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So, last week neuroscientist Mario Beauregard wrote a provocative piece for Salon titled (somewhat ambitiously) “Near Death, Explained“. In the article, Beauregard points at a couple of NDEs in which the experiencer apparently had a “veridical OBE” – that is, while dead, they said they had viewed the world from outside their body, with this information later corroborated.

Outspoken blogger P.Z. Myers took umbrage – shocking, I know – with such “tripe” from a “well-established kook” being published in Salon (and the “mystically inclined, quantum-woo-spouting diddledingles” who commented on the story) in a blog post on his site. But fair play to the magazine, because they reprinted Myers’ criticism soon after as a response to Beauregard’s original piece.

This was then followed by a response from Beauregard, in which he discusses another ‘veridical’ case, and then yet another follow-up from Myers was published in which the biologist blogger let readers know how unimpressed he was with the newly added case:

This new anecdote is more of the same. The patient is comatose and with no heart rhythm when brought into the hospital; over a week later, he claims to recognize a particular nurse as having been present during his crisis, and mentions that she put his dentures in a drawer.

I am underwhelmed. I must introduce Beauregard to two very common terms that are well understood in the neuroscience community…

Now, nobody’s too surprised anymore when P.Z. flaps his lips and generic insults fall out everywhere, but the especially fun part of this one is when he gets all patronising (“I must introduce Beauregard…”). Because right above it where P.Z. notes the female nurse who put the dentures in the drawer? Yeah, wrong gender. The central testimony in this case comes from “T.G.”, who was a *male* nurse.

I must introduce P.Z. to a term well understood in the science community, called “doing some research”.

This is one of the problems of building a case on anecdotes; without knowledge of the range and likelihood of various results, one canโ€™t distinguish the selective presentation of chance events from a measurable phenomenon.

Indeed. Especially when you don’t even appear to have a passing familiarity with the original research that you’re criticising. Myers tells us what’s wrong with the case, and how it can be explained, when he doesn’t seem to have read the original documents debating it (in which it is quite clear that the nurse is a male), which explain exactly why many researchers find it compelling.

There are certainly aspects to all of these ‘veridical’ cases that detract from them somewhat and require further debate and discussion, but there’s also a growing list of testimony that suggests something strange might be going on. Hopefully these debates can be had in an honest, scientific manner, and further research can be done to help resolve the answers. Y’know, that science thing.

I have no idea why anyone would listen to P.Z. Myers’ opinion on the matter though.