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This review is from: Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death (Paperback)
Yesterday I purchased the Kindle version of "Science and the Near-Death Experience" written by Chris Carter. Was the $13.79 I paid Amazon for this book well spent? The answer to this question is a qualified yes and no.
Yes, because I do not begrudge anyone who entertains me for a few hours his just wage. No, because although this book contains several interesting arguments, it is little more than populist fodder for believers in the apparent reality of the NDE. First the complements, because I was always taught to be polite in an introduction.
Complement 1: The book is easy and quickly read. Nothing difficult.
Complement 2: The analogy of the brain and the television or radio receiver is very good, and raises many interesting discussion points. I like it. It is somewhat better than my analogy of a driver in an automobile which I used in a book called "Mortal Minds".
Complement 3: A very good discussion of transcultural differences in NDE visionary content. Nice graphical material. This reveals profound intercultural and neurophysiological differences between peoples of different cultures. What a shame that an elementary scientific Chi-square analysis was not performed on these interesting data.
But there are many, many disturbing points in the book totally destroying the pretence of any scientific credibility. I will reference these using the Kindle locations for convenience of reference (e.g. Kindle location 555 is termed K555).
We read that: "The theory of production is therefore not a jot more simple or credible in itself than any other conceivable theory. It is only a little more popular."(K555). Does the author mean to tell us that materialism is more popular than dualism? Strange... Studies show that about 70% of people believe the soul is the source of consciousness. Dualism is actually more popular. Skeptical materialists such as I are a minority group.
At location K569 he states that the physical brain filters consciousness. This is an imprecise and sloppy statement, because as with many such books, this work by Chris Carter does not clarify whether he is actually talking about "mind" or "consciousness". Mind and consciousness are precise and different neurological concepts. So what actually happens?
- The brain filters sensory inputs, otherwise it would be flooded by neural noise etc. This is the well known effect of LSD. LSD blocks the sensory input filtering actions of the geniculate bodies in the brain for sound and vision, giving rise to the typical LSD trip. Moreover, it is not consciousness that is filtered, but sensory inputs. Consciousness makes it possible to perceive and be aware of sensations arising from these inputs.
- The brain does modulate the level of consciousness, but does not filter it. For example, a person may be sleepy, i.e have reduced consciousness, but have normal mental function.
- Properties of mind, such as enhanced mentation, memory, personality, etc are properties of "mind", not consciousness. Consciousness makes these properties of mind possible. There is no mind without consciousness. And the brain does filter or modify these properties of mind, eg a person may be fully conscious, but delerious due to the effects of drugs and disease upon the brain.
This brings us to the matter of enhanced mental processes reported by NDE-ers. At location K4162, just as throughout this book, he says that materialism cannot explain the phenomenon of enhanced conscious awareness. But no figures are presented telling us that enhanced conscious awareness occurs in between 19% (Lommel 2001) to 75% (Jeffrey Long 2010) of NDE experiences, (depending upon definition and type of NDE study). This means it is in no way a universal feature of NDEs. Therefore to call this a true manifestation of the unfettered conscious mind is poor logic.
Chapters 5 and 6 discuss how memory is a function of the immaterial conscious mind. Carter treats us to a very superficial discussion of the neurophysiology of memory, richly larded with quotes from (mostly aged or dead) prominent figures, who say they do not understand how memory is stored in the brain. Finally he invokes the very unproven "morphic fields" of Sheldrake to "prove" that memory is extracorporeal. He ends with the almost triumphant statement: "... the theory of memory traces has become a metaphysical theory, and the theory of formative causation, with its notion of extracerebral memories, is the remaining scientific alternative!"(K1854). Carter uses an unproven theory as proof of the location of memories to counter a materialist theory which has considerable modern neurophysiological proof. Curious, but understandable when writing for believers with preconceived ideas.
Quantum mechanics is often invoked as an explanation for anything not understood by all believers in the immaterial nature of the conscious mind. The reasoning apparently goes; "If you cannot explain it, throw in some quantum mechanical magic." This book is no exception. My only reaction is a weary sigh. While some phenomena similar to quantum entanglement do occur in macromolecular systems, (see June 2011 edition of Scientific American), this does not mean that quantum mechanics as understood by NDE-ite believers is the explanation for NDE and other apparently inexplicable phenomena. Nearly all physicists knowledgable in this field have to work hard at suppressing impolite hysterical laughter when presented with the ideas of believers in the quantum mechanical nature of the NDE.
The discussion of the materialistic versus the dualistic origins of the NDE is quite conventional NDE literature. Essentially nothing fundamentally new is presented. The same tired old and discredited arguments are used. No really fundamental questions are asked, nor are any really theories enabling new research presented. The level is on par with that of the uncritical belief systems presented in the books written by Jeffery Long, Pim van Lommel, Mario Beauregard, etc, and subject to the same criticisms.
Now for a last few other curious specific points regarding the suggestive and tendentious presentation of several specific NDEs:
At K2824, a sentence states that patients can "sometimes elect to undergo cardioversion,..." What nonsense! The cardiologist determines which treatment is the best for the patient. After all, that is his/her expertise.
At K3873 is a strange sentence written by Pim van Lommel, a cardiologist. The man of the "missing dentures" case was discharged from hospital after having been resuscitated from a cardiac arrest caused by a myocardial infarction. Here we read the cardiologically nonsensical sentence: "4 weeks later he left the hospital as a healthy man." A person who has had a large myocardial infarction has a scarred and damaged heart. The reason for such a heart infarct is coronary artery disease, and the fact that this man had an infarct and died two years after admission is proof that this was very likely the cause. So this man was far from healthy at discharge. A very curious statement for a cardiologist to make, and even more so after a decade of uncritical acceptance of this statement. The missing dentures story related in the 2001 article by Pim van Lommel was far from complete. It was even very biased and suggestive. A link to the true primary account of this story is to be found at my website together with an explanation of this apparently extraordinary account. I also wrote an extensive article on this very subject published in the Summer 2010 "Journal of Near-death Studies".
K4463, relates the end of the story of the well-known deathbed vision of a woman dying in the Mother's Hospital, London, England during 1926. This is a story I happen to know a lot about, because during 1978-1979, I was an anesthesiology resident who worked at this very same hospital. At the time I worked there, it was relatively unchanged from its form and function in 1926. It was still a Salvation Army run hospital, originally set up for the poor and deprived women living in the area. This woman was dying of heart failure. A common enough event at the time in poverty stricken areas of London such as Clapton where this hospital was located. Presumably this was the end-result of rheumatic heart disease which was prevalent at the time. And then Chris Carter tells us something really surprising; "Apparently the young woman 'saw' something she found so appealing that she was willing to give up her life and her own baby!" (K4463). Really... So it appears this woman had the choice of not dying. Interesting .... Mind over matter, miraculous cure of your own heart failure! Please don't tell the patients in my hospital that they can choose not to die or be sick, otherwise I'll be out of work!
Then we come to the well known Pam Reynolds case. I have written several articles on this case since 2004, and have extensively explained each aspect of the very good report in the chapter of "Light and Death" by Michael Sabom on one of my sites (see [...]). Carter, among others talks about the impossibility of hearing when the 100 dB clicks were administered, and says in the same sentence that prolonged administration of sound at this level causes hearing damage (K4028). And Chris Carter gives an appropriately "scientific" reference for this wisdom - the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper. Apparently the treating physicians of Pam Reynolds were intent upon damaging her hearing by administering 100 dB sounds at this level during a prolonged neurosurgical procedure! He quite correctly states that Pam Reynolds made absolutely no mention of hearing these clicks (K4041). But just as many others before him, Carter ignores the basic stimulus parameters of the clicking sounds, as well as the nature of the consequent auditory evoked response signal (which facts actually reveal how she could hear sounds). Instead he, as have many others have before him, seems to liken this sound to a continuous 100 dB sound such as music. But these clicks are not the same as music, and the report of Pam Reynolds clearly tells us she could hear. She awoke to the sound of a "natural D" (K3930). Pam was a musician, and many such persons have natural pitch. So by saying it was a "natural D", she meant a sound with a frequency of 293.6, or 587.3 Hertz. This fact together with the stimulus parameters reveals how she could hear the sounds of speech etc (I will write an article on this for the JNDS if they are interested).
Then a last bit of nit-picking. At K4675, Chris Carter ends the description of another seemingly remarkable case study with the words: "The skeptic must say that the dying person telepathically or clairvoyantly gains true information about a recently deceased friend or relative, ..." I find this a remarkable statement. A skeptic with even a basic knowledge of body structure and function also rejects belief in telepathy and clairvoyance. These are paranormal sensory abilities which the experiences of the blind, the deaf, and gambling casinos teach us simply do not exist.
Concluding this rather lengthy commentary, all I can say is that this book only possesses the three redeeming aspects I mentioned at the start. Carter is preaching to his own parish, because there is disappointingly little true science to be found in this book. The "science" in the title is at the same level as the "science" in the title of other "scientific" studies of the near-death experience written by Jeffrey Long (Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experiences), and Pim van Lommel (Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience), Mario Beauregard (The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul). "Science and the Near-Death Experience" is a book guaranteed to warm the hearts, and fuel the beliefs of the unknowing and uncritical, but no more than this.
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Showing 211-220 of 1000 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2011 1:54:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 2, 2011 1:58:03 PM PDT
Thank you so much for your constructive comments. They have both stimlated and improved the quality of the discussion. Not only have you achieved this very positive effect, but your comments have also achieved your hoped for purpose.
They have stimulated me to experiment with the auditory stimulation as employed during Pam Reynolds operation. Regardless of whether ear canal occluding, or quality external earphones covering and occluding the ears were used, the sounds of normal speech at two meters distance, as well as the sound of "Hotel California" were clearly audible.
You were correct, experimentation answers the question. The experiemnt confirms what I have been saying since my first articles on this matter in 2004. Pam Reynolds did indeed hear the sounds of these things during periods of anesthetic awareness.
I understand from the comments of Chris Carter earlier in this forum, that he is writing a new edition of his book. So this discussion should provide some positive input in the form of new insights into the fascinating Pam Reynolds case.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2011 1:58:29 PM PDT
Are you going to submit this study to IANDs ?
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2011 2:07:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 2, 2011 2:25:58 PM PDT
Seriously Gerry do you expect anyone to fall for this? Julien posted his comment a day ago. Do you seriously want us to believe you managed to properly run this experiment within this short of a time frame?
However a few quick questions about this experiment.
Did you have permission from the medical community to run this experiment?
Did you have a control group?
Did you do this on conscious or unconscious individuals?
If the people were unconscious were they under anesthesia?
How many people did you test?
Did you use custom fitted earplugs for everyone?
Did you properly secure the earplugs in everyone?
Did you use the correct sound frequency? This is vitally important as Julio C. S. Barros showed on section 10 of this part of his website that the sound heard by Reynolds was audible.
Unless you are prepared to submit this to IANDs I will say bluntly I do not believe you especially seeing for you to have done this experiment in a remotely similar way to what was done to Pam you would basically have to move at the speed of the light to do it correctly. Again do you seriously expect anyone to believe you got enough volunteers for this experiment, wrote a script of what you were going to say out loud , got custom made beeping earplugs for everyone of them and then you put them under anesthesia , you read off your script and then when they came through you then promptly interviewed each and everyone of them and verified they heard you correct. That is the only way you could remotely run this experiment in a remotely acceptable fashion and you did this all in 24 hours!
In translation of what Gerry said . He probably put earplugs in his ear from an MP3 player ( or something similar) and is now calling this an experiment.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2011 2:59:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 2, 2011 3:00:48 PM PDT
Thank you for your critical and postive contribution to this discussion. Interesting that your last post reveals you seem to have one standard of evidence for those who agree with you (Julio Barros), and those who do not (myself).
The technique and method clearly demonstrating that Pam Reynolds could hear will be published in the appropriate journal.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2011 3:18:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 2, 2011 3:58:51 PM PDT
It is impossible for you to have run this experiment correctly in 24 hours time.
I believe Julio because he explains how he came to his conclusions, he shows that the frequencies that Pam would have heard would have been audible. You simply have to click the buttons and hear it. Also the entire purpose of the earplugs was for Pam to be able to hear them, that is how they monitored her consciousness levels. If you used a sound she could not hear, that would defeat the purpose of the earplugs.
Again Gerry there is absolutely no way you ran this experiment in remotely a proper fashion with 24 hours notice. You seriously want people to believe in 24 hours you managed to do the following.
a.) Got medical approval
b.) Assembled enough volunteers to have both a test and a control group.
c.) got custom made beeping earplugs for every single person.
d.) made the correct amount of anesthesia for every single one of them.
e.) single handily tested every single person ( or if you did not do this you get the proper help)
f.) you got funding ( unless you did this out of pocket which I doubt)
I do not believe you at all because the above scenario is impossible with 24 hours notice. Either you simply did some childish experiment on yourself or you are lying. There is no other possibility. I will say I lean toward the first option.
What other journal besides IANDs would this be appropriate for? Are you seriously wanting people to think any journal is going to be curious about your ability to hear through either earplugs or a low volume MP3 player while completely conscious?
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2011 8:41:10 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 2, 2011 9:08:40 PM PDT
Julien Bourgault says:
Lol!!! The Woerlee experiment! You are really a fast one!!! A true rabbit! Hahahahaha!!! You make my day Gerry! So, when will you publish such an achievement of yours? And in which scientific journal? I cant wait to read that stuff. And i am also very sure that everybody involved with the NDE research will be incredibly happy as well to finally read something out of your hand... Wow! Gerry, you spoil us alll! Yeah, indeed, at last a real contribution to the advancement of science.... Lol! We all cant wait to taste such a memorable feast of yours... A true rrrrregal!!!
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2011 4:47:43 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 5, 2011 10:22:57 AM PDT]
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 5, 2011 10:24:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2011 6:58:42 AM PDT
Just remind me, Gerry. When she woke up just before Spetzler cut into her head ( according to you) ....why was the 'waking' brainwave pattern ( which must have happened gradually ) not detected by the technician that was continually monitering her brainwaves.
Furthermore, why did the technician not report to Spetzler...." Wait a minute Bob, don't cut into her head yet, she is awake ! "
Spetzler : "Are you sure? "
Technician : " Absolutely, I can see the delta waves have changed to alpha waves !"
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2011 12:31:30 PM PDT
Chase Slate says:
O.K. already, I am the lead IONM practitioner at BARROW Neurological Institute (where the surgery was performed). I was a lead technologist back then, and am MOST familiar with the technical parameters that were used. I was actually monitoring a case in the next operating room when my colleague monitored the case in discussion.
The auditory stimuli in the ipsi ear was a broad based frequency spectrum click (no pips: no tones were not used). We stimulated at a rate of 11.3/second with a pulse duration of 100 microseconds. The contralateral ear was masked with 40-60 db white noise. We used Hal-hen brand ear pieces (probably size 5) to introduce the stimuli, which was generated by a Nicolet brand (Cardenal Heath this week/ don't get me started on heathcare) T-300 audio generator. We then used vi-drape sticky "glue" on the inner area of the pina of the ear, before sealing up the system with gauze and micropore tape. (This was done to eliminated any fliud from getting near our system).
I know how loud we played the music in those operating rooms (we have new operating rooms now) and I know the individual team members and how loud their voices are. I would be suprised if a repeated experiment with the exact parametrs allowed a person to hear through the stimuli. Of course none of this information is a scientific argument for the fact that 'she did or did not hear hear.....vs an experince. Now at least you have the correct parameters to determine if one CAN hear extrenally during auditory stimulation if you re run the experiment.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2011 2:40:38 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 15, 2011 12:38:09 AM PDT
Dear Mr Slate,
Thank you for the information regarding the BAEP stimulation parameters. I notice these are the same as published by Peter Raudzens in 1982, and were still being used during the early 2000's as evidenced by an article published by Patrick Han and colleagues in 2003. THat does not surprise me as these are also used in many other BAEP studies.
The most interesting part of your letter is the information about the type and model of headphones. This enables a guestimate of the transmission loss of sound to be estimated.
I do however, have another question if you would be so kind. The main purpose of using BAEP monitoring during posterior fossa surgery, (such as was undergone by Pam Reynolds), is to continually check the integrity of the cranial nerves which attach to the medulla and pons in the posterior fossa. Manipulations and retraction of structures around the basilar artery in this region can damage these nerves. The neurosurgeons with which I work usually use 7th cranial nerve testing, technically easier, and just as useful. In the case of the BAEP, the integrity of the 8th cranial nerve is tested, which as a useful byproduct, is also a method of determining the level of consciousness (albeit not 100% accurate). Such monitoring is actually unnecesary after closing the dura. So my question is whether it was normal practice to turn the BAEP stimulation off after closing the dura, or were auditory stimuli continued until after skin closure?
I ask this question from experience of the neurophysiology monitoring we regularly use during carotid surgery. The neurophysiology assistents in my hospital usually disappear after the carotid is closed. There are two reasons for this. Such monitoring is no longer needed after closure, and they also usually have a busy program elsewhere in the hospital. However, I do not know what was normal in the Barrow institute during the 1990's.