Wednesday, October 8, 2014

British Study Points to Life after Death

If naturalism is true, human consciousness is nothing but brain activity. Yet studies have repeatedly shown that consciousness can continue even when there is no brain activity. Why is naturalism considered a viable worldview when it has been decisively refuted by scientific research?
Telegraph—Death is a depressingly inevitable consequence of life, but now scientists believe they may have found some light at the end of the tunnel.

The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.

It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism.

But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.

And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.

One man even recalled leaving his body entirely and watching his resuscitation from the corner of the room.

Despite being unconscious and ‘dead’ for three minutes, the 57-year-old social worker from Southampton, recounted the actions of the nursing staff in detail and described the sound of the machines.

“We know the brain can’t function when the heart has stopped beating,” said Dr Sam Parnia, a former research fellow at Southampton University, now at the State University of New York, who led the study.

“But in this case, conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped.

“The man described everything that had happened in the room, but importantly, he heard two bleeps from a machine that makes a noise at three minute intervals. So we could time how long the experienced lasted for.

“He seemed very credible and everything that he said had happened to him had actually happened.”

Of 2060 cardiac arrest patients studied, 330 survived and 140 said they had experienced some kind of awareness while being resuscitated.

Although many could not recall specific details, some themes emerged. One in five said they had felt an unusual sense of peacefulness while nearly one third said time had slowed down or speeded up.

Some recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining. Others recounted feelings of fear or drowning or being dragged through deep water. 13 per cent said they had felt separated from their bodies and the same number said their sensed had been heightened.

Dr Parnia believes many more people may have experiences when they are close to death but drugs or sedatives used in the process of rescuitation may stop them remembering.

“Estimates have suggested that millions of people have had vivid experiences in relation to death but the scientific evidence has been ambiguous at best.

“Many people have assumed that these were hallucinations or illusions but they do seem to corresponded to actual events.

“And a higher proportion of people may have vivid death experiences, but do not recall them due to the effects of brain injury or sedative drugs on memory circuits.

“These experiences warrant further investigation.“ (Continue Reading.)


  1. This variety of brief experiences immediately following cardiac arrest definitely point to defining death more robustly than the perceptible conditions of the circulatory system. After all, if swimmers can train themselves to hold their breath for five minutes (record is 22 minutes by Stig Severinsen), and beheaded people can still blink responses to questions, it's fairly obvious that oxygenated blood and cellular activity don't altogether cease because the heart/lungs have stopped (systemic failure is a failure of function, not a complete description of total cell death). I would certainly expect passive systems like hearing and dreaming to continue for minutes after someone has been declared dead. As far as these accounts of experiences hinting at a consciousness independent of the body, it's problematic to say the least when these people recount factually incorrect details of their hospital room they explored in their out-of-body experience... or recount religious experiences incompatible with Christianity. The best explanation of all the available data, including this survey, is that these people are lucid dreamers.

  2. You say that swimmers can train themselves to hold their breath for five minutes, as if this has anything to do with the claims in the article. You know that the heart continues beating during those five minutes, right? We're talking about what happens when the heart stops beating, not about what happens when people hold their breath. As the article states, brain activity continues for 20-30 seconds after the heart stops. So it makes no sense for people to be conscious three minutes or more after the heart has stopped beating.

    Moreover, this study was limited to recent instances in the UK. There have been NDEs in which the person was completely brain dead, and there have been instances where people blind from birth could suddenly see during their NDE (even though they had no concept of sight before).

    I know you can't bear the thought of anything contradicting your worldview, but get used to it!

  3. Thanks for taking the time to respond Mr. Wood!
    Truthfully, I find things which contradict my worldview very fascinating, like some of my friends' first-hand ghost experiences. I don't know that I will ever have those figured out, which is what makes them interesting and engaging, like magic tricks before you understand how they are accomplished. The psychology of religious experiences is equally fascinating. I also really enjoy your Answering Muslims blog which is why I thought it would be interesting to engage you in other more familiar topics.

    What's relevant about a man denying his body oxygenated blood for 20+ minutes and still having brain activity? Relevant because, the patients in this research article *were being resuscitated* which means their blood was being circulated too, but by artificial means. Quite simply, can you tell me what the practical difference is for this discussion between the brain being denied oxygen by voluntary or involuntary lung cessation? If 20 minutes is not too long to be without, how is it surprising that others can occasionally manage 3 minutes?

    Moreover, the article *actually* states the brain "*typically* shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped," language which means medical scientists are already aware that this is not always the case -- it is not a hard and fast fact with which to enlist in a naturalism/supernaturalism debate. And if the blood is being artificially pumped through a person's brain, as when a person is being resuscitated, then brain activity could be extended. So what do we actually know about the brain activity of the patients in this UK study?

    It is very important to note that the research does not indicate that they were also monitoring brain activity during the resuscitations, but was rather questioning survivors about their experiences. This means that it cannot be demonstrated that these NDE were experienced by persons who were verifiably brain dead at the time. All we know is that their heart stopped beating naturally and that they were revived by resuscitation techniques including artificial means of keeping the blood circulating. It's reaching quite a bit to reference this research as part of a demonstration that consciousness continues beyond brain activity.

    As far as NDEs in which the person was completely brain dead and verified as such by brain monitoring, I would like to see such studies! Can you provide a link? As far as persons blind from birth having sight experiences in an NDE, I would have to ask about details such as whether they were sightblind, and therefore had sight knowledge and experience just underneath conscious recall.

  4. Daniel, do you really not understand how important blood circulation is for consciousness? Have you ever watched MMA? It only takes about four seconds to choke someone out. Cut off the blood circulation by putting someone in a choke hold, and he's out in four seconds. Why? Because that's how fast the brain will use up the oxygen without a fresh supply. So 20-30 seconds is generous. Thinking that people will be conscious for minutes with no blood flow to the brain is absurd. That's like saying you could put them in a sleeper hold for several minutes with no effect. Such people would be unbeatable in the octagon (at least in grappling), because they don't need oxygen to the brain!

    Here's an instance of a NDE in which the woman was put into a coma for an operation. You can read the details (along with the skeptical response):

  5. Not sure how you're missing this but here it is simplified:

    *I previously pointed out that even these UK patients whose hearts stopped beating naturally still had their blood flowing by resuscitation techniques.

    *The level of activity they could experience depends on several factors including supplemental oxygenation and metabolism rate. Lying motionless in a hospital bed is a good example of a low-metabolism situation, allowing the brain to function longer because the rest of the body is not drawing as much oxygen from the blood.

    *Unconsciousness is not a simple inactive state, as lucid dreaming is an example of unconscious processes incorporating external stimuli into dream-level consciousness. Experiences of floating, lights, meeting people, feelings of peace, etc., are all within the realm of dream, and especially within the context of a brain shutting down.

    Taken altogether, these points allow for NDEs to be understood naturalistically.


    Her heart stopped for THREE HOURS- she was dead, according to statements here.

    "Of 2060 cardiac arrest patients studied, 330 survived and 140 said they had experienced some kind of awareness while being resuscitated"

    16% survived; 6.8% had "NDEs"- hardly a convincing proportion. Some people love to have their 15 seconds of fame.

    All in all, highly unconvincing.