Is there a life beyond death? It’s a question that has been asked throughout human existence, but in recent times mainstream science has concluded that answer is a definitive “no”. But many of those who have had a near-death experience tell another story, and claim that they have seen a realm in which consciousness persists after the death of our physical body. What is the truth?
An upcoming debate in New York on Wednesday evening seeks to weigh the evidence from both sides in order to get closer to an answer. In support of the statement that “Death is not Final” will be seminal researcher of the NDE, Dr. Raymond Moody, and neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, who has had an NDE himself and written a book about it (Proof of Heaven). Skeptic Dr. Steven Novella and physicist Sean Carroll will argue against the claim.
If consciousness is just the workings of neurons and synapses, how do we explain the phenomenon of near-death experience? By some accounts, about 3% of the U.S. population has had one: an out-of-body experience often characterized by remarkable visions and feelings of peace and joy, all while the physical body is close to death. To skeptics, there are more plausible, natural explanations, like oxygen deprivation. Is the prospect of an existence after death “real” and provable by science, or a construct of wishful thinking about our own mortality?
The webpage for the debate has extra information, as well as a poll for viewer’s opinions (already split 50-50 with 800 votes cast). I would have liked to see Dr. Bruce Greyson appearing on the ‘For’ side, given his extensive knowledge and unflappable manner, but it should be an interesting debate regardless – tune in if you get the chance!
(Shameless self-promotion: If you’re looking to have some solid background information on your side going into the debate, grab my eBook Stop Worrying! There Probably is an Afterlife – only $5.99 – which has a good run-down of the latest research on these topics.)