A Skeptic’s Hoax Near-Death Experience and Fraud Is Exposed
A skeptic named Thomas Westbrook posted a hoax NDE on a popular NDE website on June 11, 2017. Then, two weeks later, he created a YouTube video called “Near-Death Experiences Explained – Truth About NDEs” on his Holy Koolaid Channel to promote the hoax as part of an effort to “prove” such NDE testimony is “useless”. Then on June 26, 2017, I stumbled upon the skeptic’s video in an article on the Pathos Blog which profiled the hoax and video. I watched the skeptic’s video which I thought was silly and filled with arguments that have been thoroughly debunked. I contacted the webmaster of the popular NDE website and informed them about the hoax NDE on their website.
But the skeptic made a serious mistake. The hoax NDE he described in the video is not what he claimed he posted on the NDE website. For example, in the video he claimed he posted a hoax NDE that included a “golden robot-god C3PO” (of Star Wars fame). He even placed an image of C3PO on the cover of his video. The problem is he doesn’t mention a “golden robot-god” or “C3PO” in the hoax NDE he posted on the NDE website. This proves the skeptic is a fraud and the only hoax he is promoting is himself on the general public. In the video, the skeptic makes many claims against the reliability of near-death studies and against any evidence supporting the Afterlife Hypothesis. This article will present his arguments and refute each one of them.
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1. A Comparison of Skeptic’s Hoax NDE in His YouTube Video with His Hoax NDE Posted on the NDE Website
The following is the hoax NDE the skeptic in the video claimed he posted. The words in bold are common words used in both the video and the hoax NDE posted on the NDE website. Notice the ridiculous elements included in it.
The Skeptic’s Hoax NDE in the Video:
“My leg was amputated and my heart stopped. I floated off the operating table before explosive diarrhea launched me at light speed to a beautiful rain forest paradise where I was greeted by mydead grandpa and the goldenrobot-god C3PO who was floating through the air on a chair and speaking in Spanish.” (Skeptic in the video)
Now compare his claimed hoax NDE in the video with the actual hoax NDE he posted on the NDE website (which has already been removed from the Internet). They are not the same. Notice that the skeptic doesn’t mention a “paradise”. He doesn’t mention a “robot-god”. He doesn’t mention “C3PO”. He doesn’t mention a “chair” at all. So the hoax is on those who believe the skeptic did what he claims.
The Skeptic’s Hoax NDE He Posted on the NDE Website:
“I developed a massive infection in my leg and the antibiotics weren’t working. So the doctors needed to amputate my leg. They gave me anesthesia to put me under and during the operation, I lost a lot of blood. The doctors said that what happened was extremely rare, but my heart stopped and I flatlined.
What happened next was the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced and I haven’t shared it with anyone else because they’ll think I’m crazy. But after reading these stories here, I feel like I can open up.
I felt myself floating off the operating table. I looked down and saw the doctors scrambling around to bring me back. At that point, I felt my bowels completely emptying, like explosive diarrhea. It was as though that launched me upwards through space. I was propelled towards a light. It was like a tunnel. I know it sounds cliché, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I guess it was like in Star Wars when the millennium falcon enters light speed and all of the light from the stars bend towards it. I felt so warm and at peace. It was the greatest feeling I’ve ever experienced in my life. I didn’t know what was at the end of the tunnel, but I knew that it was something spectacular.
Suddenly I was in a tropical forest on some spectacular world. My grandfather was there and he’s been dead for years! It was so good to see him again. He smiled at me and I knew deep down inside that he was proud of me.
Then I looked up and saw the most beautiful golden man, brighter than a thousand stars! He greeted me first in Spanish and then in English. I could tell he was all-knowing, because how else could he speak every single language? He floated through the air towards me and then asked why I’ve been such a skeptic. I didn’t feel threatened, but I knew I had been missing something huge in my life. I still feel the sense of urgency and the memory is ridiculously vivid. He told me that it wasn’t my time yet, but that I needed to return to earth and tell people the good news about him.
That’s when I felt my body being sucked backward. I didn’t want to leave. I still wish I could have stayed, but I guess it’s for the better. I was sent back to my hospital bed. I eventually recovered, except that I’m missing my leg. I should be getting a prosthetic soon.
I feel weird sharing it and have only told a couple of family members. They think I’m crazy, but I know that what I experienced was the real deal. I don’t want to force them to believe me, but I don’t know how else to convince them that there’s something else out there. Hopefully my story helps someone who’s in a similar boat as me.” (Skeptic’s NDE posted on the NDE Website)
So, as you can see for yourself, the skeptic is perpetuating a fraud about his hoax NDE. He doesn’t mention a “paradise,” nor a “robot-god,” nor does he mention “C3PO,” nor does he mention him “on a chair.” The hoax NDE he posted on the website does not contain any ridiculous elements which would cause it to be automatically identified as a hoax.
3. Counter-Arguments Against the Transcript of the Skeptic’s YouTube Video
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“You’re surrounded by darkness, floating through the air. Suddenly a bright light approaches! You enter a great hall and are greeted by the Hindu god of death Yama who rests beside his two ferocious hellhounds, doted on by servants. His accountant Chitragupta is there flipping through a book to check your karma before realizing that whoops! They messed up! There’s been a mistake! And now they have to send you back. You wake up in a hospital bed surrounded by doctors and very confused. The Hindu’s were right all along? What the hell just happened? You’ve just had a near-death experience (NDE). But does this mean there’s a heaven or a hell?” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The skeptic’s argument is that, if you have an NDE with Hindu related religious elements included in it, and you are not a Hindu, then it is not evidence of a heaven or a hell. But this is not really a logical argument at all, but merely an assumption. The fact is NDEs have a variety of religious elements to them and not all are based upon the NDEr’s cultural background. For example, a Christian named Nancy Evans Bush once had an NDE involving the Taoist ying-yang symbol and beings informing her of Taoist philosophy. A Jewish person named Jeanie Dicus had an NDE and was asked by Jesus if she wanted to return to life or reincarnate. Howard Storm, an atheist, met Jesus and was accepted by him and by God. Carl G. Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, had an NDE where he saw a black Hindu sitting silently in lotus position before the gate of a heavenly Hindu temple. So, although NDEs in general are interpreted by those who have them based upon their own cultural and religious background, this is not always the case.
Also, throughout the skeptic’s video, he has an obvious problem distinguishing between evidence and proof. Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion. This support may be strong or weak. The strongest type of evidence is that which provides direct proof of the truth of an assertion. At the other extreme is evidence that is merely consistent with an assertion but does not rule out other, contradictory assertions, as in circumstantial evidence. Proof (or truth) is sufficient evidence or a sufficient argument for the truth of a proposition. So it is irrelevant whether or not an NDE has Hindi elements in it. Having an NDE can be evidence of an afterlife, or a heaven or a hell. But in no way do NDE researchers claim NDEs are proof of the same.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“At first glance, near-death experiences seem to be convincing proof of an afterlife. Except for a couple major problems. First off, in the largest study of NDEs ever conducted, only 9 percent of cardiac arrest survivors who were able to complete a detailed interview had a near death experience. If people have souls and everyone who dies goes to heaven or hell, then what’s up with the other 91% who flat line, but never have an NDE?” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:Only 9% of cardiac arrest survivors report NDEs. So the skeptic assumes “if people have souls” and “everyone who dies goes to heaven or hell” then the other 91% who flatline should report NDEs as well. Not true. According to the director of the NDE study mentioned in the video, Dr. Sam Parnia, “A number of NDErs may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits.” Also, it has been documented how some NDErs have reported NDEs in between cardiac arrest resuscitations; but when finally stabilized, they have absolutely no memories of it at all. This shows some people have NDEs but have no memories of them afterward. Also, the skeptic’s argument is a fallacy which can be demonstrated by the fact that studies show about 55% of the population will ever have a lucid dream. Some people don’t even remember their nightly dreams at all. Using the skeptic’s logic, because everyone experiences REM sleep, everyone should therefore lucid dream and remember their dreams. But this logic, as well as the skeptic’s logic, is obviously false.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“But even with such a small percentage, there are still thousands of anecdotes from people who claim to have returned from the other side. In his 1975 book Life After Life, Raymond Moody’s interviewed 150 people about their near death experiences, and Dr. Jeffrey Long has accumulated over 4000 near death experience accounts online. Both are convinced that these stories are proof of an afterlife. But in both of these cases they’re all just anecdotes. I’m not saying these people didn’t experience something odd. But I am saying that we should take it with a grain of salt, because if anecdotes meet your standard for what qualifies as evidence, then you should probably start buying tin foil and food buckets, because there are just as many people who report seeing reptilians and who have been abducted by aliens. To prove just how useless anecdotes are, I successfully submitted a fictitious near death experience account to Dr. Long’s website that’s been up for over two weeks now, in which my leg was amputated and my heart stopped. “I floated off the operating table before explosive diarrhea launched me at light speed to a beautiful rainforest paradise where I was greeted by my dead grandpa and the golden robot-god C3PO who was floating through the air on a chair and speaking in Spanish.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: As previously mentioned, the skeptic is perpetuating a fraud because he did not submit the same fictitious NDE on Dr. Long’s website that he claimed he did in the video. The fictitious NDE he submitted on Dr. Long’s website did not include the words “paradise,” “robot-god,” “C3PO,” or “on a chair.” The fictitious NDE he submitted had no ridiculous elements to it and, therefore gave no reason for it to be rejected as a hoax.
But by attempting to post a hoax NDE with (he claims) ridiculous elements to it, the skeptic says his goal is to prove how “useless” anecdotal evidence is in NDE studies because, according to his logic:
“If anecdotes meet your standard for what qualifies as evidence, then you should probably start buying tin foil and food buckets, because there are just as many people who report seeing reptilians and who have been abducted by aliens.” (Skeptic in the video)
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“You would expect, that if any particular religious account of the afterlife were true, every NDE would be pretty much the same. But these accounts are so varied and are all based on cultural exposure. In India people see Hindu gods, in Saudi Arabia it’s Mohammad, Allah, and a bunch of virgins. The kid from the book/movie Heaven is for Real saw a Jesus with bright blue eyes, and one little girl went to heaven and was greeted by a portly man with a white beard and a red cap a.k.a. Santa Clause.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The skeptic argues that all NDEs should be the same if they were real afterlife experiences. He argues they are all so varied and based upon cultural exposure; so therefore, this falsifies NDEs against being real afterlife experiences. But if all NDEs were exactly identical, this would make Susan Blackmore‘s “dying brain theory” more likely. It would show NDEs are only experiences coming from “hard-wired” brains. But because NDEs are different, this shows they are not “hard-wired” experiences, but rather dynamic experiences — like life experiences in general. NDEs are very similar to lucid dreaming — an experience of virtual reality where all things are virtually possible. And just as one person’s dream is different from another, so do differences between NDEs correspond with reality. NDEs are very private, personal experiences – as private as a person’s clothes, hair color, language, size, etc. An NDEr’s subjective experiences can be attributed to many factors: the NDEr’s psychology, personal experience, background, etc. — not just culture. One of the truths of the NDE is each person integrates their NDE into their own preexisting belief system. Everyone is unique and everyone experiences the world in a way unique to anyone else in the universe. It is the same with NDEs. Reality exists in the mind of the beholder. In ordinary life, we create our own reality from the actions we take and the thoughts we think inwardly. You are what you think. The NDE appears to be no different.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“But what about veridical NDEs – near-death experiences in which the person sees something they couldn’t otherwise have known while ‘flat-lining’ and others are able to verify that what they saw is indeed correct. The most notorious example of this is Maria’s shoe. A lady named Maria reportedly left her body floated around and saw a shoe on a ledge outside her hospital window that she ‘couldn’t have possibly seen.’ Her critical care provider, Kimberly Clark looked outside and saw the shoe just as described. But when researchers tried to track down Maria to confirm Clark’s story, they weren’t able to find any such person or anyone else to corroborate the account. And when they placed a shoe on the ledge, it was clearly visible from the hospital room, proving Clark had exaggerated at least part of the story.” (Skeptic in the video)
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Not one case of veridical NDEs has ever been confirmed under a scientifically controlled setting.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The skeptic is badly misinformed. One of the best cases of verified out-of-body (OBE) perception during an NDE that meets all the criteria for whole brain death is the case of Pam Reynolds. Pam’s extraordinary NDE occurred while she underwent a rare surgical procedure called a “standstill” to remove a brain aneurysm. The procedure required her to: (1) become unconscious by use of an anesthetic; (2) have her body temperature lowered to 60 degrees; (3) have her heart and breathing stopped; (4) have her brain waves allowed to flatten; and (5) have all the blood drained from her head. Under these conditions, conscious awareness should be medically impossible. Yet, while Pam was in this condition, she later reported how she floated out of her body and watched the doctors operate on her body. She was able to describe in specific detail the surgical instruments, the conversations among the physicians, and the procedures performed on her during her surgery. She was reunited with deceased loved ones during her NDE and was reluctant to return to her body. Pam’s ability to see and hear events while out of her body were later verified to be true — a phenomenon occurring in many NDE called “veridical perception.” You can read the entire account and the evidence on my website. More examples of veridical OBE perception can be found on my “Out-of Body Experiences and the Near-Death Experience” article and this article. There is also a book entitled, “The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences” containing over 100 cases of veridical OBE perception.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“To quote physicist Dr. Vic Stenger, ‘To scientifically prove life after death is going to require carefully controlled experiments, not just a lot of stories. The plural of anecdote is not ‘data.’” (Skeptic in the video)
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Some people reported gaining supernatural powers after an NDE, the great thing about this, is we can test it. But no one has ever proven it under a controlled setting.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The skeptic’s argument is false. One of the possible aftereffects of having an NDE is becoming psychic. One of the most well known NDErs who became psychic after having an NDE is Dannion Brinkley. In an attempt to verify his psychic abilities attained from his NDE, the popular TV show “Unsolved Mysteries” asked renowned parapsychologist Dr. William Roll to conduct a series of tests. Dannion gave readings for eight people he had never met before. According to Dr. Roll, Dannion picked out several details about the lives of the individuals which he could not have known. Dr. Roll described Dannion as one of the more remarkable psychics he has ever worked with. Dannion was also asked to consult on a brutal murder case. On August 12, 1993, in Big Fork, Montana, John and Nancy Bosco had been shot to death, execution style, as they slept. The police investigation turned up absolutely no leads. Two months later, John’s mother Toni met with Dannion. Dannion described the killer as a slight-built young man with black hair who knew John and the layout of the house. Dannion said the man was in a college somewhere in the West, but predicted he would be arrested in the very early part of December. Incredibly, Dannion was correct on all counts; 18-year-old Joseph “Shadow” Clark was arrested in December, and later convicted. Just as Dannion predicted, Clark had lived in the murder house, had known the Boscos, and was attending college in the West. Dannion had apparently solved the case through the power of his own mind. Other NDErs such as Paul Elder, Joseph McMoneagle and David Morehouse attain remote viewing skills which attracted the attention of top secret U.S. government officials. Other NDErs such as Peter Anthony have been employed by law enforcement as a psychic detective; some NDErs become spiritual mediums such as Susanne Wilson; some NDErs become psychic diagnosticians such as Dr. Yvonne Kason; some NDErs become astral projection experts such as Dr. Dianne Morrissey; some NDErs become earthquake sensitives such as Elaine Durham; and some NDErs become EVP experts such as Gabbie Chase.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: The skeptic’s argument assumes James Randi’s prize is a valid test to prove supernatural powers. His argument is that because no one has won James Randi’s prize; this proves there are no supernatural powers. But over the years, it has become evident to parapsychologists that Randi’s Foundation is not a real scientific research organization seeking the truth in these matters. Many articles have been written to document this fact. A recent article came out when Randi ended his prize providing some good background: The James Randi 1 Million Dollar Challenge Finally Terminated. This article includes a summary of the debate and links to some articles explaining the pseudoskeptical nature of Randi’s so-called “challenge”.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“One example of post NDE supernatural claims is Dannion Brinkley who wrote a book in 1994 called Saved by the Light, in which he described his prophetic powers and claimed to have prophesied about things in 1975 that later came true. One of Dannion’s 1975 prophecies was that China would invade the Soviet Union, fight over a railroad, and proceed to march deep into the heart of the USSR. Yep. Totally happened.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The skeptic argues that because a few of Dannion Brinkley’s NDE visions of the future turned out to be wrong; this proves Brinkley is a total fraud. But during Brinkley’s NDE he was shown 117 visions of the future (95 of them have already happened). These include the election of Ronald Reagan, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Gulf War in 1991. Dr. Raymond Moody, the “father of the NDE” has verified that Dannion did indeed predict these events in 1975 before they happened. Just because he got a few wrong — or maybe even interpreted the visions wrong — this doesn’t nullify the other visions he got correct. And where does it state a psychic must be 100% accurate to be a real psychic? Only in the skeptic’s uninformed mind.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:I agree that publishing a hoax NDE, such as “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven”, and making money off of it is very wrong and unethical. But this is exactly what the skeptic is doing by publishing his hoax NDE in the video and asking for donations through Paypal or Bitcoin at the end of it.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“While parapsychologists, pastors, and religious gurus are all quick to speculate and jump to conflicting conclusions that near-death experiences are proof of their god, scientists have consistently stated for decades now that we don’t know exactly what’s going on during an NDE, but they continue to do research. And here’s what we’ve found: There’s no indication whatsoever that anything supernatural is going on.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: The skeptic is obviously not familiar with quantum mechanics (QM).which does not rule out the possibility of an “afterlife” universe or “afterlife” dimension (a multiverse, a multidimensional universe) or the survival of brain function after death (quantum immortality). Through quantum decoherence and quantum superposition, the idea of parallel universes offers the possibility for the existence of a communicating parallel universe acting as a person’s afterlife universe when death occurs. As derived from the Many-WORLDS interpretation of QM, and its extending concept of Many-MINDS interpretation of QM, it is theoretically possible for a living person to exist in superposition in a parallel universe (including their mental states and electrical discharges occurring throughout their brain and nervous system). Many-Worlds views reality as a many-branched tree where every possible quantum outcome is realized including the possibility of branches to universes that doesn’t lead to a living person’s death. Theoretically, this makes it possible for a living person to continue living in a parallel universe when the person dies in this current universe.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Dr. Sam Parnia took 4 years to conduct a study of 2060 cardiac arrest patients. Of the 330 who survived, 140 were able to be interviewed, and only 9 had a near death experience. Nine people is an absolutely tiny sample size by any stretch of the imagination, but in this and several other studies, cards bearing numbers and images were placed just above the bed, but out of site of the doctors and patients so if the patients had had an out of body experience (OBE), they would have seen the images. While many of the patients in these studies described having an out of body experience and floating above the operating table, not one in any of the studies described seeing the cards.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:While none of the 9% of NDErs saw the targets (for a variety of reasons), there was one NDE case of veridical OBE perception confirmed under scientifically controlled settings in the AWARE study. The skeptic is correct that of the 2,060 cardiac patients in the study, only 140 survived and were well enough to have an interview. Of these 140, there were 39 who were not able to complete the second interview, mostly due to fatigue. Of the 101 patients able to interviewed, only 9 were deemed to have had an NDE (9%) and of these 9 NDErs, only two reported memories of auditory/visual awareness of the physical environment. Of these two, one was not able to follow up with an in-depth third interview due to ill health. The other patient had veridical perceptions (VPs) while in cardiac arrest:
(1) During the NDE, the unconscious patient felt quite euphoric; (2) The patient heard an automated voice saying, “Shock the patient, shock the patient;” (3) The patient rose near the ceiling and looked down on his physical body, the nurse and another man, bald and “quite a chunky fella,” who wore blue scrubs and a blue hat. The patient could tell the man was bald because of where the hat was; (4) The next day, the patient recognized the bald man who attended him during the resuscitation; (5) The medical record confirmed the use of an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) that would give the automated instructions the patient heard and the role that the identified man played during the resuscitation.
To assess the accuracy of claims of VP, 50 to 100 shelves were installed in each hospital (15 of them) near the ceiling of areas where cardiac arrest resuscitation was likely to occur. Each shelf had an image that was visible only from above the shelf. The study’s hypothesis was that the images on the shelves could potentially test the validity of VP, provided enough cases of NDEs. The study’s authors concluded that: (a) In some cases of cardiac arrest, memories of visual awareness compatible with so called out-of-body experiences (OBEs) may correspond with actual events; (b) A number of NDErs may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits; (c) The recalled VP experience surrounding death merits a genuine investigation without prejudice.
Concerning that one case of VP, it was validated and timed using auditory stimuli during cardiac arrest. Dr. Sam Parnia concluded, “This is significant, since it has often been assumed that these experiences are likely hallucinations or illusions, occurring either before the heart stops or after the heart has been successfully restarted, but not an experience corresponding with ‘real’ events when the heart isn’t beating. In this case, consciousness and awareness appeared to occur during a three-minute period when there was no heartbeat. This is paradoxical, since the brain typically ceases functioning within 20-30 seconds of the heart stopping and doesn’t resume again until the heart has been restarted. Furthermore, the detailed recollections of visual awareness in this case were consistent with verified events.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“But it gets even better. Every aspect of near-death experiences can be artificially induced in a lab.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:This is obviously not true. Some aspects of near-death-like experiences can be artificially induced in a lab. The skeptic lists some of them below. And NDEs can be triggered by a variety of catalysts other than cardiac arrest or near-death. The skeptic also lists a few of them below. But not every aspect of NDEs have been artificially induced in a lab:
“Out-of-body-like” experiences induced by any of the skeptical methods are called illusions. This fact is admitted by skeptics, scientists, and NDE researchers alike. According to Wikipedia, an illusion is a distortion of the senses, revealing how the brain normally organizes and interprets sensory stimulation. However, OBEs during NDEs are realistic perceptions of real events and are not distortions of reality. Induced OBEs involve dissociation and illusionary autoscopic aspects.
Conscious awareness doesn’t occur under anesthesia using any of the skeptics methods in the same way that conscious awareness occurs during NDEs while under anesthesia. Many NDEs occur while the NDEr is under general anesthesia at a time when any conscious experience should be impossible. While some skeptics claim these NDEs may be the result of too little anesthesia, this ignores those NDEs resulting from anesthesia overdose. Additionally, descriptions of a NDEs differ greatly from those people who experiences “anesthetic awareness.” And the content of NDEs occurring under general anesthesia is essentially indistinguishable from NDEs that do not occur under general anesthesia. This is more strong evidence of NDEs occurring independently from the functioning of the material brain.
A “crystal-clear” level of conscious alertness during NDEs that is greater than alertness experienced in normal consciousness cannot be induced using any of the skeptics methods — even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. This high level of consciousness while physically unconscious is medically unexplainable. Additionally, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and around the world, refuting the possibility of NDEs having any relation to dreams or hallucinations.
None of the skeptics methods can induce a perfect “playback” of entire lifetime memories – called a “life review” — as NDEs can. Life reviews in NDEs include a replay of minute details of events previously occurring in the lives of the NDEr — even if the events were forgotten or happened before they were old enough to remember. In fact, the life review has been described as an instantaneous “reliving” of every detail of a person’s life. In some life reviews, people are shown past lives. Others are shown possible future eventsbased upon decisions made during their NDE. The life review has been called by many NDErs to be the most transformative aspect of their experience.
None of the skeptics methods can induce people to have NDEs without the distortions of time, place, body image and disorientations seen in drug induced experiences
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“When the brain experiences hypoxia (a decrease in oxygen), as happens to jet fighter pilots in centrifuges, feelings of euphoria, tunnel vision, hyper-vividness, clarity, and hallucinations can result.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: The author of the Spiritual Development website has excellent summaries of the arguments for and against the skeptical arguments against the Afterlife Hypothesis interpretation of NDEs. According to Dr. R.. Craig Hogan, “Lack of oxygen (hypoxia) causes stupor without memories of the experience. People experiencing NDEs report enhanced consciousness not stupor and they remember their NDE.” Dr. Fred Schoonmaker, a cardiologist from Denver, had by 1979 carried out investigations of over 2,000 patients who had suffered cardiac arrests, many of whom reported NDEs. His findings showed NDEs occurred when there was no deprivation of oxygen.
Michael Prescott points out how, in the textbook Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century by Edward F. Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly et al, concerning induced hypoxia in pilots training under high g forces, “the primary features of acceleration-induced hypoxia, however, are myoclonic convulsions (rhythmic jerking of the limbs), impaired memory for events just prior to the onset of unconsciousness, tingling in the extremities and around the mouth, confusion and disorientation upon awakening, and paralysis, symptoms that do not occur in association with NDEs. Moreover, contrary to NDEs, the visual images Whinnery reported frequently included living people, but never deceased people; and no life review or accurate out-of-body perceptions have been reported in acceleration-induced loss of consciousness.”
J. Denosky of the SpiritualTravel.org website points out how the jet fighter pilots experience “tunnel vision” as they gradually lose consciousness as a result of blood draining from their brains because of the extreme gravity forces generated during flight. Their peripheral vision darkens and blurs while the circle of vision becomes smaller as the pilot nears unconsciousness. However, the pilot still perceives the material world during this experience. The central area of vision that remains still shows the cockpit gauges and the horizon. The person having an NDE, however, perceives light at the end of a tunnel, not material reality. The experiences have in common that the individual has a circular visual field, but they differ both in what the visual field contains (image versus light), and how the visual field changes. While the jet pilot gradually sees the visual field decrease in size to a smaller and smaller circle, the NDE experiences described by those who have had the experience do not mention this gradual narrowing over time. Instead, the field starts out as a pinpoint or small circle, which may or may not increase in size during the “tunnel experience“. It generally does not decrease in size. In some cases, the light at the end of the tunnel gradually grows to engulf the individual as he or she nears the end of the tunnel. The tunnel experienced during an NDE is usually 3-dimensional and surrounds the individual while the pilot experiences a narrowing of the visual field but not a “tunnel”.
Comparisons between NDEs and hallucinations produced by an oxygen-starved brain show that the latter are chaotic and much more similar to psychotic hallucinations. Confusion, disorientation, and fear are the typical characteristics, compared with the tranquility, calm, and sense of order of a NDE. There are some features in common: a sense of well-being and power, and themes of death and dying. But people who have experienced both at different times say that there is an unmistakable difference. Hallucinations, whether deliberately drug-induced, the result of medication, or caused by oxygen deprivation, almost always take place while the subject is awake and conscious, whereas NDEs happen during unconsciousness, sometimes when the subject is so close to death that no record of brain activity is recorded on an electroencephalograph, the machine that monitors brain waves. Also, the medical conditions that take subjects to the brink of death, and to having a NDE, do not necessarily include oxygen-deprivation, or any medication. This is particularly true of accident victims. NDEs appear to occur at the moment when the threat of death occurs, not necessarily at the time, maybe hours later, when death is close enough to be starving the brain of oxygen.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Drugs such as Ketamine which interact with your NMDA receptors can induce NDE-like experiences. This is relevant because your brain contains naturally occurring neuroprotective agents that bind to same receptors and could potentially create these experiences naturally.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: In the textbook Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, by Edward F. Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly et al, the authors point out how unlike the vast majority of NDEs are compared to drug-induced hallucinations. Ketamine experiences are often frightening and involve bizarre imagery, and patients usually express the wish not to repeat the experience. Most ketamine users also recognize the illusory character of their experience, in contrast to the many NDE experiencers who are firmly convinced of the reality of what they experienced and its lack of resemblance to illusions or dreams. Even if ketamine experiences do resemble NDEs in some respects, many important features of NDEs, such as seeing deceased people or a revival of memories, have not been reported with ketamine. Furthermore, ketamine typically exerts its effects in an otherwise more or less normal brain, while many NDEs occur under conditions in which brain function is severely compromised. [Pages 380-381]
In Appendix B of his book, Proof of Heaven, NDEr Dr. Eben Alexander pointed out that “Endogenous glutamate blockade with excitotoxicity, mimicking the hallucinatory anesthetic, ketamine (occasionally used to explain NDEs in general). I occasionally saw the effects of ketamine used as an anesthetic during the earlier part of my neurosurgical career at Harvard Medical School. The hallucinatory state it induced was most chaotic and unpleasant, and bore no resemblance whatsoever to my experience in coma.”
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“There’s growing evidence that the temporal lobe plays a huge role in the creating NDEs. When patients had their brains scanned after an NDE, it was discovered that they had increased levels of temporal lobe activity compared with those in a control group. That could help explain why only a small percentage of people who flat line have NDEs. When Dr. Olaf Blanke implanted electrodes into the brains of patients, he was able to trigger supernatural and out of body experiences by stimulating the temporal parietal junction.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Dr. Blanke assumes all OBEs are illusions. And as previously mentioned, illusions are a distortion of the senses, revealing how the brain normally organizes and interprets sensory stimulation. However, OBEs during NDEs are realistic perceptions of real events and are not distortions of reality. Induced OBEs involve dissociation and illusionary autoscopic aspects. NDE researcher Dr. Melvin Morse agrees that stimulating the right temporal lobe produces OBE-like illusions, but he sees this area of the brain as the mediating bridge for spiritual experiences in general, not reductionistically interpreting NDEs as brain activity alone (Morse, 1992). Also, the characteristic emotions resulting from temporal lobe stimulation are fear, sadness, and loneliness, not the calm and love of an NDE.
Researchers, such as Dr. Bruce Greyson of the University of Virginia, say Blanke’s brain-mapping results do not entirely explain these strange reports — nor do reductionist arguments fully explain them. Greyson said Blanke’s experiments do not necessarily prove all OBEs are illusions. He said it is possible some OBEs occur in different ways than the scientists suspect. “We cannot assume from the fact that electrical stimulation of the brain can induce OBE-like illusions that all OBEs are therefore illusions.”
And while scientists may be discovering a mechanism or trigger associated with OBEs, this does not mean OBEs and NDEs are strictly produced by this mechanism. A mechanical function associated with OBEs and NDEs does not negate the idea of them being more than a mechanical function. One must not confuse what triggers OBEs with the experience itself.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT: “Once supernatural experiences can be packaged up and commercialized, will people finally start to realize that it’s all in their heads. Or are they going to start worshipping the god-plumber Mario?” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The skeptic’s argument displays no logic and makes no sense. The reference to peoples’ subjective experiences existing “all in their heads,” whether supernatural or not, is actually a good way to describe conscious subjective experiences. Materialism is a theory which posits only matter and energy exist; and everything is composed of these materials; and all phenomena are the result of physical interactions. In other words, reality is limited to objective states of energy and matter. Applied to consciousness, materialism holds that all aspects of subjective experience is explainable purely by objective states within a physical brain. But the problem with materialism, as applied to the consciousness, is it does not distinguish between mind and brain. This explanation problem of materialism suggests there exists a metaphysical, non-physical component to subjective experiences philosophically known as “qualia“. The person who has arguably done more to support the subjective nature of consciousness is Dr. David Chalmers, the distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Consciousness in Australia, who specializes in the area of philosophy of mind and philosophy of language.
Chalmers defined this explanatory problem of materialism as the “hard problem of consciousness.” Chalmers illustrated this problem using the thought experiment of a “brain in a vat” which is similar to the “dream argument.” Both experiments show the brain’s ability to create simulated realities during REM sleep meaning there is a statistical likelihood of our own reality being simulated. Lucid dreams also supports this. There is also a long philosophical and scientific history to the underlying thesis of reality being an illusion which is centered on the assumption we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it created by our own minds. A serious academic debate within the field oftranshumanism centers around a related argument called the “simulation argument” which proposes reality to be a simulation and our current paradigm of reality to be an illusion. Physicists have even developed a scientific experiment to determine if our universe is a computer simulation. Also, as previously mentioned, several interpretations of quantum mechanics, such as the Holographic Principle, suggests our perception of reality to be holographically an illusion. So although the skeptic ignorantly associated peoples’ subjective experiences, such as NDEs (which have also proved to be objective experiences as well), with “worshipping the god-plumber Mario” as being “all in their heads”, his statement is not totally false. After all, the so-called “god-plumber Mario” and the “golden-god C3PO” all originated from the skeptic’s own mind and subjective experience.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Finally, a near-death experience does not mean the person died. It means that they came close.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The term “near-death experience” is really a misnomer. In a National Geographic article on the reversibility of death, it mentions NDE expert Dr. Sam Parnia who wrote In his book Erasing Death that death is: “a process, not a moment. It’s a whole-body stroke, in which the heart stops beating but the organs don’t die immediately.” In fact, they might hang on intact for quite a while, which means that “for a significant period of time after death, death is in fact fully reversible.” Parnia continues by saying that “under proper conditions — when the body temperature is lowered, chest compression is regulated for depth and tempo, and oxygen is reintroduced slowly to avoid injuring tissue — some patients can be brought back from the dead after hours without a heartbeat, often with no long-term consequences.” This shows the skeptic is badly misinformed.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“In fact, it’s a common misconception that a flat EEG indicates complete and total brain death. An EEG only measures electrical activity on the outer layers of the brain – not activity deep inside.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: True, but its irrelevant. On his Skeptiko website, Alex Tsakiris discusses EEG data from patients with NDEs with EEG expert and neurologist Dr. John Greenfield from the University of Toledo, author of Reading EEGs: A Practical Approach. Tsakiris writes, “For NDE skeptics, medical evidence of a flat EEG during an OBE has always been a stumbling block. After all, a brain dead patient can’t hallucinate. But, does a flat EEG really mean no brain activity? NDE doubters have claimed activity deep inside the brain, beyond the reach of EEG instruments, must account for the complex ‘realer than real’ experiences reported by those who briefly pass into the afterlife. Now, University of Toledo Neuroscience researcher, and EEG expert, Dr. John Greenfield explains why this claim doesn’t hold up”
Greenfield states: “It’s very unlikely that a hypoperfused brain (someone with no blood flow to the brain), with no evidence of electrical activity could generate NDEs. Human studies as well as animal studies have typically shown very little brain perfusion (blood flow) or glucose utilization when the EEG is flat. There are deep brain areas involved in generating memories that might still operate at some very reduced level during cardiac arrest, but of course any subcortically generated activity can’t be brought to consciousness without at least one functioning cerebral hemisphere. So even if there were some way that NDEs were generated during the hypoxic state (while the brain is shut off from oxygen), you would not experience them until reperfusion (blood flow) allowed you to dream them or wake up and talk about them.”
Also, the measurement of the EEG is irrelevant when it comes to the unconscious state of those having NDEs. According to Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist and the leading authority in Britain concerning NDEs, the unconscious state of the brain during an NDE is when: “the brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences … an unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working. The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these experiences [an NDE], you come out with clear, lucid memories … This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact.” And this is why NDE researchers conclude that materialistic theories of NDEs involving brain chemistry alone fall short of the mark.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Our brains do weird things – like hallucinate and have odd dreams. I’m not saying an NDE is the same as a dream, but both are arbitrary, unpredictable, and only occur a small percentage of the time. And neither one is proof of anything other than that our brains work in strange ways. Hell, if near death experiences are evidence of Lord Shiva, then dreams are evidence that I’m a super saiyan, a time lord, and batman.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Here the skeptic is relying upon several fallacies. He uses a fallacy in informal logic by claiming that because (A) “brains do weird things” is true for dreams; therefore (B) “brains do weird things” is true for NDEs. Then he extends his fallacy even further by claiming that because (A) applies to (C) the skeptic’s dreams of being Batman; therefore (B) applies to (D) NDEs involving Lord Shiva. The skeptic also appeals to another fallacy in informal logic called the argument from ignorance. He assumes his claim that NDEs only prove our brains work in strange ways is true simply because his claim that brains work in strange ways has not yet been proven false. But as you have already read in this article, from the evidence presented, explanations for NDEs using brain anomalies have been debunked. The skeptic’s appeal to ignorance of brain functions are an attempt to shift the burden of proof of his claim to opponents of his argument. But the burden of proof belongs to him alone. The skeptic also appeals to the logical fallacy argument from personal incredulity. He states that because having an NDE of Lord Shiva is so incredible or unimaginable, it by necessity must be wrong. But for people in India who believe in Lord Shiva and who have a cultural background in Hinduism, it is not incredible or unimaginable for them to have an NDE of Lord Shiva.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“If near death experiences were evidence of life after death, the evidence would be undeniable and all around us.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: True, and the evidence is undeniable and all around us. While it may be impossible to ever prove life after death using the scientific method, there is a mountain of evidence supporting life after death as this article and this website shows.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“100% of people who flatline would have NDEs, and would return with the same vision of heaven.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT:The skeptic’s argument defies basic logic. There is no reason to assume everyone who flatlines should have an NDE — no more than it is reasonable to assume everyone who dreams should be dreaming the same dream. Nor should we assume everyone who goes to France should have the exact same experience.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“They would know things they couldn’t possibly otherwise know.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Yes, we have verified (veridical) OBE perceptions during NDEs where people witness real events and conversations far removed from their physical body which they could not have witnessed any other way or otherwise known about.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Yes, we do. Veridical OBE perception in NDEs reported under laboratory conditions are more than mere anecdotes. These can be found in various NDE studies such as the Atlanta Study, the Dutch Study, and the AWARE Study.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Instead only a fraction of the people who are resuscitated have NDEs.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: This argument has already been debunked above. We know many people have NDEs; but for various reasons do not remember them. There is also no reason to assume everyone near-death must have an NDE.
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: This is true. If all NDEs were completely identical, then the “brain anomaly” theories that NDEs are somehow “hard-wired” in the brain would be more likely.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“And the feelings that they experience are replicable in the lab by messing with very specific brain regions.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Not true. The OBEs induced in the lab are not comparable to the life-changing aftereffects of NDEs.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“We have no valid evidence that NDEs are proof of life after death – evidence that should be there if there if that was indeed the case.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: Once again, the skeptic confuses “evidence” with “proof“.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Now I know some of you are bummed by this, hoping for some type of eternal life after death. If that’s the case, check out my video ‘Why is Heaven Bad?‘” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: The skeptic assumes that because there is no proof of heaven, people might be “bummed” by this fact (and it is a fact). He even provides his possibly “bummed” out audience a video explaining why belief in heaven is bad. And if you watch the skeptic’s silly video “Why is Heaven Bad?” you will see he makes even more uniformed arguments from ignorance. But to quote Socrates, “To fear death is nothing other than to think oneself wise when one is not. For it is to think one knows what one does not know. No one knows whether death may not even turn out to be one of the greatest blessings of human beings. And yet people fear it as if they knew for certain it is the greatest evil.” So the skeptic assumes opponents to his arguments, who he claims are motivated by “proof” of life after death, that the absence of such proof would cause them to be “bummed”. But the educated person knows the difference between evidence and proof. But as Socrates wisely points out, to be “bummed” by death is to think oneself wise when one is not. The skeptic appears to be measuring his opponents imaginary “bummed” reaction according to his own standard of psychological reaction rather than his opponents’ reaction. His assumption that supporters of the Afterlife Hypothesis would be disappointed by any skeptical arguments against it is assuming he is far too wise when he is not.
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“But disregarding wishful thinking, there’s still a bright side. If this life is all there is, then there’s no hell afterwards. If there’s no hell, there are no demons. Also, if there’s no afterlife, then there’s no angry spirits or ghosts lingering on long after they’re dead haunting houses and old buildings. That’s a good thing. Because that’s one less thing you have to be afraid of.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: The skeptic’s evaluation of the cost-benefit analysis of life after death is obviously flawed. As previously mentioned, the skeptic appears to place his own fear of death and his own frightening psychological reaction to life after death upon the opponents of his arguments. His fear is obviously manifested in fundamental religious terms (eternal damnation, hell and demons) and Hollywood horror movies (haunting ghost houses) which have no basis in NDE studies or modern parapsychology. The benefit of life after death without the skeptic’s unfounded fears is obvious: if we assume life after death is very similar to life on earth (NDEs suggest this is true), then who would not want the opportunity to live more of life? Unless you want to commit suicide, I submit that anyone who accepts the skeptic’s flawed cost-benefit analysis of life after death, anyone who denies that the benefit of a possible life after death outweighs whatever costs, therefore sees no benefit in the life they are currently living. Because if life after death is basically an extension of this life — and the benefits of this life outweigh the costs of living — then the same is true of life after death. And the evidence from NDE studies shows the cost-benefit analysis of a possible afterlife certainly weighs much in favor toward its abundant benefits. We all are aware of the cost-benefit of no life after death which is nothing gained, nothing ventured (lost).
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“These experiences aren’t meaningless. They show us the value and brevity of life. Life is short. Which is what makes it so precious. You don’t have to live a life in fear of hell, but do live it with fervor, love, and curiosity because it’s probably all you’ve got. And that’s ok. Because while we’re here, we’ve got each other.” (Skeptic in the video)
COUNTER-ARGUMENT: NDEs do not show us that life is brief. On the contrary, NDEs suggest that life continues on after death. Those who have NDEs are almost universally convinced they are an afterlife experience and that an afterlife exists. While it is true that NDEs are not meaningless, it is not true that only by accepting the skeptic’s claim of not fearing and not accepting the idea of an afterlife can people live life with fervor, love and curiosity. The skeptic’s claim of this life probably being all we’ve got, may or may not be true, but it is not “OK” merely because “we’ve got each other.” It has to be admitted by every intelligent person, there is much more to life than holding hands and singing, “Kumbaya.”
SKEPTIC’S ARGUMENT:“Massive thank you to all of my incredible patrons. You guys are what make this show possible. I couldn’t do it without you. If you want to support the show and get some cool perks in the process. Head to Patreon.com/holykoolaid. Or you can donate through PayPal or Bitcoin. Make the most of this short but oh so beautiful life, and don’t Drink the Koolaid.” (Skeptic in the video)
4. NDERF Survey Methodology Minimizing the Risk of Falsified Accounts
The following is Dr. Jeffrey Long’s NDERF Statement of Survey Methodology Minimizing the Risk of Falsified Accounts.
The NDERF survey on www.nderf.org is very long with over 150 questions that require a response before the survey can be submitted. The survey length is a substantial disincentive to filling it out falsely or as a “joke”.
Those who take the NDERF survey receive no payment of any kind.
Experiences are virtually always posted anonymously. There are relatively rare experiencers who are authors and would like their full name posted. No falsified NDE has ever been associated with a request to post their full name. There has been no personal recognition to incentivize sharing false accounts.
In the 18 year history of NDERF, we had about four falsified NDE accounts posted on www.nderf.org and later found to be falsified. Given that we have over 4000 NDEs posted that is about one in a thousand NDEs that have been posted.
The NDERF website has about 90,000 unique visitors a month from all around the world. This greatly reduces the risk that any accounts posted are plagiarized. With so many readers, any plagiarized account would likely be recognized by NDERF readers and we would be notified. This happened once in the history of NDERF. The plagiarized NDE was not shared on the NDERF survey but by a personal interview.
My background as a physician helps me to identify NDEs that describe medical events that seem implausible.
It is rare that experiences are submitted as a “joke” on the NDERF survey, and they can be easily identified and not posted. Years ago there were two NDEs shared sequentially that described, among other fanciful things, encountering Pamela Anderson in their “experiences”. These are recognized as “joke” accounts when submitted to NDERF as quickly as they would be recognized as “joke” accounts that are shared personally. Such “joke” submissions to NDERF average about one every few years.
My experience in reviewing over 4000 NDEs and over 10,000 experiences of all types helps me to recognize experiences which may be falsified. The experiences at higher risk of being falsified are those where the contributors have a financial incentive in their experience. This includes those who have written books about their experiences. It also includes those whose vocation, such as channelers or alternative medical healers, may benefit in gaining credibility in the view of their clients if they had a particular experience (especially an NDE).
A rare falsified NDE that slips through the filters is most harmful if it changes our understanding of NDEs as a whole. It is almost inconceivable that enough falsified NDEs would be shared that a false understanding about any aspect of NDE as a whole results. After all, what is real is consistently observed.
Finally, and most importantly, I continue to have confidence that the overwhelming majority of those sharing NDEs and related experiences will share them with integrity.