Sunday, 30 April 2017

The claim that people who have had a "near death experience" are not dead.

People keep saying that NDE's necessarily cannot provide any evidence for an afterlife since those who underwent the experience didn't really die. Presumably, the idea here is that if they didn't actually die, then whatever they experienced, cannot be of any afterlife realm.

There are two issues here. The first issue is, how do they know these people never actually died? When asked this question they say it's true by definition! They returned to life, and anyone who returns to life, by definition, never actually died.

But I submit this then makes their original assertion vacuous. The issue here is whether it is possible that what NDErs experience is a glimpse of some afterlife realm. Such a possibility can only be ruled out if we are in a position to surmise their brains are perfectly capable of having wholly produced these experiences. But, if during an NDE, there is no detectable brain activity, or there is insufficient brain activity, then it matters not one whit whether one labels this as still being "alive" or dead. From a metaphysical neutral standpoint, the most straightforward hypothesis under this scenario is that those undergoing an NDE are perceiving some type of external reality, even though the details seen might be shaped and moulded by one's implicit and cultural expectations. Of course, it might be contested whether the NDE really occurred during this time period, or it can be argued that there might have been undetectable brain activity that produced the experience. But it remains the case that this experience does provide evidence for an afterlife realm -- non-scientific evidence, perhaps, but evidence nevertheless. And this evidence could be very powerful if we have good reasons to surmise the NDE indeed occurred when there was no detectable brain activity.

The second issue is that, in any case, it's not entirely clear to me why a person couldn't experience the afterlife realm whilst still alive. And I mean alive in the proper sense as in some detectable brain activity. If we are destined to travel to some afterlife realm(s) at death, then whilst still alive it presumably must be the brain that prevents the perception of this realm or realms. Perhaps it is some particular region of the brain that does this. If this region is compromised in its functionality, or is simply not as active as it normally is, then perhaps one could still be alive and yet have some perception of this other reality or realities. If the skeptic wants to maintain that this is impossible, the onus is upon him to explain why.


  1. The other thing that strikes me a possibility is that we may all take different times to fully die and that although an NDE may describe various wonderful and spooky things it might only be reflecting something that occurs on the way to oblivion and not a taste of new uncharted fields.

  2. Anonymous, a hypothetical here: if during an NDE, an individual identifies, very clearly, an object or a sound which - according to all prevailing physiological theories - the individual could not possibly perceive - would that change your view about NDEs at all?

    I'm asking in light of Ian's later post on dialog and argumentation. I'm not trying to prove you wrong, i'm actually quite sincerely asking the question because I don't understand how materialists think about these things and would like to understand.


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