New Evidence for Life After Death?

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About four years ago I wrote a post about the AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation) project being lead by Dr. Sam Parnia. The AWARE project is summarised on its official website as being about “using the latest technologies to study the brain and consciousness during cardiac arrest… [and] testing the validity of out of body experiences and claims of being able to see and hear during cardiac arrest through the use of randomly generated hidden images that are not visible unless viewed from specific vantage points above”. I previously expressed a number of concerns about the research, with the chief complaints being: 1) the methodology for placing ‘hidden’ images was poorly controlled (i.e. some images were visible to staff, giving patients a rather less esoteric means of learning about their content) and 2) the lead researcher, Dr. Parnia, was already promoting and offering dubious (quantum) interpretations about the meaning of the positive results, before the data was collected!

The study has finally been published, and despite breathless headlines such as the Telegraph’s “First hint of ‘life after death’ in biggest ever scientific study” or the Independent’s “Largest-ever study provides evidence that ‘out of body’ and ‘near-death’ experiences may actually be real”, the findings are actually remarkably unimpressive. For a start, the main finding, which is not mentioned in the abstract and quickly dismissed in one sentence in the discussion section, is that none of the 140 patients interviewed were able to identify a single hidden image. The paper tries to downplay this by pointing out that 78% of cardiac events occurred in areas without the special ‘shelves’ that held the images, this percentage however appears to be based on the full sample of 2,060 cardiac events rather than the 140 cases included in the study. It may be that the percentage is similar for these specific cases but the paper doesn’t tell us that and regardless, since the researchers seem to feel this makes the measure all but useless, you have to wonder why such a serious methodological issue was not identified as a problem in the piloting stage. Indeed, if we go back to this report from the BBC in 2009, we find a rather different take from Dr. Parnia on the importance of this null finding:

“If you can demonstrate that consciousness continues after the brain switches off, it allows for the possibility that the consciousness is a separate entity. It is unlikely that we will find many cases where this happens, but we have to be open-minded. And if no one sees the pictures, it shows these experiences are illusions or false memories.

This seems to be a rather unavoidable case of ‘moving the goalposts’ but the next question this raises is where exactly the goal has been moved and the answer… well, it is kind of amusing but also depressingly predictable. The new ultimate ‘objective’ measure for whether a patient had a verifiable out of body experience was, “an interview… conducted by the study principal investigator (PI)”, aka Dr. Sam Parnia. So the final, most objective, measure to determine whether a patient’s account represented a true OBE, was an interview from a heavily invested researcher, who gives public talks and interviews (and published a number of books) arguing that OBEs are evidence that consciousness is separate from the brain and has spent half a decade running a study to prove that to be the case.

Summary flowchart of study enrollment, taken from Parnia et al. (2014).

Summary flowchart of study enrollment, taken from Parnia et al. (2014)

It is hardly surprising that Dr. Parnia would find such ‘objective’ evidence, but what was genuinely unexpected was that from the 140 cases included, he was only able to manage to ‘detect’ one suitable case (see the flow-chart breakdown above). That is, from the 55 patients who were designated as having “perceptions of awareness and/or memories” of their cardiac arrest experience, only two were selected for the ‘Stage 3 ‘objective’ interviews with Dr. Parnia and only one of those had “verified accuracy of recall”. At this stage you may wonder how accuracy was verified and you may presume 1) that the ‘objective’ Stage 3 interview, would be conducted shortly after the event, to avoid possible contaminating sources of information, and 2) that there would be some ‘objective’ scoring method provided to verify the accuracy of the account. In both cases you would be wrong, the paper doesn’t mention when this single patient was interviewed, likely a telling omission, but it does indicate that in many cases interviews were conducted “between 3 months and 1 year” and even for the in-hospital interviews, “these took place between 3 days and 4 weeks after cardiac arrest depending on the severity of the patients’ critical illness”. It’s possible that the patient in question was one of the cases interviewed in hospital, 3 days after the event, but it seems likely that the study would have mentioned this, if that was the case. The omission of the length of delay before the interview instead is rather likely due to there having been a significant delay, during which time the patient could have unconsciously learned, or reconstructed, many of the ‘verified’ details from more mundane sources. (UPDATE: It seems the interview in question was conducted over a year later, see the comments below for more details)

As for the precise ‘verified’ details of the account reported in the study, these are:

  1. The use of an AED (a defibrillator).
  2. The medical team present during the cardiac arrest.
  3. The identification of a bald man in blue scrubs.

The study claims that it is able to ‘verify’ that these memories were created at the time of the cardiac arrest due to the mentioning of an AED, which is only used following cardiac arrest. The study neglects to mention that the use of a defibrillator is probably one of the most common motifs associated with cardiac arrest in popular culture and also unfortunately doesn’t tell us if the medical team present during the cardiac arrest interacted with the patient before or afterwards (a significant possible confound). It does reveal that the patient, at least, had an interaction with the bald man in blue scrubs the following day: “he was the man that…(I saw) the next day…I saw this man [come to visit me] and I knew who I had seen the day before.” This clearly introduces an alternative possible means through which the patient could have learned details about their experience, as does the possibility that they lost/regained partial consciousness when members of the team that they identified were still present, but the study doesn’t concern itself with discussing such mundane alternative accounts.

Sadly, thanks to the inaccurate media summaries and Dr. Parnia’s inevitable promotional efforts, this study will probably enter the popular consciousness as ‘some scientists proved that there is life after death and out of body experiences are real’. But in reality, this study was unable to provide even a single compelling case or real ‘objective’ piece of evidence that OBEs represent accurate memories and/or that consciousness can exist independently from the body. People often have real, deeply transformative experiences when they recover from a cardiac arrest but these are not evidence of an afterlife or a metaphysical mind, just of the remarkable resilience and the deep desire for meaning that often follows traumatic events.

Original Article: Parnia, S. et al. (2014), AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study, Resuscitation. DOI: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2014.09.004

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68 comments

  1. Chris, great review, thanx. Sad state of affairs.
    But as you say, people will believe what they want, and newspaper writers know that.
    Ahhhhhh, Heaven, I knew it was true.

    Imagine a study showing those coming back experiencing hell visions. Most religions have hell scenarios, with the majority of folks going there, so you’d think such a vision would be easiest to see. New Agers and such do the heaven-only version, of course.

    To add to your post, correct me if I am wrong, it seems the funding is from the following:
    (1) Nour Foundation (USA) — a pro-soul society where Sam Parnia is a listed speaker.

    (2) The Resuscitation Council (UK) — a medical organization. Did your govt actually fund this or was it minimal?

    (3) the Horizon Research Foundation – Parnia’s own site. Where he advertises titles like “Proof of Heaven”.

    Sam Parnia teaches in USA (SUNY, Stony Brook), but got his medical degree in London, then fellowship back at Cornell (NY, again).

    His conclusion reads:

    CA survivors commonly experience a broad range of cognitive themes, with 2% exhibiting full awareness. This supports other recent studies that have indicated consciousness may be present despite clinically undetectable consciousness.

    But the same is true of my sleeping kids — they tell me lots of “broad range of cognitive themes” [dreams] when they wake.

    This is pure bunk, but sadly, as you said, it will be sucked up further. But gee, who cares if society believes New Age, all will be well crap, at least it is better than the apocalyptic or the jihadist dangerous perspectives.

    PS: And thanx for keeping it short ! And btw, your writing is superb: flowing, colorful, and engaging — all while being scientific. Nice.

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  2. Hey Sabio,

    Thanks for the kind words, I can on rare occasions be concise 😉

    The announced funding sources are as you mention and obviously introduce a bias to the interpretation offered, due to the funding alone the study was clearly not an impartial investigation but Parnia already lost any hope of claiming that status when he published books about the results, before the study was complete.

    It also doesn’t surprise me that there was some genuine government funding involved, the UK government claims to be evidence based but this is often not the case, and in health care in particular there is a lot of interest and support for alternative/holistic practices.

    You are also right that it is a relatively harmless belief for people to hold, but I think the broader cause for concern is the kind of bad science that studies like this represent, and the way they are so easily widely promoted by the media. The Daily Mail article alone on this study has already been shared 3,300 times…

    As such, this blog entry is hardly likely to have any effect at all, but I have hope that at least some people will in the future google Dr. Parnia and accidentally come across this entry and realise just how unconvincing the study is.

    And you’re right it is worth noting how rarely hell features in NDEs; if they are accurate representations of the afterlife it seems like most people, regardless of belief, are going somewhere nice after death, which is some consolation ;).

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  3. Thanks for a great summary of the paper. As for the message even Randi.org has written about it and its also on Doubtful News. Here is Randi.org:

    http://web.randi.org/swift/no-this-study-is-not-evidence-for-life-after-death

    As for the vertical case it seems its Mr. A. This case has flaws because it was already in his book Erasing Death according to a Skeptiko user and was collected a year later:

    “The man Parnia interviews is named Mr.A, Mr.A had a OBE in 2011 and Parnia tracks him down in 2012 for more details and see’s if he can verify his recollections with the patients medical records.”

    Source: http://forum.mind-energy.net/forum/skeptiko-podcast-forums/skeptiko-podcast/4938-sam-parnia-tells-about-aware-initial-results-a-new-interview/page18

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  4. Lukas thanks for the additional info, I’ve added it to the article. I am genuinely surprised at how little evidence was gathered after 5 years but you wouldn’t know that from the media coverage which in mainstream sources has been unanimously positive. I guess it just highlights the old maxim: a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

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  5. Also Parnia was doing this for years:

    “A third experiment was set up in “the medical, emergency, and coronary care units of Southampton General Hospital” in the United Kingdom by Sam Parnia from August 1997 to August 1998 (Parnia et al. 150; S. Parnia, personal communication, August 3, 2006). For one year “boards were suspended from the ceiling of the wards…. [with] various figures on the surface facing the ceiling which were not visible from the floor” (Parnia et al. 151). Of the 63 cardiac arrest survivors interviewed during that time, 7 had some recall of the period after they lost consciousness. Of these 7, 4 had NDEs as defined by the Greyson NDE Scale, 2 had NDE-like memories (e.g., feelings of peace or seeing deceased relatives), and 1 had memories unlike NDEs (e.g., seeing “some unknown people jumping off a mountain”). Though two of the four NDErs “lost awareness of their bodies,” none of them had full-blown OBEs (151-153).”

    Source: http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#experiments

    Also here: http://heresycorner.blogspot.com/2008/09/out-of-body-again.html

    This is all I found about this guy besides being a dualist on some blogs and playing with the word death – he believes that clinical death is real death and no just a clinical one.

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  6. Your comments about the rarity of OBE’s in the study (and therefore the potential identification of targets) need revising.
    The vast majority of cardiac arrest patients die within a short space of time and can’t interviewed.
    NDEs or ADE’s as Parnia now prefers to call them (Actual death experiences) seem to occur in about 10 % of cardiac arrest cases and out of those, a tiny percentage have OBE’s of the quality necessary to even have the possibility of seeing an image up on a shelf. So it’s very challenging research to say the least.
    The two patients who actually reported an OBE did not have their arrest in a research area so the methodology of the shelves could not be tested.

    The case of Mr A is solid otherwise it would not have got through peer review. The man was in VF a deadly heart rhythm were consciousness is not possible after just a few seconds and the brain stem is down so all reflex’s are absent in the brain are absent. After 20 seconds the global electrical activity of the brain is flat and yet the man retained consciousness for more than 3 minutes, verified by his hearing of the automatic defibrillators audible “shock the patient” TWICE with a gap for CPR in between. and seeing the bald headed man which he couldn’t have seen from his position on the bed behind the curtain.

    I’m a proponent, true but these are the facts. I understand the potential of survival is probably anathema to you but what is so is so whether you, me or anybody else likes it or not. Further research should tell us who is correct.

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  7. Tim> I make no comment about the prevalence of OBEs. I simply highlight that designing a 5 year study to test the validity of OBEs by employing ‘objective’ measure but then having no cases in which the objective measure was applicable suggests a rather poor design. It was Dr. Parnia, who came up with the methodology and the standard for success, not me.

    Also, something going through peer review does not imply that the findings are valid, consider for instance that Wakefield’s discredited paper on autism and vaccines was published in the Lancet. Being published simply means that the study is of high enough quality for reviewers to ok for it for publication in the relevant academic journal. With some reservations I would agree with their decision in regards this paper as if taken as a descriptive piece about patient experiences following cardiac arrest it is a useful addition to the literature. As an objective test of OBEs it is however far from compelling.

    As far as the case of Mr. A goes, you seem to be somewhat overlooking the points I make in the post above i.e. the details you mention were collected long after the event and there are many potential confounding sources for the information reported. And even if we ignore that issue, the person who was making the assessment of the accuracy of the report was Dr. Parnia, someone who is heavily invested in OBEs and this study having significant findings. So at best then, the case represents a single anecdotal report, not an objective measure.

    I have no issue with OBEs or survival after death being possible but this study provides no compelling evidence that is the case. If I was a proponent of NDEs, I still would not advocate this study due to its poor methodology and the clear post hoc goal post shifting.

    (Perhaps foolishly) I remain optimistic that ideological positions should not trump people’s ability to recognise poor research.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for the reply.

    The fact that the patient was able to “hear” the two separate commands to shock the patient is very significant. I don’t find it tenable that just because the case wasn’t documented early or ideally …we can therefore detach the value from it.
    That is unreasonable IMHO. Similarly, I don’t entertain the often suggested sceptical “get out” of contamination or false memory after the event. Memory is susceptible to alterations.. but by and large most people can be trusted to remember fairly accurately and in the case of these life changing events, the story doesn’t change over time.

    I don’t accept that Parnia is allowing bias to affect his judgement, the authors will have conferred about the case, there’s no doubt about that.

    It is not proof of life after death, of course but it’s strong evidence that the mind can function when the brain does not. Based on the amount of recorded OBE’s in cardiac arrest, I would be
    amazed if even better evidence is not found as the study progresses.

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  9. Tim, for your reference the detail about hearing the commands isn’t in the paper, I believe it is the non-peer reviewed account of the case in one of Dr. Parnia’s books.

    But setting that aside, as far as the reliability of memories go, there is plenty of good research on the fallibility of memory, see Elizabeth Loftus’ body of research for lots of good examples but in this case its also not the accuracy of the memory that is necessarily in question but rather the source of the accuracy.

    It could be because:

    A) Mr. A experienced an OBE and was able to accurately observe and recall on recovery all of the details reported.
    B) Mr. A was semi-conscious during and after his cardiac arrest and he unconsciously reconstructed a reliable narrative from his memories and details he learned from his carers during his recovery.
    C) Dr. Parnia’s personal bias led him to over estimating the accuracy of the report during his interview.

    You favour option A but B & C are entirely plausible and this study offers no way for us to discern between them. If B or C were correct we would have the same result, so in the end, the most favourably interpretation of the study is a report of a single subjective case study which is certainly a far cry from how the authors or the media are presenting it.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks, yes I have the book.

    Point B Mr A would have FELT the pain of the shocks and reported it (which is described as like being kicked by a mule by patients who have been incorrectly shocked) ..if he had been semi conscious. One can’t have it both ways 🙂

    For me, A is reasonable and I can’t accept C …that’s unfair IMHO.

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  11. Read the whole study from a perspective of a skeptic which I am it has value mostly that it shows that there is brain activity far longer then expected as seen in Table 3, Major non-NDE cognitive themes recalled by patients following cardiac arrest and that the brain can record this or create dreams like states during it maybe. However this is in line with new research like this:

    ” Researchers have found brain activity beyond a flat line EEG, which they have called Nu-complexes”

    Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918180246.htm

    Along with others like this like the rat study in cardiac arrest made by Borjigin.

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  12. “Point B Mr A would have FELT the pain of the shocks and reported it (which is described as like being kicked by a mule by patients who have been incorrectly shocked) ..if he had been semi conscious. One can’t have it both ways :-)”

    The paper itself is claiming he was conscious and yet didn’t report the pain of the shocks… so it would seem the two don’t follow. I suspect that even if you are a not an incorporeal spirit, when your heart is stopping your body has more pressing things to attend to than enabling you to report your discomfort.

    That aside, I didn’t mean that all information was gained due to some faulty diagnosis of loss of consciousness, I pointed out that he would likely have slipped in and out of consciousness during the event and that he could have “unconsciously reconstructed a reliable narrative from his memories and details he learned from his carers during his recovery”.

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  13. Thanks but that’s not correct. The paper is claiming that he had conscious awareness during a 3 plus minute period of cardiac arrest when consciousness is not possible. They are not claiming that he had some kind of as yet unknown secondary brain function. If he had become conscious after the first shock then they wouldn’t have given him a round of chest compressions of which he would also have been aware of if he had been conscious and said compressions hurt badly BTW.

    To speculate that his heart started and stopped etc is just not based on what happens in VF. He didn’t slip in and out of consciousness, consciousness doesn’t return after VF until the rhythm is restored and even then sometimes they don’t recover consciousness for long periods.

    The reason why this case is so good is that the machine alert is a marker. If you want to speculate that his observations of the bald man are somehow retrospective reconstructions based on his meeting with the doctor the next day, okay. I don’t think that is reasonable but it is acceptable I guess if you want to be ultra critical.

    The hearing of the machine though is not explainable by current neuroscience At some stage Chris the will to disbelieve has to softened.

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  14. In reply to Lucas.

    I like Steve Novella but he lets himself down with comments like this one

    “What is a little surprising to me is that Parnia could only come up with one case with a memory that can be presented as matching events during cardiac arrest. This does not make that one case “verified”, it makes it highly selected and filtered from a larger set of data.

    As an analogy, this is similar to an alleged psychic working a room with 40 people, and making a cold reading guess that is a good match to one of the people. It is fallacious (known as the lottery fallacy) to ask what the odds are that the alleged psychic would have had a hit to that one person. Rather, we need to consider the odds of hitting any of the 40 people, and to expand it further to any possible hit, not just the one made.

    We need to consider what the odds are that one of the 140 people would have a memory (almost certainly contaminated, as no procedure was in place to prevent contamination) that matched events during cardiac arrest in some arbitrary details. This certainly sound consistent with random background noise in the data, and is therefore not evidence of anything.”
    ……………………………………………………
    This is a ridiculous thing to say. It assumes that Mr A was playing a guessing game and got lucky. Really ? The man was a social worker (a reputable citizen not a fantasist) who was surprised by his experience, that’s why it stuck with him and he wanted to reveal it.

    It wasn’t highly selective and filtered, there were 2 diamonds in the pan after sifting through and they were examined.

    This kind of stuff from Novella is annoying and he should be called out for it, it does him no favours.

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  15. Thanks Chris, nice write-up – it sent me back for another reread of Bering’s 2006 ‘The folk psychology of souls'(and Open Peer Commentaries) and Helen de Cruz’s 2013 post ‘We are not intuitive monists – but then, what are we?'(and comments) … so far.

    My only pseudo-criticism is that your piece was far too short and not nearly enough links 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Tim> I think the issue is that you see Novella suggesting deliberate fraud whereas I read that as just acknowledging the fallibility of memory and recognising the danger of confirmation bias. He isn’t accusing Mr. A of lying intentionally.

    Also, in regards the timing of the consciousness… that is the issue in question. You take the reporting of the sound as clear evidence that the memories were generated at that very specific time. That seems a rather large inference to me, based on all the potential confounds that exist during the one year gap prior to the interview.

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  17. Reply to Tim:

    Thanks for the reply.

    I think Dr. Novella is pointing out that the odds are really strange. One person has something right out of 140? Its really small in such a long and big study. It was a huge and long study, we agree on this Tim no? I also would have expected more then just two people from such a long time. Even Dr. Parnia himself was rising the bar:

    “During AWARE, investigators will place images strategically in hospital bays, such that they will only be visible by looking down from the ceiling and nowhere else. 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.”

    Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7622000/7622456.stm

    Nothing like this happened and I think Dr. Novella is pointing this out.

    Like I said the only value for me as a skeptic is that Dr. Parnia has confirmed that the brain takes time to die. It even fits what we already know even from OBE induced studies with rubber hands and what Dr. Steven Novella was writing back in one of his blogs.

    Tim as for Mr. A he had no experience or knowledge about NDEs or OBEs. People who do not have prior knowledge mostly interpret them in a religious light or even after it. It depends what literature they read after it. It happens however there are cases which later on think that its nothing more then just a dream:

    “What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened: Experience was definitely real I do not know.

    What do you believe about the reality of your experience at the current time: Experience was probably not real. Now I look at this just like any other dream.”

    Source: http://www.nderf.org/NDERF/NDE_Experiences/jiri_h_nde.htm

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  18. Reply to Tim:

    “Thanks but that’s not correct. The paper is claiming that he had conscious awareness during a 3 plus minute period of cardiac arrest when consciousness is not possible. They are not claiming that he had some kind of as yet unknown secondary brain function. If he had become conscious after the first shock then they wouldn’t have given him a round of chest compressions of which he would also have been aware of if he had been conscious and said compressions hurt badly BTW.”

    Tim the problem is right here why I do not buy this study and other people that it is some kind of unique thing. From my perspective the problem is that he was only awake 3 minutes. 3 minutes is not a long time first things first.

    Second they were saving his life that was their main priority everything else was secondary. During that time there is chaos.

    Third he could have been semi-conscious state when he was not feeling pain and the machine was not able to record it or the people around him did not noticed it.

    There are endless possibilities how it could have been. To me it still only proves one thing that the brain takes time to shut down like it needs to switch on again which is again in motion with newest findings.

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  19. Also, in regards the timing of the consciousness… that is the issue in question. You take the reporting of the sound as clear evidence that the memories were generated at that very specific time. That seems a rather large inference to me, based on all the potential confounds that exist during the one year gap prior to the interview.

    Well I don’t see any reason not to. It’s too big a stretch to try to infer that he got the information about the defibrillator from another source and then confabulated an NDE …and then forgot he confabulated it.

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  20. Lukas,

    You are entitled to your opinion but those ideas are not something personally I can take seriously, thanks for the debate anyway.

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  21. Tim

    Thanks for the reply. However this is not only my opinion. The brain has many secrets and we already knew some of them. Take here for example there can be a new state of consciousness which has more people then Dr. Parnia who were able to do this be in a semi-conscious state:

    “One-third of patients in the study moved their finger if they were asked to, even though they were under what seemed to be adequate anesthesia, according to the study led by Dr. Ian F. Russell, of Hull Royal Infirmary in England, and published Sept. 12 in the journal Anaesthesia.

    “What’s more remarkable is that they only move their fingers if they are asked. None of the patients spontaneously responded to the surgery. They are presumably not in pain,” said Pandit, who wrote an editorial about the study.”

    “The idea of a third state of consciousness may explain the discrepancies in the reported prevalence of awareness during surgery, Pandit said.”

    Source: http://www.livescience.com/39812-strange-consciousness-state-in-surgery.html

    Tim the only thing which would convince me is not there, the images because there are already evidence that the brain is active during anesthesia and can learn etc. Also I would be more convinced when more people would report OBEs and not just two from such a long and big study that there is more to it. However with this one case collected after 1 year along with the second who claimed that he overheard the number 444 for cardiac arrest which can be also found on the Internet with little problem and I think that many hospitals use this code – http://www.chw.edu.au/prof/pre_employment/cpr_policy.pdf

    You need something more convincing then just this.. However thanks for the reply. As I said the only thing which Dr. Parnia did is to show that there is brain activity during cardiac arrest and the brain takes time to shut down, however this is nothing paranormal because we already knew these things with newest research.

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  22. Of course, I disagree with some of that, Lukas. Implicit learning under anaesthesia (not burst suppression though) does occur but as I understand it, can usually only be recalled under hypnosis.
    However, in cardiac arrest the brain stem is not functioning so the global reflexes of the brain are down after 20-30 seconds, therefore it’s not possible to hear or retain memories.

    This is why the case of Mr A is perplexing. Thank you and Chris, again, for the for the debate .

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  23. Thanks Anton, I read it but I have to say I didn’t benefit greatly from doing so. I don’t find the vast majority of arguments that Grossman presents compelling and those that I do, I was already well aware of.

    In regards ‘error 3’ confusing evidence and proof, I don’t think this study was capable of offering proof (as I mentioned 4 years ago) and have never stated or implied that it would provide definitive proof but please note that Dr. Parnia did do this precisely in several interviews, clearly stating that this study and in particular whether people saw the images would definitively ‘prove’ whether OBEs are real.

    And as for ‘error 4’, first of all it is terribly expressed in that article, Grossman goes into page long tangential illustrations without first really clearly establishing his objection, and when he does get round to it his argument crumbles into personal bias: Alien abductions are just ‘logically possible’ and shouldn’t be taken seriously as an explanatory hypothesis, but NDEs are clearly ’empirically possible’ and therefore deserve serious scrutiny. And since most people in the world believe in an afterlife this means it should be the null hypothesis…

    There is so much bad reasoning in that document that it would require a whole series of posts on its own to address.

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  24. Chris, thanks for the reply and for even letting me post here. I posted a similar comment over here: http://web.randi.org/swift/no-this-study-is-not-evidence-for-life-after-death

    But they just censored it outright. Not that I’m surprised, but it was still a bit depressing.

    Anyway, I think you misunderstood what Grossman was arguing. When scientists talk about proof and proving things in science, they are talking about the evidence being overwhelming in favor of a theory or hypothesis, and there being no evidence available which falsifies it. We can never prove LAD (life after death) any more than we can prove the existence of Neptune, but when the evidence amasses to a certain degree, it can still be said, in a casual sense, that it has been proven to exist and be the case.

    As for error 4, this is the one you really committed, and I don’t think you understood his point.

    First of all, Grossman isn’t mixing any personal bias into his discussion at all. He is just pointing out that, in the discussion that was had between Hale and Almeder, Hale doesn’t provide any evidence whatsoever for his theory. None. He just says “it’s _POSSIBLE_ that aliens abducted the children and planted memories into their brains”, but he doesn’t cite any evidence whatsoever to back that possibility up. Grossman merely points that out.

    And for NDEs, we do have objective evidence that they occur, and that they occur during CA and under anesthesia, and even during both.

    Let me point out to you where in your writing you are committing the error of confusing empirical possibilities with logical possibilities. Since I don’t know how to write in cursive or bold text here, I will write the words I wish to highlight _WORD_ instead:

    “the ‘objective’ Stage 3 interview, would be conducted shortly after the event, to avoid _POSSIBLE_ contaminating sources of information”

    “during which time the patient _COULD HAVE_ unconsciously learned, or reconstructed, many of the ‘verified’ details from more mundane sources.”

    “The study neglects to mention that the use of a defibrillator is _PROBABLY_ one of the most common motifs associated with cardiac arrest in popular culture”

    “doesn’t tell us if the medical team present during the cardiac arrest interacted with the patient before or afterwards (a significant _POSSIBLE_ confound).”

    “This clearly introduces an alternative _POSSIBLE_ means through which the patient _COULD_ have learned details about their experience, as does the _POSSIBILITY_ that they lost/regained partial consciousness when members of the team that they identified were still present,”

    “the details you mention were collected long after the event and there are many _POTENTIAL_ confounding sources for the information reported.”

    “It _COULD BE_ because:

    B) Mr. A was semi-conscious during and after his cardiac arrest and he unconsciously reconstructed a reliable narrative from his memories and details he learned from his carers during his recovery.

    C) Dr. Parnia’s personal bias led him to over estimating the accuracy of the report during his interview.”

    “That aside, I didn’t mean that all information was gained due to some faulty diagnosis of loss of consciousness, I pointed out that he would _LIKELY_ have slipped in and out of consciousness during the event and that he _COULD HAVE_ “unconsciously reconstructed a reliable narrative from his memories and details he learned from his carers during his recovery”.”

    “That seems a rather large inference to me, based on all the _POTENTIAL_ confounds that exist during the one year gap prior to the interview.”

    Do you see what you’re doing? You’re treating logical possibilities, for which you offer no evidence whatsoever – none – as empirical possibilities that scientists should take seriously. For instance, the idea that patients could have unconsciously learned or reconstructed many of the verified details from more mundane sources. Where’s the evidence that this is even a possibility? If you’re being put under during a surgery and wake up 10h later, how great are the odds that you’ll magically reconstruct what went down in that operating room through more mundane means afterward? Does that ever happen? And how often does it fail when people try to make a guess?

    And feel free to start such an experiment, I’d be highly interested in your findings 🙂 Another thing you might want to ask yourself is, why do NDErs never wake up with the explicitly WRONG information? I mean it happens, but in ~1-4% of cases..How reasonable is it to assert that, when people guess or draw mundane inferences to conclude what happened during a time of seeming unconsciousness, they are completely correct at least 96% of the time?

    Are you even aware of Michael Sabom’s research pertaining to that issue? He interviewed 32 people who had NDEs during cardiac arrest, and 25 who hadn’t had one during cardiac arrest. He asked them to describe what went down during their resuscitation. All people with NDEs gave correct information (and 6 of them very specific information that was verified as true), whereas at least 80% of the control group made at least one major error. If you want to assume that everyone watches House and Grey’s Anatomy AND are therefore experts on resuscitation science, we’re going to need some numbers and studies to back that up.

    Furthermore, you like to portray Parnia as biased. But listen to this:

    Tell me that Parnia went into AWARE certain of what he’d find.

    And you might also want to question your own degree of skepticism. Take any study out there, anyone. It can be any study on any mundane topic, like the effectiveness of drug X on disease Y. Now apply the same degree of skepticism to that study as you’ve done to this. You’ll find that, pushing the logical possibilities agenda, it’s extremely easy to use rhetoric to make it seem like a study hasn’t really found something significant. But the only reason you apply such unscientific skepticism to this study is because you have an a priori disagreement with its conclusion.

    Everyone can be extremely skeptical of everything. I can sit here and say that the evidence for the existence of the sun isn’t convincing to me, and you know what? That’s fine. We can all choose what convinces us and what doesn’t. Often, we don’t even have a choice. Some things are hard to believe for some people despite the degree of evidence available. But it isn’t _scientific_ skepticism. Skepticism is a virtue, and necessary in science. But it is defined at a certain value, and does not vary arbitrarily depending on how emotionally invested we are in believing or disbelieving a certain conclusion. That’s why we have science in the first place, to see past our own biases.

    And as a final note. I too wish that they interviews occurred immediately after waking up, and that photos should have been placed in every hospital. In fact, I wish we could flat-line volunteers for this purpose alone. The problem does not lie with Parnia, but with contemporary society’s unjustifiable unease when it comes to the issue of death. There is no founding for this kind of research, and there is a lot of dogma against the very idea of researching this issue scientifically. Until those parameters change, this is the best we can do.

    Like

  25. Anton,

    Thanks for the detailed response, I have no issue with you having your say and indeed, I welcome debate so I won’t be censoring any responses, unless they are abusive or too spammy.

    I don’t think I misunderstood Grossman’s points but I do think his arguments are inconsistent and not particularly compelling. His claim that the evidence is very strong for an independent consciousness and your comparison of the evidence for life after death with the evidence for the existence of Neptune, show a fundamental misinterpretation of the existing research literature. If Neptune had the same kind of evidence supporting it as an independent consciousness has, I would be genuinely skeptical that Neptune exists. I also agree that there is a general standard of evidence at which it makes sense to talk of something being ‘proven’ even though we can never have 100% certainty: Neptune’s existence is in this category, dualism and life after death are not.

    You highlight my use of words which signal probabilities and imply that they reflect an unusually high level of skepticism but this is entirely wrong, I just use probabilistic language when dealing with possibilities and likelihood.

    To take a single example, you highlight that I said “the use of defibrillators is ‘probably’ one of the most common motifs associated with cardiac arrest in popular culture” and counter that I offer no evidence for this only ‘logical possibilities’. But the ‘evidence’ for this statement is referenced in the sentence and is all around you in popular culture, go watch a few films/TV series and see if defibrillators make an appearance in hospital scenes and/or scenes in which a patient experiences cardiac arrest, here is a link to get you started: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-zv3iPXrZk. ‘Probably’ doesn’t mean I’m inventing an association, it just means I don’t know if it is the most common motif or its position in a top 5 list of concepts with associated with cardiac arrest.

    It’s a silly example, but it highlights how you are reaching when you simply highlight all sentences that are using words like ‘probably’.

    You also ask about “the idea that patients could have unconsciously learned or reconstructed many of the verified details from more mundane sources” and question “Where’s the evidence that this is even a possibility?”. This to me, is exactly the kind of question which highlights the problem with your (and Grossman’s) assessment of likelihood. We now have decades of research on memory from psychology and also specifically on the issue of false memories/memory contamination and here is one of the leading researchers of the field, Elizabeth Loftus, summarising the findings in the mid 90s:

    “Nearly two decades of research on memory distortion leaves no doubt that memory can be altered via suggestion. People can be led to remember their past in different ways, and they even can be led to remember entire events that never actually happened to them. When these sorts of distortions occur, people are sometimes confident in their distorted or false memories, and often go on to describe the pseudomemories in substantial detail. These findings shed light on cases in which false memories are fervently held- as in when people remember things that are biologically or geographically impossible. The findings do not, however, give us the ability to reliably distinguish between real and false memories, or without independent corroboration, such distinctions are generally not possible.”
    Source: http://www.psychedout.org/uploads/2/7/9/7/27978279/loftus_pickrell_1995.pdf

    The fact that you are skeptical of memory contamination betrays a fundamental bias in your approach, as do your claims that people have NDEs provide accounts which are accurate 96% of the time. This is simply an invented statistic and one which the results of this study alone would draw into serious question. I suspect the reason you think the % is so high and the accuracy so precise is that you are reading lots of editorialized reports of cases and considering them to be representative, but confirmation bias alone means that ‘hits’ are likely to be over estimated and when you add to that researcher bias and delays of years, you have a recipe for misrepresentation and confounding influences.

    Finally, as per the charge that I am being unfairly critical of this study and apply an unfair standard of evidence… this is just wrong. I am critical of inaccurate claims and poor research methods but not just in the field of NDE research, take a look at this recent post (https://god-knows-what.com/2014/07/31/can-religious-children-distinguish-fantasy-from-reality-yes/) for an illustration of the same level of critical assessment being applied to a completely different topic. Dr. Parnia is claiming to do science and so his research methodology is open to criticism on the basis of normal scientific and academic standards. Your interpretation of my position as being unreasonably critical is an indication that you are unfamiliar with the level of criticism typical of most academic fields.

    I’m not uneasy about this kind of research, nor do I think is society (look at the breathless write ups in the popular press) and, personally, I would be very happy to find out that there is life after death. But personal bias and desire do not make something true and indeed, should make any serious researcher more cautious when conducting or reporting their research. The opposite seems to be the case in the NDE research literature unfortunately…

    Like

  26. To: midnight_runner@outlook.com

    No, I am not radicalpolitik, although I am from the Skeptiko forum and have had discussion with him (but I’m hardly very active there these days). The name is Hjortron, and I was actually temporarily banned from there recently for speaking too freely, arguing that there’s no reason to assume that the afterlife has a problem with us committing suicide for any reason whenever we want to, and that the reality of the NDE implies that a paradise always is around the corner of a ceased heartbeat no matter what we’ve done here. Proponents like to bitch about how the skeptics want to suppress the research proving an afterlife, but they’re no better when it comes to letting freethinkers take the notion of an afterlife to its inevitable conclusion regarding the implication it has on a lot of moral issues and how we should approach these lives.

    I certainly have no opinion at all about the “powers of yogi”, because I don’t even know what a yogi is to be honest 🙂 And I never take a stance on an issue I haven’t investigated myself, and I’m never going to research that stuff because it just seems irrelevant and boring to me. If it’s true, cool, when is dinner ready? If it’s false, cool, when is dinner ready? It’s not important from an eternal perspective, whereas the nature of death is of utmost importance and trumps the relevance of any other discussion that could ever be had by many orders of magnitude.

    “You are a true believer in the paranormal. You admit your own bias in this subject, yes? Just interested in knowing where you are coming from.”

    I’d gladly answer that 🙂 No, I’m a skeptic just like you guys, if you understand that skepticism is an attitude or approach, and not a given set of conclusions. I once believed what you do now, so I know what it’s like to think that all “non-materialistic ideas are a priori ridiculous” or that there’s zero credible evidence for them, and be certain that death is the ultimate end, aka complete oblivion. However, I’ve made it a point to question everything I hear and read from all sides, and I always want to hear both sides of every argument. I grew up in Sweden, which is as areligious a country as they come, and I was an apatheist/atheist/agnostic all my life, and I like every other teenager interested in science was an implicit materialist.

    It wasn’t until I became 19 and stumbled over the NDE evidence that I started to question the materialistic beliefs I had grown up with.

    This essay completely changed my worldview: http://anti-matters.org/articles/8/public/8-8-1-PB.pdf

    After reading it, I became very intrigued, and started double-checking whether there actually was any evidence to back up what he was arguing, and lo and behold, it was. But it wasn’t overly available, unfortunately, and I had to do some serious digging and researching. That took a couple of months. Had Chris Carter and his trilogy been around back then, it would have gone a lot faster, because he completely nails the reality of an afterlife down completely against all the objections hitherto raised by those skeptical of it. I’ve yet to see an explicit refutation of the central point of his arguments, so feel free to give it your best shot.

    h ttp://www.amazon.com/Science-Psychic-Phenomena-House-Skeptics/dp/159477451X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_z

    h ttp://www.amazon.com/Science-Near-Death-Experience-Consciousness-Survives/dp/1594773564

    h ttp://www.amazon.com/Science-Afterlife-Experience-Immortality-Consciousness/dp/1594774528/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y

    I’ve studied philosophy at the university and read all the great thinkers, but I’ve never felt as raped, intellectually, as when I read Carter. He is in my mind the master of pure objectivity, and demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the evidence we already have amassed convincingly demonstrates the reality of an afterlife (and psi).

    Anyway, once it became obvious that the NDE was genuine, I became very interested in what the actual implications of that was. For instance, over at the Skeptiko forum there are a lot of people debating the evidence regarding the reality of this stuff, just like we’re doing here. But I’ve moved past that discussion so completely in my own thinking these days, and only return to it every once in a while to see what’s going on (like now when AWARE was released). And so for me, what is interesting is this: OK, so we know there’s an afterlife, although people in general haven’t caught up with that yet. But once everyone does, then what? So you could say that I read as many NDEs as possible, in order to make sense of that puzzle and what they have to say about the nature of the afterlife and its relationship to these lives. Which inevitably led me to study deep NDErs, those who gone the furthest into the light. What do they have to say? Well, here are the two best examples:

    Christian Andréason:

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bw3oaNUR1iI
    h ttp://www.broadjam.com/artists/songs.php?artistID=14702&mediaID=460764
    h ttp://www.allaboutchristian.com/spirituality/index.html
    h ttp://www.near-death.com/andreason.html

    Nanci Danison:

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PX2x0FxDTs&list=PLNz540i0yfBlfkxXHYlc77-WBwHhTlRpg
    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxrSAnpoT6o

    I listen to what people like this have to say and puzzle it together to a coherent worldview. People have said that “you can’t know if they’re lying or not!”, and that’s true. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m only interested in figuring out what the most reasonable afterlife would look life. And once we know that, I think it’s safe to say that, if there is an afterlife, it is like that. Because why would an afterlife not be infinitely sane, both from an intellectual and emotional perspective, given that they’ve had eternity to figure stuff out and create everything optimally? 🙂

    I have actually very little interest in psi and all that stuff and focus all my attention on researching what death is, although I have researched the science surrounding psi to a small degree, and it seems to hold up. Admittedly, it’s nothing spectacular whatsoever. For instance, we can guess who it is who is calling us roughly 33% of the time, when chance dictates that we should do so correctly 25% of the time. Yay, but what’s for dinner? Stuff like that doesn’t impress me, but it’s a huuuge deal for people who don’t want to accept anything that demonstrably falsifies materialism as an empirical hypothesis about the nature of the world. Maybe you can relate? I don’t know, but a lot of people skeptical of non-materialistic ideas have those doubts for demonstrably emotional reasons.

    But it’s of course not just the NDE that pertains to LAD (life after death). If anyone is skeptical of the reality of an other side, you also have the deep psychedelic experience, which is available to everyone (unlike an NDE, which is more often than not a one-way ticket).

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz0WX6c6HVY – The clip that actually aided me tremendously in taking NDEs seriously.
    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE6zvn8rHU4
    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6RBOIgtzEE#t=01m08s
    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62raWpUzdr0

    And you also have a lot of other phenomena. Best introduction is perhaps this:

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHMtwWIaZHE

    All the other events happening when we die, like visits to relatives, clocks stopping, relatives and nurses seeing the person leaving the body, death-bed visions, etc. Here’s a more in depth discussion of it: http://www.skeptiko.com/64-near-death-experience-research-dr-peter-fenwick/

    Anyway, yadda yadda lifestory 🙂 But I hope I have answered your question. Feel free to share where you’re coming from as well!

    Like

  27. Hjortron,

    Two comments:

    1. Dropping a load of youtube videos is rarely productive for any discussion, especially when no-one has requested said links. Moreover, the weird comment software on wordpress embeds any videos when the url is provided. As such, I’ve added gaps to your links but please don’t link bomb or if you must, then provide urls with a gap, in order to avoid the comment section being swamped with youtube videos.

    2. I don’t think there are many advocates of any paranormal topic that do not claim to be skeptics. The same kind of origin story you provide is encountered with practically every anti-science position including climate change denial and 911 truthers. You can perhaps see why this might make such an account not particularly convincing. Furthermore, it’s not your conclusions that make you non-skeptical, it’s the arguments and claims you present to support them. Your previous post implied that there was no real evidence for false memories but there are literally thousands of papers on that topic, which implies you are not investigating issues as deeply or as critically as you imagine but rather relying on low quality pro-NDE sources. And indeed, your link drop illustrates this quite clearly. You are welcome to your views and to your afterlife beliefs but you shouldn’t expect others, especially researchers, to find such poor evidence compelling,

    Like

  28. Chris, regarding 1, I saw that, and it was not my intention and I had no idea it would happen. Thanks for correcting it.

    Having researched this stuff for close to a decade now, I only provide a link when it’s actually relevant to what I’m talking about. Granted, I could have gone with a lot less of them. However. I’m just posting the links that I know I myself would want to see if I was deeply interested in this subject and wanted to research it and be intrigued further, and which I therefore assume any other person deeply interested in this subject would also appreciate.

    Regarding 2, just no. The fact that you use the word ‘anti-science’ in that manner just displays your inherent bias, and I’m fearful that you might be what they discuss here:

    http://www.debunkingskeptics.com/selective.php

    Please don’t be.

    “Your previous post implied that there was no real evidence for false memories but there are literally thousands of papers on that topic”

    I never argued that false memories doesn’t exist, only that the memories associated with NDEs are demonstrably not false in the vast majority of cases. The definition of a false memory, according to Google, is “an apparent recollection of an event which did not actually occur” – but when you remember something which did occur, it’s a lot harder to use that term.

    Additionally, if you had done your homework on how memories work during NDEs, you’d know that they do not at all operate like they do during ordinary cognition. That was the landmark finding of this paper: http://profezie3m.altervista.org/archivio/TheLancet_NDE.htm

    “And indeed, your link drop illustrates this quite clearly.”

    Not at all. Most links had nothing to do with evidence, I only wanted to paint a picture to the person I responded to (and the lurkers) what the afterlife implies, and all the other phenomena besides NDEs which relate to that. Other than that, I only provided one essay and mentioned the trilogy of books which best summarizes all of the best evidence in favor of survival. I’m well aware of the fact that particular NDE testimonies mean nothing to you, because you approach this issue from a completely different mindset. But someone who is willing to at least temporarily look past the issue of the quality of the evidence, intrigued by what it might mean if there really is evidence, might find them very rewarding.

    Additionally, there’s another thing to keep in mind. I’ve been a lot in debates, and whenever someone sees that I’m linking a YT-video, they see red flags. I can’t relate to that at all, because I never care about the presentation, but only what it contains. I.e., the manner in which the information is being presented is irrelevant to me, because I only care about the quality of the content. And I firmly assert that any rational being should reason likewise.

    Like

  29. Sabio> thanks for the kind words!

    I appreciate your response Hjorton and as you correctly infer linking to a load of YT videos is a red flag, so I may not have been particularly charitable in my previous reply. More often than not, when people begin linking to a load of YT videos they are just providing largely pre-packaged responses and not particularly interested in engaging with any responses. You don’t seem to be following this route so, as I said, feel free to link if you think its necessary, but preferably with the url breaks.

    I used the term anti-science in my previous reply with a little hesitation but intentionally. 9-11 truthers and climate change denialists are anti-science, they claim to respect the scientific method but in fact they abuse it, primarily by admitting evidence based on their ideological biases. NDE advocates often veer close to this, in my experience, but to be clear, I am not suggesting that researching NDEs is inherently anti-science. Although, I do think some of the arguments of NDE advocates follow anti-science narratives.

    Your argument that NDE memories are not vulnerable to the influences that effect every other kind of memory is a clear demonstration of special pleading and has no empirical support. The Van Pommel study you link to provides no compelling evidence of enhanced recall aside from individual’s self-perception of accuracy and, indeed, no indication that the factors which can generate false memories were controlled for, or considered relevant. Similarly, your claim that the vast majority of NDEs (and presumably OBEs) are “demonstrably not false [memories]” is also an entirely subjective judgment based on your assessment that the anecdotal reports of these experiences and interviews conducted by advocates are compelling, but such cases, as with the Van Pommel study, inevitably tend to ignore or dismiss other potential confounding sources. All the objective attempts to prove that patients can observe the room, as claimed in many OBEs, have failed and thus, we are left with the subjective accounts which are, regardless of your claims, inevitably susceptible to the biases that all subjective reporting and assessment is.

    To conclude, I would re-emphasize this section of the quote from Loftus:
    “When these sorts of distortions occur, people are sometimes confident in their distorted or false memories, and often go on to describe the pseudomemories in substantial detail.”

    EDIT: Oh and in regards the charge of selective skepticism. I already linked you to a recent article in which I apply the same kind of criticism to a study from my own field of research, which produced a finding, religious children are more credulous than atheist children, that I should endorse if I’m motivated by personal bias. If you look back over the site you will find me criticising studies that over emphasised the dangers of acupuncture, despite not believing it to be a valid treatment, and so on. I think you are finding my skepticism to be ‘selective’ purely because I don’t agree with your assessment of the evidence of NDEs but actually, it’s not that I am unaware of the accounts or haven’t been exposed to Chris Carter’s work, it’s that I judge the kind of evidence offered, which you find irrefutable, to be entirely lacking. This is the reason that the claims of NDE researchers remain far outside of mainstream science, its not the oft invoked materialist bias, but the inability to recognise the severe limitations of the evidence presented. If you need to claim, for example, that your specific topic of interest, requires first accepting that the accounts are entirely immune to the distortions of memory which influence all other memories, you are not likely to convince many unbiased researchers.

    Like

  30. Chris,

    ” His claim that the evidence is very strong for an independent consciousness and your comparison of the evidence for life after death with the evidence for the existence of Neptune, show a fundamental misinterpretation of the existing research literature.”

    _Not at all._ That’s the thing you are completely missing, that the evidence really is that solid. The only problem is that you’re not aware of it. Indeed, most if not all people reading this page and listening to you are not aware of it. Even Keith Augustine, when he wrote this extensive analysis on NDEs – http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html – was far from aware of all of it, and has subsequently admitted as much. _And that was just NDEs!_ The literature is vast and varied and comes from many different phenomena, and that’s why I recommend things like Carter’s trilogy or books like Irreducible Mind, to get an actual perspective on how much solid evidence there _really_ is.

    The only reason this is even being debated and contested is because contemporary society don’t want to see this issue as evidential. If you read Grossmans article “Who’s Afraid of Life After Death?”, you’d see why that is. There are a lot of irrational, non-scientific reasons why this research is being ignored, ridiculed and marginalized, and they have nothing to do with the lack of good data.

    “To take a single example”

    Don’t pretend that this example applies generally to all the things you wrote, because that’s not a single example, that’s the best example by far of all the probabilistic proposals that I highlighted. I thought about not including it because I actually agree that it’s common knowledge that defibrillators can be used during CPR, but did so to give you a more total view of how you went on and on with that probabilistic and empty rhetoric. However, as an aside, it’s not common knowledge that defibrillators are used for certain, or how they make noices the way they do as he reported it.

    “The fact that you are skeptical of memory contamination betrays a fundamental bias in your approach, as do your claims that people have NDEs provide accounts which are accurate 96% of the time. This is simply an invented statistic and one which the results of this study alone would draw into serious question.”

    Not at all: h ttp://www.amazon.com/Evidence-Afterlife-Science-Near-Death-Experiences/dp/0061452572/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413252792&sr=8-1&keywords=evidence+of+the+afterlife

    Additionally, have you already forgot to investigate those Michael Sabom findings I’ve alluded to? And what about this study would draw those previous findings into question?

    “Your interpretation of my position as being unreasonably critical is an indication that you are unfamiliar with the level of criticism typical of most academic fields.”

    Not at all, because I explicitly stated what your error in reasoning was, and showed with examples how it applied in what you had written. Again, there’s a difference between scientific and philosophical skepticism, and what you have applied is not always the former. I don’t have a problem with the _fact_ that you are critical, only the _manner_ in which that criticism materializes, because it is, at least in the Parnia study, demonstrably fallacious.

    “nor do I think is society (look at the breathless write ups in the popular press)”

    There’s a huge difference between the Opera Winfreys of this world and academia. NDEs are embraced by Opera Winfrey, women’s magazines and Spirituality organization X, Y and Z, but ridiculed by religion and science. As Grossman puts it,

    “One conclusion I have come to over the years is that both the atheist and the believer, from the fundamaterialist to the fundamentalist, share something in common. In fact, from an epistemological perspective, what they have in common is much more significant than what they disagree about. What they agree about is this: beliefs pertaining to the possible existence of a transcendent reality – God, soul, afterlife, and so on – are based on faith, not fact. If this is true, then there can be no factual evidence that pertains to such beliefs. This metabelief – that beliefs about a transcendent reality cannot be empirically based – is so deeply entrenched in our culture that it has the status of a taboo. The taboo is very democratic in that it allows everyone to believe whatever he or she wants to believe about such matters. This allows fundamaterialists to feel comfortable in their conviction that reason is on their side, that there is no afterlife, and that those who believe otherwise have fallen prey to the forces of irrationality and wishful thinking. But it also allows fundamentalists to feel comfortable in their conviction that they have God on their side, and that those who believe otherwise have fallen prey to the forces of evil. Thus, although the fundamentalist and the fundamaterialist are on opposite extremes of the spectrum of possible attitudes towards an afterlife, their extreme positions unite them as strange bedfellows in their battles against the possibility that there are matters of fact about the afterlife that empirical research might discover. The very suggestion that empirical research might be relevant to beliefs pertaining to a transcendent reality – that such beliefs are subject to empirical constraint – runs strongly against this taboo, and is hence very threatening to most elements of our culture.”

    “I would be very happy to find out that there is life after death.”

    As was I. But it wasn’t the reason I became convinced, as I was convinced by the quality of the evidence, and not my desire for it to be true.

    There’s also the reverse that is true and worth taking into consideration: Just because you want something to be true, doesn’t mean it has to be false. Skepticism always have to run in both directions, and what you want to be the case is completely irrelevant. I want NDEs to be true, and they are. I don’t want 25000 children to die daily of starvation, but they do, and I can’t ignore that just because it’s an unpleasant fact.

    “The opposite seems to be the case in the NDE research literature unfortunately…”

    Critiquing Parnia’s study with erroneous arguments is not a good way to summarize an entire field of research, however.

    Like

  31. Chris,

    “9-11 truthers and climate change denialists are anti-science”

    I can’t speak about AGW, because I haven’t researched that at all, nor do I care. I’m inclined to believe in the official position on it, but at the same time, I hate the behavior of its proponents. This, what you’re doing here, is no different. Calling dissenters “deniers” is extremely ridiculous and outright childish, as it displays an emotional need to be perceived as correct. Like you have some deep grudge with those who wish to explore alternative hypotheses. If you know you are right it shouldn’t bother you that other people doubt it, just like it doesn’t bother me when people like you doubt NDE research, because the truth will be known in time.

    Additionally, when it comes to AGW, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s true or not, because many if not all of the solutions to combat it should be employed anyway. Cut down pollution and fossil fuel usage? Well, no one has to believe in AGW to see the merits of doing that, if they take a long term perspective on life on this planet.

    When it comes to 9/11, however, I have researched that, admittedly to a very limited degree. But when you say it’s “anti-science” because “they claim to respect the scientific method but in fact they abuse it, primarily by admitting evidence based on their ideological biases”, I just have to laugh. Do you think you have zero ideological bias yourself on the issue? Would it not bother you and frustrate your worldview if you came to the conclusion that it was, in fact, an inside job? Because a lot of psychologists wish to emphasize that that is not such an easy cognitive dissonance to overcome.

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ju5gV8wAbpM

    Additionally, the best way to approach 9/11 is not even from a scientific perspective, because first and foremost, it was a political event, and those matter in the present. So what if it was an inside job if it takes 40 year for the scientists to firmly arrive at that conclusion, most people involved in it will be dead by then anyway, and the effects it had on world events has already transpired long ago. And we already have many false flag attacks clearly documented and admitted to being as such in the recent history books, which were carried out for the exact same reasons that 9/11 benefited those in power.

    I’m never going to understand all the relevant science surrounding 9/11, nor is the vast majority of people, whether they believe in the official version or not. It simply requires too much specific knowledge in too many fields. We have to make up our minds on our own based on common sense. This applies to me and to you. And given the reality is that many scientists and professionals who are looking into it are changing their minds on the issue, I wouldn’t be so hasty to jump to conclusions. See for instance Architects and Engineers for 9/11 truth.

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yuC_4mGTs98 🙂

    I don’t have a strong opinion on 9/11 though, as I don’t think it really matters either. But I think it’s ridiculous how people are dismissing the possibility that it was an inside job in the manner they’re doing it. Given the controversial nature of the subject, who is going to fund research into whether it was an inside job or not? Obviously state-funded universities cannot, and it wouldn’t be profitable to do so for any corporation either. Anyway, I’m not interested in going down that tangent, but your language does betray you as unreasonable and passionate on the issue.

    “I am not suggesting that researching NDEs is inherently anti-science. Although, I do think some of the arguments of NDE advocates follow anti-science narratives.”

    Such as?

    “The Van Pommel study you link to provides no compelling evidence of enhanced recall aside from individual’s self-perception of accuracy”

    False. Did you not read the article? NDErs gave the same testimony right after the event, 2 years later and 8 years later. When we remember other things, we tend to change our story over time, as our memory of it gets fussy. Not so with NDEs. If we’re going to have this discussion, you’re going to have to follow the actual data.

    “your claim that the vast majority of NDEs (and presumably OBEs) are “demonstrably not false [memories]””

    As an aside, OBEs during non-NDE like states of mind are not the same type of OBEs often encountered in NDEs.

    “is also an entirely subjective judgment based on your assessment that the anecdotal reports of these experiences and interviews conducted by advocates are compelling”

    For the third time you are COMPLETELY ignoring the Michael Sabom findings I’ve cited. So I’m beginning to think you’re not interested in the truth or evolving your thinking on this issue at all.

    “inevitably tend to ignore or dismiss other potential confounding sources.”

    Such as?

    “All the objective attempts to prove that patients can observe the room, as claimed in many OBEs, have failed”

    _Sigh._ Come on man, stop regurgitating this when it’s already been demonstrated to you that it’s just not true. They are correctly observing their surroundings all the time, and every objective attempt to verify this have been successful when OBEs have involved during the NDEs, including this study by Parnia. He only had 2 good OBEs during NDEs to work with, but it was still a clear hit.

    ““When these sorts of distortions occur, people are sometimes confident in their distorted or false memories, and often go on to describe the pseudomemories in substantial detail.””

    And when they tell these stories, they are corroborated as true by the nurses, doctors and relatives present. Hence not false memories. QED. Why is it so hard to understand that NDEs can’t be false memories as they consistently recall things which actually is verified to have occurred by the other people present? In fact, you don’t even have to believe that they gained that information through non-materialistic means. Even if you assume that they magically heard it when their brains were shut down and reconstructed it perfectly afterward, they’re _still_ not false memories, by definition.

    “Oh and in regards the charge of selective skepticism. I already linked you to a recent article in which I apply the same kind of criticism to a study from my own field of research”

    No, it was not the same type of skepticism at all. I didn’t see you run a list of logical possibilities. If you did, please cite it.

    Also, the logic that “I am reasonably skeptical of some things. Therefore, when I am skeptical of other things, I am by default equally reasonable in my skepticism of the other things!” isn’t very solid.

    “which produced a finding, religious children are more credulous than atheist children, that I should endorse if I’m motivated by personal bias.”

    Why should you be motivated to endorse that? What do you possibly have to gain? To try and make the point that people become religious because they are stupid when they’re children? What would even the most extreme atheist have to gain from that conclusion?

    It’s quite ultra-obvious that children become religious because it’s forced on them by their surrounding, and not because they’re more gullible than the average kid. I mean I live in Sweden, and children are still stupid and gullible about a lot of things even when religion plays no role in their lives whatsoever.

    ” I think you are finding my skepticism to be ‘selective’ purely because I don’t agree with your assessment of the evidence of NDEs but actually”

    The fact that you take a balanced approach to mundane topics doesn’t mean it makes you qualified to comment on more controversial issues. You still used the kind of rhetoric typical of pseudo-skeptics, whether you are one or not. And that’s why I raised that possibility. I didn’t accuse you of it, I was fearful that you might be one.

    “it’s not that I am unaware of the accounts or haven’t been exposed to Chris Carter’s work”

    So you’re saying that you’ve actually read it? Sounds like a complete bluff to me, but alright, I’ll bite. Have a critical review lying around of where he goes wrong in his reasoning? 🙂

    “I judge the kind of evidence offered, which you find irrefutable, to be entirely lacking”

    And yet you (1) are not even aware of the basics of it, and (2) use fallacious arguments in your attempt to demonstrate that it’s “entirely lacking”.

    “This is the reason that the claims of NDE researchers remain far outside of mainstream science, its not the oft invoked materialist bias, but the inability to recognise the severe limitations of the evidence presented.”

    But there is no limitations to the evidence presented, and you haven’t argued that there is successfully either, because you are not even aware of it, and the little you are aware of you’ve used ancient fallacies to try to refute. This is why I mentioned the whole Keith Augustine disaster which went down in the JNDS. He too has said what you’re saying here – that he thinks that most people dismiss NDEs because they don’t think the data is any good. But _when not even he is aware of the totality of it_, despite having researched it for hundreds of hours and written such a long paper on it, how do you expect the average scientist to be aware of the data?

    They’re not. And they consequently dismiss the NDE phenomenon due to their materialistic bias.

    “If you need to claim, for example, that your specific topic of interest, requires first accepting that the accounts are entirely immune to the distortions of memory which influence all other memories, you are not likely to convince many unbiased researchers.”

    Which is why I sourced that claim with the Lancet study.

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  32. Hjorton> Denialist is an appropriate term for people who refuse to acknowledge when there is a massive imbalance in the weight of evidence against their position. Those who deny the existence of human caused climate change, the evidence of evolution or promote 911 conspiracy theories all fit such a category. As to why such positions should be challenged if they are wrong… well, the answer is in the question. Advocates of these positions promote emotionally appealing but scientifically or logically empty arguments and can have an impact on society and government policies. Your claim that AGW arguments do not have any impact on the kinds of policies that are implemented is ridiculous, take a look here for a specific illustration: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPgZfhnCAdI.

    As far as 911 goes, no it wouldn’t damage my worldview if it was an inside job, I’d be surprised but I’m hardly a card carrying supporter of the US government or George Bush’s presidency. The reason I don’t believe it is because of the poor standard of evidence presented by the 911 truthers, it is superficially appealing but as with intelligent design it doesn’t hold up to any reasonable level of critical scrutiny. As regards to who will do research into the disaster, a very quick google would have alerted you to the fact that there was 1) a large independent bipartisan commission set up to investigate the disaster and 2) a multi million dollar investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to explore the cause of the collapse. These are just two of the biggest investigations, there are many more, and overwhelmingly they find no support for the conspiracy theory claims of controlled demolitions and hidden explosives. Wikipedia helpfully provides a good starting point for identifying relevant studies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collapse_of_the_World_Trade_Center#Investigations

    The Architects and Engineers for 911 truth you reference are conspiracy advocates, some of whom have relevant expertise, but their opinions do not trump the overwhelming consensus of experts who have investigated the matter. Your citation of them is akin to citing a list of scientists who advocate intelligent design as proof that it is a valid scientific theory.

    Getting back to the NDE stuff…

    I did read Van Pommel’s study, and it doesn’t show what you claim, Van Pommel reports that “all patients were able to retell their experience almost exactly” but provides no empirical measure of this assessment, nor does he indicate any comparison with the control group. He reports instead the changes in their answers to the life change inventory questionnaire. In the discussion section he remarks that it is ‘remarkable’ how well people can remember NDEs but again, no measure, this is his subjective impression and, from my perspective, it’s not that remarkable that people who had a NDE would mark it as a significant event, worth remembering. This study thus offers no empirical support for your claims that NDE are uniquely immune to the distortions of memory which influence all other memories and again indicates the low standard of research you are using to support wide ranging claims.

    “you are COMPLETELY ignoring the Michael Sabom findings I’ve cited.”
    – We are discussing Parnia’s research primarily but Sabom’s findings suffer from exactly the same problems i.e. the objective hits rely on subjective judgements based on interviews and could be gained through other more mundane means.

    “And when they tell these stories, they are corroborated as true by the nurses, doctors and relatives present.” Hence not false memories… Even if you assume that they magically heard it when their brains were shut down and reconstructed it perfectly afterward, they’re _still_ not false memories, by definition.”
    – This will be hard for you to accept but everyone suffers from cognitive biases including confirmation bias and interference with recall. There are cases where individuals recall information that is confirmed by other people, I’m not disputing that, I’m disputing that the individuals self report of how they learned such information is not objectively true. Decades of memory research show that people’s memories are entirely fallible and someone having a fervent belief is not a suitable criteria to judge if their recollection is accurate. This is why it is crucial, if we want to claim that people are having real OBEs, that we have some OBJECTIVE measure, like the pictures, which have yet to produce any significant finding. You consistently judge self reports and interviews conducted by heavily invested researchers as objective evidence, this shows a fundamental lack of understanding about research and a clear ideological bias that prevents you from acknowledging the subjective quality of the evidence you promote.

    As far as my mentioning of my previous posts, that is because you clearly suggested I am applying unfair standards to this specific topic. I’m not, my standards are pretty consistent, it’s just that in this case they are criticising research that you are heavily invested in and so you would prefer to dismiss the arguments as due to my bias rather than them being due to the low quality of the evidence offered.

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  33. I just tracked back and I’m not starting up again, Chris but ….you said

    ” This will be hard for you to accept but everyone suffers from cognitive biases including confirmation bias and interference with recall.”

    I would stake my house and all my possessions on at least ONE of Sabom’s patients actually having experienced a real OBE ( separation of mind and brain )

    Is it likely that that every single veridical OBE in the literature (and there are hundreds) including the one below really didn’t happen like they said it did ?

    This case was corroborated by Dr Lloyd Rudy’s assistant, Dr Cattaneo. I know, I know what you are probably going to say but if you really think that some kind of contamination or bias is responsible for the report, I say that’s getting silly, Chris. Don’t sacrifice common sense for the sake of trying to resist something interesting, just because it clashes with your text books .

    Something very perplexing is going on here, and no amount of French and Blackmore shenanigans is going to explain it. Once again best wishes

    Like

  34. Is it likely that that every single veridical OBE in the literature (and there are hundreds) including the one below really didn’t happen like they said it did ?

    There are hundreds of ghost stories in the literature, is it likely at least one didn’t happen like they said it did?

    Or put alien sightings or Yeti spottings or some such thing in the sentence and the answer comes out the same, no?

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Hjortron,

    I am not convinced by Chris Carter’s books. They are filled with errors. Admittedly similar to yourself I was impressed by the content in his books at first, but this is because I didn’t double check out what he was writing. After I did this and if you track down the skeptical literature you see that what he writes is either completely wrong or he ignores various facts etc that go against his paranormal beliefs. Leonora Piper is just one example. Carter thinks she communicated with spirits but he doesn’t cite any of the negative evidence against her. He does the same with all the other mediums like Gladys Osborne Leonard he thinks are genuine.

    And yes I lost respect for Chris Carter after he publicly debated me on the amazon forums on mediumship. Firstly he claimed to me Helen Duncan was a genuine medium… just NO! NO NO NO… just Google her name and you will see silly photographs of her with “spirits” made from toy dolls etc or rolled up cheesecloth.

    I spent a whole day showing Carter evidence of Leonora Piper’s mistakes or tricks in the séance room etc and he ignored every reference I gave him and his reply was to me he isn’t reading it because it was written by “atheists”… It also turns out Carter is a proponent of intelligent design etc. He is anti-science.

    Benjamin Radford wrote for review for Carter’s book

    http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/the_house_of_skeptics_serves_psi_and_crow

    In his book “Science & Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics”, Carter claims the CSI have only ever conducted one investigation in the paranormal… this is a nutty claim and one that is also offensive considering skeptics like Joe Nickell involved in the CSI have spent most of their lives investigating alleged paranormal cases. Carter’s claim can easily be disproven as Radford points out:

    “What’s wrong here? Well, Carter’s claim that CSI has conducted only one investigation in the past and does not presently conduct investigations is simply incorrect. It’s an astoundingly ill-informed claim to make, since virtually every issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the official journal of CSI, contains investigations conducted by CSI fellows, members, and affiliates. Don’t take my word for it: anyone walking into a library or bookstore (or searching online) can immediately see that Carter is wrong.”

    I am not pasting in all of Radford’s comments but you get the general idea, you can read it for yourself. Carter’s porkies stack up and up. He is a deliberate liar.

    As for “”Science & Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics” there are errors all over the place and deliberate suppression of skeptical sources. In the beginning of the book, Carter discusses the medium Henry Slade citing “favourable” evidence, but what about all the times Slade was caught in fraud? Not to be mentioned anywhere in the book. Carter does this over and over, he thinks J. B. Rhine’s experiments etc were good evidence for psi… they were not, they have been discredited in the skeptical literature etc. You can find this information a click away on the internet but it’s nowhere to be found in Carter’s book. In short it’s crackpottery and a waste of time to cite this as evidence for the paranormal. And no I do not slag off all parapsychologists… some have done some respectable research but Carter is not one of them. He gives the field a bad name.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. TIm,

    I am going to say that “everyone suffers from cognitive biases including confirmation bias and interference with recall”. It doesn’t stop being applicable the more convinced that the people involved are or whether they are professionals.

    Subjective accounts are to prone to these kind of subjective biases and potential contamination. The solution is to have more objective measures… but none of the objective measures have found any results.

    Like

  37. Thanks, Chris. We’ll just to disagree All the best..

    @midnight runner. Jason Braithwaite has a degree in psychology.

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  38. Hi Tim,

    Yes Dr Jason Braithwaite does have a degree in psychology… and he also has a phd in neuroscience 🙂

    Lancaster University: Psychology BSc (Hons)
    Birmingham University: PhD Cognitive Psychology/Neuroscience

    http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/psychology/people/profile.aspx?ReferenceId=10616

    And his paper I listed above refutes the spiritual interpretation of the NDE which is pseudoscience. It is pseudoscience because it is advocating assumptions and non-falsifiable claims. As Braithwaite points out:

    “There is a further conundrum for the survivalist: in order for any experience to be remembered (assuming some form of perceptual experience occurred) memory must have encoded and represented the experience in the first place. Applied to the NDE, this means that there must have been sufficient neural activity to encode the experience, to represent the experience, and to store the experience (even a glimpse of an afterlife would require this). As far as current science is concerned, it is not at all clear how a memory of an experience can occur without the use of memory itself. The very fact that these experiences were ‘remembered’ in the first place suggests that memory itself was functioning and encoding at the time of the experience (meaning there was neural activity in those brain regions during the experience – which may indeed have been responsible for the experience).”

    “This is the crucial logical fallacy of this whole field of research: how can one memorise an event in the absence of a working and functioning memory system? If, as the survivalists claim, the brain is dead then surely, so is memory. If memory is dead, then how can individuals remember anything – even if the original experience was mystical? The only way around this for the survivalist is to add some more untested assumptions and degrees of freedom that are tailored to allow for some paranormal mechanism in the first place. However, this again is a folly. Firstly, it violates the principles of Occam’s razor by adding assumptions that are clearly unjustified. Secondly, it begs the question: assuming to be true that which it seeks to argue is true in the first place. It thus represents a hopeless case of circular reasoning. The survivalists can only make their arguments work here by assuming further untested, supernatural ideas to be true. This is a serious error of reasoning, and one that undermines the argument to the level of uselessness.”

    You can’t get memory without a brain!! No experiment has ever demonstrated this. These survivalist proponents of the NDE make no sense in what they are claiming. So how do they explain the subject remembers their NDE whilst the brain is completely dead? How can someone remember without memory?? Lol! What some magical soul pops into existence automatically with memory does it? This is just more un-testable assumptions. Everything the survivalist interpretation says is in violation to Occam’s Razor. It is magical thinking and anti-science. It contradicts everything neuroscience says.

    And regarding the Lommel there was another flaw:

    “Finally, a further logical problem is that it is not at all clear how an afterlife hypothesis actually explains the 18% rate of NDE. Surely, if an afterlife existence were real, all those in a position to glimpse it would do so? In other words, if the afterlife existed in some real sense, the real question is why did only 18% glimpse it? Indeed, is it not more of a problem for the afterlife hypothesis that only 18% have reported such experiences? Van Lommel et al. say nothing about this and as such no viable survivalist case was ever made for why only 18% of patients reported NDEs. At the very least, this seems to be an opportunity lost by the authors.”

    Proponents of the spiritual/survivalist interpretation of the NDE just ignore this. They have no answers. And no I am not biased against this subject. I have suffered from depression for many years, I want there to be an afterlife. I hope there is one but we can’t lie and say these NDEs have proven an afterlife when they have not.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Hi, again, thanks for the reply …..I shouldn’t he here you know, this really must be my last post 🙂

    You said Jason was a neurologist. No, a neurologist is a physician, a medical doctor whereas Jason cannot set up in practice to treat patients.

    His additional qualification is from a relatively new branch of psychology a sort of theoretical study of neural correlates etc but he is a psychologist first and foremost.

    ” There is a further conundrum for the survivalist: in order for any experience to be remembered (assuming some form of perceptual experience occurred) memory must have encoded and represented the experience in the first place. Applied to the NDE, this means that there must have been sufficient neural activity to encode the experience, to represent the experience, and to store the experience (even a glimpse of an afterlife would require this) .”

    But this is exactly the point and the reason why doctors are studying NDE’s in ever greater numbers. Jason is saying there MUST have been sufficient neural activity to account for the memory formation etc because he is not allowed to postulate that consciousness can exist outside of the brain, it’s heresy, hence his determined rebuttals etc. I get that…..

    The point is …we have evidence now that says memory is being stored outside of the brain (veridical OBE’s during cardiac arrest) There are too many of these cases for it to be waved away now. I’m not saying there is proof yet, that is different and will take many years to get, if ever, but I believe with enough funding for a big enough study, it will come.

    I’m sorry to hear about your struggle with depression, I also suffered with this for years and it is hard to cope with. I subsequently discovered how common it is and getting more so. What I found is helpful is to NOT dwell on things that get you down. (easier said than done) I was always taking the weight of the world on my shoulders and it didn’t do me any good. That’s not why I believe in survival though, I wasn’t rescued by reading nice little tour guide accounts of heaven…in fact I don’t like those particularly, I just stick to the veridical reports of patients in medical facilities.

    I don’t have any doubt that something, call it whatever you care to, exits the brain/body and goes back to where it came from. But of course I understand this is very difficult to accept for most people, it just doesn’t seem possible but having read thousands of reports (hundreds of them credible ) I can’t find a better explanation, honestly. All the best

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  40. According to the study of Dr. Parnia and other DNE researchers, there are people who experienced a feeling of joy, peace or pleasantness and others who experienced negative feelings/events. From a believer perspective, that could mean going either to heaven or to hell. However, once I was hospitalized and during a critical moment for my health I had a very intense lucid dream and I experienced both (good and bad) feelings in my trip. Despite I was not dying, I felt a an almost imminent feeling of death.

    Thus, I would dare say that my lucid dream was such a kind of NDE. First, I was in heaven and then I went to hell. It would be interesting to hear such recollection from people who had NDEs. May be that at the beginning one could experience an heavenly environment, but during the dying process a bad trip could even occur.

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  41. “The point is …we have evidence now that says memory is being stored outside of the brain (veridical OBE’s during cardiac arrest) There are too many of these cases for it to be waved away now.”

    This is just magical thinking and unfounded assumption. The OBE has a neurological explanation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Out-of-body_experience

    And those “veridical” OBEs you talk have not been cross-examined, they come from unreliable psychic/parapsychology or spiritualist books. How do we know all possible naturalistic explanations were ruled out? We don’t. None of those have ever been replicated in scientific conditions. They are not evidence for the paranormal. If the OBE really was evidence for memory out of the brain then the whole of the scientific community would be on board, but no such thing has happened. They can replicate the OBE by brain stimulation. There is no suppression, no conspiracy to cover up alleged “paranormal” results. The evidence just doesn’t exist.

    Like

  42. A lot of replies have occurred since I last visited. Oh well, time to get back into the game! 😉

    “Denialist is an appropriate term for people who refuse to acknowledge when there is a massive imbalance in the weight of evidence against their position.”

    So you’re a survivalist denialist?

    “As far as 911 goes, no it wouldn’t damage my worldview if it was an inside job, I’d be surprised but I’m hardly a card carrying supporter of the US government or George Bush’s presidency.”

    You are *so* politically naive if you think that Bush himself was the mastermind of 9/11 or had anything whatsoever to do with its planning. I mean, embarrassingly naive.

    “The reason I don’t believe it is because of the poor standard of evidence presented by the 911 truthers”

    That’s not at all the reason, because you accepted the official version without any critical thinking whatsoever, just like everyone else did in the beginning. You’ve never been truly skeptical of it.

    “As regards to who will do research into the disaster, a very quick google would have alerted you to the fact that there was 1) a large independent bipartisan commission set up to investigate the disaster and”

    Didn’t you watch the video I linked?

    “2) a multi million dollar investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to explore the cause of the collapse.”

    Which was critiqued _extensively_!

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZEvA8BCoBw

    h ttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fmseAai4Is

    “The Architects and Engineers for 911 truth you reference are conspiracy advocates, some of whom have relevant expertise, but their opinions do not trump the overwhelming consensus of experts who have investigated the matter. Your citation of them is akin to citing a list of scientists who advocate intelligent design as proof that it is a valid scientific theory.”

    Of course they do, because they are putting their career on the line, whereas those who come to the official conclusions are risking nothing. Professionals don’t join AE911truth because they think it’s an inside job, they do it because they are certain of it and are passionate about spreading the truth as they see it.

    And what “overwhelming consensus of experts who have investigated the matter” are you actually referring to? 🙂 Most architects and engineers don’t really have a stated opinion on 9/11, so I’m just guessing you automagically assume that anyone who hasn’t joined AE911truth are disagreeing with them and support the official version.

    And comparing it to intelligent design shows how desperate you really are.

    Anyone with an ounce of common sense and no preconceived notions, when looking at the collapses of WTC 7, would instantly say it was a controlled demolition. No one would say “Finally! It had been burning on 2 floors for _hours_!” I mean that’s just beyond hilarious 😀

    “We are discussing Parnia’s research primarily but Sabom’s findings suffer from exactly the same problems”

    What are Sabom’s findings? Since you claim familiarity and have demonstrably bluffed regarding your knowledge of Carter’s work, I’m suspecting the same is true here.

    “Decades of memory research show that people’s memories are entirely fallible”

    Except NDE memories. That’s the point you’re not getting. They don’t work like memory at other times. I’m saying it again: NDE recollections are entirely true in at least 96% of all instances, and they _DON’T_ change over time as other memories do. Please acknowledge this fact. It may be hard to swallow your pride given that you’ve researched memory in all other areas of life for so long, but you can’t pretend to be objective unless you recognize that these do not operate that way.

    “like the pictures”

    What’s entertaining, however, is that your rant regarding logical possibilities as a critique of this study would have been exactly the same, even if they had correctly reported the pictures. Think about it. You’d still rant about the possibilities that some nurse had walked up a ladder, looked at them and then talked about them with their colleagues while the patient is lying there. Or you’d argue for the possibility that the patient climbed up a ladder themselves.

    You’ll never be satisfied, because your mind forgets how evidence works the moment you don’t want to accept a certain conclusion. I mean, proponents and skeptics alike agreed as AWARE launched, half a decade ago, that it was a reasonable protocol. And now the proponents got hits, and the new skeptics in the field are crying foul. As expected, but still very tiring.

    “a clear ideological bias”

    Says the guy who is lying about his awareness of the data and the arguments 😉 “I’ve read Carter and his arguments doesn’t impress me!!” “Oh yeah, what are they and how do they fail to stand up to scrutiny?” *Complete silence* 😉

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  43. Midnightrunner,

    “Leonora Piper is just one example. Carter thinks she communicated with spirits but he doesn’t cite any of the negative evidence against her. He does the same with all the other mediums like Gladys Osborne Leonard he thinks are genuine.”

    I’m not really an expert on mediumship. Care to elaborate what that negative evidence against those two mediums are, and why it cancels out the positive evidence gathered from them?

    “And yes I lost respect for Chris Carter after he publicly debated me on the amazon forums on mediumship. Firstly he claimed to me Helen Duncan was a genuine medium… just NO! NO NO NO… just Google her name and you will see silly photographs of her with “spirits” made from toy dolls etc or rolled up cheesecloth.”

    Where did he claim Helen Duncan was a genuine medium? He doesn’t mention her at all in his book on mediums. Have you got a link to this conversation between the two of you?

    “It also turns out Carter is a proponent of intelligent design etc.”

    Source?

    “http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/the_house_of_skeptics_serves_psi_and_crow”

    Priceless. I had to scroll down quite a bit before I encountered any actual attempts at refutation of anything, and the first implied critique is the one mentioning that Carter isn’t a physicist yet has written about it. So? Arguments are to be judged on how they are wrong, not on the person who’s making them. This is reason 101. I’d encourage any physicist to refute what Carter has written on the topic, since he is quoting actual quantum physicists left and right.

    Now, time for what you quoted and found most interesting in this article:

    “What’s wrong here? Well, Carter’s claim that CSI has conducted only one investigation in the past and does not presently conduct investigations is simply incorrect. It’s an astoundingly ill-informed claim to make, since virtually every issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the official journal of CSI, contains investigations conducted by CSI fellows, members, and affiliates. Don’t take my word for it: anyone walking into a library or bookstore (or searching online) can immediately see that Carter is wrong.”

    This is hilarious. He is treating their popular science articles as actual scientific studies! HAHAHAHAHAH 😀 Even the Wikipedia page on it is explicit about that fact. Their articles aren’t peer-reviewed, their articles are just the writings of people with a clearly pre-defined agenda. In essence: He is confusing journalism with science.

    Also, they’re defending James Randi’s challenge, but that is of course a joke: http://www.dailygrail.com/features/the-myth-of-james-randis-million-dollar-challenge

    No one takes that seriously, and the fact that they defend it makes me less eager to even continue reading this plea of nit-picking irrelevant details everywhere as if that somehow proves anything.

    He goes on about the Daryl Bem’s research, but what must be emphasized is how that is a small drop in the ocean of psi research, and does not at all drive home his point. Additionally, if his logic were true, you wouldn’t get two teams of researchers duplicating the study, you’d get _hundreds_.

    The reality is that this isn’t researched for reasons that are completely unrelated to the quality of the data.

    “In several places even Carter is forced to admit that the evidence for psychic powers is weak, stating for example that “the overall hit rate so far seem fairly consistent at around 33 percent, when 25 percent is expected by chance. This corresponds with a hit about every third session, when chance would predict one out of four. This may not seem very impressive…” (p. 103) and indeed it isn’t.”

    Hilarious 😀 Do you know how that sentence continues?

    This may not seem very impressive, but it may it may be instructive to compare these results with that of a major medical study that sought to determine whether aspirin can reduce the risk of a heart attack. The study was discontinued after six years, because it was already clear that taking aspirin reduced the risk, and it was considered unethical to keep this treatment away from the control group taking a placebo. The results of this study were publicized as a major medical breakthrough, but the size of the aspirin effect is quite small: Taking aspirin reduces the probability of a heart attack by only .8 percent. This is about ten times as small as the effect observed in the ganzfeld experiments.

    The fact that the size of the effect observed in the ganzfeld experiments is usually not large enough to be observed without the aid of statistics partly explains why the controversy has continued as long as it has. When effect sizes are small, large samples are required to provide the statistical power necessary to detect the effect. Thee aspirin study mentioned above was performed with over 22,000 participants. If it had been conducted with only 2,200 participants, the results would not have attained statistical significance.

    If the true hit rate in the ganzfeld studies were only 33 percent when 25 percent was expected by chance, then an experiment with thirty sessions (the average for the twenty-eight studies in the 1985 meta-analysis) has only about one chance in six of finding an effect significant at the 5 percent level. With fifty sessions, the chance rises to about on in three. One has top increase the sample size to one hundred sessions in order to reach the breakeven point, at which there is a 50/50 chance of finding a significant effect.

    Some skeptics seem to have a difficulty grasping the importance of sample size, or hperhaps they simply choose to ignore it. Statistician Jessica Utts emphasizes this point: “When dealing with a small to medium effect, it takes hundreds or sometimes thousands of trials to establish ‘statistical significance’.’ … Despite Professor Hyman’s continued protests about parapsychology lacking repeatability, i have never seen a skeptic attempt to perform an experiment with enough trials to even come close to ensuring success.”

    All in all, that review is a joke to anyone who has read Carter’s books. I’ll get back to what you wrote.

    “As for “”Science & Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics” there are errors all over the place and deliberate suppression of skeptical sources.”

    Such as?

    “In the beginning of the book, Carter discusses the medium Henry Slade citing “favourable” evidence, but what about all the times Slade was caught in fraud?”

    That’s not the point of that story, though. There’s such a thing as context, and the story of Henry Slade is only there to illustrate how these issues are being met.

    “Carter does this over and over, he thinks J. B. Rhine’s experiments etc were good evidence for psi… they were not, they have been discredited in the skeptical literature etc.”

    No they haven’t. They’ve been _mentioned_ in the skeptical literature, but what a lot of skeptics completely fail to grasp is that an attempt at refutation is not by necessity a valid refutation.

    “And no I do not slag off all parapsychologists… some have done some respectable research but Carter is not one of them. He gives the field a bad name.”

    And yet, everyone in the field praise him as being head and shoulders above everyone else.

    The fact that this useless review by Benjamin Radford was the best you could muster tells us everything about your level of critical thinking.

    Like

  44. “As Braithwaite points out:”

    “You can’t get memory without a brain!!”

    That’s exactly what you can, and it shows that YOU haven’t read Carter’s books at all, despite pretending to have done so. Thanks for wasting my time with the previous reply, because I thought you were actually serious.

    Braithwaite clearly haven’t read Carter’s “Science and the Near-Death Experience” either, because in it he spends entire chapter five demonstrating that we have no good evidence on which to infer that memories are even stored in the brain to begin with.

    One thing I _do_ agree with though is how van Lommel interpreted the 18% figure as evidence of survival. Most people, both proponents and skeptics, agree that this figure doesn’t mean anything and is yet to be explained no matter what the true cause of the NDE is assumed to be.

    Lunar55,

    “And those “veridical” OBEs you talk have not been cross-examined, they come from unreliable psychic/parapsychology or spiritualist books.”

    Huh?

    “How do we know all possible naturalistic explanations were ruled out? We don’t.”

    We don’t. It’s impossible to rule out all possible explanations. Oh, the sun rises in the morning? How do we know that the aliens aren’t dragging it around the planet with their space-ship? Technically, we don’t. That’s the point Grossman was making that I brought up with Chris.

    “None of those have ever been replicated in scientific conditions.”

    Numerous times. See for instance this: http://www.scientificexploration.org/journal/jse_12_3_cook.pdf

    ” If the OBE really was evidence for memory out of the brain then the whole of the scientific community would be on board, but no such thing has happened.”

    No, for these reasons: http://anti-matters.org/articles/8/public/8-8-1-PB.pdf

    “They can replicate the OBE by brain stimulation.”

    They can’t, but since you’re so confident: Source?

    Like

  45. “So you’re a survivalist denialist?”

    – If you think life after death has been ‘proven’ by the subjective interviews collected to date or that there is a general consensus amongst experts, this indicates how poor your standards of evidence are and how little you understand the concept of ‘scientific consensus’. A consensus of a minority fringe group of advocates doesn’t make something science… again, see intelligent design.

    “You are *so* politically naive if you think that Bush himself was the mastermind of 9/11 or had anything whatsoever to do with its planning. I mean, embarrassingly naive.”

    – Sigh… sorry I guess I should have said the illuminati or the NWO or how about just the industrial-military complex? Either way, I have no problem recognising genuine false flag operations can occur, the world trade center attack does not fit this category under any reasonable assessment of the evidence.

    “That’s not at all the reason, because you accepted the official version without any critical thinking whatsoever, just like everyone else did in the beginning. You’ve never been truly skeptical of it.”

    – To my shame I was initially impressed with 911 conspiracies when I encountered them in my teen years. Loose change had a compelling narrative and what about all the inconsistencies? The difference between you and me is that I then went on to critically look at the conspiracy claims and quickly came to realise that the claimed anomalies had been addressed and answered by independent researchers but the 911 truth community didn’t care. Of course you have youtube videos with people criticising the reports… that’s inevitable when you have a community heavily invested in believing in a conspiracy. What did you expect? That an independent review by experts would convince dedicated conspiracy theorists? Who is being naïve now?

    The simple fact is that there was a conspiracy theory on 911. It was a conspiracy planned for years by a group of extremists who executed an extremely risky plan that partly relied on people’s failure to anticipate the suicidal intentions of the hijackers. The desire to see some greater plan guided by a secretive all knowing hand that controls all world events is psychologically understandable, the world is complex and we like to have consistent and simple explanatory narratives.

    – Of course they do, because they are putting their career on the line, whereas those who come to the official conclusions are risking nothing. Professionals don’t join AE911truth because they think it’s an inside job, they do it because they are certain of it and are passionate about spreading the truth as they see it.

    lol, right. So the experts really know the truth but are just too afraid to publish it, nice way to address the dissonance, I suppose. Also, good to see the old forces of evil (experts who disagree are just self interested) vs. forces of good (conspiracy theorists are brave truth seekers) portrayal coming up. For the record I don’t think 911 truthers are bad people do I doubt their passion, I just doubt there critical thinking.

    And comparing it to intelligent design shows how desperate you really are.

    – Actually given your standards of evidence you should really look into intelligent design a bit more. You have all of the kind of things that you appear to find compelling:

    Here is a movie showing academia is conspiring to silence intelligent design researchers.

    Here is a list of scientific experts who ‘dissent from Darwin’:
    http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/

    Here is a list of peer reviewed papers, showing that those who claim that ID is not science:
    http://www.discovery.org/id/peer-review/

    Honestly I think you need to look into this ID business a bit deeper, it sounds like you are a convert in waiting!

    “What are Sabom’s findings? Since you claim familiarity and have demonstrably bluffed regarding your knowledge of Carter’s work, I’m suspecting the same is true here.”

    – Not providing you with a detailed book review upon request does not equate to having ‘demonstrably bluffed’. If you want to believe that I couldn’t possibly have read Carter’s work and not find it compelling that’s your choice. In reality I read one of his books after listening to a terrible interview on Skeptiko and wondering if there was a better quality of argument in his books, there isn’t. As for Sabom, he’s argued many things over his career as an advocate for NDEs as proof of an afterlife, the parallels I am drawing with Parnia is that his methodology relies primarily on interviews conducted post event and subjective assessments of their accuracy. I’m not going to summarise his individual papers and books for you… and you can take that as evidence of me not having any familiarity with his work if you like. It seems like it is inconceivable to you that people could be aware of the research and still be skeptical, but I assure you it is possible!

    “Except NDE memories. That’s the point you’re not getting. They don’t work like memory at other times. I’m saying it again: NDE recollections are entirely true in at least 96% of all instances, and they _DON’T_ change over time as other memories do. Please acknowledge this fact. It may be hard to swallow your pride given that you’ve researched memory in all other areas of life for so long, but you can’t pretend to be objective unless you recognize that these do not operate that way.”

    – You have no objective evidence for these claims. You just have subjective assessments by heavily invested researchers whose religious beliefs are often tied up in their views of NDEs. Your claims about NDE memories not being affected by interference or degradation is not an established fact no matter how often you assert it or what % you assign to their accuracy.

    “What’s entertaining, however, is that your rant regarding logical possibilities as a critique of this study would have been exactly the same, even if they had correctly reported the pictures. Think about it. You’d still rant about the possibilities that some nurse had walked up a ladder, looked at them and then talked about them with their colleagues while the patient is lying there. Or you’d argue for the possibility that the patient climbed up a ladder themselves.”

    – This is your main issue Hjorton, you think that being critical or asking for good study precautions is being unfair to researchers. You are correct that we would need to rule out alternative sources for the information being received, because that’s important when doing research, especially if your research is making very new and dramatic claims. If studies did show positive results then they would need to be replicated, including by groups that are not biased in favour of a positive outcome, for the findings to be compelling. They would however become more compelling the more high quality evidence was collected because that’s how science works!

    “You’ll never be satisfied, because your mind forgets how evidence works the moment you don’t want to accept a certain conclusion. I mean, proponents and skeptics alike agreed as AWARE launched, half a decade ago, that it was a reasonable protocol. And now the proponents got hits, and the new skeptics in the field are crying foul. As expected, but still very tiring.”

    – This is the height of irony. The study is negative, or at best has no relevant evidence, no one saw the pictures. This was the criteria that Dr. Parnia set years ago, not me, but after failing to find this evidence he instead focused on his subjective assessment of the accuracy of recall from an interview with a patient conducted a year later. You have demonstrated quite clearly in this thread the remarkably low standards of evidence and critical thinking that you apply and hence, it’s not surprising that you find the existing evidence so compelling.

    Like

  46. “They can replicate the OBE by brain stimulation.”

    Hjortron writes:

    They can’t, but since you’re so confident: Source?

    Uh pal sorry but are you trolling? Prof Blanke and his colleagues have replicated this for nearly 20 years now. They get groups of patients and stimulate the right temporal-parietal junction in their brain and the subjects reported experience an OBE.

    Blanke, O; Landis, T; Seeck, M. (2004). Out-of-body experience and autoscopy of neurological origin. Brain 127: 243-258.

    Blanke, O; Ortigue, S; Landis, T; Seeck, M. (2002). Stimulating illusory own-body peceptions. Nature 419: 269-270.

    Cheyne, J. A. & Girard, T. A. (2009). The body unbound: vestibular-motor hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. Cortex, 45, 201-215.

    Here’s what Robert L. Park writes in his book “Superstition”:

    “Dr. Olaf Blanke, a Swiss neurologist, reported in the journal Nature that mild electrical stimulation of a region in the brain called the angular gyrus induced out-of-body
    experiences in both patients.”

    A year after the brain stimulation experiments, Dr. Blanke found that the out-of-body experiences could be induced without brain stimulation or hallucinogenic drugs. The subject was
    fitted with display goggles that showed a video image of the person from a different perspective. The subject’s brain would buy into the illusion very quickly.

    The work of Dr. Blanke and others had no impact on the paranormal community, which continues to cite out-of-body experiences as proof that consciousness exists apart from the
    body.”

    So OBEs can be induced with and without brain stimulation by naturalistic methods, they are not evidence for anything paranormal. You even know deep down they are not but will just choose to believe anyway.

    As for Leonora Piper, she was a fraud:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonora_Piper

    Here’s what the psychologist Andrew Neher has written regarding Piper:

    “Leonore Piper lived in the United States around the turn of the century. Through her, a number of “spirits” related stories of persons and events concerning which Leonora Piper denied any knowledge. However, a number of incidents cast doubt on her ability to contact the dead. For example, she gained some degree of fame with a “spirit” revelation about the circumstances of the death of a man called Dean Connor. However, when the revelation was finally checked out, it turned out to be grossly unreliable. In another incident, the family of George Pellew-whose departed spirit supposedly conveyed much of the news of the “other world” to Leonore- was shown the information furnished by “Pellew” about himself; they judged it to be highly inaccurate. On another occasion, Leonore claimed to have contacted the spirit of Bessie Beals, who was a fictitious person invented on the spur of the moment by the psychologist G. Stanley Hall. Later in her life, Leonore Piper made the following statement: I cannot see but that it must have been an unconscious expression of my subliminal self… it seems to me that there is no evidence of sufficient scientific value to warrant acceptance of the spiritualist hypothesis.”

    Andrew Neher. (2011). Paranormal and Transcendental Experience: A Psychological Examination. Dover Publications. pp. 217-218

    Yet none of that negative evidence is cited by Chris Carter. Do you have any critical thinking faculties Hjortron? You don’t believe Piper was in communication with magical spirits like Carter do you?

    As for J. B. Rhine his experiments were never replicated (Carter fails to let his readers know this). Here is what the psychologist Joseph Jastrow wrote:

    “Rhine’s results fail to be confirmed. At Colgate University (40, 000 tests, 7 subjects), at Chicago (extensive series on 315 students), at Southern Methodist College (75, 000 tests), at Glasgow, Scotland (6, 650 tests), at London University (105, 000 tests), not a single individual was found who under rigidly conducted experiments could score above chance. At Stanford University it has been convincingly shown that the conditions favorable to the intrusion of subtle errors produce above-chance records which come down to chance when sources of error are eliminated.”

    Joseph Jastrow. (1938). ESP, House of Cards. The American Scholar. Vol. 8, No. 1. pp. 13-22

    In short, please stop wasting our time pal. If you read some of the skeptical literature you would realise your paranormal claims have been shot down, but proponents such as yourself and Carter deliberately ignore this data. Regards.

    Like

  47. “Numerous times. See for instance this”

    Bloody hell mate… really Hjortron?! The Journal of Scientific Exploration?? This is not a reliable journal.

    “Clinical community psychologist and professor of social psychology at the University of Connecticut, Seth Kalichman regards the journal as a publisher of pseudoscience, with the journal serving as a “major outlet for UFOology, paranormal activity, extrasensory powers, alien abductions etc”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journal_of_Scientific_Exploration

    The Journal of Scientific Exploration has also published papers claiming Bigfoot and Loch Ness Monster are real. You believe in them to?

    “How do we know all possible naturalistic explanations were ruled out? We don’t.”

    Ok then thanks for admitting this. Then why are you putting magical spirits in the gap?

    There are naturalistic explanations available for the data, yet you choose to go with magic? You do not understand Occam’s razor. You obviously have no science education at all but I am bored discussing this. If you wish to continue in believing fraudulent mediums like Leonora Piper communicated with spirits or a magical soul can float around undetected then you may as well believe in flying clowns, pink unicorns etc. Instead of reading spiritualist kooks like Chris Carter you should try reading some science pal. Take care 🙂

    Like

  48. The problem with studies like this is that the believers even when they are faced with a negative study they make up excuses. For example here Penny Sartori who did the same study years ago had also a excuse when it failed:

    “In my research eight patients reported an out of body type experience but none of them reported the hidden symbol. The reasons for this were the varying qualities of the OBEs reported.

    Some patients floated to locations opposite to where the symbols were situated. Some did not rise high enough out of their body and some were simply more concerned with what was going on with their body.

    There were two patients who reported an OBE where they were high enough and in the correct location to view the symbols but they were not looking on the top of the monitor. One of those patients remarked that if he knew before his OBE that there was a hidden symbol there he would have looked at it and told me what it was.

    Obviously, if patients report OBEs then if the actions of the staff present were reported then this could be verified by interviewing the staff present.

    However, all that being said it is still worth persevering with this research because I have also come across people who reported an OBE anecdotally (not patients in my hospital research). Some were able to ‘float’ around the room at will – one lady was a nurse and she was looking at her cardiac monitor. There are also similar reports in the literature.

    So the most important point I realised having conducted this research was that OBEs are of varying qualities and quite rare. It was incredibly hard work to undertake the research project. In the five years of my research there were only two OBEs that were of sufficient quality to actually view the symbol. During those five years approximately 7000 patients were admitted to ITU. Hence to accumulate convincing results will take a very long time, many thousands of patients and a lot of patience from the researchers.

    So when the results are considered at surface value it may be wrongly assumed that the OBE veridicality research is producing negative results when in fact it is not – it is simply far too early to yield good quality OBEs in sufficient quantities. I predict it could take at least 20 years of continuous research to get any satisfying results. All results from the AWARE study will contribute greatly to our understanding of consciousness.”

    Source: http://drpennysartori.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/obe-veridicality-research/

    The same can be applied here. Believers no matter what will claim that the person did not rise high enough, was not in the room etc when dealing with OBEs in NDEs.. These studies have been done for years but no real evidence of survival just believe and bias. For more info look here:

    http://infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html#experiments

    However science is making progress. There is already evidence that beyond a flat EEG is brain activity:

    “Researchers have found brain activity beyond a flat line EEG, which they have called Nu-complexes (from the Greek letter n).”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918180246.htm

    Or that after cardiac arrest there is brain activity:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-23672150

    This was found also in humans: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jpm.2009.0159

    Interesting the surge I think its the BIS spike remains active for few minutes(in the full pdf.). So it can be that Parnia’s patient had a active brain just for few minutes during the surge and nothing more but this is just speculation:

    “The BIS spikes last for a few minutes at maximum, but usually last between 30–180 seconds.”

    Source: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/jpm.2009.0159

    Like

  49. AWARE 2 in the works brought to you by Sam Parnia and the Templeton Foundation:

    “Research Summary
    We propose a two year multicenter observational study of 900-1500 patients experiencing cardiac arrests. Cardiac arrest is defined as the cessation of heartbeat and respiration [the heart stops pumping blood causing sudden collapse and absence of breathing]. These patients need cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR] which is delivered as chest compressions from a rescuer or mechanical device with artificial breathing. These measures can avert death and allow potential for survival. A number of recent studies have indicated that 10% of cardiac arrest survivors report memories and thought processes from their period of resuscitation. A small proportion of survivors have also described the ability to “see” and “hear” details of their cardiac arrest. The significance and mechanisms that lead to these experiences are not fully understood – we do not know if they matter or why they happen. It is possible that patients who are able to recount these experiences may have better patient outcomes in terms of reduced brain damage, improved functional ability and better psychological adjustment to the event. We think that these patients may have had better blood flow to the brain during cardiac arrest, leading to consciousness and activity of the mind. Our target population is patients experiencing cardiac arrest in hospital [in the emergency department or hospital wards] or out of hospital [in whom resuscitation efforts are ongoing at ED arrival]. Emergency Department or Research staff will be alerted to cardiac arrest and will attend with portable brain oxygen monitoring devices and a tablet which will display visual images upwards above the patient as resuscitation is taking place. Measurements obtained during cardiac arrest will be used to compare data from all cardiac arrest patients independent of outcome [whether they live or die]. Survivors will then be followed up and with their consent will have in-depth, audio recorded interviews.”

    Source: http://public.ukcrn.org.uk/Search/StudyDetail.aspx?StudyID=17129

    Like

  50. Chris,

    Thank you for the comprehensive, accessible, and succinct analysis. You have completely restored my faith in humanity, having endured several “I-told-you-so” incidents from breathlessly devout friends and family members, in the wake of some of the more irresponsible journalistic pieces to have made it to print.

    Cursory background reading on Parnia quickly reveals more confirmation bias than you can shake a stick at, so your introduction of clarity and rigour into the discourse is more than welcome.

    Like

  51. So, hang on. If 70-whatever per cent of the CA cases took place away from areas with the hidden images, then of course they had no chance of seeing them. For some reason, the author appears to be touting this as undermining the whole experiment. I have to ask: How so, exactly?

    OK, so 20-something per cent reported OOB awareness, but none of them saw the images either. Does it occur to the author that OOB=/= omniscience, and that persons undergoing OOBEs might have, you know, other things occupying their attention at that particular moment?

    Finally, one person brings back a ‘verifiable’ memory — and surprise, surprise, that gets rubbished on the grounds that ‘he might have seen such a procedure on TV’ (TV medical dramas of course being unimpeachably accurate…).

    The crowning stupidity of the sceptical argument is the dismissal of the OOB sighting of the bald man in blue scrubs, this dismissal being based on the patient later meeting this man for the first time and recognising him, this supposedly creating an instant ‘false memory’ of his OOB experience. “False memory” simply doesn’t work like that. The patient reported that he recognised the man. He had the experience and the author didn’t. I believe the patient.

    Finally, the author ties themselves into knots arguing that Parnia is an unreliable researcher *because he’s interested in the subject he’s investigating* (yes, that is exactly what is being insinuated – let that one sink in), without reflecting on the fact that if Parnia was ‘corrupting’ his patients’ experiences, one might reasonably expect him to have ‘corrupted’ the experience of more than one individual. Or were his no-result interviews conducted impeccably? Bit of a double-standard on the author’s part here, to put it mildly.

    Like

  52. So, hang on. If 70-whatever per cent of the CA cases took place away from areas with the hidden images, then of course they had no chance of seeing them. For some reason, the author appears to be touting this as undermining the whole experiment. I have to ask: How so, exactly?

    Typically when designing a large, long term study you conduct smaller scale pilots, if you notice that it is not even possible for your key outcome measure to be assessed in almost 80% of relevant cases, you should revise your protocol. In this case, for instance, focusing on a smaller number of hospitals and establishing a greater number of locations for secure images would have increased the potential for the measure to be relevant. If you read what Parnia said when he was launching this study it is clear that he considered the images the core aspect of the study, yet his study design meant that, for the vast majority of cases, even if there had of been an OBE, there was no image present for people to see- as happened in the two selected cases. Thus, this is a poorly designed study.

    OK, so 20-something per cent reported OOB awareness, but none of them saw the images either. Does it occur to the author that OOB=/= omniscience, and that persons undergoing OOBEs might have, you know, other things occupying their attention at that particular moment?

    No. Read the paper. Only 2 reported having any visual or auditory experience during their NDE. As far as the special pleading, people frequently report very mundane details that are taken as proof that the experience was real, so having some recognisable image visible would seem to be a reasonable thing to expect disembodied spirits to notice. If you think it’s a bad measure you should complain to Dr. Parnia though, it was his design and it was him that claimed it would provide objective evidence for life after death.

    Finally, one person brings back a ‘verifiable’ memory — and surprise, surprise, that gets rubbished on the grounds that ‘he might have seen such a procedure on TV’ (TV medical dramas of course being unimpeachably accurate…).

    The claim is being rubbished on the fact that there is absolutely no way to control for confounding sources. I haven’t had a NDE and yet I can imagine I went into cardiac arrest there would be electronic beeps, a defibrillator and people shouting clear. It’s a basic principle of good science to control for confounds, that you think asking for this is being unfair to the researchers shows a failure to understand how science works.

    The crowning stupidity of the sceptical argument is the dismissal of the OOB sighting of the bald man in blue scrubs, this dismissal being based on the patient later meeting this man for the first time and recognising him, this supposedly creating an instant ‘false memory’ of his OOB experience. “False memory” simply doesn’t work like that. The patient reported that he recognised the man. He had the experience and the author didn’t. I believe the patient.

    Sorry, but everyone’s memories, including yours and mine, are subject to well documented effects of confabulation, interference and decay. There is a wealth of literature on how memories work and I strongly suspect your assertions about how memory does/does not work is not based on a careful examination of said literature. I have not suggested that the man created a false memory as soon as he met that doctor, the day after… we don’t know that. We only know that 1 year later, when he was interviewed, he mentioned identifying that a bald man in blue scrubs was present during his cardiac arrest, but he also mentioned he spoke to the doctor the day after the event, so immediately there is the potential for confirmation bias/an alternative source for knowing the fact the doctor was present- i.e. the doctor himself certainly would have mentioned that. I believe the patient honestly believes he saw the man during his cardiac arrest, I just don’t believe that human memories are infallible. Memory doesn’t work like some digital recording memories are reconstructed each time we access them and they can be altered in many ways, especially when we attach a specific narrative to them.

    Finally, the author ties themselves into knots arguing that Parnia is an unreliable researcher *because he’s interested in the subject he’s investigating* (yes, that is exactly what is being insinuated – let that one sink in), without reflecting on the fact that if Parnia was ‘corrupting’ his patients’ experiences, one might reasonably expect him to have ‘corrupted’ the experience of more than one individual. Or were his no-result interviews conducted impeccably? Bit of a double-standard on the author’s part here, to put it mildly

    To be clear, the problem is not specifically that Dr. Parnia is interested in the subject, it’s that he made his subjective assessment the key outcome measure and that he went around promoting his study as being positive before it was completed. That is a recipe for researcher bias to affect results, something which should be obvious to anyone with any experience of experimental design, regardless of ideological position. Parnia also only conducted two interviews and so he only reported one negative result. As to whether the interview was conducted impeccably, I sincerely doubt it, I’m sure it was full of leading questions and confirmation bias, because there is no indication that these kind of things were considered relevant, let alone actually controlled for. You seem to think this means that he would automatically declare it as a hit, but that doesn’t necessarily follow; 1. we don’t know the chronology i.e. he could already have his ‘successful’ result before this interview or, being more charitable, he may genuinely just have felt their wasn’t good enough evidence in this case to consider it a hit. A bias can produce subtle distortions and still allow for nuance i.e. a UFO believer does not necessarily have to endorse all UFO videos, and indeed, dismissing a portion of things as fake/negative can actually help strengthen the belief that you do not have a bias.

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  53. FFS! The previous two attempts to post this are SNAFUs, please feel free to delete them. Sorry about this, it appears that the chevron insertion has unexpected side-effects.

    So, from the top …

    +++TAKE TWO+++

    You said: “Typically when designing a large, long term study you conduct smaller scale pilots, if you notice that it is not even possible for your key outcome measure to be assessed in almost 80% of relevant cases, you should revise your protocol. In this case, for instance, focusing on a smaller number of hospitals and establishing a greater number of locations for secure images would have increased the potential for the measure to be relevant. If you read what Parnia said when he was launching this study it is clear that he considered the images the core aspect of the study, yet his study design meant that, for the vast majority of cases, even if there had of been an OBE, there was no image present for people to see- as happened in the two selected cases. Thus, this is a poorly designed study.”

    I disagree, for the simple reason that it is not possible to control for the location at which patients go into cardiac arrest. Putting images in the resusc room makes immediate sense, putting them in the hospital café does not. I doubt whether a research budget would stretch to festooning all the participating hospitals with ‘hidden images’ every — what? — 10 meters? Five? A continuous suspended mural to make sure no-one slips between the gaps?

    You’re being unrealistic and placing your personal demands on a non-controllable event. So was Parnia, to a lesser extent, and I believe he was at fault too. Perhaps he will set up his experiments differently in future in the light of this study.

    You said: “No. Read the paper. Only 2 reported having any visual or auditory experience during their NDE.”

    I wasn’t claiming otherwise, so I think we have miscommunicated somewhere.

    You said: “As far as the special pleading, people frequently report very mundane details that are taken as proof that the experience was real, so having some recognisable image visible would seem to be a reasonable thing to expect disembodied spirits to notice. If you think it’s a bad measure you should complain to Dr. Parnia though, it was his design and it was him that claimed it would provide objective evidence for life after death.”

    I agree that this aspect of the experiment was poorly thought-through, in as much as the behaviour of consciousness while OOB is unpredictable and might not extend to automatically “floating up near the ceiling”. (I’m going to ignore your claim of “special pleading”. I’m sure you can do better than play “Logical Fallacies 101”)

    You said: “The claim is being rubbished on the fact that there is absolutely no way to control for confounding sources. I haven’t had a NDE and yet I can imagine I went into cardiac arrest there would be electronic beeps, a defibrillator and people shouting clear. It’s a basic principle of good science to control for confounds, that you think asking for this is being unfair to the researchers shows a failure to understand how science works.”

    You’re verging on ad hominem with that last remark there, and I’m sure you’re more reputable than that. Aren’t you?

    Yes, it’s impossible to control for TV dramas confounding ideation, but it is possible to apply other yardsticks, and you are (deliberately?) ignoring the one that was applied in this case. As it happens, the patient reporting the OOBE with the defib details gave a chronology of events which Parnia was able to match to the method applied to him while he was “dead”, and it corresponded in duration. That is to say, the reported OOBE lasted the same time as the resusc effort.

    You said: “Sorry, but everyone’s memories, including yours and mine, are subject to well documented effects of confabulation, interference and decay. There is a wealth of literature on how memories work and I strongly suspect your assertions about how memory does/does not work is not based on a careful examination of said literature.”

    That’s funny, because I have exactly the same suspicion about you. You’re invoking something you don’t understand properly to dismiss something you can’t explain.

    Some memories are unreliable, however research shows that the more strongly a memory is imprinted, the less likely it is to fade. The research is not utterly conclusive, but in general the more vivid and emotional the experience, the less likely the memory is to fade. This has been confirmed with surveys relating to, e.g., the assassinations of John F Kennedy and John Lennon, and the Challenger disaster.

    The patient reported recognising the bald man the day after his CA. I believe the patient, and not you, for the above reasons.

    You said: “I have not suggested that the man created a false memory as soon as he met that doctor, the day after… we don’t know that. We only know that 1 year later, when he was interviewed, he mentioned identifying that a bald man in blue scrubs was present during his cardiac arrest, but he also mentioned he spoke to the doctor the day after the event, so immediately there is the potential for confirmation bias/an alternative source for knowing the fact the doctor was present- i.e. the doctor himself certainly would have mentioned that.”

    “Would certainly have” … IYHO. You don’t know what happened between the two, and neither do I.

    You said: “I believe the patient honestly believes he saw the man during his cardiac arrest, I just don’t believe that human memories are infallible. Memory doesn’t work like some digital recording memories are reconstructed each time we access them and they can be altered in
    many ways, especially when we attach a specific narrative to them.”

    Look up “flashbulb memory” and get back to me on that one.

    You said: “To be clear, the problem is not specifically that Dr. Parnia is interested in the subject, it’s that he made his subjective assessment the key outcome measure and that he went around promoting his study as being positive before it was completed.”

    With no empirical way of measuring consciousness — even the Glasgow coma scale is subjective to a degree, and merely a measure of physical responsiveness — this is yet another unrealistic demand to make of the event. Parnia was not able to control what his subjects thought, and (again) I’ll point out that if he was introducing an observer effect, it’s surprising that his study didn’t return ‘better’ results.

    As for him promoting his own study, that may or may not be the case. I dare say if he’d said nothing at all, he’d be criticised on other grounds (i.e., his known previous work in this field).

    You said: “That is a recipe for researcher bias to affect results, something which should be obvious to anyone with any experience of experimental design, regardless of ideological position. Parnia also only conducted two interviews and so he only reported one negative result.”

    Now you’ve put the cart firmly before the horse. He only conducted two interviews because only two patients cleared the threshold for admissibility. And he discarded one of those interviews as inconclusive.

    You said: “As to whether the interview was conducted impeccably, I sincerely doubt it, I’m sure it was full of leading questions and confirmation bias, because there is no indication that these kind of things were considered relevant, let alone actually controlled for.”

    This is back to front logic again. WRT to Parnia’s controls, you’re arguing from ignorance. Absence of evidence =/= evidence of absence.

    Southampton University is covered by the UK’s Freedom of Information Act. I’d take you a bit more seriously if you gained access to Parnia’s transcripts and/or recordings and analysed those.

    You said: “You seem to think this means that he would automatically declare it as a hit, but that doesn’t necessarily follow; 1. we don’t know the chronology i.e. he could already have his ‘successful’ result before this interview or, being more charitable, he may genuinely just have felt their wasn’t good enough evidence in this case to consider it a hit.”

    I’m not clear on your thought processes here. How could he have had his successful interview before recording a ‘hit’, given that he only conducted two interviews and one was inconclusive?

    You said: “A bias can produce subtle distortions and still allow for nuance i.e. a UFO believer does not necessarily have to endorse all UFO videos, and indeed, dismissing a portion of things as fake/negative can actually help strengthen the belief that you do not have a bias.”

    Mere fudging. “A portion of things” in regard to Parnia’s study = over a thousand other patients, with only one surviving scrutiny. The UFO comparison is sneaky, because it is referring to crank beliefs as a comparator and is therefore a subtle form of dismissal.

    So really, whatever results Parnia returned whether a thousand hits or one, or anywhere in between — they would be dismissed by you as ‘bias’ because he’s interested in the phenomenon he’s studying. We’re going round in circles here.

    Bottom line: The only way you would be satisfied would have been if this study had returned no results at all, in which case of course you probably wouldn’t have felt moved to spend so much effort on discrediting it. Which makes you a prime case of observer effect in action too.

    +++FINIS+++

    Like

  54. Garry said:

    “Look up “flashbulb memory” and get back to me on that one.”

    Like all memories even flashbulb memories are pretty like all memories. They are fragile and not magic memories who are always the same:

    “It has been argued that flashbulb memories are not very stable over time. A study conducted on the recollection of flashbulb memories for the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster sampled two independent groups of subjects on a date close to the disaster, and another eight months later. Very few subjects had flashbulb memories for the disaster after eight months. Considering only the participants who could recall the source of the news, ongoing activity, and place, researchers reported that less than 35% had detailed memories.[26] Another study examining participants’ memories for the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion found that although participants were highly confident about their memories for the event, their memories were not very accurate three years after the event had occurred.[7] A third study conducted on the O.J. Simpson murder case found that although participants’ confidence in their memories remained strong, the accuracy of their memories declined 15 months after the event, and continued to decline 32 months after the event.[21]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashbulb_memory#Accuracy

    There are many studies listed in wikipedia about this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flashbulb_memory#Accuracy

    Like

  55. Hjortron please see

    http://www.nature.com/news/2002/020916/full/news020916-8.html

    Electrodes trigger out-of-body experience

    “Stimulating brain region elicits illusion often attributed to the paranormal”

    As you have been claiming on a number of different websites that brain stimulation cannot replicate the OBE, you are obviously wrong.

    I understand that when people debate online they don’t usually want to own up to being wrong, but on this issue you are. At the minimum you must accept the OBE can be duplicated by naturalistic methods i.e. brain stimulation.

    If you still want to go on believing the OBE is paranormal that is up to you, but at the minimum out of honesty you must accept what I listed above because whether you like it or not it has been scientifically demonstrated. Regards.

    Like

  56. Hjortron,

    Regarding Ganzfeld, Chris Carter is wrong. Those experiments were not evidence for psi. If anyone wants to see Carter’s dishonesty than I will show it here.

    Carter’s section from his book is online so we all can read it, it is quoted by the spiritualist Michael Prescott:

    http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2014/02/a-mess.html

    Here’s what Carter writes:

    “These figures should make the conclusion clear: the earlier results have been replicated by a variety of researchers in different laboratories in different cultures, with similar hit rates. Hyman (1996a) wrote: “The case for psychic functioning seems better than it has ever been…. I also have to admit that I do not have a ready explanation for these observed effects. (p. 43)” Hyman and the other “skeptics” have lost the Ganzfeld debate.”

    This is deliberate DISHONESTY and quote mining. Here is the FULL quote:

    “Obviously, I do not believe that the contemporary findings of parapsychology, including those from the SRI/SAIC program, justify concluding that anomalous mental phenomena have been proven. Professor Utts and some parapsychologists believe otherwise. I admit that the latest findings should make them optimistic. The case for psychic functioning seems better than it ever has been. The contemporary findings along with the output of the SRI/SAIC program do seem to indicate that something beyond odd statistical hiccups is taking place. I also have to admit that I do not have a ready explanation for these observed effects. Inexplicable statistical departures from chance, however, are a far cry from compelling evidence for anomalous cognition.”

    Notice Carter decides to exclude that bit. Hyman also goes on to say in his report:

    “The occurrence of statistical effects does not warrant the conclusion that psychic functioning has been demonstrated. Significant departures from the null hypothesis can occur for several reasons. Without a positive theory of anomalous cognition, we cannot say that these effects are due to a single cause, let alone claim they reflect anomalous cognition. We do not yet know how replicable these results will be, especially in terms of showing consistent relations to other variables.”

    Yep Carter ignores that as well.

    Hyman’s report can be found here:

    http://www.ics.uci.edu/~jutts/hyman.html

    And yes there is another problem, that report was written in 1995! Carter does not quote from Hyman’s recent publications. For example Carter doesn’t mention Hyman’s 2007 paper:

    Ray Hyman. Evaluating Parapsychological Claims in Robert J. Sternberg, Henry L. Roediger, Diane F. Halpern. (2007). Critical Thinking in Psychology. Cambridge University Press. pp. 216-231.

    In this paper Hyman discusses various sensory leakage problems he found in the autoganzfeld experiments (Carter does not mention this). Here’s what Hyman concluded in 2007:

    “Until parapsychologists can provide a positive way to indicate the presence of psi, the different effect sizes that occur in experiments are just as likely to result from many different things rather than one thing called psi. Indeed given the obvious instability and elusiveness of the findings, the best guess might very well be that we are dealing with a variety of Murphy’s Law rather than a revolutionary anomaly called psi.”

    Yet Carter does not mention this! He quote mines and misrepresents Hyman from 1995. And yes Hyman is a still a critic of the ganzfeld, he has written on the flaws in those experiments as late as 2010. None of his paper mentioned by Carter.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ganzfeld_experiment#Contemporary_research

    So have the skeptic’s really lost the debate like Carter says? No. The only person who has lost the debate is Carter because he lies, ignores data and deliberately misrepresents the skeptics. The ganzfeld are not evidence for psi, anyone who thinks this has not looked at all of the data. Quote mining old reports and ignoring all the modern data is just dam right dishonesty.

    Like

  57. Gary> First off, don’t worry about the formatting. There is some way to create embedded quotes via tags but I do so using the authoring UI, which provides more options. If I could, I would make the editing options available to everyone but there doesn’t seem to be any choice to do so on the template I use. I know it is frustrating, so my apologies!

    Now to your points:

    I disagree, for the simple reason that it is not possible to control for the location at which patients go into cardiac arrest. Putting images in the resusc room makes immediate sense, putting them in the hospital café does not. I doubt whether a research budget would stretch to festooning all the participating hospitals with ‘hidden images’ every — what? — 10 meters? Five? A continuous suspended mural to make sure no-one slips between the gaps?

    It is impossible to control the precise location, that’s why I would recommend conducting a pilot and locating the areas in specific hospitals with a high probability and then focusing on these areas. As regards to how many, well more than one would be a start, and no you probably don’t need to cover the café as I doubt the reason for the low percentage was due to cardiac arrests in cafés. The concerns about the research budget also seem a bit of a strange argument, how much do you think it costs to install a picture? In any case, focusing on a fewer amount of hospitals would seem to balance things up in terms of cost as well as providing the additional benefit of allowing you to establish stronger relationships with the relevant authorities and hence, install more pictures

    I wasn’t claiming otherwise, so I think we have miscommunicated somewhere.

    You said 20% had an OBE. They didn’t. 2 people out of 140 interviewed did, or if you prefer, 2 out of the total 2060 cases the report mentions.

    I agree that this aspect of the experiment was poorly thought-through, in as much as the behaviour of consciousness while OOB is unpredictable and might not extend to automatically “floating up near the ceiling”. (I’m going to ignore your claim of “special pleading”. I’m sure you can do better than play “Logical Fallacies 101″)

    Except floating above the table/around the room is a commonly reported feature of OBEs according to the NDE literature. It has only become a problematic feature since people have started trying to test it objectively and getting null results.

    You’re verging on ad hominem with that last remark there, and I’m sure you’re more reputable than that. Aren’t you? Yes, it’s impossible to control for TV dramas confounding ideation, but it is possible to apply other yardsticks, and you are (deliberately?) ignoring the one that was applied in this case. As it happens, the patient reporting the OOBE with the defib details gave a chronology of events which Parnia was able to match to the method applied to him while he was “dead”, and it corresponded in duration. That is to say, the reported OOBE lasted the same time as the resusc effort.

    If I’m verging on ad hominem where does your ‘crowning stupidity’ comment land? Setting that aside, who decided the chronology exactly matched? What was the objective criteria decided in advance through which this was measured? And what controls were in place to prevent the patient from reporting a narrative of events that were constructed from alternative sources? I’m not saying that the patient’s recall of the event was false as in he got all the details wrong, I’m saying there are many potential confounding sources for his narrative.

    Some memories are unreliable, however research shows that the more strongly a memory is imprinted, the less likely it is to fade. The research is not utterly conclusive, but in general the more vivid and emotional the experience, the less likely the memory is to fade. This has been confirmed with surveys relating to, e.g., the assassinations of John F Kennedy and John Lennon, and the Challenger disaster.

    When you say ‘not utterly conclusive’ do you mean highly controversial and, with many of the previous grand claims refuted by more recent research? The status of flashbulb memories is hardly a done deal and it would be fair to say that the majority of memory researchers are sceptical that they are really that distinct from normal emotive episodic memories, aside from the confidence people ascribe to them (see Paez, Bellelli, & Rime, 2009 for a recent edited volume on the topic). Moreover, the illustrative examples you provide indicate a rather important difference from flashbulb memory research and the NDE cases we are discussing. Namely, flashbulb memory research almost exclusively focuses on recall of public disasters, as such there is the non-minor confounding factor of rehearsal i.e. people talk to other people about where they where when the events of national importance occurred and such events tend to have been replayed, memorialised and discussed in the media thus helping to cement the event (or at least the individual’s narrative surrounding the event). NDEs can share this ‘rehearsal’ quality for a patient but to a lesser extent, in that while they are important to the patient and their family they aren’t national events. I say all of this incidentally as a researcher who is actively conducting research into the formation of flashbulb memories in highly arousing events and despite, the fact they are one of the foundation blocks for my supervisor’s main theory.

    IYHO. You don’t know what happened between the two, and neither do I.

    You’re right, I’m sure his doctor didn’t mention that he was there the day before when his patient’s heart stopped. No reason for it come up in conversation.

    Look up “flashbulb memory” and get back to me on that one.

    I’m very familiar with research on flashbulb memories, what studies in particular do you feel lend credence to your interpretation of this case?

    With no empirical way of measuring consciousness — even the Glasgow coma scale is subjective to a degree, and merely a measure of physical responsiveness — this is yet another unrealistic demand to make of the event. Parnia was not able to control what his subjects thought, and (again) I’ll point out that if he was introducing an observer effect, it’s surprising that his study didn’t return ‘better’ results.

    Setting aside the unresolved problem of confabulation, I’m not asking for objective measures of the loss of consciousness. I’m asking for some objective measure for the accuracy of the events recalled; declared BEFORE the interview to avoid the potential for researcher bias. This is the standard procedure in memory research.

    This is back to front logic again. WRT to Parnia’s controls, you’re arguing from ignorance. Absence of evidence =/= evidence of absence. Southampton University is covered by the UK’s Freedom of Information Act. I’d take you a bit more seriously if you gained access to Parnia’s transcripts and/or recordings and analysed those.

    You report controls you included in your paper. Parnia doesn’t report any controls for his interview in the published paper. Hence, there is no reason to believe he employed any. In his various interviews he has also made no indication of implementing controls, nor does he seem to recognise the subjective assessment of success being his judgment as being potentially problematic. As to the FOI act, 1. I really doubt that Parnia’s notes would be covered and 2. I have no inclination to find out. Since you are fond of shifting the burden of proof, how’s this, since you want to question my interpretation, you can go request the transcripts, analyse them and come back to show me how I’ve got it all wrong. Good luck with that, should only take a few months of effort, if the transcripts even exist and if you refuse I’ll take it as evidence that you are not really committed to finding the truth of the topic. Sounds fair, right?

    I’m not clear on your thought processes here. How could he have had his successful interview before recording a ‘hit’, given that he only conducted two interviews and one was inconclusive?

    I’m saying he had one ‘successful’ case, we do not know if the unsuccessful interview came before or after. If it was after, he already knew he had one ‘hit’.

    Mere fudging. “A portion of things” in regard to Parnia’s study = over a thousand other patients, with only one surviving scrutiny. The UFO comparison is sneaky, because it is referring to crank beliefs as a comparator and is therefore a subtle form of dismissal.

    Reread the paper. There were only 330 patients who survived to discharge. As such, I don’t know how fair it is to imply that it was Parnia’s careful scrutiny that prevented the dead from taking part. These kind of comments suggest to me you haven’t understood the procedures as well as you believe. As far as the interviews go, yes he did only conduct 2 interviews because only 2 people claimed to have an OBE, from those 2 interviews he declared one a hit and one inconclusive. So he didn’t have 1000 plus OBE cases to examine, he had 2 and from those 2, shockingly, he found a ‘positive’ result … based on the ‘objective’ measure of his personal assessment of accuracy. As per the UFO comment, the situations are analogous and I suspect advocates would find your dismissal as unfair as you find the critical assessment of Parnia’s study. The exact same kind of evidence/arguments are used by UFO advocates- eyewitness testimony, confirmation from experts/independent sources etc. so if you want to dismiss those, you should take a deeper look at the evidence provided by NDE advocates.

    Bottom line: The only way you would be satisfied would have been if this study had returned no results at all, in which case of course you probably wouldn’t have felt moved to spend so much effort on discrediting it. Which makes you a prime case of observer effect in action too.

    If Parnia had implemented good controls and found hits on his objective measure it would have been a positive result that was noteworthy. It wouldn’t have proved OBEs are real, but it would have been an interesting finding that needed to be replicated independently. Looking at the measure that Parnia promoted as the most significant aspect of the study is not being unfair, its being consistent. Finding one self assessed ‘accurate’ case, adds basically nothing to the existing literature, we already had lots of these kinds of claims but they don’t constitute good quality evidence.

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