In Skeptiko podcast number 99, Dr. Jeffrey Long Takes On Critics of, Evidence of the Afterlife, near-death experience researcher Dr. Jeffrey Long M.D. is interviewed about his research by Alex Tsakiris. During the podcast, Dr. Long refutes several materialist explanations for near-death experiences. I have added these refutations to my post Materialist explanations of NDEs fail to explain the phenomenon.
In the interview Dr. Long explains why NDEs cannot be explained by
- REM intrusions
- Brain chemicals such as Ketamine, DMT, etc.
- Religious expectations
- Cultural expectations
- Hearing during resuscitation
- Brain activity during CPR
- Partial anesthesia
- Misuse of anecdotes
- Selective reporting
Here are Dr. Long's explanations:
Near-death experiences cannot be caused by REM intrusions, Hallucinations, or Brain chemicals such as Ketamine, DMT, etc, because those phenomena do not produce visions of people most of whom are dead, and REM intrusions and Hallucinations do not produce the same type of changes in the life of the experiencer that NDEs produce.
The percentage of time that people encounter deceased relatives is extremely high. It was actually 96% in the NDERF study and only 4% of near-death experiencers met beings who were alive at the time of the near-death experience. That’s actually corroborated by another major scholarly study which found it was 95% of the time that they encountered beings they knew from their earthly life that were deceased.
The important thing is that any other experience of altered consciousness that we experience on earth, dreams, hallucinations, drug experiences, you name it; all of these other types of experiences of altered consciousness, a vastly higher percentage of people are going to be alive at the time of their experience.
You're going to remember the banker that you did business with that day or your family member you said hi to as you were walking into the house. This is what's in the forefront of consciousness. So for people to so consistently encounter deceased relatives is very, very strong evidence that they are, indeed, in an unearthly realm and it certainly points to evidence of an afterlife.
People in general, all other hallucinatory events, dreams, all other temporary, transient, even pathological alterations of consciousness are essentially never going to result in that high a percentage of people experiencing them going on and have those types of profound life changes that we see in near-death experiencers.
And moreover, what you see in the life changes of near-death experiencers is markedly consistent. In other words, it’s not just that they have life changes; it’s the consistency of those life changes. The substantial majority, if not overwhelming majority of near-death experiencers believe that there's an afterlife. They believe that there's a God. They no longer fear death. They're less materialistic. They value loving relationships more. The list goes on and on. I consistently observed, not only in the NDERF study but from scores of prior scholarly studies of this phenomenon over 30 years.
NDEs cannot be caused by religious or cultural expectations because children who are too young to have religious or cultural expectations have NDEs that contain the same elements as the NDEs of older children and adults.
A really interesting part of the study that I did was looking at children age 5 and under. In fact, their average age was 3-1/2 years old. These are children so young that to them, death is an abstraction. They don’t understand it. They can't conceptualize it. They’ve almost never heard about near-death experiences; have no preconceived notions about that. They certainly have far less cultural influence, both in terms of religion or anything else that could even potentially modify the near-death experience at that tender young age.
And yet looking at these same 33 elements of near-death experience that I did in other parts of this study, I found absolutely no statistical difference in their percentage of occurrence in very young children as compared to older children and adults. So no question about that.
That almost single-handedly shoots down the skeptical argument that near-death experiences are due to pre-existing beliefs or cultural influences. We’re not seeing a shred of evidence that corroborates that at all. In fact, that finding is actually corroborated with another major scholarly researcher who actually reviewed over 30 years of near-death experience research and came up with the same conclusion.
NDEs cannot be caused by hearing during resuscitation because many people who have NDEs have accurate perceptions of locations that are too far away to perceive with their normal senses.
Yet there are dozens of these out-of-body perceptions during near-death experiences where they can hear and see events far, far removed from their physical body, often in completely different rooms, geographically far away, where any possible physical sensory awareness should be absolutely impossible.
And yet when they make these very remote out-of-body experience observations, their accuracy is absolutely the same – about 96% — as the observations of events going on around their physical body. So no doubt about that.
In fact, it's often the case that they’ll make out-of-body observations of events right around their physical body during the NDE, and then as part of the same experience, make out-of-body observations far removed from their physical body. Absolutely no difference in what they're describing.
NDEs cannot be caused by brain activity during CPR because CPR patients report confusion and amnesia while NDErs report lucid experiences. NDEs often begin before CPR is administered and the quality of consciousness and the pattern of events in NDEs does not change once CPR is started. Also, if consciousness in NDEs is caused by CPR, the patients should remember the pain of compressions and cracked ribs that sometimes occur during CPR, but NDErs do not feel the pain from CPR.
When you talk to the patients who have actually survived CPR, one thing that is very, very obvious is that the substantial majority of them are confused or amnesic, even when they're successfully recovered. They may be amnesic for the period of time following their successful resuscitation or even for events prior to the time of their cardiac arrest.
If you read even a few near-death experiences, you immediately realize that there’s essentially none of them that talk about episodes of confusion or altered mental status when they just don’t understand what’s going on. You really don’t see that at all.
Again, for near-death experiences, they're highly lucid, organized events. In fact, in the survey we did, we found 76% of people having a near-death experience said their level of consciousness and alertness during the NDE was actually greater than their earthly, everyday life. So again, getting back to statistics, that’s 3/4 and a substantial majority of the remaining 24% still had at least a level of consciousness and alertness equal to their earthly, everyday life.
So for that to be the statistics that you consistently see during near-death experiences and balance that with a substantial majority of people being confused around the time of their successful resuscitation from CPR, you really have to come away with the conclusion that even if there’s blood flow to the brain induced by CPR, it's a life-saving maneuver. By no means is that correlated with clear consciousness and certainly nowhere near the level of consciousness and alertness with near-death experiences. You just don’t see that.
But also, in addition to that, note that the substantial majority of people that have a near-death experience and have an out-of-body experience associated with cardiac arrest, are actually seeing their physical body well prior to the time that CPR is initiated. Once CPR is initiated, you don’t see any alteration in the flow of the near-death experience, suggesting that whatever blood flow might be going back to the brain is affecting the content, modifying it at all, in any way.
When there’s a cardiac arrest, the out-of-body observations that are often described during these near-death experiences certainly correlates to a time prior to CPR being initiated, and prior to a time there should be no possibility of a conscious, lucid, organized experience. And yet that’s exactly what happens.
I'll tell you another thing, too, is if you were doing CPR and that were accounting for memory, I would tell you that you would hear a lot more from near-death experiencers. They would talk about their remembrance of the pain of the chest compressions.
Alex, that’s a fairly painful procedure. It often breaks ribs and hurts. And yet, even when you have a patient who had a cardiac arrest and had a near-death experience, essentially never do you hear them describing as part of their near-death experience the pain of chest compressions.
And if their consciousness was really returning during CPR, wouldn't near-death experiencers not have out-of-body perceptions but describe their perceptions from within their physical body? And yet you don’t see that with near-death experiences.
So in other words, if you started CPR and they had a near-death experience and suddenly they started to have some consciousness, you’d expect that instead of having the out-of-body experience where their consciousness is apart from their body, their consciousness would be within their body. You just don’t see that.
NDEs cannot be explained by partial anesthesia because a partial anesthesia experience is not at all like an NDE.
Rather than the type of coherent NDEs you read here, anesthetic-awareness results in a totally different experience.
Those who experience anesthetic-awareness often report very unpleasant, painful and frightening experiences. Unlike NDEs which are predominately visual experiences, this partial awakening during anesthesia more often involves brief and fragmented experiences that may involve hearing but usually not vision.
... you just don’t have near-death experiences that are predominately hearing but no vision.
...when we talked about near-death experiences under general anesthesia, out of 33 elements of near-death experience, we compared between NDEs under general anesthesia and all types of causes of near-death experience, and in 32 out of 33 elements studied there was no statistical difference between the two groups.
Now, virtually anybody in the science or medical field would say, “Well, that pretty much nails it down that these two experiences are basically the same, with at most, minor differences between the two of them.
NDEs cannot be explained as the misuse of anecdotes:
... the NDERF study that I presented in the book is certainly vastly beyond anecdotal evidence. We actually studied 1,300 near-death experiences. It’s certainly not just a limited number of case reports. And you're right, our modern questionnaire is over 150 questions, so no doubt we have the depth of analysis, as well. And most of the research that’s published in the book was based on surveying over 600 near-death experiencers that filled out the most recent version of the questionnaire.
Let me start out with sort of a basic scientific overview, and that is what’s real is consistently observed. So we've observed evidence of the afterlife and near-death experience is not only in the vast number of near-death experiences studied in tremendous depth in my own study, but all my major findings are corroborated by scores of prior scholarly studies. We're way beyond what could reasonably be called anecdotal. We're really in very hard-core evidence based on my work and the work of many others.
NDEs cannot be explained by selective reporting:
What we did with our NDERF study is we studied every single person who had a near-death experience. In other words, they nearly died and they had an experience.
In addition to that, we used the most validated research tool in near-death experience research, and that’s called the NDE scale. So we analyzed every single person that had such an account. In fact, we post every single near-death experience on the website for the people who give us permission, which is over 95%. So we not only have a very valid, comprehensive look at near-death experience because of the numbers, but in addition to that we share that with the world, so everybody else can see the data set that we’re seeing, too.