Thursday, March 28, 2013

Memories of near death experiences: More real than reality?

An article in sciencedaly.com, Memories of near death experiences: More real than reality?, explains that memories of near death experience are more like the memories of actual experiences than they are like imagined experiences. However the memories of near-death experiences are more detailed than ordinary memories. This supports what most near-death experiencers say: that their near-death experiences seemed more real than ordinary reality. None of the "scientific" explanations offered by materialists to explain NDE's can account for all aspects of the phenomenon.





Spiritual Practices and their Effectiveness


I recently made a post to an internet discussion forum where I described some of the spiritual practices I've tried and whether I found them to be effective. It may be of interest to readers of this blog. The post is this:


1. Why meditate? Is it effective in bringing about spiritual awareness?

Meditation calms the mind. This helps you live more mindfully, more in harmony with your spiritual values. When the mind is calm, and when you engage in relaxing concentration and mindfully notice when your mind wanders, you see that that poses, attitudes, and opinions are often just empty pretense. You see how distracting thoughts of attachments and aversions and selfishness are silly and you become less selfish, less egotistic. In the absence of selfishness, love arises naturally. Many, many NDEr's, mediums, and other teachers say the purpose of life is to learn to love. Meditation helps you to accomplish that purpose.

Quieting the mental noise helps you become more aware of faint mental impressions some of which might be psychic. In particular it calms the analytical mind letting you become more in touch with the intuitive mind. It makes you more receptive to contact from spirits such as departed loved ones and spirit guides.

2. What kind of spiritual practices have you been engaged in? Have they been effective or ineffective?

Meditation - this should be the primary practice for spiritual development. See above. Also I've had experiences of oneness, and higher planes of existence.

Some people don't like meditation for various reasons. One reason is that it may bring out buried emotions a person might not want to deal with. I've found relaxation exercises can be an effective alternative to meditation.

Other alternatives to meditation include practices that involve movement such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and yoga. There are many different forms of these exercises for different purposes. As an alternative to meditation, look for the simpler forms of Tai Chi (some times called tai chi for the mind, or energy tai chi), moving forms of Qi Gong, and yoga that involves positions that are not too strenuous. Other forms of these exercises are fine and they have valid but different uses. Anything that requires attention and is relaxing will help calm the mind and can yield benefits similar to meditation for spiritual development.

Spiritual Healing - besides for healing, this is a fundamental practice for development of mediumship because it involves healing guides and is a form of physical mediumship. I've used spiritual healing on myself with good results, and when I was studying for a certification in healing from my Spiritualist church I collected seven affidavits of healing by people who were helped. You don't have to be psychic to do this, anyone can learn to do spiritual healing.

Spirit Communication. I took classes in mediumship, and developed a method one can use if classes are not available. Classes were effective as described at the link. Working by myself has also been effective. I've used same technique successfully for remote viewing. (There are other techniques too, for people suffering from grief and connecting with your spirit guides. But I haven't tried all of these). (Also of interest: What is it like to communicate with spirits?)

Spirit communication is one of the easier forms of psychic perception - you don't have to rely entirely on your own power because the spirits make an effort to get through to you. The spirits influence you, you just need to learn to be open to and become aware of that influence. This is particularly true in a class where the spirits are well practiced in communicating and the teacher's guides help too. Everyone has spirit guides, everyone is influenced by their guides whether they are conscious of it or not. Therefore everyone is a medium. Many people can learn to become aware of the influence of spirits. Just like most people can learn to pick out a tune on the piano even if they will never be able to play in a concert hall, many people can have some perceptions of spirit communication even if they will never be able to be a working medium. The evidence for the afterlife is convincing, but when you interact what a spirit you know the afterlife is real in a way that leaves no room for doubt.

Qi Gong - to learn to feel different aspects of healing energy with your hands. You don't need to be psychic to do this.

Psychokinesis/Psi Wheel - Learn to measure the healing energy coming from your hands using a simple home made device. I have magnetized inanimate objects with healing energy and those objects have the ability to spin a psi-wheel.

You don't need to be psychic to use a psi wheel. It can be a way for many people to have a paranormal experience. Once you learn that ordinary people can know and experience things that Science denies it opens up a lot of possibilities. You realize there might be a lot more phenomena that are genuine but which materialists deny.

Spirit Rescue I give a sermon for earth bound spirits every morning and it has been effective in preventing annoying spirits from bothering me by encouraging them to complete their transition to the spirit planes. You don't have to be psychic to do this.

Precognition: When I started keeping a dream log, I noticed many precognitive dreams. According to J. W. Dunne author of An Experiment With Time most people will notice precognitive dreams if they keep a dream log. You don't have to be psychic to do this.

Chakra Meditation (sometimes called Kundalini meditation): This type of meditation is supposed to help with psychic development and releasing kundalini energy. I'm not sure if it has helped me in those areas but I use it as part of a system of relaxation (linked above) in which it is effective for attaining a deeply relaxed state.

Out of body experiences: From my own experiences and from Charles Tart's research I believe techniques to induce OBE's are not effective - they mostly produce dreams of OBE's. I think that spontaneous OBE's are closer to the "real thing".

Diet: I have found that a vegetarian diet is not effective except for making me sick. I do think the right diet is important in spiritual development.

Ouija Board: Not effective.

Reading about and discussing spiritual topics - including parapsychology and philosophy also can play a role. I think it can be extremely helpful. But I would like to encourage people to do more than just approach the issue of spirituality with their intellect. Click on some of the links in this post and try meditation, or relaxation exercises, or make a psi wheel, or do qi gong, or keep a dream log. Understanding through experience is different from understanding through intellect. Don't limit yourself, don't except self-limiting doubts about what you can experience. Try.

More on my web site about spiritual practices / spiritual experiences.

From my blog, articles on: spiritual healing, psychic development, psi wheel, meditation, qi gong.


Copyright © 3013, 2014, 2016 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Top Five Problems with Current Origin-of-Life Theories by Casey Luskin


Below are some excerpts from Top Five Problems with Current Origin-of-Life Theories by Casey Luskin. In the article he explains that the chemical environment of the early earth was not conducive to the development of organic molecules nor was it conducive to forming long the polymers of organic molecules found in living cells. It is unlikely that a self-replicating molecule of RNA, a candidate for the first self-replicating molecule, could have arisen in that environment. It is also unlikely that the genetic code arose through the unguided action of natural laws because there is no way to explain how the system of producing proteins by decoding the DNA could arise from something simpler. For any of it to be useful you need the entire system. There is currently no valid scientific explanation for how life arose on earth.

In Casey Luskin's words, the problems are:

  1. No Viable Mechanism to Generate a Primordial Soup.
  2. Forming Polymers Requires Dehydration Synthesis
  3. RNA World Hypothesis Lacks Confirming Evidence
  4. Unguided Chemical Processes Cannot Explain the Origin of the Genetic Code.
  5. No Workable Model for the Origin of Life
Problem 1: No Viable Mechanism to Generate a Primordial Soup.
This optimistic picture began to change in the late 1970s, when it became increasingly clear that the early atmosphere was probably volcanic in origin and composition, composed largely of carbon dioxide and nitrogen rather than the mixture of reducing gases assumed by the Miller-Urey model. Carbon dioxide does not support the rich array of synthetic pathways leading to possible monomers...3

Problem 2: Forming Polymers Requires Dehydration Synthesis

Chemically speaking, however, the last place you'd want to link amino acids into chains would be a vast water-based environment like the "primordial soup" or underwater near a hydrothermal vent. As the National Academy of Sciences acknowledges, "Two amino acids do not spontaneously join in water. Rather, the opposite reaction is thermodynamically favored."

Problem 3: RNA World Hypothesis Lacks Confirming Evidence

For one, the first RNA molecules would have to arise by unguided, non-biological chemical processes. But RNA is not known to assemble without the help of a skilled laboratory chemist intelligently guiding the process. New York University chemist Robert Shapiro critiqued the efforts of those who tried to make RNA in the lab, stating: "The flaw is in the logic -- that this experimental control by researchers in a modern laboratory could have been available on the early Earth."13

...

RNA world advocates suggest that if the first self-replicating life was based upon RNA, it would have required a molecule between 200 and 300 nucleotides in length.15 However, there are no known chemical or physical laws that dictate the order of those nucleotides.16 To explain the ordering of nucleotides in the first self-replicating RNA molecule, materialists must rely on sheer chance. But the odds of specifying, say, 250 nucleotides in an RNA molecule by chance is about 1 in 10150 -- below the "universal probability bound," a term characterizing events whose occurrence is at least remotely possible within the history of the universe.1

Problem 4: Unguided Chemical Processes Cannot Explain the Origin of the Genetic Code.

The nucleotide sequence is also meaningless without a conceptual translative scheme and physical "hardware" capabilities. Ribosomes, tRNAs, aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, and amino acids are all hardware components of the Shannon message "receiver." But the instructions for this machinery is itself coded in DNA and executed by protein "workers" produced by that machinery. Without the machinery and protein workers, the message cannot be received and understood. And without genetic instruction, the machinery cannot be assembled.20

Problem 5: No Workable Model for the Origin of Life

Massimo Pigliucci states: "[I]t has to be true that we really don't have a clue how life originated on Earth by natural means."22 Or as science writer Gregg Easterbrook wrote in Wired, "What creates life out of the inanimate compounds that make up living things? No one knows. How were the first organisms assembled? Nature hasn't given us the slightest hint. If anything, the mystery has deepened over time."23

Likewise, the aforementioned article in Cell Biology International concludes: "New approaches to investigating the origin of the genetic code are required. The constraints of historical science are such that the origin of life may never be understood."24 That is, they may never be understood unless scientists are willing to consider goal-directed scientific explanations like intelligent design.

Copyright © 2013 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Life did not Arise Through the Unguided Action of Natural Laws


The article, The Finely Tuned Genetic Code by Jonathan M. explains why it is unlikely that life arose through the unguided action of natural law. The article explains that the genetic code is finely tuned for efficiency (it is not random) and it is unlikely this efficiency could have arisen through evolution. It is impossible to explain how the genetic code could have evolved because a change in the code would affect every protein in the cell. For example, if you changed every letter "n" to the letter "p" in an entire book, it would cause many words to be spelled incorrectly. In a living cell, such a change in the genetic code would be catistrophic. This is strong evidence that the genetic code and therefore life itself did not arise through the unguided action of natural laws but is the result of intelligent design. (Read the the linked article for the full argument.)

How Is the Genetic Code Finely Tuned?

As previously stated, the genetic code is degenerate. This means that multiple codons will often signify the same amino acid. This degeneracy is largely caused by variation in the third position, which is recognized by the nucleotide at the 5' end of the anticodon (the so-called "wobble" position). The wobble hypothesis states that nucleotides that are present in this position can make interactions that aren't permitted in the other positions (though it still leaves some interactions that aren't allowed).

But this arrangement is far from arbitrary. Indeed, the genetic code found in nature is exquisitely tuned to protect the cell from the detrimental effects of substitution mutations. The system is so brilliantly set up that codons differing by only a single base either specify the same amino acid, or an amino acid that is a member of a related chemical group. In other words, the structure of the genetic code is set up to mitigate the effects of errors that might be incorporated during translation (which can occur when a codon is translated by an almost-complementary anti-codon).

...

The Non-Evolvability of the Genetic Code

Changes in codon assignments would be catastrophic to the cell because such a mutation would ultimately lead to changes to the amino acid sequence in every protein produced by the cell. This means that one cannot have a significantly evolving genetic code, though -- it may be granted -- there are one or two minor variations on the standard genetic code. Some have tried to argue around this by positing that the lesser-used codons can be redesignated to a different but related amino acid, thus allowing the genetic code to become optimized. There are, however, significant difficulties with this proposal. For one thing, it seems highly unlikely that by virtue of replacing some of the lesser-used amino acid assignments with a related amino acid that one could attain the level of optimization which we find in the conventional code.

Furthermore, the question is naturally raised as to what selective-utility would be exhibited by the new amino acids. Indeed, they would have no utility until incorporated into proteins. But that won't happen until they are incorporated into the genetic code. And thus they must be synthesized by enzymes that lack them. And let us not forget the necessity for the dedicated tRNAs and activating enzymes which are needed for including them in the code.

One related difficulty with standard evolutionary explanations is that a pool of biotic amino acids substantially less than 20 is liable to substantially reduce the variability of proteins synthesized by the ribosomes. And prebiotic selection is unlikely to sift the variational grist for this trait of amino-acid-optimality prior to the origin of self-replicative life (in many respects, "prebiotic selection" is somewhat oxymoronic).

There is also the added problem of the potential for codon mapping ambiguity. If, say, 80% of the time a particular codon specifies one amino acid and 20% of the time specifies another, this mapping ambiguity would lead to cellular chaos.

Copyright © 2013 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Proof and Possibility


This post is based on
Four Errors Commonly Made by Professional Debunkers by Grossman.

As I have discussed on my web site, there are several independent forms of very strong evidence that demonstrate consciousness survives death.

However, a materialist may say the evidence does not prove survival of consciousness. Such a statement is trivially true because science does not deal with 100% proof. Only in logic and math do you find 100% proof. Science involves making observations and testing hypotheses from which evidence is accumulated. Additionally, as Karl Popper explained, a scientific theory can never be proved, it can only be falsified.

Furthermore, when the materialist explains why the evidence is not proof, he will suggest an alternative possible explanation of the evidence. This is usually a rhetorical trick based on different meanings of the world "possible". In this situation, "possible" has two meanings, a hypothesis may be logically possible, and a hypothesis may be empirically possible.

A hypothesis that is empirically possible is one for which there is evidence to support it. When the weather forecast predicts the possibility of rain, that is an empirical possibility because it is based on atmospheric data.

However, a hypothesis that is only logically possible does not have to be based on any evidence. For example, the hypothesis that there is a civilization of giant elephants that live underground on mars is a logical possibility. No one has been to Mars to check if there are any underground civilizations there, but no one would take such a hypothesis seriously without any evidence.

The significance of these two types of possibilities is that science only deals with empirical possibilities not logical possibilities. When materialists explain why certain evidence does not prove survival of consciousness after death or the existence of psychic phenomena, they often offer logical possibilities such as fraud, incompetence, or self-delusion. In the case of evidence for survival of consciousness after death, they may offer super-psi as a logically possible alternative explanation. Scientists are under no obligation to refute these or any other logical possibilities.

It is a mistake to acknowledge that such logical possibilities introduce uncertainty about a hypothesis that is supported by empirical evidence. Any scientific hypothesis can be contradicted by a logical possibility. In this case, the burden is on the materialist to provide evidence that their hypothesis is not merely a logical possibility but an empirical possibility.

Copyright © 2013 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Materialism is not a Rational Philosophy


I recently noticed a thread on an internet forum discussing why more psychics don't agree to be tested. One of the reasons psychics are reluctant to be tested by materialists is because psychics don't trust materialists. It is quite a reasonable opinion.

Materialism is not a rational philosophy because it is self-refuting in a number of ways (see Notes below).

Another reason materialist's rationality is suspect is becuause, 21% of American atheists believe in God.

I think the materialists need to work on their own issues first. When they get their act together, maybe more psychics will trust them.



Notes (See the links below for the full arguments. Also, the most up-to-date version of this section can be found on my web site on the page on Skeptical Fallacies, in the section Materialism is not a Rational Philosophy.)

Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? By ANDREW FERGUSON

Neo-Darwinism tells us that we have the power of reason because reason was adaptive; it must have helped us survive, back in the day. Yet reason often conflicts with our intuition or our emotion—capacities that must also have been adaptive and essential for survival. Why should we “privilege” one capacity over another when reason and intuition conflict? On its own terms, the scheme of neo-Darwinism gives us no standard by which we should choose one adaptive capacity over the other. And yet neo-Darwinists insist we embrace neo-Darwinism because it conforms to our reason, even though it runs against our intuition. Their defense of reason is unreasonable.

Edward Feser: Popper contra computationalism

4. So if materialism is true, then there is nothing about our thought processes that can make one thought a rational justification of another; for their physical and causal relations alone, and not their semantic and logical relations, determine which thought follows which.

5. So if materialism is true, none of our thoughts ever is rationally justified.

6. But this includes the thoughts of materialists themselves.

7. So if materialism is true, then it cannot be rationally justified; the theory undermines itself.

Why Darwinist Materialism is Wrong BY ALVIN PLANTINGA

Given materialist naturalism, the probability that my cognitive faculties are reliable with respect to metaphysical beliefs would be low. So take any metaphysical belief I have: the probability that it is true, given materialist naturalism, cannot be much above .5. But of course materialist naturalism is itself a metaphysical belief. So the materialistic naturalist should think the probability of materialist naturalism is about .5. But that means that she cannot sensibly believe her own doctrine. If she believes it, she shouldn’t believe it. In this way materialist naturalism is self-defeating.

Copyright © 2013 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What to do about Unwanted Spirit Contact: How to Help Spirits Complete Their Transition to the Spirit World


I've been following the posts on the AskParanormal subreddit on reddit.com where there are many posts by people asking for help with unwanted contacts from spirits. This post is a summary of my advice on how to deal with unwanted spirit contact.

There are two main forms of unwanted spirit phenomena:

  1. Objective phenomena - when the spirit causes phenomena that anyone can observe such as noises, moving furniture, or turning on and off electrical or electronic devices.

  2. Subjective phenomena - when the spirit causes phenomena that only one person can observe, such as telepathic communications, visions of the spirit, or some cases of sleep paralysis.

The way to deal with the two types phenomena are very similar but not exactly alike.

One important difference is that subjective phenomenon may make the experiencer wonder if he is just imagining it or if he might be suffering from a mental illness. This is a serious and valid concern and is best answered by a psychologist who has experience helping people with spiritual problems. It may be possible to locate a such a psychologist by asking a local psychic in your town for a referral. You can often get such a referral through a Spiritualist church or a New Age book shop or gift shop. There is also a list of mental health professionals who specialize in spiritual and psychic issues.

Another difference is that objective phenomena may sometimes be caused by unintended psychokinesis (PK) from a living person. More about this is discussed in the links below What to do about Poltergeist and How to cope with being psychic.

In the most difficult cases it may be necessary to get help from a reputable psychic or medium who has experience dealing with troublesome spirits. However in many cases you can deal with the situation yourself.

If you want to try to stop the spirit activity yourself, tell the spirit:

  1. That they are dead. (The spirit might be lingering on the earth plane because they do not realize they are dead).

  2. You understand they are trying to communicate and you are aware of them. (If you think the spirit is a deceased friend or relative it may be important to them that you recognize their attempts at communication, they may be trying to say "hello" or "good bye" in the only way they can.)

  3. But they must leave you alone.

  4. (If the spirit is there when you move into a new home, tell them) the home is yours now, not theirs, and they have to leave.

  5. They should complete their transition to the spirit world. If they linger, alone, around the earth plane where there is nothing for them to do they will just stagnate. They will be happier if they complete the transition because they will be with like minded spirits and will have things to do.

Be firm but friendly, try to express concern for the spirit's well being. Keep repeating the above when you sense the presence of the spirit if they don't leave right away.

Prayer is also an important component of dealing with these types of situations:

  • Pray for angels or spirit guides to help the earthbound spirit complete their transition to the spirit world. There are advanced beings around that want to help us but they need a request from us before they can act. (See the link to Spirit Rescue below).

  • Praying for protection may also be effective, particularly for subjective phenomena. You can pray for protection in this way: "Oh God please watch over me and protect me so that only the highest and best forces can influence me." Some people also visualize a shield of white light surrounding and protecting them.

An example of how to handle a troublesome spirit can be found in this post. A more elaborate method can be found at Spirit Rescue on my web site. You don't have to follow the script in Spirit Rescue exactly. If you are not comfortable with certain parts, you may adapt it to your particular situation.

"Evil Entities"

Most of the "evil entities" that are thought to cause hauntings and possessions and cause other mischief are not demons but the spirits of humans who have not made a full transition to the spirit world. Sometimes spirits do cause problems but much of the problem is our own fear. When a spirit frightens us or has a negative attitude that seems repellent, we may mistake our feelings of fear for a perception of evil. However, you are more likely to die of a heart attack from your own fear than from anything a ghost might actually do. Often the spirit is not really evil, but just grumpy or mischievous and our lack of understanding causes us to overreact. Spirits may try to communicate the only way they can, by flashing the lights, shutting a door, or raping on the walls, which frightens most people who are inexperienced in dealing with spirits. But, try to imagine what it is like for a spirit trying to reassure a grieving loved one they are still near by when the person reacts in horror. This is caused by the prejudice in our society against spirits which is caused by ghost stories and horror movies.

These links may also be helpful:

Some books that may be helpful include:

  • Books by Echo Bodine such as Relax It's Only a Ghost. Echo Bodine is a medium who clears haunted houses.

  • The Unquiet Dead by Edith Fiori. Edith Fiori is a psychologist who helps patients experiencing subjective phenomena by talking to the spirit while the patient is hypnotized.

  • Thirty Years Among the Dead by Dr. Carl Wickland. Dr. Carl Wickland worked with mental patients and found many of them were being influenced by spirits. (If this link doesn't work, try using google to find it elsewhere on the internet.)

Copyright © 2013, 2015 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview with Near-Death Researcher Sam Parnia


On February 27, Dr. Sam Parnia was interviewed on the Coast to Coast AM radio program. Dr. Parnia is conducting the AWARE Study on near-death experiences (NDEs). As part of his research, he interviews patients who have suffered cardiac arrest. A summary of the interview was posted to a discussion forum by the member Wendybird.

During the interview, Dr. Parnia said the patients he has studied are not just having "near-death experiences", they are having "actual death experiences". They have been clinically dead for "minutes if not hours". The fact that some patients have memories of what was happening around them during that time is proof that consciouses survives death. Wendybird commented that at the outset of the research Parnia seemed skeptical but while conducting this research he became convinced that the afterlife is real.

...

Parnia refers to his cases in the AWARE study as “actual death experiences” (ADEs), because “they have objectively died for minutes if not hours”. He explains that these people “really were dead”, they were corpses, i.e., they had no heart beat, no brain function – they were actually dead, “not clinically dead, not nearly dead”, no playing around with the meaning of the words, as Parnia put it.

Regarding reversing death, Parnia explained that the medicine has progressed so far that now the dead can be resuscitated “many hours” after death. The decay of cells is a process that begins after death occurs (both heart and brain function cease). There’s a window of about 8 hours in which “brain cells are still viable, but not functioning.” That’s the key here – brain cells are NOT FUNCTIONING. After that window expires, they are so damaged they cannot be revived again. Parnia realizes that if we’d had the technology and knowledge we do today to reverse the death process, that when the Titanic sank in 1912, we’d have been able to revive many of the 1500 that died in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic – especially because the cold temperatures slow the decay of brain cells and keep them viable for hours (when the rescue ship Carpathia arrived, those people had only been in the water for two hours, within the 8-hour window to get the brain functioning again).

“We have millions and millions of people now who have essentially gone to the other side, beyond the threshold of death, they’ve entered what would have been considered the afterlife period, and they’re coming back and telling us what they experienced.” He compares it to our ability now to send men to the moon who can come back and tell us about it. We now routinely overcome death, and the people he’s studying are “like astronauts – we send them out to explore this other dimension” – they are going to the other side, and they’re able to tell us what they’ve experienced on the other side of death – “is there an afterlife and what shape does it take, and that’s a new science that’s evolving for us.”

...

In Parnia’s interview on Skeptiko a year or so ago, prior to the AWARE study, he seemed still to be on the fence, a bit skeptical of NDEs, even hinting he thought it was some effect of the brain. He even had proponents wondering if Parnia was setting up AWARE to fail... However, from hearing the NPR interview and this C2C interview, after reviewing in depth the ADE cases in his study, Parnia now clearly is convinced that consciousness continues to exist in some form after the heart and brain have ceased to function.

...

In addition to interviewing patients, the AWARE Study also involves placing some type of "target" in hospital rooms where they would not normally be seen, such as on the top of a high cabinet. The hope is that when interviewing the patients after cardiac arrest, they would have seen the target and could describe it, proving they had an out-of-body experience as part of their NDE. When I first heard this, I was concerned that people going through NDEs would not bother looking at pictures on top of file cabinets because they would be more concerned about what was happening down where their body was. I was afraid this was a poorly designed study that would lead to the false conclusion that NDE's were not genuine afterlife experiences. So, I am pleased to learn that Dr. Parnia has been whole-heartedly converted to belief in the afterlife from this work. I don't know if any of his patients have seen the targets, my impression is that his conversion has come from interviewing the patients about their experiences in the afterlife and their ability to describe what was happening around them while they were clinically dead.

I recommend reading the whole summary.

Copyright © 2013 by ncu9nc All rights reserved. Texts quoted from other sources are Copyright © by their owners.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Interview with Chris Carter by Jime of Subversive Thinking


There is an excellent interview with Chris Carter, author of Science and the Afterlife at Subversive Thinking by the blogger Jime. The interview was on the subject of Carter's book, which is about survival of consciousness after death. In the interview, Jime, who believes in the survival, brought up one bogus criticism of survival after another and Chris Carter thoroughly rebutted each of them in turn. Carter has an advanced degree in philosophy and it showed in his explanations which were knowledgeable, well reasoned, and cut through to the core of the issues.

The interview covered three subjects that I have blogged about here and discussed on my web site:

  • There are several independent forms of very strong evidence that prove the survival of consciousness after death is a fact.

  • Criticisms of survival after death based on arguments that it is unscientific are flawed.

  • Survival of consciousness after death is a much better explanation for the evidence than is super-ESP.

The key points made in the interview are:

  • The strongest evidence for survival comes from mediumship because, in the best cases, the evidence is from the spirit's perspective, and it demonstrates more than just knowledge of the spirit but also characteristics like purpose, personality, and skills. Statements made by a medium and recorded are an objective form of evidence and not susceptible to "mistaken eye-witnesses testimony". However, there are additional very strong forms of evidence for survival including "near-death experiences, death-bed visions, children who claim to remember previous lives", and "reports of apparitions". Carter points out that these are independent forms of evidence. This is an important point since multiple independent forms of evidence provide a much stronger argument than a single form of evidence.

  • Survival after death is a question of fact, it is not a theory. Therefore criticisms of theories such as unfalsifiability, inability to make predictions, or lack of explanatory power are not applicable to survival. However the survival hypothesis has been proved true by the evidence, it makes the prediction that consciousness survives death, and it is a very "simple", "straightforward" explanation for various paranormal phenomena.

  • Occam's razor, which says, in Carter's words, "do not add unnecessary causal factors to explanations", should be understood as saying that factors added to protect the theory from contradictory evidence should not be added. Because of this, survival is a superior hypothesis to super-ESP. While survival requires the inclusion of spirits as causal factors, these are a direct inference from the data. However, super-ESP has been extended again and again as telepathy, and then ESP, were shown to be unable to explain the evidence for survival. It is these greater and greater capabilities attributed to super-ESP that are added as a causal factors to protect the theory from falsification. These capabilities are unnecessary because the survival hypothesis provides a simpler more straightforward explanation without them. Therefore survival is a superior explanation of the evidence than is super-ESP.

  • Survival is a self-evident explanation for afterlife phenomena. Alternatives, when testable, (such as telepathy or ESP), have been shown to be false, and when not testable, (such as super-ESP or fraud), are "pseudo-scientific excuses for refusing to accept an otherwise straightforward inference from the evidence."

For ease of reference, I have included below a list of objections to survival that were discussed in the interview with links to the section of this post that explains how they were rebutted by Carter. It is not a complete table of contents so if you want to read the whole post you must scroll through it rather than jump ahead with just these links.

Below, I try to summarize what was said in the interview. However, I suggest you also read the full interview since it is probable that my summary and paraphrasing will be imperfect and I may inadvertently misrepresent some of what was said.

Evidence for the Afterlife

In the interview, Carter explains that the best evidence for the afterlife comes from mediumship and "near-death experiences, death-bed visions, children who claim to remember previous lives, and from reports of apparitions". He points out that these are independent forms of evidence. This is an important point since multiple independent forms of evidence provide a much stronger argument than a single form of evidence.

Carter also explains that mediumship is the strongest form of evidence for survival because in the best cases, such as trance mediumship, the evidence is direct evidence of the spirit, and it demonstrates the perspective, purposes, personality, and skills of the spirit. Statements made by a medium can be recorded so the evidence is also objective and not susceptible to "mistaken eye-witness testimony" as other form of evidence are.

Is Survival a Good Explanation of the Evidence?

Falsifiability

In the interview, Carter also discusses whether the afterlife is a falsifiable theory. Falsifiability of a theory was identified by Karl Popper as necessary for a theory to be scientific.

Carter explained that the question of the afterlife is not a theory, it is a question of fact. A theory is an expression of the relationship between facts or how facts "fit together". For example, gravity is a fact. If you drop a stone, it falls. However the theory of gravity is a mathematical formula that describes how the force of gravity depends on mass and distance.

You can prove a theory is false by finding evidence that contradicts the theory. But you can never prove a theory is true because there is always the possibility that some day you will find an exception to it. For example, Newton's theory of gravity was believed true, until observations showed that Einstein's theory of gravity could explain a phenomenon that was not consistent with Newton's theory.

However a hypothesis about a fact, such as the fact that consciousness can survive death, can be proved true with evidence. The evidence that proves consciousness survives death includes mediumship, near-death experiences, death-bed visions, children who remember past lives, and reports of apparitions. Therefore, whether or not survival is falsifiable is irrelevant.

Predictions and Explanatory Force

Carter also discussed the question of whether a theory must make predictions that give it explanatory force in order for the theory to be scientific. One criticism of survival is that it lacks predictive power so has little explanatory utility and is therefore not scientific. Critics claim survival invokes "spirits" to explain phenomena whenever there is no other known natural explanation. The criticism is that survival is an ad hoc assertion rather than a theory that makes predictions.

Carter pointed out that survival does make predictions, it predicts that consciousness survives death. He again pointed out that survival is a question of fact not theory. Carter also rejected the premise of the question, that scientific theories have to have "predictive power in order to have explanatory force". He explained that theories only have to be testable and that progress in science is made by testing hypotheses. What the hypothesis explains is a different issue he said. However, Carter asserted that survival does have explanatory force because it is a "simple and concise" explanation for mediumship, near-death experiences, death-bed visions, children who remember past lives, and reports of apparitions.

Anomalous Data

Carter rejected the assertion that survival only relies on anomalous data, he asserted that the evidence is much more than anomalous data. I believe he was alluding the several independent forms of very strong evidence for survival that he previously mentioned in the interview: mediumship, near-death experiences, death-bed visions, children who remember past lives, and reports of apparitions.

Survival After Death is a Much Better Explanation of the Evidence than is Super-ESP

Super-ESP is the hypothesis that the psychic powers of living persons are responsible for the evidence that is said to prove survival after death. For example, a medium might unconsciously use ESP to obtain information about a deceased individual and then simulate communications with the individual's spirit.

Predictive Power

Carter was asked if survival makes testable predictions that make it a better explanation of the evidence than super-ESP.

Carter rejected the premise, that survival is a theory that should make predictions. He pointed out that survival is a "straightforward inference from the data". It is an issue of fact not an issue of theory and the necessity of predictive power is not applicable to facts, only to theories.

Carter explained that survival has been consistently inferred from the evidence for thousands of years while super-ESP was proposed only in the late 19th century by those opposed to survival on ideological grounds. When proxy sittings proved mediumship could not be explained by telepathy, extra-sensory perception (ESP) was proposed as an alternative to telepathy as the explanation. When mediums demonstrated skills and personality of the spirit, which could not be explained by ESP, super-ESP was proposed as the explanation. This shows the lack of predictive power leading to the super-ESP hypothesis. Carter states that ESP or super-ESP cannot explain several features of evidence for survival. Carter then discusses experiments by Gary Schwartz which obtained results contrary to what super-ESP would predict.

Equivalence of Theories

The question of how to compare theories based on various characteristics was also discussed in relation to whether survival is a superior explanation of the evidence than super-ESP. Carter explained that when two theories make the same predictions, historically they have been equivalent theories. He stated that scientific theories must be testable so you should be able to distinguish a correct theory from an incorrect theory by falsifying the incorrect theory.

However, the question of survival is not a scientific theory. In order to evaluate an explanation of the evidence for survival, Carter said, you need to consider "1) Does it solve a problem", 2) "Does it do so" in a simple manner, and 3) "Is it consistent with other beliefs" for which there are "good reasons to consider true". Carter explained that for survival you can answer yes to all three, but for super-ESP you can only answer yes to the first item.

Survival solves the problem of how to explain mediumship and near-death experiences etc. Survival is a simple inference from the data. And there are several independent forms of evidence for survival so it is consistent with other beliefs for which there are good reasons to consider true. However super-ESP is a contrived explanation, it is not simple, and there is no independent evidence for it (see the next section below), so there is no good reason to believe it. Therefore, survival is a better explanation of the evidence than super-ESP.

Is The Evidence for Survival is really Evidence for Super-ESP?

Carter argued there is no independent evidence for super-ESP except where it is asserted to occur as evidence for the afterlife. If super-ESP was correct, there should be evidence of super-ESP doing more important things, like protecting people from actual harm, rather than just simulating evidence for the afterlife. Therefore there is no good reason to believe in super-ESP.

Collective Hallucination

Carter discussed the claim that collective hallucination could explain multiple witness apparitions. He pointed out there is no actual evidence of collective hallucination occurring among healthy people except for the cases of multiple witness apparitions.

Independent Evidence

Another criticism discussed was that the survival hypothesis does not rely on any independent reasons for believing in survival beyond the evidence for survival itself, just as super-ESP does not have any independent means of support beyond afterlife phenomenon. Carter pointed out that the different forms of evidence for survival, mediumship, near-death experiences, death-bed visions, children who remember past lives, and reports of apparitions, are independent reasons for believing in it.

Carter then explained that the best evidence for survival is different in kind not in degree of ESP and therefore something different from ESP must be required to explain it. I believe he was alluding to the cases of mediumship, where the evidence demonstrates the spirits perspective, purposes, personality, and skills.

Occam's Razor

Next, Carter dealt with Occam's Razor as applied to survival and super-ESP. Occam's razor, which says, in Carter's words, "do not add unnecessary causal factors to explanations", should be understood as saying that factors added to protect the theory from contradictory evidence should not be added. If both survival and super-ESP involve ESP, then is super-ESP superior because it does not invoke spirits and so involves fewer causative factors? While survival requires the inclusion of spirits as causal factors, these are a direct inference from the data. However, super-ESP has been extended again and again as telepathy, and then ESP, were shown to be unable to explain the evidence for survival. It is these greater and greater capabilities leading to super-ESP that are added as a causal factors to protect the theory from falsification. These capabilities are unnecessary because the survival hypothesis provides a simpler more straightforward explanation without them. Therefore survival is a superior explanation of the evidence than super-ESP.

Super-ESP

Another criticism Carter dealt with is that if ESP cannot explain the evidence for survival it might mean that the capabilities of super-ESP are greater than currently understood and not that survival is true.

I'll end my post with how Carter responded to this criticism:

In my work I present the evidence that provides a prima facie case for survival; demonstrate that alternative explanations, to the extent that they are testable, have been proven false; and then argue that to the extent these alternative explanations are not testable (such as elaborate fraud scenarios, or super-ESP) they are pseudo-scientific excuses for refusing to accept an otherwise straightforward inference from the evidence.

I highly recommend reading the whole interview.

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