thing to suggest that any inconsistency exists at all. It is attributed to me, rather than found in my words. If I'm wrong, prove me wrong; lay those inconsistent statements side by side.

Do I think it will happen? Of course not. I've made this challenge before, and it has yet to be met. And now MP just agreed with ZC as if I had never commented in between them. I might as well have written in invisible ink.

The lesson is clear. The more opposed people you engage, the bigger the hole you dig for yourself, no matter what you say. Best not to engage at all.

I answer a question by Vogt, and suddenly I've invoked a red herring, even though I never would've answered had the question not been asked. I make an incidental explanatory comment to william, and it becomes an inconsistency in my position. You say that I'm just out to score points, but here I could never win an argument, because my actual arguments aren't even addressed. Instead, attributions are made, and from thin air grand conclusions are decreed.

I'd been reluctant to post here for a few months until recently. The reason is simple: there are other venues. Less hostile venues. The Skeptiko forum is a good example; there are believers there, to be sure, but at least there are apparently an equal number of skeptics, so that everyone keeps everyone else in check. And I can get a civil discussion with believers even on our old discussion board (which you'd be surprised has some pretty mixed viewpoints).

Heterogeneity of perspectives might not matter to you, but to me is means that one person doesn't have correct every misconstrual of his position, answer every question demanded of skeptics, address every insinuation about his motives. In the absence of that balance, I'm outnumbered, so it is enough to simply multiply criticisms of me whether they are valid or not. If a lot of people are saying it, it must be true, nevermind that a lot of people here are primed to see all skeptics as scientistic pseudoskeptics no matter what a skeptic says.

It's odd that I elicit hostile responses when the first seven comments preceded mine. Let's take a look at the first one, where I--by abhorrently allowing MP to reprint something civil enough to be suitable for publication--"elicited" comments about how I evolved my arguments in a "pseudo-intellectual way," "as always per sloppy skeptic speculation," using "this tactic" for "ignoring/distorting the evidence" and "throwing everything he can against the wall and hoping something sticks."

Now, admittedly, there's nothing prejudicial in those claims, because I'm sure that MP would happily admit to doing any of those things himself (read that with a little sarcasm, if sarcasm is still allowed here).

I make two reasonable complaints--that Leo understands what he's talking about before raising a challenge, and that others not try to bog me down over an issue that near-death researchers themselves universally concede (that fear sometimes produces NDEs). As I said at the time, there is no point in even arguing the point, since that could be true even if something leaves the body--fear could cause one to leave the body. So there's really no reason to argue about it.

Those two complaints, though, "elicit hostile responses." When I respond to hostile things, it is evidently not a problem that others say hostile things. Turn the other cheek, skeptic, just don't expect us to do so. Take the "snide, belittling, or subtly insulting comments," but don't make any. What more can I expect on "your turf"?

If MP himself feels the way that he does about me, expressed in his comment above, then there really is no place for me here. Who will advocate on my behalf other than myself in this environment? No one, but that's fine. Gerald was wise to leave early. There are less hostile territories for discussions.

I won't reply to Keith's lastest comment because I think he has confirmed all my points. He couldn't refute even one of my arguments, but it's something people in this blog should to decide.

Sadly, Keith seems intellectually incapable of seeing their own inconsistencies, even when they're pretty obvious.

Just consider this example: "If my alleged inconsistencies were real, you could erase all of the ZC's inferences, and all of her attributions, and just lay direct quotes from me side by side, one contradicting the other, without comment."

Let's to use only one example of a direct quotes from Keith side by side, one contradicting the other:

My God, an empiricist relying on experience to decide what's real...My God, an empiricist bases his conclusions on actual experiences, rather than merely imagined ones!

But according to Keith, unconsciousness is not based on experiences, however he has concluded that unconsciousness is a real fact:

Unconsciousness cannot be observed, felt, or experienced, and yet it exists.

Keith's acceptation of unconsciousness as a fact is not based on experience (because unconsciousness cannot be experienced), and it is a straighforward contradiction of his contention that an empiricist like him bases his conclusions on actual experiences to decide what's real.

I could refute each of Keith's arguments in this straighforward way, but I think it's a waste of time since that Keith is not open to rational refutation of his beliefs and his contradictions are very obvious, not worthy of detailed additional explanations.

Finally, I want to say that I don't have any negative feelings against Keith or any other person.

My decision of not arguing with him (that I've partially bronken in these lastest exchanges due to Keith's constant victimization and fallacies) is due exclusively to intellectual reasons and a basic sense of self-respect and dignity.

I think not serious discussion can be made with a person like Keith, and engaging in a sincere dialogue with him is intellectually self-destructing.

However, as a spiritual person, I wish all the best and positive things for Keith.

ZC

The real, 'behind the mask Keith Augustine' is probably a nice guy. The super-hero that comes on here and attempts to zap everyone is bound to get zapped back.

Your Pam Reynolds propoganda is what personally riles me. I don't believe that you 'really' believe what you write about the case. Don't you see how ridiculous it is to nit-pick at tiny details like the groove at the end of the midas-rex saw ?
You do it, of course because that's all you've got to preserve your depressing view of the world.
Pam shared her experience like many others have, partly, I imagine, because she naively thought that it would bring some hope, some meaning to our existence. Most people welcome it...it is rather good evidence. But you want to stamp it out like some misguided kill-joy.
The problem is Keith, hardly anybody believes you.

Hmmm. I'm with Kieth. I think he's being demonized for basically being able to argue his position well, which is an entirely reasonable one for someone IN his position, that being a guy who hasn't had any kind of personally convincing revelation of the sort he mentioned as an example of what might personally convince him of the existence of X. It really is not unreasonable to be sceptical given those circumstances.

And I really am starting to think that it's a case of some people convinced of their position thinking that because Kieth, the sceptic, manages to put up a cogent defence of HIS position in his writings, then he MUST be employing some kind of devious sophistry by default, on account of us all 'knowing' his position is untenable.

It really doesn't help things along...

I feel like I kicked off the comments with a negative tone. I don't think it would have made a difference in the end, but that is no excuse. I am sorry.

Keith really gets under my skin. Partly because he consistently misrepresents and misconstrues what I (and others) have said, but mostly because he presents himself as a thorough authoritative scientific intellect when there really is very little science involved in what he is putting out there.

This type of personality is a personal hot button for me. I have stormed out of the offices of senior VPs who share the same traits. It will get me in trouble some day.

Again, I am sorry and will endeavor to be more civil.

The problem is, Breanainn, Keith's arguments are not cogent(powerfully persuasive). They are(IMO)not convincing at all. Are you convinced by them ? Is anyone else? Certainly no one who has had an NDE is persuaded to disregard their experience as a hallucination or whatever he thinks they ought to be called.. So why does he bother ? What's the motive ?

Kieth's arguments made me think. I remember him saying that was one of his intentions on one of his posts, to provide a counter argument to the prevailing pro-survival trend in the popular literature.

Because I've never had an NDE I can't be sure they're NOT halucinations, the only people I know who've had them didn't have experiences that would be considered particularly supportive of the afterlife hypothesis, which mades me wonder how many similar cases remain unheard of.

I'd like to think NDEs are glimpses of a whole new dimension of existence, I have no particular anti-afterlife agenda, but there are some good arguments that they occur entirely within the bounds of known brain functioning, even if the exact mechanisms involved are yet to be identified or understood.

I'm not a debunker, but I'm not going to go around telling people that NDEs are 100% proof of an afterlife either. I try to remain agnostic and open minded as best I can. It's hard to stay uncommitted when I get called a sceptic by believers and a believer by sceptics. :/

I think everyone has to find the truth in their own way. I'm an NDEr, so that has led me in a certain direction. I became interested in science after the NDE and went back to school to learn about the world from that perspective. So now I really want to see if the scientific method can help me make sense of things. That's my direction right now.

Philosophical arguments can be interesting. It hasn't been something I've pursued in my own educational background, but I do enjoy seeing arguments put forward. The thing is, philosophical arguments are not as convincing as either personal experience or evidence from scientific experimentation. That's why I don't engage in such arguments very often. I would much rather read about the evidence in peer-reviewed journals or correspond with others who have had anomalous experiences.

That being said, it is interesting to see these arguments presented so long as everyone plays nice.

I think we can be pretty sure they are not hallucinations.
Science cannot exclude the possibility that the soul exists. And if these experiences are not connected to the age old belief of the soul, then what are they ? How else would the immaterial 'soul' manifest itself ? What more do we want.

I never said that my personal experiences were a reason for anyone else to believe whatever he or she believes. To each his own. I'm sure Zerdini feels the same way.

Indeed I do.

Nevertheless, my personal experiences, like Zerdini's, surely have something to do with why each of us believes what we do.

I have no argument with that.

If I personally saw a technological craft of no conceivable terrestrial origin 10 feet above me, then I would have knowledge that someone who has never seen such a thing lacks.
That would not be scientific knowledge, but personal revelation.

I personally saw a fully materialised spirit being in front of me which is why I "have knowledge that someone who has never seen such a thing lacks".

That is not scientific knowledge but personal revelation.

In addition I have met many people who have experienced something similar.

I never believed in an afterlife or a spiritual realm, even as a child, for one simple reason: I've never encountered anything remotely like such things

Neither did I nor was I subjected to religious indoctrination.

I would think that each person's own personal experiences ought to count for evidence for oneself.

I completely agree. I have no desire to convince anyone or disturb their belief system. I simply share my experiences.

There are many people here that I don't (often) address because I have no desire to criticize them, like Zerdini.

Thanks Keith.

I never said that my personal experiences were a reason for anyone else to believe whatever he or she believes. To each his own. I'm sure Zerdini feels the same way.

Indeed I do.

Nevertheless, my personal experiences, like Zerdini's, surely have something to do with why each of us believes what we do.

I have no argument with that.

If I personally saw a technological craft of no conceivable terrestrial origin 10 feet above me, then I would have knowledge that someone who has never seen such a thing lacks.
That would not be scientific knowledge, but personal revelation.

I personally saw a fully materialised spirit being in front of me which is why I "have knowledge that someone who has never seen such a thing lacks".

That is not scientific knowledge but personal revelation.

In addition I have met many people who have experienced something similar.

I never believed in an afterlife or a spiritual realm, even as a child, for one simple reason: I've never encountered anything remotely like such things

Neither did I nor was I subjected to religious indoctrination.

I would think that each person's own personal experiences ought to count for evidence for oneself.

I completely agree. I have no desire to convince anyone or disturb their belief system. I simply share my experiences.

There are many people here that I don't (often) address because I have no desire to criticize them, like Zerdini.

Thanks Keith.

Aplogies for posting this twice - typing error!

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