Steve Taylor on NDEs as Trips

Question from Uriad:
LX, I want to know if this sways your beliefs on afterlife.
https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/out-the-darkness/201810/near-death-experiences-and-dmt%3famp

Answer by SmartLX:
Why would it sway my beliefs?

What we have here is Steve Taylor the psychologist and NDE advocate rejecting the conclusions drawn by a group of psychedelic researchers (from their study, not the psychologist’s, and he doesn’t even link to it) on whether a specific psychedelic, DMT, gives experiences akin to near death experiences and therefore a psychedelic state might actually be a part of that experience when it happens. So it’s an attempt to eliminate one possible (partial) natural explanation for NDEs, in between plugs for Taylor’s book on spiritual “science”. This would only advance the case for supernatural NDEs significantly if it were the only possible natural explanation, which we can’t say that it is.

Even within the scope of what this piece is trying to do, it doesn’t get far. It argues that DMT has not been found to occur in the human body in large enough quantities to have this effect; the researchers do not suggest this, but rather that any psychedelic chemical (check the list) might work similarly. It differentiates between NDEs and deliberate psychedelic experiences on the basis of their after-effects, without even trying to separate the effects of the dream/hallucination from the life-altering consequences of almost dying, regardless of the experience at the time.

So you tell me, why would this sway any skeptic as opposed to merely reassuring believers?

Mary in the Sun

Question from Jacob:
Hey, a friend showed me this video. I’d like to know what you think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvyUnmBjxm8&feature=youtu.be&t=113

Answer by SmartLX:
Looks fascinating, whatever it is.

It’s a pity this footage is the best we have. It was in 2011 but that’s still well into the age of smartphones. The shape that appears within the sun varies in its prominence, and at times seems to move slightly relative to other objects. I’m not inclined to think the video itself is a complete hoax, as the reactions of those present seem genuine enough. Without really knowing what the image actually looked like in detail, we can say very little about its source, so there’s no telling whether it was naturally or deliberately generated somehow.

The conclusion the local Roman Catholics (majority religion of the southern Ivory Coast) immediately drew was that it was an apparition of the Virgin Mary. People from another area might have interpreted it very differently, as the impression one gets is merely of a robed, hooded figure. Regardless of who it resembled, given that this was seven years ago widespread belief does not seem to have been significantly influenced by it, so as a hypothetical, literal sign from God it does appear to have failed in whatever large-scale goal it had.

Quite apart from everything else, I hope no one’s vision was damaged by staring directly at the centre of the sun for as long as the image appeared.

Lotta Stories ‘Bout Jesus, Ain’t There?

Question from Kole:
Hello, I have seen testimonies lately, about people meeting Jesus. A few are: Nasir Siddiki, (former Muslim who had really bad shingles and claimed Jesus saved him)

Afshin Javid (former Muslim who claims Jesus spoke to him in a jail cell)

A story of a former Muslim woman who claims she had gall stones so bad she was in the hospital, she was in so much pain, she called out to Jesus, he appeared, cured her. Then when the doctors came later, she had no gall stones, everyone was baffled

Many NDEs where a person has a hellish experience, they call out to Jesus, he suddenly transports them into a positive place.

The thing is, there are many examples of people claiming to have interacted with Jesus, and many claims state that when they call to him, a bright light appears right away. One man said he was in hell and when he started to say Jesus, before he could finish the light appeared. Afshin and Nassir, plus the former Muslim woman all describe a bright light appearing right away, after they call out to him, and they can talk to him, he helps them. There was even a few NDEs I came across where Muslims say they were in hell, or in a life threatening situation called out to Allah, no response. Then they tried “Jesus” and suddenly a light appeared and rescued them. Does this to you prove that Jesus is the correct way to go? Does this prove Jesus to you? If you were to google it I assure you that you would find similar stories. I just don’t get how this can be.

Answer by SmartLX:
As you can see I’ve added a couple of links above to where I’ve already addressed the claims of some of the people you mentioned. The woman, Amy Ghazal, is new to me but it’s similar to other tales we’ve had here, Siddiki’s in particular. Like what’s come before, we have only her word and not her hospital records.

In any case, it’s been on record since 1979 (see this article in the NMA’s journal) that gallstones can in some cases spontaneously dissolve or disperse. This is exactly why Ghazal was scanned again before surgery; the surgeon already knew he should double-check on the day, and while he would have been surprised to see the gallstones gone he would not have thought it a miracle. That was all down to her.

You hear so many of these conversion stories because there is a way for you to hear them, and it’s hard to miss. The 700 Club disseminated Ghazal’s story, and Javid was trumpeted by It’s a New Day. Christians eat up stories like this, it feeds directly into the “one lost sheep” mentality of redeeming those on the outer. That’s why televangelists and other preachers seek the stories out and parade them before you.

People convert the other way, of course, and it can be an equally intense experience; I daresay you’ll find some fascinating stories on this list. You just won’t hear about it on Western public access TV.

NDEs: The View From The Other Side

Question from Ruslana:
Hello!

I just browsed some of the recent questions/answers, and I wanted to kind of post a rebuttal to the individuals who claim that folks like Tsakiris, Long, and others are potentially proving NDEs. I would also like to know if you, SmartLX, agree with me, or not.

I myself am not aware of all the protocols being put in place for the “studies” that apparently “debunk” the current scientific theories of NDEs put in place. However, like you, SmartLX, have said– there is a huge argument from ignorance here. Sure these men are able to win debates against scientists who do not study NDEs on a regular basis, they can pull these “facts” of oxygen theory, hypoxia theory being debunked out of their debate hats. Once these “facts” are laid out, the skeptics they are debating do not have the liberty to pull out their phones, and check whether or not these studies cited are credible. I guess that is the fault of the skeptics to some extent, as they should be ready for these kinds of rebuttals. However, even if it were true that NDEs occur at the strangest times, and the non-skeptic side is correct that skeptics have incorrect explanations for the causes of NDEs, so what? Let’s give our opponents the benefit of the doubt here and cross off every single theory that we think could cause NDEs. That would at best get them half way to being correct. However, at the end of the day, we still cannot say that the cause of these NDEs is what they interpret them to be– a spirit leaving the body, only to return. Remember, there are still a whole lot of unanswered questions the skeptics are entitled to ask as well such as:
– why do NDEs contradict each other with their underlying messages? Tsakiris debated McCormack on this very topic, comparing McCormack, a man who claims he visited hell, and the NDE of another individual, who claims he or she was told that hell does not exist during his/her NDE. It cannot be that both are right. Therefore, one of them is right, or both are wrong. How can we determine who is correct, assuming one of them is?
– why does the order of NDEs, and the content within change from person to person? One person may have an OBE, followed by meeting a bright light, while another may have no OBE, but see a bright light and have psychic visions. People who believe in NDEs may argue that each soul is unique, and therefore requires a different teaching, hence why different people see different things. However, that seems like a large assumption given what we know
– some NDEs do have living people in them
– not one OBE has been verified under strict protocols. I remember reading some of the OBEs found in popular literature have been enhanced, embellished, or made up completely. An example is a blind individual who claimed they could see their doctor wearing two different coloured socks.
– why do we need brains if we have these amazing souls that can see, hear, and think more clearly than our “lousy” brains?
– why is it possible to have NDEs when we are not even “close” to death?
– NDEs are just that as well- Near Death, regardless of what hopeful people say, the NDEr did not die!

I admit there are things we cannot explain, and I am not saying NDEs are not real, but when these NDErs and people advocating for a non-materialist universe think that supposedly “debunking” our current theories on the causes of NDEs is equivalent to proving that we have souls capable of leaving the body and returning with information, they need to have a reality check. The fact is that the concept of “souls” or an “afterlife” is not particularly high on the totem pole of importance for science right now. If these individuals are so confident, then I look forward to seeing studies which actually prove that Thomas was able to tell the future from his experience, or that Jenny was really able to travel halfway across the world, and report what was going on while she was really “dead”. This would still obviously hold some subjectivity to it, but it would be a start.
My current answer to the cause of NDEs is: I don’t know –
however, I am not going to start pulling answers out of my butt.

Answer by SmartLX:
Quite right on the whole.
– Eliminating all available natural explanations merely leaves NDEs unexplained, not proven to be any kind of supernatural or divine.
– The matter cannot be settled in any kind of debate, for the reason you give: all kinds of claims can be made, but not fully researched and responded to in the time allotted. (Creationists also take advantage of this, hence the name of the “Gish gallop” technique of spewing out a huge number of claims exactly when there’s no time to address them all.)
– NDEs vary because people vary, and the doctrines the stories are required to support also vary. One story is intended to instill fear of Hell, another to reassure against the idea of Hell.
– Of course OBEs have not been verified under strict conditions, or else they’d be an accepted phenomenon. That is literally all it would take. To be fair, to engineer an NDE or crisis-related OBE in suitably strict conditions would probably require unethical conduct by any medical personnel involved. Think Flatliners.

Second-Hand NDEs

Question from Remy:
Dr. Peter Fenwick, British neurophysiologist, noted in many cases, that other people in the room of the dying person ALSO see LIGHT coming in from an unknown source. People who know the dying person and lives a thousand miles away, will have a dream of that person telling them they’re leaving now and not to worry, they’re fine and feeling wonderful. The person wakes up and calls the relatives only to be told…”Yes, he passed on a short time ago.” Some, like actress Susan Lucci, actually saw her grandmother or aunt (I can’t remember) appear in her room in a Light and tell her she is moving on….she called and was told the woman had died in the night about the same time as her encounter….so many accounts…

This happened to me, happens to many, how can so many people detect death?

Answer by SmartLX:
I couldn’t pin down any of these stories in short order, even the Susan Lucci claim, but I have heard claims of this phenomenon before. It can be explained pretty well by considering two factors together. Firstly, predictable timing: in most or all of these stories, the deceased was old or seriously ill and the death was not exactly a surprise, though of course the exact date of death was not known beforehand. Such a person is often on the minds of their loved ones as the morbid suspense builds, and will often find their way into dreams. Secondly, confirmation bias: if you have an experience like this and it’s on the wrong day, or features the wrong person, you’d hardly tell anyone even within your family. The only ones we hear about are the ones where the timing happens to be good.

You didn’t actually mention that the experiences are dreams, though I’ve read some described as such. As for waking experiences of soul lights and visions of the dead, these are purely anecdotal, exclusively told in retrospect and attributed to people whose loved ones are dying, which doesn’t put them in the most stable of mental states.

Regarding Fenwick, a scientist who appeared in his documentary on NDEs tore it to pieces afterwards. Others have criticised his assumptions and unwillingness to consider natural explanations. Like many NDE advocates in the scientific community, his main strength appears to be reassuring those who already believe.

Alex Tsakiris on NDEs, and the Impotence of Debate

Question from Uriadka:
Does Alex Tsakiris prove NDEs?

He often uses a variety of NDE researchers and says that all these skeptics and atheists including Sam Harris, Christof Koch, have gone from skeptics to somewhat switching sides in the NDE debate.

Here is a link where he debates Mike Shermer.

http://skeptiko.com/dr-michael-shermer-on-near-death-experience-science-379/

He brings up some decent points in all of his debates, about how some studies seem to disprove certain scientific explanations for NDEs, and then he sites doctors and people with high credentials as proof of NDEs being soul related. He just seems to always beat skeptics when they debate. If you have an opportunity, look up some of his NDE debates, and he always seems more well versed, and it gets me to question whether or not skeptics always present things out of context.

Here is an example of a quote by Dr. Long:

“Dr. Jeffrey Long: The key thing is to know a few of the consistently seen elements of near-death experience that are the strongest evidence for their reality. For example, when you’re under general anesthesia, it should be impossible to have a lucidic organized remembrance at that time. In fact, under anesthesia, you’re typically so far under, with general anesthesia they often have to breathe for you. I mean you’re literally, brain shut down to the level of the brain stem and at that point in time some people have a cardiac arrest, their hearts stop, and of course, that’s very well documented. They monitor people very carefully that are having general anesthesia.

So, I have dozens and dozens of near-death experiences that occurred under general anesthesia and at this time, it should be, if you will, doubly impossible to have a conscious remembrance, and yet they do have near-death experiences at this time, and they’re typical near-death experiences. They have the same elements and appear to have them in the same orders as near-death experiences occurring under all other circumstances. In fact, a critical survey question I asked was what their level of consciousness and alertness during the experience was.

Well, even under general anesthetics, under those powerful chemicals to produce sedation, if they had a near-death experience under general anesthesia, their level of consciousness and alertness was identical to near-death experiences occurring under all other circumstances.

There’s absolutely no way the skeptics can explain that away, it’s impossible.”

On his shows he has Brain surgeons saying there is no way some brain in that state could create an experience feeling so much more vivid and lucid than real life. It kills me how many atheists have converted due to him:

He engages with Shermer (a skeptic)

: On that last part, I don’t know that that’s really the direction where things are going. The last time we talked to you a couple of years ago, one of the guys you brought up on your team was Dr. Christof Koch, right? A guy I’ve spoken to, interviewed on this show. Hey man, he’s moved over. He switched gears, right?

Michael Shermer: Sort of moved over.

Alex Tsakiris: Okay, sort of moved over. The position has shifted. These guys are no longer holding to the mind equals brain thing.

Another clip I was going to play for you, but I’ve played enough clips, you were very nice to do it.

Michael Shermer: Even Deepak says you need a brain.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, hold on. I could play for you the clip of Sam Harris and David Chalmers. So, Sam Harris, I don’t think much of Sam Harris, but he’s a name everybody knows. David Chalmers, one of the leading researchers in consciousness for a number of years, and they’re there talking, and they say, “Dan Dennett, consciousness is an illusion. You don’t really think he believes that, do you? I mean, we’re not still stuck there, right?”

So, this idea that you’re putting forward, this kind of militant, materialism, mind equals brain, we’ve moved past that. All the leading players have moved past that Michael.

Michael Shermer: No, they haven’t. No, no.

Alex Tsakiris: Well, Christof Koch has moved past it. David Chalmers has moved past it. Sam Harris has moved past it. Who are you going to point to?

Michael Shermer: I know Sam quite well, he hasn’t moved past anything, what are you talking about?

Alex Tsakiris: He’s not a strict materialist. He’s not a strict mind equals brain guy, no. He’s totally in the panpsychism, spirituality, something other than strict mind equals brain materialism.

Michael Shermer: We did a public event together in Austin that he’s going to post in a week or two that you can listen to, where we talk about…

Alex Tsakiris: Ask him, bring him on, I’ll have both of you guys on at the same time and I’ll invite the people to talk to you.

What are your thoughts on this? Does it make sense from the brilliant Alex T that souls and NDEs are real?

Answer by SmartLX:
It’s my opinion that before too long there will be an article on this site regarding every prominent NDE advocate, simply because the people sending in the questions appear to be literally working their way down a list. I should go back and check whether they’re coming in alphabetical order.

As far as I can find, Sam Harris and Christof Koch have not said or written a word in support of genuine NDEs, and Sam Harris in particular has certainly not moved an inch on the existence of souls, which is what Shermer is trying to say above despite the interruptions. (Don’t accept that? Comment and post something to the contrary by Harris himself. He’s written about spirituality, sure, but expressly to reclaim the word from supernaturalists, so read carefully.)

What seems to be happening is that at certain times in the supposedly ongoing debate, when people like Tsakiris have made a point which they don’t consider their opponents to have answered, NDE supporters write stuff like this to say Harris et al are beaten and will shortly have to concede. This is invited by Tsakiris himself who asserts as above that his opponents are coming around to his side while they’re not present. This is not the same as extracting any kind of actual concession, but it’s good enough to reassure a lot of believers.

I’ve written before on the attempts to debunk various scientific explanations of classic NDE phenomena, and here for instance I’ve addressed the undisputed fact that dreams do not occur during periods of very low brain activity, such as anaesthesia, cerebral hypoxia/anoxia, or just plain deep sleep. In order to reach these states from a starting state of consciousness, one must descend through intermediate levels of brain activity during which dreams are possible. In order to wake up to tell the tale, one must then ascend through the same levels, often more slowly. That’s two intervals either side of the “dead zone” that allow for the unconscious experiences people report afterwards. To summarise, there is always time to dream.

Winning a debate is not the same as winning an argument, which is not the same as winning someone over. I think of it in stages.
Stage 1: You win a debate if you appear to be ahead on points, literal or figurative, at the end of an exchange of predetermined length. No one’s mind is required to change.
Stage 2: You win an argument if your opponent cannot respond to your points, given ample time to research and consider, despite actually trying to do so. Still, though your opponent is no longer on solid ground they may cling to their position in the belief that it will eventually be vindicated.
Stage 3: You win someone over if they change their mind and adopt your position.

The religious appear to be good at debates, largely because those who participate in them are trained to be good at them, but this merely allows them to subjectively win the occasional debate even with bad logic and poor (or zero) evidence. Subsequent analysis of what they actually offered reveals how little they were working with, and thus a debate will hardly ever advance a religious viewpoint past stage 1 for anyone who does not already believe.

“Hell Paging Dr Rawlings, Code Blue”

Question from Uriadka:
Does this prove hell and NDEs? This story seems really compelling, and prayer seemed to get a person out of hell, like many hellish reports:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwLJBSqrrfY

Rawlings told the story of his patient who collapsed during a stress test, and “before we could stop the machine, he dropped dead.”

Well, apparently not completely dead, because in the patient’s own words,

“When I came to, Dr. Rawlings was giving me CPR, and he asked me what was the matter, because I was looking so scared. I told him that I had been to hell and I need help! He said to me, ‘keep your hell to yourself, I’m a doctor and I’m trying to save your life, you need a minister for that.’ … And I would fade out every so often, so then he would focus CPR again and bring me back…Whenever I would come back to my body, I kept asking, “Please help me, please help me, I don’t want to go back to hell.” Soon a nurse named Pam said, “He needs help, do something!” At that time, Dr. Rawlings told me to repeat this short prayer. “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jesus, save my soul. Keep me alive. If I die, please keep me out of hell!”

The experience of the patient, Charles McKaig, then became pleasant, and he reported seeing his deceased mother and stepmother and being surrounded and comforted by the Holy Spirit. Upon awakening, he was an immediate evangelical Christian.

In Rawlings’ words, “After this was all over, I realized what really happened. It was a double conversion. Not only had this make-believe prayer converted this atheist … it had also converted this atheist doctor that was working on him”

Answer by SmartLX:
“Compelling” is a subjective term. The sincerity of the patient supposedly compelled Dr Rawlings to accept Christianity; honestly I guess you had to be there.

This sounds like a great many NDEs we’ve had described to us here, with the added wrinkle that the patient was repeatedly coming and going. This is a nightmarish scenario for anyone, and during the unconscious periods between consciousness and brain inactivity, what dreams might have come had every right to be hellish as the brain struggled to get a handle on its circumstances. Once it was given a simple purpose – pray for salvation – perhaps it was able to regain some order and return to more peaceful dreams. It worked so well that the sheer contrast between mental states had an indelible effect on both patient and doctor, and the subsequent dreams kept to the Christian theme.

This story doesn’t even attempt to serve as proof of a divine experience, the way some other stories do. McKaig had an out-of-body sensation but didn’t learn anything about his surroundings that he wouldn’t otherwise have known. He came back from clinical death but wasn’t miraculously cured of any conditions; he was a simple heart patient going in and coming out. He had an experience in a traumatic situation, it ended, the world is no different for it except for the opinions of two people. For the rest of us, it’s only the least bit “compelling” if you already believe in what they’re pushing.

Again With The Dawkins Video

Question from Mido:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9W4e4MwogLo
What is the response to this? Does this refute evoulution?
Please give me a detailed explanation.

Answer by SmartLX:
This crops up every now and again, as if we’re not supposed to have seen it before. Every time it’s an opportunity to shed light on it for more people.

Richard Dawkins let an Australian film crew into his home for an interview. When they asked the question in the video (how does nature create new genetic information) he immediately realised they were creationists in his home under false pretenses and stopped the interview. He let it resume afterwards, basically because they begged him.

The video has been edited by many different creationist propagandists to make Dawkins’ moment of realisation and quiet anger look even more like he was stumped. (Some even insert themselves as the interviewer.) When Dawkins got wind of this, he put out an article explaining what had happened and comprehensively answering the question, to dispel any doubt that he could if he’d been inclined to indulge the creationists that day.

Whether or not you believe Dawkins’ explanation, he’s given the question an answer which you must judge on its own merits by reading his article. If you don’t accept it, comment and tell me why.

Dunkin’ Babies

Question from Andrei:
A colleague of mine recently attended the baptism of a baby and she told me she noticed that before the immersion in holy water the baby was very agitated and was crying a lot, but after the immersion the baby became very quiet and calm. She attributed this behavior to the supernatural (she was probably thinking about the Holy Spirit). Please tell me: Why do you think the baby changed his/her behavior during the baptism?
Thank you.

Answer by SmartLX:
What temperature was the water? If it was a smart priest the water was very warm, as close as possible to 37° Celsius (~98° Farenheit) which is the recommended temperature for bathing very young babies. It reminds them of the womb and calms them right down. In fact, if it’s the kind of church that baptises babies by literally immersing them, it could be dangerous for the babies if the water is any cooler than that, in case they get hypothermia.

Even not knowing all this, a church that baptises enough babies will have learned through decades or even centuries of trial and error that there’s a lot less screaming over the rites if the water is pleasant for the poor kids.

Ouija Ouija Woo Woo 2

Question from Kamil:
I would like to ask you your opinion on Ouija boards.

Originally, I would have thought they were just peoples’ imaginations, but recently, I made one with my family and we played for fun. We were asking questions and getting answers. Apparently we were talking to some guy who lived during the 1500s in Qatar named Carvel. It was all fun and we got a good laugh. However, then something interesting (kind of spooky) took place. My parents asked for fun if I would ever get married (I am very young). The answer was yes. Then we asked, what country will she be from, and the answer was Sweden. Finally, we asked the name, and got “Hilvy”. A few months passed, and I didn’t think anything of it. However, I was bored one day and googled “Hilvy”. To my surprise, it came up as a Swedish name! I asked my parents and they said they had never heard of that name before. Now I am shocked that this was able to come up with an ethnically Swedish name when we didn’t know it. I don’t know what to think of that. My parents joke if I ever really do meet a Hilvy maybe it will mean something.

I have also heard a catalog of anecdotes where people claim they were playing as kids and objects around the house went flying, garbage cans, clocks, etc. Some people say they have seen strange things, and even some murder mysteries have apparently been solved with Ouija boards. My question is, do you think these anecdotes as well as my anecdote prove that spirits are around us communicating or no? I doubt all these people lie about having strange experiences after using these boards. Do you think this proves a life after death?

Answer by SmartLX:
No, the anecdotes don’t prove anything. They’re anecdotes, without a shred of evidence or corroboration, which is significant for an activity that is necessarily done in a group. Fortunately there’s an easy way to make ouija boards look silly, which I’ll get to.

When even one person with a finger on the pointer has an idea where to go while everyone else is aimless, everyone else will go with the strongest force without knowing where it came from. If one person at your session happened to know that Hilvy is a Swedish name (and it does seem to be a common one) they could have spelled it out, and even spelled “Sweden” to set it up.

If you really want to test the power of a Ouija board then get the same group back together, blindfold every participant, and have an observer capture video of the board. People might still have an idea of where “yes” and “no” are, so ask questions that require answers to be spelled out. You’ll probably find that the pointer doesn’t just spell garbage but frequently lands in the spaces between characters, giving no valid answer at all. It’s already happened on camera.

I’m not suggesting that every legible answer or even letter has been forced on the pointer by cheating participants. Ideomotor effects can drive people’s muscles to make countless tiny adjustments without them realising if they know what they expect to happen, say if the pointer looks like it’s going to narrowly miss a letter, or if half of an obvious word has been spelled out. The more people “at the wheel”, the more difficult the specific moves are to attribute.

Even if ouija boards did work with all “drivers” blindfolded, attributing the information to real ghosts would be the next near-impossible task. You’d need to treat the board the way a skeptic would treat any self-proclaimed psychic, asking specific questions about the future that can be unambiguously proved wrong, and similar questions about the past and present that not only no one in the room could know, but only a specific deceased person would know.

Incidentally, how would “Carvel” even know who you’ll marry? In whose model of the afterlife do ghosts exist and know the future, on top of their own past?