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Initial post: Apr 28, 2007 6:12:48 PM PDT
This simple, one might almost say simple-minded, claim seems to lie at the heart of all of the "God doesn't exist" books that have appeared of late.

For example, as one reviewer puts it: "[Stenger] argues there is no credible evidence for 'out of body experiences.' "

Fine. But how would anyone know if someone had had an OBE? What would constitute "credible evidence"?
There are certainly any number of examples of patents being able to describe what was going on in the operating theatre whilst they were supposedly deeply unconscious. And this includes what the patients claimed to have SEEN, as well as what they heard.

So what Stenger really seems to be saying is that there is no evidence which he and people who think like him find credible.

Well, he's entitled to his OPINION, but why should other people accept HIS opinion over any other?

Because his opinion is based on scientific evidence, perhaps?

Again, fine. But who says that "scientific" evidence is the be all and end all?

Why, the people who regard "scientific" evidence as the only valid kind of evidence.

So all we actually have is a vacuous self justification:

Scientific evidence is the ONLY valid form of evidence because the people who believe it is the only valid form of evidence say so.

By that logic, surely:

Religious experience is a valid form of evidence because the people who believe that religious experience is a valid form of evidence say so.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 30, 2007 3:47:49 PM PDT
R. Taylor says:
Different people are affected differently by medication. Some people say they can hear during their surgery, some people even say they can feel. I don't doubt the legitimacy of these claims as we are all different. It wouldn't be too hard to know what happened in your surgery... because medical professionals are required by law to sufficiently explain what they are going to do step by step before they procede.

You seem to have come to the conclusion that scientific evidence is no more substantial than "It came to me in a dream." The mind is a powerful thing. I could see absolutely anything if i wholeheartedly believed it was there. Science, on the other hand, relies on endless testing and verification.

I agree, it is merely an opinion that one of these or the other holds more weight. Please bear in mind though that i could likely find a chemical that would make you see flying pink elephants (just as an example.)

-Rob

In reply to an earlier post on May 1, 2007 12:37:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 1, 2007 12:41:42 AM PDT
Rob

Firstly, the "evidence" I was quoting came not from my personal experience but from a surgeon at a large London hospital reporting on numerous cases from his direct experience talking to his patients after they had undergone an operation. This is NOT a case of "I think I heard ..." but of a surgeon being able to confirm, or not, that the information reported to him was accurate, or not, BECAUSE he was personally present.
The question of drugs/medication is therefore wholly irelevant.

Incidentally, the surgeon who reported these findings attached NO religious significance to these cases and was only interested in the accuracy of individual cases, and the consistency between descriptions.

As to the substantiality of scientific evidence I'm afraid you have taken an unsupported leap in your assessment of what I think.

In reality I'm entirely happy to accept huge swathes of scientific evidence as being useful information, and I don't equate any standard science with "it came to me in a dream" - well, except Einstein's ride on the moonbeam, and the other guy's dream of the snake biting its own tail as the key to the molecular structure of benzine (?) - but even there I agree that the initial intuition was backed up by plenty of down to earth experimentation.

The point I wished to make is that Stenger, Dawkins, Hitchings et al are taking a single approach - the scientific method - and assuming that it is the ONLY acceptable form of validation, for EVERYTHING. And that in that context their only justification is that one portion of the population agree.

This is blatantly false logic, and because of that, IMO, their entire case fails to get off the ground.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2007 10:56:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 3, 2007 11:27:52 PM PDT
R. Taylor says:
"The question of drugs/medication is therefore wholly irelevant." I guess i just don't follow.

I said that these patients were under the influence of medication, i think we can agree on this. Medication affects patients differently, some people can likely hear while sedated. This is very relevant to the reports that this London doctor's patients gave.

The surgeon needs a 3/4 inch drill and suction: "3/4 drill, please." To scrub tech.

Patient reports: "Then he drilled the bone in my leg and sucked the blood and excess bone out."

I'm merely suggesting that there are other explanations than the "soul" leaving the body. This is jumping straight to the least likely conclusion in my opinion.

It still sounds to me like you're saying a belief without evidence is as credible as a tested and true one. This just seems logically wrong to me. Although i only derive that conclusion from the idea that logic is the best way to make decisions... which is a conclusion i arrived at through logic alone and that way of thinking is blatantly false. Right?

-Rob

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2007 1:04:09 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2007 1:14:30 AM PDT
Rob

Firstly, please remember we're talking about a surgeon who was impressed by the accuracy of the reporting. What I personally do or don't believe is irrelevant in that context.

Secondly, you seem to have completely overlooked the point that the reports included what the patients SAW, NOT just what they HEARD.

We might indeed allow that some people can hear whilst under anaesthetic - though that doesn't explain why they would think they must have left their bodies in some sense in order to do that.
I think it is a little harder to explain how someone lying flat on their back, side or front would APPARENTLY be able to accurately report what they SAW from a position that would have to be several feet above the people carrying out the operation and facing downwards such that, for example, they could describe items located in positions they could not possibly have seen from the gurney or the operating table, even if they had been fully conscious the whole time they were in the theatre.

Remember, also, that the surgeon was not only impressed by the individual reports but also by the consistency between the reports.

As to your comment about making decisions on the basis of logic, I fear this is yet another myth. A number of experiments have demonstrated that human beings do NOT usually make decisions on the basis of careful consideration and logic. We make our choices on the basis of "gut reactions" (i.e. outside of our conscious awareness) and make up the logical justification afterwards. And that's something you can easily check up on yourself.

Lastly, you say: "It still sounds to me like you're saying a belief without evidence is as credible as a tested and true one."

OK, I accept without resevation that that is how what I've written appears to you. So, by way of clarification:

1. There is no such thing as "objectivity". Everything we know about the world around us comes to us via our senses, and they are limited (we can't see infra red without artificial assistance, for example), and filtered (brain circuits are primed to notice more readily what we expect to notice, for example).

If your contention were accurate, assuming that you mean that "true" means "100% correct", then every scientific discovery would merely ADD to what we already "know" - it would never contradict or even amend previous knowledge.

In fact the heart of "good" science is addition AND modification, and even in some cases deletion, in regard to previous knowledge.
In the field of neuroscience, for example, it was long held (from about 1913-1980's ?) that brain plasticity was limited to the first few years of life. In fact David Hubel and Torsten Weisel won a Nobel prize for their work on kittens which showed this to be the case.
This was all based on well executed, genuinely scientific methodology. So by your logic (which I acknowledge is very widely accepted) this must be a scientific "fact", i.e. "true". Right?
Well, unfortunately all the science that lead to that conclusion was actually pointing in the wrong direction. Current scientific evidence has demonstrated that brain plasticity is an everyday occurance, and is, to a greater or lesser extent, life long.

And in any case, the point I was actually making was that scientific investigation isn't the ONLY way to verify what is going on in the world. Science is appropriate to material matters. A magnetised bar, placed in a scattered collection of iron filings, will (all other things being equal) always cause thefilings to line up in such a way as to show the lines of force within the magnetic field (I hope I've worded that correctly). It doesn't matter where the iron comes from, what shape the piece of iron is, or how it came to be magnetised. The results will always cause the filings to line up in a manner consistent with the magnetic field.

Human beings, however, are NOT iron bars. Even though we all have the same basic functions, the way we express them is by no means consistent. That is particularly true of the part of us that might be described as "spiritual" or at least "non-corporeal".

You may choose to reject the idea that such a part does exist, or argue that it is merely a projection of the material brain, and yet it has to be said that the evidence is slowly but steadily accumulating in favour of the proposition that mind is somehow different from, albeit interactive with, the material brain.

Indeed, check your own reaction to that last statement. Did you accept it because it was logical and verifiable? Or did you get a gut reaction that it was simply not true, and that any supporting evidence must be flawed in some fashion?

I rest my case.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2007 9:39:36 AM PDT
Hello A.J.

As another voice for science, here's a clip from an article entitled "Out-of-body Experience?" from The New York Times, Oct. 3, 2006:
But according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body. In another woman, electrical current delivered to the angular gyrus produced an uncanny feeling that someone was behind her, intent on interfering with her actions.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2007 4:25:35 PM PDT
R. Taylor says:
A.J.

I was attempting to make a point with the last part of my response. My point was that EVERYTHING is circular. That we can not know anything absolutely because it always comes down to something that is just accepted as fact, "laws" we call them. I understand that everyone makes judgments based on experience and genetics, chemicals, etc. and that we don't often have the time to evaluate things logically.

Decisions like the existence of a higher power, of an undying soul, or of ghosts on the other hand do not need to be gut reactions. Most of us have years to develop our thoughts on these things through logic, if we chose. I am in agreeance that even on subjects we are given a lifetime to think, most of us unfortunately don't.

I think what you've mentioned about science is exactly why it is a good thing. It is open. Theories can be disproven and new theories can take their place when necessary. There really is no scientific "fact" there is only the currently accepted theory, the one that continues to stand up to the testing and experimentation i mentioned.

On the other hand, no matter how many times someone explains what could have happened in those surgeries, you will still see it as some sort of evidence of out of body experiences. For instance, i work in a hospital and am involved in surgery cases. Patients are not under the influence of anesthesia upon entering the surgery suite. Most are semiupright on a bed and conscious until they are put on the table, even those who are to have their surgeries face down. The instruments are generally on hand and are in plain view if the patient is interested in looking at them.

I don't think there is a difference between the brain and the "mind." The brain is what creates what we perceive as the mind. Change the chemicals in someone's brain, you change their mind. There are innumerable instances of evidence that this is the case. Hundreds more every day (and i'm grossly underestimating here.) Very quickly and steadily mounting one might say.

-Rob

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2007 2:22:50 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 5, 2007 2:31:54 AM PDT
Hi Rob

You write:

"On the other hand, no matter how many times someone explains what could have happened in those surgeries, you will still see it as some sort of evidence of out of body experiences. For instance, i work in a hospital and am involved in surgery cases. Patients are not under the influence of anesthesia upon entering the surgery suite. Most are semiupright on a bed and conscious until they are put on the table, even those who are to have their surgeries face down. The instruments are generally on hand and are in plain view if the patient is interested in looking at them."

Well thank you for making my point for me so clearly.

You say I am refusing to face facts, yet I clearly referred to the OPERATING THEATRE, NOT just to the surgical suite in general, and I stated that some of the things the patients were able to report on were things they COULD NOT HAVE SEEN even if they were fully conscious at any time whilst they were in the operating theatre.

In other words, they were OUT OF SIGHT to anyone on a gurney or on the operating table, regardless of whether they were prone, seated or standing on their heads IN THE OPERATING THEATRE.

In order to make your point you reserve your comments to what happens in the surgical suite as a whole, based on practices in a hospital where (based on what you APPEAR to be saying) patients are given NO medication prior to getting onto the operating table, AND you refer ONLY to the surgical instruments which could have been visible to someone EVEN IF they were lying face down the whole time (assuming they had their face turned to one side).

Do you really suppose that the surgeon I was citing would have been so impressed if all the patients reported seeing were trays of instruments close by the operating table?

With respect I think this is as plain a demonstration as would be possible that you are ascribing to the surgeon in my example, and to me, the limitations of your own thinking.
I don't think this is going to get us anywhere at all, do you?

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2007 9:46:09 AM PDT
Harold Lime says:
I'm having difficulty tracking down the "surgeon at a large London hospital reporting on numerous cases from his direct experience talking to his patients after they had undergone an operation."
Was it this?
http://www.csicop.org/si/2004-05/near-death-experience.html
It hardly bolsters your claims. As for your question of what constitutes
"credible evidence," I can assure you that "I heard or read about something somewhere" is quite far from credible evidence. A claim such as, "There are certainly any number of examples of patents being able to describe what was going on in the operating theatre whilst they were supposedly deeply unconscious" requires citing of some sources if you want it to be considered seriously.

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2007 2:59:55 AM PDT
Hi Harry

No, that wasn't it.

Let's say you NEVER find the report I referred to (I heard a radio interview with the surgeon concerned, several years ago. I don't remember any hard copy or online version of his findings being mentioned).
Would you take that as justification for supposing that my claim is invalid?
Or would you accept that it MIGHT be valid, though you wouldn't attach too much importance to it without additional, more detailed information?

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2007 8:23:59 PM PDT
R. Taylor says:
Never heard of an Operating Theatre, how does this differ from a surgical suite? The surgery suite is the room where patients have their surgery. Maybe a language barrier.

I think you are correct in assuming that this isn't getting us anywhere. The first step would likely be, as Mr. Lime said, citing your source. It seems like a very interesting story that would most certainly have brought about some deeper investigation... considering it has the potential to change the way science views the human body.

Yes, i have experience in surgeries and as far fetched as it may seem to you patients are not unconscious when they enter the room where they are to receive their surgery. The anesthesiologist does his or her thing minutes before they are rolled from their bed to the table when they are to be face down and after they are put on the table when they are to be face up. He or she is responsible for the welfare of the patient and they want to keep them under as little as possible both in time and degree. The more anesthetic they use and the longer they use it the higher the risk of any sort of reaction.

If the patient is reporting anything more than what's happening in the surgery suite, i don't know how the surgeon could verify the truth of this... as i hope he was ONLY in the operating room at the time of the surgery. Unless he was also having an out of body experience at the time ; ) Does this make sense? If the patient has a memory of what's happening in the room next door, they ought to confer with the people in the room next door, no? There is generally nothing in the surgery suite that is hidden from the patient, what exactly have they reported that would suggest an out of body experience?

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2007 11:39:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 18, 2007 11:43:53 PM PDT
With respect, all I see in this post is a determination to ignore everything you don't have an answer for, and to distort the rest in order to refute it.

For example, after several posts you have suddenly decided that you've never heard of an "operating theatre"!

Likewise you cling to your descriptions of what happens in the operating theatre, of which you apparently have some experience, despite being repeatedly told that whether the patient is asleep or awake when they enter the operating theatre/surgical suite is irrelevant.

I'm not interested in "converting" anyone - only in presenting a point of view, which I am willing to discuss.
If you, on the other hand, insist on flogging this single point to death (even though it isn't in contention), whilst ignoring/distorting the bits you don't like (I never said the patients could describe anything outside the operating theatre), there seems to be little or no basis for any useful discussion. I bid you good day.

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2007 12:59:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 19, 2007 1:01:23 AM PDT
R. Taylor says:
I was under the impression that we were referring to the same thing when i mentioned the surgery suite and you mentioned the operating theatre until you said "I clearly referred to the OPERATING THEATRE, NOT just to the surgical suite in general" This is when i asked you to clarify what you meant. We don't have anything by that name here, hence the language barrier comment.

Ignore everything i don't have an answer for? I don't think you've presented anything that has been specific enough to debate but i've done my best. You said patients knew where things were and i explained how that's possible without leaving your body. I asked you to be more specific as to what's spectacular about their recollections and all you've said is "Well, the surgeon was impressed." Wonderful. Are they things like... "The surgeon was on my left side." because that's not too impressive either if they know which of their hips was broken. If they catch a glimpse of their postop X-ray, they'll immediately recollect how many screws the surgeon put in their arm or leg. "The anesthesiologist was reading a newspaper." Newspapers make a pretty distinct sound and "Hey doc, you hear about the lady who made her children pretend to be mentally handicapped." coming from above their head where the anesthesiologist sits is a telltale sign as well. I can't think of much in any given surgery that would be difficult for a patient to recollect.

Yes, you can say that being awake or asleep is irrelevant to knowing the positions of instruments, people, telephones, IV poles, etc. all you want, it is still a false statement. When recalling things in the operating theatre... isn't it slightly important to mention that this person was fully awake when they entered? You haven't told me what they've seen that would render this fact irrelevant. Whether or not they say they witnessed it from above their body is what is irrelevant as these people are all under the influence of drugs.

You can say that people being able to hear whilst under anesthesia is irrelevant as well, equally false. Close your eyes and listen to the television, you'd be suprised how well you understand what's going on when people are talking about things as they do them. Now we'll give you drugs and repeat our experiment and tell us what you see. Will you describe your soul floating 3 feet above your favorite tv show? It may appear that way to you.

If you're referring to a teaching facility, it's even more likely that the surgeon was giving a play by play. A surgeon with a Physicians Assistant (which quite a number of them have) is describing how he or she will proceed with a more difficult surgery case most of the way through it.

I would honestly love to hear the radio show you mentioned. I'm obviously a skeptic and would look for a practical answer before resorting to a supernatural one but it'd still be interesting. If he was doing a study, wouldn't it be published? It is very intriguing and others would likely try to duplicate it but as far as anyone knows, none have.

-Rob

In reply to an earlier post on May 19, 2007 3:43:29 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 19, 2007 3:44:10 AM PDT
Rob

Your ability to imagine what I MIGHT have meant, as compared with what I ACTUALLY said is quite amazing.

Unfortunately your entire conversation is about what you imagine. So I'm leaving you to it.

As in "Good Bye".
I trust I make myself clear this time.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 9:59:30 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 10, 2007 10:04:31 AM PDT
kowolski says:
Harold, there was a study of NDEs published in the December 2001 issue of peer reviewed UK medical journal The Lancet. It was completely misrepresented by the skeptic society's Michael Shermer in an article he wrote for Scientific American. The main author of the study, Pim van Lommel wrote a very articulate response to Shermer which also serves as a very good general response to many of the arguments denouncing these phenomena. You can read it at
http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/whoswho/vanLommel.htm
Of course there are looneys and charlatans in the field of NDE/OBE research that need to be debunked but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 17, 2007 11:16:38 PM PDT
Kevbo says:
Credible evidence includes sworn testimony.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2007 1:15:23 AM PDT
kowolski says:
Are you saying sworn testimony is the only form of credible evidence?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2007 4:59:19 AM PDT
Barbara

You write:

"... according to recent work by neuroscientists, they can be induced by delivering mild electric current to specific spots in the brain. In one woman, for example, a zap to a brain region called the angular gyrus resulted in a sensation that she was hanging from the ceiling, looking down at her body."

This is interesting, but again totally irrelevant.

The point is NOT what people "felt" but the fact that they could report seeing things which would ONLY be visible to someone with a much higher eye level than anyone actually had. That is to say, to see the things in question their head would have to actually BE somewhere several feet above anyone else in the room.

It is this VERIFIABLE EVIDENCE that impressed the surgeon, NOT vague reports or unusual feelings.

I hope this clarifies what is involved here. Though I'm getting the distinct feeling that I'm discussing this with people who have such a "convergent" mindset as to obscure what I'm saying behind a wall of "Does not compute, does not compute, does not ..."

;-)

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2007 2:42:56 AM PDT
Exactly right.
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Initial post:  Apr 28, 2007
Latest post:  Sep 23, 2007

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God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist
God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger (Hardcover - January 25, 2007)
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