Can We Explain Near-Death Experiences?
The author concludes that, "NDEs are probably caused by changes in brain activity rather than direct contact with a supernatural dimension".
Why does he think this?
- Strokes, seizures, and brain injuries can lead to experiences reminiscent of NDEs.
- Brainwave oscillations have been observed in rats having heart attacks.
- Psychoactive drugs -- ketamine, DMT -- resemble NDEs.
There is another possibility. Let's assume there is an afterlife. Consider that we do not normally have contact with this afterlife realm whilst in our embodied state. Why would this be the case? I suggest it would have to be because the brain inhibits access. Sometimes this is referred to as the filter theory of the mind-body relationship.
What, though, if the brain is not functioning correctly? Could it always perform this inhibiting function regardless of how the brain is altered? Surely not. And, if it doesn't, this might occasionally allow our consciousness to have a glimpse of other realities that we may enter into after death (and note the word realities, the afterlife might not simply be one place but might consist of possibly innumerable realms). Such a hypothesis is supported by not only what we label NDE's, but also mystical experiences, psychedelic trips, and the occasional reports of people recovering their mental faculties near death. I should also note that recent research into psychedelic induced experiences suggest they are initiated by reduced activity of the brain. All of which gives weight to the notion that the brain serves to inhibit consciousness rather than produce it. I address objections to this inhibiting or filter hypothesis here and here (latter half).
NDE’s, burden of proof, and Ockham’s razor
Guardian Article on Near Death Experiences (NDE's)
Reasons not to scoff at ghosts, visions and near-death experiences