Afterlife Research a “Game-Changer”

Last week I posted about a new best-selling book concerning near-death experiences: Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences by Dr Jeffrey Long and Paul Perry. For more information on the book, make sure you have a listen to the latest Skeptiko podcast which features Dr Jeffrey Long discussing his research, and responding to skeptical arguments against the NDE:

While some near-death experience researchers have been reluctant to make the leap from NDEs to proof of the afterlife, Dr. Long is convinced by his research findings, “I’ve gone over every skeptic argument I can get my hands on. At the end of the day, I have no doubt in my mind near-death experience is for real. It’s a profound and reassuring message that we all have an afterlife. Every single one of us. And it’s wonderful. It is probably the greatest thrill of my life to be able to carry forward that important message to the world. I wouldn’t do it if I weren’t absolutely convinced that it’s correct.”

The conclusions of this research will be controversial, but Dr. Long stands ready to take on the critics, “I would be delighted to debate any near-death experience skeptic, any time, any place, on any media, as long as they’re scholarly, well informed, and as long as it can be a very high-level, intellectual debate.”

For those with limited download capacity, note that there is also a text transcription of the interview available.

  1. Hay Greg, I had to read
    Hay Greg,

    I had to read the article as my connection is very poor. I have to say that i am a little disappointed, not by Dr Jeffrey Long, but by the questions posed. I am going to have to get the book.

    While reading it i was really hoping a question would come up about how he had de-selected people not to include in his sample and about the range of answers given in that group. Why were people who believed they had had an experience discluded. You can say that you only wanted to take the best, and this does seem to have been compared to real world geography or events to determine the quality, but of the 150 questions i really wanted to know what the criteria were.

    If you start with 50000 people who have all had an experience close enough to your given situation that they have written or replied to you, then ask them to fill in questions and weed out the ones you don’t like then you naturally end up with a closely correllated data set at the end. You could do it with dreams containing reptile like aliens and at the end you will have a group of people with very similar dreams of reptile like aliens.

    As for having flown above the city and seen the hospital below them, or some such thing. This is cool of course, but how was imagination controlled for? EEG? Possibly, i would accept that i think. Even still a part of the inference of this is that they would not be able to dream it. I wanted the questioner to see how he had dealt with this. After all it is not difficult for my brain to dream me flying over my local town or hospital in perfect detail (i guess so long as i have seen the detail from the ground enough for my brain to fill it in, which i think i have… maybe).

    The assumption seems to be that becuase the experience is not dream like, i.e is realistic, and because it features accurate information, then the interpretation of it as leaving the body is correct. As a scientist he should have been able to say what his assumptions had been so i think he should have been asked what they were.

    Also can EEG show lack of mental processing such as memory and imagination not back writing over the missing time frame. There is no EEG during the event, but how has he made sure the brain is not creating the NDE in the tenths of a second after blood flow re-occurs?

    He says he ‘has no doubt in his mind near-death experience is for real. It’s a profound and reassuring message that we all have an afterlife. Every single one of us’
    Where has this come from? There was nothing in his data or the interview to suggest this is guaranteed for everyone (baring in mind he has his scientific hat on here and not his personal beliefs). His data seems to suggest that most people either do not experience this, or even if they do their experience can be discounted based on his 150 point scale. If say only 5% of people who suffer heart failure and return with stories of what was happening around them then could this not be the figure or even likelyhood of life after death. What would have been sensational is if he had asked them their religious persuation. If the religious had a 100% chance of NDE and the non-religious a 0% chance, of even more amazing Catholics had a 100% chance and Scientologists a 0% chance then maybe only a select few were being chosen? What about morality? Did you have a 0% chance if you had commited a serious crime? How has he scaled this up to everyone from his sample of 1600?

    Another thing i see here is a little bit of a conflict. Very often in our chats here we fall back on the agreement that we do not actually know what consciousness even is. Some refer to it as the ‘Hard Problem’. Without knowing what it is it is impossible to say how it is formed, how it emerges, where it comes from. Here though he is confidently using EEG, brain electrical activity, to say what the consciousness is doing. This concerns me a little. Some of his arguments are based around saying that the consciousness cannot be recieving information because the EEG is flat. In this he claims he knows something about consciousness, or at least enough to say that EEG can measure it.

    The article also doesn’t even approach what to do after we have pinned down the existence of a phenomena. How has he differentiated between say, eternal life outside of the body, and some aspect of the brain becoming quantumly entangled with its surrounding, or any other of a million weird possibilities. His data is good enough to suggest something is going on, but how will he varify what it is?

    All in all though it sounds very interesting, though i hope the book lives up to the hype.

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