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Old 23rd November 2005, 07:40 PM   #1
Mercutio
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Life after Death (I hate this magazine)...

Ode Magazine's cover story this month is of the man who "proves the existence of a soul". In his paper on near-death experiences... http://odemagazine.com/article.php?aID=4207 ...
Quote:
When the The Lancet published his study of near-death experiences, Dutch cardiologist Pim van Lommel couldn’t have known it would make him into one of the world’s most-talked-about scientists. It seems everyone wants to know about the man who managed to get his study of this controversial topic published in one of the leading journals of medical research. Yet it’s not really surprising that its publication in 2001 created a stir. Never before had such a systematic study been conducted into the experiences of people who were declared dead and then came back to life. And never before have we seen such a clear illustration of how these people’s stories could affect our way of thinking about life and death.
The nice thing is, there is a place for readers to comment...and past experience suggests that they do not delete comments they do not agree with...
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Old 23rd November 2005, 07:56 PM   #2
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Ever read Passage by Connie Willis?

I suspect certain characters in it were based on this man.
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Old 23rd November 2005, 07:58 PM   #3
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"I became “detached” from the body and hovered within and around it. It was possible to see the surrounding bedroom and my body even though my eyes were closed. I was suddenly able to ‘think’ hundreds or thousands of times faster—and with greater clarity—than is humanly normal or possible. At this point I realized and accepted that I had died. It was time to move on."


Then why are all ghost like: My name is G... G... G... H... H... H...
and I have 2-3-4 children. I forgot everything that could prove my existence but I had a bad back and have a memory about horses. Maybe I liked them and maybe not...

"It was a feeling of total peace—completely without fear or pain, and didn’t involve any emotions at all."

Feeling of total peace without emotions.
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Old 23rd November 2005, 08:07 PM   #4
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"I saw a man who looked at me lovingly, but whom I did not know. At my mother’s deathbed, she confessed to me that I had been borne out of an extramarital relationship, my father being a Jewish man who had been deported and killed during the Second World War, and my mother showed me his picture. The unknown man that I had seen years before during my near-death experience turned out to be my biological father."

Now how about that. A mystery man and then a mystery father.
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Old 23rd November 2005, 08:07 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Melendwyr View Post
Ever read Passage by Connie Willis?

I suspect certain characters in it were based on this man.
I have not. Anything about this available online?

(Yes, I will be googling for it--my question is rhetorical, so that if such a thing is available, you can cite it here for any interested party....)

ETA: thanks for the lead...I would not have known to google it otherwise...
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Old 23rd November 2005, 08:40 PM   #6
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Amazon often makes it possible to read the first few pages of a book. Passage
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Old 24th November 2005, 05:05 PM   #7
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I googled for near-death experiences and got the same thing. Including this:

http://www.near-death.com/experiences/skeptic09.html

I'm just curious if the scientific community has any suggestions about near-death experiences other than "life after death". If they do, I'm it seems to be the last thing anyone's pointing to...
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Old 25th November 2005, 03:35 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by mercuryturrent View Post
I googled for near-death experiences and got the same thing. Including this:

http://www.near-death.com/experiences/skeptic09.html

I'm just curious if the scientific community has any suggestions about near-death experiences other than "life after death". If they do, I'm it seems to be the last thing anyone's pointing to...
There's no answer? Have we a better option than to consider life after death based on this evidence?

In my opinion, if "life after death" has no better explanation than the one offered, then we're going to have to consider it valid, or very important to investigate. I thought this was the JREF forum, not the half-assed skeptics board...
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Old 25th November 2005, 04:43 PM   #9
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HgTurrent, google for Susan Blackwood. She has looked at NDE's because of her own experience with OBE, if memory serves. Spent a great deal of time and effort investigating...and does not think it is life after death.
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Old 25th November 2005, 04:46 PM   #10
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Lawl. Teh liquied metal man h4s teh scienz0r notationz0r.

Quote:

In 1975, James Moody's ground-breaking book Life after Life collected the anecdotes of people who had come close to death and described the experience as comforting and transforming. Since then, the parapsychological, medical and scientific investigations of these near-death claims have become a small industry. This comprehensive report, by the author of The Adventures of a Parapsychologist and a fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, collates theories about near-death experience, challenges the reality of spiritual claims and surveys historical and cross-cultural attitudes toward death. Blackmore concludes that the neurological "Dying Brain Hypothesis" better explains the evidence than the more paranormal "Afterlife Hypothesis." This work is chiefly of interest to medical professionals; the mysteries of death remain.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/087...lance&n=283155

The mysteries of death remain? The mysteries of death remain? Huh? I thought these book summaries were supposed to be objective...

EDIT:

Quote:

YA-Well documented and well researched, this volume joins the growing number of titles about the near-death experience (NDE). Blakemore's stated purpose is "to explore what psychology, biology and medicine have to say about death and dying." She refers to the ground-breaking work of Raymond Moody, author of Life after Life (Bantam, 1988), and also examines the findings of many others who have studied the NDE. Numerous interviews with people who have almost died add interest to this study. The author's impartial treatment of diverse beliefs on the subject helps readers to see how scientific and spiritual points of view can coexist. There's much to think about here.
That last 'coexist' bit annoys me. Science and religion can coexist, no doubt. They are right now. What's to be debated, is if science SHOULD coexist with religion. Now I'm curious if Susan hypothesises if NDEs should be considered a compliment to religion. If she is, I think it's sheepishly fideist. Any impartial treatment of religion against science isn't playing fair. It's playing to the masses.

More EDITING:

From an independant viewer further down:
Quote:
...she discusses how the NDE experience exists as a consequence of the breakdown of the sense of self, and the brain tries desperately to reconstitute a comprehensible model of reality. From this, she concludes that the very idea of a priviledged sense of self is nothing but a construct of the brain.
Now that's interesting, and a line of thought certainly worth pursuing.

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Old 26th November 2005, 09:27 PM   #11
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This is intresting.

But from what Van Lommel has seen, near-death experiences are not at all limited to members of the “spiritual” community. They are just as prevalent among people who were extremely skeptical about the topic beforehand.

Exactly what has happened to me.
Before I was skeptical and now I know.
About dying, It doesn't scare me anymore I wish I would have had a little more time there.
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Old 26th November 2005, 10:06 PM   #12
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Me too.
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Old 28th November 2005, 10:24 AM   #13
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For my part, I've self-induced an OBE, or otherwise known in psychology as a psychotic break, as if one is watching onesself in a movie. Only once, not through drugs but self-scrutiny, it was an unpleasant experience, and I think I understand the phenomenon.

We don't see everything at once. We have, as part of our awareness, a mental picture of the immediate environment along with extremely short term memory. The first is an internal map of our surroundings to put sound in a direction and context, the latter is to establish a sequence of events in this environment.

The problem is all of this is otherwise served up indifferently; memories are tagged but not separated in how they are replayed. If a very short term memory gets tagged incorrectly as a long-term memory, it becomes deja-vu. Similarly, if a direct experience gets tagged as a related experience, one has the viewpoint outside one's body, the body image substituted for one's own perspective. In OBE and psychotic breaks, immediate experience is tagged as related experience, and one sees their own body, either on the table or going through other motions of life seemingly external to consciousness.

The first half of the Near-Death experience would seem to be similar, in that memory tagging breaks down before the player and the result is an artificial OBE, not a real one; one does not come back with any hidden information not in the mental picture of the immediate environment.

The second half, the tunnel, is the latter stages of brain shutdown, as first the retinas (total darkness) and then the optical cortex (sensation of light) are starved of oxygen.

The brain is apparently not a completely volatile memory system, as some people do have a memory of these experiences.
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Old 28th November 2005, 04:45 PM   #14
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Wink

Do it on purpose and there is no tunnel.
You have to control the fear to get there.
When your out you will know you're out.
Smiple as that.
Naked on earth is one thing, naked in spirit is another
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Old 28th November 2005, 06:10 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by mercuryturrent View Post
I'm just curious if the scientific community has any suggestions about near-death experiences other than "life after death".
Gee, like the fact that certain drugs which reduce the amount of oxygen going to the brain cause delusional hallucinations that are exactly like the ones reported by people having near-death experiences?
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Old 1st December 2005, 05:46 PM   #16
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I think there has even been discovered a particular área of the brain that emulates the "feeling" of being flying (thoroughly activated during dreams), or was it a substance?.

To provide some evidence.. damn I would like to have at hand my copy of the book "Mapping the Mind" from Rita Carter.. to direct you to the specific research and medical journals about it.. but I think for now the reference to that book will be enough...

See ya
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Old 1st December 2005, 06:04 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by tracer View Post
Gee, like the fact that certain drugs which reduce the amount of oxygen going to the brain cause delusional hallucinations that are exactly like the ones reported by people having near-death experiences?
I think you misread my post.

I was angry that nobody here decided to bring some skeptical knowledge to the thread. That this is a website founded to bring knowledge to hoaxy claims, and people were just letting the topic die without a fight, annoyed me.

Did you read my larger post below the one you quoted at all?
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Old 1st December 2005, 06:05 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by mercuryturrent View Post
I'm just curious if the scientific community has any suggestions about near-death experiences other than "life after death". If they do, I'm it seems to be the last thing anyone's pointing to...
Yep. Dr. James Whinnery at the Mike Moroney Aeronautical Center looked into this. The Center is one of those places they train fighter pilots (in this case the US Navy's) to withstand high G forces by putting them through those centrifuge tests. As it turned, pilots suffering blackouts (due to blood being pushed out of the brain) experienced, well, "near-death experiences" in roughly similar numbers (approx. 18%) to the folks at death's door, even though the pilots were not actually (anywhere remotely) near death. Dr. Whinnery put himself through the centrifuge a couple of times, and found he was able to induce "near-death experiences" in himself pretty much at will.

So what we're seeing here, essentially, is a purely neurological function. Under certain circumstances which the brain interprets as impending death, the brain creates (in approx. 18% of us) comforting hallucinations to make death as little traumatic as possible. "NDEs" are real enough, but because they can occur in people who aren't actually dying, it's evident that their occurrence has nothing to do with the existence of an afterlife or a deity.

"NDEs" are, essentially, dreams. Dreams themselves are real, but the events depicted in them are not.
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Old 1st December 2005, 07:48 PM   #19
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Quote:
Yep. Dr. James Whinnery at the Mike Moroney Aeronautical Center looked into this. The Center is one of those places they train fighter pilots (in this case the US Navy's) to withstand high G forces by putting them through those centrifuge tests. As it turned, pilots suffering blackouts (due to blood being pushed out of the brain) experienced, well, "near-death experiences" in roughly similar numbers (approx. 18%) to the folks at death's door, even though the pilots were not actually (anywhere remotely) near death. Dr. Whinnery put himself through the centrifuge a couple of times, and found he was able to induce "near-death experiences" in himself pretty much at will.
Yeah, I saw this about a year ago. I bought the Bullsh!t season 1 DVD, and they had a part on this guy, and some videos of the tests.

But the statement, "the brain creates (in approx. 18% of us) comforting hallucinations to make death as little traumatic as possible," doesn't seem right to me. How would the brain have the intelligence to do it? Do we actually know the brain is trying to comfort us? It seems more like a freak, evolutionary effect. I think saying NDE's are the brains way of sheilding us from death is a little teleological.

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Old 1st December 2005, 08:35 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by mercuryturrent View Post
But the statement, "the brain creates (in approx. 18% of us) comforting hallucinations to make death as little traumatic as possible," doesn't seem right to me. How would the brain have the intelligence to do it? Do we actually know the brain is trying to comfort us? It seems more like a freak, evolutionary effect. I think saying NDE's are the brains way of sheilding us from death is a little teleological.
I'm inclined to agree--since anybody in the process of dying is unlikely to be reproducing in the future, there's no evolutionary pressure to make you happy on the way out. Now, if NDEs in some way led to a greater likelihood of not dying, that'd be one thing. I'm not entirely sure how one would test that, since it's presumably difficult to check on how many people with NDEs actually died at the time, but perhaps something could be worked out.

But otherwise, it seems thoroughly random--something not important to reproduction, and thus not selected for, but which doesn't snuff you before you pass on your genes, and thus not selected against. Otherwise we're basically assuming that our happy little hindbrain is going "Well, troops, we're on the way out, pleasure workin' with you all, let's give the 'ol boy a last happy vision so he doesn't thrash around too much." And that's more consciousness than I want to assign to my brain. (Now THERE'S a phrase I never expected to utter...)
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Old 1st December 2005, 08:37 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Mercutio View Post
HgTurrent, google for Susan Blackwood. She has looked at NDE's because of her own experience with OBE, if memory serves. Spent a great deal of time and effort investigating...and does not think it is life after death.
I think you mention Susan Blackmore

Her site:
http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/
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Old 1st December 2005, 10:19 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by mercuryturrent View Post
I think saying NDE's are the brains way of sheilding us from death is a little teleological.
That's as maybe, and the precise nature of "NDEs" certainly merits further study, but the occurrence of "NDEs" in people who are not actually dying is strong evidence against the notion that "NDEs" constitute proof of an afterlife.
Originally Posted by UrsulaV View Post
Otherwise we're basically assuming that our happy little hindbrain is going "Well, troops, we're on the way out, pleasure workin' with you all, let's give the 'ol boy a last happy vision so he doesn't thrash around too much." And that's more consciousness than I want to assign to my brain.
I don't think it's assigning too much awareness to the brain; after all, according to this hypothesis, the brain can't tell the difference between actual impending death and certain physical stimuli which resemble impending death, e.g. high-G blackouts. It just responds to certain stimuli in a pre-programmed manner.

And I don't think the idea of "final curtain dementia" (as Penn referred to it) is so far-fetched, given the fact that we dream. And what's more, we still don't fully understand why we dream a lot of the stuff we do, or even why we dream at all. Which is another point: if "NDEs" are in fact dreams (which I think they are), it's entirely possible that everybody who undergoes the right type of stimuli has them, but that it's only about 18% of us who remember them upon regaining consciousness.
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Old 2nd December 2005, 06:54 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Euromutt View Post
I don't think it's assigning too much awareness to the brain; after all, according to this hypothesis, the brain can't tell the difference between actual impending death and certain physical stimuli which resemble impending death, e.g. high-G blackouts. It just responds to certain stimuli in a pre-programmed manner.
I think you may be misunderstanding my objection to the argument--I don't have any problem with the brain causing the NDE, that's infinitely more plausible than an afterlife. My problem is with the cutesy argument that it happens so that the brain can comfort us and shield us from the trauma of death.

Now, don't get me wrong, when I die, I'd just as soon not be present for the experience. Should my brain throw out an NDE, I'll bless that quivering grey lump with my final breath. But I can't see an evolutionary argument for why our brain would have this programmed experience specifically to be a comfort to us when we die, when a cheerful final second is unlikely to have any reproductive advantage.

NDE, not a problem. The anthropomorphizing our own dumb brains... I gotta question that.
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Old 2nd December 2005, 07:45 AM   #24
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Quote:
And I don't think the idea of "final curtain dementia" (as Penn referred to it) is so far-fetched, given the fact that we dream. And what's more, we still don't fully understand why we dream a lot of the stuff we do, or even why we dream at all. Which is another point: if "NDEs" are in fact dreams (which I think they are), it's entirely possible that everybody who undergoes the right type of stimuli has them, but that it's only about 18% of us who remember them upon regaining consciousness.
I don't want to hold anyone to my standards of argument here, but I'm pretty anal about claims without sufficient backing. Not saying you're wrong... but would you mind pointing to some sources that claim NDE's are dream-like in nature, and why we think so?

Outside of that, I'm going to regurgitate what little knowledge I have learned about dreams from college.

Now, they're not exclusive to REM, and I believe there are three stages to dreaming, one sort of transitional, and the two others: REM, and a more relaxed sleep. Dreams to happen during REM and the transitional period mostly. Rapid Eye Movement, as it implies, shows more grey goo gesticulation than normal. What happens during this period is that electrical pulses ignite in the brain from its base (I'd say the medulla, but I'm not entirely sure), and scatter throughout the brain, 'randomly' (again, I'm unsure how randomly, or according to what boundries this is limited too, but I distinctly remember the word 'randomly') activating memories. At this point another function of the brain attempts to take all of these randomly, disorganized thoughts that are being called up, and places them in a semi-logical context. This streaming of thought is your standard, unremembered dream. Scientists currently think that dreams are a sort of mental kidney- they help digest the information gained during wakefulness, and resolve moral conflicts.

There's holes in how versed I am, obviously. All this doesn't do too much in the direction of lucid dreaming. But if I may guess; lucid dreams are probably what you get when more parts of your brain begin to 'wake up', and you start working with higher brain functions than base electical pulses.

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Old 3rd December 2005, 03:33 PM   #25
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Let's take this from the top, mercuryturrent. Originally you wrote:
Originally Posted by mercuryturrent View Post
In my opinion, if "life after death" has no better explanation than the one offered, then we're going to have to consider it valid, or very important to investigate.
Now, whatever the validity (or lack thereof) of alternative hypotheses, I have pointed out that there is strong evidence the "life after death" explanation is invalid. (As an aside, I should note that I find it curious that you wrote the above passage given that you were already familiar with Dr. Whinnery's research.) Science does not require you to furnish a valid alternative hypothesis when disproving another. It's desirable, obviously, but not required. In science, when confronted with the question "why does phenomenon X occur?" it is perfectly acceptable to respond "we haven't figured out yet why it does, but we have eliminated a number of possibilities."

As far as "NDEs" go, the absence of an unassailable alternative hypothesis does not invalidate the evidence which actively contradicts the "life after death" hypothesis. (Or, more correctly, my inability to come up with an unassailable alternative hypothesis, but that may have something to do with the fact that I'm a history student and have no professional expertise in this area.) Saying "if there's no better explanation that 'life after death,' we have to accept that explanation as valid" is akin to the Creationist reasoning (and I use the term loosely) that if we can discredit evolutionary theory, we have to assume that the explanation that goddidit is valid.

Regarding the dream-like nature of NDEs (and I stress the "-like" there), I refer to the article "Return from the dead" by Joe Nickell in the Skeptical Briefs newsletter:
Quote:
Viewed scientifically, the out-of-body experiences are actually hallucinations that can occur under anesthesia when one is nowhere near death, as well as when one is falling asleep, or even just relaxing or meditating, or that can be experienced in migraine and epilepsy. The tunnel-travel experience is again an hallucination, one attributed to the particular structure of the visual cortex, the visual-information-processing portion of the brain (Blackmore 1991), or to pupil widening due to oxygen deprivation (Woerlee 2004). And the life review results from the dying oxygen-starved brain stimulating cells in the temporal lobe and thus arousing memories.
And since you have the first season of P&T: BS! on DVD, you'll also be familiar with the segment with Cristoph Koch, the guy from CalTech with the Navajo vest and the German accent remarking that "every night I fly through space and talk to dead people, and I call it 'dreaming'." Certainly, there's a parallel to be seen between the two phonomena in that it involves stimulation of the temporal lobe.

Originally Posted by UrsulaV View Post
But I can't see an evolutionary argument for why our brain would have this programmed experience specifically to be a comfort to us when we die, when a cheerful final second is unlikely to have any reproductive advantage.
By the same token, I can't see any reproductive advantage in "NDEs" occurring at all, yet they do. So it seems to me that fixating on a rationale of reproductive advantage isn't especially productive in this context. In other words, you may want to consider the possibility that you're barking up the wrong tree.

(I might note as an aside that "evolutionary argument" and "reproductive advantage" aren't synonymous. We can come up with an evolutionary argument why our body contains a vermiform appendix--namely that it's the vestigial remnant of an organ our ancestors needed but which we no longer do--but at the same time, we gain zero reproductive advantage from retaining it; on the contrary, in fact, since it can be a major liability.)
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Old 3rd December 2005, 04:01 PM   #26
UrsulaV
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Originally Posted by Euromutt View Post
By the same token, I can't see any reproductive advantage in "NDEs" occurring at all, yet they do. So it seems to me that fixating on a rationale of reproductive advantage isn't especially productive in this context. In other words, you may want to consider the possibility that you're barking up the wrong tree.

(I might note as an aside that "evolutionary argument" and "reproductive advantage" aren't synonymous. We can come up with an evolutionary argument why our body contains a vermiform appendix--namely that it's the vestigial remnant of an organ our ancestors needed but which we no longer do--but at the same time, we gain zero reproductive advantage from retaining it; on the contrary, in fact, since it can be a major liability.)
Aha! Yes, BUT--nobody ever tries to claim that the appendix is there specifically to comfort us!

I am totally, utterly, and completely fine with NDEs being useless, but retained for any number of reasons--perhaps the trait that causes an NDE also causes some other random advantageous thing. Perhaps NDEs once were marginally helpful for some reason that was a reproductive advantage, and now isn't. Perhaps, like so many traits, these things just happen and don't have any reproductive DISadvantage that'll flush 'em from the system.

Once again, since people appear to be missing this, what I object stenuously to is the idea that the NDE is there specifically to comfort the dying. It A) assumes a purposeful evolution rather than one driven by random chance, and B) assigns a consciousness and sentimentality to my physiology that I find sort of dorky.

If anybody can come up with a convincing argument for why there is an evolutionary purpose to my last few seconds being spent happily, I'll gladly reassess that, but for now, my objection is to the statement above, quoted by mercuryturrent that "the brain creates (in approx. 18% of us) comforting hallucinations to make death as little traumatic as possible". This is making some very significant assumptions about the brain's motivations that I just plain don't think are warranted.

Last edited by UrsulaV; 3rd December 2005 at 04:29 PM.
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Old 3rd December 2005, 04:10 PM   #27
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Attention Euromutt: Please Read This Entire Reply I Am Writing In Caps Lock For You.

You Have Misunderstood Me. I Do Not Believe In Anything Paranormal. You Are Arguing An Opinion I Do Not Hold.

My Original Post In This Thread, Post #8, Was To Spur Skeptics To Reply Skeptically In This Thread, Something That Was Not Done Before I Said Something. If You Read That Post Carefully, All I Stated Was That "if" Science Didn't Have An Explanation Yadayada.

I Was Challenging The Forum Because I Was Annoyed That Nobody Here Was Not Refuting Nde's In This Thread.

The Reason This Post Was In Caps Lock Is Because This Entire Post Is Simply Trying To Restate What I Already Said In Reply #17. Maybe The Words In That Post Were Not Big Enough?

EDIT: LOL. I typed this whole post in caps lock, and the forum formated it so only the first word was capitalized. That's probably even more annoying to read.
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Old 4th December 2005, 04:13 AM   #28
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Attention Mercuryturrent, Get This Through Your Skull: This Is An Internet Discussion Forum. Nobody Owes You An Explanation Within Twenty-Four Hours, Or Indeed At All, If For No Other Reason That Some Of Us Have Jobs To Go To Or Classes To Attend, And Don't Have Time To Monitor This Forum Every Waking Moment To Satisfy Your Every Whim.

Moreover, it might have occurred to you, if you weren't so damn wrapped up in your own self-importance, that most regulars on this forum might already be familiar with the material produced by Blackmore, Whinnery, etc. indicating that "NDEs" do not only occur in situations in which death is imminent and therefore do not constitute evidence of the existence of an afterlife, and might not underestimate their fellow posters' intelligence by assuming that they (the other posters) are also familiar with this material. This topic, in the broader sense of "NDEs" in general, is likely to have been gone over one or more times already on this forum, and it's more than a little arrogant of you to assume that it has not.

I am operating on the assumption that you are capable of understanding polysyllabics, and are thus capable of understanding the above. If not, you're going to have find someone else to explain it to you in words of one syllable each, because I can't be arsed.
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Old 4th December 2005, 05:02 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by UrsulaV View Post
Once again, since people appear to be missing this, what I object stenuously to is the idea that the NDE is there specifically to comfort the dying. It A) assumes a purposeful evolution rather than one driven by random chance, and B) assigns a consciousness and sentimentality to my physiology that I find sort of dorky.
And I reiterate, "since people appear to be missing this," that your argument that there is no evolutionary purpose to "NDEs" functioning as a "final curtain dementia" is based on a premise according to which there is no rationale for "NDEs" occurring in the first place. However, the fact is that "NDEs" occur, and thus it is futile to argue that they shouldn't merely because there is no evolutionary purpose for their existence.

I'm not married to the "final curtain dementia" hypothesis, but at present, it fits the existing realities. If you can come up with a better rationale why "NDEs" occur, and why they take the form they do, I'd love to hear it. It would be good if you could strip it of terms wshich sound clever but fail to hold up. For instance, "anthropomorphize" means "to assign human attributes to"; and I just don't see the problem in attributing human characteristics to the human brain/consciousness.

Oh, just one more thing: if you think evolution is driven by random chance (I refer to your point A), you evidently don't quite understand evolutionary theory. Mutations occur at random, but natural selection occurs when one of those random mutations proves to be better suited to its environment than its competitors. And there's nothing random about that. There are other people on this board who can explain it better than I can.
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Old 4th December 2005, 07:52 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Euromutt View Post
And I reiterate, "since people appear to be missing this," that your argument that there is no evolutionary purpose to "NDEs" functioning as a "final curtain dementia" is based on a premise according to which there is no rationale for "NDEs" occurring in the first place. However, the fact is that "NDEs" occur, and thus it is futile to argue that they shouldn't merely because there is no evolutionary purpose for their existence.
*clutch head*

I am not arguing that they shouldn't happen. For god's sake, obviously they DO happen. I am arguing solely and completely against the sentimental notion that the reason they happen is specifically to provide aid and comfort to the dying.

Let's try this. Do YOU think that the purpose of NDE is to comfort the dying brain?

At no point, anywhere, did I say that stuff doesn't evolve if there isn't a reason for it. Like the appendix, plenty of stuff shows up and stays solely because there's no pressing reason to get rid of it. I am FINE with the NDE having no positive evolutionary benefit and being there anyway because Stuff Just Happens. (God! How many times do I have to say this?!) I do not, at any point, argue that NDE's shouldn't exist. They exist!

My argument, once again, for the nth time, is that, whatever reason they exist for, even if it's no reason at all and they've just never been swept out of our gene pool, I can see no rational argument that the REASON for an NDE is to COMFORT THE DYING.

That's my entire argument. Right there. I am not arguing that they shouldn't exist, I'm not arguing that everything that evolves has to have a function, I am not arguing a whole lot of stuff that you seem to think I'm arguing. The ONLY THING I am arguing is that I don't think "comforting the dying" is a valid reason for why NDE's exist.

If you wish to argue with that point, please, feel free. Any other points you're arguing with, at least with me, are all in your head.

Last edited by UrsulaV; 4th December 2005 at 07:59 AM.
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Old 4th December 2005, 07:55 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Euromutt View Post
And I reiterate, "since people appear to be missing this," that your argument that there is no evolutionary purpose to "NDEs" functioning as a "final curtain dementia" is based on a premise according to which there is no rationale for "NDEs" occurring in the first place. However, the fact is that "NDEs" occur, and thus it is futile to argue that they shouldn't merely because there is no evolutionary purpose for their existence.

I'm not married to the "final curtain dementia" hypothesis, but at present, it fits the existing realities. If you can come up with a better rationale why "NDEs" occur, and why they take the form they do, I'd love to hear it. It would be good if you could strip it of terms wshich sound clever but fail to hold up. For instance, "anthropomorphize" means "to assign human attributes to"; and I just don't see the problem in attributing human characteristics to the human brain/consciousness.

Oh, just one more thing: if you think evolution is driven by random chance (I refer to your point A), you evidently don't quite understand evolutionary theory. Mutations occur at random, but natural selection occurs when one of those random mutations proves to be better suited to its environment than its competitors. And there's nothing random about that. There are other people on this board who can explain it better than I can.
Driven by random chance is correct. Calling it random chance is not.

NDE's are nothing more than last gasp of the brain following its own mechanics. Think of what is happening; generally, one undergoes stressful dreams if one is currently in a state of anxiety, or a state of duress. If one is not, why shouldn't the dreams be pleasant? Free association is one state of the unconscious mind, and I've seen it in people who were very much not dead. If there is no sensation from the body, there is no movement of the body, and one is under the influence of anaesthesia, why shouldn't the hallucinations be equally as peaceful? Similarly for cold-induced NDE: the numbness and loss of feeling is similar in this regard; I wouldn't wonder that those who were suffering rather painful emergency procedures, say from a knife or gunshot wound, depicted a different NDE than those on an operating table.

The loss of consciousness is normal; it happens every evening. The hypnogogic hallucinations or dream-state are also normal. The circumstances are lack of sensation; why shouldn't they be pleasant?

Now how is this even remotely not explainable through normal mechanisms? The old "extraordinary claims" business and all.
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Old 4th December 2005, 08:41 AM   #32
UrsulaV
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Originally Posted by Euromutt View Post
It would be good if you could strip it of terms wshich sound clever but fail to hold up. For instance, "anthropomorphize" means "to assign human attributes to"; and I just don't see the problem in attributing human characteristics to the human brain/consciousness.
To address this point seperately, I see all kinds of problems with assigning human characteristics to chunks of the brain not under voluntary control!

Now, can you anthropomorphize the brain?

Let's start with an easy one. Humans have hands. My brain does not. If I drew my brain, sporting little hands--or a mohawk, or sunglasses, or a fez--I would have anthrompomorphized my brain. I would have applied human traits to the brain that the quivering lump 'o grey matter does not, in fact, possess. Anthropomorphizing the brain is no different from anthropomorphizing a rock or a toaster--shove Groucho glasses and a fez on it, and you're halfway there.

So, obviously it's possible to anthropomorphize the brain. Or the spleen, or my left foot, or any other specific part of the human body for that matter, by applying characteristics that humans have, which that specific part of my anatomy doesn't. If I portray my spleen with a cowboy hat and spurs, ridin' the range and punchin' cow spleens, I have anthromorphized my spleen. (And probably made other people doubt my sanity, but it happens.) My dentist has a poster of a giant talking tooth plastered across his waiting room wall. Anthropomorphism of body parts occur all the time.

Now, as for the more specific, what you seem to be getting at is whether or not assigning an emotional motivation to parts of my brain is anthropomorphism. And I say that to assign an emotional motivation to some brain functions is to anthropomorphize them. If I undergo sleep paralysis, and say "My brain hates me," I am anthropomorphizing the cause of my sleep paralysis. It's highly unlikely that the part of my brain responsible for the sleep paralysis has any emotional stake in the matter whatsoever. I'd question whether it could even be called conscious. It's not doing it to punish me, it is not laughing maniacal brain-laughter in the muffled nether regions of my skull, my sleep-paralysis is just plain happening. To assign meaning or emotional motivation to this random neurological happening would be to anthropomorphize my brain, and assume an emotion and consciousness where none are likely present.

Likewise, the pituitary gland regulates growth hormones. If kids grow really fast, they outgrow their clothes. Their parents (assuming that they have a basic knowledge of brain chemistry) may lament that the pituitary is overactive just to spite them. This assigns emotion and an awareness of the situation to the pituitary that it almost certainly doesn't have. The pituitary gland is being anthropomorphized.

Finally, NDEs. Neurological happening caused by some part of the brain. But I think it's gross anthropomorphism to claim that the part of the brain causing it is doing so to be nice and comfort the dying. To claim so assigns an emotional intelligence and comprehension of the situation to a part of the brain that has not been shown to my satisfaction to possess either.

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Old 4th December 2005, 08:49 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Euromutt View Post
Attention Mercuryturrent, Get This Through Your Skull: This Is An Internet Discussion Forum. Nobody Owes You An Explanation Within Twenty-Four Hours, Or Indeed At All, If For No Other Reason That Some Of Us Have Jobs To Go To Or Classes To Attend, And Don't Have Time To Monitor This Forum Every Waking Moment To Satisfy Your Every Whim.

Moreover, it might have occurred to you, if you weren't so damn wrapped up in your own self-importance, that most regulars on this forum might already be familiar with the material produced by Blackmore, Whinnery, etc. indicating that "NDEs" do not only occur in situations in which death is imminent and therefore do not constitute evidence of the existence of an afterlife, and might not underestimate their fellow posters' intelligence by assuming that they (the other posters) are also familiar with this material. This topic, in the broader sense of "NDEs" in general, is likely to have been gone over one or more times already on this forum, and it's more than a little arrogant of you to assume that it has not.

I am operating on the assumption that you are capable of understanding polysyllabics, and are thus capable of understanding the above. If not, you're going to have find someone else to explain it to you in words of one syllable each, because I can't be arsed.
I wasn't asking people to explain anything to me. I was trying to get a skeptical opinion into this thread. I didn't need an explanation, but this forum and website are here to provide information to people curious. The topic came up, and many people here seemed willing to let it stew. It doesn't matter how many times it came up in the past. Every one of these topics probably came up in the past. Look at the Big Foot ones. You'd have to be an idiot to think they weren't around before. Who cares? We're skeptics. This is a skeptic forum, dedicated to informing people.

Anyway, it looks like what I did worked, except for one drawback. I had one moron convinced that I believed in NDEs, who even after I explained myself, continued to misunderstand.

It took a direct attack on your ego to get you to realize I didn't need any explanation. And now, you're talking smack! I'm starting to think I should have just ignored you, and replied only to attentitive people.

And it seems you must not have fully read the message, because you made the same caps lock mistake I had, which I talked about in the end of the message.

Polysyllabics? Understanding what someone is saying? I'm having trouble understanding someone else? Can you provide evidence that I have overlooked one of your posts? Can you prove to me I'm the one who needed a post in caps-lock in order to figure out I was arguing needlessly? And now as I read other people's replys to you, it looks again that you continue to misunderstand them. Why is that? Do you read their full message? Are you more interested in just arguing with someone? If I might guess, I'd say you're lazy, don't read and/or comprehend, then flustered easily.

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