Latest Near-Death Experience Research Hit Job |326|

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by Alex, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. Alex

    Alex New

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    Latest Near-Death Experience Research Hit Job |326|
    by Alex Tsakiris | Sep 7 | Near-Death Experience

    A critical look at an academic near-death experience book by Dr. Ben Mitchell-Yellin and Dr. John Martin Fischer.
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    photo by: Iwan Gabovitch
    It’s hard to be surprised by the lengths some academics will go to trash near-death experience research, but the recent non-research-research of today’s guest surprised even me. But the real story may be that Dr. John Martin Fischer and Dr. Ben Mitchell-Yellin managed to wrangle more than 4 million dollars from the very “spiritual friendly” John Templeton Foundation to promote this “secular” hit piece of a book titled Near-Death Experiences: Understanding Visions of the Afterlife:

    Alex Tsakiris: I’m challenging you on a couple of those [arguments]… there isn’t a single, credible near-death experience researcher I can think of that’s come to the conclusion that you do. It always amazes me. I mean, who are you going to cite? Dr. Greyson doesn’t believe that. Pim van Lommel doesn’t believe that. Sam Parnia doesn’t believe that. Janice Holden doesn’t believe that. Dr. Jeffrey Long doesn’t believe that … you could go down the list. There isn’t a single, credible near-death experience researcher — and there are hundreds of peer reviewed scientific journal articles on this — where they’ve concluded the same thing that you’ve concluded. They’ve all concluded that near-death experiences seem to suggest that consciousness survives bodily death in a way that we don’t understand.

    Dr. Ben MitchellYellin: That’s not actually what we conclude. I just want to make it clear I don’t think that we agree with all of the people you listed. For example, we don’t have the same position as Pim van Lommel because he doesn’t think that they’re consistent. As far as I understand his position, he thinks that near-death experience suggests that we should give up the physicalist view.

    Alex Tsakiris: Exactly. So I guess I’m saying on what basis do you go against all of this published data by all of the top near-death experience researchers that suggest otherwise?
     
  2. K9!

    K9! New

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    Hard to believe the guy you interviewed has a PhD....

    Clueless. The guy was clueless.
     
  3. Alex

    Alex New

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    ivory tower. the state of Philosophy.

    and to be a bit more conspiratorial... he's the perfect guy to do this kind of book.
     
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  4. Kamarling

    Kamarling Member

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    [From the text excerpts]:

    Obviously this is one case where you can't be accused of sandbagging your guests and springing NDE research on them when that is not their area of interest. I'll listen to the rest soon but I just wanted to agree wholeheartedly with the above quote. It brings to mind that other criminal misuse of a bequest, the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at Edinburgh University which has funded the debunking activities of Wiseman and Watt. Koestler is probably likewise spinning.

    Indeed, I remember a similar theme in the Caroline Watt interview here with Alex.
     
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  5. Alex

    Alex New

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    agreed. thx for reminding us.

    I know that some folks don't like to go down the conspiracy path, but there's really no other way to explain these kind of shenanigans. granted, this is very small-scale stuff, but the playbook and execution is the same.
     
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  6. K9!

    K9! New

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    I think that's why people are starting to distrust academia and why there is more of a grass roots movement to bring attention to these topics.

    I just came across this video of a meditation teacher (he has a "real" job to support his interest in meditation and expanded awareness) who decided to learn psychokinesis. He learned to OBE and wanted to try other stuff, so he learned PK. He wants people to know that this stuff is real and is trying to get the word out...

    Meanwhile, 5 million dollars in funding for academic research into these areas has been wasted. Thank goodness people with day jobs are stepping up to the task at hand.

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQoYXCkPF6SueN7fP_UzOdQ

     
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  7. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    Alex, I've only had time to listen to the introduction and the first few minutes of the interview so far so maybe you clarify this later in the podcast, but you said something on the lines of all they did was a literature review and never did any original research nor had any intention to do any.

    While it's true that Dr. Fisher and Dr. Mitchell-Yellin didn't do any original research themselves the way you put it seemed to suggest that the $5,000,000 went solely to funding the book. I'm not sure why you didn't mention the 34 research projects that the $5,000,000 funded. including one by Sam Parnia.

    Here is a link to the August 2016 update on the results of the Immortality Project research to date: Results of Funded Research Projects.

    Here's the description from the preface:
    The Immortality Project was a 3-year, $5M interdisciplinary grant sponsored by the John Templeton
    Foundation (2012-2015). It was led by John Fischer, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the
    University of California, Riverside. To date, it is the largest humanities grant ever awarded.

    The Immortality Project focused on significant and traditional topics that have long been important to
    human inquiry—e.g., the significance of death, the desirability of immortality, what makes for a
    meaningful human life. Though important, these topics have been relatively under-theorized in
    academic circles, especially in analytic philosophy and the sciences. One goal of the grant was to put
    major resources into these areas. Another goal was to generate interdisciplinary dialogue on these
    topics. A third goal was to reach out to the general public and present ideas on these topics in a way
    that makes public conversation on these topics more fruitful. The grant seems to have been a
    resounding success with respect of each of these goals.

    The Immortality Project was able to fund 34 research projects (9 more than anticipated) by extremely
    talented and well-regarded researchers from around the globe. The competition for funding was very
    keen, and we were unable to fund many worthwhile projects. We held two conferences, one during
    the Midpoint of the grant in May 2014 and one to conclude the grant in May 2015. Grantees
    presented the developments of their funded research results at both conferences. The conferences
    were extremely fruitful, generating much interdisciplinary dialogue on the issues.

    Due to the grant’s size and scope, covering many different topics in the sciences, philosophy and
    theology, there is no helpful way of summarizing even the results we know of that does justice to the
    many different strands of research. In what follows is a collection of summaries – many of which
    were provided by the researchers themselves – and current listing of publications and summary
    outputs of the grant. However, we want to emphasize that the research is incomplete at this time,
    and we anticipate many additional papers and some books to be published in the next few years.

    The significant public outreach of the grant is evidenced by the extensive media coverage received
    during the grant period and after​
     
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  8. Judith

    Judith New

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    Thanks for the interview, Alex, but this one made my head hurt... People in academia are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they go out of their way to clarify, specify, enumerate, etc. They are experts at splitting a topic into a thousand different parts, and then pointing out how you missed that one little part when you try to counter anything they say. I lived with an academic for 30 years, and spent most of my working life in academia. At one point, I worked in the philosophy dept. and got to know some of them personally. One in particular became a good friend...but the friendship was based on our love of music and playing the guitar. However, I found most of them to be very neurotic and very fond of living in their head. One (tragically for his family) even committed suicide. (His main claim to fame was that he wrote the definitive book on Wittgenstein.)
     
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  9. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Only half way in, but I've never heard an academic talk with less authority about a piece of their own recent research. It's like you've dragged someone in to talk about a subject that isn't their specialism, a French professor promoting electrical engineering to prospective students because the regular guy is on holiday.
     
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  10. malf

    malf Member

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    He was cautious in his choice of words, tried to remain philosophically open-minded, and may have been confused and perplexed (as was I) by some of Alex's questions and claims.

    To be fair it's hard to strike the right balance to please you gab ;)

     
  11. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    He almost sounds like he is quoting a script and feels uncomfortable venturing outside of it. No real grasp of the subject of his own book, unbelievable for an academic with such tassels next to his job description. You don't even have to dig into the obvious slant present in his previous work (prior to this project) to know that he only took the job because there was an ax that needed some grinding.
     
  12. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    The interview was a total car crash. Dr Mitchell-Yellin was basically saying there's another way to look at the evidence, which is to completely ignore it and see if anyone notices. It was a masterclass in evasion. He could have saved everyone a lot of time by saying we all know NDEs are BS, but he cloaked himself in a mantle of academic disinterest to string a book out of an opinion that could have been expressed from a bar stool.
     
  13. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    For someone that tries to remain "philosophically open-minded" he sure rushed to the market with a book instead of, I don't know, wait for the AWARE II project (part of the same initiative) to conclude?
     
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  14. malf

    malf Member

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    Have you read the book? Alex seemed to impart some praise towards it.
     
  15. E.Flowers

    E.Flowers New

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    Ever heard of courtesy? He doesn't seem particularly impressed by the research of its authors...
     
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  16. malf

    malf Member

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    Heh.

    Just as well they're not researchers.
     
  17. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    They're meta-researchers - begin with the conclusion and work your way backwards.
     
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  18. malf

    malf Member

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    I can see if you hold a strong position at one end of this debate, it can appear that folk at the other end are doing this.
     
  19. Obiwan

    Obiwan Member

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    I think the difference may be that proponents' views are usually formed after studying research and/or direct experience, or based on actual research.

    I haven't read the book as it doesn't appeal to me however, if it is simply a critique of the research carried out by others, or draws conclusions whilst ignoring key elements of the body of phenomena that have been researched, it may not be of much interest to those who have carried out research, or had experiences themselves, or have actually read the meticulous research and observations of those who have had experiences and conducted research.
     
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  20. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    I thought Ben was a nice guest. It appeared that he wasn't aware of the research you referred to... apparently showing significant differences between NDE/OBE vs nonNDE patients when asked to reenact their resusitation.

    Not long after that, you both got stuck in opposing positions, which both have problems.

    Later, you seemed unable to see some of the weaknesses in the argument you kept repeating regarding Van Lommel. I thought Bens responses were entirely reasonable, I don't think Van Lommel's conclusions add up either, he jumps to a position that his research doesn't actually support - in my view.

    But then Ben's ideas don't add up either, when you consider some of the more inconvenient evidence. I also thought that it was very weak of Ben to suggest that people could somehow hang on to the meaning and significance of their NDE, whilst accepting a more mundane physicalist explanation for their NDE. It's obvious that for a lot of experients, the meaning they take from their experience would be significantly affected by his explanations.

    But in the end, the differences between both your positions, can mostly be solved by adopting a new middle position.
     

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