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Scientific American

Proof of Hallucination

published April 2013 | comments (56)
Did a neurosurgeon go to heaven?
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In Eben Alexander’s best-selling book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife (Simon & Schuster), he recounts his near-death experience (NDE) during a meningitis-induced coma. When I first read that Alexander’s heaven includes “a beautiful girl with high cheekbones and deep blue eyes” who offered him unconditional love, I thought, “Yeah, sure, dude. I’ve had that fantasy, too.” Yet when I met him on the set of Larry King’s new streaming-live talk show on Hulu, I realized that he genuinely believes he went to heaven. Did he?

Not likely. First, Alexander claims that his “cortex was completely shut down” and that his “near-death experience … took place not while [his] cortex was malfunctioning, but while it was simply off.” In King’s green room, I asked him how, if his brain was really nonfunctional, he could have any memory of these experiences, given that memories are a product of neural activity? He responded that he believes the mind can exist separately from the brain. How, where, I inquired? That we don’t yet know, he rejoined. The fact that mind and consciousness are not fully explained by natural forces, however, is not proof of the supernatural. In any case, there is a reason they are called near-death experiences: the people who have them are not actually dead.

Second, we now know of a number of factors that produce such fantastical hallucinations, which are masterfully explained by the great neurologist Oliver Sacks in his 2012 book Hallucinations (Knopf ). For example, Swiss neuroscientist Olaf Blanke and his colleagues produced a “shadow person” in a patient by electrically stimulating her left temporoparietal junction. “When the woman was lying down,” Sacks reports, “a mild stimulation of this area gave her the impression that someone was behind her; a stronger stimulation allowed her to define the ‘someone’ as young but of indeterminate sex.”

Sacks recalls his experience treating 80 deeply parkinsonian postencephalitic patients (as seen in the 1990 film Awakenings, which starred Robin Williams in a role based on Sacks), and notes, “I found that perhaps a third of them had experienced visual hallucinations for years before “L-dopa was introduced—hallucinations of a predominantly benign and sociable sort.” He speculates that “it might be related to their isolation and social deprivation, their longing for the world—an attempt to provide a virtual reality, a hallucinatory substitute for the real world which had been taken from them.”

Migraine headaches also produce hallucinations, which Sacks himself has experienced as a longtime sufferer, including a “shimmering light” that was “dazzlingly bright”: “It expanded, becoming an enormous arc stretching from the ground to the sky, with sharp, glittering, zigazgging borders and brilliant blue and orange colors.” Compare Sacks’s experience with that of Alexander’s trip to heaven, where he was “in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky. Higher than the clouds—immeasurably higher—flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long, streamerlike lines behind them.”

In an article in the Atlantic last December, Sacks explains that the reason hallucinations seem so real “is that they deploy the very same systems in the brain that actual perceptions do. When one hallucinates voices, the auditory pathways are activated; when one hallucinates a face, the fusiform face area, normally used to perceive and identify faces in the environment, is stimulated.” Sacks concludes that “the one most plausible hypothesis in Dr. Alexander’s case, then, is that his NDE occurred not during his coma, but as he was surfacing from the coma and his cortex was returning to full function. It is curious that he does not allow this obvious and natural explanation, but instead insists on a supernatural one.”

The reason people turn to supernatural explanations is that the mind abhors a vacuum of explanation. Because we do not yet have a fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness, people turn to supernatural explanations to fill the void. But what is more likely: That Alexander’s NDE was a real trip to heaven and all these other hallucinations are the product of neural activity only? Or that all such experiences are mediated by the brain but seem real to each experiencer? To me, this evidence is proof of hallucination, not heaven.

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56 Comments to “Proof of Hallucination”

  1. Dan Says:

    It would be nice if any skeptic would study all of the NDE experiences available and then prove in some fashion all of them wrong. It’s much too easy and lazy for you and others to attack individual experiences. But then how would skeptics sell their books … ah the American way! God Bless you Sir

  2. Gary Says:

    I read the doctors book. I think we have to leave open some possibility that “consciousness” may exist outside of what we (currently) know of as the physical realm. I’m not convinced that our spirit definitely dissipates into the ether at the very moment of physical (brain) death. On the other hand I am not a physicist.

    I really appreciated Mr. Alexander’s contribution to the body of work(s) that explore consciousness at the level of a neuroscientific practioner.

  3. aqk Says:

    How about dogs? Or monkeys? Do they have “out of body” experiences?
    Or do us folks that (more or less) qualify as real human beings have the necessary sou..uh, I mean “consciousness”?

    This business of trying to prove an external consciousness is, I suspect, just another gimmick for promoters of intelligent design to justify the soul.

  4. Dr. Strangelove Says:

    “Because we do not yet have a fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness, people turn to supernatural explanations to fill the void”

    I don’t understand why Shermer thinks we don’t have a natural explanation. Isn’t it obvious that mind and consciousness are the product of brain function? If it’s not the brain, you should be fully conscious while sleeping. If I remove your brain, you should be able to play chess. The dead should be able to think and interact with the living all the time. Where are all these?

    Maybe what Shermer meant was we don’t have any supernatural explanation for mind and consciousness. What we have are plenty of fantastic claims like I still live and fully conscious even if you explode an atomic bomb in front of me. That doesn’t sound like a very rational explanation.

  5. doug Says:

    re brain and soul….

    the basic error in this analysis is the fact that the brain lives in a very limited world with 3 dimensions and time… since we have very little if any idea about the total consist of our universe, approx 95% is unknown… dark matter or energy…. then it is illusory to conclude that the NDE phenomena are simply neurons wildly firing away….

    there are sufficient cases we do not understand, which allow more than just speculation, that other dimensions do exist, including those seen in NDEs…. how many unknown dimensions are there?? ”scientists” speculate continously on this question… and what happens in these dimensions about which we currently haven’t the slightest notion?

    concerning animal consciousness, animals do have’something’ unusual as well, like ESP… the story about a cat that found its family after they moved 600 kms away is proof that strange things happen that we cannot explain…

    it would be more honest and productive to admit the possibility that WE DO NOT KNOW!!!

  6. Mrs Grimble Says:

    Having conciousness, perception and memory residing entirely within the physical brain is the ‘natural’ – ie most logical – explanation. Consider Alzheimers patients, whose personalities and memories erode away at the same rate as their brains. If conciousness resides elsewhere, were are these patients’ conciousnesses leaking away to?
    If you want, you can still believe that consciousness also resides in some imaginary place outside your skull; you have the freedom to believe whatever you want. But until somebody disproves the natural explanation, please allow the rest of us go accept the natural explanation.
    To reiterate: Having a logical and natural explanation for a phenomena or experience is not stopping you or anybody else from believing in some other explanation.

  7. Temy Says:

    I was so relieved to see someone point out Michael’s rather bizarre statement about there not being a “fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness.” WTF? One expexts this crap from religious fundies, and the woo crowd, but it’s actually disgusting to read such insanity from an allegedly more rational source.

  8. Sheridan44 Says:

    I had a very vivid out of body experience last night while I was asleep. I call it dreaming.

  9. k. Iyer Says:

    All the points made by the author of this piece must have been known to Dr. Alexander the neuroscientist and yet he wrote this book. I think he was fully aware of the “his fifteen minutes of fame” phenomenon and was duly rewarded by Tina Brown and her crowd. Someday we will hear about all the machinations behind the publication of this book and the promotion thereafter.

  10. SilverBee Says:

    I’m surprised to see so many “skeptics” to Shermer’s remarks–especially when he refers to the eminent Dr. Oliver Sacks and his book “Hallucinations.” Dr. Sacks is THE authority on such activities of the brain. He has made a lifework of studying the experiences of people with phenomenal unbidden productions of the brain. If anyone DOES know what the brain can do, he is the one.

    As to Terry’s remark about Shermer saying “fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness,” I can only remind him that unlike religion, which claims to know what’s what down to the last jot and tittle, science is honest about not knowing everything. When a scientist doesn’t know what’s next in his/her line of study or research, he says so.

    In assessing the validity of a fact or experience and the pile of evidence on one side of an issue become overwhelming, a scientist can pretty conclusively say the likelihood is close enough to 100%. I’ve heard many scientists say that if conclusive evidence to the contrary should be presented, it would be considered. That’s professional, scientific evidence–not something bizarre.

  11. Dave Cousineau Says:

    I would like to point out that Shermer is correct to say we do not yet have a “fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness.” (Well, the ‘fully natural’ part is a bit odd. Perhaps it could have just been “an explanation”.)

    There is no good reason to think that consciousness is not an emergent phenomenon of the brain, and many good reasons to think that it is, yet we still do not fully understand how it arises. We understand a lot about the brain, but the phenomenon of consciousness and the qualitative experience of consciousness are still mysteries yet to be uncovered. We do not understand how the structures of the brain can produce consciousness as we perceive it.

  12. ssmr Says:

    I do not understand how Shermer’s statement that we do not have a ‘fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness’ is in anyway outrageous. We do not. Maybe if it had been stated that we do not have a full UNDERSTANDING of mind and consciousness would have made the sentence clearer.
    I do not understand Dan’s first post, it makes no actual sense. How do you prove to people what they choose not to believe?

  13. oldebabe Says:

    Here, again, there’s the near death stuff…and discussion of the mind and body interaction, ad infinitum. And all the feelings, descriptions, etc., about/during the faux dying (and none of course about the actual event of death ;-).

    One can hallucinate all one wants about anything, and scientists are not, apparently, immune when it comes to the self. Conjecture, dreams, imagination… all good stuff and warm fun (and even lucrative for some), as long as one doesn’t mistake it for reality.

  14. Siva Ratnam Says:

    The biggest failure of atheistic science, which in my opinion is synonymous with Darwinism, is that it starts off with a denial regarding most of the paranormal experiences and anything related to the supernatural. With the birth of Darwinism, science was compelled in a very authoritarian manner to become atheistic and adopt ONLY the Darwinist hypothesis regarding all matters regarding life and evolution of life forms. Today Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics with the utterly materialistic and atheistic Darwinist concept of reality. With such an attitude Eskeptic or Darwinism do not have the capacity or even authority to call their belief system “science”. You guys have a dogma-just like fundamentalist religion and you are forcing it down humanity’s throat as science. In the book “Science Delusion” the author addresses these issues. Science knows next to nothing about 99% of the reality that surrounds us. Hypothesis and theories are nothing but that-speculations. Even the so called laboratory experiments based (repetitive) proof is no longer acceptable under the quantum reality. Therefore science should have the humbleness to say – God might exist, a God like consciousness being could be the final reality, after-life could exist, rebirth based on Karma may be a scientific fact, the universe could be cyclical, like the Yugas of the Hindu religion and so on. Therefore keep an open mind. Even Richard Dawkins is now humble enough to say that he is an agnostic and not an atheist. Emerging science itself will make you become humble towards the reality of our existence and creation. May be then, like Einstein, you might start calling that intelligence which created this entire universe “God” and like him you will accept, scientifically, that “God does not play dice”. Crude and utterly materialistic Darwinism is already obsolete. You guys are desperately holding on to that old-school paradigm. Please do not try to make reality fit the Darwinist box that you guys live in. The universe and reality are far too mysterious and a complete unknown for that.

  15. Sara Says:

    Siva,
    Perhaps you should do your “homework” before spouting off regarding the change of individuals such as Dawkins belief system.
    I just saw Richard Dawkins speak at a live lecture. Your assertion that he is now an agnostic is absolutely WRONG.
    He has and always be an Atheist. He speaks of this in detail in all of his live appearances and in his most recent writings.

  16. Kenn Pappas Says:

    There’s no problem with Michael using the statement that we don’t have a ‘fully natural explanation for mind and consciousness’. No matter how we try to define a term like “mind” and “consciousness”, we fall short, since we fall into the Cartesian trap as soon as we try to define the terms in exactitude. However, conversation still needs to take place, and as a result, any use of these terms will cause us to `fall short’.

    This article is brilliant in its conciseness, and the real point is that as long as a thought process of some sort is going on, then by definition, the person is not dead. If one is dead, then he or she ceases to interact with the world where people who are not dead can touch, feel or perceive them in some interactive way where the person can respond. Here’s the true test of what `dead’ is. If a person’s heart stops for several hours, he stops breathing for the same amount of time, and his entire body stiffens to the extent the muscles cannot move, then he’s dead. If he gets up and walks again, he isn’t dead and can’t be considered to have died. It’s that simple.

  17. Kenn Pappas Says:

    … I should also state that even though I have a Master’s in Logic and Philosophy, second graduate degree, I still avoid stepping on sidewalk cracks … why take chances?

  18. Kenn Pappas Says:

    To Siva:

    I would just like to ask … have you ever levitated? You’re scaring me.

  19. Dr. Strangelove Says:

    Siva, you should be humble enough to admit your supernatural beliefs are indistinguishable from pure fantasy. I’m humble enough to admit scientific theories could be wrong. But not very likely and doesn’t follow your beliefs are right.

    BTW quantum physics doesn’t prove the supernatural. The argument of mystics goes like this: quantum theory is strange, science cannot explain everything, the universe is mysterious, therefore I am superman.

  20. Siva Ratnam Says:

    Sara:

    Richard Dawkins did call himself an agnostic during the debate with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at Oxford. Search for the video of this video on YouTube.

    Quote:

    RICHARD DAWKINS, usually labeled an “outspoken atheist”, has raised eyebrows after describing himself as an agnostic and admitting that he cannot disprove the existence of God.

    His words came during a debate at Oxford University between the evolutionary biologist and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

    Unquote:

    That comment immediately created laughter among all present there, the mediator, the archbishop and “all” in the audience. It was not laughter of ridicule but of disbelief, because Richard Dawkins has always presented himself, through his lectures and books as a fundamentalist atheist. His views have always seemed that to him there is no possibility of God; he did not ever give even a glimpse of doubt regarding that. That is why they laughed. However, I respected Dawkins for that comment, because it is science itself, which made him accept that. During that debate he said that in a scale of 7 he was 6.9% an atheist and 0.1% an agnostic, which in my opinion definitely makes him an agnostic. If you have even an iota of doubt, then you cannot be an atheist. Atheism requires 100%-nothing less. This is why Einstein had no regard for crusading atheists (as scientists) and he considered them to be as bigoted as fundamentalist religious crusaders. Einstein was an agnostic. Science is revealing a universe and a reality which is far more mysterious and complex than ever before. Therefore Dawkins very realistically accepted the fact that we can only be agnostics as rationalists and non-religious thinkers in the 21st century. We have no scientific validity to be atheists.

  21. Siva Ratnam Says:

    Kenn:

    When you immediately refer to something like levitation or mind-reading or heaven and hell, in a ridiculing manner, during any rational discussion regarding thinking outside of the box of Darwinism, which of course is synonymous with fundamentalist atheism, then the discussion will fail to progress. Actually as a rational person you should not ridicule as a fantasy the idea of levitation. If the body by some means can overcome the laws of gravity, it definitely can levitate. Science in the future might be able to achieve such a feat through artificial means.

    This is why the dialog between the atheistic science paradigm and the religious paradigm also fails, because the latter bring in their blind-faith based arguments to challenge the atheistic belief system. How can such a discussion progress? Actually the church trying to challenge Darwinism and atheism is useless, because they want to put science within their box of church based dogmas. How can universal reality about God or religion and its relationship to science (if any) fit into the crude box of church based dogmas? How can Christianity challenge atheism in the first place, when that religion itself spreads atheism in regard to all other faiths, especially those religions which are paganism based or the animistic religions of tribal cultures and hunter gatherers?

    Einstein said “Science without religion is lame”-what he meant by “religion” in that regard was not the religion that believes in a personal God, but the religion of being awestruck and to be in total admiration of this creation. The same thing applies to the evolutionary process regarding life forms, which created the 100% perfect functional designs for life forms and nature to exist. Science has to feel humble in front of this unimaginable and 100% perfect scientific laws that govern the universe and life forms and nature. Without such religion science is definitely lame.

  22. peter Says:

    USA is going to spend 100M$ mapping the brain
    then we will know :)
    maybe they will find heaven there !

  23. D Hambley Says:

    some corrections to Siva’s post:
    1. “…atheistic science…..starts off with a denial regarding most of the paranormal experiences.” No Siva, incorrect. Proper science does NOT deny evidence. This denial is typical of people you don’t like maybe, but not of scientists.
    2. “Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics..” Really now, who told you that? Your preacher?
    3. “Hypothesis and theories are nothing but that-speculations” You should educate yourself as to the difference between hypothesis (which is similar to speculation) and theory which only is valid after a lot of data and testing.
    4. Scientists are always finding mistakes with Darwin’s original ideas and adjusting the present theory to match actual data gained over the last 150 yrs. This group of “you guys”, if they are as dogmatic as you described, are NOT scientists. This group of “you guys” that you are accusing looks again, like some group of people you met whom you simply just don’t like.

  24. resty baluyot Says:

    Synonyms…beliefs = myths = superstitions
    Examples…
    Beliefs eg., virgin birth, heaven, hell, reincarnation.
    Myths eg.,Thor, Poseidon, Santa Claus, Jupiter, Big foot.
    Superstitions eg., Elves, black cat bad luck, lucky charm.

    To the above we can add: NDE which is just dream on steroids.

  25. Siva Ratnam Says:

    You are very right in saying that man should be humble towards this creation, be it as a religious person or scientist or both. This is too much to comprehend and as Einstein said, science may never solve the complete mystery of our existence. However science should never give-up that quest. That quest is the true definition of science. Science being wrong and having to correct itself is not something to be criticized or laughed at. Science is a process of inquiry based on rationalism and definitive evidence. Therefore, as new evidence disproves an old theory or hypothesis, science will not despair or be egoistic and ignore the new evidence and keep hawking the now obsolete or wrong theory. Science will accept the facts and move on. I respect such science and the true scientists who are pioneers in regard to understanding reality.

    Quotes from Stephen Hawking, “A Brief History of Time”.

    “Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.”
    ― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

    “… if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”
    ― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

    Unquote:

    The quantum phenomena observed by science did not prove that the supernatural exists. The quantum phenomena brought in the “observer” into the equation in regard to understanding reality-the reality behind this creation and the reality of our existence. Theoretical physics was unable to “observe” the universe in order to understand reality anymore; when observed that reality changed into something else. This has pushed theoretical physics to seek the reality behind the observer itself and the scientific reality behind the observer-observed phenomena. Thus it became the scientific link, which (in my opinion) connected the religious experience based on consciousness (the mystical and the so called higher-states of consciousness) and theoretical psychology of Freud and Jung and the unadulterated rational scientific inquiry. They became connected, because every one of the former required the mind and consciousness to exist as a knowledge paradigm and all their theories and hypothesis were mind-consciousness based. Once the “observer” became vital to theoretical physics to understand reality, because of the quantum phenomena, mind and consciousness have become vital for theoretical physics too. Science has now begun to ask the question “Who is the observer within individuals that observes the universe?” That to me will definitely lead to the ancient philosophical question “who am I?” Understanding that may be the ultimate theory of physics that Einstein was looking for, an equation or whatever, which will explain everything in the universe-“The Theory of Everything”. I liken it to what Wolfgang Pauli believed in.

    Quote:

    Wolfgang Ernst Pauli {25 April 1900 – 15 December 1958}, was an Austrian theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum physics. In 1945, after being nominated by Albert Einstein, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his “decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature, the exclusion principle or Pauli principle,” involving spin theory, underpinning the structure of matter and the whole of chemistry). Wolfgang Pauli speculated that quantum theory could unify the psychological/scientific and philosophical/mystical approaches to consciousness”.

    Unquote:

    We have to also refer to the imminent scientist David Bohm, when trying to understand reality.

    Quote:

    Bohm believes that life and consciousness are enfolded deep in the generative order and are therefore present in varying degrees of unfoldment in all matter, including supposedly “inanimate” matter such as electrons or plasmas. He suggests that there is a “protointelligence” in matter, so that new evolutionary developments do not emerge in a random fashion but creatively as relatively integrated wholes from implicate levels of reality. The mystical connotations of Bohm’s ideas are underlined by his remark that the implicate domain “could equally well be called Idealism, Spirit, Consciousness. The separation of the two — matter and spirit — is an abstraction. The ground is always one.” (Quoted in Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe, HarperCollins, New York, 1991, p. 271.)

    “I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment….”

    (David Bohm: Wholeness and the Implicate Order)

    Unquote:

    Science today has begun to consider the reality of consciousness also being part of the fabric of the universe.

    Therefore, Darwinism or Michael Shermer or Richard Dawkins, cannot simply write-off consciousness as being “manufactured” by the brain and becoming extinct once the person is dead. Similarly, since the Near-Death-Experiences occur within consciousness, we cannot simply write them off as hallucinations. Even if the brain is “manufacturing” consciousness, the universal symbolism experienced by Near-Death people immediately makes it an evolutionary design based phenomena, just as religion is. Religion is no longer considered manmade-even Richard Dawkins accepts that the religious belief is hardwired into our species by evolutionary design. Just as science is now asking “Why did evolution think that the human species need religion?” science must also ask, why did evolution create these universal symbolisms regarding the death experience? To simply call them hallucinations is not correct is my opinion-it is not what science is all about. Science is not just about gadget making, curing illnesses and being useful; it has the higher duty of explaining reality. Suppose after-life is a reality, then those symbolisms can be the experience of death by the departing mind/consciousness or soul,

  26. Siva Ratnam Says:

    Dr. Strangelove:

    My last reply was in relation to the comments made by you. I forgot to mention it. I hope you saw the Stanley Kubrick movie by that name, Dr. Strangelove. Great satire on Cold-war politics.

  27. Siva Ratnam Says:

    To D.Hambley:

    1)“…atheistic science…..starts off with a denial regarding most of the paranormal experiences.” No Siva, incorrect. Proper science does NOT deny evidence. This denial is typical of people you don’t like maybe, but not of scientists.

    My answer:

    I think the crusading atheistic science paradigm is definitely in denial of anything it considers as outside the realm of science (as it stands today, based on what science knows today). This attitude therefore covers all paranormal claims and mystical experiences, the ghost phenomena, etc. The laboratory experiments based “evidence” and the insistence that such evidence has to repeat itself always, is not applicable to experiences that are human consciousness based. Atheistic science paradigm demands such evidence; therefore it will be forever in denial. That is quite ironic, because imminent scientists like Stephen Hawkins and others have stated that the days of such deterministic science are over in regard to understanding the scientific reality behind this creation itself, after the birth of quantum physics. That being the case, how can science ask for such evidence regarding the paranormal or supernatural, after-life, etc? Therefore, science should not try to prove or disprove such things if science is only going to depend on repetitive, laboratory experiments based evidence. Investigations into such phenomena has to be made in terms of personal experiences, the validity of the person whose experiences are being considered, the existence of general patterns and mainly any kind of global, human species based pattern and so on. Stephen Hawkins was asked by Larry King on CNN whether he believed in God, Hawkins said, if by God you mean the God of religion, no, as a scientist I cannot prove or disprove such a belief and therefore I do not believe in such a God. If by God you mean the laws of science that govern this universe, yes, I believe in such a God.

    Let us leave the paranormal alone. Darwinism is unable to even listen to any kind of alternate-science, which goes against fundamentalist Darwinist theories. The Darwinists immediately take up arms against such science. Darwinism has become like organized religion. Look at this statement from Richard Dawkins regarding the Gaia Theory, proposed by the English (and NASA) scientist James Lovelock..

    Quote:

    Oxford University ’s Richard Dawkins, author of “The Selfish Gene,” has condemned Gaia theory as a “profoundly erroneous” heresy against Darwin ’s “survival of the fittest” theory of natural selection.

    Unquote:

    2. “Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics..” Really now, who told you that? Your preacher?

    My answer:

    Darwinism considers the evolution of this universe to be accidental without a purpose, with no design (intelligent or otherwise) and when asked regarding the 100% perfection in the way life forms have been provided functional designs to exist, survive and continue, Darwinists come up with their famous escapist terminology “Natural Selection”. That explains nothing. If you say “Nature’s Selection” that will be far better, because nature is nurturing to a great extent and therefore it helps survival, but how did nature become so clever? These functional designs are far more sophisticated, complex and 100% perfect than any machine ever created by science. If you say “Natural Selection”, what is it that selects? To select is to make a decision and that requires logic, rationality and mainly intelligence.

    Theoretical physics is totally different. It sees the universe as being governed by scientific laws that are 100% perfect. It sees the universe as having some kind of a design, a purpose and even a plan.

    I quote you Einstein on this, and he is the highest authority on science in search of reality until now. The search for reality therefore cannot be a Darwinist goal, because Darwinism is mainly about the materialistic universe and that too about life forms. It is only theoretical physics, which can reveal reality to us and today physics is slowly entering the biological world too through its interest in consciousness. Soon, in my opinion neuroscience and theoretical physics will meet. Therefore Darwinists today trying to enter the debate about this creation is what I meant by “Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics.”

    Quote from Einstein:

    The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—-a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.

    God does not play dice with the universe.

    What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

    Unquote:

    3. “Hypothesis and theories are nothing but that-speculations” You should educate yourself as to the difference between hypothesis (which is similar to speculation) and theory which only is valid after a lot of data and testing.

    My answer:

    Any scientist will agree that most scientific theories just that, theories. New evidence can always change the scenario and even disprove an existing theory. Darwin’s evolution itself is only a theory. A theory is not the final truth.

    4. Scientists are always finding mistakes with Darwin ’s original ideas and adjusting the present theory to match actual data gained over the last 150 yrs. This group of “you guys”, if they are as dogmatic as you described, are NOT scientists. This group of “you guys” that you are accusing looks again, like some group of people you met whom you simply just don’t like.

    My answer:

    It is not that I do not like “some” people. I am against and even annoyed by crusading atheistic science, which I believe has no right to exist in the 21st century. Darwinism is 100% atheistic-no room for even to be agnostic. Their argument is “If you are not with us (100%), you are against us.”21st century science is revealing a reality that seems unfathomable, unknowable and beyond comprehension. But, yes true, science will search on to know reality completely and in its entirety, but as an agnostic knowledge paradigm and not as a crusading atheistic paradigm.

  28. David Says:

    For those who say “we can’t dismiss this because we don’t know for sure. We weren’t there” I suppose that, yes, technically, that may be true. However, if my bedroom window is broken and my valuables stolen, it’s possible that a monster or alien or ghost did it, but the more likely explanation is that it was a garden-variety thief.

    Likewise, if someone has an out-of-body experience, it’s possible that they went to heaven and met angels, but the more likely explanation is that they hallucinated.

  29. Joseph Says:

    Related to this, please take an hour out of your day to view this -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_Um2VdIKmA&feature=youtu.be

  30. Siva Ratnam Says:

    The Hindu scriptures say that the seat of consciousness is in the heart. The intellect is in the brain. The brain is more like the computer. The brain then will be only a computer through which consciousness experiences the world. Even brain dead people are now said to be conscious and not just only alive. They have no touch based sensations or movement, but their mind is active. Even with closed eyes they are said to have vision. They hear everything. They think. Therefore consciousness may not be dependent on the brain to actively exist. It needs the heart-it needs the life force. The life force too must reside in the heart. Brain dead people live and even if the organs fail people may still live, but if the heart stops, life is extinguished, and consciousness is extinguished. We feel emotions in the heart-be it love or deep sorrow. Emotions too may exist in the heart. Therefore, in my opinion, science should not consider the brain alone in its search for consciousness. The heart may not be just a blood pumping machine.

  31. Joseph Says:

    Siva, have a look at this –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3teflb1QNN4

  32. Siva Ratnam Says:

    To Joseph:

    Thanks for recommending this video. Decapitation of a human is definitely death related, because we can no longer breathe. However, brain dead in terms of coma, etc is different. The brain no longer serves you but that does not mean life cannot continue. My viewpoint is that all creatures are conscious and they have the life force, but they do not have the complex brain that we humans have. Still, some of these tiny creatures, from bees to ants to birds to whatever, perform very sophisticated technological functions and in the case of birds, they perform intelligent tool making skills. Therefore, in my opinion, consciousness does not need a brain like ours to manifest. Noam Chomsky was asked whether a cockroach had consciousness (or a mind) and he said that the fact the cockroach going in one direction, decides to go in another direction, points towards decision making and that requires consciousness and a mind. May be even ants and bees and worms also think and they make decisions. We humans definitely are of a higher order with the kind of sophisticated brain we have. Hindu scriptures say that the human birth is very special, because only humans can understand the true reality; not even the angles and demons, etc that religious metaphysics speaks of. Therefore science can definitely reveal the mystery of our existence but the final reality may not be an atheistic one; it could well be a theistic one. .
    Quote:
    In the 2007 Anton Zeilinger and his colleagues wrote that, “Most working scientists hold fast to the concept of ‘realism’—a viewpoint according to which an external reality exists independent of observation. But quantum physics has shattered some of our cornerstone beliefs. Professors Richard Conn Henry and Stephen R. Palmquist, commenting on that paper, stated: “Now we are beginning to see that quantum mechanics might actually exclude any possibility of mind-independent reality and already does exclude any reality that resembles our usual concept of such an aspect: it implies”renouncing the kind of realism I would have liked.”
    Anton Zeilinger and his colleagues concluded their commentary by adding that in their view, because of these findings, “a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism.”
    Unquote:

    About Anton Zeilinger:
    Anton Zeilinger (born on 20 May 1945) is an Austrian quantum physicist. He is currently professor of physics at the University of Vienna, previously University of Innsbruck. He is also the director of the Vienna branch of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information IQOQI at the Austrian Academy of Sciences and director of the International Academy Traunkirchen. Zeilinger has been called a pioneer in the new field of quantum information and is renowned for his realization of quantum teleportation with photons and his first experimental implementation of multi-particle quantum entanglement.

  33. Joseph Says:

    One of the first discussions my wife and I had early in our relationship was: Does matter create consciousness or does consciousness create matter?

    Here’s some thoughts by cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman, from his book Visual Intelligence –

    This raises a general and important question. If the relational realm needn’t resemble the phenomenal, then what can we safely say about the nature of the relational realm?

    Not much. However, we can propose theories and see how they stack up against our experiences. This is an intriguing enterprise, and one that has attracted lots of attention.
    There are now many theories of the relational realm that are compatible with all the evidence we have from the phenomenal realm.

    These theories come in three basic kinds: physicalism, idealism, and dualism.

    Physicalism proposes that the relational realm is mindless. There are many versions of this proposal. The one most influential, at present, proposes that the basic building blocks of the relational realm are the particles, fields, and other entities within the province of microphysics. The behavior of these entities is mindless, governed entirely by probabilistic laws.

    Idealism proposes that the relational realm is made of minds. It may be one mind, as in Berkeley’s proposal that it’s the mind of God, or it may be many distinct and finite minds in interaction. In the latter case, the behavior of these minds has also been described by probabilistic laws.

    Dualism proposes that the relational realm is made both of minds and mindless entities. There are probabilistic laws governing the minds, the mindless entities, and the interactions between the two.

    These three theories disagree primarily on whether the relational realm is mindless. Physicalism says it is, idealism says it’s not, and dualism says it’s both. None of the three has, to date, been ruled about by what we know of the phenomenal realm through the investigations of science. All three are compatible with the probabilistic laws of nature discovered by physicists. Probability can, with equal facility, describe the behavior of minds or the mindless. It can describe the mindless roll of dice or the
    conscious choices of a shopper.

  34. k. Iyer Says:

    I am very surprized that the comments have strayed this far from the topic at hand. Dr. Alexander experienced “heaven” and if he wants to share this experience with us, I see nothing wrong with that. If he wants to foist on us the thought that this experience is universal and “rational”, then we should simply pity him and leave him at that.

  35. Siva Ratnam Says:

    The biggest failure of atheistic science, which in my opinion is synonymous with Darwinism, is that it starts off with a denial regarding most of the paranormal experiences and anything related to the supernatural. With the birth of Darwinism, science was compelled in a very authoritarian manner to become atheistic and adopt ONLY the Darwinist hypothesis regarding all matters regarding life and evolution of life forms. Today Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics with the utterly materialistic and atheistic Darwinist concept of reality. With such an attitude Eskeptic or Darwinism do not have the capacity or even authority to call their belief system “science”. You guys have a dogma-just like fundamentalist religion and you are forcing it down humanity’s throat as science. In the book “Science Delusion” the author addresses these issues. Science knows next to nothing about 99% of the reality that surrounds us. Hypothesis and theories are nothing but that-speculations. Even the so called laboratory experiments based (repetitive) proof is no longer acceptable under the quantum reality. Therefore science should have the humbleness to say – God might exist, a God like consciousness being could be the final reality, after-life could exist, rebirth based on Karma may be a scientific fact, the universe could be cyclical, like the Yugas of the Hindu religion and so on. Therefore keep an open mind. Even Richard Dawkins is now humble enough to say that he is an agnostic and not an atheist. Emerging science itself will make you become humble towards the reality of our existence and creation. May be then, like Einstein, you might start calling that intelligence which created this entire universe “God” and like him you will accept, scientifically, that “God does not play dice”. Crude and utterly materialistic Darwinism is already obsolete. You guys are desperately holding on to that old-school paradigm. Please do not try to make reality fit the Darwinist box that you guys live in. The universe and reality are far too mysterious and a complete unknown for that.
    Sara Says:
    April 3rd, 2013 at 3:10 pm
    Siva,
    Perhaps you should do your “homework” before spouting off regarding the change of individuals such as Dawkins belief system.
    I just saw Richard Dawkins speak at a live lecture. Your assertion that he is now an agnostic is absolutely WRONG.
    He has and always be an Atheist. He speaks of this in detail in all of his live appearances and in his most recent writings.
    Siva Ratnam Says:
    April 4th, 2013 at 6:36 am
    Sara:
    Richard Dawkins did call himself an agnostic during the debate with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams at Oxford. Search for the video of this video on YouTube.
    Quote:
    RICHARD DAWKINS, usually labeled an “outspoken atheist”, has raised eyebrows after describing himself as an agnostic and admitting that he cannot disprove the existence of God.
    His words came during a debate at Oxford University between the evolutionary biologist and the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
    Unquote:
    That comment immediately created laughter among all present there, the mediator, the archbishop and “all” in the audience. It was not laughter of ridicule but of disbelief, because Richard Dawkins has always presented himself, through his lectures and books as a fundamentalist atheist. His views have always seemed that to him there is no possibility of God; he did not ever give even a glimpse of doubt regarding that. That is why they laughed. However, I respected Dawkins for that comment, because it is science itself, which made him accept that. During that debate he said that in a scale of 7 he was 6.9% an atheist and 0.1% an agnostic, which in my opinion definitely makes him an agnostic. If you have even an iota of doubt, then you cannot be an atheist. Atheism requires 100%-nothing less. This is why Einstein had no regard for crusading atheists (as scientists) and he considered them to be as bigoted as fundamentalist religious crusaders. Einstein was an agnostic. Science is revealing a universe and a reality which is far more mysterious and complex than ever before. Therefore Dawkins very realistically accepted the fact that we can only be agnostics as rationalists and non-religious thinkers in the 21st century. We have no scientific validity to be atheists.
    Kenn Pappas Says:
    April 3rd, 2013 at 3:53 pm
    To Siva:
    I would just like to ask … have you ever levitated? You’re scaring me.
    Siva Ratnam Says:
    April 4th, 2013 at 9:07 am
    Kenn:
    When you immediately refer to something like levitation or mind-reading or heaven and hell, in a ridiculing manner, during any rational discussion regarding thinking outside of the box of Darwinism, which of course is synonymous with fundamentalist atheism, then the discussion will fail to progress. Actually as a rational person you should not ridicule as a fantasy the idea of levitation. If the body by some means can overcome the laws of gravity, it definitely can levitate. Science in the future might be able to achieve such a feat through artificial means.
    This is why the dialog between the atheistic science paradigm and the religious paradigm also fails, because the latter bring in their blind-faith based arguments to challenge the atheistic belief system. How can such a discussion progress? Actually the church trying to challenge Darwinism and atheism is useless, because they want to put science within their box of church based dogmas. How can universal reality about God or religion and its relationship to science (if any) fit into the crude box of church based dogmas? How can Christianity challenge atheism in the first place, when that religion itself spreads atheism in regard to all other faiths, especially those religions which are paganism based or the animistic religions of tribal cultures and hunter gatherers?
    Einstein said “Science without religion is lame”-what he meant by “religion” in that regard was not the religion that believes in a personal God, but the religion of being awestruck and to be in total admiration of this creation. The same thing applies to the evolutionary process regarding life forms, which created the 100% perfect functional designs for life forms and nature to exist. Science has to feel humble in front of this unimaginable and 100% perfect scientific laws that govern the universe and life forms and nature. Without such religion science is definitely lame.
    Dr. Strangelove Says:
    April 4th, 2013 at 1:54 am
    Siva, you should be humble enough to admit your supernatural beliefs are indistinguishable from pure fantasy. I’m humble enough to admit scientific theories could be wrong. But not very likely and doesn’t follow your beliefs are right.
    BTW quantum physics doesn’t prove the supernatural. The argument of mystics goes like this: quantum theory is strange, science cannot explain everything, the universe is mysterious, therefore I am superman.
    Siva Ratnam Says:
    April 4th, 2013 at 1:23 pm
    Dr. Strangelove:
    You are very right in saying that man should be humble towards this creation, be it as a religious person or scientist or both. This is too much to comprehend and as Einstein said, science may never solve the complete mystery of our existence. However science should never give-up that quest. That quest is the true definition of science. Science being wrong and having to correct itself is not something to be criticized or laughed at. Science is a process of inquiry based on rationalism and definitive evidence. Therefore, as new evidence disproves an old theory or hypothesis, science will not despair or be egoistic and ignore the new evidence and keep hawking the now obsolete or wrong theory. Science will accept the facts and move on. I respect such science and the true scientists who are pioneers in regard to understanding reality.
    Quotes from Stephen Hawking, “A Brief History of Time”.
    “Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.”
    ― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
    “… if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”
    ― Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
    Unquote:
    The quantum phenomena observed by science did not prove that the supernatural exists. The quantum phenomena brought in the “observer” into the equation in regard to understanding reality-the reality behind this creation and the reality of our existence. Theoretical physics was unable to “observe” the universe in order to understand reality anymore; when observed that reality changed into something else. This has pushed theoretical physics to seek the reality behind the observer itself and the scientific reality behind the observer-observed phenomena. Thus it became the scientific link, which (in my opinion) connected the religious experience based on consciousness (the mystical and the so called higher-states of consciousness) and theoretical psychology of Freud and Jung and the unadulterated rational scientific inquiry. They became connected, because every one of the former required the mind and consciousness to exist as a knowledge paradigm and all their theories and hypothesis were mind-consciousness based. Once the “observer” became vital to theoretical physics to understand reality, because of the quantum phenomena, mind and consciousness have become vital for theoretical physics too. Science has now begun to ask the question “Who is the observer within individuals that observes the universe?” That to me will definitely lead to the ancient philosophical question “who am I?” Understanding that may be the ultimate theory of physics that Einstein was looking for, an equation or whatever, which will explain everything in the universe-“The Theory of Everything”. I liken it to what Wolfgang Pauli believed in.
    Quote:
    Wolfgang Ernst Pauli {25 April 1900 – 15 December 1958}, was an Austrian theoretical physicist and one of the pioneers of quantum physics. In 1945, after being nominated by Albert Einstein, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his “decisive contribution through his discovery of a new law of Nature, the exclusion principle or Pauli principle,” involving spin theory, underpinning the structure of matter and the whole of chemistry). Wolfgang Pauli speculated that quantum theory could unify the psychological/scientific and philosophical/mystical approaches to consciousness”.
    Unquote:
    We have to also refer to the imminent scientist David Bohm, when trying to understand reality.
    Quote:
    Bohm believes that life and consciousness are enfolded deep in the generative order and are therefore present in varying degrees of unfoldment in all matter, including supposedly “inanimate” matter such as electrons or plasmas. He suggests that there is a “protointelligence” in matter, so that new evolutionary developments do not emerge in a random fashion but creatively as relatively integrated wholes from implicate levels of reality. The mystical connotations of Bohm’s ideas are underlined by his remark that the implicate domain “could equally well be called Idealism, Spirit, Consciousness. The separation of the two — matter and spirit — is an abstraction. The ground is always one.” (Quoted in Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe, HarperCollins, New York, 1991, p. 271.)
    “I would say that in my scientific and philosophical work, my main concern has been with understanding the nature of reality in general and of consciousness in particular as a coherent whole, which is never static or complete but which is an unending process of movement and unfoldment….”
    (David Bohm: Wholeness and the Implicate Order)
    Unquote:
    Science today has begun to consider the reality of consciousness also being part of the fabric of the universe.
    Therefore, Darwinism or Michael Shermer or Richard Dawkins, cannot simply write-off consciousness as being “manufactured” by the brain and becoming extinct once the person is dead. Similarly, since the Near-Death-Experiences occur within consciousness, we cannot simply write them off as hallucinations. Even if the brain is “manufacturing” consciousness, the universal symbolism experienced by Near-Death people immediately makes it an evolutionary design based phenomena, just as religion is. Religion is no longer considered manmade-even Richard Dawkins accepts that the religious belief is hardwired into our species by evolutionary design. Just as science is now asking “Why did evolution think that the human species need religion?” science must also ask, why did evolution create these universal symbolisms regarding the death experience? To simply call them hallucinations is not correct is my opinion-it is not what science is all about. Science is not just about gadget making, curing illnesses and being useful; it has the higher duty of explaining reality. Suppose after-life is a reality, then those symbolisms can be the experience of death by the departing mind/consciousness or soul,
    D Hambley Says:
    April 4th, 2013 at 10:22 am
    some corrections to Siva’s post:
    1. “…atheistic science…..starts off with a denial regarding most of the paranormal experiences.” No Siva, incorrect. Proper science does NOT deny evidence. This denial is typical of people you don’t like maybe, but not of scientists.
    2. “Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics..” Really now, who told you that? Your preacher?
    3. “Hypothesis and theories are nothing but that-speculations” You should educate yourself as to the difference between hypothesis (which is similar to speculation) and theory which only is valid after a lot of data and testing.
    4. Scientists are always finding mistakes with Darwin’s original ideas and adjusting the present theory to match actual data gained over the last 150 yrs. This group of “you guys”, if they are as dogmatic as you described, are NOT scientists. This group of “you guys” that you are accusing looks again, like some group of people you met whom you simply just don’t like.
    Siva Ratnam Says:
    April 4th, 2013 at 4:53 pm
    To D.Hambley:
    1)“…atheistic science…..starts off with a denial regarding most of the paranormal experiences.” No Siva, incorrect. Proper science does NOT deny evidence. This denial is typical of people you don’t like maybe, but not of scientists.
    My answer:
    I think the crusading atheistic science paradigm is definitely in denial of anything it considers as outside the realm of science (as it stands today, based on what science knows today). This attitude therefore covers all paranormal claims and mystical experiences, the ghost phenomena, etc. The laboratory experiments based “evidence” and the insistence that such evidence has to repeat itself always, is not applicable to experiences that are human consciousness based. Atheistic science paradigm demands such evidence; therefore it will be forever in denial. That is quite ironic, because imminent scientists like Stephen Hawkins and others have stated that the days of such deterministic science are over in regard to understanding the scientific reality behind this creation itself, after the birth of quantum physics. That being the case, how can science ask for such evidence regarding the paranormal or supernatural, after-life, etc? Therefore, science should not try to prove or disprove such things if science is only going to depend on repetitive, laboratory experiments based evidence. Investigations into such phenomena has to be made in terms of personal experiences, the validity of the person whose experiences are being considered, the existence of general patterns and mainly any kind of global, human species based pattern and so on. Stephen Hawkins was asked by Larry King on CNN whether he believed in God, Hawkins said, if by God you mean the God of religion, no, as a scientist I cannot prove or disprove such a belief and therefore I do not believe in such a God. If by God you mean the laws of science that govern this universe, yes, I believe in such a God.
    Let us leave the paranormal alone. Darwinism is unable to even listen to any kind of alternate-science, which goes against fundamentalist Darwinist theories. The Darwinists immediately take up arms against such science. Darwinism has become like organized religion. Look at this statement from Richard Dawkins regarding the Gaia Theory, proposed by the English (and NASA) scientist James Lovelock..
    Quote:
    Oxford University ’s Richard Dawkins, author of “The Selfish Gene,” has condemned Gaia theory as a “profoundly erroneous” heresy against Darwin ’s “survival of the fittest” theory of natural selection.
    Unquote:
    2. “Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics..” Really now, who told you that? Your preacher?
    My answer:
    Darwinism considers the evolution of this universe to be accidental without a purpose, with no design (intelligent or otherwise) and when asked regarding the 100% perfection in the way life forms have been provided functional designs to exist, survive and continue, Darwinists come up with their famous escapist terminology “Natural Selection”. That explains nothing. If you say “Nature’s Selection” that will be far better, because nature is nurturing to a great extent and therefore it helps survival, but how did nature become so clever? These functional designs are far more sophisticated, complex and 100% perfect than any machine ever created by science. If you say “Natural Selection”, what is it that selects? To select is to make a decision and that requires logic, rationality and mainly intelligence.
    Theoretical physics is totally different. It sees the universe as being governed by scientific laws that are 100% perfect. It sees the universe as having some kind of a design, a purpose and even a plan.
    I quote you Einstein on this, and he is the highest authority on science in search of reality until now. The search for reality therefore cannot be a Darwinist goal, because Darwinism is mainly about the materialistic universe and that too about life forms. It is only theoretical physics, which can reveal reality to us and today physics is slowly entering the biological world too through its interest in consciousness. Soon, in my opinion neuroscience and theoretical physics will meet. Therefore Darwinists today trying to enter the debate about this creation is what I meant by “Darwinism is trying to even overshadow the existing theoretical physics.”
    Quote from Einstein:
    The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books—-a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.
    God does not play dice with the universe.
    What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.
    Unquote:
    3. “Hypothesis and theories are nothing but that-speculations” You should educate yourself as to the difference between hypothesis (which is similar to speculation) and theory which only is valid after a lot of data and testing.
    My answer:
    Any scientist will agree that most scientific theories just that, theories. New evidence can always change the scenario and even disprove an existing theory. Darwin’s evolution itself is only a theory. A theory is not the final truth.
    4. Scientists are always finding mistakes with Darwin ’s original ideas and adjusting the present theory to match actual data gained over the last 150 yrs. This group of “you guys”, if they are as dogmatic as you described, are NOT scientists. This group of “you guys” that you are accusing looks again, like some group of people you met whom you simply just don’t like.
    My answer:
    It is not that I do not like “some” people. I am against and even annoyed by crusading atheistic science, which I believe has no right to exist in the 21st century. Darwinism is 100% atheistic-no room for even to be agnostic. Their argument is “If you are not with us (100%), you are against us.”21st century science is revealing a reality that seems unfathomable, unknowable and beyond comprehension. But, yes true, science will search on to know reality completely and in its entirety, but as an agnostic knowledge paradigm and not as a crusading atheistic paradigm.
    Siva Ratnam Says:
    April 5th, 2013 at 10:02 am
    The Hindu scriptures say that the seat of consciousness is in the heart. The intellect is in the brain. The brain is more like the computer. The brain then will be only a computer through which consciousness experiences the world. Even brain dead people are now said to be conscious and not just only alive. They have no touch based sensations or movement, but their mind is active. Even with closed eyes they are said to have vision. They hear everything. They think. Therefore consciousness may not be dependent on the brain to actively exist. It needs the heart-it needs the life force. The life force too must reside in the heart. Brain dead people live and even if the organs fail people may still live, but if the heart stops, life is extinguished, and consciousness is extinguished. We feel emotions in the heart-be it love or deep sorrow. Emotions too may exist in the heart. Therefore, in my opinion, science should not consider the brain alone in its search for consciousness. The heart may not be just a blood pumping machine.
    Siva Ratnam Says:
    April 6th, 2013 at 10.50 AM
    I think they strayed, because the subject became “consciousness”. Immediately the discussion can turn into what consciousness is and that can expand further into so many things. I read Ekeptic regularly and I support it. We cannot permit pseudoscience to be presented as science. It is also a good deed to wean people away from superstitions, which have no scientific validity and cause fear. As Einstein said about a belief in a personal God, it weakens the mind. Eskeptic definitely is doing such a great service. However I am opposed to the crusading atheism of fundamentalist Darwinists. That is why I had to make critical comments about that kind of science, which I call crusading atheistic science. It is not the job of science to disprove God. The duty of science is to reveal reality and explain who we really are and what the reality is behind this creation.

    In my opinion the doctor’s descriptions of what he saw and relating them to heaven, most probably a kind of Christian heaven, is not valid for any kind of scientific discussion. Such images are related to his personal beliefs and cannot be applied as a global human species related NDE phenomena.

    However in regard to NDE, there are visuals and feelings which are universally common among our species. The doctor too refers to such experiences. When such a human species related experience occurs, immediately and scientifically, we can come to the conclusion that such an experience then could be evolutionary design (for our species) related. Religion too same-it is not manmade as old-school atheists thought. It is part of the evolutionary design for our species. The best way atheists can approach the religion phenomena is to say as Freud said, “It was a necessary delusion for the pre-modern science and pre-industrial civilization man. Today mankind may not need that delusion.” That was Freud’s opinion and that is the best atheists can go by. Why should evolution give us human’s religion? The best explanation is “to give solace” in times of emotional crises, during fear, anxiety and sorrow and calamities and disasters.

    Since it seems (through the NDE experiences) that the dying process for humans involves such visualizations and feeling, science needs to wonder as to why evolution provided such visualizations and feeling for the dying; may be to make the journey as calm and peaceful as possible.

    However, in this regard we have to also refer to mystical religion. The purpose of human birth, according to mystical religion is to seek God, not through faith alone, but actively seeking a mental process, through which the individual consciousness seeks to merge with the universal God consciousness. Mystics report feelings of extreme love, universal love from them to all of creation and from God to them. They also experience ecstasy and bliss. This mystical process of merging with God consciousness requires the out-of-body experience. It is to be sought after by negating the physical body as an illusion the mind and intellect also as illusions and the ego as an illusion and when all that is given up (through a mental transformation) as being illusions (cutting off all connections by saying “Not me, Not Me”), then what ultimately remains is said to be the real you, the soul or Atma in Hinduism. That soul or Atma is said to be a cloned version of the God consciousness. Every living and non-living being is said to have this and that is the source of consciousness and the life-force itself say the scriptures. It is said that only humans can achieve this merging with the God consciousness or self-realization, which means knowing who we really are. That according to the scriptures is the real goal of every human being and that is the answer to the question “What is reality?”

    The NDE also produces similar experiences and this is why the out-of-body experience could be real. May there is some form of consciousness that leaves the body when death occurs, carrying with it the mind and memories of the dead person. May it will disintegrate after that, but it could be leaving the body. May be the consciousness and the mind do feel love and happiness and ecstasy, when out of this cage called body, which trapped them in. May be like birds set free flying away joyfully, consciousness too feels ecstatic and full of love when released from the body.

  36. Siva Ratnam Says:

    I apologize for having posted something (this complete conversation) that I had copied for my personal records, instead of posting only this:

    I think they strayed, because the subject became “consciousness”. Immediately the discussion can turn into what consciousness is and that can expand further into so many things. I read Ekeptic regularly and I support it. We cannot permit pseudoscience to be presented as science. It is also a good deed to wean people away from superstitions, which have no scientific validity and cause fear. As Einstein said about a belief in a personal God, it weakens the mind. Eskeptic definitely is doing such a great service. However I am opposed to the crusading atheism of fundamentalist Darwinists. That is why I had to make critical comments about that kind of science, which I call crusading atheistic science. It is not the job of science to disprove God. The duty of science is to reveal reality and explain who we really are and what the reality is behind this creation.

    In my opinion the doctor’s descriptions of what he saw and relating them to heaven, most probably a kind of Christian heaven, is not valid for any kind of scientific discussion. Such images are related to his personal beliefs and cannot be applied as a global human species related NDE phenomena.

    However in regard to NDE, there are visuals and feelings which are universally common among our species. The doctor too refers to such experiences. When such a human species related experience occurs, immediately and scientifically, we can come to the conclusion that such an experience then could be evolutionary design (for our species) related. Religion too same-it is not manmade as old-school atheists thought. It is part of the evolutionary design for our species. The best way atheists can approach the religion phenomena is to say as Freud said, “It was a necessary delusion for the pre-modern science and pre-industrial civilization man. Today mankind may not need that delusion.” That was Freud’s opinion and that is the best atheists can go by. Why should evolution give us human’s religion? The best explanation is “to give solace” in times of emotional crises, during fear, anxiety and sorrow and calamities and disasters.

    Since it seems (through the NDE experiences) that the dying process for humans involves such visualizations and feeling, science needs to wonder as to why evolution provided such visualizations and feeling for the dying; may be to make the journey as calm and peaceful as possible.

    However, in this regard we have to also refer to mystical religion. The purpose of human birth, according to mystical religion is to seek God, not through faith alone, but actively seeking a mental process, through which the individual consciousness seeks to merge with the universal God consciousness. Mystics report feelings of extreme love, universal love from them to all of creation and from God to them. They also experience ecstasy and bliss. This mystical process of merging with God consciousness requires the out-of-body experience. It is to be sought after by negating the physical body as an illusion the mind and intellect also as illusions and the ego as an illusion and when all that is given up (through a mental transformation) as being illusions (cutting off all connections by saying “Not me, Not Me”), then what ultimately remains is said to be the real you, the soul or Atma in Hinduism. That soul or Atma is said to be a cloned version of the God consciousness. Every living and non-living being is said to have this and that is the source of consciousness and the life-force itself say the scriptures. It is said that only humans can achieve this merging with the God consciousness or self-realization, which means knowing who we really are. That according to the scriptures is the real goal of every human being and that is the answer to the question “What is reality?”

    The NDE also produces similar experiences and this is why the out-of-body experience could be real. May there is some form of consciousness that leaves the body when death occurs, carrying with it the mind and memories of the dead person. May it will disintegrate after that, but it could be leaving the body. May be the consciousness and the mind do feel love and happiness and ecstasy, when out of this cage called body, which trapped them in. May be like birds set free flying away joyfully, consciousness too feels ecstatic and full of love when released from the body.

  37. Michael Herbst Says:

    First point: In his review of Eden Alexander’s “Proof of Heaven” book, Dr. Shermer pokes fun at the beautiful blue-eyed, blond-haired woman component of Alexander’s NDE, ostensibly for setting the tone of his skepticism. But if Dr. Shermer had bothered to read the entire book, he’d know the woman turned out to be Eben’s deceased biological sister, someone he’d never met as he was adopted out at birth. Eben discovered this after his NDE, and only after being reunited with his biological family. It’s one thing to be skeptical; it’s another thing to amplify skepticism so as to become willfully pigheaded.

    Second point: Eben is a top-notch neurosurgeon with impeccable credentials, which include teaching positions in some of America’s most prestigious academic institutions. My guess is Eben knows a bit more about how the brain works physically than Shermer. Dr. Shermer would do well to remember that he’s not the only bright kid on the block.

    Third point: It’s time to quit interpreting nature in terms of the hoary Newtonian model. Newton only got part of the story right as matter-energy is only part of the basic equation of nature. The theoretical ideas of Turing, Wiener, Shannon, and von Neumann, added to the empirical findings of Watson and Crick, and Nirenberg, Kohrana, and Holley have made it quite clear nature is interpreted only in terms of matter, energy, and information.

    What this means is complex structure and activity in the form of computational dynamics is as much an inherent part of the fabric of nature as matter and energy, i.e. reality is best understood as a construct that is part hardware and part software in makeup. Thus, given that reality inherently has a “virtual” side, for humans to have NDEs is no great mystery as we too have a “virtual” side, i.e. we’re both hardware and software in makeup. If brain activity is tantamount to the activity of software in a computer, then consciousness can survive outside the body’s hardware as reality itself supports computational dynamics.

    The best way to understand this is to look to modern computers. If a desktop has a catastrophic malfunction we might say that it’s dead. We might even consider that the operating dynamics of the system is lost forever as the physical hardware is no longer capable of sustaining computational activity. However, this is not true if the system happens to be connected to a larger computational infrastructure in the form of an internet. Given such a scheme it’s totally possible to preserve the software infrastructure in a virtual environment even if the hardware of a personal PC is totally destroyed.

    Too much is now known about reality’s makeup to keep deferring to explanations that no longer encompass the facts. Newton’s view of reality was fashioned just after pendulum clocks were invented and Darwinism was fashioned in the era of the steamboat. Newton could never have imagined that computation and control dynamics would play such a huge part in the makeup of things, and Darwin could never have imagined that life would be based on something as exceptional as a nanotechnologically-based programmable factory in the form of a compact pin-prick of a package (i.e. cells). It’s time to think outside Newton’s box, and too much skepticism simply gets in the way of advancement.

  38. Siva Ratnam Says:

    Very well said; your comments are not an insult or an attack on skepticism or atheism or Darwinism (in my opinion Darwinism is synonymous with the other two, especially atheism) but an eye-opener in terms of science, rationality and logic that the atheistic Darwinist science paradigm has gone overboard on the so called theory of evolution by Darwin. Any naturalist will tell you that evolution of life forms or nature is not based on the “survival of the fittest” scenario. I mean it in regard to species-nature will not act in that manner and discriminate between one species and another and keep the ones that are fit and get rid of the weak ones. Actually there are no such weaker species-they are all 100% perfect within their own world of existence. Nature and evolution have only one function, the existence, survival and continuation of all species, in my opinion this extends to the whole of creation. Within a species or herd or collective family unit or in regard to creatures that lead a solitary life, yes, the weak will not survive. Even out of a number of offspring, the very weak will not survive. That is a law of nature and it applies to humans too.

    Thank you for writing this. It is time to close the box of old school Darwinism and set science free to explore the reality that is out there. Darwinism is strangling science because of its conservative thought process based on what Darwin said, as you say in the steam boat era, and wants to fit reality into that Darwinist box. That must be stopped in order for science to move forward. Einstein had no regard for crusading atheists and Darwinism and the likes of Richard Dawkins have become exactly that. They are trying and even demanding that science itself becomes such a crusading atheist paradigm. Based on the scientific information we have today, there is no room for atheism in the 21st century. Only agonistics can exist within the rationality of science. If you want to be an atheist, it cannot be claimed to be within science; it can only be a personal belief system, just like that of theism.

  39. Michael Herbst Says:

    Siva,

    First, thanks for reading the comments that I made (Michael Herbst posted on Apr 8th) in response to Dr. Shermer’s review of Eben Alexander’s NDE experience. Second, thanks for the courteous and thoughtful reply to the content of those comments. Too often it seems people are more caught up with defending positions rather than seeking the truth.

    Dr. Shermer’s nonobjective review of Eben Alexander’s NDE is just one example of what I’m talking about when I say it seems people are more caught up with defending positions than seeking the truth. For whatever reason it’s more important to Shermer to maintain the stance of a skeptic than to look at Eben’s experience with an open mind. If he had, he’d know the facts establish a phenomenon that doesn’t fit in a Newtonian box.

    Shermer’s approach is to cast Dr. Alexander as something of a dilettante in the ways and means of science, which he then uses as a platform for discounting the NDE story. But this is contrary to Alexander’s own account. In “Proof of Heaven” Dr. Alexander repeatedly emphasizes his decades of advanced education in the sciences and medical training qualify him as a consummate scientist. In fact, this is the primary reason for dedicating so much time and energy to communicating his NDE experience to the scientific community as a whole. His NDE is at odds with what he knows to be scientifically true about nature. In fact, he openly admits that if this had happened to one of his patients he would have construed it to be little more than an artifact of an ill and malfunctioning neural mass. He, the consummate scientist, is convinced of the validity by his training.

    In regard to the NDE phenomenon, so as to expose the bias operating in Dr. Shermer’s “skepticism” I suggest that if Dr. Alexander’s case isn’t convincing enough he should look to the case of Pam Reynolds as reported by Dr. Michael Sabom in “Light and Death.” Pam Reynolds was a young woman from Atlanta, Georgia who was diagnosed with a basilar artery aneurysm in the early 1990s. This was basically a death sentence waiting to be carried out, that was unless the doctors could successfully perform a radical surgical procedure called Deep Hypothermic Cardiac Arrest to repair the problem. A Wikipedia entry on DHCA states that “the [DHCA] procedure requires keeping the patient in a state of hibernation at 12 – 18 degrees Celsius with no breathing, heartbeat, or brain activity for up to one hour. Blood is drained from the body to eliminate blood pressure. The patient is considered clinically dead during the operation.”

    This was the condition of Pam’s body during the operation. Even so, she still had an NDE with an objective component that could be scientifically verified. She described the type of equipment used and its sounds, the placement of medical staff in the operating room, and even gave particulars on certain comments made by certain specific members of the surgical team. Her report was from a perspective that was outside of her lifeless body. Moreover, all this went on while the equipment monitoring for her brain activity was flat-lined. Even activity in the brainstem was at zero. Moreover, her sensory inputs were also occluded in one way or another, i.e. her eyes had been salved and taped shut, small microphones had been inserted into her ears to aid with monitoring vital signs, her body covered in surgical drapes, etc.

    What few people seem to understand about this operation is that in a way it was a highly sophisticated, clinically controlled descent into death. In Dr. Shermer’s review of Eben Alexander’s NDE he states “In any case, there is a reason they are called near-death experiences: the people who have them are not actually dead.” Yet in Pam Reynolds case this is a person who actually was dead. By any clinical measure, this woman was little more than a cadaver on ice. Yet, Pam had an NDE in this lifeless condition.

    So at what point do the skeptics say that the evidence meets the burden of proof so as to be convincing? Is the Pam Reynolds case enough? If not, is there any degree of evidence that will meet the burden of proof?

    This same kind of dogmatic nonsense is going on with regard to Origins of Life Research, or shall we just call it OLR for short. The question of whether life was engineered or spontaneously emerged was answered long ago. The first of the last shorts was fired with the findings of Watson and Crick, and the final shots were fired with the findings of Nirenberg, Kohrana, and Holley. The fact that a code script, a.k.a. language, has been found at the core of life shows unequivocally that life is the product of a sophisticated dynamic in the form of a Turing-type machine, not some crude form of cobbling. After all, if strands of DNA are abstractly construed to be little more than tapes of symbols, which is exactly what they are, then the most likely candidate which manipulated the symbols was some form of program being run by a Turing-type machine. In short, life is the result of a computational dynamic operating on the physical environment. Nothing is obscure here. This is a textbook case of a basic Turing-type mechanism.

    Yet, even in light of this convincing evidence there are those who still think the better explanation is life somehow bootstrapped itself into existence via some unknown process of self-organization. However, a detailed study of complex aperiodic structure reveals that inherent to such forms of structure is a certain minimum level of design precision which simply cannot be compensated for with crude ways and means. Only a dynamic bearing highly sophisticated selection algorithms can serve as a sufficient cause for the levels of precision found in complex aperiodic types of structure.

    Yet, in light of this extra evidence, there are those who will continue to think that the better explanation to life is life somehow bootstrapped itself into existence via some yet unknown process of self-organization.

    Again, at what point do the skeptics say the evidence meets the burden of proof so as to be convincing? Is language at the core of life and the results of a detailed analysis of complex aperiodic structure enough to be convincing? If not, is there any degree of evidence that will be sufficient to satisfy the burden of proof?

    Actually, we are at a transition point in the history of science. For the longest time Newtonian physics was all that was necessary to explain the bulk of phenomena which surround us. So the Newtonian paradigm became the default worldview because of this success. Darwin tried to take a crack at explaining how life came to be in the Newtonian worldview. However, nothing in the Newtonian worldview can account for a wetter twin of Mars being terra-formed by a nanotechnologically-based programmable factory (cells), so as to produce the paradise we call home (Earth). And nothing in Newton’s model can account for the NDE phenomenon. What’s lacking is a new framework in which to view these things. That’s what science is now searching for—that new worldview in which to make sense of things which make no sense in the old view.

    Amazingly this new worldview was provided through the twentieth-century ideas of Turing, Wiener, Shannon, and von Neumann, and via the empirical results of Watson and Crick, and Nirenberg, Kohrana, and Holley. Any description of nature is incomplete apart from a layer of information. Nature can only be interpreted in terms of matter, energy, and information. The connection scientist apparently haven’t made yet is that information isn’t stand-alone, but requires a computational context in order to have any meaning.

    Herein is the new worldview: complex structure and activity wasn’t born yesterday; in fact, computational and control dynamics are as intrinsic to the fabric of nature as matter and energy. Nature is part hardware, part software, just as man is part hardware, part software. In this view do we find not only an answer for the NDE phenomenon, but also for the emergence of life. The theory of evolution, given what we now know about the mechanistic foundations of life, is really a debate on how the programmable goo-ware (i.e. cells) on which life is based can generate diversity. Did the original factories hold all the programming necessary to produce diversity over time, or has the programming been modified occasionally by another program?

    Anyway, Siva, hope you get to read this. Moreover, I hope the read is interesting. It’s time for science to follow the trail of breadcrumb facts to where they’re leading. The Newtonian dogmatists are holding back our evolution in thinking.

  40. Fred central PA Says:

    Man is arrogant and so desperate not to die that he will do anything to live forever. Man’s answer, of course, was to create god, which then enables god to create the afterlife that man so desperately needs. When we study the gods that man has created through the years, we see that those gods just happened to the needs of that moment. As man’s knowledge has increased, so has the technological capabilities of his god. WE keep destroying or denying the gods that could no longer serve our needs and creating new gods with the capabilities that we desire. There was a baby crawling through her yard and came upon a rattlesnake, which bit her. She dies a horrific death over a period of days. Of course, since god is all knowing and all seeing, he saw this event. But contrary to what we demand of our god–that he be all loving and all merciful–he did not save this baby. Which proves beyond any doubt that either god does not exist or he is not all loving and all merciful. Our mind creates whatever it needs, including gods.

  41. Randy Grein Says:

    Siva,
    You are misunderstanding quantum theory and taking hyperbolic statements by scientists to be literal. I might suggest a little study would resolve these misunderstandings; it’s not that hard.

    The ‘observation’ effect was developed by Heisenberg and codified by the principal that bears his name: it is not possible to know two fundamental properties of an object (for example, both velocity and position) beyond a certain limit. The reason is simple: observation is active, not passive. To observe we must use something (light, electron beam, etc) to bounce off the object to be observed. Only then can we detect it. But all particles in motion (including light quanta) have a wavelength that limits the accuracy of measurement; to improve accuracy we need higher energy (shorter wavelength) particles. Hit the target with a high energy particle and you know where it was – but the result is it went somewhere, possibly very fast. We have no idea how fast or what direction it was going.

    See, no appeal to ‘mind’ needed, just the simple mechanics of particles at a really tiny scale.

    As for Michael’s ‘atheism’, why does it matter? Belief does not affect the world in any way we have been able to detect. Michael, like any good scientist allows that all conclusions are provisional on submission of compelling countervailing evidence. I consider myself an atheist and have since solving the ‘special case’ conundrum of ‘faith pleading’; I realized that there is no evidence of gods, demons, angels or ‘spirit’ and it would be silly to behave as though they might exist anyway. If, at some future point we find that evidence I will happily admit to error and change, the same way I was happy to accept the evidence of tectonic plate movement in the 70′s. I don’t need provisional acceptance withheld over the wild improbability of being wrong, just the honesty to admit error.

  42. Siva Ratnam Says:

    Thank you for the post. It was very well argued. I agree with what you say. The point is that Darwinists are unwilling to think of human consciousness as having an existence after-death. I think their fear is that such a scientific speculation will give religion, mainly the creationists, validity in terms of science. So what? Is science going to tow that line, never; science will investigate consciousness only from the viewpoint of science. The same is true of any science that speculates that creation could be a purpose driven, Intelligent Design. This is not in terms religion, but whether (for whatever reason and through whatever process) what came out of the Big-Bang was like a software program and it simply unfolded, according to a design. Darwinists panic when such theories are brought in, just as they panicked when James Lovelock came up with his Gaya theory of earth being like a self-organizing, collective living-organism. They panic regarding such theories, no matter how much scientific validity such theories have for further investigation, because they again feel that such science will give creationists validity. This is why Darwinism has become a big stumbling block for scientific progress. They should not worry about religion and creationists and concentrate on whatever science reveals.

  43. Siva Ratnam Says:

    To Randy Grein:

    Thanks for that information. You seem to be well versed in the technological aspects of science. Yes, I did apply the quantum phenomena to mind related observations also, but you will agree that the mind related observations may (also) not be the true reality. The philosophical quest for the real “I” too is an unknown. May be that too is a quantum related phenomena. That is how I saw it, thinking that may be the answer to what reality is, lies in finding out what this “observer” within a human being is. As a scientific minded person, you may not agree with me, but I wonder whether you will agree that the “I” within us, the self-aware individuality of us, is indeed a wonder and a puzzle as to what its real nature is.

    I found this article in BBC science very interesting and related to the discussion on NDE. As the article says any form of energy cannot be created or destroyed. Similarly consciousness, if that too has an independent energy like form, must have always been there, it exists also within human beings and does not get destroyed or become extinct when humans die.

    I hope the link works.

    From BBC:

    Does Death Exist? New Theory Says ‘No’

    http://www.robertlanza.com/does-death-exist-new-theory-says-no-2/

    Quote:

    Many of us fear death. We believe in death because we have been told we will die. We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.

    One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the “many-worlds” interpretation, states that each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe (the ‘multiverse’). A new scientific theory – called biocentrism – refines these ideas. There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling – the ‘Who am I?’- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?

    Consider an experiment that was recently published in the journal Science showing that scientists could retroactively change something that had happened in the past. Particles had to decide how to behave when they hit a beam splitter. Later on, the experimenter could turn a second switch on or off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle did in the past. Regardless of the choice you, the observer, make, it is you who will experience the outcomes that will result. The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen. Whether you turn the second beam splitter on or off, it’s still the same battery or agent responsible for the projection.

    According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air – if you take everything away, what’s left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. You can’t see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.

    Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, “Now Besso” (an old friend) “has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us…know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Immortality doesn’t mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.

  44. Siva Ratnam Says:

    To Fred central PA:

    According to the information I have, science is now almost sure that religion was hard and soft wired into the human psyche by evolution. Humans added the details and dogmas, but that belief in God, after-life, etc was a gift or design from evolution. Science today is wondering why evolution did that. To me the answer is simple, to give solace, hope and something to hold on to in times crises, but of course for those he need it. It seems that majority of humans need such support. Even if it is a delusion, as Freud saw it, it seems to be a necessary illusion for weak humans.

    Regarding God not helping even the innocent children who die horrific deaths, I am satisfied with the theology of the religion I was born into, Hinduism, which says that past (through many lives) and present Karma (actions-both mental and physical) is the cause. I am skeptical about religion itself, but I find this explanation acceptable. It is like a scientific law. Even Newton’s law says “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. If rebirth is real, then Karma seems to be the mechanism through which the birth-death-birth cycle occurs and that is how the next birth of a soul is decided. Creation itself, if the new scientific theory of the Big-Bang repeating itself over and over and the universe coming and going over and over, is true, then it may also be due to the fact that souls or whatever have to be reborn, being driven by their Karma. Anyway all that is religious stuff, but to me the Karma theory is satisfactory to explain why innocent children also die horrific deaths. God has nothing to do with it.

  45. Ainsley Beckwith Says:

    I suppose it will take a NDE of his own to bring Michael Shermer to a belief other than the one he currently espouses.

    It seems Michael has many followers who enthusiastically embrace his views on God and the “afterlife.” How unfortunate that Dr. Shermer does not use his keen intellect and elocution ability to convince people of God’s existence rather than the reverse.

    Conversely – and ironically – I suspect Dr. Shermer has “outgrown” the skeptical perspective on this particular subject (God, etc.) and must return to a mindset of years ago, before pride and proving intellectual prowess eclipsed unremarkable beliefs based on simple, childlike faith.

  46. Ian Oliver Martin Says:

    Heaven is MYTH! An UNREAL place! It beats REALITY! Heaven is Poetry, and God is a Red Rose or Blue Sea! Symbols! There is a neuroscience of imagery and psychological rebalancing. That is HEAVEN. A placebo feel good place! Who DOES NOT WANT TO GO THERE! It is a wonderful place!

    A fragment of Robert Frost: “Yet knowing how way leads on to way,I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence…”

    But analytically of course, death and heaven are only emotionally charged words. A human system ceases to function period, no less so than a cat, a cow, or crow! Beware the Jabberwocky! There is a great need for silliness, and absurd thinking for so many of us! Heaven is a happy absurdity, alas! AND I WILL BE THERE! Halleluyah!

  47. Michael Bennett Says:

    Michael Shermer’s comment are irrelevant to what occurred. He has an opinion. I knew what his opinion was before he made the statement.

  48. Alex Says:

    It seems these skeptics always miss the point regarding NDEs. First, it is not the fact that Alexander had these so-called hallucinations–it is the QUALITY of those visions. If you read the book, Alexander describes not just “visions” but a profound expansion of his senses and consciousness far beyond what hallucinations can produce. So profound that he had difficulty conveying these experiences when he returned to consciousness. How could ANY brain produce such things, much less a brain no desperately compromised?

  49. doug Says:

    speaking of dreaming (#8. sheridan44), my wife and our son had simultaneous dreams that i would call parallel, for lack of a better word. my wife dreamt she was in the garden burying a body and a hand kept surfacing and when she looked up at our house, our son was at his bedroom window watching her. our son dreamt that he was at the window watching my wife struggle to bury the hand. there is no body in the garden, i can assure you. all this just to say that the brain can be active and communicate through various dimensions about which we know very little.

  50. Mike Says:

    Delirium, which ER physician Dr. Potter said she saw in Dr. Alexander when he was weaned from anesthetic coma, is consciousness disruption and dysfunction from acute physiological stress. Dysfunction is consistent with Dr. Alexander’s claim that his cerebral cortex was non-functioning for the purposes of the sort of lucid, clear, and sequential consciousness experience he had. “Shut down” is at worst hyperbole, and at best, layman’s terminology describing the effect of the dysfunction and concomitant organic coma state.

    Also I noticed that you did not explain post-anesthesia psychosis as a probable separate brain-body motivator of the appearance of delirium that is chemically induced as a side-effect. It may as well have been robotic, whereas Alexander’s account of his experience was intelligently, lucidly recalled. And you don’t doubt his sincerity of subjective experience so far as I can tell.

    Neither does a chemically induced coma mutually exclude the organically induced coma effects. Chemicals could commandeer residual function in an otherwise organically comatose brain, particularly where midbrain activity is still present to manifest some well-grooved behavioral memory.

    Finally, if Dr. Potter commented so openly despite Dr. Alexander’s HIPAA rights, then presumably Dr. Alexander gave a waiver. I believe he would only have given such a waiver if he was in good faith that the entire medical record in context supported his book. Not only that, but if he did waive HIPAA, it suggests his claim to your cherry-picking is valid since you don’t seem to rely on the context of his medical record.

  51. Russell Says:

    What Alexander experienced could have been a hallucination, but it could also be real. You can’t really prove it either way. You certainly can’t disprove the existence of God, since you can’t prove a negative.

    I believe in God, but also believe we do a VERY poor job of leading the lives of love and tolerance that God wants us to live. Instead, it’s very often about judgement, forcing beliefs on people, trying to knock off others who don’t believe as you do, etc. In other words, it’s a sad state of affairs, but our multitude of problems doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist.

    But at least a believer has a chance of knowing, because they will go to heaven and will have the “I told you so” experience, but if the atheists are correct, then our existence will stop completely and immediately and NO ONE will be able to say “See, I told you there was no God.” :-)

  52. Joseph Says:

    I would like to add that the latest research on Magic Mushrooms have revealed that hallucinations happen by the shutting down of the brain. So he basicly had a free Mushrooms Trip. Damnit!

  53. Louwrens Says:

    So, from a scientific point of view, one way of giving more value to the truth of NDE accounts, is to determine if they were hallucinations or not. It seems that some observations made during NDE’s occurred during the time that the brain was ‘flat-lined’, and therefore reasonably unable to use the normal senses. They were reported by the observers, after waking up, before they could discover this in any other way. I have not finished reading Dr Alexander’s book, and don’t know if this happened to him. Examples are the reactions of family members to the ‘death’, reactions of medical personnel to the ‘death’, methods used to resuscitate, visitors present, and so on. Independent corroboration of these happenings with the account by the person who experienced NDE, would satisfy me more than descriptions of heavenly wonders. I know my brain is quite capable of wonderful hallucinatory experiences, especially after aneasthetic.

  54. Daren Says:

    Shermer is a shrink…he went to school for psychology. Of all of the quackery that exists, Psychology is (in my book) the number one.

    What a lonely life this fellow must lead. While majority have some belief and faith, this fellow tries to explain it, as if this particular shrink has all of the answers.

    Once you have understanding that you don’t have all of the answers and that we, as humans, at this point don’t have all of the information, it becomes more accurate to say that we don’t know. Not that it’s heaven or a hallucination, but that we don’t know. Rather than right or wrong, there simply is…

  55. Dedi Rapp Says:

    If Alexander’s book Proof of Heaven is a fraud, he will be judged harshly when the time comes. As for me, I know there is a Heaven and I choose to use the book to help people come to the same decision.

  56. David Koepke Says:

    Michael, it may be helpful to think of Eben Alexander’s description of his experience during his coma as that of a larger natural realm, rather than a “supernatural” one, which seems to be a bit of a disingenuous phrasing that automatically assumes that a larger world would be inaccessible. Alexander’s point is that it is there (or, here), and is accessible.