Near-Death Experiences as Proof of Afterlife? Not Really.

Picture: Dr. Mario Markus (CC)

A rebuttal to the articles: Heaven is Real: A Doctor’s Experience with the Afterlife and A Neuroscientists Describes His Near-Death Visit to Another Realm.

Dr. Eben Alexander’s article can be summarily dismissed with one sentence in the words of the late, great, (kind of a jerk but…) inarguably intelligent, and erudite Christopher Hitchens: “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” And there you have it. However, considering the nature of my disagreement with Dr. Alexander, I suppose I should put forth an actual case for why I believe his experience does not constitute evidence (let alone proof) for life after death.

There are many possible explanations for what Dr. Alexander went through. Perhaps he really did experience an event in which his disembodied consciousness was whisked away to heaven on the wings of a magical butterfly with a hot brunette in tow. Or perhaps his neocortex was not fully shut down at the point when he thinks he had the NDE? Perhaps the experience occurred in the moments before his neocortex shut down or as he was coming to? If he was unconscious, quasi-conscious, or in a state of altered-consciousness, he would either have no sense of time or a distorted sense of time. How would he know exactly when the NDE occurred in relation to when his neocortex shut down? Perhaps there are gaps, misperceptions, or faulty assumptions in our understanding of the event itself? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps! I could perhaps several paragraphs on this matter but really, who knows? I don’t. Yes, that’s right. I don’t know; I admit that.

I can’t prove him wrong. I can’t prove him wrong in the same way you couldn’t prove me wrong if I claimed there is a magic, invisible garden gnome living in my backyard who likes to fart in my gardenias, tie my hose in knots, and throw my newspaper in the neighbor’s bushes. I could point to my wilted flowers, knotted hose, and misplaced newspapers as evidence. Then I could write an article entitled “Garden Gnomes Are Real: An Artist’s Experience With A Magical Pain in the Petunias”. I wonder how many people would take me seriously?

Probably not many. Why? Why is Dr. Alexander’s claim any more credible than mine? Because his claim “seems” more plausible? Because he’s a doctor and I’m some nobody artist? I don’t care if you’re the pope of the universe; if you say, and I quote: “I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death,” you better have some strong evidence to back that claim up. As it stands, all he has given us are words and the assumption that his neocortex was fully shut down when he thinks he had the experience. I don’t find that even remotely compelling, especially not when NDEs are known to be explainable by simple brain-chemistry and have even been replicated in controlled lab settings, fighter pilot testing, and with drugs.

Let me make myself clear: It’s not the NDE I contest. NDEs do occur but they are a natural brain phenomenon brought on by extreme stress and lack of oxygen to the brain. What I contest is the notion that what went on in Dr. Alexander’s head constitutes proof of heaven. Even if the event really did happen as he claims, that’s still not proof! The very best that can be said with true certainty is that we do not understand the full implications of what happened. The very worst that can be said? Wishful thinking, cognitive dissonance, and rejection of the scientific method run amok. The event should certainly be studied, absolutely, nolo contendere! Though I doubt scientists would find any evidence of supernatural occurrences or actual proof of heaven. Why do I doubt?

I doubt because thousands of years of study into souls and heaven and ghosts and afterlives have yielded nothing. We know nothing about the soul. We believe, we feel, we have faith! But we don’t know. We don’t even know if it really exists. Even if we do ever manage to find actual evidence for the soul, it probably wouldn’t be what we hoped for- an entity that retains our personality and memories. If history has taught us anything, events we perceive as supernatural tend to have naturalistic (and ultimately disappointing) explanations. (Wait…. You mean our crops failed because there are no gods on Mount Olympus to appease and we are thus at the mercy of an indifferent climate system that doesn’t give a crap whether or not we starve to death? Bummer.)

After thousands of years, one might think we’d have something concrete, that we would know something for certain about the soul. We do not. The fact is, no one has posited any falsifiable, testable, predictive hypotheses for such things as souls, ghosts, mind-body duality, heaven and so on. Why not? This quandary is such a huge part of humanity, why do we still know nothing about the soul or anything else classified as supernatural? This leads into perhaps the biggest conundrum of all concerning this matter: Even if souls and ghosts and heavens really do exist, science may not be capable of detecting, studying, or even commenting on them. We may never be able to prove claims of mind-brain duality or heaven or other such things.

Why might science be incapable of delving into supernatural matters? Because science operates within very strict parameters and it has very strict criteria. If an idea is not testable, predictive, and falsifiable, science cannot work with it.

It is entirely possible (and if you ask me, extremely likely) that souls and heaven and whatnot (if they really exist) may lie inextricably within the realm of faith and personal, subjective experience. We may simply have to resign ourselves to the likelihood that we will never have actual evidence. Merely saying “I experienced an NDE when my neocortex was shut down” does not constitute evidence of an afterlife, let alone proof, not even close. Evidence must be detectable in some way by objective, outside observers. Dr. Alexander’s experience is not accessible to the rest of the world; only his words are.

What would constitute proof of an afterlife? How about an actual afterlife that we can test, falsify, and base predictive models on? How about something that is as undeniable as the fact that the Earth is an oblate spheroid revolving around the Sun. Or failing that, how about something I can see with my own two eyes or experience for myself and share with others? Until this happens or until these claims are legitimately proven…. ya know, like, with actual proof, I simply cannot take people who say they’ve experienced heaven or ghosts or souls or disembodied consciousnesses or whatever else at their word. I simply cannot. There are too many other possible naturalistic explanations. And again, as history shows, naturalistic explanations have a strong tendency to pave over phenomena that were once thought to be supernatural.

Carl Sagan once said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” There is something extraordinary about being whisked away to heaven on the wings of a butterfly and experiencing a god’s love. There is nothing extraordinary about claiming as much.

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  • Ted Heistman

    Congradulations on your first article!

    What do you make of the observation that time seems out of phase in the dream state, like for example, a ten minute nap might be bexperienced as a several hours long dream? I have heard it postulated that the afterlife is a dream that stretches on seemingly forvever as the conscious brain finally winds down.

    • bobbiethejean

      That’s a really nice thought. Believe me, I’d love it if that were true. Even though I don’t believe it is true, a part of me hopes against all hope.

      As for a scientific explanation, I honestly don’t know if I have the knowledge or understanding to give you one and I’d rather admit that I don’t know than try to make some BS up. The brain is a tricky thing, perception is a very tricky thing, and time may be among the trickiest things of all. There are scientists who believe time may not even really exist! As I understand it, (the “time does not exist” camp of thought) time could possibly just be our perception of matter moving through space. What we perceive as time is really just matter doing what what matter does. I don’t know if I really believe that necessarily. I could philosophize both sides all day long.

      I once dreamed almost the entirety of Dante’s inferno only to be elbowed awake by my friend who insisted that I was only out for a mere few moments. Baffling eh? To me, it seemed as if time ceased and the dream stretched on hours. Perhaps we do not perceive the passing of time in our sleep so hours can feel like minutes? Or perhaps dreams occur in a strange, halting kind of fast-forward. For example, when I walk my dogs, it takes me about 20 minutes. If I dreamed it, maybe only the most salient parts would appear in the dream, thus cutting it’s time down significantly.

      Again though, I don’t really know. That’s the best I have to offer. You’d probably be better off, ironically, talking to a neuroscientist. XD LOL.

      • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

        I like the idea of different timescales due to maybe, rate of processing. For example maybe a few days for a fly, to it, would be akin to a whole human lifetime from their perceived timescale. Death, and i expect near-death, involves a massive amount of neural firing(the only possible reaction after a sufficient lack of oxygen), and maybe this shifts your perception of time to stretch it to extremes, maybe even to something like infinity

        • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

          The idea has been considered by some already. Including myself :)

    • Nirvanasteve

      As a lucid dreamer, I find that the differed time perception in dreams is primarily an illusion not entirely unlike the fade from one scene to another in a movie, or pages being ripped off a calender to signify the passing of months. I have had dreams that felt like they lasted a lifetime but realized this was due to a lot of backstory being plunked down into my memory during the dream; I didn’t actually ‘experience’ most of what I had remembered.

  • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

    >”I doubt because thousands of years of study into souls and heaven and
    ghosts and afterlives have yielded nothing. We know nothing about the
    soul.”

    People have been involved in the study of astronomical bodies of millennia, yet it’s only in the last hundred years that our tools have become powerful enough to start learning what these objects really are, and which laws govern them.

    So what makes you so certain the same could not happen with the so-called ‘paranormal phenomena’? a term I personally LOATHE because it automatically implies they fall outside the realm of Nature; when it might just be they simply fall outside OUR current model of what Nature is supposed to be?

    • bobbiethejean

      This is entirely possible. I doubt it will happen, but it’s possible. And I’ll tell you what; if this ever happens, I will spin on a dime. I will also be scared out of my !@#$%^&*ING MIND because it opens up possibilities for the crap I see in my nightmares being real and I have some spectacular, gnarly !@#$%^&*ING nightmares. :P

      • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

        Hey, maybe what we call ‘Reality’ ain’t nothing but a consensual nightmare :P

        • bobbiethejean

          I sure hope not. Because then there’s the possibility of something like this: http://bobbie-the-jean.deviantart.com/art/Under-the-Surface-112352471?q=gallery%3Abobbie-the-jean%2F747645&qo=70 showing up…. or this: http://bobbie-the-jean.deviantart.com/art/The-Everydemon-116858361?q=gallery%3Abobbie-the-jean%2F747645&qo=85 or this: http://bobbie-the-jean.deviantart.com/art/Down-from-Terraut-75070261?q=gallery%3Abobbie-the-jean%2F747645&qo=112

          Yeah. That’s the kind of crap that tends to show up in my nightmares. NNNNOOOOO THANK YOU. XD It’s bad enough that crap shows up in my dreams. Imagine if it really existed? NNNNUUURRRGGGG. Trying not to have a panic attack at the thought of the Hounds of Tindalos existing. :P

          • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

            The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist :-P

          • bobbiethejean

            Do you actually believe that or are you playing Devil’s advocate? DDDOOOHHHHH! PPPUUNNNNNN!!!! I deserve to be hit for that.

          • http://hormeticminds.blogspot.com/ Chaorder Gradient

            You so punny :-P. If i were playing devil’s advocate, would i be revealing one of his secrets? Thats some funny quote i heard once, i dont remember where

          • Kevin Leonard

            It was featured in “The Usual Suspects”

          • Matt Staggs

            You’ve been reading my comments too long…. ;)

          • bobbiethejean

            This is all your fault. You contaminated me. I should be PUNished and sent to the PUNitentiary. :P

          • David Howe

            well. he doesn’t. so there.

          • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

            Well maybe then that’s the reason you might be so averse to accounts like that of Dr. Alexander: because *if* he’s right, then maybe some of the stuff in your nightmares are not just the product of your imagination ;)

            Which is why some people prefer to talk about the ‘imaginal realm’, since it seems only through the use of our innate imagination is that we can get in touch with higher planes of existence.

            From that perspective, maybe much of what NDE survivors report is infused by their own background and preconceptions –after all, you are always experiencing new things through the filter of your past experiences– but maybe that’s just a defense mechanism to absorb new information that could come from an outside source.

            Remember that scene from Contact, where Ellie Arroway arrives to a dreamlike Pensacola? Maybe some people report seeing Jesus because that’s the facade an outside source chooses to take in order not to freak out the person.

          • bobbiethejean

            [Well maybe then that’s the reason you might be so averse to accounts like that of Dr. Alexander:]

            Oh no, absolutely not. I am very careful about not letting my emotions cloud my judgment. If something objectively exists, it exists regardless of whether I like it or don’t like it or am afraid of it. And besides, if I had to choose, I DEFINITELY wish things like this did exist. Even though there could be terrifying things in the universe, there could also be the possibility for immortality and an after life and reconnecting with my loved ones. Believe me, I like the idea of an afterlife A LOT more than I am afraid of monsters.

            So in short, no, I don’t think my fear is coloring my belief. I simply am a hardcore skeptic who demands empirical evidence. I would truly would be elated to discover that heavens and souls are real.

          • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

            Well, I can quote that you just wrote “I sure hope not” :P

            I get it. You want empirical evidence. The problem is that (1) Some phenomena are (currently) impossible to be subject to experimentation –e.g. astronomical events; and (2) here’s where it gets tricky: ALL mystical experiences are by their very definition deeply subjective in nature.

            Let’s get back to the movie Contact: Ellie Arroway has, for all intents and purposes, a mystical experience when she meets the aliens. She goes back to Earth with ZERO evidence to back her story. What’s only left for her is the inner realization, which she cannot share with those who don’t believe her a priori.

            My 1st comment mentioned the possibility that maybe our technology will be able to ‘cast light’ (pardon the pun) in some of those mysteries. In fact I might go as far as to claim this is already the case, since our medical systems and resuscitation techniques are becoming so efficient, more and more people are able to recover from a deadly health crisis, and more people are coming forward with claims of visions of an afterlife –for lack of a better term.

            So who knows. Maybe there will come a day when we realize that trying to put a barrier between Science and Spirituality is completely pointless ;)

            Saludos,

            RPJ

          • Borgar

            You are definitely a very talented artist. I am somewhat marvelled by the glaring incongruity between your fantasy-prone imagination and obvious fascination with magical imagery, and your aggressive clinging to the consensual everyday consept of “reality” showing in most of your posts.

            By the way: how do I disable the “mature content filter” (without signing up) that’s preventing me from seeing your “Everydemon” and “Under the Surface”?

          • bobbiethejean

            You’d have to sign up but we can also try this (Zoom to see fullsize):

            Everydemon: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/348/c/b/cb519a3c7a5f516c3007072b3484845f-d1xkohl.jpg

            Under the surface: http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2010/268/6/d/6d00813e2724d4928c1a2ee86fe41162-d1uw3pz.jpg

            As for the incongruity, you’re not the first to point that out. A lot of people don’t get it. I do find the supernatural to be absolutely fascinating. I just don’t believe it’s real. It would be nice if it were, scary as it could potentially be.

            And thank you for the complement. :)

  • Roark

    Until someone has actually experienced an NDE one should withhold judgment, It’s easy to pontificate, but when you walk in someone else’s shoes it’s an entirely different story.

  • Ceausescu

    I admire your effort to write such a long text, but I must say it’s useless to argue against someone’s personal experience. The guy didn’t try to convince anyone of anything. He merely described his experience and how that experience affected his beliefs. He didn’t say “if you don’t believe me, you’re ignorant” or “you should trust me because I have scientific credentials”.

    Nobody attacked your beliefs directly. However, your ego did feel threatened by these ideas which are opposed to the ideas that it (your ego) associates with.That’s why I said some time ago that what you’re doing is really just trying to reinforce your ego. Which is perfectly normal. It’s basic survival and conservatism from its part. Egos want to survive and conserve the ideologies that already exist with its spectrum of activity. Especially if they’re not trained to be flexible.

    You said in many instances that you need hard evidence to believe that the human mind can transcend beyond time and space. Did you try shrooms as I suggested some time ago ?

    It’s an experience which can deactivate/kill your ego to such an extent that your whole spectrum of ideologies, judgements etc. become obsolete. Don’t worry, after the death of the ego comes its rebirth.

    Personally, I got to a point where I realized that my normal state of consciousness ( non-altered ) was so basic, so narrow, so limited compared to what I was experiencing at that moment. I also realized that those limits that are set when our minds are not altered are needed for basic survival and adaptation.

    It’s funny that your brought up Carl Sagan. Here’s an interesting essay about cannabis written by him some 40 years ago. http://marijuana-uses.com/mr-x/

    • Ceausescu

      It’s funny how I see my spelling errors only after clicking the “Post” button.

    • bobbiethejean

      [but I must say it’s useless to argue against someone’s personal experience] There is an invisible pink unicorn in my backyard. If I ran around making this claim and someone refuted it, would you say the same thing to them? Somehow I doubt it.

      [The guy didn’t try to convince anyone of anything] “I have a scientific reason to believe in an afterlife.” If he had left it at personal, subjective experience, I would have let it be but he didn’t. Anyone who makes a claim like that is fair game.

      [However, your ego did feel threatened] And how would you know that? Did you ask my ego how it feels? As someone who knows my ego quite well, I can assure you, my ego doesn’t give a shit about any of this at all, trust me, it’s got other, more pressing issues. Now my sense of reason, that’s another matter. My sense of reason doesn’t like it when people (especially scientists who should know better) attempt to combine science with things that science shouldn’t be mixed with. What he’s claiming is not testable, predictive, or falsifiable. Therefore, science can’t even comment on it. Thus, he should not be making the claim that he has a scientific reason to believe in an afterlife. That was the whole point of my article.

      [doing is really just trying to reinforce your ego.] No, what I’m really trying to do is correct flagrant disregard for the scientific method wherever I see it. If someone wants to think they went to heaven on a magical butterfly with a hot brunette in tow, fine, whatever, I’ve heard sillier things (magic underwear, anyone?). But don’t then try to claim there is anything scientific about that. Even if it did happen, science CANNOT by its very nature shed any light on a supernatural event, at least not at this point in time. That may change, who knows. But for now, it can’t.

      [Egos want to survive and conserve the ideologies] I have no interest in conserving any ideologies. If it turned out I was wrong, I would spin on a dime. I hold no belief so dear that it is worth lying to myself to uphold it.

      [Especially if they’re not trained to be flexible.] I take issue with that. I am quite mentally flexible (if I do say so myself), willing to admit when I’m wrong, and willing to change my beliefs and opinions when confronted with new information. The day Alexander or anyone else can conclusively prove or even evidence the idea of a soul or a heaven, I will spin on a dime. Until then, I’ll be keeping my eye open for people who misuse science to make their personal beliefs seem more credible.

      Lastly, if I am ever blessed with an NDE that changes my mind on the existence of the supernatural, I won’t sell my story to a big news organization. Something about that just seems………. flippant.

      God: *Blesses guy with godly lovins and proof of an afterlife*

      Dr. Alexander: That was AWESOME! I think I’ll sell my story to Newsweek!

      • http://www.facebook.com/ioana.vanessa Ioana Vanessa B

        so, ceausescu told me about your post, along with what he replied to it. first of all, i would like to congratulate your ego on the extensive amount of personal insult it has taken by that article (can’t remember exactly the title, but i remember reading it quite a while ago, when it was posted). i think you don’t understand what ego is, and i invite you to do some research on that matter (it is definitely not a simple question of self-esteem or self-importance, although I must say you have a lot of that too). i also think you should check out some of the research being done in quantum physics, where really science and religion cannot but combine. i take it you don’t quite know what that’s all about (very rapidly it’s about an infinite of possibilities, in a dimension other than space and time).
        now, if your ego wouldn’t have felt attacked, if your own beliefs wouldn’t have been… challenged to say the least, you wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of writing this. it’s nice to have a debate going on, but the debaters will only be those who feel the other person if wrong. i don’t feel you’re wrong in any way, i just think you are living quite unconsciously.
        maybe you were raised that way, or maybe you choose to live that way. i have no idea. point is that disinfo is a platform for people to know OTHER perspectives than the ones we’ve been taught to having. you are free to read the posts here or not, just as you are free to believe it or not. i take it you’ve never had an after-life or an altered state of consciousness experience. i take it you don’t do yoga, meditation, smoke weed, do psychedelic drugs, or have ever been in a coma. i take it nothing very dramatic ever happened to you, so you were never in a position of NEEDING this sort of experience. so i take it you have no terminal cancer, and never experienced a loss you simply couldn’t explain (until you accepted it, and then it becomes perfectly obvious why it happened). i’m actually very glad you haven’t experienced any of those things, because they would have taken you out of this perfectly bubbly comfort zone of yours, and alas THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN A DISASTER. i’m kidding. i am actually happy for the wars and the suffering in the world, because i believe it wakes people up to the true calling of the universe. if you don’t know the universe, you can’t live according to it. but i assure you (and this has been proved scientifically) that the universe is within you, and within each one of us. it’s just a matter of seeing that (or actually be WILLING to see it).
        i’ll share a story with you, which again, you are free to make the most out of – or not: http://bit.ly/Okf8TZ.

        I would also like to remind you that different substances have been used throughout human history, to enhance consciousness, or to connect with those other dimensions of our universe. there’s even a theory that says that we wouldn’t have been here today without the existence of certain natural drugs. again, you are free to believe that or not. but you cannot really deny that native cultures have been using different drugs for as long as they have existed, and they are quite more peaceful, prosperous, connected to the nature and the universe, and arguably happier than the great majority of “developed” people. what is your opinion on that? is all of that crap? are they making it up?

        the last point which i would like to make is the fact that maybe all of this does not matter. maybe it doesn’t matter if the neurologist’s experience was true or not. maybe what matters is that we are, again, presented with another perspective upon life. we are presented with another possibility. maybe it really is just up to us what we literally make out of it. how have you used his experience? i think you’ve only just re-affirmed your beliefs, without really taking a minute to think “what if?”. no, because that will be taking a leap of faith, and you seem to be against such things.

        this being said, i wish you peace and love in all your endeavors, and i really do hope you wake up soon enough, and embrace this ABSOLUTELY AMAZING form experiment you’ve been given (also called life). i love you.

        • bobbiethejean

          [quantum physics] Quantum physics simply describes the micro-world and it’s bizarreness. Woo-woo peddlers like to hide in quantum physics because they know it is easy to confuse people with it.

          [if your own beliefs wouldn’t have been] I do take personal offense when I see the scientific method being so thoughtlessly cast aside by a scientist.

          [i just think you are living quite unconsciously.] I beg to differ. I pride myself on my self-awareness. You are wrong to make that sweeping, extremely presumptuous assessment of me based on this alone.

          [disinfo is a platform for people to know OTHER perspectives] This whole train of thought is just a fancy, euphamistic way of telling me to shut up and I will not. Disinfo is a platform for many things ~including~ debate and dialog.

          [i take it nothing very dramatic ever happened to you] I was born into a world of poverty with a violent, abusive, psychopathic father who beat my sisters and I, held us at gun point, tried to burn our trailer down with us in it, and ran us off the road into a ditch. That’s not even the beginning of the shit he did. My younger sister is borderline mentally retarded and she takes after her father. She tried to poison me once and she killed my cat. When I was 12, I was raped by a friend of the family several times over the course of a year. He told me that if I “tattled,” I would be the one to get in trouble because I was a whore. When I locked him out, he destroyed my artwork and my belongings. Whenever he couldn’t rape me for whatever reason, he would settle for molesting me. When I was 20-22, something so awful happened to me I’m not even going to talk about it. On top of all this, I had been on anti-depressants since I was 7 for clinical depression. I never needed them because I do not have clinical depression, I had shitty life syndrome. There’s no pill for that. When my life stopped being shitty, I started being happy. Shocker. So I spent almost my whole life on psych meds I didn’t need. Gods only know what that did to my brain. Oh and recently, my mother, the person I care most about on this planet, was diagnosed with cancer/hep C. She probably only has a few years left.

          Now, would you like to dwell on your ignorant, presumptive comment? Maybe next time you won’t assume such things about people you don’t know. Oh, and those are just the big events. I’m not even going to get into all the little stuff, like what it was like living with a psychopath father and having a psychopath sister, among other things.

          [i think you’ve only just re-affirmed your beliefs,] No. I’ve challenged someone else’s beliefs. I can see you don’t like it when people challenge the status quo. Maybe you’re the one who’s living so unconsciously, especially when you say you like suffering because it wakes people up. I wonder if you’d still think that if you’d been through half of what I’ve been through… or better yet, experienced what a child in a third world war zone goes through.

      • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

        >”Lastly, if I am ever blessed with an NDE that changes my mind on the
        existence of the supernatural, I won’t sell my story to a big news
        organization. Something about that just seems………. flippant”

        A valid point. Although maybe the guy thought the message he had to give was important enough it deserved to be shared with the world.

        And yet, I agree that whenever I see people trying to sell me the meaning of the Universe, I tend to put my skeptic goggles on –I do have one of those, you know ;)– That’s why I never cared about The Secret or things like that. Enlightenment shouldn’t be about trying to get the Universe to give me a Mercedes Benz.

        But, getting back to your comment: you’re saying that if you had an NDE, you’d probably keep it to yourself instead of going public. I believe you, and I also believe that’s how most people would react.

        Which opens the question: If most people who have an NDE don’t go public, just HOW common NDEs really are?

        • bobbiethejean

          I might share the experience with a close group of friends or I might be singing it from the rooftops. It’s hard to say because experiences like that change you. At this point in time, I think I’d keep it to myself because I wouldn’t want people to think I was a loony.

          • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

            >”I think I’d keep it to myself because I wouldn’t want people to think I was a loony.”

            Ah. So ask yourself this: when it comes to elicit a paradigm change, is your article part of the problem, or part of the solution?

            I don’t want to sound too critical. The fact is, I’m already aware that the paradigm change will need to arise BEFORE we start to take accounts like NDEs and UFOs etc seriously. Not the other way around.

            I’m really grateful that you take the time to engage in discussions with your readers. Cheers to you :)

          • http://www.facebook.com/ioana.vanessa Ioana Vanessa B

            after you’ve been there and back, you won’t mind people thinking you’re a loony.

        • Nirvanasteve

          You ain’t far off the mark, Bobbiethejean. Of course, a ’92 Gallup poll found that about 5% of Americans had reported experiencing one so perhaps we’re not so alone as we think.

      • Ceausescu

        “However, considering the nature of my disagreement with Dr. Alexander, I
        suppose I should put forth an actual case for why I believe his
        experience does not constitute evidence (let alone proof) for life after
        death.”

        This line that you wrote in the first paragraph intrigues me very much. What is the nature of your disagreement ?

        For me, mentioning Christianism or a pink unicorn is the same thing. And I really believe it is simply inefficient to argue about these things. Especially on the Internet. ( Time inefficiency, not a dull one-liner )

        Everyone is unique with regards to one’s view of his life, the universe and its laws etc.

        So what if he wanted to share his experience with the world ?

        He’s an old guy who has lived all his life with a different, less meaningful perspective on these important philosophies. He found more meaning in his life and he’s enthusiastic about it. Oh, and he’s a human. Give it a break lol.

        • bobbiethejean

          [What is the nature of your disagreement ?] My main contention is that he does not, as he says, have proof for heaven or scientific evidence for life after death. That is a fact by scientific standards, it is not arguable. Nothing he put forward constitutes proof and only by the loosest, non-science standards could you call that evidence.

          [Especially on the Internet] Meh. It’s good brain exercise for one thing and for
          another thing, sometimes intelligent dialog does come up which I find entertaining, enlightening, or intriguing.

          [So what if he wanted to share his experience with the world ] That’s fine. But a scientist should know better on many levels here.

          [He’s an old guy who has lived all his life with a different] I was under the impression that he was already a believe in some god. It seems he just went from being a
          deist to being Christian.

          [Oh, and he’s a human. Give it a break lol.] If he were just some shmuck, I would. But he is a scientist. I expect better and so should everyone else.

  • WTFMFWOMG

    My own “near death experience” happened when I was undergoing general anesthesia for a tonsillectomy when I was a young boy. What I remember was seeing the doctor’s masked face, fade to black, wake up a moment later in the recovery room. There were no dreams, no time, nothing. That’s because when the brain is turned off during general anesthesia, the most dangerous part of most operations, there is nothing to perceive anything. I suspect that’s exactly what I will experience when my brain is turned off for the last time, only something else will wake up for the first time. As whats-her-name said in “Cloud Atlas,” a door closes, then another one opens somewhere else. It ain’t reincarnation, it’s recycling.

  • Roger Mexico

    This guy’s report becomes scientific evidence when he can recreate the situation and get the same results. Until then, it just isn’t scientific proof of anything but him thinking that something happened to him.

    • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

      That’s why I’m so stoked about the outcome of Nov. 6th.

      Colorado & Washington legalized recreational marijuana. For the record, I’ve never used drugs, but the reason I’m excited about this –aside from the fact that it might put an end to the futile WoD, which has claimed the lives of about 80,000 in my nation in the last 6 years– is that maybe in the not-so-distant future research in entheogens, like the one conducted by Dr. Richard Strassman in New Mexico which is the basis for his book DMT The Spirit Molecule, will start to receive more support.

      Maybe the study of entheogens could open a whole new chapter into the research on human consciousness. And maybe, just maybe, they could give us solid evidence that Consciousness is NOT a mere epiphenomenon emerging from the neurocortex.

      • Ceausescu

        Lol, so hype about these subjects and no drugs yet ? How did you manage ? lol

        • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

          I know, right? ;)

          I think my own brain already secretes more than enough DMT on its own. Adding more to the mix might be overkill :P

  • Xenkenito

    I think that a near death experience. Is experienced as evidence and proof, to that individual experiencing it. From outside, looking objectively at another persons experience, we cannot prove the experience of another person. We cannot prove anything that happens within us subjectively. That doesn’t mean its not happening though. If I say, ” I am visualizing interstellar space.” Someone seeing me close my eyes to visualize can say “You are lying because I cannot share a seat in the theater of your minds eye.”

    • bobbiethejean

      There is a difference between someone saying “I am visualizing interstellar space” and taking their word at it and someone saying “I experienced a supernatural phenomena.” Anyone can visualize interstellar space and we know interstellar space exists. Could someone be lying or misperceiving? Certainly. But there is a precedent. There is no precedent for supernatural phenomena. Also, in the example you give, we could take an MRI scan of your brain to determine the likelihood that you are actually visualizing interstellar space, lying, misperceiving, or hallucinating. Different parts of the brain will be active for all four possibilities and we know which parts… well, by we, ironically, I mean a neuroscientist reading the results.

      The best that can be said is that supernatural phenomena are possibly real but unprovable (for the time being). The worst that can be said is that we are a bunch of credulous, gullible wanna-believers blundering through life in a cloud of willful ignorance, believing whatever ridiculous quack du jour happens to be tickling our metaphysical fancy.

  • Captain Clark

    All evidence is, is subjective personal experience that can be replicated by other people. There is no real difference between an event like near-death experience, and something considered fact like the Earth spinning around the Sun. Both of these occurrences take place in the heads of the observers, it just so happens that it’s much easier for more people to ‘prove’ to themselves how the solar system works than it is to ‘prove’ there is an afterlife. People seem to forget the part their own central nervous systems play when viewing things scientifically. It is literally impossible for any human being to see anything objectively, because ultimately it all gets filtered and shaped and translated by our own brains in order for us to become conscious of it, and this applies even when viewing measurements on an instrument, looking at photographs and films, or hearing noises and sounds. And just because this way of looking at things is more or less shared by most humans, doesn’t make it any less subjective.

    The ironic thing is, if there really is some kind of afterlife, it’s going to be ‘proven’ by every single one of us, sooner or later.

    • bobbiethejean

      [All evidence is] A literal, smoking gun is not subjective evidence, that is objective evidence that outside observers can verify independently.

      [no real difference between an event like near-death experience] Yes there is. We can empirically and mathematically prove that the Earth is an oblate spheroid revolving around the Sun. We cannot empirically or mathematically prove that a man was whisked away to heaven on the wings of a butterfly with a hot brunette in tow.

      [ Both of these occurrences take place in the heads of the observers,] You’re basically denying the existence of objectivity. If objectivity does not exist then everything is subjective and nothing can be known. If nothing can be know, go stand in front of a speeding Mack truck and see how that works out for you. Hey, we don’t KNOW that it will objectively hit you. Maybe it will only hit you in our minds while you’ll remain perfectly fine.

      [part their own central nervous systems play when viewing things scientifically.] Yes. Humans are perceptually quite limited. But we know things insofar as we can and one of the things we know is that supernatural claims have yet to be objectively prove.

      [It is literally impossible for any human being to see anything objectively] The way you’re asserting this point, it almost seems as if you think the word objective shouldn’t even exist! If something happens and we can’t perceive it or we misperceive it because we are biased, the event still happens as it happens regardless of how perceptions.

      [The ironic thing is, if there really is some kind of afterlife, it’s going to be ‘proven’ by every single one of us, sooner or later.] And how do you know that? That is a positive claim. Do you have evidence to back that up?

    • David Howe

      therefore anything a dying scientist or drugged-out assholes says is as true as anything else….Can’t wait to hear about your cure for cancer….I mean is someone says it works, then it must work. no need for studies since it’s all subjective anyway.

  • Kevin Leonard

    From a purely scientific perspective, I cannot disagree with you. There is zero grounds to accept Dr. Alexander’s story as scientific evidence. As proof, it can only be for Dr. Alexander. As for everyone who believes him, it can only be faith. You are correct.

    >>It is entirely possible (and if you ask me, extremely likely) that souls and heaven and whatnot (if they really exist) may lie inextricably within the realm of faith and personal, subjective experience

    No doubt. I would even argue that faith is a poor substitute for personal experience. I avoid churches because I find a complete lack of gnosis there. Dogma. Rules. Belief that a man will come out of the sky and save the day. I completely understand your comparison to gnomes and unicorns in your backyard. None of those things recount spiritual experience. They are re-interpretations of multiple iterations of translations with metaphorical meanings that were lost long ago.

    You suggest – ” Even if souls and ghosts and heavens really do exist, science may not be capable of detecting, studying, or even commenting on them.” – So why do you demand evidence from science?

    >> science operates within very strict parameters and it has very strict criteria

    No guru or spiritual master I have ever read or met has ever suggested that the non-physical, non-consensus reality is precise. The contrary is evident with personal experience.

    It seems to me that you care very much about the topic – ” I DEFINITELY wish things like this did exist” – You are looking in the wrong place.

    The truth is that there are testable and predictive methods available, but not in any science laboratory. They are in the jungles and in the meditation halls. You can find the methods in Ayahuasca ceremonies and Vipassana retreats (among others). You find the experience within yourself. This is how it has always been in the heart of gnosticism – based on gnosis as a principle, not in any organized hierarchy.

    All of the other ideas – the ideas that people without personal gnosis accept on faith – should be regarded as no more than a map. I can tell you what I saw and experienced on my drive from Texas to California, but that is not going to be what you see and experience on your drive from Texas to California. It cannot be. That does not mean that our journeys are invalid.

    >> Even if we do ever manage to find actual evidence for the soul, it probably wouldn’t be what we hoped for

    This is so incredibly true, I would remove the word “probably”. But it is possible through comparitive studies and personal experimentation and discussion to find shared maps of the non-physical reality and come to a consensus about what one is likely to find “on the other side.”

    I submit to you that the creatures in your nightmares are very real. (your art is stunning, btw). They are real in the sense that they invade your consciousness and drive your actions in your daily life… in obvious ways, and likely in some less-than-obvious ways, and possibly even in some ways that force you to deceive yourself. From my perspective, they are also very likely to be the “guardians at the threshold” that keep you from fully exploring your personal gnostic potential.

    If you want to understand the phenomena that cannot be tested, falsified, or predicted with science, the journey is inward. It is not outward.

    “He who looks outside, dreams. He who looks within, awakens.” – Carl Jung

    • Nirvanasteve

      An honest-to-god Gnostic! You’re just as interesting as I thought you would be. Got any recommended literature for one such as myself whose interested in this system and ‘gnosis’?

      • Kevin Leonard

        I am reluctant to suggest any titles. What has resonated with me and guided me may not be the same for you. And I make no claims to enlightement. I would suggest to read everything that creates a sense of openness within yourself. My current struggle is to maintain the sense of openness in challenging situations (hence, my participation at disinfo ;-)

        One conclusion I have come to in regards to spiritual literature – any spirtual literature – is: if you are looking for truth, you will find truth; if you are looking for falsehoods, you will find falsehoods. However, some themes cross boundaries, or at least *should cross boundares: the four yogas (bhakti, karma, jnana, raja); various models of subtle bodies (few disparate systems are identical, but the overlap is revealing); and as Ioana, above, hinted at, the relationship of consciousness to the true nature of the ego (Ego).

        But few texts provides gnosis. That typically requires practices of some kind, unless you are fortunate enough to have a NDE (and not a DE) or some other spontaneous revelatory experience.

    • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

      Great comment :)

    • bobbiethejean

      Hmmm….. very interesting thoughts. I’m glad I came through and read this comment. A lot of food for thought.

  • Monkey See Monkey Do

    ‘I am not anti-rational, just unrational. You may infer a rational meaning in what I say or do, but it is your doing, not mine.’

  • Howard Brazee

    Have you noticed that these seem to always be taken as evidence of their particular religion’s accuracy? Nobody from a Christian background suggested that he was moving to the womb of some other animal to be reincarnated.

    • http://dailygrail.com/ Red Pill Junkie

      It seems that the phenomenon looks to conform to the experiencer’s expectations. But that might be just a mechanism to prevent anxiety.

  • Tamara

    What I don’t understand is, if we approach this from a cold logic evolution no spirituality standpoint, WHY would our brains develop a response to cushion us from the shock of death if there is nothing after death ( so you wouldn’t suffer anyways) and, until recently in our history, once you were faced with a death situation you weren’t coming back? I mean, if your brain is shutting down, you’re dead…. until very recently in our history. So why would we evolve such a system that has no point? Nature doesn’t waste energy, (if we follow the cold logic no spirituality path) and from a cold standpoint this would be a waste if you were so bad off you were a hair’s breath from death, system wide shut down and 99% certainty of death…. It is confusing. If there is nothing after, and we’re as good as dead anyways, what’s the point of this NDE mechanism in our brains????

    Is it possible there is spirituality or however you define it AND that we can mimic some of those experiences with drugs? Is both possible? I don’t know, but I am confused as to why this would exist in us for no apparent reason if there is nothing beyond the what we know today as the “real” or “physical” world. Nature, from the cold logic path, doesn’t care if something suffers do this mechanism’s existence makes no sense to me.

    Then again, I don’t fully believe in the cold logical evolutionary path… Evolution definitely seems to be PART of the story, but I don’t think it is the WHOLE story. Still trying to figure out what the nature of reality is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.mccarthy.100 Matt Mccarthy

    This has got to be the weakest response to this book that I have read. Get your head out of your ass and use this brain you talk so much about.

  • Scott Davis

    I see this article as a valid criticism of the doctor’s article. I thought too that just because he felt there was a passage of time, dreams that seem long can happen very quickly. Time isn’t the same in altered states and he could have experienced the whole thing in the moments before he opened his eyes. The fantasy elements also do not correspond with common experiences, though the author could refrain from ridicule. Less easily dismissed is the case of Shanta Devi, whose recollections of a past life underwent dozens of blind tests. Reincarnation cases are better evidence of personality surviving death than NDEs, which are just testimony. There have been some GROUP NDEs and correlations, or mediums pointing out lost documents, some better evidence than the doctor’s.

  • Paul

    The article came across as arrogant, sanctimonious, dogmatic, sarcastic, etc etc etc. So I dismissed it.

  • Paul

    The fact that hes a big shot scientist and therefore should be believed is the fantasy of the writer of this article and nothing to do with Alexander himself.

  • Paul

    There isn’t solid evidence for the NDE. But there is for the OBE. Library loads of detailed accounts of conversations that are precise and radically unpredictable. People turning up at the hospital around the corner in a different room from where the patient has flatlined… and rather than it being the patients predictable wife its instead the unpredictable friend and uncle. Zillions of accounts like those. Not proof of afterlife but convinces me of the OBE as much as I am convinced by gravity. No wonder the CIA employ remote viewers decade after decade.

  • Paul

    damn, I insulted the insulter back. Why are we humans such idiots?

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