How can the blind see in NDE?

#1
I think the title is self explanatory. I recently just finished reading Ring's study on blinds and the NDE, and I'm convinced right now that it proves that NDE are genuine in the ontological sense. However, I've yet to hear the skeptic perspective on the issue, so my question is more aimed at them. However, proponents are also free to have a take to the question, that way I can also understand better the proponents positions. I'm specially intrigued by the fact that some of the persons in the study where blind at a pretty young age (a few weeks after birth most, due to excess of oxygen in incubators) and it seems to run against neurology and physiology that they would develope the visual areas at all to have the experience they had. The paper can be seen here, for free:

http://kernz.org/nd/nde-papers/Ring/Ring-Journal of Near-Death Studies_1997-16-101-147-1.pdf
 
#2
I think the title is self explanatory. I recently just finished reading Ring's study on blinds and the NDE, and I'm convinced right now that it proves that NDE are genuine in the ontological sense. However, I've yet to hear the skeptic perspective on the issue, so my question is more aimed at them. However, proponents are also free to have a take to the question, that way I can also understand better the proponents positions. I'm specially intrigued by the fact that some of the persons in the study where blind at a pretty young age (a few weeks after birth most, due to excess of oxygen in incubators) and it seems to run against neurology and physiology that they would develope the visual areas at all to have the experience they had. The paper can be seen here, for free:

http://kernz.org/nd/nde-papers/Ring/Ring-Journal of Near-Death Studies_1997-16-101-147-1.pdf
Yeah, I think Rings work, and that paper in particular, provide a strong argument against the 'dream' type hypothesis for the NDE OBE, I was also interested that arguably his best congenitally blind subject, Vicki, said she was never able to discriminate colours during her OBE NDE, but only “…different shades of brightness…”.

I did a little article on my blog about these two aspects of Rings paper some time ago, if it's of interest...

http://thinkingdeeper.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/near-death-out-of-body-experiences-in-the-blind/
 
#3
I've thought about this issue a couple of times before and had to consider that I really cannot begin to imagine the changes in a blind person's brain compared to my own. But I understand, I think, what you mean when you say it proves that NDE are genuine. I also think it may help the case but is it reaching too far to consider that maybe a brain, one being without the ability to see, has developed a mechanism to change other types of sensory information in to visual? Or maybe the information is still being processed but they are unable to normally consciously see it. So, perhaps, part of them is processing the visual information and they are unaware but in this NDE state, or whatever one might call it, they are able to access this visual information.
 
#4
I've thought about this issue a couple of times before and had to consider that I really cannot begin to imagine the changes in a blind person's brain compared to my own. But I understand, I think, what you mean when you say it proves that NDE are genuine. I also think it may help the case but is it reaching too far to consider that maybe a brain, one being without the ability to see, has developed a mechanism to change other types of sensory information in to visual? Or maybe the information is still being processed but they are unable to normally consciously see it. So, perhaps, part of them is processing the visual information and they are unaware but in this NDE state, or whatever one might call it, they are able to access this visual information.
Would have to google for it, but I recall an article awhile back about how they somehow gave a blind person some sight through the tongue? I might be misremembering it, something like that. Wasn't full sight like but some visual perception.
 
#5
I've thought about this issue a couple of times before and had to consider that I really cannot begin to imagine the changes in a blind person's brain compared to my own. But I understand, I think, what you mean when you say it proves that NDE are genuine. I also think it may help the case but is it reaching too far to consider that maybe a brain, one being without the ability to see, has developed a mechanism to change other types of sensory information in to visual? Or maybe the information is still being processed but they are unable to normally consciously see it. So, perhaps, part of them is processing the visual information and they are unaware but in this NDE state, or whatever one might call it, they are able to access this visual information.
Your post, specially this part: "Or maybe the information is still being processed but they are unable to normally consciously see it." Is something I also though (and Dr. Rng also though about!). It turns out that "maybe" it's actually true. It's called Blindisigh, and judging by the wiki, it seems to be related to our evolutionary history. Since humans come from a long distant relation to amphibians and other creatures of the sort, we have "two" processing neural networks in the brain: one is the conscious one, which is the "mammal" one and it's related to conscious seeing, and the other one is our "reptilian" (for a lack of a better term I guess) one, which is unconscious and it usually just serve for peripheral vision and whatnot.

It's been reported that blind people can catch things that are thrown at them, and guess better than chance (Ganzfeld comes to my mind when saying that phrase always :P ) the shape, form or color of objects that are put in front of them despite not consciously recognizing it.

However, it seems that blindsigh it's pretty tenue compared to the sort of experience the persons in this study had, that apparently where full-sigh. On the other hand, there is the inherent language problem that Max pointed, which is how do we actually now if a blind person actually saw as we see. Anyway, I suggest you read about Blindisigh both in the paper and in another place (since the paper is pretty old and surely the field has advanced!). I'll also read more about that, since I didn't knew about it. That way we can have a more in-depth talk about it if you think it's a good place to start looking for alternative explanations.
 
#6
Would have to google for it, but I recall an article awhile back about how they somehow gave a blind person some sight through the tongue? I might be misremembering it, something like that. Wasn't full sight like but some visual perception.
From the tounge? Now, thats strange. If you find that article, I would love to read it!
 
#7
Yeah, I think Rings work, and that paper in particular, provide a strong argument against the 'dream' type hypothesis for the NDE OBE, I was also interested that arguably his best congenitally blind subject, Vicki, said she was never able to discriminate colours during her OBE NDE, but only “…different shades of brightness…”.

I did a little article on my blog about these two aspects of Rings paper some time ago, if it's of interest...

http://thinkingdeeper.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/near-death-out-of-body-experiences-in-the-blind/
Thanks. I did a fast reading and you raise a concern I also had with the language and the interpretation of it (ie: how can we know they saw as we see?). I'll read in detail later :).
 
#8
Your post, specially this part: "Or maybe the information is still being processed but they are unable to normally consciously see it." Is something I also though (and Dr. Rng also though about!). It turns out that "maybe" it's actually true. It's called Blindisigh, and judging by the wiki, it seems to be related to our evolutionary history. Since humans come from a long distant relation to amphibians and other creatures of the sort, we have "two" processing neural networks in the brain: one is the conscious one, which is the "mammal" one and it's related to conscious seeing, and the other one is our "reptilian" (for a lack of a better term I guess) one, which is unconscious and it usually just serve for peripheral vision and whatnot.

It's been reported that blind people can catch things that are thrown at them, and guess better than chance (Ganzfeld comes to my mind when saying that phrase always :P ) the shape, form or color of objects that are put in front of them despite not consciously recognizing it.

However, it seems that blindsigh it's pretty tenue compared to the sort of experience the persons in this study had, that apparently where full-sigh. On the other hand, there is the inherent language problem that Max pointed, which is how do we actually now if a blind person actually saw as we see. Anyway, I suggest you read about Blindisigh both in the paper and in another place (since the paper is pretty old and surely the field has advanced!). I'll also read more about that, since I didn't knew about it. That way we can have a more in-depth talk about it if you think it's a good place to start looking for alternative explanations.
I dream, in very much in the way I experience the world on a day to day basis. Vicky dreams in very much the same way she experiences the world on a day to day basis.

Vicky says her NDE OBE was completely different from her dreams, or how she experiences the world on a day to day basis, this is crucially important to me.

Why's that? because the sighted, experience OBE's which are often described as having an unusual, realer-than-real visual experience. But, being sighted, they can't make any particularly clear distinction between the description of a visual dream, visual wakefulness, or visual OBE, beyond this frustrating realer-than-real type description. They are aware the imagery was different from normal dreaming, but can't say exactly how.

Vicky on the other hand says whatever she experienced, it was totally unlike her dreams. Vicky clearly had some type of unusual visual experience which she classes as completely different and odd, could this be the same realer-than-real odd imagery also described by the sighted? I think it's very plausible.
 
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#10
If NDEs are a genuine experience (in the way we usually mean "genuine") then I doubt anybody is "seeing" in the way we normally see. After all, you would have left your eyes behind ;-)

NDE descriptions seem to indicate some kind of "enhanced vision" too
I'm not sure how the spiritual world works at all. I tend to think it might work as in the Avatar series. In the Avatar Series, the spiritual realm works or is designed based on emotions and experiences, so a sad and lonely person will experience a very different world than a happy and enthusiastic person, despite both being actually in the same place.
 
#11
I dream, in very much in the way I experience the world on a day to day basis. Vicky dreams in very much the same way she experiences the world on a day to day basis.

Vicky says her NDE OBE was completely different from her dreams, or how she experiences the world on a day to day basis, this is crucially important to me.

Why's that? because the sighted, experience OBE's which are often described as having an unusual, realer-than-real visual experience. But, being sighted, they can't make any particularly clear distinction between the description of a visual dream, visual wakefulness, or visual OBE, beyond this frustrating realer-than-real type description. They are aware the imagery was different from normal dreaming, but can't say exactly how.

Vicky on the other hand says whatever she experienced, it was totally unlike her dreams. Vicky clearly had some type of unusual visual experience which she classes as completely different and odd, could this be the same realer-than-real odd imagery also described by the sighted? I think it's very plausible.
Indeed, I think we can all agree (both skeptics and proponents) that people with NDE or OBE experience things quite different, so even if it turned out to be an hallucination (which I think some may be, but not all!), they must be classified as a distinctin sub-group all by itself. The issue is that the experience happened quite a long time ago, so is it possible that Vicky experienced something quite remarkable and different, and then someone told her or she rationalized back that this distinctive "something different" was actually what we non-blind people call seeing? I find it implausible, but perhaps a skeptic might make a more strong case based on that to look upon.

As for my dreams, I must say that they are usually more "grey" or with more dark tones than real life, and they usually have a lower quality. Don't know how to put it, though, they just look like cheap versions of reality for the most time, once I think about them retrospectively.
 
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#13
Indeed, I think we can all agree (both skeptics and proponents) that people with NDE or OBE experience things quite different, so even if it turned out to be an hallucination (which I think some may be, but not all!), they must be classified as a distinctin sub-group all by itself. The issue is that the experience happened quite a long time ago, so is it possible that Vicky experienced something quite remarkable and different, and then someone told her or she rationalized back that this distinctive "something different" was actually what we non-blind people call seeing? I find it implausible, but perhaps a skeptic might make a more strong case based on that to look upon.

As for my dreams, I must say that they are usually more "grey" or with more dark tones than real life, and they usually have a lower quality. Don't know how to put it, though, they just look like cheap versions of reality for the most time, once I think about them retrospectively.
I spent a great deal of time looking at this area, because there is no solid conclusion about whether we dream in colour or not, most people nowadays say they do, but not all do. There have also been changes over time, older studies tend to show more colourless dreaming, whereas modern studies show more coloured dreaming. The reasons for this are complex, a major theory is that older studies left too much time between the dream, and recording the dream, and were not aware of REM. Modern studies often wake you up in REM, and ask you to record the dream immediately, colour is often clear and vivid. The longer the time you wait between the dream and recall, the more the colour seems to fade.

Even whether or not the congenitally blind can visualise in their dreams is very controversial. They have been woken up, and asked to immediately draw their dreams, and the pictures are interesting... A sun in the sky, seagulls in the air, clouds, a beach, the sea...

What seemed clear to me when researching this, is that the blind may not 'see' like we do, but they still have all their spatial abilities completely intact, which allows them to navigate, and understand objects in the world. So although some could draw their dreams as pictures with objects in space, it seemed they lost texture and colours and other sensory data that is only sensed through the eyes.
 
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#14
I think the key philosophical issue there is what "seeing with the mind" means anyway. We all do this...whether or not we are blind. At the time I thought Ring's study was a game changer, but because of the problems of blind people articulating what they mean when they say "I saw stuff" I don't think it's anywhere near as clear cut.

I also think it needs to be separated from the issue of so-called paranormal seeing, investigated by the likes of the Aware study. So it doesn't need to be complicated with claims of paranormal seeing. The core issue is the same even without paranormality. Can a non-sight trained brain "see" and, if it suddenly finds itself experiencing in an unusual way, how can that individual (blind from birth) discern between "seeing" and "non seeing."
 
#15
I'm a bit puzzled. The OP was about blind people seeing in NDEs, not in their usual conscious state. Given that often people reporting NDEs are unconscious and therefore presumably cannot see, or at least cannot process the input from their eyes if they are open (I am assuming that usually their eyes are closed, and in some cases actually taped shut).

If this is so, then presumably blind people see in NDEs in exactly the same way sighted people do. As for whether they can interpret what they see, blind people don't have seem to have much trouble understanding shapes and dimensions by touch, and presumably form some kind of mental model of most things they have contact with. Perhaps mapping that model to what they see in an NDE isn't so hard?
 
#16
Obiwan, yes I think that's exactly right. And of course our eyes tend to be closed in "dreams" and yet we "see" them just fine. Whether that is really 'seeing,' of course, is the same issue I am highlighting above. The only difference with a blind from birth person would be that their brain is not sight-trained. A non-sight trained brain is likely to develop in different ways due to neuroplasticity. Their visual cortex will become partly assigned to other tasks than receiving "visual information" from the eyes. But whether that cortex completely loses the "brain side" of the seeing equation seems to me moot...and not something that can be communicated with certainty between a seeing and a non-seeing person (in terms of eye blindness). It is possible that their brain might still be capable of a "sight like" processing of other sensations, or that they may interpret their surrounds in a way different than we experience, yet assume and call that 'sight' for they have nothing else to call it.

As I say, I just don't think it's straightforward.
 
#17
I could believe that consciousness is a phenomena that can experience the molecules of the brain, that can feel the everchanging electropotentials, and even store those experiences with molecules. I could believe that consciousness is somehow trapped by the biochemical processes of the cells; and when they cease, consciousness experiences the shutdown of the brain as it floats away into ever so mysterious quantum vacuum that may yet be, or just intersect, a spirit world. I could even believe that life experience is a whole lot simpler for a spirit that is not wired into this complicated experience machine called a human brain; once seperated, life is probably so much simpler.

But what I cannot believe is the way that the science "rockstars" of the day, Dawkins and DeGrasse Tyson, have fooled so many people into not believing in a soul. To tell you the truth, Christianity is almost guilty of making a soul a liability, not a blissful release from a difficult physical existence, but something that is at risk of hell unless one becomes a slave of Christianity. No wonder so many physicists and neuroscientists look at the Higgs field and wave-functions, and then lie and say, "I don't see anything that looks like spirit".
 
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#18
I spent a great deal of time looking at this area, because there is no solid conclusion about whether we dream in colour or not, most people nowadays say they do, but not all do. There have also been changes over time, older studies tend to show more colourless dreaming, whereas modern studies show more coloured dreaming. The reasons for this are complex, a major theory is that older studies left too much time between the dream, and recording the dream, and were not aware of REM. Modern studies often wake you up in REM, and ask you to record the dream immediately, colour is often clear and vivid. The longer the time you wait between the dream and recall, the more the colour seems to fade.

Even whether or not the congenitally blind can visualise in their dreams is very controversial. They have been woken up, and asked to immediately draw their dreams, and the pictures are interesting... A sun in the sky, seagulls in the air, clouds, a beach, the sea...

What seemed clear to me when researching this, is that the blind may not 'see' like we do, but they still have all their spatial abilities completely intact, which allows them to navigate, and understand objects in the world. So although some could draw their dreams as pictures with objects in space, it seemed they lost texture and colours and other sensory data that is only sensed through the eyes.
I've given a link to Bertolo's controversial paper about 'visual' dreaming in the congenitally blind - which challenges the claim that the congenitally blind do not have visual dream imagery, it has some sample drawings which are interesting...

http://web.mit.edu/dmalt/Public/9.10/DreamVision.pdf
 
#19
I think a subtle point that can often get lost in the traffic about NDEs, is that these experiences might...I stress might...*still* signify the disembedding of a style of consciousness from the organic body even if the apparent imagery of the hospital etc and floating above beds is a faux or dreamlike construction with no "paranormal perception" involved.
 
#20
Thank you, Arouet, that was a very interesting article and that is along the lines of another paper I read a while ago but I'll have to dig it up too. It was about the blind being able to see through the aid of a hearing device of some type. The website for the particular doctor in the paper is http://people.bath.ac.uk/mjp51/ with links to videos with the device. I don't find it a strange idea that that could be happening during NDE but I'm not willing to make the leap from being able to transform some audio information in to visual information, or some other sensory information, and then it translating in to this mind-blowing experience.
 
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