Sunday, January 25, 2015

Evidence against the "hallucination of the dying brain" hypothesis

Here. 

16 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

I know Winston Wu, the person who wrote the piece you shared a link to, "Evidence against the 'hallucination of the dying brain' hypothesis." Winston contacted me years ago since he is like me, someone who left the fold, but with a mutual interest in NDEs and OBEs. Please note that Winston also wrote...

My Christian Deconversion Story - Hailed by both Christians and non-Christians as, "touching and amazing". This is the story of how I went from a devout Christian fanatic to a disbeliever after a turbulent crisis which shook me toward a new awakening.

Debunking Christian Circular Arguments and Assumptions

My Response to Christian Missionaries -

My Anti-Evangelism Tract For Christians

New! Christianity's Irresolvable Problems, Circular Reasoning and Lack of Foundational Basis

New! Summary of Christian Circular Arguments and Assumptions Debunked
This is the short version of the major Debunking Christian Arguments treatise above.

New! Why Christianity is Tyrannical and Anti-Freedom

Edward T. Babinski said...

There's quite a number of pro-NDE folks who are not Christians but members of a variety of religions, or mystics, deists, pantheists, etc. The person who runs the Skeptico podcast has interviewed many of them and is himself pro-NDE and without specific religious affiliation.

Mormons share stories of their NDEs in a journal or newsletter, and one named Betty Eade wrote two bestsellers about her NDEs which included meeting a Mormon Jesus.

Papalinton said...

Winston Wu is a nutter. His SKEPCOP organisation is a front for purveyors of homeopathy and other things that go bump in the night. The 'Scientific' committee of SKEPCOP equally are paranormal and homeopathy nutters.

Quite astonishing that this OP is trotted out as legit. Desperation stakes, I say.

Victor Reppert said...

Ed: Of course veridical NDEs, if they exist, don't entail the truth of Christianity, and the truth of Christianity doesn't entail the veridicality of NDEs. So Wu's opposition to Christianity is hardly surprising.

Papalinton: I hope you don't confuse the name-calling you engaged in for an actual argument. Someone offers evidence for something, and you just call them a nutter. That's called ad hominem abusive where I come from.

im-skeptical said...

I took a quick look at the site, and I noted that they take a distinctly unscientific view of paranormal phenomena. Take, for example, one of their categories of evidence:

"Third, people have had NDE’s while they were declared dead with flat EEG lines on their brain activity. Any activity in the brain/mind, even simple thoughts, results in some EEG activity. Therefore, it should be impossible (according to materialistic science) to have any kind of conscious experience while your brain shows a flat EEG line, yet this has happened with NDE’s."

How can they substantiate a claim like that? If someone claims to have an NDE, how can they verify that it happened precisely at the time the EEG was flat? Certainly the measurements indicate otherwise. How do they know it wasn't before or after the time of lowest brain activity? The fact is, they have no reason to assume that this "evidence" is valid, except for their obvious bias.

These people claim to debunk skeptics. They don't even use a reasonable definition of skepticism. What they actually debunk is the notion that they are worth listening to. It is indeed astonishing that Victor would find this stuff to be of value.

Victor Reppert said...

If the NDE patient reports an event that occurred during the flat-line period, wouldn't that be evidence?

im-skeptical said...

"If the NDE patient reports an event that occurred during the flat-line period, wouldn't that be evidence?"

It's based on what someone says. How does the person verify the exact time this experience happened? How would he know? How can it be verified?

You might try an experiment: When someone makes a claim like this, ask them exactly what time it was (before they have a chance to hear it). If they can't tell you, or if the time doesn't match, you have good reason to say that their claim is bullshit. Until someone does an experiment like this (for numerous NDE experiences), this so-called "evidence" is tells us absolutely nothing.

Victor Reppert said...

What I had in mind was something like this. Something happened during the flatline period. It wasn't talked about afterwards. The patient says they saw it. How would they know if they were flatlined when it happened. Is it really necessary for them to be looking at the clock?

im-skeptical said...

"How would they know if they were flatlined when it happened. Is it really necessary for them to be looking at the clock? "

Well, that's my point. How would they know? They make the claim that it happened during the flatline period. How do they know that? Devise any way you like to verify the claim. But you need to substantiate the claim somehow, not just take it on faith that the claim is true.

The problem with these paranormal advocates is that they are heavy on claims, and severely lacking in scientific verification.

Victor Reppert said...

What I meant was, how would they know it happened if they were flatlined when it happened. The way we would know that they were flatlined was because WE observed the event they report and observed them being flatlined at the same time.

im-skeptical said...

"The way we would know that they were flatlined was because WE observed the event they report and observed them being flatlined at the same time."

OK. Now you're on the right track. The key point is that WE have to verify it, not just believe what someone claims.

http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/08-06-18/
http://www.livescience.com/16019-death-experiences-explained.html

Papalinton said...

Victor: "Someone offers evidence for something, and you just call them a nutter."

What evidence was that? If you regard Wu's assertions as evidence then your definition of 'evidence' is pretty loose. Probably to the same level that Michael Behe acknowledges his definition of science would include Astrology [Kitzmiller Vs Dover Schools board trial].

And I think your ad hominem charge is equally a little loose. As others far more erudite than have noted, ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, for example, when it relates to the credibility of statements of fact or when used in certain kinds of moral and practical reasoning.

I can appreciate the fascination you undoutedly have things paranormal, because just as with a belief in the existence of omni-max, putatively live non-human entities inhabiting a supernatural world, it shares a common and inextricable mythological heritage.

And that's fine by me. But it ain't evidence. Not in any meaningful sense anyway.

William said...

I am with skep et all here. The issue is that we need to consider mundane explanations before the miraculous ones, even though unlike skep I am quite open about those.

I think we need to apply Morgan's canon here (to people not animals):

"In no case is an animal activity to be interpreted in terms of higher psychological processes if it can be fairly interpreted in terms of processes which stand lower in the scale of psychological evolution and development."

See also Morgan's caveat: "the caveat by know means excludes the interpretation of a particular interpretation of the activity in terms of the hihger processes if we already have independent evidence of the higher processes."

So it's likely that theists and atheists are bound to split on this one.

im-skeptical said...

"The issue is that we need to consider mundane explanations before the miraculous ones, even though unlike skep I am quite open about those."

It's all about evidence. There's a reason the scientific community rejects paranormal explanations: LACK OF EVIDENCE. Sure, people experience NDEs. But they are subjective experiences, and entirely explainable by natural means. The stories of out-of-body and other similar events are not backed by verifiable evidence. If they were, I would be open to that evidence, and whatever explanation that would be reasonably entailed by it.

http://www.skepticink.com/tippling/2015/01/26/in-defence-of-methodological-naturalism/

William said...

Skep,

I mostly agree with you, but I have doubts about the possibility of such rather consistent features of the average OBE being due to hippocampal pathology. Even with the jamais vu experience of epilepsy we don't get detailed stories of interactions with others, for example, which are common in OBE experiences. Either there is culturally motivated embellishment of pathology, or a large percentage of the stories are authentic, or both.

Yes, subjective memories are not provable. But I cannot prove many of my own normal memories as true. That does not make me doubt your own, unprovable memories, skep.

Most OBE experiences seem to be outside what can be experimentally proven, and so a pathological interpretation is to be considered first (so says Morgan's canon), but then the question is when, if ever, we might consider them to be true, and Morgan's caveat suggests an answer.

Morgan's caveat suggests that there are cases where some independent evidence, such as alterations in the moral or spiritual character of the person with the OBE--before and after--might lead us to trust their OBE as real. I would look for signs of an exceptional spiritual outlook, in particular, as evidence that something unusual had happened.

im-skeptical said...

I don't think that Morgan's caveat suggests that we should accept just anything as substantial evidence for a supernatural event. If someone expresses "signs of an exceptional spiritual outlook", it may certainly be seen as evidence of something unusual, but that doesn't imply that it was supernatural. Evidence has to be objective.

People who have an OBE typically describe a sensation of hovering above their body. Fine. Let them describe an object that is visible from above, but couldn't be seen from where the body is. Let them tell us something that they could only know by being outside their body while it was incapacitated. That would be objective evidence.

That's the kind of thing Morgan's caveat is referring to, not some subjective fluff that proves nothing.