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Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death Paperback – August 23, 2010
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“This book is essential for anyone interested in survival after death. There is material in it for everyone, it’s a good introduction to those new to the subject, it’s a reasoned argument for those familiar with the ideas and it’s packed with enough references to keep the most enthusiastic researcher busy for a time.” (Gordon Rutter, Fortean Times, November 2012)
". . . a cogent and lucid discourse asserting that, according to the evidence, consciousness not only survives death but exists independent of the brain through which it operates . . A fascinating read for anyone interested in life after death, science, and the intersection of the two." (Marlene Y. Satter, ForeWord Reviews, September 2010)
“Chris Carter’s tightly reasoned approach and his encyclopedic grasp of the research make Science and the Near-Death Experience the best book on NDEs in years. The clarity of Carter’s writing and the breadth of his scholarship make this an ideal resource for both experts and those new to the field. This book brings much-needed insight and common sense to our understanding of NDEs.” (Bruce Greyson, M.D., Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Vir)
“In this important book, author Chris Carter does a masterful job at demonstrating how the evidence does not support the mainstream scientific view that consciousness and mind are produced by the brain. In addition, Carter objectively reviews the empirical data on near-death experiences and rightly concludes that these data fully support the notion that mind and consciousness can continue to operate after the cessation of brain activity.” (Mario Beauregard, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience, University of Montreal, and coauthor of The Spir)
“As a physicist and neurosurgeon, I find Chris Carter’s Science and the Near-Death Experience to be a comprehensive analysis of NDEs,and a book that allows one to understand that consciousness persists beyond the death of the physical body. It is beautifully written!” (John L. Turner, M.D., author of Medicine, Miracles, and Manifestations)
“There has been a spate of books on the afterlife and the immortality of consciousness lately, indicating a resurgence of interest in what is surely one of the most important--and I would argue THE most important--question a conscious human being can pose in his or her life. Carter’s book is not only an important contribution to this literature; it is its current crowning achievement. For he masters both the theoretical and the evidential approach, showing that belief to the contrary of the survival of consciousness is mere, and now entirely obsolete, dogma, and that the evidence for survival is clear and rationally convincing. A book to read and to remember for the rest of one’s life--and perhaps beyond. . . .” (Ervin Laszlo, author of Science and the Akashic Field and founder of the Club of Budapest)
"Carter has joined the debate, scientifically demonstrating the possibility of previewing the afterlife upon surviving near-death experiences (NEDs). Studies, research and theory guide Carter's argument, which states that the existence of one's consciousness is not based upon whether or not one is still living." (ForeWord Magazine, August 2010)
"If materialism is the school-yard bully who has been terrorizing all your friends for years, then Chris Carter is the new kid in school who stands up to him. In Science and the Near-Death Experience, Carter systematically takes apart the standard materialistic arguments one-by-one, providing a lucid overview of the history of the key theorists and studies on both sides." (Gold Thread, September 2010)
“The belief that consciousness itself is somehow produced within the brain will topple under the momentum of observations this theory simply cannot explain. Chris Carter’s second book, as well organized and accessible as his first, details the history, physics, and observed phenomena that will forever change how we look at the brain. A readable, informative, and devastating critique of materialism.” (Robert Bobrow, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Stony Brook University and a)
“. . . a useful volume to have at hand.” (John Poynton, Journal of the Society of Psychical Research (Volume 75.1, No. 902), March 2011)
From the Back Cover
NEW AGE / SCIENCE
“Carter details the history, physics, and observed phenomena that will forever change how we look at the brain.”
--Robert Bobrow, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine at Stony Brook University and author of The Witch in the Waiting Room
“. . . the best book on NDEs in years. This book brings much-needed insight and common sense to our understanding of NDEs.”
--Bruce Greyson, M.D., Carlson Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, University of Virginia
Predating all organized religion, the belief in an afterlife is fundamental to the human experience and dates back at least to the Neanderthals. By the mid-19th century, however, spurred by the progress of science, many people began to question the existence of an afterlife, and the doctrine of materialism--which dictates that consciousness is a creation of the brain--began to spread. Now, using scientific evidence, Chris Carter challenges materialist arguments against consciousness surviving death and shows how near-death experiences (NDEs) may truly provide a glimpse of an awaiting afterlife.
Using evidence from scientific studies, quantum mechanics, and consciousness research, Carter reveals how consciousness does not depend on the brain and may, in fact, survive the death of our bodies. Examining ancient and modern accounts of NDEs from around the world, including China, India, and tribal societies such as the Native American and the Maori, he explains how NDEs provide evidence of consciousness surviving the death of our bodies. He looks at the many psychological and physiological explanations for NDEs raised by skeptics--such as stress, birth memories, or oxygen starvation--and clearly shows why each of them fails to truly explain the NDE. Exploring the similarities between NDEs and visions experienced during actual death and the intersection of physics and consciousness, Carter uncovers the truth about mind, matter, and life after death.
CHRIS CARTER received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Oxford. The author of Parapsychology and the Skeptics, Carter is originally from Canada and currently teaches internationally.
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I do believe a higher intelligence created this universe but not that it wants us to worship it, etc. I think it wants us to evolve into intelligent beings who look out for one another instead of killing, fighting, stealing, etc. If science would take up the challenge of exploring the things Chris Carter covers in his book & the challenge of experimenting on these subjects as best we can at this point in our evolution, I believe science would eventually prove the existence of this higher intelligence, thus wrestling "ownership" of it from religion as well as enabling all of us to learn how to reach our true potential.
Ain't gonna happen in my lifetime, sadly, because science is still full of dogmatic, churlish old farts who refuse to accept that things they cannot explain can, do and will continue to, happen.
(not that this is what Chris Carter is saying he wrote the book for - it's just what *I'm* saying!)
I bought this book on Amazon - I can't tell if this is going to show up. But I did!
Although some of the quantum physics can get a bit overwhelming to read (it certainly went over my head in a few places), I still found it satisfying to read about and it definitely helps his argument. I can't recommend this book enough. It changed this skeptic's mind!
I'm hesitant to interpret NDEs (and death bed visions) as evidence for postmortem survival. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say that I'm anywhere from 50% to 65% convinced of the survivalist interpretation of NDEs, depending on the day. Future studies or arguments could push me in either direction (for or against the survivalist interpretation).
That said, Carter's book is well-argued. I agree with NDE expert Dr. Bruce Greyson that this is "the best book on NDEs in years", even for people who disagree with the author, and I'll add that those who disagree need to think long and hard about why they disagree. (IMO the runner-up is the massive 2007 book "Irreducible Mind" by Kelly and Kelly et al.)
In part 1, Carter lays out a model of mind-brain relationship that is compatible with both dualism and observations from neuroscience. In building this model, he discusses (and adds to) William James' "transmission" model, ancient and modern ideas of mind-body interaction, neuroscience data, the relationship between consciousness and contemporary physics (which includes a discussion on "the dreaded interaction problem"), philosophy of science*, theories of life (including Sheldrake's hypothesis of morphic resonance and fields), and whether the brain stores memories or tunes into them (Carter argues that both ideas are compatible with neuroscience data). Critics often say that advances in neuroscience show the absolute dependence of mind on brain; they say that minds cannot exist without brains. Drugs, alcohol, aging, and head injuries can alter personality and memory retrieval because of their effects on the brain. So how can personality and the overlapping memory retrieval continue to exist after brain death? Read this book to find out. Part 1 alone is worth the price of purchase. Part 1 also deals with the objections of several skeptics on the compatibility (or alleged incompatibility) of dualism and neuroscience data, including Paul Edwards and Daniel Dennett.
(* Carter has a longer discussion on philosophy of science in his first book)
After describing the aforementioned model, the author then presents arguments for it. He argues from a careful examination of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and death bed visions. His discussion of NDEs includes their features (both "core" and unusual features), cross-cultural similarities and differences, *possible* cases of veridical observations during the NDE (i.e. cases where subjects report events that are later verified by others), and NDEs among the blind.
Critics of the survivalist (or "transcendental") model have offered several alternatives, including psychological theories, physiological theories, and varying combinations. Carter discusses Susan Blackmore's "dying brain theory", the ketamine model, the G-force induced loss of consciousness model, various drug models, magnetic and electrical stimulation models, the excessive carbon dioxide model, the oxygen starvation model, the endorphins model, temporal lobe seizures, fantasy and wishful thinking, dissociated states, imaginative reconstructions, semiconscious perception, and birth memories. However, one by one, Carter provides a devastating critique of each alternative model. He demonstrates that they simply cannot account for the actual features of NDEs, alone or in combination.
Aside from the (current) utter failure of alternative explanations, Carter also defends the survivalist interpretation by citing *possible* veridical cases, NDEs among the blind, and similarities with death bed visions. He suggests that the best explanation is the one given by most NDE-subjects themselves - i.e. that they really *are* experiencing other realms of existence.
This book is part two in a series of three books by the author. The first book is "Parapsychology and the Skeptics" (2007), which makes a convincing case for the existence of *some* psi phenomena (and in the process also exposes weak objections by critics). Carter's next book will look at reincarnation, apparitions, and mediumistic communications under fraud-resistant conditions (including several Leonora Piper cases, according to an email from Carter). These separate lines of evidence each point towards postmortem survival and they converge to make a very compelling cumulative case.
I'm glad that Carter also highlights examples of certain skeptics distorting or misusing data (e.g. Shermer's misuse of Pim van Lommel's Lancent paper). All too often, certain individual critics of parapsychology have distorted data and played unfairly. This was explored more thoroughly in Carter's first book. I'm not saying (and Carter certainly isn't saying) that all skeptics do that. People on both sides of the debate have played unfairly, and it needs to be pointed out whenever it happens.
With all of that being said, the AWARE study has the potential to strengthen or weaken the survivalist interpretation of NDEs. Of course, it won't (or shouldn't) be the last word. But if the results are negative -- in the sense of NDE-OBE subjects making observational claims that are *falsified* -- then the survivalist interpretation of NDEs will be severely weakened. IF the AWARE study is negative in that sense, I hope that people will still buy and read Carter's book for two reasons. First, Carter provides excellent discussions on physics, mind-brain models, and non-evidential aspects of NDEs. Second, Carter's case is highly suggestive, and a negative outcome from AWARE shouldn't be the final word. I'm not just saying that because I "want" NDEs to be evidence for postmortem survival because, as I said, I'm still hesitant.
----- CRITICISMS -----
Unfortunately, Carter does not directly deal with Gerald Woerlee or Keith Augustine. Some of their claims can still be countered by what Carter says, but I wish that Carter had at least mentioned their work.
Also, and this isn't Carter's fault, but in my judgment the best "veridical" NDE cases are *not* ironclad and can be picked at, which is why I'm hesitant. It seems to me that the survivalist interpretation is *currently* the best fit, but I'm not 100% on that and I hope the case gets stronger. In my judgment, the case for veridical NDEs is nowhere near as strong as the case for veridical "mediumship" produced by the British and American Societies for Psychical Research, but I hope it one day it will be.
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lucidly articulated books I have ever read.