Differing explanations of NDE's

Discussion in 'Critical Discussions Among Proponents and Skeptics' started by David Bailey, Dec 17, 2015.

  1. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    A discussion about the nature of NDE's got started in another thread, so I would like to move it here.
    Do I take from the above that you think the category of experience known as an NDE, is nothing but an arbitrarily chosen subset of the mental events that take place in medical emergencies?

    Why not widen the subject then, and discuss the other mental events from which you think NDE reports are cherry picked.

    Surely most (maybe not all) NDE events take place when the heart is not beating, so that at least provides a non-arbitrary basis for the definition.

    David
     
  2. fls

    fls Member

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    People have a variety of imagery experiences (IE) when they are near death. And the IE which happen to be in the Greyson NDE scale (as well as a variety of other imagery experiences) are had by people who are not near death. The Greyson NDE scale does not describe a set of experiences which are distinct from any other IE. Instead it is a tool to select a subset of those experiences post hoc, on the basis of content.

    A non-arbitrary way to distinguish these experiences based on something other than "the fantastical realm which was visited could be "heaven" rather than "Italy"" would be useful. If you confine it to people who are near death, then you ignore the many experiences with the Greyson NDE elements which were not associated with death (some of which are the most prominent NDEs, such as Pam Reynold's). And if you make it about experiences which are had near death, then why ignore the bulk of the imagery experiences which are had near death just because they are more obviously hallucinatory?

    Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there aren't experiences which are distinct from what are more generally dismissed as hallucinatory imagery experiences. It may be that there are. But how we going about finding those experiences and looking at them will affect what we can learn from them. If you select experiences post hoc on the basis of content, then you are no longer able to learn much from the content of those experiences, for example. That is, if you confine it to people who visit "heaven", rather than "Italy", then you learn about human prejudices but not otherworldly realms.

    Or take the case of Pam Reynolds and the focus on "dead brain". In the rush to insist that these experiences happen when the brain cannot be working, people get into arguments about the timing of burst/suppression ratios. But what about the point that we all agree on - that she obviously had her experience while under anaesthesia? There are millions of people undergoing anaesthesia every day. If we want to learn something about these experiences, why aren't NDE researchers studying them under this far more accessible, far more controlled setting? Because the focus has been on disproving materialism, rather than on understanding conscious experience? There is plenty of experimentation looking at imagery experiences and anaesthesia which seems to be largely ignored by the NDE community.

    Linda
     
  3. Arouet

    Arouet Member

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    Let me switch it around: do you think this is something that is important to investigate as part of the study of NDEs?
     
  4. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    What thread was that?
     
  5. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Thanks for that exposition of your own view, which might differ less from the mainstream view here than you seem to think.

    I agree that people undergo a whole variety of experiences, and one point in particular, is that as I understand it, people often emerge from anaesthesia in a delirious state, but very few remember this. This suggests to me that they may indeed have some sort of experiences while under anaesthesia that they rapidly forget as they recover. Indeed, the brain seems to have a process of rapid forgetting which you can experience every time you wake up - you want to remember a remarkable dream.....and then it is gone! Another possibly related observation,was the study that tried to record brain activation with fMRI while subjects were under the effect of psilocybin. As I am sure you remember, the strange result of that study was that all areas of the brain seemed pretty quiet, even though the participants reported extremely profound experiences. Though I am always a bit cautious about fMRI results after reading this:

    http://pps.sagepub.com/content/4/3/274.short?rss=1&ssource=mfc

    Perhaps you should describe some of the experimentation on conscious experiences under anesthesia, to which you refer.
    Well one possible way - which has lead to positive results - is to ask NDE and non-NDE patients to describe their resuscitation procedure. These descriptions were scored, and those who had reported NDE's gave much more accurate descriptions. That is where the discussion tends to lead back into how much awareness people could potentially have of this procedure. I am always struck by how little awareness one has of the details of what is going on while in the dentist's chair (fully conscious).

    I don't see any harm in extending a study to cover strange experiences more generally, but it is obvious why people would tend to focus on those that might disprove materialism - it is the same motivation that has driven science all along - you focus on the unusual and extreme!

    As I understand it, Pam Reynolds had part of her NDE while under anesthesia, and part while her brain was cooled and drained of blood - which presumably must make it non-functional. Does her procedure happen often - i.e. are there any others reporting NDE's after such surgery?

    David
     
  6. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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  7. fls

    fls Member

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    Random examples:
    http://search.proquest.com/openview/023375a47ca026f569ce8ebc81b239a3/1?pq-origsite=gscholar
    http://journals.lww.com/anesthesia-...urane_Anesthesia_Prevents_Unconscious.21.aspx
    http://bja.oxfordjournals.org/content/92/2/171.short
    http://journals.lww.com/anesthesia-...Dreams,_and_Hallucinations_Associated.10.aspx
    http://anesthesiology.pubs.asahq.org/article.aspx?articleid=1922745

    NDEers don't give more accurate descriptions. They are as inaccurate as everyone else. What you see is that, of people who have an autoscopic OBE element (regardless of whether it was an NDE), the imagery they report contains accurate elements. They also contain inaccurate elements, for that matter. And they are no more likely than NDEers and non-NDEers to accurately guess at elements of their resuscitation which weren't part of their imagery. For example, none of them have been able to accurately report on hidden targets or the unusual activities of some of the people in the room, when asked.

    If you want to select out autoscopic OBE experiences, from the pool of imagery experiences, that might be interesting.

    We only know the timing of her NDE with respect to elements which seem to correspond to specific events. None of those events occurred when her brain was cooled and drained of blood. It seems like we should expect a better yield if we start by looking at situations where we know an autoscopic OBE has been experienced.

    Linda
     
  8. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Linda,

    Thanks for the list of links, I am going to watch/read these before coming back. This may take a short while, because I am fairly busy right now. The question as to how much NDE's resemble other experiences is an interesting one, though I suspect we may come to different conclusions about what this means :)

    David
     
  9. fls

    fls Member

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    What you should be asking is, what is it that you are calling an NDE and why? You ask "how much NDEs resemble other experiences" but that presupposes that you can distinguish something called an NDE from other experiences in the first place. It wasn't until I read the transcripts of experiences which people had while undergoing medical crises from Sartori's book, combined with what hundreds of patients have told me over the years plus published research on imagery experiences under a wide variety of conditions, that I realized that this isn't as easy as NDE researchers make it out to be.

    Linda
     
  10. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I think my guess is that a lot of these experiences are basically glimpses of a non-material realm. Think of the DMT experiences, or of ketamine that is used both as a recreational drug, and in surgery. I think we are both open to the idea that there is some sort of continuum here, but how we interpret that probably differs!

    I guess part of my problem is that I don't think it is possible to produce physical explanations of conscious experience at all - all you ever end up with is a correlation. (This is why I am interested in pursuing the question of whether a computer program could be conscious, and if not, why not.) I think that is fundamental - the Hard Problem - and it means that there is never any way of saying that such and such an experience is simply produced by the brain - because we can only explain consciousness as a correlation. Even when we come to hallucinations - say someone sees an elephant in the room - I dare say that people misunderstand non-material influences very frequently - they experience something but try to explain it in words. Many people report exactly that about their own NDE's - they struggle to put the experience into words. So the elephant was may be a misinterpretation of something real, but non-material.

    I am sure that to you that sounds like non-scientific hogwash, but the problem is that there is a deep rooted assumption that there is a physical explanation for everything including experience - that the material word is closed - and I seriously doubt if that is true.

    David
     
  11. fls

    fls Member

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    That's fine, but a lot of experiences are excluded as "hallucinations" by NDE researchers. Why aren't they glimpses of a non-material realm, just because they don't fit with what we expect from a non-material realm? I worry that a lot may be missed by focussing solely on human prejudices about 'heaven'.

    Linda
     
  12. billw

    billw New

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    I would think that exclusion is simply researchers considering veridical aspects when trying to confirm that consciousness is functioning when the brain is not, rather than trying to characterize "glimpses of a non-material realm."

    I didn't read all the links you posted earlier, but in the last one (dreams under anesthesia) I did not recognize any of the typical NDE experience characteristics in the two types of dreams they recorded.

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
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  13. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    I had a look at your links (in some cases the abstracts only were available). They seemed to relate to learning while asleep (which could relate to the awareness shown in NDE patients (but see below). The last related to dreaming while under anaesthetic. Unfortunately the dreams did not seem to be very special - nothing like what people report under NDE's.

    As for learning under anaesthetic, I can't help thinking that learning specific things from headphones is rather different from learning enough from the sound of the resuscitation procedure to accurately describe the scene from above - as is common in NDE reports!

    The NDE reports seem to be vastly different from these reports - unless I missed something. I was rather disappointed :(

    David
     
  14. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    Linda,

    You brought up this whole issue of NDE's being cherry picked out of a larger body of phenomena under anaesthesia:
    http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...pularity-of-this-forum.2860/page-3#post-81503

    I'd be interested to hear exactly how that post fits with the evidence you have presented, which seems to show a huge gap between mental phenomena while under anaesthesia, and NDE reports.

    David
     
  15. fls

    fls Member

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    Again, you are putting the cart before the horse. Much of what gets identified as an NDE isn't special either. If you select out experiences which are "special", then you will exclude the bulk of what researchers identify as NDEs in prospective studies, and you will include experiences which NDE researchers dismiss as hallucinations. And you will have a set of experiences which mostly just reflects human prejudices about what can be regarded as "special".

    That is not at all common in NDE reports. However, as I mentioned before, one characteristic which could be used to select out a set of experiences a priori is to look at those experiences with an autoscopic element, which will include some experiences which are now called NDE and some experiences which are treated as hallucinatory.

    What you missed is that the NDE reports you regard as special and different from other reports were cherry-picked post hoc on the basis of their specialness and differentness. Were you to do the same from the pool of experiences people have while under anaesthesia, then you would also have a large collection of anaesthesia experiences which are special and different. I didn't specifically look for research where people had especially vivid dreams while under anaesthesia, but if you do so, then you find that you get a mixture of mundane, odd or special dreams, like the mixture of mundane, odd or special experiences which end up getting called NDEs.

    Linda
     
  16. fls

    fls Member

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    What huge gap? Have you read the imagery reports on 'NDEs' from prospective studies, such as Penny Sartori's? They also are pretty disappointing if what you are used to are the highly selected samples which tend to make it into the NDE community.

    Linda
     
  17. David Bailey

    David Bailey Administrator

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    So you have personally studied hundreds of patients who have had cardiac arrests? Did you keep some notes - can you say what proportion had an experience of some sort, and what proportion experienced at least some elements of an NDE?

    David
     
  18. SciFiFanatic101

    SciFiFanatic101 New

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    How do you deal with the radical life changes people have after an NDE as compared to anaesthesia. And to David, yes there have been mystical experiences lived by people post-anaesthesia. Phillip K. Dick took sodium penthotal during a tooth extraction and was sent home. He was feeling weird the whole day and at night was visited by some religious woman with a fish medallion around her throat, a symbol of the early Gnostic Christians. Seeing the fish medallion, Dick had a vision where his timeline and one where he had a life in the Roman Empire were occuring simultaneously. From this, he reasoned that the 1960's timeline was a holographic illusion perpetrated by an ancient extraterrestrial intelligence that he dubbed VALIS(Vast Active Living Intelligent System). This singular event prompted a writing period characterised by metaphysical speculations and an obsession with Christian Gnostic teachings, documented in his monumental Exegesis. Either that was a mystical revelation, or the man went nuts because of too much drugs.
     
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  19. fls

    fls Member

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    I have talked to patients about imagery experiences they have had during medical crises or associated with anaesthesia - not as research, but during the normal course of patient care. Which have experienced elements from the Greyson NDE scale? I would presume a similar portion as those found in prospective studies (I didn't keep notes specific to that). NDEs don't jump out at you as distinguishable from the wide pool of experiences.

    Linda
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2015
  20. fls

    fls Member

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    Again, you are putting the cart before the horse. The perception that NDE is associated with radical life changes is because NDEs with radical life changes have been selected post hoc. This selection process can be applied to any experiences and lead to similar results. If you want to confine yourself to "experiences which brought about a radical life change", then you will be excluding most of the experiences called "NDE" in prospective NDE studies and including many experiences which don't involve imagery or would otherwise be dismissed by NDE researchers.

    I don't have a problem with focussing on radical or transformative experiences. But this will take us even further away from NDE research as it stands.

    Linda
     

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