Researchers Prove Life After Death Exists!

Well… that’s not strictly true or at least I might be jumping the gun a bit.

The above title is something I suspect will be plastered all over the Daily Mail and various other tabloids not to mention ALL the various parapyschology websites in about three years time and when it does happen it will be down to this research.

I came across this research a while back but was reminded about it over the weekend when it was mentioned during a talk at the God in the Lab event. In case anyone doesn’t feel like reading the short BBC article, here is what it says, in a nutshell:

There is a large 3 year study currently underway across 25 different hospitals/centres to examine the near death experiences of patients who suffer cardiac arrests. The researchers have decided that a good way to test whether patients who claim to have out of body experiences are really experiencing what they remember/claim will be to ask them about pictures which are going to be placed on a special shelving area visible only from the ceiling. This research is going to be carried out under the scrutiny of Dr. Sam Parnia from the University of Southhampton and is titled as the AWARE project.

Now, at first glance this may seem like reasonable research, and it is certainly an interesting topic, but here’s the problems I see with it:

1. It is being conducted by Dr. Sam Parnia. Dr. Parnia has not conducted this study yet but has already appeared all across the media (including Richard & Judy) promoting it in a very sensationalist manner. He has even published a book on the topic! From interviews I’ve heard with him it’s clear he really wants there to be something going on but, more worryingly, he repeatedly misrepresents the science surrounding the issue.

In particular, he tends to make it sound as if there is a massive scientific controversy about the process of death when, in reality, there simply is not. Instead, there are a small group of scientists, typically with parapyschologist leanings, who have fringe theories about life after death and a host of anecdotal stories to support them. This is not generally the basis for a good scientific theory. Worryingly Dr. Parnia also frequently appears alongside these researchers agreeing with them enthusiastically.

2. He envokes ‘quantum physics’ as a potential explanation for his positive results (which of course he hasn’t collected yet).

3. There is no indication that his researchers or the hospital staff will be prevented from seeing the images and indeed it would not be hard to look at the top of a shelf where pictures are being kept for a number of months. If people in the hospital know what is there, then there are many ways that patients can find out aside from having ‘out of body’ experiences. There is no indication that this is being controlled for or taken into consideration.

4. From the interviews and articles I’ve read it seems that there are going to be a series of pictures on each shelf. This sounds ok but it is basically increasing the chances that people get hits simply by guessing. I am also curious as to how they will score hits and misses. For instance if someone says I saw a square object near something green would that count for a picture of a house? Interpretation by researchers is clearly going to be key here and if the researchers know what the pictures are then the chances of them leading the subject to a ‘correct’ answer even unintentionally should be an issue of significant concern- I sincerely doubt that this will even be controlled for.

5. Apparently not all the images are going to be on shelves visible only from the ceiling, some are simply going to be in ‘special places’ which patients will be able to see if they open their eyes. This Dr. Parnia explains, is not a silly idea because patients who are suffering cardiac arrest should not be able to look at anything . This sounds dubious to me and once again relies on patients being unable to find out information about pictures which are clearly visible to others at the hospital via any other route. The warning bells are going off in my head that Dr. Parnia seems to be hedging his bets, so that if he cannot get the result he wants from the shelving pictures he has another, better chance with these visible pictures.

5. Dr. Parnia wrote in an article for the BBC:

“If after 36 months, hundreds of patients report being “out of body” yet no one can report seeing the images, then we must consider these reports to be nothing more than illusions.

If on the other hand there are hundreds of positive reports, then we will have to redefine our understanding of the mind and brain during clinical death.”

This is seriously overestimating the potential influence of his study. First of all, before his results are even considered, his trial methodology needs to be properly scrutinised. I’m no qualified expert and since even I can see significant potential problems with the study (if it is carried out as reported) that doesn’t bode well for the studies validity.

However, even if it turns out that his trial methodology was better than it looks in the articles, his results still will not result in the conclusions he claims. If the trial is negative 1. I will be very suprised but 2. it isn’t necessarily the final word on the subject, you would really need further studies to be carried out by different research teams to validate the findings. And if the trial is positive it will require replication and the testing of the controls to make sure there is no alternative- more mundane- explanation. What one study will not do, however, is overturn the existing research on the mind and the brain which consists of the information gained from thousands of trials and experiments.

I hope I’m wrong about all this but let’s see in three years!

Oh and just for fun my own guess is that the pictures on the shelving unit will be a house, a sailboat and a hill.

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15 comments

  1. It is interesting research, but ultimately won’t prove life after death even if they prove out of body visions are real. All that proves is dualism.

    As for the quantum mechanics, that part is real but you still have to prove that dualism before you can apply the theory. What new discoveries in quantum physics has found is that two objects that a linked together can exist enormous distances apart. That was previously thought to be impossible.

    If anyone mentions a theory about being able to alter the universe with your mind and that this has been proven by quantum physics, they have either deliberately twisting a respected theory into mysticism or they are delusional. The reason this keeps popping up is it centers around the fact that people can’t see objects at the subatomic level, so the reality we think we are in is very different to the reality that actually exists.

    But all of this doesn’t mean there is nothing to the near death experience. The theory that consciousness is an embodiment of energy created by thought processes is not as strange as it seems. But even if the mind is found to a separate object, that still doesn’t prove that consciousness can survive the death of the body. It only becomes viable.

    One thing though. If consciousness is discovered to be a form of energy, then there is a incy, wincy problem. The first law of thermodynamics states energy can not be created or destroyed. It can only be changed into another form of energy. Heat into light and so on. It also says that there is and has always been a constant amount of energy in the universe. So if consciousness is a form of energy, it can not be destroyed simply by the body dying. It can only change.

    But just to bring a downer on it all, that doesn’t mean that this conscious energy will be self-aware or alive in the sense that we would wish it to be. I can’t remember having many conversations with a beam of light or a roaring fire.

    So in a way there is a possibility that this research will prove consciousness exists forever. But what it can never do is prove that it exists as a sentient entity in a heavenly paradise with God.

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  2. Quantum theory is revealing strange facts about our universe but I wholeheartedly agree that anyone simply citing things like quantum entanglement as if they support dualism and NDE’s is being severely dishonest.

    Quantum entanglement is dealing with things on the quantum scale but things behave very differently on the quantum scale than they do on the scale at which an organism such as a human interacts with the world. If this was not the case then we would all be taking every available path to destinations and interfering with copies of ourselves at every step and so on. Clearly this doesn’t happen. Not to mention that there is still a lot of controversy surrounding entanglement especially relating to whether or not it is possible for information to be sent faster than the speed of light. Such discussions bear no real relation to NDEs however and I also fully suspect that Dr. Parnia’s familarity with quantum theory at best extends to a few popular science books which does not really justify raising it as a potential explanation.

    In regards our consciousness being a form of energy I don’t really see this as an issue. Our body is full of energy being created, burnt up and transformed by all manner of chemical interactions. Our nervous system and our brains (like the rest of our body!) simply would not function without electrical signals coursing through them. So in a very real sense we are beings of energy just as we are beings of matter. Our energy is tied to the matter in our body however and while the energy we use may ultimately never be destroyed but all the evidence still suggests that with the passing of our corporeal form, the intellect and personality it houses go with it.

    Our atoms may go on to greener pastures but not our minds since they show every sign of being produced by our bodies.

    As far as this research goes I don’t think it even has the ability to prove that consciousness exists after death due to all the flaws I discussed above.

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  5. Life after death does exist, i have seen it,ihave seen the spirit of people who have died in the possess of their home and stayed behind

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  6. Life after death does exist, i have seen it,ihave seen the spirit of people who have died in the possess of their home and stayed behind,i have seen the spirit of a person who died a violent death.

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  7. There is NO life after death. If it were so, can you imagine the number of lives regenerated (humans, animals, insects….) in the universe, since life came to be, in any form ? The only explanation that can be termed as plausible is that, one passes from a being to a spirit (which has no form, shape etc..). Heaven, hell, the devil… everything is right here… on this Earth, being enacted right now. Whatever a Human has to suffer, enjoy, bear…is right here, right now, on this Earth. Do good, and you will receive good. Do bad and of course, you will receive bad.

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  8. Please, do not envoke ‘quantum physics’ as a potential explanation for NDE.

    Quantum physics doesn’t depend on a conscious observer. No way. Don’t mix science with mystical woo:

    http://www.danko-nikolic.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Yu-and-Nikolic-Qm-and-consciousness-Annalen-Physik.pdf
    http://www.alice.id.tue.nl/references/bierman-whitmarsh-2006.pdf

    the quantum wave function may be considered as a physical object. It’s not created in our mind. We don’t create our reality:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v474/n7350/full/nature10120.html
    http://www.nature.com/news/quantum-theorem-shakes-foundations-1.9392

    Quantum theory is a well-defined local theory with a clear interpretation. No “measurement problem” or any other foundational matters are waiting to be settled:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1308.5290

    Consciousness doesn’t appear like something living outside our body. It seems physical:

    Also, consciousness can be programmed by optogenetics because, after all, its physical basis seems quite well understood:

    http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/brain-circuit-links-emotion-memory-0827
    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23447600

    Please, do not forget that NDEs may also be experienced under the effect of ketamine. Thus, it seems that NDEs are not related exclusively to real near-death episodes.

    Nevertheless, Michael Raduga trained four groups of 10 to 20 volunteers to perform a series of mental steps upon awakening during the night that might lead them to have out-of-body experiences in order to demonstrate that NDEs may be lucid dreams:

    http://www.livescience.com/19106-death-experiences-lucid-dreams.html

    OBE have been studied on a subject who is able to “leave” her body “on demand”:

    http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00070/full

    and such experiences are just hallucinations.

    This is what science says. There’s an always increasing evidence of physicalism/reductionism in science. Therefore, if NDE are real, someone should explain why the above mentioned proofs of physicalism are real nevertheless.

    Hence, what should we think about? May be God is cheating us because NDEs may be either real or illusions, depending on the situation. A “not even wrong logic”, I guess.

    We should conclude that a scientific proof both exist and doesn’t exist at the same time. We are deceived everytime. Why God is trying to deceive us in that manner? I’m confused.

    Finally, I’m a natural lucid dreamer and, so far I’ve had many lucid dreams and a couple of OBEs. What I can say is that, to me OBEs are just hallucinations. Moreover, I know several lucid dreamers who experienced the famous “card test”, but, during their trials the outcomes never matched reality.

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