The Case Of Pam Reynolds: Anomalous Mental Phenomena, V

Let’s get this straight right off the bat: this is not the post where I provide a body of replicated scientific findings so persuasive that it demands acceptance from even the most ardent of skeptics. Rather, this is the post where I present a well-documented instance of a proposition that–if true–directly supports the idea that human consciousness can exist outside the physical body. I’ve pieced this together from several books, articles and papers across the internet, so please be sure to correct me if anything jumps out as a red flag, detail-wise.

Dr. Michael Sabom is a cardiologist in private practice and on staff at Northside and Saint Joseph’s hospitals in Atlanta, Georgia. Among other works, Sabom is the author of Recollections of Death: A Medical Investigation (1982), and Light and Death (1998). A self-described liberal Christian, Sabom first learned of NDE via Raymond Moody’s Life After Life, and like many, he was initially skeptical due to the “unscientific, anecdotal nature” of the accounts in Moody’s book. At the behest of a woman at his church who endorsed NDE, Sabom, then a first-year cardiologist at University of Florida, decided to undertake his own study. His goal was to probe for details that would not ordinarily be known to non-medical personnel. IOW, he would test for veridical experiences.

Sabom was confident that he would debunk the phenomenon, as he reports here:

…I would pit my experience as a trained cardiologist against the professed visual recollections of lay individuals. In so doing, I was convinced that obvious inconsistencies would appear which would reduce these purported visual observations to no more than an “educated guess” on the part of the patients. [Sabom, 1982 p6-7]

Sabom compiled data on 116 individuals who had a “close brush” with death. Of these, 71 reported varying degrees of NDE. In Light and Death, Sabom relays the case of singer Pam Reynolds, under Dr. Robert Spetzler at Barrow Neurological Institute, Phoenix, Arizona. Reynolds suffered from a large aneurysm in the wall of her basilar artery at the base of the brain. Medical personnel may be acquainted with Spetzler’s procedure of hypothermic cardiac arrest. Nicknamed Standstill, the procedure lowers patient body temperature to 60 degrees Farenheit, stops heartbeat and breathing, extinguishes all electrical brain activity, and drains the blood from the head.

Pam reported lucid veridical and non-veridical conscious experience throughout this entire procedure. According to Pam, her experience began around 9:00 a.m., shortly after Dr. Spetzler had begun to carve out a section of her skull, with a Midas Rex:

The next thing I recall was the sound: It was a natural D. As I listened to the sound, I felt it was pulling me out of the top of my head. The further out of my body I got, the more clear the tone became. I had the impression that it was like a road, a frequency that you go on… I remember seeing several things in the operating room when I was looking down. It was the most aware that I think I have ever been in my entire life… It wasn’t like normal vision. It was brighter and more focused and clearer than normal vision… The saw thing that I hated the sound of looked like an electric toothbrush and it had a dent in it, a groove at the top where the saw appeared to go into the handle, but it didn’t… the saw head had interchangeable blades, too, but these blades were in what looked like a socket wrench case. [Sabom 1998, p41]

Shortly after this time, a female cardiac surgeon attempted to prepare the femoral artery and vein in Pam’s right groin [for the cardiopulmonary bypass machine]. The vessels proved too small, so the left side was prepared instead. Pam was able to recall this with significant detail:

I distinctly remember a female voice saying “We have a problem. Her arteries are too small.” And then a male voice: “Try the other side.” [ibid]

Medical records confirmed that a female cardiac surgeon did in fact say this, despite the fact that well-affixed, small speakers tested her auditory nerve center with loud, 100-decibel staccato clicks at an interval of a little under 11.5 seconds, which–so long as we are working with a functioning brain–would presumably cause the electrogram to spike. By 11:00 a.m. the morning of her operation, Pam’s body temperature was 25 degrees below average, her heartbeat in ventricular fibrillation. Sabom writes:

Five minutes later, the remaining electrical spasms of Pam’s dying heart were extinguished with massive intravenous doses of potassium chloride. Cardic arrest was complete. As Pam’s heart arrested, her brain waves flattened into complete electrocerebral silence. Brain stem function weakened as the clicks from the ear speakers produced lower and lower spikes on the monitoring electrogram. Twenty minutes later, her core body temperature had fallen another 13 degrees to a tomblike 60 degrees Farenheit. The clicks from her ear speakers no longer elicited a response. Total brain shutdown. Then, at precisely 11:25 a.m., Pam was subjected to one of the most daring and remarkable surgical maneuvers ever performed in an operating room. The head of the operating table was tilted up, the cardiopulmonary bypass machine was turned off, and the blood was drained from Pam’s body like oil from a car. [Sabom, 1998 p43]

Elsewhere, Sabom wrote:

The question is not when Reynolds’ NDE began but when it ended. Reynolds described her NDE as an uninterrupted, continuous experience perceived to be as real at the beginning, during her “out-of-body” experience, as it was throughout. According to her, the NDE ended at the close of surgery around 2:00 p.m., a time frame that included the period of “standstill” and “flat EEG.” My construction of Reynolds’ combined autoscopic and transcendental NDE as a continuous, unbroken encounter was based entirely on her testimony–testimony correlated at times with events in the operating room. Interestingly, Reynolds’ claim of continuity within her experiences is consistent with virtually all other reports of combined NDE’s that I have studied over the past 30 years. [Sabom, “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?'” p258]

How do we explain such lucid perception throughout this procedure? As Chris Carter writes in Science and the Near-Death Experience (2010):

By three clinical tests–flat EEG, no brain stem activity, no blood flowing through the brain–Pam’s brain was dead, with almost certainly no activity whatsoever. Yet Pam reported the deepest NDE ever investigated by Sabom. (p226)

Sabom paid special attention to the anticipated objection that Pam simply overheard the surgeons:

Steven Cordova, Neuroscience Manager at the Barrow Neurological Institute, who was the interoperative technologist responsible for inserting small molded speakers into Spetzler’s patients in the early 1990s when Reynolds’ surgery was performed, told me that after these speakers were molded into each external auditory canal, they were further affixed with “mounds of tape and gauze to seal securely the ear piece into the canal.” This “tape and gauze” would “cover the whole ear pinnae” making it extremely unlikely that Reynolds could have physically overheard operating room conversation one hour and twenty minutes after anesthesia had been induced. [Sabom, “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in Near-Death Experiences?'” p259]

100 decibels is the average volume of a jackhammer, folks. If sophisticated scientific equipment verifies that Pam’s brain cannot detect the equivalent of a jackhammer in each ear, doesn’t it seem a little desperate to argue that Pam overheard the surgeons? Pam did not report hearing these clicks, which would suggest that she somehow “heard” without her physical sense of hearing throughout at least some parts of her experience. On CBS’ 48 Hours, Dr. Spetzler testified as to the certainty of her physical condition:

If you would examine that patient from a clinical perspective during that hour, that patient by all definition would be dead. At this point there is no brain activity, no blood going through the brain.

A while back, I asked dguller [a commenter here] to give his definition of a dead brain, and promised that I would deliver cases that conformed. He replied,

I would like to see a flat EEG and a functional MRI that demonstrates no cerebral blood flow anywhere in the brain. That would be a rigorous demonstration of brain death, I think.

Pam’s case meets both criteria. Even the skeptic would seemingly have to admit that if her brain was non-active and she was clinically dead, Pam’s experience provisionally falsifies one or more materialist accounts of mind, for example both wCCH and sCCH as shown here.

So, where does this leave us? The way I see it, if you’re a committed materialist, the only thing you can do is attempt to cast doubt on the integrity of the data–and that’s exactly what I expect committed materialists to do. Fair enough, I suppose, as there always remains the logical possibility that some legitimate oversight[s] might mitigate Reynolds’ experience. Though, I think the burden definitely falls to the skeptic to identify a specific weakness Sabom, Spetzler, or anyone else overlooked, and show how this weakness is strong enough to be a mitigating factor, as opposed to a straight-forward and non-biased interpretation of data.

64 Comments

  1. dguller says:

    When did Sabom interview Pam about her experiences?

  2. dguller says:

    What was the ratio of veridical to non-veridical reports? In other words, did she get more wrong than right?

  3. jayman777 says:

    cl, Irreducible Mind (p. 393) says that the verifiable events from her NDE occurred before and after her clinical death. Apparently she correctly noted that the song “Hotel California” was playing when she re-entered her body too. Ironically she heard the line: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” But I want to make it clear that her NDE was continuous (5.5 hours). There was not a break when she was clinically dead. She spent some time (I don’t know what percentage) with deceased relatives through the tunnel.

    dguller, Sabom interviewed Pam on November 11, 1994 and Pam’s surgery was in August 1991. I am not aware of Pam getting any facts wrong.

  4. dguller says:

    jayman:

    So, the interview occurred THREE YEARS later? Isn’t it a little concerning that her memory had time to be affected by other information? Could she have also distorted her memory to recall her NDE as continuous when it was actually fragmented due to her brain death? I mean, flash memories are notoriously unreliable, for example, and an NDE would be significant enough to count as one, I think.

    And cl mentioned in the OP that there were “non-veridical” elements in her NDE. I just assumed that some of what she described was untrue, and was curious about what the true to false ratio was.

  5. dguller says:

    A few more questions.

    (1) Did she have any veridical experiences during standstill? Or did all the accurate descriptions occur prior to standstill, while her brain was still active, and she was under general anaesthesia? It seems that the three accurate descriptions that she made occurred before standstill – i.e. the head shaving, the bone saw, and the conversation about her blood vessels being too small – and thus occurred while her brain was still active.

    (2) How do we know that she had any experiences at all during standstill? After all, she was questioned three years later by Sabom about her NDE, and she may have distorted her memory into a continuous conscious experience throughout the procedure when, in fact, it was fragmentary due to the lack of brain activity during Standstill.

    (3) How do we know that within the three years between the NDE and Sabom’s interview that she did not look into certain details of the procedure, and then incorporate them into her memories? False memory research is chock full of such occurrences when someone thinks that they did something in the past when, in fact, it was a friend, but they incorporated themselves as the primary actor in the scenario, and are absolutely certain about their recollection.

  6. dguller says:

    Also, did Sabom mention any of her descriptions that turned out to be wrong? You mentioned “non-veridical” aspects. What were they?

  7. cl says:

    dguller,

    So, the interview occurred THREE YEARS later? Isn’t it a little concerning that her memory had time to be affected by other information?

    Sure, I suppose it’s, ahem… logically possible that a false memory can account for the data here, but, as you say, logically possibility alone is a very weak case ;)

    Seriously though, the question is, what do the scientific studies say? This is why I say you really ought to read up on this stuff to get your knowledge up to speed. A series of independent studies demonstrated no significant alteration in NDE memories over extended periods of time.

    Did you carefully read the Lancet study? Or, did you simply skim through it, gleaning just enough information to justify your doubt to yourself? I’m not asking to be rude, I’m asking because selectivity and confirmation bias can often distort one’s interpretation of the evidence. Pim van Lommel et al. addressed this issue. From the study:

    We did standardised and taped interviews with participants a mean of 2 years after CPR. Patients also completed a life-change inventory. The questionnaire addressed self-image, concern with others, materialism and social issues, religious beliefs and spirituality, and attitude towards death. Participants answered 34 questions with a five-point scale indicating whether and to what degree they had changed. After 8 years, surviving patients and their partners were interviewed again with the life-change inventory, and also completed a medical and psychological questionnaire for cardiac patients (from the Dutch Heart Foundation), the Utrecht coping list, the sense of coherence inquiry, and a scale for depression. These extra questionnaires were deemed necessary for qualitative analysis because of the reduced number of respondents who survived to 8 years follow-up. Our control group consisted of resuscitated patients who had not reported an NDE. We matched controls with patients who had had an NDE by age, sex, and time interval between CPR and the second and third interviews. … It is remarkable that people could recall their NDE almost exactly after 2 and 8 years.

    As another example, Greyson gave a questionnaire to 72 individuals who had been given an identical questionnaire 20 years prior. Detailed analysis led him to conclude, “Contrary to expectations, accounts of near-death experiences were not embellished over a period of almost two decades. These data support the reliability of near-death experience accounts.” [Commentary on ‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates Undermining a Survivalist Interpretation of Near-Death Experiences,’ 407]

    And cl mentioned in the OP that there were “non-veridical” elements in her NDE. I just assumed that some of what she described was untrue, and was curious about what the true to false ratio was.

    That was a mistaken assumption. You’ve conflated non-veridical with false. As far as I know–and Jayman seems to concur–Pam didn’t report anything false. Among other non-veridical aspects, Pam described going through a “vortex” or “tunnel,” at the end of which was a group of her deceased relatives, with whom she communicated.

  8. cl says:

    dguller,

    It seems that the three accurate descriptions that she made occurred before standstill – i.e. the head shaving, the bone saw, and the conversation about her blood vessels being too small – and thus occurred while her brain was still active.

    I addressed the objection that Pam simply overheard and saw the surgeons in the OP. An additional comment from Spetzler:

    I don’t think that the observations she made were based on what she experienced as she went into the operating theater. They were just not available to her. For example, the drill and so on, those things are all covered up. They aren’t visible; they were inside their packages. You don’t really begin to open until the patient is completely asleep, so that you maintain a sterile environment… At that stage in the operation nobody can observe, hear in that state. And I find it inconceivable that the normal senses, such as hearing, let alone the fact that she had clicking modules in each ear, that there was any way for her to hear through the normal auditory pathways. I don’t have an explanation for it. I don’t know how it’s possible for it to happen. [from the BBC documentary, The Day I Died]

  9. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> Sure, I suppose it’s, ahem… logically possible that a false memory can account for the data here, but, as you say, logically possibility alone is a very weak case ;)

    One day, you really need to learn the difference between logical and empirical possibility. It’s an important distinction. I criticized the former, not the latter. Anyway, it is an empirical possibility that after three years, one can have distorted one’s memory in important ways. There are lots of psychological studies that demonstrate this, especially with flashbulb memories that occur during traumatic situations.

    >> Seriously though, the question is, what do the scientific studies say? This is why I say you really ought to read up on this stuff to get your knowledge up to speed. A series of independent studies demonstrated no significant alteration in NDE memories over extended periods of time.

    That would be helpful. Can you cite these studies so I can have a look at them?

    >> Did you carefully read the Lancet study? Or, did you simply skim through it, gleaning just enough information to justify your doubt to yourself? I’m not asking to be rude, I’m asking because selectivity and confirmation bias can often distort one’s interpretation of the evidence. Pim van Lommel et al. addressed this issue.

    First, I did read it a few weeks ago. Sorry, I do not recall every single point in it.

    Second, there was no data in the study that showed this. They just said that “Patients could still recall their NDE almost exactly” without any description of how this was assessed. Was it a casual conversation, or did it involve some kind of analysis of the data? The study does not say. It also does not say whether those doing the follow-up interviews knew the subjects’ NDE stories, which is important, because unless they were blinded, then there may have been some unconscious prompting and coaching by the researchers.

    >> As another example, Greyson gave a questionnaire to 72 individuals who had been given an identical questionnaire 20 years prior. Detailed analysis led him to conclude, “Contrary to expectations, accounts of near-death experiences were not embellished over a period of almost two decades. These data support the reliability of near-death experience accounts.” [Commentary on ‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates Undermining a Survivalist Interpretation of Near-Death Experiences,’ 407]

    How did he determine this? What was the “detailed analysis”? How did he measure whether changes to a story were statistically significant? I cannot find this writing on this website: http://archived.parapsych.org/members/c_b_greyson.html Where can I read it?

    >> That was a mistaken assumption. You’ve conflated non-veridical with false. As far as I know–and Jayman seems to concur–Pam didn’t report anything false. Among other non-veridical aspects, Pam described going through a “vortex” or “tunnel,” at the end of which was a group of her deceased relatives, with whom she communicated.

    The definition of “veridical” is “truthful, not illusory”. It would follow that NON-veridical is “NOT truthful, illusory”. Non-veridical DOES mean “false”. Perhaps you did not mean it that way, but that is what the dictionary says it means. My only mistaken assumption was that you were speaking English. ;)

  10. woodchuck64 says:

    Keith Augustine’s skeptical analysis of the Pam Reynolds case can be found
    here. Anyone know if this has been addressed?

  11. dguller says:

    cl:

    I found out more about the Greyson study. Apparently, he took 72 subjects who completed his Greyson NDE Scale, and then asked them to complete it again on average 17.7 years later. He found that there was no statistically significant difference between the two results, and concluded that there was no embellishment.

    The problem with this is that it would be unable to capture the subtle embellishments that are not mentioned in the Greyson NDE Scale, which only asks 16 questions. Certainly, it is fair to say that even if those 16 questions retain the same answers over time that it does not follow that there are not OTHER changes in the story that just are not captured by the 16 questions. It is still an open empirical possibility that Pam embellished certain details in her recollection of the NDE three years later.

  12. cl says:

    dguller,

    One day, you really need to learn the difference between logical and empirical possibility.

    I know the difference. I know you criticized the former, not the latter. Apparently, you still don’t see what I’m trying to get at here: yes, it’s possible that A, B or C. However, the mere fact that something is possible doesn’t mean it happened, neither does it mean we should default to the position that it’s “more likely.” I could say “it’s possible that…” in response to almost any conclusion. That’s why these persistent “it’s possible” lines of objection strike me as a “get-out-of-jail” free card.

    They just said that “Patients could still recall their NDE almost exactly” without any description of how this was assessed.

    False. They did not “just say” that. I included some description of the methodology in my comment March 31, 2011 at 11:33 AM. So, to say that not “any” description was given is an exaggeration.

    As for the Greyson thing, sit tight.

    As for non-veridical, well… that’s partially my mistake. I know what veridical means, and I know what the prefix “non” denotes. I was using the term to denote, “experiences which could not be confirmed by others present in the room.” So, my bad on that one.

    As for whether or not Pam got anything false, I suggest reading the paper woodchuck64 linked to.

    woodchuck64,

    I’ll respond to it in full, as time allows. I’ve already read it, and… I’m not too impressed. Augustine omits some important details, a few of which I’ve reproduced in this post and this thread, and, quite frankly, his analysis strikes me as unpersuasive. As is often the case with skeptics, he appears to use “more likely” to mean something like “I prefer.”

    More later. Thanks for the link.

  13. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I know the difference. I know you criticized the former, not the latter. Apparently, you still don’t see what I’m trying to get at here: yes, it’s possible that A, B or C. However, the mere fact that something is possible doesn’t mean it happened, neither does it mean we should default to the position that it’s “more likely.” I could say “it’s possible that…” in response to almost any conclusion. That’s why these persistent “it’s possible” lines of objection strike me as a “get-out-of-jail” free card.

    I never said that if A, B, or C is possible, then A, B, or C happened, and not D. All I said was that if A, B, or C is possible, then one has not shown that D has occurred, and thus the matter is inconclusive. One would have to show that D occurred, but A, B, and C did not, and if that has not been done, then it is, you guessed it, inconclusive, and that means that neither of us can claim the study to support our positions. It should just rest in silence, ignored except to plan future research.

    >> False. They did not “just say” that. I included some description of the methodology in my comment March 31, 2011 at 11:33 AM. So, to say that not “any” description was given is an exaggeration.

    As they wrote: “After 8 years, surviving patients and their partners were interviewed again with the life-change inventory, and also completed a medical and psychological questionnaire for cardiac patients (from the Dutch Heart Foundation), the Utrecht coping list, the sense of coherence inquiry, and a scale for depression.” Which of these tests was used to determine the reliability of their memories of the NDE? If you cannot tell me, then you did not provide ANY description of how they determined whether the subjects’ memories were reliable, and my claim stands.

    >> I addressed the objection that Pam simply overheard and saw the surgeons in the OP.

    First, Cordoba said that the precautions to cover up her ears resulted in “making it extremely unlikely that Reynolds could have physically overheard operating room conversation one hour and twenty minutes after anesthesia had been induced”. That’s all. It would be “extremely unlikely”.

    Second, you wrote that “well-affixed, small speakers tested her auditory nerve center with loud, 100-decibel staccato clicks at an interval of a little under 11.5 seconds”. In other words, there was a loud click every 11.5 seconds, which means that there was NO loud click for 11.5 seconds, which could be enough time to hear something, I think.

    Third, we do not know if the clicks were turned on throughout the procedure. It is possible that they were not even on during the events that she claims to have experienced.

    Fourth, with regards to the head shaving, she may have heard before the procedure that it would happen. Hell, she sure knew that she had her head shaved afterwards!

    Fifth, regarding Spitzer’s comment that you quoted, even though her eyes and ears were covered, as was the bone saw, once it was being used, she would have heard it due to skull vibration affecting the tympanic membranes. She could have inferred that there was a saw being used on her, and then guessed the features of it, especially based upon her experience of other saws and drills. Furthermore, he says, “I don’t know how it’s possible for it to happen.” Why aren’t you all over him about the fallacy of an argument from incredulity?

  14. bossmanham says:

    This is a fascinating case, and it’s truly telling that almost anything is more plausible to the materialist than this person is actually telling the truth. This is not the only NDE documented in a rigorous way like this in the least. Moreland cites one where a lady on the operating table was able to pass through the roof of the hospital and see a very specific blue shoe on the roof of which she could not have been privy to, nor was any of the staff. But lo and behold, everyone was alerted to its existence by a lady who had come in and was dying. Huh…

  15. dguller says:

    And just one more thing, and this speaks to the danger of using case reports to justify beliefs about causal patterns in the world.

    Let us say that of 100 NDE’s, only 15 have veridical experiences, and the other 85 do not have veridical experiences, meaning that what they perceived did not occur. Let us further say that you have interacted with one of the 15 veridical NDE’s, and are very impressed by the fact that their experiences were veridical, and believe that this MUST imply that they actually left their bodies and truly observed their environment while unconscious or brain-dead, or whatever. The problem with that is that the majority of NDE’s are NOT veridical at all, and you happen to have come across one of the minority that was. Can we conclude that NDE’s in this hypothetical example are genuinely veridical? No, because the majority are not accurate at all.

    Compare this to a homeopathic remedy H for a medical condition M. Say 100 individuals take H for M, and 15 improve while 85 do not. Say you are one of the 15 who took H for M and M improved. That would be very impressive to you, and you would tell all your friends about how amazing H is for all people who have M. However, is it true that H does treat M effectively? The answer is no, because 85% of people who took H for M did NOT improve.

    So, it just is not good enough to rely upon case reports without looking at large numbers of subjects all in the same context and doing the same thing. Only by doing that will you know whether some causal pattern is real, or whether it is due to chance or some other confounding factor. I guess we will have to wait and see what Parnia’s results are to get a better sense of how many NDE’s are veridical versus non-veridical, and to see if this occurs better than chance, and is not due to confounding factors. If so, then that would be compelling evidence requiring replication, and if it is replicated, then a serious paradigm shift will be necessary.

  16. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    So, the interview occurred THREE YEARS later?

    What is an acceptable time frame to you? The studies that cl has cited at least suggest that is more likely than not that her memory is reliable.

    It seems that the three accurate descriptions that she made occurred before standstill – i.e. the head shaving, the bone saw, and the conversation about her blood vessels being too small – and thus occurred while her brain was still active.

    Whether she was clinically dead is not a distinction that helps the materialist. Assuming the mind is the brain (or “emerges” from the brain) she should not have been able to see and hear when her eyes and ears were obstructed.

    She could have inferred that there was a saw being used on her, and then guessed the features of it, especially based upon her experience of other saws and drills.

    Pam noted that the saw was “toothbrush-shaped.” That’s hardly common of run-of-the-mill saws and drills. In fact, even the researcher thought she must have gotten this fact wrong before he investigated the matter.

  17. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> Whether she was clinically dead is not a distinction that helps the materialist. Assuming the mind is the brain (or “emerges” from the brain) she should not have been able to see and hear when her eyes and ears were obstructed.

    First, you are assuming that she could not have gotten that information from any other source.

    Second, if the brain death part is unimportant, then why did cl go to such lengths to emphasize it? It is because if someone can acquire information from an NDE during brain death that they could not have gotten from any other way, then that is compelling and powerful evidence of a disembodied mind.

    >> Pam noted that the saw was “toothbrush-shaped.” That’s hardly common of run-of-the-mill saws and drills. In fact, even the researcher thought she must have gotten this fact wrong before he investigated the matter.

    Do you know what her experience of saws and drills was? Maybe she saw one in a movie that involved brain surgery, but she forgot it, and then managed to assume that the saw that was cutting her skull was similar? I mean, it is not as if the only logical explanation is that her mind detached from its body. There are other factors to consider before we reject a massive body of scientific theory.

  18. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    What’s the acceptable time frame between an NDE and an interview?

    First, you are assuming that she could not have gotten that information from any other source.

    Prior to the surgery, she could not have known that they would draw blood from her left femoral artery and that “Hotel California” would be playing at the end of surgery. I am not sure when her head was shaved. This leaves open the possibility that she knew what saw would be used before she went into surgery.

    Second, if the brain death part is unimportant, then why did cl go to such lengths to emphasize it? It is because if someone can acquire information from an NDE during brain death that they could not have gotten from any other way, then that is compelling and powerful evidence of a disembodied mind.

    In my first comment I made sure to note that the verified parts of her account happened outside the period of clinical death. However, she claims to have been sucked through the vortex/tunnel when her blood was drained, i.e., when she was clinically dead. I suppose cl could say that this part of the story was verified but you could easily respond that she knew what kind of procedure she was undergoing beforehand. But it is noteworthy that she goes to the realm of her dead relatives at about the time she undergoes clinical death. Moreover, her experience was continuous, which it should not have been if materialism is true. You can merely hope that she is lying or mistaken on that matter.

    Do you know what her experience of saws and drills was?

    She stated that there was much in the operating room that she didn’t recognize.

    Maybe she saw one in a movie that involved brain surgery, but she forgot it, and then managed to assume that the saw that was cutting her skull was similar?

    Except there were other facts she knew. You need to posit a movie with the same shaved head, the same saw, the same issue with small veins with nurses/assistants (?) of the correct sex talking to each other, and the surgery ending with the song “Hotel California.”

    I mean, it is not as if the only logical explanation is that her mind detached from its body.

    I think it’s the most likely explanation given the evidence I’ve seen. And, as bossmanham notes, this isn’t the only time something like this has happened (but perhaps the lady in his story had forgotten that she once took a helicopter ride and that the pilot hovered closely over the hospital’s roof just to alert her of the shoe and by chance she happened to get sent to this very same hospital in an emergency).

    There are other factors to consider before we reject a massive body of scientific theory.

    The key word being “theory” not “data.”

  19. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    Second, you wrote that “well-affixed, small speakers tested her auditory nerve center with loud, 100-decibel staccato clicks at an interval of a little under 11.5 seconds”. In other words, there was a loud click every 11.5 seconds, which means that there was NO loud click for 11.5 seconds, which could be enough time to hear something, I think.

    That should read 11.3 clicks per second.

    Third, we do not know if the clicks were turned on throughout the procedure. It is possible that they were not even on during the events that she claims to have experienced.

    No, they were on for the entire surgery as far as I can tell, and certainly on when the verified events occurred. She was also under general anesthesia.

  20. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> What’s the acceptable time frame between an NDE and an interview?

    As soon as possible afterwards to minimize the possibility of memory being affected by extra information. If someone was conducting a drug trial, then would you call the data reliable if they collected the data on how the subjects did on the drug or placebo several years later?

    >> Prior to the surgery, she could not have known that they would draw blood from her left femoral artery and that “Hotel California” would be playing at the end of surgery. I am not sure when her head was shaved. This leaves open the possibility that she knew what saw would be used before she went into surgery.

    Did she specifically identify the “left femoral artery”? How do you know that she was not told prior to the surgery to get informed consent about what would happen, and then forgot about it in order to make her story seem more impressive? And she could have heard Hotel California at the end, even through earphones, especially if she already knew the song, because she only had to hear bits and pieces of it.

    >> Moreover, her experience was continuous, which it should not have been if materialism is true. You can merely hope that she is lying or mistaken on that matter.

    No, her MEMORY is of the experience being continuous. And this was three years later. Memories are malleable over time.

    >> Except there were other facts she knew. You need to posit a movie with the same shaved head, the same saw, the same issue with small veins with nurses/assistants (?) of the correct sex talking to each other, and the surgery ending with the song “Hotel California.”

    No, I don’t. I only have to posit several movies, each with bits and pieces, that she happened to piece together after her procedure, and luckily got a few things correct.

    >> I think it’s the most likely explanation given the evidence I’ve seen. And, as bossmanham notes, this isn’t the only time something like this has happened (but perhaps the lady in his story had forgotten that she once took a helicopter ride and that the pilot hovered closely over the hospital’s roof just to alert her of the shoe and by chance she happened to get sent to this very same hospital in an emergency).

    Again, a systematic study of a large sample of NDE’s needs to be done, and must methodically record all the descriptions, categorize them into true and false ones, and then compare whether the right answers occurred more often than chance. That has not happened yet, and so the issue is inconclusive. You can be as impressed as you want about individual anecdotes, but without scientific investigation to rule out other confounding factors, like chance, then it is just up in the air right now.

    >> That should read 11.3 clicks per second.

    That’s significant.

    >> No, they were on for the entire surgery as far as I can tell, and certainly on when the verified events occurred. She was also under general anesthesia.

    How do you know that they were on for the entire surgery? Why would they have them on prior to the brain death? It would have been obvious that her brain was still functioning, and completely unnecessary. Perhaps you can look up the primary sources and check?

    And by the way, Pam did NOT identify the bone saw correctly. That is on Sabom’s own account.

  21. E.G says:

    Interesting script! I am not as skeptical as dguller, i guess s/he is overdoing it with the never quenching skeptical demand. I would like just to ask if you do have other similar stories, especially recent ones, with the patient having more detail recollection of events outside the room or the place where the dead body actually was? And that credible personals have had the opportunity to verified the purported claims. I am kind of interested on the story of the blue shoe too. Is it a real story and multiply attested by witnesses? Thanks

  22. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    As soon as possible afterwards to minimize the possibility of memory being affected by extra information.

    I was hoping for an exact number. I can imagine if Pam had given an interview, say, a week after the surgery you would still be saying that there was the possibility of her memory being affected by extra information.

    If someone was conducting a drug trial, then would you call the data reliable if they collected the data on how the subjects did on the drug or placebo several years later?

    I would expect that, if the drug trial was important enough for the person to remember (as NDEs are very important in the lives of those who have them), then, yes, they could remember whether they felt better after taking an experimental drug. Note that I am not saying whether an individual patient could determine whether the drug or some other factor relieved their illness or whether they took a real drug or the placebo.

    Did she specifically identify the “left femoral artery”?

    No, she correctly noted that a female said one artery was too small and a male said to try the other artery. Since the surgeons did not even know they were going to do this then Pam could not have known about it prior to the surgery.

    How do you know that she was not told prior to the surgery to get informed consent about what would happen, and then forgot about it in order to make her story seem more impressive?

    See above and also note that the researcher checked the medical records and could screen for such things.

    And she could have heard Hotel California at the end, even through earphones, especially if she already knew the song, because she only had to hear bits and pieces of it.

    The people familiar with the earphones find this explanation highly unlikely.

    No, her MEMORY is of the experience being continuous. And this was three years later. Memories are malleable over time.

    As I said, you can only hope she was mistaken.

    No, I don’t. I only have to posit several movies, each with bits and pieces, that she happened to piece together after her procedure, and luckily got a few things correct.

    That makes your explanation seem even less likely.

    You can be as impressed as you want about individual anecdotes, but without scientific investigation to rule out other confounding factors, like chance, then it is just up in the air right now.

    I’m all for a large systematic study of NDEs but we have a rough idea that certain things have a very low chance of occurring.

    How do you know that they were on for the entire surgery?

    I did not claim to know with certainty that the clicks were on for the whole surgery.

    Why would they have them on prior to the brain death? It would have been obvious that her brain was still functioning, and completely unnecessary.

    I believe it was to monitor the brain’s gradual decline/increase in response to the clicks throughout the surgery. For this reason, I get the impression that they were on throughout the surgery but I have not seen this explicitly stated. However, the doctors are explicit that they were on when Pam had the veridical experiences.

    Perhaps you can look up the primary sources and check?

    Sorry, the primary researcher’s account is not readily accessible to me. Maybe cl does.

    And by the way, Pam did NOT identify the bone saw correctly. That is on Sabom’s own account.

    Can you elaborate? What has made you go from saying her identifying the saw correctly could have occurred naturally to now saying she did not identify the saw correctly?

  23. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> I was hoping for an exact number. I can imagine if Pam had given an interview, say, a week after the surgery you would still be saying that there was the possibility of her memory being affected by extra information.

    Yes, I would be skeptical, but less so than after three years. I think that you will concede that memories based on events that occurred a week ago are more reliable in general than memories about events that occurred three years ago.

    >> I would expect that, if the drug trial was important enough for the person to remember (as NDEs are very important in the lives of those who have them), then, yes, they could remember whether they felt better after taking an experimental drug. Note that I am not saying whether an individual patient could determine whether the drug or some other factor relieved their illness or whether they took a real drug or the placebo.

    Have you read about the unreliability of flashbulb memories? These are about traumatic events that were very vivid and important to individuals, and yet they misremembered important details.

    >> No, she correctly noted that a female said one artery was too small and a male said to try the other artery. Since the surgeons did not even know they were going to do this then Pam could not have known about it prior to the surgery.

    First, there is no way that the surgeons would have told Pam that if they could not access her bloodstream via one artery, then they would use another?

    Second, could she have discovered this in the three years since describing her experience to Sabom? I know that her mother had the surgical report. Could Pam have gotten a look at it, or some other copy, and maybe forgotten?

    >> The people familiar with the earphones find this explanation highly unlikely.

    Fair enough, but that does not mean that it did not happen.

    >> As I said, you can only hope she was mistaken.

    It is not about hope, but about being rigorous in one’s methodology when making a scientific claim. Read any scientific paper, and you will see, especially in the quality ones, that they painstakingly take precautions to minimize confounding factors and bias. These are real factors that can distort the results of a study.

    >> That makes your explanation seem even less likely.

    Do you know how unlikely it is that you come across a friend from work while on vacation in Paris? It is incredibly unlikely, and so if it happened, you would feel that something special was happening. However, when you factor in the fact that there are millions of tourists visiting Paris on a regular basis, then it becomes inevitable that some of them will have this unlikely experience. So, it is not enough to look at the probability, but you also have to look at the base rate, too.

    Remember, I am not saying that Pam did NOT have a veridical experience. I am only saying that this case report is inconclusive. Maybe she did, and maybe she didn’t, but a single case report is not enough to establish the reality of this phenomena. Only controlled studies can do this.

    >> I’m all for a large systematic study of NDEs but we have a rough idea that certain things have a very low chance of occurring.

    Good.

    >> I did not claim to know with certainty that the clicks were on for the whole surgery.

    You wrote: “No, they were on for the entire surgery as far as I can tell, and certainly on when the verified events occurred.”

    >> Can you elaborate? What has made you go from saying her identifying the saw correctly could have occurred naturally to now saying she did not identify the saw correctly?

    I was wrong about her identifying it correctly. Sabom’s own account says that she got its appearance wrong. He wrote: “Pam’s description of the bone saw having a “groove at the top where the saw appeared to go into the handle” was a bit puzzling…. [T]he end of the bone saw has an overhanging edge that [viewed sideways] looks somewhat like a groove. However, it was not located “where the saw appeared to go into the handle” but at the other end.” She got it wrong.

  24. clamat says:

    cl

    A long time ago, in a blog far, far away, I said I’d comment on your evidence for NDEs, if time permitted.

    Well, time permits. Aren’t you lucky?! ;-)

    And speaking of time, it seems to me that the timing of Reynolds’ experiences is highly problematic:

    First, as to the notion that Reynolds’ experience was “continuous”: Unless she regularly looked at the clock on the wall of the OR and noted the time and the stage of the procedure, and this account matched the surgical record, I don’t see how we can possibly know such a thing.

    Reynolds described her experience as continuous. That doesn’t mean that this description, i.e., her perception of time, was anywhere near accurate. Indeed, isn’t it entirely reasonable to believe that someone undergoing such a massively traumatic procedure involving general anesthesia and other powerful drugs might have a faulty perception of the passage of time?

    Consider a more common example of unconscious experience. We sleep (or are recommended to!) 6-8 hours per night. Dreams occur only during REM, and generally last only a few minutes. But haven’t you had dreams that feel like they last for hours, or even longer? I’ve had dreams that felt like they lasted “throughout” the time I was asleep; all I remember is my head hitting the pillow and then a dream that seemed to last until I woke up. If after waking I told you “and I pole-vaulted Lon Chaney at precisely 2:30 in the morning” would this be good enough for you? When you wake, can you say with any degree of certainty at what time you were dreaming? Perhaps more to the point, can you say with any degree of accuracy at what times and for how long you weren’t dreaming, i.e., when you were just plain unconscious?

    Second, as to the timing of the veridical experiences themselves, the only significant one seems to be the nurse speaking extemporaneously as the situation arose. All of the others seem easily predictable, if Reynolds was informed about the nature of the surgery beforehand, or even if she had knowledge of surgery in general. (e.g., the fact that she knew her head and been shaved for an operation on a brain aneurysm doesn’t seem terribly surprising).

    If Sabom failed to control Reynolds’ knowledge of the surgery beforehand, this indeed seriously undermines the integrity of the data. If we want to characterize Sabom’s narrative as “data” at all, the controls he used are significant: What controls did Sabom use to make sure that Reynolds did not have any prior knowledge of the details of the surgery, the instruments, etc.?

    Finally, you emphasize Reynolds’ brain didn’t register 100-decibel clicks to argue that it’s highly unlikely she could’ve heard the nurse’s voice. But Reynold’s brain only stopped responding to the clicks long after the nurse spoke.

    According to the chronology you describe above: (1) “Shortly after” 9:00 a.m., the nurse spoke while trying to find a femoral artery so that Reynolds could be hooked up to bypass. (2) “By 11:00 a.m.” Reynold’s heart was in V-fib. (3) “As Pam’s heart arrested…[b]rain stem function weakened as the clicks from the ear speakers produced lower and lower spikes on the monitoring electrogram.” “Total brain shutdown” only occurred shortly before (or even perhaps “at precisely”) 11:25 a.m.

    The fact that Reynolds couldn’t hear anything at 11:25 a.m. doesn’t tell us anything about what she could hear two-and-a-half hours prior, when the nurse spoke. At most this is evidence that people can indeed hear things while under general anesthesia, even when other loud noises are being pumped into their ears.

    Finally, we have an account of a few things Reynolds got “right,” and at least one she got wrong — the bone saw, per dguller. Is there any record of how many other things she got wrong?

    In sum:

    It does not appear that Reynolds had any veridical experience during brain death. Unless proper controls were implemented, the veridical experiences she had before and after brain death seem entirely mundane.

    @bossmanham

    It’s truly telling that almost anything is more plausible to the materialist than this person is actually telling the truth.

    It’s truly telling that almost anything is more plausible to the supernaturalist than this person was able to hear things while under general anesthesia.

  25. clamat says:

    dguller says: Furthermore, he says, “I don’t know how it’s possible for it to happen.” Why aren’t you all over him about the fallacy of an argument from incredulity?

    Yep.

  26. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    Have you read about the unreliability of flashbulb memories? These are about traumatic events that were very vivid and important to individuals, and yet they misremembered important details.

    I did a Google search of “flashbulb memories” and looked at the links on the first page of results. WordPress will put my post in the moderation queue if I include too many links so I’ll refer to the website without giving a URL. Hopefully you can find the page if you’re interested in verifying my quotes.

    From Wikipedia under the “Accuracy” section:

    “The majority of research has demonstrated that flashbulb memories are more accurate than everyday memories.”

    “Overall, the majority of research found on flashbulb memories demonstrates that consequences of an event play a key role in the accuracy of flashbulb memories.”

    “The accounts of flashbulb memory that have been documented as remarkably accurate have been unique and distinctive from everyday memories. It has been found that uniqueness of an event can be the best overall predictor of how well it will be recalled later on.”

    “It has been documented that people that are involved in a flashbulb event have more accurate recollections compared to people that were not involved in the event.”

    From UIC:

    “These flashbulb memories are not as accurate or permanent as photographic memories but the flashbulb memories’ forgetting curve is far less affected by time than is the case for other types of memories studied in basic memory research.”

    “One reason that the flashbulb memories are remembered is because these memories tend to be retold over and over again. Sometimes, though, these memories are not necessarily accurate. Accuracy reduces during the first 3 months and levels at about 12 months.”

    From Berkeley:

    “Many studies have collected subjects’ memories immediately after the event, and compared these “on-line” records to flashbulb memories reported after some interval has transpired. The general conclusion of these studies is that, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, people’s flashbulb memories are not necessarily accurate representations of the event in question. Moreover, whatever accuracy they may have may derive not from some exotic “Now Print” mechanism related to emotional arousal, but rather from the rather mundane effect of repeated rehearsals as people share their experiences of learning the news.”

    From Memory Loss Online:

    “Flashbulb memories are not necessarily accurate in every respect, but they demonstrate that the emotional content of an event can greatly enhance the strength of the memory formed.”

    Science Blogs – The Frontal Cortex (citing someone else):

    “Flashbulb memories are not special in their accuracy, as previously claimed, but only in their perceived accuracy.”

    The quoted sites are not overly consistent in their descriptions but I see nothing particularly damning in them. If the quotes from Wikipedia are correct, my case may actually be helped.

    Fair enough, but that does not mean that it did not happen.

    There is no absolute certainty in any matter, however, it appears far more likely that she could not (physically) hear what was happening in the operating room than that she could.

    These are real factors that can distort the results of a study.

    The problem I have is that the confounding factors in this case could be applied to almost any claim ever made. Even in the NDE study you suggested (letters and numbers above lights) you could still raise the possibility that mistakes or fraud explain the results better than dualism. Yet these objections are reserved only for those claims that conflict with materialism. These objections are never raised in studies concerning more mundane matters (unless there is actual positive evidence that, say, fraud occurred in the specific study in question). NDEs get one level of skepticism while other claims may not.

    So, it is not enough to look at the probability, but you also have to look at the base rate, too.

    True, but as I mentioned in this thread or the “Proof of Dualism” thread, those who have experienced NDEs can give more accurate accounts of their surgery than those who have not experienced NDEs but underwent the same kind of surgery.

    Maybe she did, and maybe she didn’t, but a single case report is not enough to establish the reality of this phenomena.

    But we can still look at this particular case and ask ourselves whether it is more likely than not that she really left her body.

    Sabom’s own account says that she got its appearance wrong.

    Thanks. In Light And Death (which Google books allowed me to preview) he goes on: “Why had this apparent discrepancy arisen in Pam’s description? Of course, the first explanation is that she did not ‘see’ the saw at all, but was describing it from her own best guess of what it would look and sound like. The details that apparently correlated accurately with the saw would then have been merely coincidental. Another possible explanation is that she actually did ‘see’ the saw from a distance, giving a fairly accurate description of the saw, ‘interchangeable blades,’ and case they were stored in, but was not able to precisely ‘see’ the tip of the saw. This saw is quite small and, when being moved around in use, may be very difficult to see accurately.”

  27. Christopher says:

    Hey cl. No one has asked so I shall. Assuming the conclusion of this experiment is the existence of a non-materialistic ‘soul’, how does this existence strengthen the theistic argument?

  28. bossmanham says:

    Christopher, I don’t think arguments for a soul would necessarily strengthen theistic arguments. It may strengthen the plausibility of one of the tenets of many religions, but not theism in general.

    Though arguments for God give evidence of at least one immaterial soul; namely God.

  29. Christopher says:

    @ bossmanham

    Though arguments for God give evidence of at least one immaterial soul; namely God.

    I do not comment too often here on TWIM and therefore I do not know what your worldview is, but do you really believe that there can be an argument proving or disproving the existence of god? I don’t. Therefore I don’t believe there can be an ‘argument’ of the form ‘god, therefore soul.’

  30. bossmanham says:

    It solely depends on what you mean by “prove.”

    If you have in mind DesCartes’ absolute certainty, then no, probably not. If you mean they make the existence of God more plausibly true by many factors, then yes, I do believe they can do that. Therefore the existence of at least one immaterial soul would be more probable than not.

  31. Christopher says:

    I can accept that. But just to be clear, I cannot come to the conclusion that this ‘god’ is the christian god.

  32. bossmanham says:

    I don’t think many of them do lead inexorably to the Christian God. I think the historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus does that, but I think most classical apologists add that to the end of a cumulative case.

    But this is a digression from the post, I believe.

  33. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> The quoted sites are not overly consistent in their descriptions but I see nothing particularly damning in them. If the quotes from Wikipedia are correct, my case may actually be helped.

    The point is that just because someone experienced an incredibly life-changing event and has a vivid and compelling memory of that event does not imply that their memories are necessarily accurate. Unless you are claiming that their memories are impossible to have been incorrect, then we agree that the empirical possibility of memory distortion is a sufficient reason to control for it during a scientific study of paranormal events. And three years between the event and the interview provides plenty of time for embellishment and distortion to have occurred, leading to reasonable doubt of the veracity of the memories in question.

    >> There is no absolute certainty in any matter, however, it appears far more likely that she could not (physically) hear what was happening in the operating room than that she could.

    Untrue. Stick your fingers as deep as possible into your eyes, and walk around a city. You do not hear absolute silence around you, but muffled sounds. Sometimes, you will even be able to make our sentences and understand what people around you are saying. Perhaps this is a moot point, because if she also had clicks occurring at around 11 times per second in both ears at the time that she allegedly experienced the NDE, then that would be impossible to explain on a naturalistic account, except by chance. The problem is that we do not know whether the clicks were on during the NDE, and so this matter is just inconclusive.

    >> The problem I have is that the confounding factors in this case could be applied to almost any claim ever made. Even in the NDE study you suggested (letters and numbers above lights) you could still raise the possibility that mistakes or fraud explain the results better than dualism.

    That is why I also said that it should be replicated by alternative and independent investigators. One general rule of research is if results are only found by a specific group of investigators, then one should be suspicious. The bottom line is that it would be depend on the results of the study. If the results were weakly confirmatory, then it is possible that bias or flawed methodology could account for them, but if the results were strongly confirmatory, and then independently replicated, then I would be VERY impressed, and would have to reconsider many core beliefs.

    >> Yet these objections are reserved only for those claims that conflict with materialism. These objections are never raised in studies concerning more mundane matters (unless there is actual positive evidence that, say, fraud occurred in the specific study in question). NDEs get one level of skepticism while other claims may not.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If someone claimed that they did not murder their boss, despite being found with motive, the murder weapon, and other conclusive forensic evident, but that an alien did it and framed them for the murder, then you would not accept that account. You would demand evidence, and that evidence must not be inconclusive, but clear and decisive. Same principle here.

    >> True, but as I mentioned in this thread or the “Proof of Dualism” thread, those who have experienced NDEs can give more accurate accounts of their surgery than those who have not experienced NDEs but underwent the same kind of surgery.

    Citation, please.

    >> But we can still look at this particular case and ask ourselves whether it is more likely than not that she really left her body.

    That is the problem with anecdotes. You cannot do what you claim. It is like someone taking X for medical condition M, and they get better. Can you conclude that X is an effective treatment for M? No, you cannot, and the same reasons why not apply to anecdotes of OBE’s and NDE’s.

  34. cl says:

    I’ve been meaning to jump back into this God-awful conversation for a few days now, but, I just haven’t been able to muster up the motivation. Until now.

    dguller,

    Stick your fingers as deep as possible into your eyes, and walk around a city. You do not hear absolute silence around you, but muffled sounds.

    To put it bluntly, that’s ridiculous, and you know that’s ridiculous. For you to compare an anaesthetized, unconcsious person with 100-decibel clicks in each ear to a fully waking person walking around a city is really bad. Frankly, it deserves to be mocked, and suggests that you are just grasping for straws.

    Perhaps this is a moot point, because if she also had clicks occurring at around 11 times per second in both ears at the time that she allegedly experienced the NDE, then that would be impossible to explain on a naturalistic account, except by chance.

    Now that’s more like it. Thing is, since “chance” can even allow for your car to quantum tunnel through your garage tomorrow morning, I fail to see how this is anything more than a get-out-of-jail-free card.

    The problem is that we do not know whether the clicks were on during the NDE, and so this matter is just inconclusive.

    No, we know they were on. The problem is, you refuse to believe because believing would basically disintegrate your outdated, Newtonian materialist worldview. No offense, but that’s exactly what’s going on here. You even hint at this yourself.

    The bottom line is that it would be depend on the results of the study. If the results were weakly confirmatory, then it is possible that bias or flawed methodology could account for them, but if the results were strongly confirmatory, and then independently replicated, then I would be VERY impressed, and would have to reconsider many core beliefs.

    I’m sympathetic to this. The problem is, since even strongly confirmatory, independently replicated results can be wrong, what do we really gain to make this our golden standard? How can we tell the difference between strongly confirmatory, independently replicated results that are true vs. strongly confirmatory, independently replicated results that are false? It seems to me that even if strongly confirmatory, independently replicated results seemed to confirm NDE, there’s still a chance that the results could be flawed. It’s happened before, on more than just fluke occasion.

  35. clamat says:

    @cl

    For you to compare an anaesthetized, unconcsious person with 100-decibel clicks in each ear to a fully waking person walking around a city is really bad.

    You fail to appreciate the significance of your own evidence. Reynolds’ being unconscious is irrelevant because she could hear the clicks while unconscious, as demonstrated by the spikes in brain activity.

    So the proper comparison is between (1) a person with 100-decibel clicks in each ear and (2) a person walking around a city with their fingers stuffed in their ears. Doesn’t seem so “ridiculous” a comparison to me.

    she also had clicks occurring at around 11 times per second in both ears at the time that she allegedly experienced the NDE, then that would be impossible to explain on a naturalistic account, except by chance.

    Now that’s more like it.

    You’re both wrong. It’s nowhere near established it would have been “impossible” for Reynolds to hear something other than the 100-decibel clicks. Maybe the technician simply didn’t put the earplugs in as securely as he thought he did? Unlikely, maybe, but hardly “impossible.”

    There is no reason to think the Reynolds case demonstrates OBE (much less NDE) as opposed to conscious recall of sounds heard under general anesthesia.

  36. clamat says:

    @cl

    I’ve pointed this one out before, but I haven’t seen that you’ve addressed it, so feel compelled to point it out again:

    If sophisticated scientific equipment verifies that Pam’s brain cannot detect the equivalent of a jackhammer in each ear, doesn’t it seem a little desperate to argue that Pam overheard the surgeons?

    But Pam’s brain could detect the jackhammer when the surgeons (more accurately, the nurse) spoke. It was only 2.5 hours later, after her heart arrested, that “her brain waves flattened into electrocerebral silence.” Nothing in the account (as you’ve related it) suggests Pam overheard anything while brain dead.

  37. cl says:

    clamat,

    So the proper comparison is between (1) a person with 100-decibel clicks in each ear and (2) a person walking around a city with their fingers stuffed in their ears. Doesn’t seem so ‘ridiculous’ a comparison to me.

    No, it’s ridiculous as can be. I mean, think about it: fingers in ears is nothing more than a blockage of sound, at best. Fingers in ears does not introduce competing, 100-decibel sound into the picture. Fingers in ears doesn’t compromise normal auditory procedure. On and on. It’s ridiculous, grasping at straws.

    Maybe the technician simply didn’t put the earplugs in as securely as he thought he did? Unlikely, maybe, but hardly ‘impossible.’

    Ah, yes… maybe, possibly, maybe, possibly… the last refuge of the skeptic! Well heck, maybe Reynolds’ experience was genuine? I can play that game, too.

    There is no reason to think the Reynolds case demonstrates OBE

    False. There is no reason to call the Reynolds case PROOF of OBE, but that’s different.

    Nothing in the account (as you’ve related it) suggests Pam overheard anything while brain dead.

    The veridical aspects of Pam’s experience seem to have occurred pre-flattening. However, Pam reported a continuous experience the entire time. Sure, you can doubt it, but Descartes already proved that one can doubt anything except their own doubt, so I’m not too sure what that accomplishes besides insulation against an unwelcome paradigm shift.

  38. clamat says:

    @cl

    The veridical aspects of Pam’s experience seem to have occurred pre-flattening.

    That’s really all that need be said. That Pam “reported” that the experience felt continuous does nothing to verify the experience actually was continuous, any more than my report that my last acid trip felt like it was five minutes long is evidence it actually was. OBE may still be on the table (pun definitely intended) but NDE isn’t.

    As to the “E” itself, fine, I’ll refine the comparison. Fingers in ears (who knows how tightly?), standing next to a jackhammer. All the while a team of what, 5, 10 people, literally right next to you, continuously carry on a conversation. For five hours. You’re telling me it’s not possible that at some point during those five hours somebody might overhear a snippet of that conversation over the jackhammer and through the fingers?

    Ah, yes… maybe, possibly, maybe, possibly… the last refuge of the skeptic! Well heck, maybe Reynolds’ experience was genuine? I can play that game, too.

    Yes, I suppose in a sense that’s correct: The skeptic says “maybe, possibly,” whereas the credulous believer spouts certitudes like “ridiculous as can be” and “grasping at straws” and “impossible.” (And the philosophically-inclined credulous believer abuses Descartes to insulate himself from any doubt.)

    But as you acknowledge, the question is: What’s more likely?

    You suggest that “a technician didn’t put the earplugs in tightly enough” is extraordinarily unlikely. “Loose earplugs?! You’re grasping at straws! That’s just crazy!” No, it’s not. Loose earplugs are totally mundane, firmly within the realm of everyday experience. As is hearing parts of long conversations between lots of people, even over other loud noises. As is being able to hear things while under anesthesia, as Pam’s own EEG confirms.

    Putting all of these mundane (if interesting) things together, I think it’s likely Pam was able to hear more than the technician thought she’d be able to, and was able to remember a bit of what she heard after she came around.

    You, on the other hand, think it’s far, far more likely Pam’s mind left her body and hovered around the operating table for a while before somehow cruising down an extra-dimensional tunnel to talk to her dead uncle.

    Ahem.

    There’s simply no way to proceed on this, so I’ll leave it to any observers to judge which scenario is more likely.

  39. cl says:

    clamat,

    That’s really all that need be said.

    Sure, if one is content to rest in their own assumptions and call it a day.

    As to the ‘E’ itself, fine, I’ll refine the comparison.

    Why make a comparison at all? Unconscious, with speakers blasting 100db clicks at a rate of 11 per second, with the ears fully covered by mounds of tape and gauze. Sure, I suppose it’s possible she might have heard something, but, as you said in the other thread, logical possibility covers virtually every fanciful speculation–right?

    I think it’s likely Pam was able to hear more than the technician thought she’d be able to, and was able to remember a bit of what she heard after she came around.

    Then how do you explain away what she saw? Perpaps it’s logically possible that there *actually wasn’t* any tape over her eyes?

    You, on the other hand, think it’s far, far more likely Pam’s mind left her body and hovered around the operating table for a while before somehow cruising down an extra-dimensional tunnel to talk to her dead uncle.

    I don’t know which is more likely, because I’m not running any probability equations that would sustain such a claim. I’m simply saying that, if genuine, Pam’s experience completely demolishes all that you believe in. I fully understand why you would resist that.

  40. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> Thing is, since “chance” can even allow for your car to quantum tunnel through your garage tomorrow morning, I fail to see how this is anything more than a get-out-of-jail-free card.

    That is too bad for you. Chance is something that ALWAYS is present as a confounding factor. That is why scientific studies take the painstaking effort to utilize statistical analysis, which is nothing but the quantification of chance and probability, because scientists know that a random set of data points can appear to be similar to a causal pattern, and that only a more comprehensive study of the matter can bring this out. Since none of the studies that you cited, except for the prospective study, even make any statistical analysis at all, I would say that they have failed to rule out this important cofounding factor. Hopefully, future studies will not make this same mistake.

    >> No, we know they were on. The problem is, you refuse to believe because believing would basically disintegrate your outdated, Newtonian materialist worldview. No offense, but that’s exactly what’s going on here. You even hint at this yourself.

    How do you know this? I cannot find this confirmed anywhere.

    >> It seems to me that even if strongly confirmatory, independently replicated results seemed to confirm NDE, there’s still a chance that the results could be flawed. It’s happened before, on more than just fluke occasion.

    That is true, but all we can do is go on the evidence that we have. If there is evidence that has minimal bias and a robust causal pattern, then that should be taken more seriously than other studies that have higher bias and a less robust pattern evident. Again, this is the epistemic situation that we find ourselves in, and we have to do the best that we can, which means that there is always a chance that we could be wrong.

    Now, do you agree that Pam’s case is essentially inconclusive? We just do not know at this point what to make of it.

  41. dguller says:

    cl:

    And remember, there was THREE YEARS between the event and the interview. That is plenty of time to learn new information and embellish one’s memories.

    Again, this is just not a compelling case at all, and is just inconclusive.

  42. cl says:

    Again, this is just not a compelling case at all,

    Translated: I don’t believe it.

  43. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Translated: I don’t believe it.

    I noticed that you have ducked the question again. Do you accept that this case is inconclusive? That does not mean that it is false, but only that the information contained within it is simply insufficient to rule out important confounding factors, and thus we must suspend our judgment regarding its veracity, and ignore it except to guide future studies.

  44. dguller says:

    cl:

    Actually, I want to ask you something that I asked another commenter. If someone took treatment X for medical condition M, and M improved, then does that mean that X is an effective treatment for M?

  45. cl says:

    dguller,

    I noticed that you have ducked the question again.

    Ah, the irony. All this talk about confounding factors, yet, here you are, confounded. I’ve not ducked the question; I’ve simply lost interest in this conversation. So, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep in step with all this talk about ruling out confounders before you go throwing around silly assumptions.

    As for the question: Is this case conclusive? Of course not. Does that mean we ought to suspend judgment entirely? I’d say no, and you’re entitled to your own opinion.

    Actually, I want to ask you something that I asked another commenter. If someone took treatment X for medical condition M, and M improved, then does that mean that X is an effective treatment for M?

    We’ve addressed this before. No, it does not necessarily mean that X is an effective treatment for M.

  46. dguller says:

    cl:

    Good. So we agree that the case of Pam is inconclusive, which leads to my next question. If the case of Pam is inconclusive, then why use it to support your belief in disembodied minds? I mean, if I believed that X is effective for M, then I would NOT use case reports and anecdotal data at all, because it will be inconclusive. I will focus upon controlled studies instead.

    I am still waiting for the conclusive and definitive evidence that justifies disembodied minds. If all you have is a prospective study — which did not even have brain dead patients, and thus their paranormal experiences could have been brain-generated — and some case reports (which are all inconclusive), then you have not — and cannot — prove your case.

    The evidence that you have presented is just inconclusive, and when compared to the mountains of data that our minds are fundamentally brain-generated embodied entities, I’m afraid that a brain-generated embodied mind is the best hypothesis we have at this time.

  47. dguller says:

    cl:

    Here’s another way to look at it. Superstring theory is a beautiful, symmetrical, and elegant unifying theory of physics. However, it lacks any empirical evidence to support it, because it trades in 10 dimensions, or something. Should we suspend judgment about its truth? Absolutely, because the empirical evidence just isn’t there to decide things one way or the other.

    As such, the matter is inconclusive, and it would not make any sense to get into heated and emotional arguments about our beliefs about superstring theory, because the most that we can say is that superstring theory would be an incredible achievement of human reason IF IT WERE TRUE.

    I would say that same thing about your bits of evidence of disembodied minds. Yes, a materialist and physicalist account of the mind would have to be rejected IF YOUR EVIDENCE WAS TRUE, but since your evidence just isn’t enough to determine whether your claim is true, then we cannot reject the physicalist account of an embodied mind (at least, one the basis of your cited evidence).

    That’s just the reality of where we stand at this time on this issue.

  48. cl says:

    I’m not sure why you persist. If the evidence is inconclusive, then, why in the world were you going around saying disembodied minds are “science fiction and fantasy?” Why must I supply absolute, 100% proof for my claims, while you’re allowed to nudely assert yours? You did the same thing in the Strawson discussion, so, no retreating to that “mountain of evidence for materialism” position.

    Earlier, of inconclusive data, you wrote:

    …that means that neither of us can claim the study to support our positions. It should just rest in silence, ignored except to plan future research.

    So then, may I see the conclusive data that would justify your “science fiction and fantasy” claim? You make big talk about confounders. Well, since neural correlates to consciousness are also what we’d expect given dualism, how did you rule out the confounders?

    Here’s something else you said that is totally bogus:

    …a single case report is not enough to establish the reality of this phenomena. Only controlled studies can do this.

    This is false. Controlled studies do not establish reality. The phenomenon in question is either true or false regardless of controlled studies. What you really mean is, only controlled studies are sufficient to convince you, which I find odd, because you’ve already conceded that even controlled studies get things wrong.

    If the case of Pam is inconclusive, then why use it to support your belief in disembodied minds?

    For one, it’s only one of many tools in my shed. For two, there’s a difference between 100% proof and legitimate evidence. Pam’s case is not 100% proof. It is legitimate evidence.

    I am still waiting for the conclusive and definitive evidence that justifies disembodied minds.

    Well then, like I said, you’re going to have to wait a good 10-20 years if not more, so you might as well forget all about this and enjoy your vacation!

    If all you have is a prospective study — which did not even have brain dead patients, and thus their paranormal experiences could have been brain-generated — and some case reports (which are all inconclusive), then you have not — and cannot — prove your case.

    What proves your case that disembodied minds are science fiction and fantasy? You don’t even have a study! I really have a hard time figuring out why you hold yourself to a much lower standard. I at least gave you something beyond mere assertion.

    The evidence that you have presented is just inconclusive, and when compared to the mountains of data that our minds are fundamentally brain-generated embodied entities, I’m afraid that a brain-generated embodied mind is the best hypothesis we have at this time.

    We’ve been over this. Neural correlates to consciousness are also expected given dualism. You’re not allowed to bastardize the evidence.

    Yes, a materialist and physicalist account of the mind would have to be rejected IF YOUR EVIDENCE WAS TRUE,

    I’m content to let it rest there. Maybe in our lifetime you’ll get some closure. Of course, even if controlled studies suggest it IS true, there’s always the chance that THOSE controlled studies are in the “controlled studies that are false” category, right?

  49. dguller says:

    cl:

    Where did I say specifically that disembodied minds are science fiction and fantasy?

  50. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> You make big talk about confounders. Well, since neural correlates to consciousness are also what we’d expect given dualism, how did you rule out the confounders?

    Why would you expect neural correlates to disembodied consciousness? THAT is something that you have never answered. Your lightbulb analogy fails to address this, as well.

    >> This is false. Controlled studies do not establish reality. The phenomenon in question is either true or false regardless of controlled studies. What you really mean is, only controlled studies are sufficient to convince you, which I find odd, because you’ve already conceded that even controlled studies get things wrong.

    Would you trust a DNA test confirming the guilt of the accused, or the eyewitness testimony of their hated enemy who would stand to inherit the his property? Obviously, you would trust the former over the latter. And why? Because the former is more reliable, because it is less liable to bias and error than the latter. Same thing with controlled studies versus case reports. If the former said X and the latter said not-X, then you must side with the former if you are being epistemically responsible. And yes, controlled studies can be wrong, but overall, they are more reliable than case reports. Again, this is not an all-or-nothing thing, but a matter of probability. Sure, the DNA test could be wrong, and the eyewitness right, but is that where you would put your money every time?

    >> For one, it’s only one of many tools in my shed. For two, there’s a difference between 100% proof and legitimate evidence. Pam’s case is not 100% proof. It is legitimate evidence.

    It is evidence. I never said that it wasn’t. I called it a CASE REPORT, which is a type of evidence. All I said was that it is INCONCLUSIVE evidence, which you agreed with. That means that we CANNOT CONCLUDE anything from it. That is what “inconclusive” means. There are legitimate questions that the study in question cannot answer, and thus we must look elsewhere. Please direct me to studies that address the specific concerns that I had over this case report, and we can carry on the discussion. It appears that there are none, which understandably upsets you, because you seemed to put a great deal of weight into this issue, but that does not change the fact that the matter is just inconclusive at this time. Sure, you can plough ahead, full steam, and continue to believe on the basis of inconclusive evidence, but that it not epistemically responsible, I think.

    >> Well then, like I said, you’re going to have to wait a good 10-20 years if not more, so you might as well forget all about this and enjoy your vacation!

    Okay, but then I would recommend that you also withhold judgment.

    >> What proves your case that disembodied minds are science fiction and fantasy? You don’t even have a study! I really have a hard time figuring out why you hold yourself to a much lower standard. I at least gave you something beyond mere assertion.

    I have already addressed this on a number of occasions.

    First, I never said that disembodied minds are science fiction and fantasy, as far as I can recall. Can you cite where I explicitly stated this?

    Second, you gave me something barely better than assertion.

    Third, I do have studies that show that the mind is fundamentally embodied and embedded in the world. You appear to know of their existence. If you want me to cite studies that show that the brain can generate mental phenomena, then I am happy to do so, but I think that we both agree that it does. I cited multiple examples, such as the fill-in blind spot, the unified visual experience, phantom limbs, third limbs, hallucinations, psychotropic drugs, and so on. These are all evidence of the brain generating a subjective experience that does not refer to anything really outside the mind. We agree on this, but disagree regarding whether the mind is fundamentally disembodied.

    >> We’ve been over this. Neural correlates to consciousness are also expected given dualism. You’re not allowed to bastardize the evidence.

    They are also expected given my theory of invisible, microscopic leprechauns silently spraying magic dust within neurons. As I said before, logical possibility is not interesting. Empirical possibility is. All you have are inconclusive studies, and logical possibility, which just is not enough at this time. I’m sorry, but that’s where we are. The most parsimonious explanation is that the mind is generated by the brain-body-world interaction, and it does not require the postulation of a disembodied mind that came from who knows where, interacts with the brain by an unknown mechanism, is also limited by the brain who knows how, and eventually goes who knows where after the brain dies.

    >> I’m content to let it rest there. Maybe in our lifetime you’ll get some closure. Of course, even if controlled studies suggest it IS true, there’s always the chance that THOSE controlled studies are in the “controlled studies that are false” category, right?

    Absolutely.

  51. cl says:

    Why would you expect neural correlates to disembodied consciousness? THAT is something that you have never answered. Your lightbulb analogy fails to address this, as well.

    False. I answered this both in the original analogy, and when you asked last time. Specifically, I gave a few examples of various two-way interfaces.

    Would you trust a DNA test confirming the guilt of the accused, or the eyewitness testimony of their hated enemy who would stand to inherit the his property? Obviously, you would trust the former over the latter. And why? Because the former is more reliable, because it is less liable to bias and error than the latter. Same thing with controlled studies versus case reports. If the former said X and the latter said not-X, then you must side with the former if you are being epistemically responsible. And yes, controlled studies can be wrong, but overall, they are more reliable than case reports. Again, this is not an all-or-nothing thing, but a matter of probability. Sure, the DNA test could be wrong, and the eyewitness right, but is that where you would put your money every time?

    None of that addressed the words of mine you cited. Controlled studies do not establish reality.

    It is evidence. I never said that it wasn’t.

    I didn’t say you said it wasn’t. I give you more credit than the vast majority of atheists in that regard. You asked why I mentioned Pam’s case at all, and I answered. A dataset need not be 100% proof to be useful in apprehending answers.

    Please direct me to studies that address the specific concerns that I had over this case report, and we can carry on the discussion.

    There is literally no point. You have already revealed incredible bias. You have already set a wall between yourself and that which you denigrate as science fiction and fantasy. You have already stated that nothing but RCT’s will suffice for you in this regard. Simply put, you’re going to have to wait for the men and women in whitecoats to decide this matter for you. For me to show you anything less would be a waste of time, and the AWARE study isn’t even over yet, let alone replication should any positive results be revealed. Right?

    It appears that there are none, which understandably upsets you,

    False. I’m frustrated with your double-standards, intellectual chauvinism, and constant reversion to “maybe, possibly.” Two totally different things.

    Sure, you can plough ahead, full steam, and continue to believe on the basis of inconclusive evidence, but that it not epistemically responsible, I think.

    Oh, look, more snobby judgment! I already told you: Pam’s is BUT ONE TOOL in the shed, so, please reserve your judgment for people who actually deserve it. Further, I don’t need OBE/NDE to support a belief in an afterlife. I don’t even need dualism to support a belief in an afterlife. It’s just that, a reasoned perusing of the TOTALITY OF EVIDENCE suggests to me that materialism is demonstrably false, and something like dualism holds better explanatory power.

    Okay, but then I would recommend that you also withhold judgment.

    This assumes that I should share your staunch skeptical standards. Like I said, my judgment is not based on Pam’s case alone. Repeat: NOT BASED ON PAM’S CASE ALONE.

    First, I never said that disembodied minds are science fiction and fantasy,

    False. “To speak of a mind without a brain is just science fiction and fantasy.” dguller, here.

    So, yeah: take all your haughty-taughty judgment about epistemic responsibility and apply it to yourself.

    They are also expected given my theory of invisible, microscopic leprechauns silently spraying magic dust within neurons.

    This is the point where I stopped taking you seriously before, and, this is the point where I stop taking you seriously again. There will be plenty more battles we can fight here. Let’s give it a rest.

  52. cl says:

    A salient afterthought:

    Elsewhere, dguller implies that length of time between events is sufficient grounds to doubt accuracy. Yet, here in this thread, we find that dguller apparently can’t even remember claims he made five weeks ago. So, let’s say Sabom had interviewed Pam five weeks after the event. Clearly, there is still room for error. So then, what do we really gain in running the “length of time” gambit if even such a short time span can reveal a 180-degree error?

  53. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> False. I answered this both in the original analogy, and when you asked last time. Specifically, I gave a few examples of various two-way interfac

    You referred to the lightbulb analogy. This analogy fails, because the light is utterly dependent upon the physical system of the lightbulb, and cannot exist independently of the physical causes that generate it. What else did you mention?

    >> None of that addressed the words of mine you cited. Controlled studies do not establish reality.

    But anecdotes and case reports do?

    >> There is literally no point. You have already revealed incredible bias. You have already set a wall between yourself and that which you denigrate as science fiction and fantasy. You have already stated that nothing but RCT’s will suffice for you in this regard. Simply put, you’re going to have to wait for the men and women in whitecoats to decide this matter for you. For me to show you anything less would be a waste of time, and the AWARE study isn’t even over yet, let alone replication should any positive results be revealed. Right?

    First, where did I say that RCT’s are the only things I will consider? You specifically asked me what kind of study would convince me, and I described a prospective study that was NOT an RCT at all. An RCT would be practically impossible to conduct for NDE’s and OBE’s, and I would have set the epistemic standard too high to demand one.

    Second, I’ll take your answer to mean that there are no such studies that address the confounding factors that I mentioned, which means that the matter is inconclusive, which you yourself admitted. If something is inconclusive, then we should suspend judgment. That is the most responsible course of action, if being responsible is important to you.

    >> False. I’m frustrated with your double-standards, intellectual chauvinism, and constant reversion to “maybe, possibly.” Two totally different thing

    Then you still know nothing about science.

    >> Oh, look, more snobby judgment! I already told you: Pam’s is BUT ONE TOOL in the shed, so, please reserve your judgment for people who actually deserve it. Further, I don’t need OBE/NDE to support a belief in an afterlife. I don’t even need dualism to support a belief in an afterlife. It’s just that, a reasoned perusing of the TOTALITY OF EVIDENCE suggests to me that materialism is demonstrably false, and something like dualism holds better explanatory power.

    First, what about you saying again and again that I have overwhelming confirmation bias? What is that exactly? Objective and dispassionate opinions on your part?

    Second, if you add up 100 inconclusive studies, then do they thereby become conclusive?

    Third, how can something be demonstrably false on the basis of inconclusive evidence?

    >> This assumes that I should share your staunch skeptical standards. Like I said, my judgment is not based on Pam’s case alone. Repeat: NOT BASED ON PAM’S CASE ALONE.

    That’s good, because Pam’s case is inconclusive. What else do you have?

    >> So, yeah: take all your haughty-taughty judgment about epistemic responsibility and apply it to yourself.

    You got me. I shouldn’t have said that, and I thought I clarified things later on when I stated that what I objected to specifically was the use of philosophical thought experiments divorced from empirical evidence to justify philosophical conclusions. But you’re right, I should have been clearer.

    >> Clearly, there is still room for error. So then, what do we really gain in running the “length of time” gambit if even such a short time span can reveal a 180-degree error?

    We gain the fact that the longer the duration of time between an event and the reporting of the event increases the likelihood of distortion, especially when the event is emotionally salient and definitive in some way to the person in question. With regards to Pam, her OBE was life-changing and transformative, and she would have a powerful incentive to maintain its validity for her, including various subtle changes to her memories to validate and confirm its veracity. The fact that the interview occurred three years after the fact would have given her plenty of time to acquire new information, and possibly forget that she ever did so. I mean, this very influence is one of the main reasons why clinical trials are blinded, and it is because people can subconsciously distort and alter what they see and remember without even being aware of it. This is an empirical possibility that is certainly plausible in Pam’s case, give the facts of the matter.

  54. dguller says:

    cl:

    And one more thing about your final point. Is your point that the duration of time between an event and the recounting of the event is IRRELEVANT? If you are not saying this, then what is your point in describing the fact that memory can be distorted the longer time passes as a “gambit”, which implies its irrelevance?

  55. clamat says:

    @cl

    I’m simply saying that, if genuine, Pam’s experience completely demolishes all that you believe in. I fully understand why you would resist that.

    If this is truly all you intend to “simply say,” I admit it wholeheartedly: If genuine, Pam’s experience completely demolishes all I believe in (well, maybe not “all,” but I take your point).

    If the claim of any alien abductee is genuine, that would demolish all I believe in.

    If the claim of any dime store fortune teller is genuine, that would demolish all I believe in.

    If the claim of any particular faith healer is genuine, that would completely demolish all I believe in.

    A lot of people make a lot of claims that, if genuine, would demolish all I believe in.

    The question is whether any of them are genuine. Does what we know about the claim – and, equally importantly, what we don’t – make a particular claim any more or less likely than another? If you don’t think what we know and don’t know about Pam’s case allows us to make such an assessment, then why did you bring it up in the first place? Perhaps you should have waited until you ran your probability equations?

    No, clearly you thought Pam’s case compelling because (1) some of her experiences were verified, and (2) some of her experiences occurred after brain death. Why? Because

    [I]f her brain was non-active and she was clinically dead, Pam’s experience provisionally falsifies one or more materialist accounts of mind[.]

    However, as you’ve acknowledged, no veridical experiences occurred after brain death. Non-veridical experiences don’t even “provisionally falsify” any materialist account of mind. I don’t “rest in my assumptions” by saying “there’s no way to verify if Pam actually saw her dead uncle in a tunnel of light, as opposed to simply hallucinating, so let’s stick to what we can verify, shall we?”

    Further, the veridical experiences she did experience have entirely mundane explanations. How do I explain that she “saw” the drill? Simple, she saw the drill. A statement years ante to the effect of “I don’t see how that’s possible” does not constitute a proper control. Other unexceptional possibilities: Before the procedure somebody told her what kinds of instruments were involved, or she heard something about the drill in the three years between operation and interview.

    Again, all of these are mundane. And each additional mundane explanation makes the unusual explanation less and less likely. Having a bunch of reasons to doubt doesn’t constitute “grasping at straws” as you seem to think.

    I started this post with an admission. However, I don’t “resist” for the reasons you think. UFOs, NDE, ESP, and G.O.D., would all be awesome. None of these threaten what I want to believe.

    You, on the other hand, really, really want to believe in certain things. Consequently, when the most compelling case is shown to be far from it, you are forced to retreat to noncommittal.

    I don’t know which is more likely.

    Of course you do. You just hate to admit it.

  56. cl says:

    Jayman,

    I just wanted to say thanks for putting in such a concentrated effort in this thread, and give you some support where I think you’ve hit the nail on the head:

    I can imagine if Pam had given an interview, say, a week after the surgery you would still be saying that there was the possibility of her memory being affected by extra information.

    Exactly. I could see dguller saying that too. That’s why I pointed out that he doesn’t even necessarily remember things he said a few weeks ago.

    The people familiar with the earphones find this explanation highly unlikely.

    That’s right, and I put my money on the claim that in nearly any other situation, dguller would be telling us we ought to put some decent stock in the testimony of qualified medical professionals. But in this thread, didn’t you get the impression that he just handwaved their opinions aside?

  57. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> Exactly. I could see dguller saying that too. That’s why I pointed out that he doesn’t even necessarily remember things he said a few weeks ago.

    How does this support your claim? If people forget details after a week or so, then it is more likely that they would have forgotten even more details after three years.

    >> That’s right, and I put my money on the claim that in nearly any other situation, dguller would be telling us we ought to put some decent stock in the testimony of qualified medical professionals. But in this thread, didn’t you get the impression that he just handwaved their opinions aside?

    I would say that the opinions of qualified professionals should be taken seriously, but they are not absolute, as you well know. Remember, all that Cordova said was that her ability to overhear the surgeons was “extremely unlikely”, not “impossible”. If it was impossible, then I think that he would have said it was impossible, not “extremely unlikely”.

    Anyway, I have granted that the plugged up ears combined with the loud clicks made it highly unlikely that she actually overheard the surgeons during the procedure, but I still contend that there are other ways for her to have acquired that information, both before the procedure and during the three years afterwards.

  58. Panther says:

    Hi there.

    Can you tell me the source, please, where you got the info that the clicks were taking place at “11.3 times per second?”

  59. cl says:

    Sabom’s Light & Death, Chapter 3. Also, Chris Carter’s Science and the Near-Death Experience, p227

  60. Panther says:

    Thanks. I couldn’t find it in Sabom (though I was looking at a Google books version), but I do see it in Irreducible Mind. However, the latter doesn’t mention the *primary* source. Does anyone know what it is?

  61. Allzermalmer says:

    Dguller:

    One day, you really need to learn the difference between logical and empirical possibility. It’s an important distinction. I criticized the former, not the latter. Anyway, it is an empirical possibility that after three years, one can have distorted one’s memory in important ways. There are lots of psychological studies that demonstrate this, especially with flashbulb memories that occur during traumatic situations.

    You need to learn that this distinction between logical and empirical possibility isn’t a difference at all. Logical possibility is based on contingent matters, which is actually the foundation of empirical possibility (check out David Hume if you disagree). You brought up memory, which is a logical possibility, and empirical possibility, as you seem to mean it, is based on our current scientific theories say “This could happen in our scientific theory”. That means those things are logically possibile themselves, but the scientific theory doesn’t rule them out. In other words, “empirical possibility” is just a sub-set of logical possibility. YOu can’t have it without first having logical possibility.

  62. cl says:

    As much as we clashed, I like dguller. Last time I talked to him he said he’s modified his views away from traditional materialism and more towards something like A/T ala Feser if I remember correctly.

    I understand why skeptics generally frown on NDE, but most cases don’t have the cumulative weight this one does. I’m not 100% sold on it myself, but I consider it an outright falsification of hyperskeptic or New Atheist claims like “there’s no evidence for a soul.” In my opinion, the particular breed who sings that mantra has buried his or her head in the sand.

    WRT the section you cited, it bothered me that the “mere possibility” of memory distortion seemed sufficient to reject the entire anecdote in dguller’s mind. It seemed like he was saying, “because it’s possible that Pam remembered or mis-remembered X.” Well, okay, but unless we’re committed otherwise, it’s also possible that she really left her body. I didn’t like that move. And I’m not sure I ever convinced him the remarks about logical/empirical possibility were irrelevant to what I was saying.

    But I do miss the guy.

  63. cl says:

    Allzermalmer,

    Nice blog, BTW.

  64. AnduinX says:

    I read through this thread and found that some pseudoskeptics were claiming that Pam Reynolds had brain activity when she made her observations. This is true, but it is also very misleading because it does not say what kind of brain activity she had.

    Response to the clicking sounds merely indicates brain stem activity. Ex, you can have a patient who is brain dead with no consciousness show brain stem activity.

    Pam Reynolds was under the deepest anesthesia possible at the time that she made her observations. She was heavily sedated with Thiopental, a barbiturate that not only puts people to sleep, but also has the power to flatten cortical activity.

    According to modern neuroscience, cortical activity is where consciousness happens. Rudimentary activity in the brain stem is simply an insufficient explanation for clear coherent consciousness and memory formation.

    I think that the physicalist idea that mind is a function of the brain should have been abandoned when the search for consciouness and memory in the brain proved fruitless, and the unfalsifiable “memory is both everywhere and nowhere in the brain” was adopted by proponents.

    I see little difference between those who believe that the mind is a function of the brain and those who have faith in any religion.

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