We Need Your Help -- NDE Skepticism

#1
Hello everyone!
I am new to this forum but a longtime listener. Recently, I have been assisting Alex as a co-producer for the show, and I am looking forward to getting to participating in the forum and getting to know everyone who makes up the community here. Currently, I am working on a project with Alex that needs feedback from you, the members of the Skeptiko community.

Recently, a guest on the show asked Alex for help in compiling a list of five to seven of the most frequently cited go-to arguments posed by the skeptical community for "debunking" NDE research. What we would like from each of you is your own list of debunking talking points(whether you subscribe to them yourself is not important). Please feel free to share as many or as few as you like.

Ideally, we are looking for specific arguments against the the extended-consciousness explanation of NDE phenomena, rather than generalizations ("it's just a dying brain").

From time to time, I will be posting a cumulative list of the arguments that you share, for everyone's reference.

Thanks in advance for your insights. Let's get started!


Jason at Skeptiko
 
#2
Hello everyone!
I am new to this forum but a longtime listener. Recently, I have been assisting Alex as a co-producer for the show, and I am looking forward to getting to participating in the forum and getting to know everyone who makes up the community here. Currently, I am working on a project with Alex that needs feedback from you, the members of the Skeptiko community.

Recently, a guest on the show asked Alex for help in compiling a list of five to seven of the most frequently cited go-to arguments posed by the skeptical community for "debunking" NDE research. What we would like from each of you is your own list of debunking talking points(whether you subscribe to them yourself is not important). Please feel free to share as many or as few as you like.

Ideally, we are looking for specific arguments against the the extended-consciousness explanation of NDE phenomena, rather than generalizations ("it's just a dying brain").

From time to time, I will be posting a cumulative list of the arguments that you share, for everyone's reference.

Thanks in advance for your insights. Let's get started!


Jason at Skeptiko
There is not one single explanation common to all NDE reports. For example, because oxygen deprivation can't explain all NDEs it shouldn't be dismissed as the best explanation for some.
 
#3
This is not exactly what you are asking for but it might help indirectly:

Materialist explanations of NDEs fail to explain the phenomenon.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/07/materialist-explanations-of-ndes-fail.html

Click on the hypothesis to see the refutation below, click on the sources to go to the original articles.

Lack of oxygen: Hogan, Tymn, Prescott (including acceleration induced hypoxia in pilots training under high g forces.), Facco and Christian, Beauregard, Greyson, near-death.com
Dying Brain: Hogan, Tymn, Beauregard, Greyson, near-death.com
Hallucinations: Hogan, near-death.com, Long
Religious Expectations: Hogan, Tymn, Long
Cultural Expectations: Hogan, Tymn, Long
Hearing about medical procedures after the fact: Hogan, Tymn
Hearing during resuscitation: Hogan, Prescott, Long
Brain Dysfunction (such as temporal lobe dysfunction): Tymn, Prescott, Facco and Christian, Beauregard, Greyson, near-death.com
Retinal dysfunction causing an image of the tunnel: Facco and Christian
Visual cortex dysinhibition associated with anoxia causing an image of the tunnel: Facco and Christian
Brain chemicals such as ketamine, DMT, etc.: Prescott (ketamine), Facco and Christian (endogenous opioids, neurotransmitter imbalance and hallucinogens including DMT), Beauregard (ketamine), Long
REM Intrusions: Facco and Christian, Long
Epilepsy or seizures: Beauregard
Psychopathology: Hogan, Tymn, Greyson
Unique Personality Traits: Greyson
Residual brain activity during unconsciousness: Greyson
The experience occurred before or after brain activity stopped: Greyson
The experience occurred during CPR: Long
Evolutionary Adaptation: near-death.com
Depersonalization: Hogan, near-death.com
Memory of birth: near-death.com
Medication: Hogan, Tymn, Facco and Christian
Defense against dying: Tymn
Partial anesthesia: Prescott, Long
Misuse of anecdotes: Long
Selective reporting: Long​
 
#4
I'm a proponent myself, and there are a few skeptical points that often comes back in discussions with skeptics - that they seem to feel are their strongest points. Here are a few that I pulled from the top of my head. I just put them as a bullet-point list and refrain from my own counter-arguments against them, since this isn't suppose to be some sort of debate, but rather a data collecting.

In no particular order, regarding stronger or weaker points:
  • Why only a really small percentage of people having NDE's?

  • People who have NDE's and are "seeing and meeting" other persons that provably still are alive. Like meeting ones uncle or grandpa that still lives.

  • People who have NDE's/OBE's when they are nowhere near death, but rather under severe distress. Ex.: A case (if I recall it correctly) of a man who was swimming for his life while he was sucked out to sea by some strong current, and while he still was swimming, with real strong fear for his life, he had an OBE and saw himself (his body) still swimming below him from an elevated viewpoint and felt totally detached from his body. He had some initial feelings of an NDE, before he suddenly was back in his body.

  • Cases where people have a few NDE's in a row. Meaning that they die but get revived and then die again and yet again get revived, and a third time die, and are brought back - all in one stretch. And during those they have totally different and contradictory NDE's. I cant pull up a source right now, but; I've read about some case where this person at first had a "normal" NDE (tunnel, feeling peaceful, meeting relatives etc), and got brought back, and the next NDE minutes later the person had a totally abstract hellish NDE, were the person came back, literally screaming from in terror, when he were revived, and then a third NDE moments later where the person felt like he were in an animals body, and then finally brought back for the last time and got stabilized.

  • People who have NDE's and during their OBE they see people they know, who provably are alive, standing by their body, but when they are brought back are told that these persons never were there, (a case of a girl who had an NDE/OBE and saw her living teacher and classmates at her bedside at the hospital, comforting her and singing to her (but her teacher or classmates had not been in the hospital at all as she was told by the doctors when she was brought back)
I will look and see if I can find the sources of these cases.
 
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#5
Hello everyone!
I am new to this forum but a longtime listener. Recently, I have been assisting Alex as a co-producer for the show, and I am looking forward to getting to participating in the forum and getting to know everyone who makes up the community here. Currently, I am working on a project with Alex that needs feedback from you, the members of the Skeptiko community.

Recently, a guest on the show asked Alex for help in compiling a list of five to seven of the most frequently cited go-to arguments posed by the skeptical community for "debunking" NDE research. What we would like from each of you is your own list of debunking talking points(whether you subscribe to them yourself is not important). Please feel free to share as many or as few as you like.

Ideally, we are looking for specific arguments against the the extended-consciousness explanation of NDE phenomena, rather than generalizations ("it's just a dying brain").

From time to time, I will be posting a cumulative list of the arguments that you share, for everyone's reference.

Thanks in advance for your insights. Let's get started!


Jason at Skeptiko
What's the extended consciousness explanation of NDE phenomena?
 
#7
That the consciousness extends beyond corporal death.
Ok, thanks.

I could only think of 4 reasonably solid objections to that...

1. Those that are able to recall an NDE following cardiac arrest (ca) could not have died. The organism may have appeared behaviourally unconcious, but the organisms individual cells (of which it is composed), must have remained generally viable during CA. Otherwise the patient could not have recovered, and then talked about their experience, due to cellular damage they would have incurred.

2. NDE-type experiences occur in those who are not thought to have been close to death.

3. Flat medical EEG does not mean no brain activity is present.

4. Perception of 'self' as located floating outside of the body does not mean a person has really left their body. In all visual target studies so far, hidden and secret targets have not been seen.
 
#8
Those that are able to recall an NDE following cardiac arrest (ca) could not have died.
Pam Reynolds (sorry Chuck) was dead by every relevant medical criteria during standstill. "Nothing, nothing, nothing" (Dr Robert Spetzler)

Flat medical EEG does not mean no brain activity is present.
maybe but cardiac arrest does. No brainstem, no activity anywhere in the whole brain. And no one in the aware study had an OBE in an area where there was a board fitted.
 
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#9
There is the rather wonderful in the argument that those who had an NDE and lived to tell us about it were never really dead in the first place.

That means either there are no valid NDE accounts at all,
or the only valid NDE reports come either via mediums in communication with the deceased, or from reincarnated individuals who recall their own death in a previous life.

(the word 'near' here is a wonderful get-out-of-jail-free card).
 
#10
As regards the question :

The academic sceptics such as Steven Novella isolate each individual component of an NDE and cite a physiological explanation.
1. Peace and joy = endorphins (some drugs)
2. Out of body experience = stimulation of the parietal lobe/angular gyrus or dissociation
3. The tunnel = retinal spasm and/or inhibition of the cells shutting down from outside to in
4. Brilliant light = temporal lobe seizure
5. Deceased relatives = can be induced by magnetic/electrical stimulation of the cortex

I agree with Pollux's post above but I think that is more of an analysis of the actual case reports which academics tend to steer clear of. Because then, they are not only going to find some desired anomalies (to refute the survival hypothesis) but they have to specifically explain away a mountain of very uncomfortable facts (about NDE) for which they know they have absolutely no satisfactory explanation.
 
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#11
This is not exactly what you are asking for but it might help indirectly:

Materialist explanations of NDEs fail to explain the phenomenon.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/07/materialist-explanations-of-ndes-fail.html

Click on the hypothesis to see the refutation below, click on the sources to go to the original articles.

Lack of oxygen: Hogan, Tymn, Prescott (including acceleration induced hypoxia in pilots training under high g forces.), Facco and Christian, Beauregard, Greyson, near-death.com
Dying Brain: Hogan, Tymn, Beauregard, Greyson, near-death.com
Hallucinations: Hogan, near-death.com, Long
Religious Expectations: Hogan, Tymn, Long
Cultural Expectations: Hogan, Tymn, Long
Hearing about medical procedures after the fact: Hogan, Tymn
Hearing during resuscitation: Hogan, Prescott, Long
Brain Dysfunction (such as temporal lobe dysfunction): Tymn, Prescott, Facco and Christian, Beauregard, Greyson, near-death.com
Retinal dysfunction causing an image of the tunnel: Facco and Christian
Visual cortex dysinhibition associated with anoxia causing an image of the tunnel: Facco and Christian
Brain chemicals such as ketamine, DMT, etc.: Prescott (ketamine), Facco and Christian (endogenous opioids, neurotransmitter imbalance and hallucinogens including DMT), Beauregard (ketamine), Long
REM Intrusions: Facco and Christian, Long
Epilepsy or seizures: Beauregard
Psychopathology: Hogan, Tymn, Greyson
Unique Personality Traits: Greyson
Residual brain activity during unconsciousness: Greyson
The experience occurred before or after brain activity stopped: Greyson
The experience occurred during CPR: Long
Evolutionary Adaptation: near-death.com
Depersonalization: Hogan, near-death.com
Memory of birth: near-death.com
Medication: Hogan, Tymn, Facco and Christian
Defense against dying: Tymn
Partial anesthesia: Prescott, Long
Misuse of anecdotes: Long
Selective reporting: Long​
Quick note, I believe Parnia addressed the lack of oxygen. Many of the aware patients were tested for their oxygen levels as part of the study I believe. I may be wrong on this. He found that there was not a lack of oxygen present in the patients in the study.
 
#12
I did not realize we had so many posts here! Thanks, everyone, for your participation so far. I will post a summary of your respective comments shortly.

Thanks,
Jason
 
#13
As regards the question :

The academic sceptics such as Steven Novella isolate each individual component of an NDE and cite a physiological explanation.
1. Peace and joy = endorphins (some drugs)
2. Out of body experience = stimulation of the parietal lobe/angular gyrus or dissociation
3. The tunnel = retinal spasm and/or inhibition of the cells shutting down from outside to in
4. Brilliant light = temporal lobe seizure
5. Deceased relatives = can be induced by magnetic/electrical stimulation of the cortex

I agree with Pollux's post above but I think that is more of an analysis of the actual case reports which academics tend to steer clear of. Because then, they are not only going to find some desired anomalies (to refute the survival hypothesis) but they have to specifically explain away a mountain of very uncomfortable facts (about NDE) for which they know they have absolutely no satisfactory explanation.
And 6 evidence gained that could not be known = erm....
 
#14
Some wonderful feedback so far! Thanks to everyone who has posted for your thoughtful, insightful, and detailed responses. To summarize, posted below are the salient objections posted so far. Please continue to post the objections you feel are most relevant. Once it looks like we have made a reasonably complete list of objections to the extended consciousness explanation of NDEs, I am going to create a poll that will allow everyone to vote for the objections that he or she feels warrant further discussion (again, it does not mean you have to buy into these objections, just that you feel they warrant discussion as reasonable arguments). Once we have isolated the four or five refutations that seem to carry the most weight, we can pass them on to the researcher in question.

So this is what we have so far:


-No single explanation for all NDE reports (from Malf).

-Lack of oxygen, dying brain, hallucinations, cultural expectations, brain dysfunction (such as temporal lobe dysfunction), retinal dysfunction causing an image of the tunnel, visual cortex dysinhibition associated with anoxia causing an image of the tunnel, brain chemicals such as ketamine, DMT, etc., REM Intrusions, epilepsy or seizure, psychopathology, unique personality traits, residual brain activity during unconsciousness, the experience occurred before or after brain activity stopped, the experience occurred during, evolutionary adaptation, depersonalization, memory of birth: near-death, medication, defense against dying, partial anesthesia, misuse of anecdotes, selective reporting.
(from Jim_Smith)

-Why only a really small percentage of people having NDE's?
-People who have NDE's and are "seeing and meeting" other persons that provably still are alive.
-People who have NDE's/OBE's when they are nowhere near death, but rather under severe distress.
-Cases where people have a few NDE's in a row.
-People who have NDE's and during their OBE they see people they know, who provably are alive, standing by their body, but when they are brought back are told that these persons never were there.
(from Pollux)


-Those that are able to recall an NDE following cardiac arrest (ca) could not have died. The organism may have appeared behaviourally unconcious, but the organisms individual cells (of which it is composed), must have remained generally viable during CA.
- NDE-type experiences occur in those who are not thought to have been close to death.
- Flat medical EEG does not mean no brain activity is present.
-Perception of 'self' as located floating outside of the body does not mean a person has really
left their body. In all visual target studies so far, hidden and secret targets have not been (from Max_B).
-Those who had an NDE and lived to tell us about it were never really dead in the first place
(from Typoz).

-The academic sceptics such as Steven Novella isolate each individual component of an NDE and cite a physiological explanation.
1. Peace and joy = endorphins (some drugs)
2. Out of body experience = stimulation of the parietal lobe/angular gyrus or dissociation
3. The tunnel = retinal spasm and/or inhibition of the cells shutting down from outside to in
4. Brilliant light = temporal lobe seizure
5. Deceased relatives = can be induced by magnetic/electrical stimulation of the cortex
(from Tim).

Apologies if I missed anything. I will create another summary if we get enough further feedback to warrant it.

Thanks, and please continue to respond!

Jason
 
#16
Arouet, apologies if my response caused any confusion. The request from the researcher was for the five or six "skeptical concerns about NDEs" that Skeptiko listeners felt most deserving of further discussion.

I believe it is the researcher's intent to post a response here to the talking points we come up with.
 
#19
The PZ thread reminded me to get back to this one. Hopefully I can be somewhat more constructive than PZ.

First of all, I am not setting out to debunk NDE research, or the hypothesis that NDEs are non-brain based. My argument is not that the "extended-consciousness explanation" of NDEs is false, but rather at this stage the case has not been sufficiently made. I argue the same for any other NDE hypothesis. When it comes to brain-based and non-brain based hypotheses, I argue there is evidence pointing in both directions, none of which yet allow for a confident assessment.

I'll spread these out over a few posts, in no particular order. Some of what I say may echo some of what was said above.
 
#20
Finding stories of NDEs is really easy, but finding specifically evidence based NDEs (such as what is outlined by Gary Habermas' work) has been challenging for. Skeptics that I know, seen interviewed (Sam Harris and the like), and skeptics interviewed here on Skeptiko have claimed a lack of evidence based NDEs and claimed the ones they have looked into have been debunked. It's easy to say others just need to do the research, but it would be such a great tool if that kind of research was in one place instead of scattered all over.
 
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