Tag: near-death experience

112. Christian Apologist Dr. Gary Habermas Skeptical of Near Death Experience Spirituality

Interview with resurrection of Jesus expert Dr. Gary Habermas reveals challenges facing Christians encountering near death experience science. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for and interview with distinguished professor of Apologetics and Philosophy, and best-selling author, Dr. Gary Habermas.During the interview Dr. Habermas discusses how we should examine evidence of supernatural phenomena like NDEs, “… let's just say that we've agreed that it looks like Naturalism is the odd man out, so, you go, this is a religious world… where should we go? One thing I would caution against is getting too far away from the evidential paradigm where we say okay, just because there's a supernatural world it doesn't mean that everything that's supernatural has equally good data in its favor.” Habermas also asserts that while Christian claims of the supernatural resurrection of Jesus are well established, other supernatural claims may not be, “we have specific evidence for specific doctrines, like the Resurrection of Jesus would be the best example, but there are others... but when we're saying that John has a near-death experience and John perceived that he went to Heaven and met Shiva or met an angel and John's Jewish and he interprets that in his Jewish context. What is the evidence that John was in Heaven? I could have evidence that John was seeing something down the street and that brains don't work that way in a Naturalistic context. So now I have some ideas about mind being beyond the brain. But where is the evidence that John spent time with an angel in Heaven? Most of the take-away type experiences and most of the transcendental-type experiences are without evidence. There's virtually no evidence that NDEs in another world are evidence. Let me put it this way. What if I had a thesis—now this is not my thesis—but what if I had a thesis that said when I have this-worldly evidence I can make a this-worldly conclusion. But when I have other-worldly data without evidence, then I have to let that hang out there until I get some data to distinguish As from Bs. Otherwise, they're just nice stories.” Dr. Gary Habermas Play it: Download MP3 (75:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by Dr. Gary Habermas, a distinguished professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and Chairman of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University in Virginia. He's a best-selling author, lecturer, and frequent debater, very open to debating his views in a very entertaining and open-minded way. He's best known in the fields of the historical Jesus and New Testament studies, and he frequently appears on major radio and television outlets. Thanks for much for joining us today, Dr. Habermas. Dr. Gary Habermas: Glad to be with you, Alex. I'm looking forward to a good chat with you.

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109. Is Dr. Sam Parnia’s AWARE Study of Near Death Experience Doomed to Fail?

Cornell University Professor and NDE researcher seeks to verify out of body experience after clinical death. What will you see when you die? According to near death experience researcher Dr. Sam Parnia you may see a carefully hidden image placed several inches below the ceiling of your hospital room. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for the opening round of a dialog with well known near death experience researcher Dr. Sam Parnia. Dr. Parnia has made worldwide headlines with his novel approach to proving whether out of body experiences of cardiac arrest patients demonstrate proof of an afterlife, or whether such reports are merely a, “trick of the mind”. Dr. Parnia’s group is using visual targets placed near the ceiling of the patient’s hospital room in an attempt to objectively establish whether near death experiencers can see what others can't. According to Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris the study is unlikely to produce positive results, “I’ve spoken with a lot of near death experience researchers. They’re telling me Parnia’s methods go against what we’ve learned about NDEs”. Tsakiris continued, “near death experiencers have been know to bring back some remarkable, verifiable information about what happens after clinical death, but there’s little to suggest they will see and remember Dr. Parnia targets.” Tsakiris also questions whether Dr. Parnia’s skepticism about near death experiences has led him to create an experiment that’s designed to fail, “it’s a subtle thing, Dr. Parnia public statements about his skepticism of the near death experience doesn’t mean he’s intentionally trying to debunk the survival of consciousness hypothesis… but it does make you wonder.” Watch Dr. Parnia's video lecture Play it: Download MP3 (17:00 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, I'm going to be opening up a dialogue with Dr. Sam Parnia. Now, the unusual thing about that is that Dr. Parnia isn't here and he isn't going to be joining me for an interview. In fact, what I'm doing is preparing some questions that I'm going to transcribe and then send to Dr. Parnia in hopes of getting a response from him. So let me explain a little bit about what's going on. Dr. Parnia, as many of you are aware, is a well-known near-death experience researcher, a guy who splits his time between the UK and New York's Cornell University, where he's a Fellow there in pulmonary care. What Dr. Parnia is really best known for is the Aware Study, a very novel, interesting way of looking at near-death experiences that's received quite a bit of media buzz, primarily because of the way the experiment is done. What Dr. Parnia and his group have devised is a way of putting targets-that is, pictures inside the room of someone who may experience cardiac arrest. They may experience clinical death. Up above their bed, very close to the ceiling, is a target that they can't see unless they're way up in the ceiling looking down, okay? So the idea is that near-death experiencers routinely report that they're out of their body, that they're having this out-of-body experience and Dr. Parnia and his group said, "Hey, let's devise an experiment so objectively see whether they can report information that only they could see." In other words, when somebody comes into the hospital, let's put them in a room. If they have cardiac arrest, let's go and talk to them and see if they saw our target that was placed above their bed that only they could see. If a lot of them see it, then this survival of consciousness thing must be real. If they don't see it, then it's not. So that's the Aware Study, and it's generated quite a bit of buzz, quite a bit of interest, and as the man behind the Aware Study, there's been a lot of speculation about exactly what Dr. Parnia's angle is on this research. I mean, is he a true believer who's looking to establish another line of evidence for the afterlife? Or is he a die-hard skeptic or materialist looking for a novel way to debunk all of this NDE nonsense? Well, those questions have certainly been stirring around in my mind for a while, but it really wasn't until a few months ago when a Skeptiko listener sent me a link to a video lecture that Dr. Parnia had given that the ball really got rolling in terms of inviting him on Skeptiko and trying to open up this dialogue. So the link that was posted in the Skeptiko forums is from a lecture that Dr. Parnia gave to a skeptical group in the UK, hosted by Dr. Chris French. As many of you know, Dr. Chris French is a very well-known, outspoken UK skeptic who's been on the Skeptiko show before. I think twice, actually. So let me play you the first of a couple of audio clips from the video lecture that Dr. Parnia gave and then I'll pick up and continue on with this story and what's happened so far. And we'll get into my questions for Dr. Parnia. Here is the first clip: "If, when you turn off the switch i.e., you turn off the brain, you don't get any blood flow into it. If people truly have consciousness, they really are able to see things as they claim they can do, then you have to accept that maybe Plato and others may have been correct. So far, we don't know. We've set up a study for the Awareness Study and we're trying to investigate it. And I think the key thing that we can do objectively is to use some kind of hidden target..." So that will give you a little feel for the tone of the lecture. Very reasonable, balanced sounding stuff. So I watched the lecture. I immediately had a bunch of questions. I emailed Dr. Parnia and requested an interview. He quickly got back to me and said, "I'd be delighted to talk to you, however, due to a number of commitments that I have right now, I wonder if you'd be kind enough to watch a lecture I recently gave at a skeptical organization, hosted by Chris French, blah, blah, blah." And he also added this: "I'm not so focused on cases where people have had near-death experiences in non-specific medical conditions. This tends to be most of the cases that people discuss and therefore leads to a lot of discussion, debate, etc." Now, of course, there's really nothing wrong with this statement. I mean, he's a doctor. He's interested in controlled medical conditions as they relate to NDE. Fine, fine, fine. But if you've been along on the Skeptiko thing long enough, you know it's not always that easy. Sometimes these seemingly innocent-sounding statements are really a coded message for a lot more. Like in this case, as Dr. Parnia is saying, "Hey, I'm a doctor working in the critical care unit of a hospital and I've decided to look at NDEs in that setting, period." Is he saying that? Or is he saying all this other NDE research you hear about is a bunch of crap because it's not done by a doctor working in a critical care unit and it should all be disregarded? Now, I'm not saying that's what he's saying, but I'd like to ask him if that's what he's saying, because you could read it that way. So part of this whole process of opening up a dialogue is to try and figure some of these things out. So with some of those questions stirring up in the back of my mind and some other questions that I have from watching his video, I fired off an email and tried to arrange an interview. And in the email, of course I tried to explain that I had seen the video, that it had generated quite a bit of discussion among our forum and I pointed him to that, and I also outlined a couple of questions that I'd like to ask, including some specifics about his research methodology. And that's when the tone of the emails started to shift a little bit. Now, I don't know if it was because of the specific questions that I asked or if it was because he finally took a look at the Skeptiko website and realized we're not quite as pro-skeptic as he might have thought. But whatever the reason, Dr. Parnia went from quick email responses and "If you have any questions, get back to me. I'll organize a time to speak," to long delays in our correspondence and "Could you please send me a list of specific questions and I'll respond by email. You can then post them on your site." Well, I still pushed for the phone interview. I suggested, "Hey, we can wait a month or two, whatever it takes. We'll work around your schedule." But he was pretty insistent on the email format and eventually even, you know, dished me off to his secretary to send the questions to-which is fine, he's a busy guy and I know he's got a lot going on. So in an attempt to honor that request, I am transcribing this podcast right now and going to send it to Dr. Parnia's secretary, and hopefully we can get some written responses to some of the questions I have, and some of the questions that Skeptiko listeners raised on our forum. So here goes-my questions to Dr. Parnia regarding his Aware near-death experience research project: Question 1, and why not start with a biggie? Isn't this experiment doomed to fail? Okay, let me flesh that out a little bit. At this point, I've read dozens of NDE cases and I'm sure Dr. Parnia has read many, many more than I have. But I've skimmed through at least 100 and I see all sorts of reasons why someone might have a near-death experience and an out-of-body experience and not be able to see these targets that he's placing in this experiment. So let me play you another short clip from Dr. Parnia's lecture and then I'll tell you more about what I mean: "And so if we get say 500 people who all supposedly die and come back and all that sort of stuff, and they call claim they saw Dr. Smith and they have all these incredible stories and they can describe what was happening, and we can demonstrate that it was happening when they're going through cardiac arrest and the brain is shut down, then supposedly, if they really are out of body, they should see that picture." Wow. I'm going to have to break that down for you and play you bits and pieces of it because there are so many interesting points to pull out of there. But let me start with the first part. I just think his numbers are way off. So he starts off by saying, "If we get 500 people who die and come back and all that sort of stuff..." which first of all, his tone seems rather dismissive, but take that out for a minute and focus on the number. Let's say he gets 500 people that come back and say they've had a near-death experience and they recall their resuscitation process. I don't know how he's going to get 500 people to do that. I mean, the average hit rate in these clinical trials in terms of number of people who have cardiac arrest compared to the number of people who recall their near-death experience is 1 in 10 to 1 in 8. So let's take 1 in 8 and say his 500 people now represent 4,000 patients that are going to experience cardiac arrest. Well, that's way more than the number that he hopes to get in his study. I think his study was 1,500. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, his big problem is, and I'm sure he knows this-I just don't know why he's not bringing it up-is that your typical NDE experience would never report this kind of information, this kind of target information. First, there's a bunch of near-death experiences where the person doesn't really recall the resuscitation at all. They recall other parts of the event very clearly, maybe the trauma, the being of light, the judgment, but they don't recall the resuscitation. A bigger and more obvious problem is people who do recall the resuscitation but the position that they're in in this out-of-body state, which all sounds very weird but it's really all we have to go with, but their position doesn't allow them to see the targets that Dr. Parnia has set up. And you know, in preparing for this, to give you an example, I went to the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation website and I searched through and I very quickly found some cases that will give you a little bit of a sense for what I'm talking about. Here are just a few. This is Barbara, a near-death experiencer who says: "I had been sitting up in the corner of the room, outside my body for some time. I was at the ceiling in the corner, watching and listening because my body wasn't comfortable to be in." Okay, so the important thing is, she's in the corner by the ceiling. Would she be able to see the target? I don't know. I don't think so. Here's Nicki: "I turned to the other side of the bed and stepped out of my body. I began to walk around the room, trying to talk to my living family members but they could not hear me." Okay, clearly she's not in a position to see the target. Now, I'm not saying that anything else about her near-death experience is valid or anything like that, I'm just saying that in the way that Dr. Parnia has set up the study to measure it, she has no chance of seeing the target. And here's the last one I'll share with you, from Arnie: "During my surgery, I found myself up in the corner of the operating room ceiling where I could look down from overhead on my surgery. I couldn't see the operating team and equipment surrounding the table because a large, overhead lamp blocked much of my view." Okay, now there's a couple of really interesting points here. One is how high is he? Is he just above the lamp? Is he all the way up to the ceiling? Is he in that two or three inch space that Dr. Parnia hopes that he'll be in to see the target? I don't know. But the other interesting thing, and the point that we have to take into account, is from Ernie's account here his vision during resuscitation seems to be much like our vision during waking life. He has a perspective. He's seeing it from an angle. There are certain things in his way and he can't see through them. Well, this is very problematic for Dr. Parnia because it means if that patient's out-of-body experience isn't positioned exactly precisely where it needs to be, they're not going to have any chance of seeing the target. And lastly, of course, I have to add there's the matter of focus. I mean, would we expect NDErs to look at and remember these "targets?" I mean, obviously they're very important to Dr. Parnia and his group, but are they important to the patient? The person who's dead and floating outside of their body? And that, of course, challenges the last little snippet from the clip I just played you. Let me play it for you again here real quick: "...if they really are out of body, they should see that picture." So he seems to be asserting very matter-of-factly that these patients should see his target and the question I'd have is for all the reasons that I just mentioned, why does he think that's so? Why is he so sure that these patients should see the target? And I guess that leads into another question of what's the history here? What's the history of this research? Are we building off of preliminary studies where under maybe less tightly controlled conditions they've had targets up on the ceiling and people have seen them? I'm not aware of that research. Maybe it's out there. That would seem like a logical stepping-stone. Or, are there a lot of accounts of people being able to see the pictures on the wall and tell those in their accounts? Again, I don't see a lot of that in the cases that I've read but maybe he knows better than I do. And while we're on the topic of talking about history and design of the experiment, you know what kept going in the back of my mind and I kept expecting to hear it is why aren't we doing something like Dr. Penny Sartori did? It seems to me her approach was much more naturalistic in that she said, "Okay, here are these accounts that we're getting from people who've had cardiac arrest and had a near-death experience. Let's take their accounts as they come in and let's compare them with the control group that didn't have a near-death experience and let's see which one is most realistic." Maybe Dr. Parnia can do that with the data that he has. So a question I'd have is does he plan to do that? It seems like a follow-up or replication of Dr. Sartori's work would be very appropriate, very illuminating. But having said all that, and having raised all those questions, I have to tell you that I'm not particularly optimistic that we're going to get an answer to those questions. And the reason I say that is from the next clip that I want to play you from Dr. Parnia's lecture. This is the one that really grabbed my attention. It's about 47 minutes into the lecture, so it's almost at the end. Let me play you this clip: "If, on the other hand, it's just an illusion, it's a trick of the mind, which it may well be and I suspect it will turn out to be, then we would expect no one to be able to see those pictures." If NDEs are just an illusion, a trick of the mind, which it may well be, and I suspect it will turn out to be. Of course, this is just his opinion. Open-minded researcher willing to look at the data, follow it wherever it leads. But consider for a minute the implications of what he's saying. He's suggesting that the Aware Study that he's done, which as I've pointed out doesn't have any chance of succeeding, should be the final decider. It should trump the 20 years of prior NDE research that's been done. It should put a nail in the coffin to all this NDE research. Am I overstating what he's stating? I don't know. Let's see if he'll answer the question. But the more I listen and read about what Dr. Parnia says, the more I see a debunking exercise. Another setup. A setup to fail. And of course, there are a lot of other good things that can come out of the Awareness Study. He's looking at a lot of important issues as they relate to the dying process. What's going on in the brain during this process? But all of that will be forgotten and buried from the headline if he proceeds with this study, which is doomed to produce the kind of low hit rate that will certainly support his "suspicion." Later on in his video lecture he says it will be an interesting situation if only one or two people see the target. I'd be amazed if one or two people see the target. But again, I could be way off. That's why we have to sit back at this point and hope that Dr. Parnia responds to some of these questions or hope that he finds 30 minutes to come onto Skeptiko and talk to us and tell us what's really going on regarding these issues. That invitation, of course, is always open to Dr. Parnia. But until then, I need to send this podcast off to transcription and forward it on to Dr. Parnia's secretary. And that's what I plan to do. Well, that's going to do it for this episode of Skeptiko. If you'd like a link to the video lecture I've been referring to, please visit the Skeptiko website. It's at www.skeptiko.com. You'll also find a link to all of our previous shows and an email and Facebook link to me, a link to our forums, and a bunch of other good stuff. So check that out. Stay with us. I have a couple of interesting interviews coming up. I'm going to play some interviews that I did a long time ago that are really fascinating, fascinating interviews relating to the Christian perspective on the near-death experience. One is from a very well-known Atheist who I really enjoyed dialoguing with. The other is from a very well-known Christian Apologist who I also greatly admire and enjoyed speaking with. I didn't agree with either one of them, but I sure enjoyed talking to them. And that's the pleasure of doing Skeptiko. Anyway, that's it for this time. Take care and bye for now. oined today by Professor Michael Marsh, a highly regarded academic biomedical researcher and physician who was formerly a Professor of Medicine at Oxford, and then later in his career returned to Oxford to complete a PhD in theology. Now, his doctoral thesis was on near-death experience and out-of-body experience, and that's also the subject of his recently published book titled, Out-Of-Body Experience and Near-Death Experiences: Brain-State Phenomena or Glimpses of Immortality?

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108. Christian Theologian Claims Near Death Experience Not Communication With Divine

Oxford Professor of Medicine, and theologian, Michael Marsh finds much he doesn’t like about near-death experience claims of spirit communication. Many within the mainstream medical community have reservations about near death expereincers who claim to experience an afterlife, but many are surprised to hear the same doubts from Christian theologians. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Professor Michael Marsh, a former Professor of Medicine, at Oxford who returned to Oxford to complete PhD in Theology. Dr. Marsh, who recently authored, Out-Of-Body Experience and Near-Death Experiences: Brain-State Phenomena or Glimpses of Immortality?, rejects claims made by near-death experiencers. When asked if those who claim to encounter Jesus during their near-death experience are communicating with Christ Dr. Marsh responded with and emphatic, “no!” Marsh also offers his opinion on how near death experiences compare to biblical accounts of an afterlife, "I don't think there's much that compares with our ideas of resurrection or theology. We talked a little bit about spirituality, and I don't think that the sort of disclosures that we have… the inconsistencies of the pictures of so-called heaven, and the pictures of so-called Jesus and all the rest of it are consistent. You might expect them to be consistent if people really had been to heaven and seen Jesus or been in the presence of God.” Read Dr. Marsh's book Play it: Download MP3 (37:00 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by Professor Michael Marsh, a highly regarded academic biomedical researcher and physician who was formerly a Professor of Medicine at Oxford, and then later in his career returned to Oxford to complete a PhD in theology. Now, his doctoral thesis was on near-death experience and out-of-body experience, and that's also the subject of his recently published book titled, Out-Of-Body Experience and Near-Death Experiences: Brain-State Phenomena or Glimpses of Immortality? Dr. Marsh, thank you for joining me today on Skeptiko.

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104. Dr. Steven Novella Dead Wrong on Near-Death Experience Research

Skeptiko show considers claims of Yale University Neurologist regarding near-death experience research. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for the first in a two-part series with Yale University Neurologist, Dr. Steven Novella.  The shows examine whether near-death experiences are best explained by conventional medical science.  Novella, host of The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, recently stated that research into the near-death experience phenomena is, "triangulating on the fact that this is probably a brain experience". But, according to Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris, "Dr. Novella isn't just a little bit wrong, he's completely at odds with the large body of published research on near-death experience... the science of researchers we've interviewed like, Dr. Jeffrey Long, Dr. Peter Fenwick, Dr. Penny Sartori and others like Dr. Bruce Greyson and Dr. Sam Parnia and Dr. Michael Sabom, Dr. Pim Van Lommel, and many, many others all point in the opposite direction." The show also examines Dr. Novella's recent analysis of research linking the CO2 blood levels in cardiac arrest patients with the near-death experience.   According to Tsakiris, "Dr. Novella's statements seem to contradict the very research he's reporting on... his conclusions are also significantly different from the authors of the study." The second part of this broadcast, including an interview with Dr. Novella's, is scheduled for June 2010. Read Keith Wood's analysis of Steve's comments Play it: Download MP3 (24:32 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 I was planning on interviewing Dr. Steven Novella, who is the host of the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, as well as being an academic neurologist at the Yale School of Medicine. We were going to talk about near-death experience and Steve's public statements about that recently. We're still going to do that, but Steve had a scheduling conflict and we needed to reschedule that for a couple of weeks.

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103. Near-Death Experience Research — Do Science Journalists Get it Wrong?

Interview with science journalist Jeff Wise examines the accuracy of news reports on near-death experience research. Recent headlines on ABCnews.com, NationalGeographic.com, and RichardDawkins.net trumpeted a recent scientific study suggesting near-death experiences are caused by carbon dioxide in the blood. This stands in contrast to the opinion of near-death experience experts, and even the study's authors, but they news reports persist. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with science journalist and author of 'Extreme Fear', Jeff Wise. During the 30-minute interview Mr. Wise explains why and how he and other science journalists reported on this recent near-death experience study. And whether science journalism, according to Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris, "is driven by a code… an invisible hand that drives them away from anything that might be labeled 'spiritual', and simultaneously lowers their guard against weak research that confirms their pre-existing beliefs." Mr Wise replied, "That's not what it feels like from my perspective… we're interested in things that make sense in the context of everything else that we know, but that's novel. So things that are boring, that we see every day we're not interested in. Things that completely don't make any sense or we have to completely deconstruct our entire worldview in order to incorporate them, those things also aren't interesting… I think that's really the problem. If you're trying to propose a theory or a view of a phenomenon that is radically at odds with how, let's say mainstream science views the operation of the world…" Jeff Wise's Blog Dr. Joni Johnston -- The Human Equation Dr. Bruce Greyson's email regarding CO2/NDE study Play it: Download MP3 (34:15 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by Jeff Wise, a journalist, science writer for such publications as Popular Mechanics, the New York Times Magazine, Popular Science, and many others. He's also the author of Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger. Jeff, thank you for joining me today on Skeptiko. Jeff Wise: My pleasure.

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101. Near-Death Experience Skeptics Running Out of Excuses

Series of interviews with leading near-death experience skeptics show no plausible medical explanation for afterlife experiences. The idea of an afterlife doesn't sit well with the science-minded.  Our mind is our brain and when we die we die they claim.  But as conventional medical explanations for near-death experiences fall flat, and NDE research progresses, tradition-minded scientists are facing the impossible notion that the afterlife may be real. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for his second interview with near-death experience skeptic and author of Mortal Minds, Dr, G.M. Woerlee. During the 30-minute interview Dr. Woerlee continues his assertion that near-death experiences have normal medical explanations.  When presented with the case of a young woman who suffered a severe a gunshot wound and was pronounced clinically dead by her doctor only to be miraculously revived after two unsuccessful rounds of defibrillation Dr. Woerlee concluded, "No, she was not dead... if she was dead the doctors would not have resuscitated her. She would have remained dead." As to her amazing near-death experience during which she left her body and was able to look down on medical stuff during their frantic attempt to revive her, Woerlee offered this explanation, "...she hears the conversations. She feels the sensations. And she also is a woman who also has seen films and she knows how these things go. She hears the conversations, why? Because she is awake. That does not surprise me." Dr. Woerlee's claims contradict the accounts of medical staff on the scene.  They indicated she was clinically dead, "what we call sheet-faced", and under heavy anesthesia making it medically impossible for her to have a consciousness memory of the experience. Read Kieth Wood's critique of Dr. Woerlee's claims Play it: Download MP3 (33:20 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: Today we welcome back Dr. G.M. Woerlee, an anesthesiologist in the Netherlands and a NDE skeptic and the author of several books, including Mortal Minds: The Biology of Near-Death Experiences. Dr. Woerlee, welcome back to Skeptiko. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: Thank you very much. I'm glad to be here. Alex Tsakiris: It's good to have you back. As I mentioned during our last visit, I think it's good and it's really useful to have this give-and-take, back-and-forth over a couple of sessions because it really takes a couple of rounds to dialogue on these issues properly. Here's where I'd like to start today. As many Skeptiko listeners will know, of course, we've had this series of discussions on near-death experiences. We've talked to a number of NDE researchers as well as qualified skeptics like yourself. The last time around, you presented the evidence for your claims regarding the possibility that near-death experiences can be explained by normal processes that are understood by physicians like yourself. Since then, we've heard from Dr. Jeffrey Long, and we've also heard from some other folks who posted on the website. They have some push-backs and doubts about your claims. The principle claim that you make against the NDE researchers is that they've ignored the fact that these patients who have this horrendous brush with death, that they're receiving CPR. They're receiving chest compressions. Someone's coming around and pounding on their chest and that's pumping blood into their brain and this flow of blood is causing them to regain consciousness. Kind of a NDE by CPR theory, if you will. And here's the quote from your actual website. You say, "And then Jeffrey Long proceeds to make the same unbelievable assumption, as just about every other doctor publishing studies on near-death experience during cardiac arrest. He forgets to tell us that all those who survived cardiac arrest underwent cardiac massage." So that's where I really want to start digging into that statement: "...all those all those who survived cardiac arrest underwent cardiac massage." As I think we touched on before, but which has become even more clear since then, that's not really accurate. In fact, it's not really even that close. One of the papers I sent you was from Keith Wood, a Skeptiko listener.  What he pointed out, and I thought this was interesting the way he did it, he went into the Pim von Lommel study that you cited on your site. In that, he states that 81% of the patients he looked at suffered cardiac arrest, it was in the hospital, and within two minutes they were resuscitated. As we know, that means they were most likely resuscitated by defibrillator. So it's reasonable to assume that most of those people weren't administered cardiac massage. Further, he points out that only 21% of the patients who were outside of the hospital received CPR before they got to the hospital. So let me stop there and see if we can nail this down. Do you still maintain that all those who survived cardiac arrest in these NDE studies all underwent cardiac massage? Dr. G.M. Woerlee: No. But then I'll just go on about this critique and I believe you're referring to that article by Keith Wood which you posted on another part of your site as a 12 page long PDF. Actually, Keith Wood does a very good analysis. He actually has read the articles he cites, which is very good. He also points out very correctly something that was an oversight of mine, that 81% of the people who in the Lommel report in his article were actually people resuscitated in coronary care units. Now, then we go on further because he is quite correct in many of these aspects. He also referred to his sister, who is a qualified coronary care, intensive care nurse and who does primary resuscitation in these units. The big problem is this: that most people who are resuscitated from a cardiac arrest are actually not in a coronary care unit or an intensive care unit. Most of them are outside such a place. What happens is that when you must always make a very big distinction between people who are resuscitated in coronary care/intensive care versus people who are resuscitated elsewhere in the hospital, and people resuscitated on the street or at home. You look at the mortality of the different resuscitations and you see immediately what the difference is. A person in a coronary care unit or an intensive care unit is already attached to an ECG monitor with a central bank of monitors which are continually observed by the nurses and doctors present at the time, who are on duty. They see an arrhythmia which needs treatment and they immediately jump upon the patient and if it's necessary, defibrillate. If that does not work, then what they do is start cardiac massage. They have to think about what to do next or start the defibrillator for another go. In other words, some of these people do receive cardiac massage because in such situations, if you do not do any cardiac massage these people are severely brain-damaged. Alex Tsakiris: Right. And I don't think we'd really see much of a disagreement between you and any of the NDE researchers on that description of what's going on. What I want to hone in on, because in your article I do have to say you make quite a bit of a fuss about this point, and this point that you're now backing off of, which is great. Everyone should be allowed to back off and say, "Hey, I didn't mean all when I said all." But that is what you said. You said, "Here's the big missing link in this argument is that all those who survived cardiac arrest underwent cardiac massage, underwent chest compressions." Now we're saying, "No." I don't know, but it seems to me from the Pin von Lommel study and also Dr. Long's research, all of his is published on the website. I went in there and searched for the accounts, just roughly estimating how many people received chest compressions as opposed to the paddles and the shock treatment. It's maybe 50-50. So where does that really leave us in your argument if only half the people are associated with people who had heart massage? Dr. G.M. Woerlee: There are a number of factors here. In fact, I still maintain that most of them would have received the cardiac massage for the very simple reason that you lose consciousness within 4 to around 30 seconds after a real ventricular fibrillation begins, or asystole, in other words, no heartbeat at all, begins. So what happens is that within that time people lose consciousness. It is not a matter of minutes for something like that if you do lose consciousness. It's sustained for minutes, continually, but is not a ventricular fibrillation but a ventricular brachycardia. Why is that? Because that can sustain circulation for some time. Real ventricular fibrillation does not. In other words, what you actually have is a very selective group of patients who do report their story. And that actually coincides with that article of Wood in the sense that the only people who give a coherent near-death experience story are those who have been well-resuscitated. In other words, resuscitated on time and adequately. Alex Tsakiris: No, that's not true. That doesn't conform. Here's the other thing I wanted to do before we get too far in. Let me read you an account so we're talking about the same thing, because sometimes when we talk in abstract terms and certainly when you get into medical terms, which you're extremely well-versed on and you obviously have a lot of expertise in that, but I don't. And I don't think a lot of listeners do. I think we get away from the actual data that we're talking about. This data in this case are the survey results from all these people who Long talked about. So let me throw this on the table. It's going to touch on a couple of points that we're going to talk about, including resuscitation and including anesthesia and including the accuracy and the details that someone provides. If I can, let me read this into the record here. It will take a minute or two, but I think it will be interesting. This is from a girl named Kimberly who was shot during an attempted rape, horribly enough. Here's her account: "I had never once lost consciousness or went into shock, which amazed everyone. I can still remember everything in perfect detail. As the helicopter landed, I did feel sleepy. They told me not to go to sleep and began running with me down a long hallway in the hospital. I remember counting the lights on the ceiling as they whizzed by to stay awake. They took me into the operating room and began to prepare me for surgery. The last thing I remember was them putting a mask over my face and telling me to count backwards from ten. The last number I remember was eight." That should sound familiar to you. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: Yeah, well. That business of counting to ten is ridiculous, but anyway. Alex Tsakiris: That's how they did it in Houston, Texas back then. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: More like television. Okay. Keep going. Alex Tsakiris: "Then I felt like I was walking backwards with my eyes closed. Then I felt like I bumped into a wall with my back. I opened my eyes to a very bright, although strangely not blinding, white, misty light that covered everything. Slowly, the mist started to move away and I saw myself lying on the operating table." So she's having an out-of-body experience. "It looked like I was many, many stories high and looking down on myself. I saw them working on me. I noticed that I heard, not with my ears but more like with my spirit, something like singing voices or speaking, but I couldn't make out the words. It was all around me. At this point, I turned around and saw what was the tunnel. I started toward the tunnel in a motion. It seemed like as soon as I entered the tunnel I was on the other side that quick. I noticed the same bright light and mistiness of the surroundings. I also noticed that I wasn't alone. There seemed to be a dozen people standing in a horseshoe formation which I was standing in the center of. I could not recognize anyone because I saw no features. They were more like shadows. Then I was told 'No' by a voice. The strange thing was that it was neither male nor female, but held an enormous amount of authority. Then, with my stubbornness that I carry to this day, I asked, 'Why can't I come home?' I was told, 'You cannot come home yet.' I continued to try and go forward and it kept telling me, 'No, not yet. It's not your time.' Then I felt completely compelled to turn back and look at the tunnel. That's when I was transported back through out the other side of it." Now that's rather long, but here's the part that I think is really going to be important for our discussion. "I looked down and that's when I saw them bringing a paddle machine over to my body." So she's going to be defibrillated. "I saw the doctor grab the paddles, say something to the person standing next to him. Then they turned some knobs. The doctor put them on my chest and hit me once with the shock. I saw my body jump, but I felt nothing. Then I saw the doctor say something to them again. They moved the knobs again and hit me a second time. Nothing. Then I saw..." Okay, so again, an out-of-body experience. "Then I saw the doctor put the paddles back together for a moment as if saying a prayer and then said something to the person again. This person shook their head in disagreement, but went ahead with the doctor's insistence and moved the knobs again. Then he hit me a third time and I awoke in the ICU. My parents were told by the doctor that I had died. I was what they call 'sheet-faced' and they took a chance by hitting me with the paddles a third time. He admitted (this is the doctor) to not being a religious man, but he felt that he was being told not to quit so he didn't." So the particularly relevant part of this story that I wanted to talk about, and this is not a unique story. This isn't like one account. Again, he collected all this data from 1,000 people and he analyzed it in a number of different ways. But it clearly shows someone who, if you read the whole account - which I didn't bother doing - she never received heart massage because she was losing blood really badly and that's why they thought she was going to die. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: Well, if we talk about this specific case, what you actually have is a woman who is shot, brought into the hospital losing blood rapidly, had to undergo surgery for that because either - I'm not sure where she was shot - but in any case, usually there is some blood loss and they do an exploratory laparotomy or fluorocotomy, open up the chest or open up the abdomen to see where the blood loss is and to repair any damage that might be there. Now the thing is, this experience of walking backwards with her eyes closed and this white light - there is no real difficulty with that. These are the appropriate sensitive experiences of falling asleep sometimes. Usually there's black, but some people can experience white because with open eyes they see operating theatre lamps. That's not a big problem. She sees also her out-of-body experience. Now, actually, out-of-body experiences do occur during anesthesia. There have been a reasonable number described also in the scientific literature. Usually that is basically due to the - how do you call it - I'd say proprioceptive effect, but that doesn't mean anything to your listeners. Proprioception is the sense of knowing where your body is and which way your body parts are. Now the problem with anesthetic drugs, and you see it when you speak to patients, is that some of them have very strange effects -- if they're awake, that is. And also, the effects of anesthetic drugs tested with awake people, they lose their sense of body position. Sometimes due to stimulation they can get muscle special movement sensory stimulation whereby out-of-body experiences can occur. There is a particular drug which actually induces a lot of these out-of-body experiences. This is actually not so difficult to explain. What you then have is after a near-death experience is some people, even under anesthesia, during induction and especially during traumatic moments like this, there have been one or two cases reported even in scientific literature of ecstatic experiences. So this does not surprise me. The other problem is with this woman, she has lost a lot of blood so the anesthetic is, of course, very light. All anesthetic drugs depress the heart; they depress the circulation. So what the anesthetists do when the blood pressure falls away is administer drugs to increase the blood pressure and improve the heart action. But when that fails, they're light on the anesthesia. This is commonly what happens with multi-traumas. In fact, the incidents of awareness during anesthesia for multi-traumas are up to around 43% in some series. So I'm not surprised this woman had a form of awareness which she interpreted together with the effects of the anesthetic drugs as this and the out-of-body experience. Yeah, that can happen because of the proprioceptive changes. As for this tunnel, there are many different explanations for tunnel experiences. I have one Dr. Blackmore proposed also a very good reasonable explanation for that in her book in 1991. As for these visionary experiences of meeting people at the other side and them saying, "It is not your time," this is a fairly typical American transcendental experience. Alex Tsakiris: But Dr. Woerlee, what we're dealing with here, what I think most people would focus on, especially in the context of our conversation is this woman died. Her doctor has reported that she died. They hit her with the paddles three times. And just like in all the other discussions we've had, she's viewing this from above and she's seeing everything happening. There isn't a good medical explanation for how you could see them preparing and defibrillating your body while you're dead. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: The thing is that she hears the conversations. She feels the sensations. And she also is a woman who also has seen films and she knows how these things go. She hears the conversations, why? Because she is awake. That does not surprise me. Alex Tsakiris: But she's dead. That's why they're defibrillating her. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: No, she is not dead. Why do you say she is dead? Alex Tsakiris: Because the doctor says that she had died when she comes back and that he hit her with the defibrillator three times because she wasn't responding the first two times. That's what I read into this account. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: What I read is this: they started resuscitation. The defibrillator is not standard in an operating theatre. It just isn't present. That always has to be hauled from a central place in the operating theatre complex. So until such a defibrillator arrives, they do apply cardiac massage. Second, at the same time, the anesthetist lightens the anesthetic. That means he stops administering any anesthetic gases and any other drugs he may be administering. So the anesthesia lightens. This is the reason why there is such a high incidence of awareness among people undergoing operations for multi-trauma. That means a severe injury. Therefore, accordingly, this woman was just awake, admittedly under anesthesia according to many people, but this was not so because the anesthesia was lightened. But even if she was under anesthesia, she would have still had the effect of muscle relaxant drugs. Muscle relaxant drugs, when they are administered to awake people in concentrations high enough to cause them to be totally paralyzed so they cannot breathe or move or do anything, they do cause loss of body image in many people. That is, together with any residual effects of any anesthetic drugs, that people also cannot move. This has also been experimentally determined. Other things, residual effects of low concentrations of any of the anesthetic gases, they can cause transcendental experiences. This is also known. For instance, laughing gas is a well-known one. Now, as to whether she can hear and see and build up a mental image, she is awake, true, affected by the effect of anesthetic drugs, but awake enough to observe with her ears and senses. She does not report any cardiac massage for the very simple reason she was not awake at that time. But she would have certainly had it. I cannot even imagine that that would not have been done. She would not have been awake during that time and have observed it. Alex Tsakiris: I guess this is where we get to the point where we just have to kind of back off and leave it to people to decide, because to me that just sounds like a rather fantastic interpretation of this particular case in particular, and the overall data in general. And that's where statistics can be useful. We've talked plenty about statistics, the chances that someone would be aware... Dr. G.M. Woerlee: One thing on this particular case: Alex Tsakiris: Certainly. I understand what you're saying, but that gets into a definition of what dead is. Certainly from the description here where they're hitting her the first time, nothing's happening. They're adjusting the knobs. I don't know what adjusting the knobs means... Dr. G.M. Woerlee: They're increasing the charge of the capacitor in the... Alex Tsakiris: That's what I figured. So obviously she's not responding from this and she's for all intents and purposes what most of us would call dead, but... Dr. G.M. Woerlee: She had no heartbeat but she was not dead. Alex Tsakiris: Okay, so she had no heartbeat and yet she's observing all of this from above her body. So again, I think we just get to the point where we just have to step back and say what you're continuing to claim is that the statistics, even though they're unbelievably lop-sided against your claim -in this case, let's look at the statistics. What are the chances that someone has anesthesia-awareness? One in 1,000. What are the chances that that person wouldn't have any of the effects that they normally see under anesthesia-awareness...? Dr. G.M. Woerlee: No, no. On the statistics I can also mention something. During anesthesia in American, in the USA, around 40 million operations take place every year. That is according to the anesthesia quality studies. If you have 1 in 1,000 or 2 in 1,000 they are statistics which are actually cited in modern studies of awareness. I can even give you the references if you like. That means that per year in the United States alone, there are 40,000 to 80,000 people who have an experience of awareness during anesthesia. Alex Tsakiris: Yes, but in this sample what we're talking about, and again, I think we're just going to drown people in a bunch of statistics that don't really mean a lot because in this case, Dr. Long look at 1,000 cases. He looked at about 200 cardiac arrests. If we were to talk to some cardiologist, some surgeon and say, "What are the chances?" Forget the anesthesia for a minute. "What are the chances that someone during a heart attack had a very lucid, very real memory of their heart failure and their resuscitation?" They would put those odds at very, very high, 1 in 1,000, 1 in 10,000. And yet you're suggesting that of all the people that he looked at, the chances that they had this just lined up perfectly to fit this data. I just don't think many people are going to find that very believable. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: I think basically what you're looking at saying is this: to begin with, you should never ask a surgeon about this type of thing because surgeons just don't know. There's a joke about surgeons. How do you ask them to commit suicide? To jump from their ego to their IQ. That's something else. The big problem is that with 40,000 to 80,000 people per year have an awareness under surgery. Dr. Long has collected in all these years with his excellent database of patients who have awareness under anesthesia together with a near-death experience, and they do occur under anesthesia. There's a very good one in a scientific article a few years ago of a young boy. But that means that he has collected over 20 years only 23 cases of awareness or a near-death experience during general anesthesia and a near-death experience as defined by the Near-Death Experience Index of Bruce Grayson, which is actually a good index. That is over 20 years. In other words, 20 years by 40,000 people. In other words, you have a potential base of around 800,000, maybe more patients out of which to choose. And 23 of which actually registered their experience with Dr. Long. In other words, you're speaking about a statistical probability. Alex Tsakiris: I don't want to go there because I don't think you can really do the calculations that way. That wasn't the population that he was drawing from. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: No, he has spontaneous cases. These people registered their cases or their experiences with him. That is out of a potential many hundreds of thousands of people who have awareness. Alex Tsakiris: The other way of looking at this in a way that I think is more of a fair way of looking at it is to say that let's look at the cardiac arrest patients he looked at. There are 200 of them. We know from the Pim von Lommel study and many other near-death experience research studies that let's say 10% to 15% of people who have cardiac arrest have some sort of near-death experience. So just extrapolating out what we can say is this is a population of about 2,000 that he looked at. So he looked at 200. That represents about 2,000 patients. Then the chances that in that 2,000 any of the things that you're talking about would occur are just astronomically high - that they'd occur as frequently as they do. His stats, again 76% of these people report that it's a realer than real experience. The accuracy rate over 90%. It just doesn't add up. And then when we read this particular case, I was listening to your explanation for it. I don't know. I think at this point we just have to leave it up to the listeners. If listeners accept your explanation of Kimberly's case, the woman who was shot, then I guess they just have to go with it. For me, it satisfies me to the extent that I'm very glad that you came on and were able to offer your specific response to a case that represents a lot of cases in the database. I think that clarifies things. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: Actually, it is an interesting case. But then we talk about cardiac arrests. Now the only people our people talked to and whose experiences we know of, are the ones who survived cardiac arrest. As I said, that's around 40% of people - 40%, 45% of people in coronary care units, and around 20% of people in the general hospital ward. And only 7% in some situations to 2% of people who are resuscitated at home or on the street. In other words, there are a lot more people who actually die than survive. Then out of those survivors, many are brain-damaged. In other words, they cannot tell any story at all. In fact, this article of Keith Wood said they suffer all the effects of brain damage due to oxygen starvation as a result of cardiac arrest. The ones who are very efficiently resuscitated, they tell a coherent story, a good story and many of them have even undergone a near-death experience. ...damage and the ones that can tell a very good story are those who suffer some effects of severe oxygen starvation and they are confused, uncertain. So in other words, what we're speaking about here is a very select small group of patients out of the many, many thousands who have been resuscitated. Alex Tsakiris: I think you've done a great job of summing up your case and your points. Are there any other points that we haven't touched on that you'd like to add before we wrap things up? Dr. G.M. Woerlee: I was reading that article by Keith Wood. It was actually a good thing. He's missed a number of points and I'd like to compliment him on his work for reading and doing a careful analysis of the papers he did. The only problem is that he did miss out on the concept of averages with cerebral blood flows, etc. But for the rest I think that as you say, basically what we would have here is differences of opinion as regards many things. Dr. Long mentioned at the end of his last conversation with you that I tend to look at only one aspect, basically that I have an aspect of cardiac massage and cerebral blood flow. Another critic that you once interviewed, a certain Dr. Nelson, looks at REM intrusion and he mentions I did not mention this. That is because this was not brought up in the discussion at the time. As I say, I believe neither of these experiences are a common product of many different causes. As I say, oxygen starvation is one. Awareness during anesthesia is another. Fear and other anxiety states, another. And you could go on and on. In other words, there is no one single explanation for the cause of the near-death experience. The final result is what we all know as the near-death experience. That's my last word on the matter. Alex Tsakiris: I think that's a good wrap-up and explanation of why there are so many explanations. Dr. Woerlee, again, thanks for coming back on and we'll get this out so that we can keep the dialogue going. Dr. G.M. Woerlee: Thank you very much.

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99. Dr. Jeffrey Long Takes On Critics of, Evidence of the Afterlife

Near-Death experience researcher Dr. Long offers a point-by-point response to skeptics of his New York Time best seller, Evidence of the Afterlife. When near-death experience researcher Dr. Jeffery Long decided to publish his 10-year study of NDEs he knew there would be controversy, and critics.  His conclusion, that consciousness survives bodily death and moves to an afterlife, is unsettling to many within a medical community built on death being absolute and final.  But rather than shy away from critics, Dr. Long has engaged them. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an in-depth interview with near-death experience researcher, Dr, Jeffrey Long. During the 45-minute interview Dr. Long offers a point-by-point response to skeptics of his New York Time best seller, Evidence of the Afterlife. In response to the criticisms of former Skeptiko guest Dr. G.M. Woerlee, Dr. Long said, "I think one of the biggest defenses from people that don't believe in an afterlife, and this was brought out in your interview with Dr. Woerlee, is this barrier where they won't hear it. They won't respond to it. It's just not something they care to address, which is somewhat surprising. I think all scholarly discussion of really any topic requires an open-minded dialogue about the evidence. It really starts with evidence." Regarding speculation that NDEs result from regaining consciousness during CPR chest compressions, Dr. Long said, "When you talk to the patients who have actually survived CPR one thing that is very, very obvious is that the substantial majority of them are confused or amnesic when they're recovered. If you read even a few near-death experiences, you immediately realize essentially none of them talk about episodes of confusion when they just don't understand what's going on. You really don't see that at all. In fact, our research found that 76% of people having a near-death experience said their level of consciousness and alertness during the NDE was actually greater than their earthly, everyday life.  So, you have to come away with the conclusion that even if there's blood flow to the brain induced by CPR, it's not correlated with the level of consciousness and alertness reported during near-death experiences." Dr. Long continues, "But also, in addition, the substantial majority of people that have a near-death experience associated with cardiac arrest are actually seeing their physical body well prior to the time that CPR is initiated. Once CPR is initiated, you don't see any alteration in the flow of the near-death experience, suggesting that blood flow to the brain isn't affecting the content in any way." Dr. Long also discusses the nature of NDE skepticism, "The other issue I've seen with skeptics is they often have their pet theory. Their theory of how the world works, how things work, and it's very, very difficult to dislodge them from their pet theory, even with overwhelming evidence." In the end Dr. Jeffery Long believes in his evidence, "I have confidence in the substantial majority of people. When they hear evidence, and it's presented in a straightforward way, they're smart enough to understand what's real evidence and what's evasiveness." Jeffrey Long, M.D., is a near death experience researcher and physician (radiation oncology). His book, 'Evidence of the Afterlife' (HarperCollins), was published in 2009. From Dr. Long's website: Does Near-Death Experience (NDE) Evidence Prove an Afterlife? Consider the Evidence, and Determine YOUR Answer! Play it: Download MP3 (43:03 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by Dr. Jeffrey Long, a practicing physician, he's a radiation oncologist, and a near-death experience researcher. His book, Evidence of the Afterlife, is the most comprehensive study of NDEs ever published and it's been a huge success. Dr. Long, welcome back to Skeptiko.

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98. Near-Death Experience Skeptic, Dr. G.M. Woerlee Takes Aim at Dr. Jeffrey Long’s, Evidence of the Afterlife

Anesthesiologist Dr. G.M. Woerlee believes NDEs are in our body and our brain - not in the afterlife. As a practicing anesthesiologist in the Netherlands G.M. Woerlee M.D. has seen many approach death's door.  For those returning with stories of an afterlife he advises a closer look at the medical evidence. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for a vigorous discussion with near-death experience skeptic, anesthesiologist G.M. Woerlee. During the 90-minute episode Woerlee sets out to refute the research Dr. Jeffrey Long published in, Evidence of the Afterlife. According to Woerlee, there are a number of conventional medical explanations for the phenomena reported during NDEs, "ultimately, when you look at the total body of evidence explaining the physiological or biological basis of the near-death experience, the out-of-body experience, and the other experiences as reported by those undergoing near-death experiences, you come to the conclusion that most of them -- in fact all of them -- can be explained by body function and the changes in body function induced by the various - I call them stressors - or causes of the near-death experience. Hypoxia, drugs, anxiety and on and on." The discussion includes a point-by-point examination of the nine lines of evidence for the existence of an afterlife as outlined in Dr. Jeffrey Long's book.  Dr. Long has agreed to issues a response during a future episode of Skeptiko. Read Dr. Woerlee's critique Evidence of the Afterlife Read a detailed response from Kieth Wood, a Skepitko listener Read/Listen to Dr. Long's response Get a free download of Dr. Woerlee's book: The Unholy Legacy of Abraham Play it: Download MP3 (89:37 min.) Read it: Alex Tsakiris: We're joined today by someone well qualified to enter into a discussion on the evidence of survival of consciousness and the near-death experience. Dr. G.M. Woerlee is a well-respected anesthesiologist in the Netherlands, a frequent lecturer in his field, and an author of three books including, Mortal Minds: The Biology of Near-Death Experiences. Dr. Woerlee, welcome to Skeptiko.

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Dr. Jeffrey Long’s Near-Death Experience Research a “Game Changer” for Science |94|

The most comprehensive research into near-death experience deals a kill shot to skeptics and aims to change how science views the afterlife. photo by Kenny Holston Science has studied the near-death experience for more than 20 years. Most research has concluded NDEs are real and unexplainable, but scientists have been slow to accept consciousness beyond death. A new scientific study by Jeffrey Long, M. D. may change that. The research compiled in  his new book, Evidence of the Afterlife, represents the largest, most comprehensive study of near-death experience and according to the study's author is, "a real game-changer". Dr. Long explains, "we looked at nine lines of evidence that indicate the reality of near-death experiences and their consistent message of an afterlife. With each of these lines of evidence we carefully reviewed all prior scholarly research on the subject and made our contributions with our original research... from my point of view, the scientific term is compelling, but you can put it another way -- the nine lines of evidence that I present is proof of the reality of near-death experiences." The conclusions of Dr. Long's research are paradigm smashing for near-death experience skeptics who've argued that limited brain functioning may explain NDEs. "What near-death experiencers see correlates to their time of cardiac arrest and it is almost uniformly accurate in every detail. That pretty much refutes the possibility that these could be illusionary fragments, or unreal memories associated with hypoxia, chemicals, REM intrusion, anything that could cause brain dysfunction", Dr. Long stated. "I looked at over 280 near-death experiences that had out-of-body observations of Earthly ongoing events... If near-death experiences were just fragments of memory, unrealistic remembrances of a time approaching unconsciousness or returning from unconsciousness, there is no chance that the observations would have a high percent of completely accurate observations. They'd be dream-like or hallucinations. But 98% of them were entirely realistic... In fact, these observations of Earthly ongoing events often include observations of things that would be impossible for them to be aware of with any sensory function from their physical body. For example, they can see the tops of buildings. They can see far away. In my study over 60 of these near-death experiencers later went back and independently attempted to verify what they saw in the out-of-body state. Every single one of these over 60 near-death experiencers that reported checking or verifying their own observations found that they were absolutely correct in every detail.", Dr. Long said. While some near-death experience researchers have been reluctant to make the leap from NDEs to proof of the afterlife, Dr. Long is convinced by his research findings, "I've gone over every skeptic argument I can get my hands on. At the end of the day, I have no doubt in my mind near-death experience is for real. It's a profound and reassuring message that we all have an afterlife. Every single one of us. And it's wonderful. It is probably the greatest thrill of my life to be able to carry forward that important message to the world. I wouldn't do it if I weren't absolutely convinced that it's correct." The conclusions of this research will be controversial, but Dr. Long stands ready to take on the critics, "I would be delighted to debate any near-death experience skeptic, any time, any place, on any media, as long as they're scholarly, well informed, and as long as it can be a very high-level, intellectual debate." Jeffrey Long, M.D., is a physician practicing the specialty of radiation oncology (use of radiation to treat cancer) in Houma, Louisiana. Dr. Long has served on the Board of Directors of IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies), and is actively involved in NDE research. His book, Evidence of the Afterlife (HarperCollins), was published in 2010. From Dr. Long's website: Does Near-Death Experience (NDE) Evidence Prove an Afterlife? Consider the Evidence, and Determine YOUR Answer! 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 today's show I have an interview with Dr. Jeff Long, author of, Evidence of the Afterlife.  As you'll hear, Dr. Long is probably one of the most qualified near-death experience researchers. He's just compiled a huge body of that research into this book. This guy delivers the goods. I had a chance to interview him a few months ago for the documentary film that I've told some of you about that we're putting together. He's on top of his game. A medical doctor, well qualified in the field of medicine; also a very accomplished researcher.

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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. We 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. Play it: Download MP3 (13:15 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, 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."

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90. EEG Expert Can’t Explain Near Death Experience Data… and, Dr. Penny Sartori Finds More Than Hallucinations in NDE Accounts

Neurologist and University of Toledo Neuroscience Researcher, Dr. John Greenfield considers the EEG data from patients with near death experience (NDE). For near death experience skeptics, medical evidence of a flat EEG during an out of body experience has always been a stumbling block.  After all, a brain dead patient can't hallucinate.  But, does a flat EEG really mean no brain activity?  NDE  doubters have claimed activity deep inside the brain, beyond the reach of EEG instruments, must account for the complex "realer than real" experiences reported by those who briefly pass into the afterlife.  Now, University of Toledo Neuroscience researcher, and EEG expert, Dr. John Greenfield explains why this claim doesn't hold up. "It's very unlikely that a hypoperfused brain , with no evidence of electrical activity could generate NDEs.  Human studies as well as animal studies have typically shown very little brain perfusion or glucose utilization when the EEG is flat.  There are deep brain areas involved in generating memories that might still operate at some very reduced level during cardiac arrest, but of course any subcortically generated activity can't be brought to consciousness without at least one functioning cerebral hemisphere.  So even if there were some way that NDEs were generated during the hypoxic state , you would not experience them until reperfusion allowed you to dream them or wake up and talk about them", Greenfield stated. NDE Researcher, Dr. Penny Sartori, examines memories of resuscitation by patients suffering cardiac arrest. With near death experience cases making there way into the, New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Psychiatry, and other major medical journals, NDE doubters have looked to the timing of patient memories as a way of explaining this unexplainable phenomena.  If memories of out of body travel, and all embracing love occur after ones brush with death, NDEs may still fit within our medical science worldview. The timing of NDE memories is the research question Dr. Penny Sartori sought to answer, "I worked in the intensive care unit and because of the nature of my job, of course, I'd come across a lot of death. And of course makes you wonder what happens when we die.  For five years I gathered data, where I spoke to patients in the intensive care unit and particularly patients who'd had a cardiac arrest. When these patients revived, as soon as they were medically fit, I approached them and asked the simple question, 'Did you have any memory of the time that you were unconscious?'" "For the people who had a near-death experience and out of body experience was really quite accurate and I decided then to ask the control group, the people who'd had a cardiac arrest but had no recollection of anything at all. I asked them if they would reenact their resuscitation scenario and tell me what they thought that we had done to resuscitate them. And what I found is that many of the patients couldn't even guess as to what we'd done. They had no idea at all. And then some of them did make guesses, but these were based on TV hospital dramas that they'd seen. I found that what they reported was widely inaccurate. So there was a stark contrast really in the very accurate out of body experiences reported and then the guesses that the control group had made.", Dr. Sartori reported. While research like this may never be enough to convince dogmatic skeptics, the medical evidence for near death experience continues to challenge us to reexamine our beliefs about what lies beyond death. Play it: Download MP3 (29:04 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 I want to start by thanking those of you who've contacted me directly since the last episode of Skeptiko and have joined me on Facebook or joined me on Twitter. It's been great to get to know you, to dialogue a little bit, and I hope we can keep that going.

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