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Skeptical Argument: NDEs Are Scientifically Falsifiable

Skeptic’s Question: “One of the characteristics of a near-death experience is being out of body. This, mercifully, is scientifically falsifiable. Whether or not someone is out of their body can be experimentally determined. There are no ifs about it. It’s either a fact, or it’s not. Studies may already be underway to try to falsify it – I don’t yet know. But if not, rest assured that they will be.”

Jeffrey Long

Dr. Kenneth Ring: “Much the same answer could be given here, but from the NDE literature, the work of Michael Sabom in Recollections of Death (Harper and Row, 1982) is especially relevant. Also my work on NDEs in the blind, as reported in my book, Mindsight (William James Center for Consciousness Studies, 1999), and summarized in Lessons From the Light (Chapter 3) could be cited in this connection. (Kenneth Ring)

Dr. Robert Jordan: “If I am understanding [the question] correctly, I disagree … that the phenomena of Soul awareness occurring in reality outside of the body is falsifiable. I don’t believe that it is falsifiable if the phenomena is nonphysical. This possibility would throw the whole issue back into the arena of theology and individuals’ personal beliefs.” (Robert Jordan)

P.M.H. Atwater: “Again, you must consider the emotional field of the experiencer, rather than the mental one, if you want verifiable evidence.” (P.M.H. Atwater)

Dr. Susan Blackmore (NDE Skeptic): “There have been numerous tests of whether anything actually leaves the body in an OBE. I document them up to 1982 in my book Beyond the Body and also in Dying to Live. Sadly this is not such an easy matter as your questioner seems to imply. There are many methodological difficulties in designing such experiments. In the end my own conclusion is that experiments have provided no evidence at all that something leaves the body. However, anecdotes continue to appear suggesting it does. None of these, so far, seems convincing to me. I think we will ultimately understand how out-of-body experiences come about by understanding how our brain perceives the world in other states of consciousness too – in other words by understanding ordinary consciousness better.” (Susan Blackmore)

Kevin Williams, B.Sc.: Dr. Jeffrey Long (www.nderf.org) explained how NDEs cannot be explained by brain chemistry alone, how medical evidence fails to explain them away, and why there is only one plausible explanation: that people have survived death and traveled to another dimension. Dr. Long makes his case using nine lines of evidence including how NDE provide evidence of verified out-of-body perceptions. They are the following:

(1) Crystal-Clear Consciousness: The level of conscious alertness during NDEs is usually greater than that experienced in everyday life – even though NDEs generally occur when a person is unconscious or clinically dead. This high level of consciousness while physically unconscious is medically unexplained. Additionally, the elements in NDEs generally follow the same consistent and logical order in all age groups and around the world, which refutes the possibility that NDEs have any relation to dreams or hallucinations.

(2) Realistic Out-of-Body Experiences (OBEs): Out-of-body experiences are one of the most common elements of NDEs. Events witnessed and heard by NDErs while in an out-of-body state are almost always realistic. When the NDEr or others later seek to verify what was witnessed or heard during the NDE, their OBE observations are almost always confirmed as completely accurate.

(3) Heightened Senses: Not only are heightened senses reported by most who have NDEs, normal or supernormal vision has occurred in those with significantly impaired vision, and even legal blindness. Several people who have been totally blind since birth have reported highly visual NDEs. This is medically unexplainable.

(4) Consciousness During 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 the fact that some NDEs result from anesthesia overdose. Additionally, descriptions of a NDEs differ greatly from those people who experiences “anesthetic awareness.” 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 that NDEs occur independent from the functioning of the material brain.

(5) Perfect Playback: Life reviews in NDEs include real events which previously occurred in the lives of the NDEr – even if the events were forgotten or happened before they were old enough to remember.

(6) Family Reunions: During an NDE, the experiencer may encounter people who are virtually always deceased and are usually relatives of the NDEr. Sometimes they include relatives who died before the NDEr was even born. If NDEs are merely the product of memory fragments, they would almost certainly include far more living people, including those with whom they had more recently interacted.

(7) Children’s Experiences: The NDEs of children, including very young children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or NDEs, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults. This refutes the possibility that the content of NDEs is produced by preexisting beliefs or cultural conditioning.

(8) Worldwide Consistency: NDEs appear remarkably consistent around the world, and across many different religions and cultures. NDEs from non-Western countries are incredibly similar to those occurring in people in Western countries.

(9) Aftereffects: It is common for people to experience major life changes after having NDEs. These aftereffects are often powerful, lasting, life-enhancing, and the changes generally follow a consistent pattern. NDErs themselves are practically universal in their belief that their experience of the afterlife was real. The following are more scientific evidence supporting NDEs and the Afterlife Hypothesis.