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Micheal: Yeah, I, too, tend to steer clear of debates. Debates all-too-often center around winning, not being right. Debaters can win by making the opponent look like weak, or tongue-tied, or like a fool; this has no place in a pursuit of truth. (This is the same problem I have with trial lawyers, BTW.)

Question for anyone: If you could have ONE person in the NDE corner for this upcoming debate, who would you pick? Remember that this is a debate, which has nothing necessarily to do with discovering truth, but instead all-too-often hinges on being seen as the dominant "alpha" person.

I don't have a thorough handle on all of the prominent pro-NDE personages, but off the top of my head, I am supposing that Chris Carter might well be a strong pro-NDE gladiator. He's feisty. I'm betting he'd be good at parrying cheap shots.

I'm not sure Eben Alexander is enough of a "street fighter." Certainly, I could be wrong!

That said, Novella and Carroll - a neurologist and and a physicist, respectively - might make the debate center on highly technical scientific details, which Alexander might well be better equipped to handle than Carter, a philosopher and writer. Then again, Carter has has an encyclopedic knowledge of NDE arguments and rebuttals, so he might hold his own just fine in a debate involving arcane scientific knowledge.

I don't yet have a sense of Raymond Moody.

Let the games begin! :)

I've listened to a number of debates featuring Carroll and Novella and I'm not especially impressed with either of them. I'd recommend the debate Carroll had with William Lane Craig on Youtube as being about the best of those and Craig did a pretty good job of demolishing his arguments, though Carroll did better against him than most of the other big name atheist-scientists. I think he watched the other debates with Craig and realized he'd better prepare.

I don't know how Moody or Alexander will do in a debate, though Alexander should certainly know more about neurological matters than Carroll or, for that matter, Novella.

I'm especially skeptical about the "Intelligence Squared" outfit having heard some of their "debates" on the radio. Old line establishment bias.

I agree with all of Comma in Infinity's comments!

I find debates like this frustrating too. All the skeptic side has to do is appear like "serious scientists" and gently (or not so gently) pooh-pooh the proponents' side. It tends to "win," since it's become a narrative with which a large percentage of the population has become comfortable.

NDE’s do not provide qualitative evidence for survival of consciousness but they do provide evidential evidence. Many people that experience NDE’s come back with information they could only have attained if their consciousness left their bodies.

“Novella is best known for his involvement in the skeptical movement.”

This fact of involvement in the skeptical movement alone should exclude Novella from any involvement in any debate worth listening to. He will defend his materialism beliefs in spite of any evidence.

Not if, but when, he has his own transformational experience/s then he may indeed change his own paradigm paralysis about materialism being an absolute.

Skeptics are true believers, which makes them more about being a religion than being sincere seekers.

Souls advance through experiences that lead to insights, discoveries, and realizations. Only realizations lead to understanding or what the Buddhists refer to as a “knowing beyond knowing”.

Carroll may well be a more open-minded debater with his being a naturalist such as the study of, “Consciousness. How do the phenomena of consciousness arise from the collective behavior of inanimate matter?”

"If you could have ONE person in the NDE corner for this upcoming debate, who would you pick?"

Ideally I would want to see someone well grounded in both physics and philosophy of science. This is because the view that life after death/psi and so on contradicts the laws of physics far from being an established scientific fact is, actually, based on both a very questionable view of how scientific laws work, and a number of metaphysical assumptions (e.g. the causal closure of the physical universe, Mind as an epiphenomenon of the brain) that are open to strong philosophical challenge.

Without these underlying assumptions being teased out into the open and challenged the danger is that Novella and Carroll's scientific standing will be such as to enable them to pile on the technical details (as A Comma in Infinity suggests) and present the pro NDE position as simply unscientific and irrational.

In any event, like the other commentators I won't be watching this as I don't find such debates satisfactory - even if my view 'wins'.

Much better I think would be a debate between the life after death and the super psi views. A least there would be sufficient commonality of views about the mind & psi to enable a genuine debate, rather than everyone just talking past one another.

William, there is no explanation for consciousness arising from matter. It must be a precursor or its prototype, e.g., the cosmic consciousnesses, or God. Per orthodox quantum mechanics, someone or something must decohere, or collapse, the wave function for the Universe as we know it to exist. Per Lanza and Biocentrism, the Universe cannot have waited for human perception to have come into existence, ergo, God had to be here first and he gave birth to our human version of consciousness. Whether we are nestled in his bosom for eternity is up for grabs - I think so!

Eben was a very poor debater. Moody was even worst. Moody’s PhD is in philosophy so he spent most of his time trying to sound like a great philosopher. Michael Tymn and most that blog on this blog would have done a much better job than Moody.

Eben’s final summation was pretty good. His opening was too long and too detailed about his illness.

Of course there is overwhelming evidence that consciousness survives the physical brain. Interesting Moody knew little about that evidence and Eben did not bring it up until his summation.

Some of the evidence from Eben’s book was not allowed to be revealed to the audience: Eben seeing his sister on the other side that he had never met was not allowed to be asked. This is a form of evidence that other NDE’s have experienced.

Moody had spent most of his time pretending to be a philosopher and should have been on the side of the skeptics. In fact at one time the skeptics asked him to come over to their table.

As always the idea of cold reading came out yet no skeptic has yet to accomplish what many good mediums have done and are doing.
And the materialist ignorance that when the brain is damaged consciousness is damaged which proves to them that the brain creates consciousness. Which they confuse an effect for a cause.

The end voting determining the winner cannot be trusted as the moderator explained in detail in the beginning debate what would determine the winner.

One skeptic stated that our brains are machines. That alone should give one pause for concern. Also predictable believing in Bigfoot was mentioned as similar to the NDE.

All in all predictable. None understood the term qualitative evidence as a legitimate form of the scientific method.


Sounds exactly as I expected! Which is too bad... Thanks for the report.

I didn't watch. I've read Moody's and Alexander's books, and I don't have the impression that either or them would be well prepared to debate the topic. I think Chris Carter, who has an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a detailed knowledge of the entire NDE literature, would be a good choice. He also knows how to give and take polemics. Stephen Braude would also be a good choice.

I have mixed feelings about Moody, as I discussed here:

He seems to want to eat his cake and have it, too. He likes to be on both sides of the fence regarding the significance of NDEs. I can't account for this (to me) peculiar unwillingness to take a stand.

That said, his book "Life After Life" is one of the most important contributions ever made to afterlife studies. It opened up a whole new field of investigation, and it popularized and (to some extent) legitimized the idea of empirical evidence for survival. He did something great with that book. He just doesn't seem comfortable with his own accomplishment, or with its implications.

As for Alexander, he has come late to the subject of NDEs, and his own NDE was an outlier with few of the standard features.

So it goes.

“William, there is no explanation for consciousness arising from matter.”

This quote came from the naturalist view not mine: i.e. “Consciousness. How do the phenomena of consciousness arise from the collective behavior of inanimate matter?”

My view is that souls evolve to greater and greater awareness so I view infinite awareness as the Absolute Reality or Spirit. Consciousness is the stuff of life and the expression of Spirit.

Consciousness is dualistic and time based with its flow of thoughts. Expression demands consciousness, as awareness is stillness. I.e. consciousness experiences other.

Awareness is spirit and is timeless.

Perfection is timeless whereas consciousness evolves from a spark of awareness to perfect awareness that most call “God”.

Consciousness must have elements of unawareness (ignorance) and there lies the origin and cause of suffering. Souls owe their uniqueness to their experiences of evolving awareness through the process of insights, discoveries, and realizations.

A realization is much more uncommon than a white crow. Just as the world confuses intellectual aptitude (IQ) for intelligence, they confuse insights and discoveries for a realization.

"Sounds exactly as I expected! Which is too bad... Thanks for the report" Your welcome Matt

It's also interesting that Moody titled his autobiography Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife, but I guess it chronicles his ambivalence toward the subject.

I can sympathize to some extent. A person who is willing to stick his neck out in one area might tend to be conservative about related areas, just to avoid being seen as a total space cadet.

But that's not the right sort of person to do a debate. Bruce Greyson might also have been a good pick.

Alexander's NDE is indeed an outlier. I think the main significance is the kind of medical documentation for his condition.

The standard pattern for all such debates is the skeptical side immediately resorting to "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and then claiming, with little or no argument, that anything other than straight naturalism is so extraordinary that the bar for evidence is set staggeringly high. Unless they are challenged forcefully on that move, the debate is over. I didn't see the debate, but I very much doubt that Moody or Alexander dug in their heels on this.

But naturalism as the "default" worldview has to be challenged on general philosophical grounds, and this is something that TV and studio audiences have little stomach for.

Michael, I agree about Moody. I think his reputation was really hurt bad by his book, The Last Laugh which got many bad reviews. I found it to be incomprehensible and almost seemed to refute what he had written in Life After Death. I don't know but my estimation of his work plummeted after reading that book. I see that it is no longer available on Amazon.

Sorry, I know, Moody's book is Life After Life. Hyslop's book is Life After Death. - AOD

I saw parts of the debate but I couldn't finish. Moody kept droning on about philosophy and explicitly refused to debate on scientific grounds, playing right into the con side's argument that belief in the afterlife is by nature unscientific. Alexander was somewhat better but didn't strike me as a very polished debater. Carroll and Novella did a pretty good job, although Carroll had a certain smart-assiness that I thought was a bit of a turn off.

If you haven't seen it, don't waste your time.

All in all it confirmed my dislike for formal debates as a technique for shedding light on important issues. A seasoned debater like William Lane Craig can win pretty much any debate he's in, regardless of the merits of his arguments. Discussion is better than debate.

"I have mixed feelings about Moody, as I discussed here"

Michael, did you read his autobiography (called Paranormal)? An absolutely wonderful book!

Some interesting comments follow that debate. One of them contains a quote that got my attention.

I've long been aware that the thinking of the leading physicists of the 20th century is closely allied with mysticism. But I never realized how explicit Planck himself was in this regard. I've bolded the most relevant part:

"As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter."

I can't think of a clearer statement of my own experience and understanding than that last sentence.

I have to say I wasn't impressed at all with Eben Alexander's book. I've read many NDE accounts, and the overall tone just didn't match at all. The tone of NDEs I've observed is the lack of ego among the people who've experienced NDEs. Alexander just came across as very ego-centered. It is impressive that he met a sister he didn't know he had though. But it also read like an LSD trip, which isn't similar to most NDEs. After a minor head injury that knocked me out, I had what could have been an NDE, and did meet someone on the other side, and it did seem surprisingly very real. When I experienced it, very briefly, I was astonished with an absolute "knowingness" that there is an Afterlife. Maybe I didn't go "far enough," or it wasn't an NDE, but it was nothing like what he experienced. Too bad Chris Carter didn't participate.

Hope this isn't too repetitive, but here goes:

I liked all four of the debaters. Or, to put that differently, I certainly didn't DISlike any of them, and the debate itself was civil and pleasant.

Unfortunately, I would have to say that the AGAINST side drubbed the FOR side. Moody/Alexander simply didn't answer their challenges and questions very well. For example, I was practically yelling at my computer for either of them to make the "radio" analogy - that the brain is a receiver, not a producer, of consciousness, and that while damaging it can interfere with the reception and playback of the music, the music is still there. This would have answered well Carroll's objections about how easily-manipulable perception is when you mess with the brain. (You can monkey with the radio and distort the music too, but you haven't affected the music itself.) A simple analogy that the audience would have been able to relate to.

Alexander kept it too specific to his own experience. He did not bring in enough from outside, and especially lacking was any talk of the reams of evidence for veridical, non-local perception. (And at least one very juicy opening to do that was pretty much handed to them by the opposition.)

Moody, who I find daffy but very likeable and interesting, was an empty seat. He barely discussed evidence at all, choosing instead to talk philosophy. It was interesting stuff, some of the same ground he explored on Skeptiko a couple of years ago, but this wasn't the time and place for it. You preach that kind of thing to the choir, after hours, not in a debate. Too abstract. He should have stuck to evidence.

The FOR team was too passive in allowing the AGAINST side to chose the ground that they would fight on, and failed to defend itself on that ground. I'm not surprised that the audience picked the winner that they did.

@ Michael:

"(Moody) seems to want to eat his cake and have it, too. He likes to be on both sides of the fence regarding the significance of NDEs. I can't account for this (to me) peculiar unwillingness to take a stand."

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure I read somewhere that Dr. Moody suffers from Bipolar Disorder, which might explain his oscillating attitude to the significance of NDEs.

The problem with NDEs is that there are now people who have been revived by doctors for hours and reported nothing. So this begins to suggest to me that they are perhaps fragments of a dying brain after all.

Bruce, Read Henry Stapp's view on consciousness in the Universe here:

It is profound. He makes the case for survival of consciousness because of its antecedent (in time) form, i.e., cosmic consciousness, as the emergent prototype for the Creator and our own subsequent (in time) existence.


Love your comments. We may disagree on minor points, but I do think our philosophy matches quite well! Your contrast of consciousness/awareness I think is really onto something...


Yes. I think that another class of experience is getting mixed into the NDE discussion and causing confusion. I think Eben Alexander and Nanci Danison (to give another example) didn't actually have NDEs. For one thing, neither experienced cardiac arrest. I think they were experiencing higher-dimensional realities (4D/Astral, 5D) but were not necessarily on the "track" that humans travel when they are progressing to the Afterlife proper.

I agree about Eben and his ego, and the same thing applies to Nanci (she's inspired a lot of negative comments on this site, as well as some positive). Both seem to want to be treated as "special," and Nanci has virtually set herself up as a prophetess.

Simon Fraser,

I draw the opposite conclusion from the fact that the vast majority of people do not experience an NDE. If it happened every single time someone had a cardiac arrest or similar physical trauma, then I think it would be easier to argue that the NDE is particular physical process (that would also depend on the content of the experiences: a lot of veridical evidence would still be good evidence).

Further, the nature of NDE reports must be assessed on its own terms. The fact that many people don't experience something doesn't invalidate the reports of those that do. I.e., veridical evidence, insistence on the reality of the experiences, etc.

A lot of people who go into cardiac arrest don't experience NDEs, it is true. But I think a lot of those people simply don't leave the body but stick around while medical measures are being taken. They may also go OBE without necessarily going that far. For example, they may be hovering over their bodies, looking down, and then not even remember that when they wake up.

Sometimes I wake from a deep sleep having had mind-blowing experiences. Sometimes I just wake up. The latter doesn't say much about the former.

The problem with NDEs is that there are now people who have been revived by doctors for hours and reported nothing. So this begins to suggest to me that they are perhaps fragments of a dying brain after all.

That may be because they do not remember the experience, besides that such cases do not invalidate the cases where patients had experiences with veridical information that even healthy people could not have obtained by ordinary means.

About the discursion, I would have chosen as proponents Bruce Greyson and Neal Grossman.

I think of the question of life after death as being more like a legal courtroom question rather than a scientific one only each person has to examine the evidence for themselves and make up their own minds as to what the answer is.

"It was announced today that a new team of researchers at the University of California will spend three years looking into near-death reports, out-of-body experiences, the psychological implications of believing in immortality and related phenomenon."

Here is a very lively discussion on a physics blog (The Reference Frame by Lubos Motl a Czech quantum physicist and antagonist of Sean Carroll).

Motl's contention (of many) is that even if there is an afterlife it is most likely very boring - may be so, may be not. Read the comments they are very entertaining.

On the boring issue I do not agree: it doesn't seem to me that a place in which you're forever loved, and reunited with your family and friends (according to NDErs,)and (according to some NDEs accounts) your consciousness and thoughts create what you experience, could be boring at all... It sounds like all we can desire in this life and more. I could be wrong, but there's more evidence that the afterlife it's about that than about any other thing...

But oh well, I'm not a quantum physicist :s

“Sometimes I wake from a deep sleep having had mind-blowing experiences. Sometimes I just wake up. The latter doesn't say much about the former.” Matt

Several years ago just before I started to wake up I would be in a semi-trance state (maybe it was a hypnopompic state, a term coined by Frederic Myers) and these beautiful spiritual teachings would come to me. Now I just wake up. Maybe it has something to do with the finishing of a book, I just don’t know.

What was so frustrating I was unable to rewrite those spiritual teachings that came to me in a flowing almost poem like manner and was only able to write down the substance of those teachings.

What I find significant I was able to confirm whom the entity (soul) was coming through to me while in that trance state before waking up. While living in a physical body he was a spiritual teacher and his teachings have been influential in my own spiritual journey into these mysteries of life.

“Your contrast of consciousness/awareness I think is really onto something...” Thanks Matt.

"Motl's contention (of many) is that even if there is an afterlife it is most likely very boring."

I haven't actually visited the site to read his comments, but I would guess that his objection is based on a misunderstanding. It is probably true that living in the earthly paradise sometimes called Summerland would get boring eventually, but it's not supposed to last forever. Summerland is intended to be a place for rest and relaxation, a chance to recharge the batteries and regroup after the ordeal of earthly life.

From there, you move on to a new challenge – reincarnation, according to some reports, or advancement to a higher plane, according to others. Maybe both things are true; it's possible that reincarnation involves spinning off a new subpersonality to continue on earth, while the "real you" makes further progress in spiritual realms.

In any case, you advance at your own pace, and apparently there are quite a lot of adventures to be had and hurdles to be overcome. That's the story, anyway, as told by mediums and other purported authorities.

Death is the irrefutable proof we were once alive. On a positive side death protects us from bad things happening in life, whereas being unborn doesn't: anything can happen.

God or his agents collapses the wave function by allowing us to be born so to speak - contra- positively once here you can never leave. Kind of scary!

Dr. Steven Novella mentions that Ian Stevenson's work on reincarnation can probably be explain by contamination because he didn't control for that. Well, first your wrong in fact Ian Stevenson went out of this way to do everything possible to make sure contamination wasn't a factor. Steven, also said that its a scientific fact that the mind is produced by the brain. Of course, ignoring the fact that other scientists that are naturalist's like him such as John Searle mentions its a preassumption that the mind is produced by the brain but if you accept that then you can at least make some headway. We know how that progress is going and its not so good. The failure of behaviorism for example assumed that mind can be explained by the behavior of the brain. Then, besides the overwhelming evidence for psi and survival. We have cases such as terminal lucidity where patients with advanced dementia are able to get their memories back shortly before their deaths. Sean Carroll as intelligent as he is seems to be aware of parallel universes but obviously doesn't bring it up when he is trying to argue against an afterlife. Because, he knows that if their is parallel universes and there is a lot of mounting evidence supporting it now. That, it would weaken his case strongly because it also entails quantum immortality that our consciousness continues on after death and cannot be extinguish by death.

“God or his agents collapses the wave function by allowing us to be born so to speak - contra- positively once here you can never leave. Kind of scary!”

This is correct one cannot opt out of expressing their uniqueness. We are expressions of that that is. We do not have the freedom not to express.

The good news is as our awareness of our divine reality grows life becomes less “scary” more loving and creative.

I don’t know of any advanced spiritual teachings that did not state, that life as a human, was a necessary aspect of an evolving awareness.

The mind is produced by the brain beliefs is another example of confusing an effect for a cause. As an organizational consultant I saw their confusing an effect for a cause with every organization that I worked with.

Both Carroll and Novella are materialists and we cannot take them any more seriously than any other true believers of any religion Beliefs overwhelm evidence at a subconscious level 99.999% of the time.

The world continues to confuse intellectual aptitude for intelligence. One can have an IQ of 160 and still be low on the totem pole of divine awareness.

ie the universe exhibits intelligence not intellectual aptitude.

Too bad Lynn Claire Dennis didn't show up with a video of Meron.....which she saw in an NDE...

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