Tag: near-death experience

202. Scientific Evidence of Afterlife Overwhelming Says Chris Carter

Interview with author Chris Carter explores the scientific evidence for the survival of consciousness. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Chris Carter author of, Science and the Afterlife Experience: Evidence for the Immortality of Consciousness.  During the interview Carter discusses the consequences of accepting scientific proof of an afterlife: Alex Tsakiris:   Are there unintended consequences for overthrowing materialism? Maybe the game is going to wind up being played one way or another. We’re going to wind up with scientific materialism or Church rule. Someone has made the decision that at the end of the day I choose the phony scientific materialism over the thin, phony Church state. Chris Carter:   I think that’s a false dichotomy. I don’t think that’s the choice. One of the major themes of my book is that there’s a third alternative, one that does not require a leap of faith and one that does not require embracing the pseudo-scientific ideology of materialism. There’s a third alternative and it is to examine the evidence without prejudice, without materialistic prejudice or religious prejudice, and see what the evidence says. I believe that the conclusions that the evidence implies are not dogmatic. They do not ask people to go out and burn those who disagree with us at the stake or to wage war against those who disagree with us. Chris Carter's Website Cynthia's Book: Belief Is So Last Century Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: Listen Now: Download MP3 (58 min.) Read It: Today we welcome Chris Carter back to Skeptiko. Many of you know Chris for his withering attacks on skeptical nonsense and his books, Science and the Near-Death Experience, Science and Psychic Phenomena, and his latest, Science and the Afterlife Experience. Chris holds undergraduate and Master’s degrees in philosophy from Oxford. He’s a very fine writer, and it’s a pleasure to welcome him back to Skeptiko. Chris, welcome back. Thanks for joining me. Chris Carter:   Thanks, Alex. How are you doing? Alex Tsakiris:   Great. Everything’s good. This latest book is really fascinating. It’s obviously a topic that we love to talk about here. You really dig into so much. I’m hoping we can talk about the book but also talk about a lot of other things surrounding the book. I’m anxious to have you back on.

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191. Dr. Victor Stenger Slams Parapsychology, Calls Dr. Stanley Krippner Charlatan

Interview with Dr. Victor Stenger about his new book, God and the Folly of Faith, and the science of consciousness and near-death experience. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with physicist, Atheist and author Dr. Victor Stenger  about his new book, God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion.  During the interview Stenger explains why he believes many parapsychologists, consciousness researchers and near-death experience researchers are charlatans: Alex Tsakiris: As you mentioned, Stuart Hameroff is an anesthesiologist, so he may be crossing disciplines, but he’s also publishing with a Nobel Prize winner and some of the top people in the field. But let’s move on from that a little bit because what I really wanted to get to with that is what is at stake for Atheism with this idea of consciousness being more than materialism? Mind being just the brain? Dr. Victor Stenger:   All the Atheists I know, that is those who are scientists and really understand the scientific method, will say, “You show me the evidence for something beyond matter, then we’ll believe it.” So we’re open to that. It’s not so much that we have any particular stake other than the stake of determining the truth as best as we can. And that’s the problem. These people are charlatans to be claiming that there’s evidence for a quantum aspect of the mind. That’s just not true. Maybe they’ll find one someday. We’re open to that. But they just do not have the data to support that and they don’t have the theory to support that. And that’s the thing that’s so upsetting about it because they’re able to get away with this because they’re talking to audiences who are not aware of the science, who really don’t know the science. Alex Tsakiris:   You’re not saying Christof Koch is a charlatan? Or Stuart Hameroff is a charlatan? I assume, right? So who are the charlatans? Dr. Victor Stenger:   I know that I know Stanley Krippner, I know some of the other people that are on the list of people you’ve interviewed in the past. I saw your list and I’ll tell you they’re not part of any mainstream that I know of. Alex Tsakiris:   So do you think Stanley Krippner is a charlatan? Dr. Victor Stenger:   Absolutely. Victor Stenger's Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: Listen Now: Download MP3 (52 min.) Read It: Today we welcome Dr. Victor Stenger to Skeptiko. Dr. Stenger is an adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado but that’s really a second academic career for him. He’s also Professor Emeritus in Physics and Astronomy for the University of Hawaii. He’s also a very successful author, having published 11 books including the 2007 New York Times Bestseller, God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, and his latest book, God and the Folly of Faith. Welcome to Skeptiko, Vic. Thanks so much for joining me. Dr. Victor Stenger:   I’m glad to be here. Alex Tsakiris:   Great. I’m looking forward to the discussion. Let’s give folks a little bit of a background on you. Quite an impressive academic career, well-respected in your field. Well published, known. But then you also have this parallel career as one of the founders, really, of this movement that’s come to be known as “New Atheism.” Take us through a little bit of that and in particular this interplay between your academic career and then how you got interested in the Atheist movement. And maybe along the way help people understand what a New Atheist is?

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190. Dr. Eben Alexander on the Medical Mystery of Near-Death Experience

Interview with Dr. Eben Alexander about his new book, Proof of Heaven, and the medical mystery of his NDE. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with neurosurgeon and author Dr. Eben Alexander about his new book, Proof of Heaven.  During the interview Alexander explains why his medical training did not prepare him for understanding his near-death experience: Alex Tsakiris:   One of the really fascinating parts of the book is the professional transformation you go through as a result of this experience.  As you tell it, you weren’t totally unaware of the near-death experience research.  It was out there.  You had heard of, for example, Dr. Raymond Moody, but it was something you looked past because all your training had told you this was impossible.  So, it had created this blind spot in your medical knowledge. Dr. Eben Alexander: …it did require a tremendous amount of re-education. Having been an academic neurosurgeon for over 20 years, I thought I understood brain and how brain generates consciousness and mind and soul, spirit, what-have-you. But my thinking was clearly that when the brain and the body die that’s the end of consciousness. I now know that’s absolutely not true. And to get to that point after my experience I really had to learn a tremendous amount about consciousness I never had to know as a practicing academic neurosurgeon. I knew a few things about consciousness. I knew a few things that seem to turn it off. Every day we use general anesthesia which is effective at turning off consciousness.  Yet having used it for 150 years we still have absolutely no clue how general anesthesia works. I think that should give the listener a little bit of an idea of how little we really understand about consciousness. In fact, my experience showed me this very clearly, and I go into nine neuroscientific hypotheses in my book that I entertained and discussed with others in neuroscience, neurosurgery, trying to explain how my ultra-real experience might have happened in my brain given the severity of my meningitis.  My conclusion is  that none of these explanations work. Eben Alexander's Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: Listen Now: Download MP3 (56 min.) Also of Interest: Anomalous Experience: share your real anomalous experiences and read about the experiences of others. Read It: Today we welcome Dr. Eben Alexander back to Skeptiko. Dr. Alexander has just published Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Near-Death Experience and Journey into the Afterlife. Welcome, Dr. Alexander. Thanks for joining me on Skeptiko. Dr. Eben Alexander:   Well hello, Alex, and thanks very much for having me back. Alex Tsakiris:   Well, you’ve written quite a book here. One part medical thriller—it really is—and one part near-death experience science book. It’s a great read. I didn’t think neurosurgeons were supposed to be writers of this caliber. Dr. Eben Alexander:   Thanks a lot. I appreciate it. I think you can tell it’s really a story from the heart because it’s a very personal story and my experience was absolutely life-changing in every sense of the word. And I mean, to me I think a lot of people are most interested when they hear that I had a profound near-death experience like millions of people have had and witnessed that ultra-reality and the startling nature of that realm.

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177. Nancy Evans Bush on Encountering Near Death Experience Hell

Interview with author and past president of the International Association of Near Death Studies examines research into negative near death experiences. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Nancy Evans Bush, author of, Dancing Past the Dark: Distressing Near-Death Experiences. During the interview Bush discusses how negative near death experiences are researched: Alex Tsakiris: On one hand I understand the need to talk about these negative near death experiences, the need to put it on the table and process it. But I don’t think that’s the only thing that you’re objecting to because I think you’re also objecting to the way researchers approach “near death experience hell.” Nancy Bush: There is so much on every side of this issue -- we are surrounded by people whose knees are jerking. There are automatic responses that people make. The convicted Atheists say, “Oh, it’s just these people are deluding themselves with the supernatural,” and the convinced metaphysicians say, “Oh, if only they’d believe then it would be different.” And the doctrinally religious say, “Well, if they’d just believe my stuff then that would take care of this.” I think the most frustrating aspect of this whole study is simply trying to get people to sit quietly and just listen to the experiences. Let go of their preconceptions for a few minutes, and just sit quietly and think, “Huh. What could this mean?” Alex Tsakiris: There’s a fine line here because I think we all appreciate that we’re embedded in this materialistic culture that constantly tells us that this is impossible, this is ridiculous, you’re crazy. So I think when people break through that, then there’s a certain need to go just as far as they can with this. But to an extent it leaves us with the question of what can we really say? We can say that materialism is clearly a failed proposition but I’m not really sure what else we can say beyond that. How do we venture forth into this great territory of what lies beyond? Nancy Bush: I think for me one of the frustrations is the numbers  of people who given a little bit of information will jump in and say, “Oh, I get it. I had one of these experiences. I can tell you what it means.” But I think we are still following breadcrumbs through the woods. Nancy Evans Bush's Website Play It: Download MP3 (39 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Nancy Evans Bush to Skeptiko. Nancy is the former President of IANDS, the International Association for Near-Death Studies and she’s also the author of Dancing Past the Dark: Distressing Near-Death Experiences. Nancy, welcome and thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko. Nancy Bush: Thanks, Alex.

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174. Dr. Raymond Moody On Understanding Near-Death Experiences as Nonsense

Interview with psychologist and renown near-death experience researcher discusses how our language and system of logic limits our understanding of near-death experience accounts. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with renown near-death experience research and author of, Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife. During the interview Moody discusses the role of logic and nonsense in studying the near-death experience: Alex Tsakiris: Is it rigor and the logic that we’re missing or is there something fundamental to our experience in this body, in this world, that prevents us from understanding things differently? For example, we get these stories from near-death experience researchers where people come back and say, “I had a knowing that I’m unable to really bring back and internalize.” Are we limited by a system of logic or are we fundamentally unable to know certain things in this existence that we’re in? Dr. Raymond Moody: What a wonderful distinction.  As to the second part of your question whether there is some kind of unknowability in the world that we are just constitutionally unable to comprehend certain things, obviously I don’t know. By definition you wouldn’t be able to know that. But, I think that the first part of your question, is our logic limiting us in some fundamental way, I think it is, Alex, and I think just from our two conversations together I think I can prove it to you. What I can show is that these misconceptions about what we call “nonsense” create a kind of collective cognitive deficit in people that is hidden because everybody has it, right? If everybody has it there’s no way that people have of detecting it. The way that this manifests itself is that when people hear a sentence like, “There is life after death,” and unthinkingly they treat that just like a literal meaning, true or false proposition, right? So they try to process it by the rules of Aristotelian logic. Their minds go berserk, as you and I have seen many times probably and know people whose minds have gone berserk over this topic. Dr. Raymond Moody's Website Play It: Download MP3 (50 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Dr. Raymond Moody to Skeptiko. In 1975, psychiatrist and Professor of Philosophy, Dr. Raymond Moody published Life After Life and coined the term, “near-death experience.” I guess it’s fair to say the world changed a little bit. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. It’s hard to measure the full impact of Dr. Moody’s work on medicine, on science, religion, and our culture as a whole but it’s certainly clear that this ground-breaking research has continued to challenge our understanding of the deepest questions that we all have, that keep us up at 2 o’clock in the morning. Dr. Moody, it’s a great pleasure to have you on Skeptiko. Thanks so much for joining me. Dr. Raymond Moody: Well, I’m just so happy to be with you today, Alex. I can already tell this is going to be fun. Thank you.

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171. Anthony Peake on Near-Death Experiences Versus Actual Death Experiences

Interview with author Anthony Peake examines how our understanding of time may effect our understanding of the near-death experience. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Anthony Peake author of, The Labyrinth of Time. During the interview Peake discusses his understanding of the near-death experience: Alex Tsakiris: I’m totally with you that materialism just falls apart as soon as we start incorporating any of the most recent interesting work on consciousness. Materialism just doesn’t hold up. But your interpretation of the near-death experience is centered around this idea that we are then reliving our life in a real-death experience. I just want to tie that to a couple of observations I’ve made from some of the other guests I’ve had on, particularly Dr. Jeff Long and Dr. Pim van Lommel. What I couldn’t square with your explanation is the continuity of experience of the near-death experiencers, right? What these folks say over and over again is, “Hey, I remember I was in the helicopter being air-lifted out, and I was bleeding really bad and then boom! I was outside of the helicopter and I saw my body and I saw it land. Then I was in Heaven.  And then I was back.”  There is this continuity of experiences that seem very “this worldly.” Anthony Peake: I still argue that these people when they have near-death experiences, are having “near” death experiences, not actual death experiences in that they do come back. They do come back to this place and they do come back and exist in this place and survive in this place. They come back to be able to tell us of the experience that they had. Whereas I would argue in a real-death experience, when they don’t come back. And that’s the problem with my overall hypothesis because in order for it to happen, they don’t come back, in which case I could never ever prove it, I suppose. But when we ascribe the near-death experiences that are recorded within the annals of various books on near-death experience, there are individuals that come back. They have incredible experiences; they have obviously clearly no ethic experiences and experiences in many ways to me that parallels many of the experiences that people when they have dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and various other substances. So clearly it is sort of brain generated but not and that’s the danger of the trap we’re falling into of assuming that because these things are caused by brain chemicals therefore it is proof that it is just an epiphenomenon of the brain. I’d argue that the brain chemicals facilitate a wider experience of reality than you would get if you were embodied, as it were. Anthony Peake's Website Anthony's Cheating The Ferryman Blog/Forum Play It: Download MP3 (60 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Anthony Peake to Skeptiko. He’s the author of several compelling books including, Is There Life After Death? and The Daemon. He’s here to talk about his latest book, The Labyrinth of Time: The Illusion of Past, Present, and Future. Welcome, Tony. Thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko. Anthony Peake: Great to be here, Alex. Really, really great.

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Psychic Spy Joe McMoneagle Tells How His Near-Death Experience Led to Remote Viewing |166|

Interview with U.S. Army Remote Viewer Joe McMoneagle explains how his near-death experience led to being selected for the government’s psychic spy program. photo by Axel Drainville Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Joe McMoneagle, author of, Memoirs of a Psychic Spy. During the interview McMoneagle discusses the origins of the government’s psychic spy program: Joe McMoneagle: We heard rumors and picked up some details about the Russians using psychics to spy on America.   It was impossible, for obvious reasons, to get an actual agent inside their program; so when faced with the possibility that our enemy is doing something that we have no ability to judge, the best way to find what their capability is, or the limits of their capability, is to emulate them. So the initial intention was to just spend three years doing that--selecting people, targeting our own people at the CIA, FBI, Secret Service, that sort of thing. That didn’t work very long because we were able to successfully recruit six people and they turned out to be very, very good at doing what we thought the Russians were doing. They were good enough that people felt that it should be operational immediately. Alex Tsakiris: Tell us about your trips to Russia and your meeting with your Russian counterparts. Were they really spying on us with psychic spies? Joe McMoneagle: In actuality, they were. They were using spies, psychic spies, to target us and target many of our agencies. In my trips to Russia and the time I spent with the directors of their program and their actual remote viewers—I call them remote viewers. They probably shouldn’t be called remote viewers because they use nothing like our protocols. They displayed some interesting capacities in many of the things that they were doing but they did things completely differently than us. They did a lot of things that we didn’t do in terms of their attempts to manipulate the paranormal area, anyway. For instance, there were some efforts I know that they spent a great deal of time in trying to manipulate or affect the decision-making of some American politicians and that sort of thing. Joe McMoneagle's Website Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we’re joined by one of the world’s leading experts on remote viewing. Joe McMoneagle was psychic spy #001 for the U.S.’s Stargate Project that began at the Stanford Research Institute in the ‘70s. Joe was also a near-death experiencer and author of several books, including Mind Trek: Exploring Consciousness, Time and Space Through Remote Viewing, and Memoirs of a Psychic Spy: The Remarkable Life of U.S. Remote Viewer 001. Welcome, Joe, and thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko. Joe McMoneagle: I’m glad to be here. Thank you.

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165. Dr. Caroline Watt Defends, There is Nothing Paranormal About Near-Death Experiences

Interview with Parapsychology researcher Dr. Caroline Watt explains why, despite criticism, she maintains, “there is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences.” Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with University of Edinburgh professor Dr. Caroline Watt, co-author of, There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences: how neuroscience can explain seeing bright lights, meeting the dead, or being convinced you are one of them. During the interview Watt discusses her research into near-death experiences: Alex Tsakiris: The other thing that upset me about the paper was the way it was picked up by so many science publications; Scientific America, NPR, BBC, Discovery, Discovery News. It’s not a strong paper. Yet, it gets echoed back through the mainstream science media as some kind of breakthrough about near-death experiences. Even though it directly contradicts all the leading researchers in the NDE field. Dr. Caroline Watt: The leading researchers in the NDE field may publish their papers and have them reported as well. It’s an open forum. If it says something interesting, then it will be reported.  Everybody can have a say. It’s not like I have some kind of privileged access. Alex Tsakiris: I’m not suggesting that. I’m saying that what gets picked up and perpetuated through the science media is reflective of the current position, even if that position isn’t supported by the best data. I’m saying your paper got traction even though there’s not a lot behind it. I’m saying you cited references incorrectly.  And you referenced skeptics like Dr. Susan Blackmore who admits to not being current in the field. Dr. Caroline Watt: As I said, it was intended to be a provocative piece. It’s not claiming to be balanced. The paper, if it wasn’t limited to two or three pages, I could have dealt more thoroughly with many different aspects because there’s more to near-death experiences then the dying brain hypothesis. It would have been a longer and more in-depth paper, but that wasn’t the paper that we wrote. Dr. Caroline Watt Play It: Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Dr. Caroline Watt to Skeptiko. Dr. Watt is a founding member of the Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and has taught and researched parapsychology for 25 years. She is well published in the field, many peer review journals, and is also the author of the most popular textbook in parapsychology, An Introduction to Parapsychology. If we can add to all that, we can also mention that she has also served as a president and board member of the Parapsychological Association. Dr. Watt, it’s a great pleasure to have you on Skeptiko. Thanks for joining me today. Dr. Caroline Watt: Thanks, very much, for inviting me Alex.

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164. There is Nothing Paranormal About Near-Death Experiences, Dr. Jan Holden Disagrees

Interview with NDE researcher Dr. Jan Holden unravels the claim, “there is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences.” Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with University of North Texas professor, Dr. Jan Holden, co-author of, The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences. During the interview Holden discusses her research into near-death experiences: Alex Tsakiris: I wanted you to help me work through this paper titled, “There is Nothing Paranormal About Near-Death Experiences.” Let me start out with the first question, what are they reporting on here?  What’s the news?  Have they done any original research in this paper? Dr. Holden: I didn’t see any original research. What I saw was a compilation of theories and results that have been published for quite some time, and have been answered in—you mentioned The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences. What I noticed about this article is that it’s citing a lot of old sources that have been responded to, and  they did not even mention, let alone respond to, those responses. Alex Tsakiris: Let’s get to the meat of their paper—I’ll give you this quote: “Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that there is nothing paranormal about these experiences. Instead, near-death experiences are the manifestation of normal brain function gone awry.” I know from your continuing education course on near-death experience science there are at least 10 prospective NDE studies with in-hospitals patients. I don’t think one of them would support this conclusion.  What research are they citing to support their claim? Dr. Holden: I don’t know.  The material that’s out there actually supports a different conclusion. To quote my colleague Bruce Greyson, “If you ignore everything paranormal about NDEs then it’s easy to conclude that there is nothing paranormal about them.” And that’s what they have done. Dr. Jan Holden Play It: Download MP3 (56:00 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Today we’re joined by Dr. Jan Holden from the University of North Texas, who is one of the contributors and one of the editors of The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation. Welcome, Jan. Thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko. Dr. Holden: Thank you, Alex, I’m happy to be here.

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156. Closer to Truth Host, Dr. Robert Kuhn, Skeptical of Near-Death Experience Science

Interview with Dr. Robert Kuhn reveals why he’s reluctant to accept evidence for near-death experience (NDE) science. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Robert Kuhn, host of popular television show Closer to Truth.  During the interview Kuhn discusses the evidence for survival of consciousness after death: Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about survival of consciousness a little bit -- life after death -- and in particular near-death experience research. It’s a topic we’ve covered a lot on this show.  If there’s consciousness with no brain, then the mind/body debate is really over. Why isn’t this an area you’ve dug into? Dr. Robert Kuhn: That’s a legitimate question and obviously we’ve touched on it because we do deal with life after death in terms of the religious expressions of it. So that’s something I can focus on, because it’s not a question of physical fact as NDE would be, which I am very skeptical of. Alex Tsakiris: Who would be someone you would point to as being an NDE skeptic? Dr. Robert Kuhn: To me, the number of people would be legion. The burden of proof is on the other side. Alex Tsakiris: The burden of proof of what? The NDE evidence is pretty clear.  For example when they’ve studied this in the cardiac ward they know there’s no brain electrical activity and yet there’s this conscious NDE experience. I mean, that’s really the crux of the mind/body issue. Dr. Robert Kuhn: I would find that not compelling at all if that’s the evidence. Alex Tsakiris: What do you mean? Dr. Robert Kuhn: I personally believe that there is more likely than not a need for something beyond the material world as we understand it today to explain consciousness and mind. I would not, though, use as evidence for that the existence of the NDE. Closer to Truth Website Play It: Download MP3 (41:00 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about survival a little bit. Life after death. It’s a topic we’ve covered a lot on this show because the evidence for it really cuts to the core of this argument we’ve just been talking about. If there’s consciousness when there’s no brain, then it’s really debate over. And that, of course, brings… Dr. Robert Kuhn: Well, I don’t necessarily agree with that but to be very rigorous in the analysis it does not follow that if there is more to consciousness than the brain, it does not follow that there has to be a guaranteed life after death. It can follow; it is not excluded, of course. It is a fact in that direction…

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152. Near-Death Experience After Effects Key to Understanding NDEs, Say Researcher P.M.H. Atwater

Long-time NDE researchers and author P.M.H. Atwater reveals what she’s learned from the nearly 4,000 near-death experieners she’s studied. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with NDE researcher and author, P.M.H. Atwater.  During the interview Atwater discusses the after-effects associated with NDEs: Alex Tsakiris: Once we accept that near-death experience science overwhelmingly suggests that consciousness, in some way that we don’t understand, survives bodily death, I think you make a very good point about looking beyond NDEs at the broad range of spiritual experiences and trying to somehow understanding how they all fit together. PMH Atwater: What I always look for is the pattern of after-effects, how that affects the individual’s life, how long-lasting is that, how that affects the lives of others. It’s always the after-effects. I spend a lot of time in the book on after-effects, both with adults and children. On the physiological end, there are definitive changes to the brain/mind assembly, to the nervous system, to the digestive system, and skin sensitivity. P.M.H. Atwater's Website Play It: Download MP3 (39:00 min.) Read It: We’re joined today by NDE researcher and NDE experiencer, PMH Atwater. PMH, thanks for joining me today on Skeptiko. PMH Atwater: It’s my privilege.

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147. Can Out of Body Experiences Explain God?

OBE expert Graham Nicholls explains how his out of body experiences have led him to an understanding of the spiritual. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Graham Nicholls author of, Avenues of the Human Spirit. During the interview Nicholls discusses why his OBEs have not led him to a belief in God: Alex Tsakiris: On one hand you’re saying being good is the ultimate truth, on the other hand you’re saying being good doesn’t matter. Graham Nicholls: But if we’re talking about this spiritual awareness that I’ve been talking about, then there isn’t a separation.  There would be no selfish statement that you’re making. There would be no, “ this is to my benefit.” Alex Tsakiris: Then there’d be no compassionate statement either. That’s the problem with words like “selflessness”, the can only take us so far in these kinds of discussions. Should we be good?  Is there a moral imperative to be good? This is what the near-death experience research tells us.  NDErs say there is this moral directive. You can deny that, and you can say that’s not your reality, but that’s what you’re debating against. Graham Nicholls: I am saying that’s my reality. I’m saying for me compassion and those things have fallen out of this interconnectedness, this sense of oneness, which is exactly what you’re describing. This sense of love and all those things. But like I said, “good” is not really a word that I’m comfortable with. I’m talking more about this sense of growth, nurturing, of why would we do something to harm the ultimate progression of ourselves? Or, of our reality? That is more where I’m coming from. There doesn’t need to be a higher God. Graham Nicholls's Website Play it: Download MP3 (57:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome Graham Nicholls to Skeptiko. Graham is the author of Avenues of the Human Spirit. He’s an accomplished OBE experiencer. He’s had many out-of-body experiences that he talks about in the book. I’ve known Graham for quite some time and was introduced to him by Rupert Sheldrake. Then about a year ago, I wound up taking an online course on out-of-body experiences from Graham. So it’s a great pleasure to welcome you on Skeptiko, Graham. Graham Nicholls: Thanks, Alex, it’s great to be here. Alex Tsakiris: So this book that you’ve written, Avenues of the Human Spirit, that has been a while in the making but is now out and available on Amazon, is a very personal book about your journey spiritually and how OBEs play into that.

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144. Lynne McTaggart Reports on Science at the Brink of the Spiritual

Author of The Bond explains how our scientific understanding of human connection leads to spirituality. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Lynne McTaggart best-selling author of, The Bond.  During the interview Ms. Mc Taggart discusses how science can give us a greater understanding of the spiritual: Alex Tsakiris: On Skeptiko we’ve found that a deep examination of many of scientific questions quickly leads to questions of the spiritual. Questions of God, questions of the afterlife, questions about the meaning of consciousness. You don’t seem to go there very much. Why not? Lynne McTaggart: Because I wanted to argue in terms of science. I wanted to say we’re operating against nature. We’re operating against science, emerging science that is coming to the fore. I believe the science—I always look at scientific elements and I sit probably where science and spirituality meet because the science that I write about is very spiritual in a way. If you want to look at it this way, I’m just simply looking at it from the point of view of saying we’ve been living against nature. We’ve been living according to the wrong story and that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in. Alex Tsakiris: When we enter into the materialistic, atheistic, science game that’s been dictated and then we find that it no longer holds together, I think it behooves us to take a step back and re-examine things.  For example, you make a good case for the science interconnectedness, not just at a  subatomic level, but at a level we can feel and experience.  Don’t we then need to look our great wisdom traditions and notice that they’ve been saying the same thing all along? Lynne McTaggart: I think that’s what my books try to do all the time. They just provide the scientific basis for what spiritual traditions have been saying for centuries. In a sense, my books are always the science of religion. And yes, we have to understand. You have to take it back to the whole idea of unity infusing everything that we are and everything that we do. That’s a very spiritual idea. Lynne Mc Taggart's Website www.thebond.net Play it: Download MP3 (40:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome journalist, part-time consciousness researcher, and multiple best-selling author, Lynne McTaggart to Skeptiko. Lynne, thanks so much for joining me today.

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141. Steve Volk Investigates UFOs, Ghosts, Telepathy and Near-Death Experience in, Fringe-ology

Investigative journalist and author Steve Volk seeks a middle-ground between mainstream science skepticism and researchers on the paranormal fringe. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Steve Volk, author of Fringe-ology.  During the interview Mr. Volk discusses his personal experience with poltergeist phenomena: Alex Tsakiris: In your book you do a very nice job of exploring the mystery of the paranormal. But at the same time, I look at the mystery associated with your experience with a ghost in your house. That is, what happened to you when you were a kid growing up and you experienced this poltergeist phenomena. At the end of the day, in the book you come away and say, “Well, it’s a mystery.” Steve Volk: It is. Alex Tsakiris: But that’s a tricky word because it could mean two things. It could appeal to that certain group of people who say, “Okay, we don’t know if it really happened. It’s a mystery.” Or another group of people could process it and say, “Oh, it’s a mystery. We don’t know the precise confluence of paranormal things that happened to cause it.” Are we using a word that doesn’t get us to the underlying question about this mystery? Steve Volk: I think in the totality of that chapter with the fact that I explore the idea of it having been a traditional sort of ghost, along with a range of skeptical explanations from the fantasy-prone personality which is really purely a psychological one to what I consider the more exotic materialist theories like Vic Tandy’s theory of infrasound that there are these sound waves below the level of human hearing that can cause us to even have visual hallucinations, on through Persinger and the electromagnetic energy temporal lobe interaction that he’s been pursuing for a while now, there’s this range of potential explanations right? I wanted to just put them all out on the table because I think that they all have some sort of validity. I think we need to be willing to consider all these possibilities. I suppose, in that respect Alex, I might appear a little bit of a gadfly at times because I’m challenging everyone to look at all the possibilities all the way on through. Steve Volk's Website Play it: Download MP3 (44:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We’re joined today by someone you’ve gotten to know over the last few episodes of Skeptiko as Steve Volk has been a guest host here and brought us three very informative, insightful interviews about the history of parapsychology, neuro-theology, and ghosts. Today Steve is here to talk about his new book, Fringe-ology, a book that covers all these topics and a lot more. Steve, welcome to Skeptiko. Steve Volk: Alex, thank you so much for having me.

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140. Dr. Lakhmir Chawla Frustrates Near-Death Experience Researchers

George Washington University Medical Center Professor, Dr. Lakhmir Chawla, answers critics of his near-death experience research. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Lakhmir Chawla.  During the interview Dr. Chawla discussed whether his discovery of a surge in the brain’s electrical activity seconds before death might, or might not, be related to near-death experience: Alex Tsakiris: A moment ago you referenced the discovery of the first black swan as reminder of how science has to be prepared for unexpected discoveries.  Part of the frustration I hear from near-death experience researchers is, “hey, we keep finding all these black swans; where are the rest of you?”  They keep finding cases where patients report a near-death experience during a time when there’s no brain activity -- that’s a black swan. Then they look at your finding, which is interesting and surprising, but is quite speculative as far as being related to near-death experience and they say, “where’s the balance?” Dr. Lakhmir Chawla: I think that’s a very important point. At the end of the day, if near-death experience is going to enter a very durable research area it has to answer some of these questions.  Because right now we know that near-death experiences are very important to patients. So the stakeholders are very interested in it. So it will always have its relevant people who are very interested in it because it’s a big deal and it talks about the aspect of life when life potentially ends. What we’re suggesting in this paper is that we have an interesting finding at the time of death. It may have nothing to do with near-death experience, but the need to understand what this is or isn’t has a lot of value. Now, I’ll tell you, the other important issue is that we have patients who we allow to pass away and then we take their organs. Currently we use EKG as the metric for when they’re dead. Some people have suggested that you should wait and see if they have this spike because that may, in fact, be the border. And this has real consequences for the quality of the organs that are taken from these patients if they’re allowed to sit for even a minute or two minutes longer. So, the implications are beyond the near-death experience. Example of how Dr. Chawla's finding was reported Play it: Download MP3 (41:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome to Skeptiko  Associate Professor of Medicine at George Washington University Medical Center, Dr. Lakhmir Chawla.  Dr. Chawla, thank you so much for joining me today on Skeptiko. Dr. Lakhmir Chawla: Delighted to be here. Alex Tsakiris: So, Dr. Chawla, in 2009 you published a paper with the surprising discovery that some of your patients who were very close to death experienced a final surge in brain activity and the paper has gained quite a bit of traction, media attention, mainly because of this quote of yours: “We think that near-death experiences could be caused by a surge of electrical energy as the brain runs out of oxygen.” It‘s been a while since that paper was published.  So first I want to ask you, do you still think that what you saw has anything to do with near-death experience?

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128. Dr. James Fetzer On Survival of Consciousness and Near-Death Experience (NDE) Science

The author of, Philosophy of Cognitive Science, discusses why NDE evidence doesn't measure up. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with philosophy of science and human consciousness scholar, Dr. James Fetzer. During the interview Mr. Tsakiris and Dr. Fetzer discuss evidence for the survival of consciousness, and whether this evidence undermines our current model of mind=brain consciousness: Alex Tsakiris: So let's take a big step back and say that when someone has a flat EEG they are not supposed to have any conscious experience, let alone the kind of conscious experience near-death experiencers are reporting. What you say might be definitionally true and all that, but we just have to deal with the fact that people are having a conscious experience when they shouldn't be having it. And that's highly suggestive that consciousness doesn't operate the way that we thought. It isn't a product of the brain but is somehow separate from the brain and continues after the brain is severely compromised, if you want me to say it isn't dead. Dr. James Fetzer: Well, as soon as you begin talking about an ordinary concept of consciousness you have to acknowledge that consciousness involves responses to stimuli in the environment that we access through our different senses, taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing. Therefore, if we're going to talk seriously about a form of consciousness that persists after death, we're going to have to account for how it's possible to have sensory experiences for an entity that is no longer embodied. In other words, if you no longer have your senses, if you no longer have a capacity for taste, touch, sight, smell, or hearing, how can you possibly have any conscious experiences after you're dead? What we do know, Alex, is that when the brain is deprived of oxygen, the kinds of experiences that are typified by the reports of those who have these near-death experiences occur. Alex Tsakiris: That's absolutely not true, Jim. You just haven't delved into the. Dr. James Fetzer: Alex, that's all just fine and dandy and I did not previously express any concerns about it. You have been pressing me on this point and I'm explaining to you that based on classic criteria from the philosophy of science, your proposition of the survival of consciousness after death is a paradigm case of an empirically untestable claim. Dr. James Fetzer's website Play it: Download MP3 (28:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. On this episode of Skeptiko we return to a topic that I've addressed many times before, and that is near-death experience science and how it squares with the mainstream science model of consciousness. That is, of course, that consciousness is solely and completely a product of the brain. Now I've wrestled this issue to the ground before, but it was really fun to dialogue with someone who I greatly respect and admire for his ability to courageously follow the data wherever it goes on a whole variety of topics that are certainly very, very controversial. Here's my interview with Dr. Jim Fetzer:

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127. Dr. David Eagleman Explores the Afterlife and the Limits of Consciousness

The author of, Sum: 40 Tales From the Afterlife, discusses his work as a neuroscientist and author. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Baylor College of Medicine Neuroscientist and author, Dr. David Eagleman. During the interview Dr. Eagleman  discusses why survival of consciousness and near death experience (NDE) research isn't a prominent topic among neuroscientists, "I think it should be front and center. I mean, my impression is that scientists have different personalities and some are quite conservative and they like to stick with the party line. Now, I should specify that what the party line is at this moment in history is reductionism or materialism, which means you are just built out of your pieces and parts and that's it. When those pieces and parts break and go away, then you go away. That's a perfectly reasonable hypothesis and may well be right. I'm not criticizing that hypothesis, but I am saying that there are other possibilities, as well." Eagleman continues, "I go all around and give talks to my colleagues at universities all around, and what I see in some universities in some places is you're not even allowed to talk outside of that paradigm. Anything that gets said is really pooh-poohed. So I really admire these guys who are looking for the paradigm-busters." Dr. David Eagleman's website Play it: Download MP3 (18:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. On this episode of Skeptiko, I have an interview with someone I've been trying to get on Skeptiko for a couple of years. Dr. David Eagleman, as you'll learn, is a neuroscientist from the Baylor College of Medicine who wrote a book a couple of years ago all about the afterlife, but the book was a novel. The book got quite a bit of publicity. I actually heard about him first on NPR, the National Public Radio here in the U.S. The book became a best-seller and he went on to do all sorts of amazing stuff.

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125. Atheist Debates Existence of Soul with Near Death Experience Believer

Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris and atheist blogger Greta Christina square-off for a debate on near Death Experience (NDE) science. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview discussing the existence of the soul and the science of Near Death Experience. During the interview Tsakiris points out the lack of research among NDE skeptics, "And really, if we're going to play the kind of credential game, you really wouldn't want to stack Dr. Bruce Greyson, Dr. Jeff Long, Dr. Pim Van Lommel, one of the most highly regarded cardiologists in the world who's been studying near-death experience for 30 years-you wouldn't want to stack them against Keith Augustine, who really doesn't have any kind of medical credentials. So I'm talking to you about published research in these cases." Ms. Christina responds, "There is what seems to me to be extremely shaky research and there's no consensus about it in any sense-in fact, the overwhelming consensus among neurologists is that no, these people are, I'm not going to say crackpots, that's too strong a word. But these people are mistaken. They're being led down the garden path by their wishful thinking. And again, when you look at the history of thousands and thousands and thousands of years of human knowledge, where supernatural explanations consistently get replaced with natural ones and it's ultimately when the research has been really done and it's been really examined, it's never been the case that it's happened the other way around." Near the end of the debate, Ms. Christina sums up her argument "...even if I conceded everything that you've said in this whole conversation, all that it proves is that consciousness is weird and that we don't understand it. That's all that it proves. It doesn't prove anything about there being an immaterial soul that animates consciousness. It doesn't prove anything about immaterial soul surviving death." Tsakiris responds, "I don't mind hearing your opinion, but you've got to back it up. You're saying that every time somebody gives you research you go and look at it and it's debunked. Well, tell me. Tell me what's been debunked. You haven't cited any real NDE research. You cited Keith Augustine and then you want to say Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptical Magazine?" Greata's Blog Post: Why Near Death Experiences Are a Terrible Argument for the Soul Play it: Download MP3 (43:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. For a while on this show I've maintained that there really isn't a good, solid, scientific argument against near-death experience science. If you've followed this show  and you've listened to the guests that we've had on, people like Dr. Jeffrey Long, Dr. Pim Van Lommel, Dr. Peter Fenwick, Dr. Bruce Greyson (who we haven't actually interviewed but who has contributed by email), if you stack them up against the skeptics we've talked to, Dr. G. M. Woerlee, Dr. Kevin Nelson, Dr. Susan Blackmore, Dr. Steven Novella, or even Dr. Sam Parnia (who's kind of in the middle of this issue but we really have to put on the side of the skeptic) if you stack up the two arguments there's really no comparison.

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124. Near Death Experience Science in Bereavement Rescue

Father Rod Walton author of, Bereavement Rescue with Near Death Experience, discusses the evidence for and uses of NDE science. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview discussing the use of near death experience science in dealing with the loss of a loved one. During the interview Father Rod Walton explains why science is important to his work, "I think people really want evidence. Most people, once you give them evidence, it changes them. I often use Ken Ring's book, Mindsight, about people who have been born blind.  They don't even see in there dreams... they only can smell, taste and touch... but when these people have a near death experience they do see for the first time.  When the bereaved realize that this doesn't add up, it affects them. It makes them willing to listen. They're getting hope based on facts rather than just perhaps and ifs and pie in the sky." Father Walton also discusses the Christian churches unwillingness to accept this new science, "Many Christian communities have great tunnel vision. They're only looking in a straight line. They don't look left; they don't look right. I don't think they're searching. I don't think they're seeking. I think they're just following tradition and dogma." Father Rod Walton's Bereavement Rescue Play it: Download MP3 (18:00 min.) Read it: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. This show, Skeptiko, has always been about following the data. That's kind of been our tagline. Just follow the data and you'll find your way through these controversial, unsettling, breakthroughs in science and you'll come to a new understanding about who you really are. That's the theme of this show, if you will. But today's interview with Rod Walton got me thinking about what it really means to follow the data. In particular, the data behind near-death experience science, a topic we've covered a lot on this show. As you know, we've spoken with some of the world's leading researchers and we've spoken with some of the leading critics, as well.

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121. Skeptical of Skeptics, Chris Carter Tackles Near Death Experience Science

Author Chris Carter discuses how Near Death Experience Science is misunderstood and misrepresented by mainstream science. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Chris Carter, author of, Science and the Near Death Experience. During the interview Carter explains how the acceptance of paradigm changing science like near death experience and telepathy wouldn't change science as we know it, "...I do not agree with you that the acceptance-say of telepathy, or the acceptance of the near-death experience as a genuine separation of mind from body, I do not think that would challenge any aspect of science. I don't think it would change the way that neuroscientists come in and do their jobs. I think that everything would be exactly the same. They'd continue looking for the same chemicals, the same neurotransmitters, the same areas of the brain that light up. They'd still be trying to work with split brain patients and patents who have damaged brains. I don't think that anything would change. Except, yes, their conversations down at the pub on weekends would change. Absolutely. The philosophical conversations would change. But I really don't think that it would impact anything in science simply because modern neuroscience is completely neutral as to whether the brain produces the mind or whether the brain acts as a receiver/transmitter for the mind." According to Chris Carter the real dividing  point between mainstream science and the breakthroughs of near death experience science lie in conventional view that everything we experience can be reduced to just brain activity, "Materialists like to claim successes in modern science have been due to a Materialistic outlook. You've probably heard that before. But this is nonsense. The three men most responsible for the scientific revolution, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton, were not Materialists. One of the reasons Galileo recanted his views is because he feared the Church would excommunicate him. Newton spent the last half of his life writing on theology. I mean, Materialism is an ancient philosophy that basically asserts that everything has a material cause. Therefore, the brain produces the mind. This dates back at least to Democritus in ancient Greece. It was thought to gain support from the physics of Isaac Newton, although Newton himself did not agree. Newton himself instead followed the Dualism of Renee Descartes. It was really the 18th century philosophers such as Diderot and Voltaire who spread the doctrines of Materialism and Mechanism. They did this in order to combat the religious fundamentalism and superstition, and the persecution that were common in their time." Chris Carter Play it: Download MP3 (39:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. Before we get to today's interview with Chris Carter, I want to take a minute and tell you about something that happened to me this week. One of the benefits of doing Skeptiko and having it achieve the little bit of success that it has is that I now get books sent to me on a regular basis. Little surprises in the mail. A new book. A new movie to review.

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119. Dr. Pim van Lommel Transformed by Near-Death Experience Research

Cardiologist and NDE Researcher Dr. Pim van Lommel discuses how his research with near-death experiencers has changed his beliefs about life and consciousness. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with cardiologist and author of Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience, Dr. Pim van Lommel.  During the interview Dr. van Lommel explains how he began his research, and how what he learned from his patients led him to a personal transformation, "I started to ask my patients who survived cardiac arrest if they could remember something of the period of unconsciousness. To my big surprise, out of 50 patients asked, 12 of them told me about their NDEs. This was the start of my scientific curiosity, how could people have an enhanced consciousness when they are unconscious, when the heart doesn't work, and there is no breathing, and their brain has stopped functioning?"  Van Lommel continues, "When you have spoken to patients who have had a near-death experience, their emotions, their reluctance to share their experience with you... it's so honest. You just believe them because they're so honest. You get convinced that there is more than what we can see, what we can measure." Dr. van Lommel also discusses how his controversial findings have been accepted by the medical community, "The gap is not as big as you presume.  It just looks that way because the Skeptics are very active. The Skeptics have their own truth and they don't listen to somebody else who has a different opinion. So there's a gap and there will always be a gap. There is no discussion possible with Skeptics because they have the truth.  But a lot of physicians are a little bit more open, but they won't write articles. They won't write or tell about it in public. I know some physicians who have had a near-death experience. They said to me and wrote to me that, 'what happened to me now I've always said this is impossible, and now it happened to me.'" Play it: Download MP3 (40:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Welcome to Skeptiko where we explore controversial science with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I'm your host, Alex Tsakiris. Before we get started with today's interview with Dr. Pim Van Lommel, I want to take a couple of minutes and talk about skepticism and a couple of things that have come up in the Skeptiko forums.

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118. Dr. Jeffrey Long Responds to “NDEs are an Illusion”

NDE Researcher Dr. Jeffrey Long responds to recent comments by Dr. Sam Parnia regarding near-death experiences being a "trick of the mind". Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with physician and New York Bestselling author, Dr. Jeffrey Long. During the interview Dr. Long is asked to respond to recent comments by fellow NDE researcher Dr. Sam Parnia suggesting that the near-death experience phenomena may be an illusion, Dr. Long said, "... I strongly support any researcher that has a reasonable opinion about near-death experiences. I think the one opinion that I think is not reasonable at this point in time is the absolute blanket statement that NDEs are illusions. There's just too strong evidence forthcoming from my research as well as the research of others. I mean, by the time you have near-death experiencers with crystal-clear consciousness, the out-of-body observation seemed to be overwhelmingly correct in both prospective and retrospective studies, near-death experiences in those totally blind from birth, near atypical near-death experiences even while under general anesthesia, and it goes on and on. I think that's pretty thoroughly refuted... when I read the interview it sounded to me more like Dr. Sam Parnia considered NDEs to be a research question. In other words, that's why he's doing this prospective study. The comment that stuck out more to me is 'I don't know' in terms of what the cause of near-death experiences are." But when asked what evidence would suggest that Dr. Parnia's suspicion is correct, Dr. Long presented a highly unlikely set of circumstances, "for NDEs to be accepted as an illusion then each and every one of all of the following must be true for all NDEs: 1) The predominately crystal-clear consciousness during NDEs would always have to be an illusion. 2) Accurate OOB observations (out-of-body observations) during NDEs must all be false. 3) NDEs reported under general anesthesia, they all must be false.  4) The consistency of NDE reports, both from very young children who are not socialized, and older children, and adults -- the consistency of all those groups must be explainable by some yet unknown means. 5) We also have to explain the consistency of the content from NDEs around the world, including cultures very different from Western cultures. All that must be explainable." In conclusion, Long states, "therefore, the belief that NDEs are only illusions would require both: 1) the lack of acceptance of established and corroborated, extensive NDE evidence and 2) faith that science will someday have explanations for what we've already observed and find unexplainable." Dr. Jeffrrey Long: What Must Be True If NDEs Are an Illusion VIDEO: Stanford Research Institute (SRI)  investigations into ESP and psychic phenomena featuring Uri Geller. Play it: Download MP3 (31:00 min.) Read it: 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, well, I have a couple of different things I want to try and mish-mash together and create a show for you.

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116. Dr. Sam Parnia Claims Near Death Experience Probably an Illusion

Interview with NDE researcher and AWARE Project leader explores limits of experiments on near-death experience. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with the NDE expert and author of, What Happens When We Die?, Dr. Sam Parnia.  During the interview Dr. Parnia is asked why he suspects NDE is an "illusion", and a "trick of the mind".  When pressed, Dr Parnia stated, "...It may well be. You're pushing and I'm giving you honest answers. I don't know. If I knew the answers then I don't think I would have engaged and spent 12 years of my life and so much of my medical reputation to try to do this. Because to appreciate people like me, I risk a lot by doing this sort of experiment. So I'm interested in the answers and I don't know. Like I said, if I was to base everything on the knowledge that I have currently of neuroscience, then the easiest explanation is that this is probably an illusion." While Dr. Parnia's position regarding the validity of the NDE phenomena stands in contrast to most other near death experience researchers he continues to push forward.  His AWARE Project asks cardiac arrest patients who experience a NDE to recall hidden pictures placed above their bed.  This methodology has been criticized by NDE experts who give it little chance of yielding positive results. Dr. Parnia responds, "I don't know if be successful or not. That's an important point to make. As I said, I don't have a particular stance. It's possible that these experiences are simply illusionary and it's possible that they're real. Science hasn't got the answers yet. So we have to go fair-minded. Right now what we have is a setup that can at least, we hope, objectively determine an answer to the question." Dr. Sam Parnia Bio Video lecture at Goldsmiths in London Is Dr. Sam Parnia’s AWARE Study of Near Death Experience Doomed to Fail? Play it: Download MP3 (38:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by the author of What Happens When We Die? He's a leading expert on NDE research. He's best known as the lead investigator of the AWARE Project. Dr. Sam Parnia is a Fellow in pulmonary care at Cornell University and he's a doctor. I mean, in addition to being a researcher, he's also there in the ICU saving lives. Dr. Parnia, thanks so much for joining me today on Skeptiko.

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114. Near-Death Experience Skeptic Dr. Susan Blackmore Responds to Critics

Interview with author and consciousness expert Dr. Susan Blackmore explains why Skeptics and atheists cling to her opinions on NDE science. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for and interview with oft quoted near-death experience skeptic, Dr. Susan Blackmore. During the interview Dr. Blackmore acknowledges that dispute her reputation among near-death experience doubters, she has not remained current in the field, "It's absolutely true; I haven't written about this subject for a long time and I haven't kept up with all the literature, either." Blackmore continues, "... I gave up all of this stuff so many years ago...if you are a researcher in the field it behooves you to read as much as you can of the best work because otherwise you can't be a researcher in the field. I'm not a researcher in the field. I have not been for a long time." Dr. Blackmore also responds to criticisms of her interpretation of Buddhist teachings. In her book, Dying to Live, Blackmore stated, "... in Buddhism these experiences are not meant to be taken literally". This statement has been criticized by Buddhists scholars. During the Skeptiko interview Blackmore responds to those criticism, "Well, I'm not a Buddhist scholar. I don't read Sanskrit or original language. I'm not a scholar of Buddhism in that sense. But I have been training in Zen for 30 years now. I've also trained to some extent, much and much less in Tibetan practices. Most of what I wrote there is based on that long practice." Check out Dr. Susan Blackmore's Website A Critique of Susan Blackmore's Dying Brain Hypothesis by Greg Stone Play it: Download MP3 (53:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome back Dr. Susan Blackmore. She's a writer, lecturer; in fact, you may have seen her excellent presentation at the TED conference a couple years ago, which is quite an honor itself. She's also a visiting professor in psychology at the University of Plymouth. Dr. Blackmore, welcome back to Skeptiko. Dr. Susan Blackmore: Thank you very much.

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