93. University of Kentucky Researcher, Dr. Kevin Nelson Skeptical of Near-Death Experience Accounts

Near-death experience skeptic, Dr. Kevin Nelson says the burden of proof is on experiencers to show their experiences are real.

near-death-experience-s1We all dream, but do we know when we’re dreaming?  Recent research from Dr. Kevin Nelson of the University of Kentucky suggests that near-death experience is akin to dreaming, and uses the same rapid eye movement mechanism associated with sleep.  In a recent interview on Sketiko.com, Dr. Nelson defends this controversial research that contradicts the accounts of thousands of near-death experiencers:

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Then you ask how can we have experiences with a flat EEG? My question to you is, that’s an extraordinary claim. Where is the data that says the experience that they later remembered actually happened at the time the EEG was flat?

 

Alex Tsakiris: Penny Sartori’s research, where she went and interviewed people about their resuscitation process and found that people who have a near-death experience are much more accurate in reporting the specific events that go on during resuscitation, is pretty good, solid research that backs up what so many of the near-death experiencers say, which is that this was…

 

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Where’s the data?

 

Alex Tsakiris: Well, that’s data. I mean, if you ask people…

 

Dr. Kevin Nelson: No, what is her data?

 

Alex Tsakiris: Her data is that they’re statistically significantly more likely to recount the…

 

Dr. Kevin Nelson: No, that’s her conclusion. What’s her data?

 

Alex Tsakiris: Her data is the number of events in the resuscitation process that they’re able to recall. That’s the data.

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Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host, Alex Tsakiris, and on this episode of Skeptiko, I’m going to dig into the near-death experience research a little bit further. It’s just fascinating to me. Every time I turn over a new stone, it gets more and more interesting.

The stone I was looking to turn over today came about when I was Googling near-death experience research. What pops up over and over again in the most popular mainstream science kind of publications like CNN Health or CBS Science News, Time Magazine, these folks who just touch on this, what pops up over and over again is some research that was done a couple years ago by this guy at the University of Kentucky named Kevin Nelson. You’re going to hear from him today. The way CNN summed up his research is as follows:

“Nelson thinks that near-death experiences are a part of the dream mechanism and that the person having the experience is in a REM (rapid eye movement) state.”

I think that’s a pretty good summary of what he’s saying, although you’ll hear him really back off from any kind of reference to dream or dream-like, which I don’t exactly know why he was so unwilling to go there. We had quite an exchange, if you will. It got a little testy at times. But hey, I really appreciate the guy coming on the show and engaging in the dialogue. I think that’s awesome to be able to have this kind of sometimes uncomfortable dialogue about things we disagree with. He was certainly willing to engage. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Here’s Dr. Kevin Nelson from the University of Kentucky, a near-death experience skeptic.

Alex Tsakiris: We’re joined today by Dr. Kevin Nelson, Professor of Neurology at the University of Kentucky, where he’s also a Director of Medical Affairs and Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs. Dr. Nelson, thanks so much for joining us today on Skeptiko.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: My pleasure.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, you know the title from CNN that caught my attention was, “Dr. Says Near-Death Experiences Are in the Mind.” Since that doctor they’re referring to is you, I thought we would try and connect with you and hear a little bit more about your research and your findings on this.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Sure. I think near-death experiences are in the brain and I think that the only experience we can really know about comes from the brain and so I think that my emphasis as a neurologist, of course, is just that. It’s the brain.

Alex Tsakiris: I guess that’s a great point to start and what really caught my attention. It seems to me that where most researchers are coming from is that this research, near-death experience research, just screams out that not everything in our mind is in our brain and that somehow, in some way that we don’t understand, consciousness seems to survive death. Why are you so convinced otherwise?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: I think that actually you have to look at the burden of proof. The burden of proof is on the individuals that are making the extraordinary claims. The idea that one has consciousness and therefore experiences independent of the brain is a matter of faith. It’s not a matter of science. Heretofore, there has been no convincing evidence to back up these extraordinary claims, that consciousness can exist outside of the brain.

Alex Tsakiris: Isn’t it all an assumption? Aren’t we assuming that since we don’t really understand the nature of consciousness? It’s something we’re just starting to unravel. We don’t understand when consciousness begins. We don’t understand what biological or non-biological entities are conscious. Aren’t we all kind of dancing in the dark here?

Why is there some extraordinary burden of proof when someone makes the claim that the evidence seems to suggest, as the evidence in near-death experience does, that consciousness somehow, in some way we don’t understand, without applying any kind of spiritual ontology to it, but somehow it seems to survive the functioning of the brain. I mean, I don’t know how you get away from the data surrounding that. What is your data that drives you in the other direction?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Well, let me ask you. I don’t accept your assumption that we don’t understand much about the brain and consciousness. In fact, we know a tremendous amount about the brain and how it brings about consciousness. So I think you really have to ask…

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, then go back and let’s ask those fundamental questions. When does consciousness start?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: When does consciousness start?

Alex Tsakiris: When does it begin? Does it begin at conception? At birth? Nine months old? Two months old?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Consciousness actually in humans, the conscious state probably begins during gestation, during brain development. In fact, during gestation the brain spends most of its time in the REM state of consciousness. Where certainly that state that becomes, as we get older, REM consciousness. So I think the idea that we don’t understand everything about consciousness means that we don’t understand anything about consciousness is a fallacy. We understand a great deal about consciousness. I really think we have to hit back that people who make extraordinary claims that we can be conscious without our brains need to have extraordinary data to support that.

Alex Tsakiris: Dr. Nelson, that is…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: The burden of proof is on the person making the extraordinary claim.

Alex Tsakiris: Dr. Nelson, I think that’s a very unscientific statement. Whenever we start saying that someone has an extraordinary claim or someone needs to offer extraordinary proof, that gets outside the realm of science in that we’re subjectively saying what extraordinary is.

I’d suggest to you that given the body of research in near-death experience, the claims that you’re making are extraordinary. It’s extraordinary to claim that the REM sleep state is somehow connected or explains the near-death experience. I mean, this whole idea of extraordinary claims thing gets a little bit silly when whoever is claiming the other person’s claims are extraordinary. It really is trying to shift the burden of proof over on the other person.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: What evidence is there that there’s consciousness beyond the brain?

Alex Tsakiris: I’m taking a step back and…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: What evidence is there?

Alex Tsakiris: I was just going to offer you if you look at the evidence in near-death experience, one of the research findings that I wanted to ask you about is, it seems like most researchers are finding that the closer someone is to death, the more likely they are to have a near-death experience. Doesn’t this kind of fly in the face of your research that suggests that it’s  somehow like a sleep-mediated state?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: How does it do that?

Alex Tsakiris: How does what?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: That doesn’t follow.

Alex Tsakiris: It doesn’t follow that as someone…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: But what’s the evidence? I’m asking you, what evidence do you want me to address scientifically, that indicates that there’s experience outside the brain?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, I think all…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: What evidence?

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, what do you make of the Pim van Lommel study in The Lancet that his conclusion is that the most parsimonious conclusion for the near-death experience is that consciousness somehow seems to happen outside or after there an end to what we normally call clinical death.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: That is a claim. That is not evidence.

Alex Tsakiris: I think when you publish…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Let me back up. How does he define clinical death there? What’s to him, clinical death?

Alex Tsakiris: I think when you work in the cardiac arrest ward and you have a flat EEG and a flat EKG…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: You don’t have a flat EEG. It’s a flat ECG.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, there’s plenty of cases where there’s a flat EEG. There’s plenty of near-death experience cases where the person is being monitored. They’re under anesthesia and they have a flat EEG and they are resuscitated from that and have verifiable data that they bring back during their resuscitation. Are you not accepting of the basic claim of the near-death experience, then?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: No, no, no. That’s not the claim of near-death experience.

Alex Tsakiris: But are you down with that?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Let me answer your question. First off, you didn’t provide any data. You’ve provided a claim that happened to be made in Lancet, okay? And it has to deal with cardiac arrest, not brain arrest. Then you ask, how can we have experiences with a flat EEG? My question to you is, that’s an extraordinary claim. Now. Where is the data that says the experience that they later remembered actually happened at the time the EEG was flat? There’s no marker that says the person’s having the near-death experience now, when the EEG is flat. You don’t know what their experience is when that EEG is flat.

Alex Tsakiris: Hold on.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: You don’t know, when you’re monitoring them, when they’re having the near-death experience. Now I have spent thousands of hours monitoring people in the operating room and I’ve had extensive personal and professional experience on this. The idea that someone can say, well, at sometime in the course of all this they had a flat EEG and they had a near-death experience doesn’t mean that the near-death experience happened during the flat EEG.

Alex Tsakiris: First of all, let me back up and say let me try and get out of the adversarial part and really, I just want to hear what you say and give you a chance to present your data. You keep coming back to me and saying, “Where’s the data? Where’s the proof?” Now having said that, I have to back up and say when we publish, when somebody publishes in The Lancet a long-term study, I think that’s more than a claim. I mean, that’s science. That’s all we have.

If you are making claims by publishing, that’s great. I think you have a biological explanation of near-death experience. I think that’s wonderful that that’s explored to the fullest extent. I don’t quite understand why Pim van Lommel’s claim in The Lancet is any different than any claim that you would make in any of your papers. Let’s start there. What did you mean when you said, “That’s just a claim, that’s not evidence”?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Well, that was a conclusion that he made after he interviewed people, okay?

Alex Tsakiris: But isn’t that all scientists are doing, is to…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Let me back up here, okay? Let me tell you the fundamental difference, okay? It’s exactly what you got confused earlier, and that is, clinical death is a flat ECG. See, now you read that as an EEG, and you know what? I did the first time, too. But when I go back and I look at it, no, he’s talking about clinical death as a flat ECG. What I’m going to do is, I’m going to write Lancet. I was stunned that in a prestigious peer-reviewed article that you can refer to clinical death and then slip and slide about clinical death using the heart stopping as the cause. You know, as the definition of death.

Now we know – I mean, this is stuff that is like Neuroscience 101. This is so incredibly basic. When the heart stops, the brain keeps going. It keeps going for several seconds. Have you ever seen anybody’s heart stop? Have you ever been in the presence of a time when someone is in cardiac arrest or near cardiac arrest?

Alex Tsakiris: Obviously, no.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: It’s chaos. It’s fricking chaos, okay? Now, what I’m telling you is that the heart stops and the brain goes for another 10 to 20 seconds just fine. It doesn’t become flat-lined at that point. It actually develops other kinds of wave forms. Eventually it becomes flat. There’s no doubt about that. But the most sensitive structure in the brain, when the blood stops flowing to it, is memory. And then our memories become very discombobulated when blood flow stops. The brain does fine for the first 10 to 20 seconds. The reason it’s so dependent on the blood is because it cannot extract energy from stored sources. All of its energy, and it’s a very highly energetically demanding organ.

Alex Tsakiris: I don’t think anyone’s making the claim that when somebody has a cardiac arrest they immediately have a flat EEG. What I’ve always heard is exactly what you’re saying. That within 10 to 15 seconds of cardiac arrest, there’s no brain activity that’s measurable by any means that we have. I think that’s what makes…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: That’s not true.

Alex Tsakiris: …the near-death experience hard to explain. I’ll just throw out some other research and get you to respond to it.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: No, I want to respond to your other point because the reason is you’re going under an assumption that frankly, is a very common misconception. Often times in cardiac arrest, the blood flow isn’t zero. A lot of times there is a very low but sustainable blood flow to the brain.

The brain can go in and out of consciousness and the brain can be conscious even when the people around them don’t know it’s conscious. That’s one of the interesting things about Sanjay Gupta’s work, is that the brain can be functioning when people around them don’t know about it. Often times in cardiac arrest, it’s not a complete arrest; it’s not a complete loss of blood to the brain. A lot of it is just pouring slowly to the brain, sluggish blood flow.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. I’m sure that’s sometimes the case, but I think there’s plenty of cases where people are monitored by the EEG, by EKG, and by other means and they still report the near-death experience…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Yeah, yeah.

Alex Tsakiris: So it’s kind of like pulling apart…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: But when does the near-death experience happen?

Alex Tsakiris: Penny Sartori’s research, where she went and interviewed people about their resuscitation process and found that people who have a near-death experience are much more accurate in reporting the specific events that go on during resuscitation, is pretty good, solid research that backs up what so many of the near-death experiencers say, which is that this was…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Where’s the data?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, that’s data. I mean, if you ask people…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: No, what is her data?

Alex Tsakiris: Her data is that they’re statistically significantly more likely to recount the…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: No, that’s her conclusion. What’s her data?

Alex Tsakiris: Her data is the number of events in the resuscitation process that they’re able to recall. That’s the data.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Now what was their medical condition during the time they recalled it?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, they’re being resuscitated, so they had cardiac…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Well that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any blood flow to the brain. That’s why they’re being resuscitated. They’re pumping blood to their brain during resuscitation. They’re not dead. They’re in crisis. They may be dead if you don’t do something, but their brain isn’t dead at that time.

Alex Tsakiris: So that would be your explanation for them being conscious of their resuscitation process.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Yes, of course. They’re not moving. They’re paralyzed.

Alex Tsakiris: And for them having an out of body experience and being able to see events that are happening both inside the room and outside the room.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Um, they put that together, the events outside the room. Remember when I said the memory is the structure of the brain, the hippocampus that’s most sensitive to lack of blood flow. It’s the first thing injured and it’s the last thing to recover. So these memories get all scrambled up and you can’t remember if it’s something that you heard about going on in the room, a moment of conversation that someone had that you incorporated into your memory, as having actually experienced it. You know, so all these sensations and memories are getting scrambled.

Alex Tsakiris: Right. So why is the group that had the near-death experience, why are their memories more accurate, you suppose, than the group that didn’t have the near-death experience? So all these people got resuscitated, right? That’s her study, right? Let’s take all these people that were resuscitated. Let’s take the group that claims…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Did you ever hear about the story that their memories are inaccurate? No, you don’t hear those. You get a very selective…

Alex Tsakiris: We’re talking about this piece of research. I’d like to know, what’s your hypothesis for explaining away why the group that had the near-death experience was more accurate in recounting the resuscitation process? I mean, you just offered up an explan…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Better blood flow to the brain.

Alex Tsakiris: But why would they be more likely…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: 1) they had better blood flow to the brain.

Alex Tsakiris: But why did they have more…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: 2) is that their memory circuits were being activated and driven by the fight-or-flight response. They already had a higher drive to the fight-or-flight response.

Alex Tsakiris: And why did they have a high…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: I don’t need to revoke the supernatural for this. You know?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, it sounds pretty supernatural to me, your explanation. It just seems like you just…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: I tell you what. You go back and learn a little more science, you know, and look at that data and maybe you’ll have a better understanding of what I’m telling you.

Alex Tsakiris: I think you’re the one who’s kind of out on a limb.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Listen, listen, let’s just back up here. Let me just say something, okay? You know, there is a great unknown. Our brains can’t know the world around us completely, of course. There’s a tremendous amount…

Alex Tsakiris: Our brains can’t know the world around us?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Pardon?

Alex Tsakiris: You just said our brains can’t know the world around us?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: It can’t know the entire world around us, yes.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay. I just didn’t know what you meant by that.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: And I think that that’s pretty obvious. But I don’t think the first leap we make should be – I mean, these are extraordinary experiences. They’re incredibly important spiritual experiences for these people and I am not discounting that or dismissing that by any stretch of the imagination.

Alex Tsakiris: And you say these are spiritual experiences for the people that have them?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Yes. Have you ever heard of William James?

Alex Tsakiris: Right.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: You know, I think they would qualify as spiritual experiences by what William James conceived of the spiritual experiences. But what I don’t like is people who have little to no first-hand knowledge about how the brain works trying to explain what the brain is doing during this very complex time. You know what I mean? I guess I should have known where you were coming from when you said we don’t understand anything about consciousness. I mean, that is totally untrue. We understand a tremendous amount about consciousness; how the brain makes consciousness. Do we understand everything? Oh, of course not.

Alex Tsakiris: That’s why I wanted to take myself out of it when I sent you the quote from Dr. Jeff Long, who’s looked at a lot of near-death experience cases.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Let me ask you. Let’s back up. Tell me about your publications, your audience?

Alex Tsakiris: I think they’re scientifically-minded folks who are looking at both sides of these controversial subjects like near-death experience, parapsychology, but it’s always based on research. The guy that I spoke to, Dr. Jeff Long, I don’t know if you’re familiar with him…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Oh, I know Jeff.

Alex Tsakiris: You know Jeff.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: By the way, I think Jeff’s a wonderful guy. He and his wife have done a tremendous job helping the community of people who have had near-death and very unusual experiences.

Alex Tsakiris: But I think he understands what you were just saying, the basic physiology of the brain and what happens. In the quote I sent you, do you see any problem? Do you have that quote in front of you? I don’t want to have to read the whole thing.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: I guess rather than really responding to what Jeff is saying…

Alex Tsakiris: But that’s what it’s all about. It’s responding. I think you’re in the minority, Dr. Nelson. I mean, he says that it’s medically inexplicable for them to have a conscious experience during this time and that over and over again that’s when people are having near-death experiences. So here’s a guy who’s looked at it probably as much or more than anyone and he comes to the same conclusion that I hear over and over and over again from researchers, which is that we really can’t deny that this is happening medically. It just happens too often in too many situations.

The second thing that they’re all saying is that in some way it seems to be happening at a time that we can’t really explain with the understanding we have of brain physiology. Your first comment to me was, “You’re making an extraordinary claim, back it up.” I think the burden of proof has shifted over to your side to say this is where the data seems to be coming in.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: The question was, can you have experiences that are not brain-based? And what I’m telling you is that what people – first off, let me back up. You misunderstood what I was answering. You’d better go back to your recording. Now, first off, I do believe people are having near-death experiences. I do believe these are probably – I have reason to believe they are even much more common than people even begin to imagine.

Van Lommel, other people like Grayson, Aparna, have focused on the cardiac arrest patient. But in fact, I think that’s only a small subset of people who have near-death experiences. If you look at an article in The Lancet from Owens, and he looked at the medical records of people who had near-death experiences, and only half of them had true medical crisis. That study is frequently forgotten, but it’s an astounding study.

Alex Tsakiris: What does that study mean to you?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Only half of people with a near-death experience are actually even in medical crisis.

Alex Tsakiris: What are your conclusions from that?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Isn’t that fascinating?

Alex Tsakiris: Well, what’s your conclusion from that?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: My conclusion is that 1) the mind is a very powerful thing, the brain is. 2) You’re looking at the wrong thing.

Alex Tsakiris: That’s your conclusion? What’s your conclusion from that research? From that particular research?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: My conclusion is that they have failed to fully appreciate that much of what happens in the near-death experience is fight-or-flight. It’s the way our brain is wired to respond to crisis. That’s number one. Okay, now, let’s just go back. So I do believe near-death experiences happen to people. I do believe they’re common. I do believe they’re spiritually important. But I do also believe there is no scientific evidence that says we have experiences when the brain’s dead. Every case I’ve ever been able to see, and I welcome anybody forwarding me the records, the medical story, the actual medical data.

But no one knows as that EEG is going to flatline, nobody knows when the person has their near-death experience. They just assume it’s at the time the EEG is flat, like the Pam Reynolds. An old case. It’s a classic example. In fact, near-death experience and the experiences that people are having don’t necessarily happen when the EEG is flat. There’s no reason to suggest that they are. They’re probably happening as the EEG is becoming flat.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay. That’s not the conclusion that most researchers are coming to, and as I’ve told you in the…

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Are they neuroscientists? I mean, I’m not sure what researchers you’re citing there.

Alex Tsakiris: I don’t think Grayson and Ken Ring and I definitely don’t think Dr. Peter Fenwick, who’s been on the show, of the people who are researching near-death experience, I think that’s kind of the minority view of the data seems to be pointing in the other direction.

But wait – we’re just hashing over the same stuff again and again. Let me go back in the little bit of time that we have, and I appreciate you spending the time and being so open and having this dialogue/debate whatever you want to call it. It’s good, it’s great.

But go back and touch again on the point that you made, because when you say that these are spiritual experiences, I really want to probe into that a little bit. I mean, you kind of throw “well, it’s a William James kind of experience.” What are your patients, the folks who you’re interviewing as part of your study, who are having these near-death experiences, what are they telling you?

And what are they telling you that’s different than they’re telling other researchers? They say it’s not just a “spiritual experience,” most people are saying it’s a very transformative experience; it’s realer than real experience; it’s a very significant part of their life. How does that fit into your world view on this whole thing?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: That it is what a spiritual experience is. You’ve just described some of the basic components of a spiritual experience.

Alex Tsakiris: Yeah, but I think most people, for that spiritual experience, it goes beyond what you’re explaining away in terms of the biological explanation for it. They see it as a lot more. So just tell me how you see the spiritual experience that your patients who you’re researching, how you understand that. And then also about how do you deal with that they don’t think it’s a dream. They think it’s realer than real. What do you make of all that?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: First off, I’m not explaining it away. I’m explaining it. Secondly, these are incredibly powerful spiritual experiences. They have great personal value. To some people they are the some of the most important things that ever happened to them. So I’m not sure what more you want me to say beyond that, or what you’re getting at.

Alex Tsakiris: No, that’s probably good. I understand where you’re coming from. Do the folks you’re talking to, do they agree with your idea of what’s going on? That it’s just this kind of brain-based, dream-like kind of thing? Most of the accounts I’ve read people who have actually had the experience are very much convinced that it’s much more than that. That it’s much more than a dream. It’s much more than something that they’ve normally encountered with their brain.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Well, many people have many different reactions but this is typically not the kind of conversation I have with a research subject. It’s an inappropriate one, frankly. I can’t really answer your question on that.

Alex Tsakiris: I think where I was going with that is that in general, the overall data that comes back from the near-death experiences say here’s something that seems to pop up a lot throughout time, throughout recorded history, across all these cultures. So it seems to me – this is just personal me, non-scientist, speaking here – but that a lot of times when we drift away from the experience itself as it’s reported by these folks, why can’t we trust more what they’re saying? Especially in the aggregate, when we take their experience across the range. Isn’t that the place where we should start our research into understanding what’s really going on? Isn’t it to listen to the people who are having the experience?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: First off, I’ve never called them dreams. I’ve never used that word in the scientific interpretation of what they’re having.

Secondly, I do believe them. In fact, I think that they’re remarkably open with some personally extremely important things to them. Things that are very, very important to them. But because I believe very firmly in the veracity of what they’re telling me, it doesn’t mean I have to agree with what they see as the underlying cause for their experience. It doesn’t follow.

So I just want to emphasize, I think people are being very open and honest. I think that for a long time there was many forces that kept people from discussing these unusual experiences. In fact, I’ve had a lot of people come up to me afterwards and tell me amazing stories that they’ve never told anyone before, because they were concerned about being judged. And being judged harshly. So I do believe very firmly what people are telling me, but that doesn’t mean that I have to necessarily agree with them on the scientific foundation of what they’re experiencing.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, Dr. Nelson, what else is coming up for you? Any books on this topic? Conferences that you’ll be attending?

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Yes, actually, I’ll be coming out with a book probably sometime next year on explaining the science of what conventional science tells us about the near-death experience and how they happen.

Alex Tsakiris: Thanks for joining us today. I enjoyed the dialogue again.

Dr. Kevin Nelson: Okay. Thanks very much.

Alex Tsakiris: Thanks to Dr. Nelson for joining us today on Skeptiko. As I’ve mentioned over the last couple shows, and many of you have responded, please take a minute, visit our Web site, connect with me, join me on Facebook, join me on Twitter, or just drop me an e-mail. I’d really love to hear from everybody, and would really love to try and connect with more of you. Please continue to do that.

Also, many of you are blogging about Skeptiko and making references to it and I really appreciate that. The more folks we can introduce to this tough discussion on tough questions that really has to happen if we’re going to move things forward. Well, just the more the merrier. So I encourage you all to do that.

There’s much more to come on future episodes of Skeptiko. Check out our Web site for more. It’s at skeptiko.com. That’s going to do it for today. Until next time, bye for now.

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