ADVERTISEMENT
  About the SA Blog Network













Guest Blog

Guest Blog


Commentary invited by editors of Scientific American
Guest Blog HomeAboutContact

The Death of “Near Death”: Even If Heaven Is Real, You Aren’t Seeing It

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Email   PrintPrint



You careen headlong into a blinding light. Around you, phantasms of people and pets lost. Clouds billow and sway, giving way to a gilded and golden entrance. You feel the air, thrusted downward by delicate wings. Everything is soothing, comforting, familiar. Heaven.

It’s a paradise that some experience during an apparent demise. The surprising consistency of heavenly visions during a “near death experience” (or NDE) indicates for many that an afterlife awaits us. Religious believers interpret these similar yet varying accounts like blind men exploring an elephant—they each feel something different (the tail is a snake and the legs are tree trunks, for example); yet all touch the same underlying reality. Skeptics point to the curious tendency for Heaven to conform to human desires, or for Heaven’s fleeting visage to be so dependent on culture or time period.

Heaven, in a theological view, has some kind of entrance. When you die, this entrance is supposed to appear—a Platform 9 ¾ for those running towards the grave. Of course, the purported way to see Heaven without having to take the final run at the platform wall is the NDE. Thrust back into popular consciousness by a surgeon claiming that “Heaven is Real,” the NDE has come under both theological and scientific scrutiny for its supposed ability to preview the great gig in the sky.

But getting to see Heaven is hell—you have to die. Or do you?

Crossing Over with Alexander Eben

This past October, neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander claimed that “Heaven is Real”, making the cover of the now defunct Newsweek magazine. His account of Heaven was based on a series of visions he had while in a coma, suffering the ravages of a particularly vicious case of bacterial meningitis. Alexander claimed that because his neocortex was “inactivated” by this malady, his near death visions indicated an intellect apart from the grey matter, and therefore a part of us survives brain-death.

Alexander’s resplendent descriptions of the afterlife were intriguing and beautiful, but were also promoted as scientific proof. Because Alexander was a brain “scientist” (more accurately, a brain surgeon), his account carried apparent weight.

Scientifically, Alexander’s claims have been roundly criticized and, in my view, successfully refuted. Academic clinical neurologist Steve Novella removes the foundation of Alexander’s whole claim by noting that his assumption of cortex “inactivation” is flawed:

Alexander claims there is no scientific explanation for his experiences, but I just gave one. They occurred while his brain function was either on the way down or on the way back up, or both, not while there was little to no brain activity.

In another takedown of the popular article, neuroscientist Sam Harris (with characteristic sharpness) also points out this faulty premise, and notes that Alexander’s evidence for such inactivation is lacking:

The problem, however, is that “CT scans and neurological examinations” can’t determine neuronal inactivity—in the cortex or anywhere else. And Alexander makes no reference to functional data that might have been acquired by fMRI, PET, or EEG—nor does he seem to realize that only this sort of evidence could support his case.

Without a scientific foundation for Alexander’s claims, skeptics suggest he had a NDE later fleshed out by confirmation bias and colored by culture. Harris concludes in a follow-up post on his blog, “I am quite sure that I’ve never seen a scientist speak in a manner more suggestive of wishful thinking. If self-deception were an Olympic sport, this is how our most gifted athletes would appear when they were in peak condition.”

And these takedowns have company. Paul Raeburn in the Huffington Post, speaking of Alexander’s deathbed vision being promoted as a scientific account, wrote, “We are all demeaned, and our national conversation is demeaned, by people who promote this kind of thing as science. This is religious belief; nothing else.” We might expect this tone from skeptics, but even the faithful chime in. Greg Stier writes in the Christian post that while he fully believes in the existence of Heaven, we should not take NDE accounts like Alexander’s as proof of it.

These criticisms of Alexander point out that what he saw was a classic NDE—the white light, the tunnel, the feelings of connectedness, etc. This is effective in dismantling his account of an “immaterial intellect” because, so far, most symptoms of a NDE are in fact scientifically explainable. [I won’t go into depth here, as another article on this site provides a thorough description of the evidence, as does this study.]

One might argue that the scientific description of NDE symptoms is merely the physical account of what happens as you cross over. A brain without oxygen may experience “tunnel vision,” but a brain without oxygen is also near death and approaching the afterlife, for example. This argument rests on the fact that you are indeed dying. But without the theological gymnastics, I think there is an overlooked yet critical aspect to the near death phenomenon, one that can render Platform 9 ¾ wholly solid. Studies have shown that you don’t have to be near death to have a near death experience.

“Dying”

In 1990, a study was published in the Lancet that looked at the medical records of people who experienced NDE-like symptoms as a result of some injury or illness. It showed that out of 58 patients who reported “unusual” experiences associated with NDEs (tunnels, light, being outside one’s own body, etc.), 30 of them were not actually in any danger of dying, although they believed they were [1]. The authors of the study concluded that this finding offered support to the physical basis of NDEs, as well as the “transcendental” basis.

Why would the brain react to death (or even imagined death) in such a way? Well, death is a scary thing. Scientific accounts of the NDE characterize it as the body’s psychological and physiological response mechanism to such fear, producing chemicals in the brain that calm the individual while inducing euphoric sensations to reduce trauma.

Imagine an alpine climber whose pick fails to catch the next icy outcropping as he or she plummets towards a craggy mountainside. If one truly believes the next experience he or she will have is an intimate acquainting with a boulder, similar NDE-like sensations may arise (i.e., “My life flashed before my eyes…”). We know this because these men and women have come back to us, emerging from a cushion of snow after their fall rather than becoming a mountain’s Jackson Pollock installation.

You do not have to be, in reality, dying to have a near-death experience. Even if you are dying (but survive), you probably won’t have one. What does this make of Heaven? It follows that if you aren’t even on your way to the afterlife, the scientifically explicable NDE symptoms point to neurology, not paradise.

This Must Be the Place

Explaining the near death experience in a purely physical way is not to say that people cannot have a transformative vision or intense mental journey. The experience is real and tells us quite a bit about the brain (while raising even more fascinating questions about consciousness). But emotional and experiential gravitas says nothing of Heaven, or the afterlife in general. A healthy imbibing of ketamine can induce the same feelings, but rarely do we consider this euphoric haze a glance of God’s paradise.

How can I dismiss the theological importance of NDEs so easily? As I said, I fully understand how real and valuable they can be. But in this case, as in science, a theory can be shot through with experimentation. As Richard Feynman said, “It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.

The experiment is exploring an NDE under different conditions. Can the same sensations be produced when you are in fact not dying? If so, your rapping on the Pearly Gates is an illusion, even if Heaven were real. St. Peter surely can tell the difference between a dying man and a hallucinating one.

The near death experience as a foreshadowing of Heaven is a beautiful theory perhaps, but wrong.

Barring a capricious conception of “God’s plan,” one can experience a beautiful white light at the end of a tunnel while still having a firm grasp of their mortal coil. This is the death of near death. Combine explainable symptoms with a plausible, physical theory as to why we have them and you get a description of what it is like to die, not what it is like to glimpse God.

Sitting atop clouds fluffy and white, Heaven may be waiting. We can’t prove that it is not. But rather than helping to clarify, the near death experience, not dependent on death, only points to an ever interesting and complex human brain, nothing more.

We wish that paradise is waiting for us after we die. It is hard to accept the shade creeping into our time in the sun. We see a vision of what must be the place, so we grasp it and believe it. I think David Byrne of the Talking Heads captured this hopefulness about Heaven, this want of respite, best when he sang, “Home is where I want to be, but I guess I’m already there. I come home; she lifted up her wings. I guess that this must be the place.”

Image Credit:

Newsweek’s October Cover on The Daily Beast.

References:

1. Owens, J., Cook, E., & Stevenson, I. (1990). Features of “near-death experience” in relation to whether or not patients were near death. Lancet, 1175-1177.

Further Reading:

What Should We Do With Our Visions of Heaven—and Hell? by John Horgan

Kyle Hill About the Author: Kyle Hill is a freelance science writer and communicator who specializes in finding the secret science in your favorite fandom. Follow on Twitter @Sci_Phile.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.






Comments 101 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. alan borky 3:56 pm 12/3/2012

    “Skeptics point to the curious tendency for Heaven to conform to human desires, or for Heaven’s fleeting visage to be so dependent on culture or time period.”

    Kyle’ve you ever considered the possibility this particular analysis has things back to front?

    Mightn’t it be possible those of our ancient ancestors who apparently died but came back long enough to report what they’d experienced in whatever language and cultural references were available to them did so so consistently the idea there must be something after death arose?

    Whether this was due to there actually being some sort of life after death or some artifact of neural structure this information and the fact it tended to be so consistent may’ve been so shocking to those early humans or even prehumans ideas like gods and religion arose in the first place hence improbable but immensely costly structures like Gobekli Tepi began to be set up out of sheer awe.

    Saying that the idea of a guaranteed place in some sort of paradise’re fairly recent innovations.

    Gilgamesh so dreaded dying after Enkidu’s account of the pitiful existence led by the dead he sought immortality to escape it.

    Even the Ancient Greeks believed apart from the few who earned a place in the Elysian Fields post death existence was a decidely grim affair.

    Even for most Hindus and Buddhists reincarnation was a dread of reincarnating as a lower form of life.

    And the main reason many Meccans tried to murder Muhammed and the early Muslims was his new religion spoke precisely of continued existence after death whereas they preferred to believe death was a blessed annihilation with no fearful consequences for one’s actions during one’s life.

    If an awareness of the history of religion teaches us anything it’s the explanation a belief in life after death arose out of a fear of dying’s a load of bollocks.

    Link to this
  2. 2. karenalcott 4:13 pm 12/3/2012

    I have been close to death (not expected to survive) and comatose. At that time I was aware of the Priest and Nurses as well as the other terminal patients in the room. Obviously I was not anywhere near dead, as I experienced terrible pain and my heart beat on it’s own throughout the 4 days I was in the comma. Brain death does not occur for as much as 6 minutes after the heart stops. However I must admit that a sympathetic shadowy figure sat near my bed, when it wasn’t escorting the other three patients out of the room. Yes they all died while I was “unconsious” and they all obviously felt sorry for me, because as I “dreamed” I told them at the time, I had a 3 year old at home and couldn’t go. I don’t know if the apparition was real, but if it was, I hope it doesn’t carry a grudge. I called it every name in the book to get it to leave; my daughter really did need me to come home.

    Link to this
  3. 3. alan6302 4:43 pm 12/3/2012

    The government declared me dead 13 years ago. I am sure they know what they are talking about. I did not attend the funeral.

    Link to this
  4. 4. nisok 6:12 pm 12/3/2012

    I do not believe in God as a “person”, a “being”, or anything even remotely physical. My concept of God is that of an entity, an intelligent source of energy residing somewhere in this, or perhaps another, universe, that contains dark energy as well as what science, physics, and quantum mechanics can actually “prove” exist.

    I do not believe in heaven or hell, which suggests a physical place. To me, a NDE, or death itself, might be the beginning of a journey into a vast somewhere that allows us to experience the afterlife. Beyond that, I haven’t imagined more.

    Link to this
  5. 5. alan6302 6:23 pm 12/3/2012

    Nothing strange about heaven and hell. Nostradamus said the sun blows up and some survivors make it to 2 new stars. I expect 1 is for humans and the other is for meek man. Nostradamus seems to have a one line description of afterlife .Edgar Cayce definitely wrote a lot about reincarnation.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Archimedes 8:08 pm 12/3/2012

    Scientific thought and logic that exists the the context of Western bourgeois norms does not have the emotional, intellectual, nor experiential maturity requisite to contemplate the existential experiences that result from extraordinary circumstances, emotional events, and physical death.
    Rather, as Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, stated in words in his book, “Meditations”, it isillogical to factually assume that there is no God. It is best for the philosopher to conduct his life as if there was A One Being who orders the Universe and that there is a life after death. If there is a life after death, you will have fulfilled your duty. If there is no life and no sensation after death, you will have dignified yourself during your life by being in conformity to the highest principles of nature and mankind.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Thanna 8:34 pm 12/3/2012

    The stongest evidence given by Alexander was his encounter with his “guide” in heaven – a woman he’d never met. Months later he saw a photo of a sister he’d never known (he’d been adopted) and who’d died years earlier – it was the same woman. Why is that evidence not discussed here? Obviously the entire event is anecdotal. Feynman wouldn’t approve of making conclusions. However, that encounter is significant and worthy of further exploraton. Have other NDE survivors had similar encounters? If so, how many? Alexander’s experience raises many questions which cannot be so easily dismissed as this author wants us to believe.

    Link to this
  8. 8. zsingerb 8:43 pm 12/3/2012

    There is a distinct lack of logic in the statement “Can the same sensations be produced when you are in fact not dying? If so, your rapping on the Pearly Gates is an illusion, even if Heaven were real.” It is like you drinking coffee, then eating a coffee candy, and saying that since the candy gave you the same sensation, the coffee you drank wasn’t really coffee. Duplicating the sensation artificially does not invalidate the potential of the first sensation being real, all it does is demonstrate that we can duplicate it. Playing Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t invalidate the fact that you may indeed be a real pilot, just because you can duplicate the sensation of piloting in a realistic game environment.

    Link to this
  9. 9. bachcole 9:04 pm 12/3/2012

    Science is not qualified to come to grips with near death experiences. I know that all you science types think that science can handle anything; but science is an objectively oriented means of knowing, and an NDE is deeply subjective. (This does not mean that it is unreal.) Not only is science objectively oriented epistomologically speaking, but scientists tend to be oblivious to other people’s subject issues, so I think that Scientific American having anything valuable to say about NDEs is worse than trying to get an authoritative statement about advanced calculus from an artist.

    Link to this
  10. 10. K.Hill 9:07 pm 12/3/2012

    zsingerb,

    You are correct that artificially duplicating an experience does not invalidate the original experience, but I think your examples are of a different case.

    Using your flight simulator example, if you had a flight simulator so advanced that you couldn’t tell the difference between being in a machine and being in the sky, it indeed would question whether or not you having the sensation of flying indicated that you were flying a plane.

    Likewise, if the NDE symptoms associated with seeing Heaven can be recreated with drugs or a sincere belief that you are dying, themselves indistinguishable from the symptoms of actually dying, it questions whether or not what you are sensing is an actual portent of crossing over.

    Link to this
  11. 11. TheMindSide 9:38 pm 12/3/2012

    Interesting debate, but it should be understood that this type of argument is inherent with bias on both sides. As a fellow with the James Randi Institute, it is fair to assume that your interests lie with debunking many of the unexplained to date. Therefore, you fail to present an alternative hypothesis, such as Mario Beauregard who wrote The Spiritual Brain. Not saying that his is absolute fact, but as a scientist, I am trained to look at both sides to come to a conclusion. It is always dangerous to only find research that supports your own hypothesis.

    There are many things that we have encountered in science we have eventually rejected the null hypothesis after years of not being able to. That happens because the pursuit is open to new information, challenges the findings, and asks additional information. It is always easier being the skeptic whose main job is simply to poke holes in other theories. Would just like to have seen empirical counter arguments.

    Link to this
  12. 12. santanu 9:58 pm 12/3/2012

    First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.

    Initially they tried to ignore. But that didn’t work. So many people were reporting NDEs. Then they tried to ridicule. “Ordinary” people were reporting NDEs. They were not scientifically capable. Only big brain scientists know everything that there is to know. Now, that scientists like Dr. Alexander are coming up with their experiences, they can no longer ridicule them. So they are now fighting using the “explainable” argument. But these people have no clue which chemicals come into play or how it happens. This is the last stage. A time is coming when NDE experiences will be accepted as absolute truth. Every pioneer who think out of the box had to fight the conventional belief of the time. Dr. Eben Alexander is no exception.

    Link to this
  13. 13. K.Hill 10:10 pm 12/3/2012

    Santanu,

    Nobody ignores NDEs. They have been studied for decades (especially because of their supposed theological and supernatural importance). You are right, many people report NDEs, but 3% of the US population is hardly a tsunami of testimony.

    That I know of, reports of NDEs are unlike reports of alien abductions, which certainly have had the ridicule you suggest. But, the NDE phenomenon is generally accepted as a real one that occurs to some people, not something to be scoffed at.

    We have a pretty good idea of “which chemicals come into play or how it happens.” Another article on this website provides depth on the issue: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=peace-of-mind-near-death

    Apart from the objective changes in the brain, the personal interpretations of NDEs are subjective and not exactly available to be accepted as “absolute truth.” Alexander is no Galileo. Galileo had the evidence on his side. That’s the difference.

    Link to this
  14. 14. DrBalbina 10:21 pm 12/3/2012

    I can’t help but grin, when people like Kyle try to “bend” science to fit into something that cannot, and perhaps should not, be explained empirically or with the laws of science. Why can’t the Kyles of this world just accept that like many other phenomena in this world, science cannot explain everything. Science can’t explain metaphysical things such as love, purpose, logic, meaning, mathematical truths, ethics, etc, as well as matters of pure science itself such as the speed of light (why it is what it is), the beginning of the universe (assuming it has one), black holes (we can only hypothesize about those), supernovas, and many others (e.g. I’ve always wondered why atoms don’t weight anything but an object made only of those atoms does?). Perhaps, just perhaps, the afterlife is one of those things that can’t be scientifically explained or proven, and we should stop trying to prove or disprove it (especially when, like Kyle, we have no formal science training or tertiary qualifications in the relevant science).

    Link to this
  15. 15. K.Hill 10:34 pm 12/3/2012

    DrBalbina,

    I believe you missed the point of my post. My exact words were:

    “Sitting atop clouds fluffy and white, Heaven may be waiting. We can’t prove that it is not. But rather than helping to clarify, the near death experience, not dependent on death, only points to an ever interesting and complex human brain, nothing more.”

    I think I make it clear a number of times that I am not dismissing the afterlife, just an NDE’s ability to discover it. Beyond this point, criticizing my scientific qualifications and then saying effectively that scientific qualifications are not needed to explain some things seems an empty jab.

    Link to this
  16. 16. markcant 10:50 pm 12/3/2012

    While it’s clear that a subjective experience can never prove anything, I find NDEs intriguing in the extreme. I’m a firm believer in the scientific method, yet I don’t believe that our human sensors can detect (or understand) every phenomenon. A hundred years ago – a mere heartbeat in geological time – we thought other galaxies were clouds drifting across space and that our Milky Way was pretty much the whole shebang. What if it turned out that our next stage of evolution was as some sort of interdimensional being? Of course, there’s no scientific proof of that, just as there was no proof that galaxies were collections of stars back in 1912. I think we have to be very careful in thinking we know all there is to know about how we interface with the universe.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Daniel Cohen 11:53 pm 12/3/2012

    The worlds I see in my dreams are sometimes very “real”. The situation can sometimes be fully-clothed in sensation, logic, and action.
    Sometimes I know I’m dreaming. Sometimes I can actually direct the action, which is of course based on sound logic and knowledge.

    It’s incredible how “real” a dream experience can be. It doesn’t matter how bizarre the story is — it’s natural to go along with it, and to believe in the setting. Then I wake up, and I gotta laugh at how creative me and my friends are, in my dream.

    So that’s my take on this NDE. You were there, so you gotta believe it happened.

    Link to this
  18. 18. ealexander3 12:03 am 12/4/2012

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then they” … claim they knew it all along!

    1. Read “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey through the Afterlife” by Eben Alexander MD [Simon & Schuster, 2012]
    2. Read 3 of the books listed in the reading list:
    a. “Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century”. Kelly, Edward F., Emily Williams Kelly, Adam Crabtree, Alan Gauld, Michael Grosso, and Bruce Greyson. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
    b. “Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of Near-Death Experience”. Van Lommel, Pim. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
    c. “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory”. Chalmers, David J. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
    3. Realize that such a severe bacterial meningitis as that reported in “Proof of Heaven” should not have allowed any experience or memory…at all!
    4. Open to the possibility that “The Hard Problem of Consciousness,” {ie. the fact that no one on earth has the remotest idea how the physical brain “creates” consciousness, and quite likely never will (with a purely physicalist explanation – follows from Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems) see D Chalmers’ 1996 book} – is the most insoluble conundrum known to humankind. {This is a giant HINT!}
    5. Realize that the enigma of the interpretation of quantum mechanics is the “smoking gun” that ridicules any attempt at explaining all of reality based solely in the physicalist realm, without realizing that consciousness is actually the prime mover
    6. “Proof of Heaven” really proves enriched consciousness independent of the physical limits of the human brain, also deeply explored in “Irreducible Mind” and “Consciousness Beyond Life” (refs above)
    7. Note also the tremendous body of work in reincarnation (from Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker at UVA) and past life work from transpersonal psychology
    8. This much larger view of consciousness as primary and independent of the physical brain (not to mention eternal) fosters a more facile management of the Hard Problem and Quantum mechanics
    8. Connect the dots — you will then begin to glimpse the reality offered up in “Proof of Heaven” (Hint – the next question involves the nature of free will, causality, and a complete re-working of concepts of space and time – you’re not in Kansas anymore!)

    Link to this
  19. 19. K.Hill 12:47 am 12/4/2012

    Dr. Alexander I presume?

    Without reading the books on your list and your own book for evidence, I stand by my critique of your account. If you were in a coma, it is feasible that your visions occurred while your brain was ramping up or down in brain functioning. The simple fact that you can remember your experience is evidence enough of this (and less so for Heaven). Furthermore, the evidence you offer (“CT scans and neurological examinations”) is inadequate to determine neuronal activity, and therefore says nothing of whether your brain was “inactivated,” as you claim.

    The fact that uncovering the secrets of consciousness is hard does not imply that there is something supernatural to it. Unexplained does not mean unexplainable, and ignorance is no shelter for the explanation you offer.

    Please offer the “smoking gun” evidence that quantum mechanics invalidates any physical description of reality. I would wager I could round up a dozen particle physicists would would want to hear it. Yes, quantum mechanics is weird, but it makes some of the most accurate (physical) predictions in all of science. “Spooky” qualities of the tiniest of particles is hardly reason to Chopra-up this conversation.

    Again, your book, while a fascinating account of what can be experienced while near death, cannot be consider proof of “enriched consciousness independent of the physical limits of the human brain” for the reasons I outlined in the article. We have no reason to suspect that your intellect went to Heaven or even left your head.

    I’ve connected the dots: I see a powerful and emotional description of what it is like for a brain to die (or come close to it). It’s valuable in its ability to show us what sensations can occur in consciousness, but not as scientific evidence of an afterlife. As as scientist yourself (a surgeon, more accurately), you know that it takes a bit more to “prove” something than anecdote can provide.

    Link to this
  20. 20. annamraju 2:29 am 12/4/2012

    K.Hill writes with arrogance and little knowledge of quantum physics.. I recall beyond belief 2006 conference well known physicist Lawrence Karuss making fun of DR.Stuart Hameroff’s claim that quantum phenomenon may be happening in biological systems including humans. Lawrence krauss said it is non sense and stupid, the quantum thing never occur in wet and room temperatures the least humans.. Seth llyod from MIT gave compelling lecture on life that exhibits quantum behavior including humans. In fact he says they are the modeling biological quantum behavior to build quantum computer. Don’t make fun or draw hasty conclusions when people say things with wisdom.
    K.Hill- “Please offer the “smoking gun” evidence that quantum mechanics invalidates any physical description of reality” . Mr.Hill will lose his wager with almost 100 year old double slit experiment.
    Multiverse is as much acceptable as neurosurgeon’s journey in to heavens.
    Dr.Tegmark says there is no reality , the reality perhaps is mathematical construct.
    On a personal note I am really turned off by the approach of Scientific American ( Now I follow “New Scientist” ) to allow environmental Engineer giving the wisdom of the truth , rather allowing distinguished neurosurgeon’s views.

    Link to this
  21. 21. Vernard 2:41 am 12/4/2012

    annamraju, you speak of Quantum Physics as if you know it. You don’t, because those who’ve studied it, don’t know it either.

    Link to this
  22. 22. Vernard 3:00 am 12/4/2012

    alan borky said: “Mightn’t it be possible those of our ancient ancestors who apparently died but came back long enough to report what they’d experienced in whatever language and cultural references were available to them did so so consistently the idea there must be something after death arose?”

    —People are aware that NDE’s, even in ancient times, are consistent; This is what the brain does—all the time, the white light, visions of people you know, etc. Who knows, maybe even lower species of animals experience the same, white-light, visions of other animals they’ve interacted with, NDE’s. What’s your point?

    DrBalbina said: “I can’t help but grin, when people like Kyle try to “bend” science to fit into something that cannot”
    – You aimed at the wrong person; if there was anyone who is trying to “Bend Science to fit into something that cannot”, it’s Dr. Eben. What he did with the statement, “proof of Heaven” is NOT how science works.

    Link to this
  23. 23. annamraju 3:18 am 12/4/2012

    Vernard -”annamraju, you speak of Quantum Physics as if you know it. You don’t, because those who’ve studied it, don’t know it either.”–
    FYI..I studied Quantum Physics.yes I agree with you EVEN the Quantum Physicists don’t know the exact nature of reality. This NDE article even much less know something about heavens…

    Link to this
  24. 24. makinaro 3:53 am 12/4/2012

    There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, mental gymnastics, and Chopresque reasoning in this thread. Plus Dr. Alexander hawking his own book as proof of his experience (Really?). At the risk of sounding like a shill for “Big Science”, I’ll wait until it’s published in a neuroscience journal.

    annamraju: You missed the part where a neurologist did weigh in. Also, comparing “Heaven is Real” to the multiverse is flawed in that no theoretical physicist is claiming that there is without-a-doubt a multiverse. Merely that the mathematics are compelling and worth exploring.

    And while QuantumBio is a very real topic of study, we’re talking things like photosynthesis or bird navigation (which relies on the fact that QM doesn’t work in wet biological systems)–not going to a judeo-christian heaven. It’s another case of picking up the QM ball and running with it.

    Link to this
  25. 25. jmac 4:08 am 12/4/2012

    “The experiment is exploring an NDE under different conditions. Can the same sensations be produced when you are in fact not dying? If so, your rapping on the Pearly Gates is an illusion, even if Heaven were real. St. Peter surely can tell the difference between a dying man and a hallucinating one.”

    Sorry, Kyle, that doesn’t cut it.

    Since God’s will is unknowable to mortals, (S)he might (I said “unknowable” so must needs make this tentative) choose to give a person who is not dying a “teaser” – i.e. plausible illusion – of the afterlife to strengthen their faith (just as a frinstance – OTOH he or she might enjoy messing with people).

    This actually worked when my mother faced death many years ago. Her report of it to me did nothing to dispel my atheism, but for a believer this post-facto explanation is entirely plausible. So St Peter might just follow orders (wouldn’t you if you had Him/Her as a boss?) and open the Gates a crack.

    Link to this
  26. 26. Trulahn 4:08 am 12/4/2012

    At least the Christian media also disagree with NDE claims. I mean, if god is all powerful, I think he can tell if you are really dying or nearly dying but will pull through. Why would he “start” to pull you to heaven and then reject you, unless he’s a pranksters and that’s his way of saying “psych!”

    Link to this
  27. 27. Azeemi 4:55 am 12/4/2012

    NDEs or OBEs are experienced on daily basis when we sleep. If the argument is about consciously experiencing it, then, yes we can conduct this with the help of a spiritual scientist who can train the person over a period of time through proper diet, sleep, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual alignment, conditioning and orientation. It is a metaphysical journey not a physical one. We have to acquire and absorb the characteristics of the other world to be part of it. As long as we are physically conscious (awake in 5 senses), the material/physical world is visible to us and when we sleep, our subtler self, namely Aura or Ethereal body or the Energy body is activated and travels independent of this body.

    It is just a matter of potential energy converted into kinetic energy, whether its used for physical or non-physical activities.

    This is real and its happening!

    Link to this
  28. 28. emeritusprof 7:06 am 12/4/2012

    It’s not that I’m happy with how Alexander presented his case, with the gushing, rushing way in which he draws his conclusions, but it is deeply discouraging to see the same old poorly informed, superficial dismissals of NDEs repeatedly put forward by otherwise educated people. The simplistic way persons think science can explain away NDEs is as troublesome as Alexander’s “proof.” To see why these cavalier dismissals simply don’t cut it, please read the serious research. I recommend for starters: “Irreducible Mind” by Edward Kelly, et al, Chapter 6; “Consciousness Beyond Life” by Pim van Lommel; and “Science and the Near-Death Experience,” by Chris Carter.

    Link to this
  29. 29. ttice84 7:12 am 12/4/2012

    I second the earlier post in the comments that directed readers towards the book “Irreducible Mind.” The chapter on NDE’s points out the serious inadequacies of the majority of the physiological explanations for this phenomenon. Also, the results of the AWARE project (one of whose stated goals was to test whether veridical perceptions occur during NDE’s in conjunction with cardiac arrest) should be out next year.

    Link to this
  30. 30. ttice84 7:30 am 12/4/2012

    “This is effective in dismantling his account of an “immaterial intellect” because, so far, most symptoms of a NDE are in fact scientifically explainable. ”

    This is actually quite far from the case. I looked at the articles cited, and a lot of the “explanations” they offer are handled in “Irreducible Mind”. I am not saying that NDEs are proof of an afterlife, but to say that they are explained, or even close to be explained, is false. Thankfully, the AWARE study should give us much more data to work with.

    Link to this
  31. 31. ttice84 7:47 am 12/4/2012

    However, that encounter is significant and worthy of further exploraton. Have other NDE survivors had similar encounters?

    There are some in the literature. They are called “Peak-in-Darien” experiences, after a Keats poem which ends with a reference to the stunned gazes of Spanish explorers who starred at the (totally unexpected)Pacific ocean from a peak in Darien. They happen when someone encounters a person in their NDE that they didn’t know in real life or that they didn’t know had died at the time of their NDE. Alexander’s dead sister being the butterfly girl is a good example. Still, what we need is veridical information that can be verified shortly afterwards by those who were in the operating room. That is where AWARE comes into play. It was dreamed up by Sam Parnia, who, like the authors of IM, realized that the most theoretically interesting NDES were the ones occurring in conjunction with cardiac arrest.

    Link to this
  32. 32. loureiro 7:52 am 12/4/2012

    Sure, there is this near death experience to calm down, as you are firmely saying, that needs to be hapenning to someone that needs to be calmed down…
    But if someone is calmely in the state of coma, and I alredy did and remembered nothing for instance, why should it be calmed if he isn’t aware of anything and thus can’t be scared of anything also? And besides, if what he experiences is something from a neural circuit of the mind or not, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes we dream of things that we only know that isn’t real after we wake up
    and the real and unreal is realy mixed up. What we experience of the real are just projections of sensations and aren’t so real… And so what one experiences near or not near death can not be minimezed with the suggestion that it was something of the brain… Everything is product of the brain! The meannig of life is something of the intelingece and understanding. The real is there and if it has any value, it depends on each mind. The real exists to make that brain understanding happen, and nothing else. Without the sensation of one’s neural circuits, the real is not even real!!!

    Link to this
  33. 33. ttice84 7:59 am 12/4/2012

    I should also add that the main purpose of AWARE is to gather physiological data about the brain in the state of cardiac arrest. Although there are differences in nuance between competing theories, most neuroscientists subscribe to what is called the “Global Workspace”, where, in some mysterious way, consciousness is created by, or equivalent to, very precise electrical activity linking the various regions of the brain. It is just this sort of activity that is wiped out by cardiac arrest. It doesn’t matter if there is some residual brain activity, the minimum requirements for consciousness do not exist during this period. Yet it is exactly this period when the NDE is alleged to occur.

    Link to this
  34. 34. podboq 8:48 am 12/4/2012

    continuous bad usage of the term ‘theory’ when other terms better fit do nothing for the education of those reading articles such as this.

    Link to this
  35. 35. voice 8:54 am 12/4/2012

    An interesting topic, but this article focuses on adults who have preconceived ideas about death. Children may not. And physics does not yet capture consciousness, and may never as long as imaging equipment has to isolate the subject from the natural fields and replace the fields with an induced field. And we will never be able to account for the observer effect. Therefore first hand experiences remain important.
    As a child I felt my ghost leave my body and search for an open window and leave through it. I was vaguely aware of my body below and my parents yelling behind me and, once outside, I did not know where I was going. I think I made a decision to come back and woke up some time later. No lights, no heaven; just a ghost with full consciousness but no interaction capability. Very comforting to know and very important to crack the window when one is sick.

    Link to this
  36. 36. arpruss 9:58 am 12/4/2012

    NDEs may or may not be evidence of an afterlife, but the following argument is far from conclusive: “The experiment is exploring an NDE under different conditions. Can the same sensations be produced when you are in fact not dying? If so, your rapping on the Pearly Gates is an illusion, even if Heaven were real.”

    To see that the argument doesn’t work, consider Near Cat Experiences (NCEs). An NCE is a sensory experience apparently of a nearby mid-size whiskered four-legged furry animal that appears very much like a cat. “The experiment is exploring an NCE under different conditions. Can the same sensations be produced when you are in fact not in the vicinity of a cat? If so, your stroking the cat’s fur is an illusion, even if cats were real.”

    But of course NCEs can be induced when you are in fact not in the vicinity of a cat. Many people who have no cats in the house have, nonetheless, had NCEs in dreams. Likewise, no doubt, among the panoply of experiences that hallucinogenic drugs can produce, there are experiences of cats–both weird and ordinary ones. Furthermore, though I don’t think the experiment has yet been done, there is little doubt that if you stimulate the right areas of the brain, then you will induce exactly the same visual experience as that of looking at a cat, the same tactile experience as that of stroking a cat, etc.

    The point here goes back to one that Descartes makes in the last of his Meditations when he discusses sensory failure: our sensory experiences of the world are mediated by intermediate causes in the senses and nervous system (both central and peripheral), and one can get non-veridical experiences simply by directly producing the right intermediate cause. Thus, one can produce an NCE by stimulating the retinas in the way light from cats does, or by stimulating the optic nerve in the way retinal images of cats do, or by stimulating the visual centers of the brain.

    If I were defending the veridicality of NDEs, I could then say that NDEs are causally mediated by portions of the brain much as NCEs are, and hence NDEs will be produced by anything that stimulates those portions of the brain in the same way as a brush with heaven does.

    Link to this
  37. 37. sassafras 11:51 am 12/4/2012

    “Why would the brain react to death (or even imagined death) in such a way? Well, death is a scary thing. Scientific accounts of the NDE characterize it as the body’s psychological and physiological response mechanism to such fear, producing chemicals in the brain that calm the individual while inducing euphoric sensations to reduce trauma.”

    @ age 9 I had a NDE while with my mother and a pastor that we didn’t know (hard to believe — total coincidence) saved my life due to choking I would have never put a physical pain or a thought of heaven in my head then. I DID start to move through a tunnel a soft white tunnel and was leaving my body. It was more like a shock to me that I was choking everything was happening so fast, I didn’t have time to think. The scientific fact here is our body does protect itself from fear on some level, but I also know the medics said I would have been dead from no oxygen another minute, so, I think I was crossing over to another state, from there I don’t know. There are many websites on children and NDE’s and documentaries. Interesting topic to say the least. They are all so similar. I can honestly say, it wasn’t a scary place to be…quite peaceful. It’s all the background noise everyone shuffling around that is chaotic and you are moving away from that as you go out.

    Link to this
  38. 38. ealexander3 12:15 pm 12/4/2012

    Kyle H “Without reading the books on your list and your own book for evidence, I stand by my critique of your account.”

    You seem quite comfortable on thin ice, Kyle. I am offering a path for you to know much more, but you choose ignorance. Blogging about the finer aspects of consciousness is not for the casual armchair philosopher, especially one who feels no need to review the relevant data.

    Kyle H “If you were in a coma, it is feasible that your visions occurred while your brain was ramping up or down in brain functioning. The simple fact that you can remember your experience is evidence enough of this”

    Many things are feasible. That is why it took me almost four years to write the book. I reviewed far more complex possibilities than these simplistic possible explanations, beginning as my own worst skeptic. I considered many possible brain-based explanations (including the nine hypotheses listed in my book) and discussed them with colleagues.

    Before my coma, I would have been the first to tell you that a patient so deathly ill with bacterial meningitis would experience and remember nothing at all. But I remembered so very much – such a rich odyssey that it comprised 20,000 words written over six weeks after I emerged from coma. That is what drove me to find an explanation. It was a long and laborious process that involved reading over a hundred books and many discussions with those far wiser than I am.

    The only reason it is important that I am a neurosurgeon is that I did not simply let it go when my physicians told me that “the dying brain can do anything” – because severe meningitis is too efficient at wiping out neocortex to allow for any significant experience. Initially I thought it was all “too real to be real” and sought a brain-based neuroscientific explanation for theat ultra-reality (which I later learned was quite common in NDEs – those who have been there know exactly what I am talking about, and they number in the tens of thousands, at least). Knowing the details of my own journey deep in coma led, over many months of inquiry, to my eliminating brain-based hypotheses to explain that intricate ultra-real experience.

    Many people who know nothing about severe bacterial meningitis weigh in on this, but they have nothing substantial to offer. They ignore the facts and assume that since I did fully recover, I must not have been that sick. Wrong. Physicians familiar with this disease know why I conclude what I do, especially given the severity of my case (peripheral white blood cell [WBC] count over 27,000 per mm3, 31 percent bands with toxic granulations, CSF WBC count over 4,300 per mm3, CSF glucose [normally 60-80, as low as 20 in severe meningitis] down to 1 mg/dl, CSF protein 1,340 mg/dl, diffuse meningeal involvement with associated brain abnormalities revealed on my enhanced CT scan, and neurological exams showing severe alterations in cortical function and dysfunction of extraocular motility, indicative of brainstem damage), and its refractoriness to therapy for a week.

    Link to this
  39. 39. TopCat67 12:16 pm 12/4/2012

    Dr Eben Alkexander offered a rebuttel to his critics in a follow up article in Newsweek.

    Link to this
  40. 40. ealexander3 12:23 pm 12/4/2012

    Kyle H “The fact that uncovering the secrets of consciousness is hard does not imply that there is something supernatural to it.”

    I do not suggest a “supernatural” answer. I am interested in expanding the boundaries of science to reflect the fact that current reductive materialist science is absolutely clueless as to any putative mechanism for the creation of consciousness by the brain. I suspect that this is because consciousness is primary, not created by the brain at all (as is hinted by quantum mechanics). We are conscious in spite of our brain. The brain serves as a reducing valve, or filter, to give only the trickle that we need to survive (in a Darwinian sense).

    I also suspect you have no idea why “The Hard Problem” is considered by many great thinkers to be forever beyond solution by human brain and mind (hence also my reference to Kurt Gödel and his Incompleteness Theorems). It is likely the most vexing conundrum known to human thought – one so unfathomable that we don’t even know how to ask the first question about how to address it “scientifically.” Many simply reply that the mechanism of consciousness lies outside the bounds of science – but that is avoiding an understanding of something that is intimately part of all of us, crucial in comprehending the nature of Reality. I prefer to seek a greater knowing of it, instead of behaving like an ostrich.

    Kyle H “It’s valuable in its ability to show us what sensations can occur in consciousness, but not as scientific evidence of an afterlife.”

    You are guilty of reacting to the title without reading the book (a trap into which both religious and scientific fundamentalists have fallen). My title was “N of 1″, but my publisher chose “Proof of Heaven.” When I heard that, among test readers, the prior skeptics were the ones who liked the title “Proof of Heaven”, whereas the prior believers did not (they were too consumed bickering over the definition of Heaven), I decided that maybe the title was appropriate, given my main target audience of intelligent but skeptical readers.

    My story is very strong evidence that consciousness is primary and does not depend on the physical brain for its existence. Hence my recommendation you learn more about this phenomenon from Irreducible Mind and Consciousness Beyond Life. These books expound on the non-local (read “quantum”) aspects of consciousness – telepathy, remote viewing, precognition, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, etc., which are well-established as fact (doubters read Irreducible Mind and Consciousness Beyond Life). One can refuse to believe these exist, and choose “willful ignorance”, or one can try to get closer to truth. Some outspoken members of the physics community may still be sputtering about requirements for temperatures near 0 deg K to preserve quantum effects, but those who study consciousness are far beyond that limited thinking in trying to unravel the truths of existence. Quantum effects have been demonstrated in photosynthesis, bird migration, human olfaction, etc. Some physicists definitely get it – Roger Penrose being one of my favorites. Those interested should read Quantum Enigma: Physics Encounters Consciousness by Bruce Rosenblum and Fred Kuttner [New York: Oxford University Press, 2006].

    “As a scientist yourself (a surgeon, more accurately), you know that it takes a bit more to “prove” something than anecdote can provide.”

    Yes, I had to spend almost four years learning much more about consciousness, and quantum mechanics, and the nature of time and space, than I ever had to know as a neurosurgeon, to even begin to understand my experience. I am also certain I will never completely comprehend it in this incarnation.

    Such pompous disparaging comments that I am “only a neurosurgeon” greatly diminish the stature of those who make them. Don’t embarrass yourselves! Why not address the cogent intellectual points I raise, as opposed to resorting to such petty schoolboy tactics? The implication that you simply don’t understand enough to comment is clear.

    Kyle, I did not make fun of the fact that you are an environmental engineer associated with a magician’s research foundation, because I put much more weight in what you have to say, and how intelligent your comments are. But I need to see some evidence of thought and reflection to hang around this discussion any longer.

    Vernard: “you speak of Quantum Physics as if you know it. You don’t, because those who’ve studied it, don’t know it either.”

    So are we to assume that the skeptics in this blog are wiser than Bohr, Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Planck and Einstein? Maybe you think that the modern physics community has resolved the conundra that drove those brilliant founding fathers to mysticism in trying to explain the results of their experiments? Or that the results have become more straightforward and require no further reflection? Then please offer your explanation for the results of the “Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment” performed in 1999.

    Kyle – If you have influence with Scientific American, you might suggest we write a formal debate discussion about consciousness. I would love to collaborate on such a project – it is high time that the scientific community stepped up to the plate in its musings over consciousness, fundamentally something with which we are all most familiar, and yet the least well-understood of all things known.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Marilyn 2:31 pm 12/4/2012

    Dr. Alexander. I have just received your book and started to read it. I listen to C2C and that is where I came across your experience.

    I am not a scientist in any stretch of the imagination, so my questions would be in the most simplistic terms. Is is not correct that energy cannot be destroyed?

    If this is correct and the brain is made up of electrical activity, i.e. electrical energy, where does that energy go? I believe it does go into another realm, but the big question is where is that realm? Is is here, within ourselves, or does it go into another dimension? Is that dimension here, but on a different frequency?

    The second question I would have is that perhaps we do all have the same experience when leaving this realm and going into the next, but that the experience will be different for all of us because we are all unique, just sharing the space of the experiences, on this plane of frequency.

    I have wondered about this for some time and hope you can give me an insight into my questions as I have just begun to read the literature on the matter (and I have to say that no one should criticize a book, a statement, etc., without first reading the book or knowing something more about the subject, i.e. immersing yourself in learning as much about the subject as possible).

    Thanks

    Link to this
  42. 42. Dario 2:38 pm 12/4/2012

    How could NDE’s tell us about what it’s like to BE DEAD? Bodily death is the PERMANENT cessation of bodily function. So NDE’s can only tell us what the process of dying is like, not what the culmination of that process (BEING DEAD) is like.

    Link to this
  43. 43. papa lazaru 2:40 pm 12/4/2012

    NDE’s are not beyond the grasp of science. If we can get some reproducible experiments, then there you go, jackpot.

    We don’t have a proper controlled experiment to reproduce the circumstances and analyse the subconscious, but it doesn’t mean the area is not worth exploring (starting with a systematic, statistical analysis of the phenomenon, not just token surveys).

    Personal accounts and testimonies are worthless. Whatever Alexander experienced is just his own. And carting in scientists, books, musings to give weight to an argument is just not the way it is done. We need methods, experiments, testable claims, not woo-woo.

    Link to this
  44. 44. K.Hill 3:43 pm 12/4/2012

    Dr. Alexander,

    The diversion into a discussion of what consciousness really is and what creates it is a red herring. Your claim of an intellect apart from physical matter rests on the assertion that your cortex was “inactivated” during your battle with meningitis. You have not provided any evidence that could rule out the possibility of your visions occurring during a descent into a state of absolute stupor or the ascent out of it. Even if your cortex did completely shut down, there is no internal time stamp that you can point to. Your visions happened sometime during your coma; when they occurred is your assumption. Taking this assumption then far beyond logical bounds (a sort of dualism that you seem to be offering) is unsupported speculation.

    It’s really interesting about the title of your book changing. But to me, it does not matter what the title is; though you claim that skeptics grabbed a hold of the “Proof of Heaven” title unfairly, you are still the one who supported this idea.

    You summarize your main point in the last comment:

    “My story is very strong evidence that consciousness is primary and does not depend on the physical brain for its existence.”

    Unless you can convincingly argue that you could not have had any visions during times when you were in a coma yet your brain was still active (the ramping up or down of functioning I mentioned in the critique) I suspect that skeptics will still have a problem with your account, as it all rests on that point.

    Dr. Alexander, I did not mean to disparage your credentials, but is was hardly “schoolboy tactics.” You open your article in Newsweek with the exact words:

    “I know how pronouncements like mine sound to skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the scientist I am.”

    The fact that I am pointing out that you are indeed not a academic scientist but a surgeon is not to say that your neurosurgery degree isn’t impressive. Because you make it important to the validity of your experience, I thought it necessary to note.

    Dr. Alexander, I frequently contribute to SciAm, but have no official affiliation with it. Instead of debating the intricacies of consciousness, which I think would gloss over your foundational claim, I ask for evidence that your visions occurred at no other time than when your cortex was “inactivated” (I understand there is even some controversy surrounding that claim as well).

    Link to this
  45. 45. annamraju 4:16 pm 12/4/2012

    Dr.Seth Lloyd puts it perfectly right.. The grumpy old men have to die in order to advance science.He refers all the scientists in photosynthesis research. I thought it is funny and relevant……..

    Link to this
  46. 46. poetmartin 4:38 pm 12/4/2012

    someone way up there on the list made a comment about god giving us alittle view of what is possible (at least that is the gist of the comment) first, i dont think anyone of us knows what god is thinking, assuming we can claim he/she/hen even worries about us, how could we comprehend (know) what goes on in that “mind”? second, if he/whe/hen did want to tell us something, why not just write a note in large letters on the moon that every language could read and understand “i am here”…..why go through elaborate games? im not saying yea or nae about wether nde’s are provable or not, im saying i agree with those who can prove them, with a big P!
    as to the comments about having to percieve everything through our sensing systems, this seems to be the one thing that i can say must be true, we can only try and learn using our sensory organs about what might be out there or in there…in other words, we try and learn how things work by repeating and experimenting and one day we might really “know” some thing. all we think we know are perceptions of what we think reality is…i think that we know virtually nothing, and we keep redifining those things as experimental data keep changing…we are on a nondiscript planet on the edge of a rather average galaxy no where near the center (is there one?) of the universe….when we can say as a species that we have learned all there is to learn on this planet and the next and the next…and on to a substantial piece of this universe, maybe we will KNOW what the nde’s really are, untill better data exists and is provable and repeatable without question, we plod on…..

    Link to this
  47. 47. poetmartin 4:46 pm 12/4/2012

    just saying something is true because it cant be proven false yet is not a good argument. rather say it is possible but not yet proven to be true or false and agree to listen to other thoughts until proven one way or another

    Link to this
  48. 48. poetmartin 4:53 pm 12/4/2012

    oh, and trying to prove a point by pointing to your own book without the confirming varification that the scientific process can provide is wishy washy at best. theories only get a strong following due to time tested varification….therefore, time will tell….

    Link to this
  49. 49. karenalcott 5:59 pm 12/4/2012

    As someone who has experienced the “death dream” while comatose and pretty well written off by all my attending medical caretakers; I have to say something “magical” was indeed happening inside my head. Nontheless, If I had actually been dead, I could never tell anyone else about it. True death does not occur until the brain dies and no one, except perhaps Jesus Christ and Lasarus, have ever come back from that. Approximately 6 minutes after the body has ceased all function, the brain begins to die, before that whatever we experienced, was routed through that brain. I would also like to point out that if my species had just decided not to seek to quantify the structure and function of the creation, we would still be scavenging the leftovers of our betters: naked, dirty, bereaved of more than half our children and dead of old age at forty. I for one am delighted that Eve chose wisdom.

    Link to this
  50. 50. templenorth 6:22 pm 12/4/2012

    You can stimulate the brain so that one sees a chair. That does not mean that, when a person sees a chair, it is an illusion.

    Link to this
  51. 51. karenalcott 6:30 pm 12/4/2012

    Voice
    I to traveled, I went to see my 3 year old daughter. I was able to verify who was there, what they were doing and who said what, after I recovered. Even stranger, when I could not hang on any longer my daughter appeared to be sitting on the foot of my bed. She asked about the Oxygen tent and the IV bottles and kept waking me up, saying the darkened ward was scary and I should stay awake with her. An obvious mental exercise to keep myself going through my last night in the coma. Imagine my surprise safe at home months later, when she asked me if I remembered that night and accurately described the medical equipment and our conversation.

    Link to this
  52. 52. Thanna 9:34 pm 12/4/2012

    K Hill admits he “didn’t read the book” or any of the literature on the subject yet has the audacity to post a critique?. This review is no different than the hundreds of phony posts on Amazon. Perhaps SA should verify proof of purchase (and research and maybe even academic gravitas) from their bloggers. The comments, however, have offered excellent resources for further study.

    Link to this
  53. 53. sugrem 10:54 pm 12/4/2012

    I think markcant (about 10:50 p.m. on 12/03) made the most reasonable comment of all those I’ve read. I quit about 3/4 of the way through the series even though I find the topic fascinating because too many people just say too little in too many words. Go back and read markcant’s posting. I second all he (she?) says.

    Link to this
  54. 54. K.Hill 11:26 pm 12/4/2012

    Thanna,

    The critique of Alexander’s core claim does not require a full acquaintance with the intricacies of his vision. As I said, the entire premise that his intellect was separated from physical matter relies first on his claim of brain “inactivation,” which I do not think is adequately supported. This critique is mirrored by the numerous neuroscientists and neurologists who have weighed in. More generally, the dualism that is offered by Alexander has had no evidential basis since neurology became a more mature science.

    Also, I make no claims on knowledge I do not have (e.g. “Heaven is Real”), only that so far as we can tell the NDE is no boat ride down the river Styx.

    Link to this
  55. 55. cybervigilante 11:56 pm 12/4/2012

    Although I don’t know what NDEs are, there are valid cases where someone under anesthesia had the out-of-body experience and described images they could not have possibly seen with eyes closed or in their physical position. These descriptions were later verified by medical personnel. As in the sense of being stared at, something is going on and should be investigated, not dismissed out of hand by professional skeptics with obvious bias and jaded reputations, such as Phil Klass.

    Healthy skepticism is good, but skepticality, which dismisses Everything not in the current paradigm with sometimes absurd, Rube Goldberg explaining-away, a la “swamp gas” is not mentally healthy.

    Link to this
  56. 56. Vernard 1:27 am 12/5/2012

    Alexander: //…Then please offer your explanation for the results of the “Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment” performed in 1999.//

    This is a proof that you did not really understand what Science is. Before there’s a proof, before there’s a conclusion, before a “theory” becomes a scientific law, it passes through a rigorous methodology called the Scientific Method. Your statement clarifies your poor understanding of the Methodology.

    The Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser is in the EXPERIMENTATION phase, it is NOT complete. Even the scientists studying it are well aware that the experimentation method can change in the future.

    Schrodinger? Einstein? Bohr? Please, sir, as much as I admire these people, they did not finish the quantum theory; they started to identify what the problem is, but this is all in a theory.

    ============================================
    Alexander: // I also suspect you have no idea why “The Hard Problem” is considered by many great thinkers to be forever beyond solution by human brain and mind (hence also my reference to Kurt Gödel and his Incompleteness Theorems) //

    There, you just said it. Even the great thinkers are forever beyond the solution… and yet, you boldly claim a “Proof” for an existence of a Fantasy land as real as Valinor across the seas to the west.

    Link to this
  57. 57. Curtis B 2:00 am 12/5/2012

    Hey Kyle…..EXPLAIN this: Tell us all how the testamony of a BLIND man (since birth) came back from a NDE…..DESCRIBING WHAT HE SAW DURING HIS NDE WITH SPECIFIC DETAILS!! Ha ha…..GOTCHA!!!

    Link to this
  58. 58. annamraju 3:07 am 12/5/2012

    @vernard FYI
    From Wikipedia
    Actual experiments
    First experiment
    The first experimental realization[2] of a delayed-choice experiment was carried out by Carroll Alley, Oleg Jakubowicz, and William Wickes in 1984 at the University of Maryland, cited by John Wheeler in his autobiography.[7] Wheeler gave a seminar on the delayed-choice idea at the U of M in 1979 that inspired Alley and Wickes, who knew Wheeler well from their days as students and faculty at Princeton University, to work with Jacubowicz to translate the gedanken-experiment into a laboratory test. The experiment confirmed the quantum mechanical predictions for a photon’s behavior in an interferometer that is randomly reconfigured or not after the photon passes through the initial beam-splitter.
    [edit]Most recent experiment
    In 2007, the first “clean” experimental test of Wheeler’s ideas was performed in France by the team of Alain Aspect, Philippe Grangier, Jean-François Roch et al.[3][8]
    [edit]Additional experiments
    In 2000, Yoon-Ho Kim, et al., reported success in their delayed choice quantum eraser experiment, a variation that combines Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment with a quantum eraser experiment, so that the choice to observe the photon or not is done after it hits the detector.
    Another Quantum eraser experiment was done in 2002 by S. P. Walborn, M. O. Terra Cunha, S. Padua, and C. H. Monken.
    [edit]Future experiments
    Researchers with access to radio telescopes originally designed for SETI research have pointed to the possibility, and have explicated the practical difficulties, of conducting the Wheeler experiment with actual stellar objects.[9]

    Link to this
  59. 59. annamraju 3:17 am 12/5/2012

    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1206.4348.pdf June 2012… I think john Wheeler’s delayed choice is not going to be that difficult to prove experimentally.
    The worst skeptics that I come across in these blogs are philosophers.
    PS: The First Law of Philosophy: For every philosopher, there exists an equal … The Second Law of Philosophy: They’re both wrong.

    Link to this
  60. 60. Press to Digitate 5:48 am 12/5/2012

    The fact that ALL of the scientific objections to NDE have been conclusively defeated (‘hypoxia’, ‘anesthetics’, ‘psychology’, etc.) through rigorous attention to the experimental environment leads the sincere observer to recognize that in certain states, experients do, in fact, transcend the bounds of conventional 4-D spacetime to perceive beyond our limited, ‘living’ frame of reference.

    With ALL prosaic biological explanations having been decisively ruled out, the only logical conclusion is that the NDE is, in fact, REAL. There are examples of patients experiencing NDE’s while cryocooled, with their entire brains drained of all blood. It is the wildest speculative folly to suppose that such instances are the product of some drug-induced psychedelia. The empirical evidence says otherwise.

    By abandoning the transcendental to the woolly realm of ‘religion’, science does civilization a disservice. Until science can rationally apprehend the Soul as a Quantum Object – as Hameroff & Penrose have amply demonstrated – it is engaged in as primitive a denial of physical reality as any medieval pagan superstition could pretend. Not only NDE’s but a whole host of empirically well established evidence (Reincarnation, Hydrocephaly, Electronic Voice Phenomena, etc) prove that consciousness is not chained to our meat-bag physiology, but exists transcendentally, outside of 4-D spacetime.

    Let us give up contaminating science with the phantom delusions of fundamentalist materialist dogma and instead look to the root causality underlying human physical existence. There, we might find Truth. It wont be found through stubborn denial of the external reality that we all innately *know* to be genuine.

    Link to this
  61. 61. poetmartin 9:50 am 12/5/2012

    i agree we all “feel”some thing “innately”. still, that is no proof. i still stand by the “lets wait and see” what is proven as time goes on. do not give up looking, and question everything that does not continually remain proven. i think our jobs as living beings is to continually learn….what other universal goal could we possibly be made for (if we were made at all). i also still stand by my thought, we,as mortal beings on this plane of existance, cannot know anything at the basic truest level until we know the mind of *god* at the fundamental level…we have a long way to go…..just look out 13.5 billion years into the past to see what we still have to learn about this universe…

    Link to this
  62. 62. brublr 9:57 am 12/5/2012

    I still haven’t figured out where I was before I was born.

    Link to this
  63. 63. sparklemom 10:17 am 12/5/2012

    “Kyle Hill is currently working as a research assistant at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering and is now pursuing a master’s degree in Communication with a focus on science, health, environment, and sustainability.” Not very good credentials to be commenting on this matter at all.

    Link to this
  64. 64. poetmartin 10:37 am 12/5/2012

    a clear and sharp grasp of the salient points of a conversation are not dependent on credentials. how does one become credentialed on the reality of “heaven” when apparently the only way to get there is to not come back?

    Link to this
  65. 65. Marilyn 10:52 am 12/5/2012

    “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.”
    -Albert Einstein

    Link to this
  66. 66. jgrosay 10:58 am 12/5/2012

    Several said that when they were “Approaching death”, approaching, not having entered, otherwise they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to tell us about their experiences, they see images of “a tunnel”, “light” and feelings of “peace” that other link to events while under anesthesia, but for example while having heart surgery, Donald Sutherland claimed having seen himself in hell, and surrounded by flames. If you’re given an hallucinogen, you hallucinate in many differet ways, from seeign lights to complex scenes; if you suffer a braín cancer in the temporal lobe, you see very complex scenes as in the movie by Gyorgy Revesz “Trip around my cranium”, all of this may be just altered states of conscience driven by exceptional metabolic or blod flow brain conditions, they’re manifestations of the CNS own activity, and not contact with any kind of “separate reality”. Or not?

    Link to this
  67. 67. 1manXFiles 12:58 pm 12/5/2012

    Passing through a tunnel, seeing a bright light, being welcomed — this sounds like it could just as easily be a Near-Birth-Experience.

    When I had a NDE, passing out from substantial blood loss in an accident, I only saw darkness ahead, and felt only regret for not accomplishing more for others.

    I had a Heaven experience, too. The approach to it was stressful, but once there it was convivial, and more interesting than other accounts I’ve seen, resembling a combination of the Marx Brothers and The Simpsons’ Springfield. Regardless of the possible “wish-fulfillment” involved, the experience has remained a fixture of my psychology.

    Link to this
  68. 68. Press to Digitate 1:32 pm 12/5/2012

    There is not one shred of evidence to support the fundamentalist scientific dogma that we – or our consciousness – is the product of our meat brains. The fact that consciousness can be impaired by damaging the brain fails to prove this, just as pulling wires out of the back of your television set, disrupting it, does not prove that the characters on the screen live inside it.

    The ‘wetware’ is a receiver for the Soul, which is a quantum object existing transcendentally in a higher dimensional topology than we are consciously aware of. The evidence for this is abundant and conclusive. The superstition of materialism, however, is unsupported by fact, and disproven by Observation, not just at the subatomic level, but at the macroscale as well.

    Link to this
  69. 69. poetmartin 1:42 pm 12/5/2012

    i would like to read the evidence of “soul as a quantum object existing transcendentally in a higher dimensional topography”…since it is abundant and conclusive then the whole scientific world should readily accept this as verifiable and repeatable following the standards of scientific method…ill start….

    Link to this
  70. 70. poetmartin 2:21 pm 12/5/2012

    of course i mean experimentally….and, if the idea penrose/hameroff regarding microtubules being quantum switches at the quantum/classic boarder of biology is true, would not damage to the brain in any great percentage diminish conciousness to the same percentage everytime/ dont some people with severe brain damage still maintain full conciousness albiet at reduced functionality? and others with small percentages of damage loose consciousness entirely? and im still not seeing the “soul” and “conciousness” as the same item….

    Link to this
  71. 71. poetmartin 2:30 pm 12/5/2012

    sorry should have said chopra and hameroff….as penrose doesnt jump to the next and pardon the pun, quantum leap….

    Link to this
  72. 72. Press to Digitate 5:38 pm 12/5/2012

    Poet, your observation on the unpredictability and variability of brain damage effects and impacts actually helps prove the point, since quantum systems are inherently prone to indeterminacy. If the brain were the sole machinery of consciousness, hardwired in the neurostructure, then all brain injuries of the same type, location, and extent would always produce the same outcomes in all individuals, which is clearly not the case.

    Moreover, you have numerous cases of profound hydrocephaly discovered later in life in adults, where as much as 97% of the brain is missing – in individuals with normal, near to normal, and even above average intelligence, sensory acuity, and motor skills.

    The replicable laboratory data which establish the scientific reality of Telepathy (Dr. Sheldrake, et al), Precognition (Dr. Radin, et al), Psychokinesis (Dr. Nelson, et al), Clairvoyance (Dr. Targ, et al), and Mediumship (Dr. Schwartz, et al) clearly demonstrate “the biological utilization of quantum nonlocality”, in the words of Nobel Prize winning Physicist Dr. Brian Josephson. The Hameroff-Penrose Theory of Quantum Consciousness explains all of these results, the Meatbag Hypothesis does not.

    Link to this
  73. 73. Thanna 7:20 pm 12/5/2012

    K hill – as a former college professor, i would give you an F on a paper arguing against a book you admit you didn’t read. And your defence is that you don’t think brain deactivation is supported in the book? But how would you know that? You didn’t read the book (nor supporting research). You read a magazine article and skimmed some of the criticism. It is astounding to me that your piece was given this forum, regardless of the merits of Alexanders experience.

    Link to this
  74. 74. K.Hill 7:32 pm 12/5/2012

    Thanna,

    Please address my arguments directly rather than giving me a poor grade in Internet Comments class.

    Link to this
  75. 75. greenhome123 7:46 pm 12/5/2012

    If you believe in evolution then you believe that all life on earth is related. Therefore it would be reasonable to assume that the same thing happened to human when it died as an ape when it dies, a dog, cat, bird, insect, and microscopic organism. I find the idea of microscopic life going to heaven or hell, or having any type of afterlife just as hard to believe as the idea of humans experiencing any sort of afterlife. But, I believe humans can live on in a way by having children and passing on their genes and knowledge to them. Viva La Evolucion.

    Link to this
  76. 76. Chryses 9:51 pm 12/5/2012

    “… Even If Heaven Is Real, You Aren’t Seeing It”

    In order for that claim to be true, the author would need to contrast what another sees, and what is real. As he cannot do that, the claim is unwarranted.

    Link to this
  77. 77. K.Hill 10:12 pm 12/5/2012

    Chryses,

    My claim rests on the fact that 1. NDE symptoms are physical and explainable and 2. That you don’t have to die to have these exact same symptoms.

    If an NDE is a gateway to Heaven, I would argue that you first must be in fact dying to begin the crossing over (this is my interpretation of the theological viewpoint). If you do not have to be near death, we still have to explain the “weird experiences” like out-of-body visions. If we can provide adequate, scientific descriptions of these (which we can), this is the second, conclusive strike against what I see the claim of Eben Alexander to be.

    Link to this
  78. 78. Chryses 10:26 pm 12/5/2012

    K.Hill,

    In order to assert that X =/= Y, one must be able to compare them. As you cannot, even in principle, do so in this case, the claim that “… Even If Heaven Is Real, You Aren’t Seeing It” is unwarranted.

    Link to this
  79. 79. K.Hill 11:19 pm 12/5/2012

    Chryses,

    The comparison I am making is between Alexander’s described experience and the symptoms commonly reported during NDEs (and anesthesia and drug trips). They are similar enough to warrant analysis. Of course, this difficult comparison wouldn’t have to be made if his subjective experience wasn’t offered as proof of Heaven.

    Link to this
  80. 80. Vernard 12:42 am 12/6/2012

    The conversation is quite long (and I’d love to respond to the more recent ones), but I’ll respond to what is addressed to me:

    annamraju: …Successful experiment, successful experiment, and yes, successful experiments here and there for the study of Quantum Physics. But where is the Conclusion? The final law?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am certain that the study of Quantum is more likely to produce positive results than trying to prove an existence of a supreme personal being.

    But what I’m trying to do to Dr. Alexander up there is to make him realise that he’s using “Quantum Physics” (which I am certain he knows little about—as much as I do) to justify his Near-death experience, or whatever he’s trying to do with it.

    Here’s the thing: Whatever you do in life, if you want it to be “Scientifically approved”, you have to funnel your idea, invention, or discovery through the Scientific method. The Scientific method doesn’t make you right or wrong… it will only lead you to a confirmation whether your idea, invention, or discovery really is right or wrong. Dr. Eben never used this method to arrive to his so-called “proof”.

    Link to this
  81. 81. SugarTax 6:09 am 12/6/2012

    Chryses – One small qualification, if I might; the claim is unwarrantable. Either a) the existence of Heaven would need to be established and shown to be different from that seen by those who reported it, or b) shown to not exist. In the obvious absence of both a AND b, no conclusion can be drawn.

    Link to this
  82. 82. Laird Wilcox 7:03 am 12/6/2012

    If heaven actually existed — and there’s no proof that it does — might it not be so extraordinary that it simply wouldn’t conform to any laws of physics we know of? That would, after all, possibly be as likely as heaven existing.

    As Donald Rumsfeld once said, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” I’m content with not knowing. Another thing that I don’t know is whether it particularly matters one way or another. I think that belief one way or another in this issue is intended to create a sense of moral superiority. In fact, I suspect it is morally ambiguous.

    Link to this
  83. 83. poetmartin 10:22 am 12/6/2012

    press, if those microtubuls are switches, and they are the connection, and if the brain is missing huge amounts of these, how does it not effect conciousness..how many do we need to be concious? one? then why did we evolved so many? proof of telepathy, precognition…really? i guess i missed the proof on these, as well as the proof for astrology. we dont have that kind of proof or understanding of quantum….anything yet, just unproven theory, just conjecture. i would love to accept that there are other dimensions that we could touch…we could then find ways to travel in them maybe to the past or the future and answer all the great mysteries. right now, the only time travel exists by looking out at the stars of the past but i still say that these things can only be proven by repeatable, solid experimentation, not accepting theory as fact. proof of the soul or of heaven will have to wait i think for some time to come….

    Link to this
  84. 84. Alexd88 11:33 am 12/6/2012

    I have given some thought to the argument in this article that NDEs cannot possibly provide a glimpse into the afterlife because they do not always occur in ‘near-death’ circumstances. Perhaps we shouldn’t discount the numerous ‘non-near-death’ OBE accounts, lucid dreaming accounts and even, as mentioned in the article, accounts of visions occurring during drug use that often contain mystical, religious or spiritual imagery and affect.

    As a PhD candidate in the discipline of parapsychology my research centres on out of body experiences (OBEs) in particular. Many OBEs can be especially significant (both emotionally and spiritually) for those who have them. I would argue that some interactions with other entities or people during an OBE can be more emotionally moving and lucid than comparable physical interactions. This brings forth metaphysical considerations, where we must look to the subjective dimension to evaluate the meaning of such experiences rather than searching for objective proof of their validity.

    Just because NDEs do not always occur near-death, that does not mean they have no relationship to the notion of an afterlife. Subjective experiences of an afterlife (e.g. those containing heavenly or hellish imagery) are certainly widespread in OBE accounts, not only those related to near-death circumstances. While we might not have a scientific apparatus to objectively evaluate such experiences, they can certainly be very real and convincing to the experiencer. Psychologically meaningful experiences should not be too quickly discounted and we ought to continue searching for plausible explanations rather than settling for the easier answers (I.e., hallucinations or a temporary lapse in neurological function).

    Link to this
  85. 85. bucketofsquid 2:30 pm 12/6/2012

    Dr. Alexander postulates that NDEs prove heaven exists. While he provides a wide array of facts, none of them actually support his postulate. The majority of his information is subject to a great variety of interpretations.

    When I was younger I was really not a nice person. At that time I experienced a number of concussions, several of which gave me the white tunnel experience. It was fun and interesting. It also seemed to originate primarily in my eyes which has nothing to do with heaven.

    I firmly expect to arrive in heaven eventually since I have cleaned up my act. I just don’t buy someone that has suffered brain damage and is suddenly an expert in many different fields of science. When I had my heart attack and they put in a stent I had a nice NDE. In it I was GOD. I pulled the puppet strings for the whole world. Does this mean I am God and the rest of you are insignificant little bugs?

    When you experience an NDE it is proof that you experienced an NDE and nothing more.

    Link to this
  86. 86. MDReality 2:32 pm 12/6/2012

    I am new to this discussion, but I read Dr. Alexander’s book and he makes a convincing case. If K. Hill can make an equally convincing case by telling me exactly how the brain generates Dr. Alexander’s super real experiences during the ramping up or ramping down process than I am quite happy to swap sides. Please, I would like scientific proof to convince me not some hypostasis. Any offers?

    Link to this
  87. 87. fess-it 4:46 pm 12/6/2012

    There are other examples near death experiences that the individual wasn’t wishing for a heavenly experience (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QdUGoFTfP7w).

    I personally know of a man who reported that their heart stopped due to cocaine overdose and he was then with someone he thought was Jesus. He thought where he was wasn’t bad. But the man he thought was Jesus showed he the suffering that was around him. He was terrified. Once he saw where he was, he cried out for Jesus to save him. At that moment, that person said Jesus started his heart. I remember this as he pointed to his chest. He made this account before our bible study.

    What makes this story remarkable is that the brother of this man came to us at our bible study and asked us to pray for his addicted brother many months before the brother came before our bible study.

    Link to this
  88. 88. Postman1 10:44 pm 12/6/2012

    MDReality, K.Hill can’t make an equally convincing case, because he doesn’t have the credentials and hasn’t read the book.
    As stated elsewhere on this thread: “Kyle Hill is currently working as a research assistant at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering and is now pursuing a master’s degree in Communication with a focus on science, health, environment, and sustainability.”

    Link to this
  89. 89. MDReality 3:02 am 12/7/2012

    Yes, but there must be somebody out there who can explain the “ramping down” or “ramping up” process of the brain and how it generates super real awareness, the chemicals involved etc. If they can’t then it is just as flimsy and vague as the NDE reports we here so much about. At least the NDEers have consensus and statistical probability on their side to support their case. But here the writer of the article is representing solid science. At present I am dissatisfied with the vague notion that ramping up and ramping down is responsible. I am simply asking for a bit more solid scientific backbone to support the argument against Dr. Alexander’s testimony.

    Link to this
  90. 90. MDReality 3:24 am 12/7/2012

    What I mean, I so much want K. Hill to be right, because I love science, my iPad, my digital camera and without it I would be tending to my horse in the garage. The key argument of the article here hinges on the “ramping up” or “ramping down” process as I understand from K. Hill’s comments. Unless this article has a solid base to stand on, it should perhaps not even appear in a scientific journal such as Scientific America.

    Link to this
  91. 91. jeff.shaw 11:30 pm 12/9/2012

    MDReality,

    I haven’t read Dr. Anderson’s book, though at this point I may, for interest. I do remain skeptical of what seems to me to be a key point of his argument, though, based on his postings in this forum. He seems to think that his detailed memory of events which spanned a large amount of time could not possibly have occurred in the time he was comatose:

    “Before my coma, I would have been the first to tell you that a patient so deathly ill with bacterial meningitis would experience and remember nothing at all. But I remembered so very much – such a rich odyssey that it comprised 20,000 words written over six weeks after I emerged from coma.”

    I personally have experienced a rich set of alternate memories, involving what seemed to be weeks of time, with remembered places, events, conversations, and encounters with people, some of whom I knew, and others I didn’t. I gained this set of alternate memories in an instant, when I received a sharp blow to the back of my head. I experienced a visual hallucination, where two sparks chased each other around my field of vision, and for about (I think) ten minutes, I could not sort out what events of the past few days and weeks were real, and which were entirely fantasy. Some were contradictory, so I knew all of them couldn’t be true. Eventually the sparks left my view, and just as rapidly the actual events became clear, and the hallucinated complex set of events faded into a strange dreamlike memory.

    This event has for many years remained my most solid personal evidence that “reality” as we experience and remember it is completely physiologically-based. How else would a head impact create such complexity in a split second?

    Link to this
  92. 92. MDReality 7:20 pm 12/10/2012

    jeff shaw
    Thank you for your thoughtful response and sharing your experience. Judging by your testimony our experience to me only differs from Dr. Alexander’s because you believe different things. I would quite like to know how these super real experiences are generated, such as, what kicks into action inside the brain which is more than a hypothesis. How far has science come to provide hard proof that Alexander’s experience was taking place inside the brain and not within another dimension? As far as I can make out neither belief is convincing or superior.

    Link to this
  93. 93. RobertGalvinBruce 10:54 pm 12/10/2012

    The “big bang”, what a dry, lacking way to describe the first moments of our universe existense. One tiny space of infinite(or near infinite) heat and pressure sits there, then all of a sudden for some reason, some cause, it’s expanding, inflating into everything in existence, complete with living beings to study and admire it’s beauty. I am in constant awe the more I study it and the physics involved. Anyone who’s done enough psychadelics and drugs, yes ketamine too, knows that you can never achieve anything remotely near the NDE’s I’ve heard described. Out of body experiences yes,I once had an experience where I all of a sudden, with a friend was pulled up into “the stars” feeling not in one place but spread out through space, then I felt my ass hit the seat as I was dropped down onto the bench, I looked at my friend and he says “DID YOU JUST, DID YOU JUST…” he explained the same thing(ketamine) but not ever, nor has any ketamine user ever described to me being shot straight up to heaven greeted by heavenly beings, God saying if you want to go back, open up your eyes, opening your eyes to scare the hell out of the guy that knows you’ve been dead for 15 minutes. Coincidental timing that these “hallucinations” seem to have sometimes..

    Link to this
  94. 94. RobertGalvinBruce 11:07 pm 12/10/2012

    Like the woman who met a beautiful young man while dead who said “you have to go back so that I can be born” and the woman in fact having a son(when doctors said she was infertile). It’s not an urban legend, it’s a normal woman, that’s one of the interesting things about these, I wouldn’t believe a word of any of it, but so many rational people have had these experiences, 4 witnesses claimed angels pulled 2 people out of 2 buring cars, four UNRELATED people with normal lives, not associated with any wierd churches or wierd crap. I am very skeptical by nature, but the more I studied NDE’s I couldn’t dismiss them anymore. Sure you have the occasional wacko christian make up “homosexual goes to hell, comes back to tell about it” which is not consistent with NDE’s from rational sources, but if you study enough of these that have been compliled from people regarded as rational normal people, it really does challenge a completely dry view of reality.

    Link to this
  95. 95. lippard 12:39 pm 12/11/2012

    Thanna wrote: “The stongest evidence given by Alexander was his encounter with his “guide” in heaven – a woman he’d never met. Months later he saw a photo of a sister he’d never known (he’d been adopted) and who’d died years earlier – it was the same woman.”

    This is not what happened by Alexander’s account as given in a YouTube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwLgxniI7KM)–he did not make the association between the photo and the “butterfly girl” until months after seeing the photo. His own account says there was no immediate recognition, but a conclusion he came to later.

    Link to this
  96. 96. neardeath 12:01 am 12/20/2012

    There is evidence from quantum theory supporting the Survival Hypothesis. See this web page: near-death.com/experiences/research08.html

    The old scientific paradigm of observing, theorizing, and predicting doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding consciousness and subjective experiences – especially when it concerns the NDE. The old paradigm allows materialists and skeptics to dismiss NDEs as being caused by brain anomalies – even though IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT CAUSES NDEs as to whether the EXPERIENCE IS REAL OR NOT. Nevertheless, recent NDE studies have ruled out brain anomalies. See: near-death.com/evidence.html

    The ball is in the skeptic’s court. It is not subjective experiences we must be skeptical about. Quantum mechanics suggests objective reality may be more of an illusion than subjective reality. At deeper levels, everything – atoms, cells, molecules, plants, animals, and people are connected in a flowing web of quantum information. At this level, the observer becomes a part of the observed and the distinction between observer and object disappears. What we “see” out there has more to do with our own consciousness and subjective experience than anything that might be “out there”. Read about the “Dream Argument” and the “Simulation Argument” before assuming objective reality exists. Quantum theory suggests the laws of quantum mechanics may turn out to be only the laws governing our own minds. Skeptics keep telling us only objective experience is real, even though Einstein once said “All knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.” In other words, if an objective reality exists, it originated from subjective experience and consciousness.

    Link to this
  97. 97. Merrick 1:30 pm 04/11/2013

    I seriously doubt there is a heaven. And yet, I do not agree with the author that the fact that NDE can be caused by a drug experience to mean that they aren’t “real.” I see no such proof. If you feel joy because of glass of wine, is that joy not real? Discussing mechanism does not get to “realness.”

    I find it fairly convincing that NDE do not indicate an afterlife. An afterlife does not make sense to me in any case, because without a body, what is a “self.” A collection of memories of physical sensations? This seems silly to me.

    Still, I wish more folks would study such phenomenon with a truly open mind. I find myself quite agnostic about lots of things about the nature of reality. We are, after all, so very limited to our sensory experience. Who knows what else is out there?

    Link to this
  98. 98. ehlmannbry 4:20 pm 06/3/2013

    This article, along with others arguing that NDEs provide no evidence of an afterlife since NDE features can be replicated via natural means, assume that any afterlife is supernatural. It is possible, however, that your final hallucination or dream, no matter what the cause, could be your never-ending dream (NED), your “natural afterlife,” and perhaps your heaven. For a full explanation of this theory, see the recently published article “Perhaps Heaven Is Your Never-Ending Dream and Natural Afterlife” at http://bryonehlmann.hubpages.com/hub/Perhaps-Heaven-Is-in-Our-Never-Ending-Dream-and-Natural-Afterlife.

    Link to this
  99. 99. vistatree54 8:59 am 02/18/2014

    I had a NDE when I was 27 ( now 60 ) after being revived from an insulin reaction. I’ve never forgotten the, yes I’ll say it, Joy I felt and the power in the light I was racing towards in the tunnel! The feeling was like one hundred shots of heroin I would guess. Now I can say, I’ve never experienced anything like it since. So what is real and what is not?

    Link to this
  100. 100. VioletaCiorita 5:27 am 07/11/2014

    Why you all science guys try to put his experience down instead of trying to find proof he did go to heaven?
    Crazy enough I understand nothing about science but apparently I understand more about his trip and about the love he talks about better then anybody.
    If I was to tell you I had the same experience wile not in a coma but going to work, talking to people, and loving 1 man would you believe me?
    I actually have the same proof as Eben does. Is this of any value to you or science as long as I did not have a Harvard degree?
    When you need this proof to clear Eben’s name please do not hesitate to contact me.
    Violeta Ciorita
    Utrecht The Netherlands
    0031628641928.
    or email: violetaciorita@yahoo.com

    Thank you for your time

    Kind regards,
    Violeta Ciorita

    Link to this
  101. 101. SjohnM1 11:03 pm 08/25/2014

    I can’t believe that those who have written articles in this publication, have really examined and researched this subject thoroughly. I can assure you, that I have. I am an attorney, and been accepted into medical school. So I have some expertise in the area of law and science.

    After my research, my observation of countless YouTube testimonials of those who claim to have had a near death experience, and my reading of scientific articles, on both sides of the issue, I have come to the conclusion that the near death experience is a real event. I have no doubt about it.

    Even in a court of law, after all the evidence would be considered, it would be the overwhelming opinion of the trier of fact, that the brain does not create consciousness. The Pam Reynolds case, would be the compelling evidence that consciousness survives death. That case proves that consciousness is not a product of the brain, and survives death of the body. In order to dismiss the Reynolds case, you would have to conclude her story as fabricated, or want to conclude that it is subject to fraud. However, this would be completely absurd.

    An objective examination of the Pam Reynolds case, has led researches to the conclusion that Pam Reynolds could not have observed events that she did, unless she was present and conscious. A conclusion to the contrary would be evidence of a complete rejection of any facts which frustrate that person’s wishful thinking.

    On the other hand, there is not one piece of scientific evidence that is weighty enough to establish that the brain is the source of consciousness. All of the evidence produce to debunk the duality of consciousness is speculation.

    To give one example, the scientists at the University of Michigan, studied the brain waves of rats. The scientists induced cardiac arrest in the rats. The scientists observed the emission of gamma rays by the brain of the rats after the rats experienced cardiac arrest. The scientists theorized that this was evidence of heightened brain activity, at a time that brain cells began to die. The scientists suggested that if this same activity were observed in humans, this could be the point at which humans were having a near death experience.

    But upon closely reading the article, the words used by the scientists such as “theorized,”
    “could,” “suggested,” etc. are words that denote speculation, not proven facts. The period of heightened brain activity, could also explained as a period when the individuals whose brains are emitting the gamma waves, are not experiencing anything that is being produced by the brain., or that this is point when consciousness separates from the brain.

    I believe the big problem for the skeptics, is that they are skeptics, and are afraid to except the fact that their paradigm prevents them from excepting any evidence that contradicts the theory that the brain is the source of consciousness. If the evidence was such that it could not be controverted that consciousness in fact survived the death of the body, such a scientific fact would cause them to have to change their beliefs, including their belief that there is no after-life.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a ScientificAmerican.com member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Scientific American Special Universe

Get the latest Special Collector's edition

Secrets of the Universe: Past, Present, Future

Order Now >

X

Email this Article

X