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← That’s not the afterlife – it’s a brainstorm

That’s not the afterlife – it’s a brainstorm - Comments

Aztek's Avatar Comment 1 by Aztek

Makes me think of a quote from Tim Minchin's masterpiece "Storm":

"Because throughout history, every mystery ever solved, has turned out to be - not magic."

Now we can pull out god from this gap and seal it with good ol' knowledge. And next time I'll meet a faith-head talking about near-death experiences, I'll rub this in his face.

Updated: Mon, 31 May 2010 07:17:24 UTC | #475006

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 2 by Stafford Gordon

I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that it is a total waste of time engaging in discussions about matters scientific with individuals such as the author of this article; as I've said before, it's like trying to sweep water into a plie.

It's better to just let let them waffle; it's up to them to work things out for themselves and get the religious fluke out of their heads.

It's a bit like giving up smoking, no one else can do it for you. Religion is like a drug, we can live without it but some poor saps have been conned into thinking they can't.

And I don't care, so there.

Mon, 31 May 2010 07:35:12 UTC | #475008

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 3 by Stafford Gordon

I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that it is a total waste of time engaging in discussions about matters scientific with individuals such as the author of this article; as I've said before, it's like trying to sweep water into a plie.

It's better to just let let them waffle; it's up to them to work things out for themselves and get the religious fluke out of their heads.

It's a bit like giving up smoking, no one else can do it for you. Religion is like a drug, we can live without it but some poor saps have been conned into thinking they can't.

And I don't care, so there.

Mon, 31 May 2010 07:35:33 UTC | #475009

Marcus Small's Avatar Comment 4 by Marcus Small

Of some religionists will say that means nothing. The out of body, bear death experiences, imply for many 1) an immortal soul, and 2) the passage of this immortal soul to some heavenly realm. This is the most common belief in Christian, nominal Christian and non aligned spirituality (the 'I am spiritual but not religious' type).

Some have always dismissed these experiences albeit for dogmatic rather then rational reasons.

The Christian creeds are very clear on this.

So to quote the apostles' creed.

'I believe in .... the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.'

Whereas the Nicene Creed puts it like this. 'we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.'

Both imply death, followed by being dead, followed by resurrection, In that you cannot be resurrected if you are not first dead.

I realize that this is a theological point of information and should not inform research, but but as a point of information it can inform the discussion.

Mon, 31 May 2010 08:26:26 UTC | #475013

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 5 by Steven Mading

One problem I have with any study based on brain activity is that a correlation does not prove which direction the cause/effect relationship occurs in. Do the electrical surges cause the near-death experiences, or are they the normal manifestation of the brain thinking that way? Of course thoughts are always accompanied by brain activity, but there's a huge chicken-and-egg problem with brain activity. If a person asks me to remember the taste of strawberries, and then I cognitively decide to recollect the memory of the flavor of strawberries, that will trigger signals that tickle the part of my brain where the memories of strawberry flavor are stored. It would be a mistake to assume that those signals are the primary cause of my memory of strawberries. Those signals occurred because I chose to remember the flavor of strawberries. It's not as if I spontaneously had a random firing of signals that triggered the memory. The firing of those signals was itself caused by other thoughts. These electrical signals may not be the cause of near-death experiences. They may be the effect of them.

Mon, 31 May 2010 08:34:40 UTC | #475014

Piero's Avatar Comment 6 by Piero

Steven, it's quite simple: can you hypothesize a mechanism whereby the near-death experience would cause the electrical activity in the brain? Of course, you cannot fall back on neural activity in order to explain the nature of the near-death experience, because then you would be chasing your own tail. That means you would have to define "experience" independently of neural activity. Since I'm pretty sure you won't be able to do it, I hereby declare the chicken-and-egg problem a pseudo problem.

Mon, 31 May 2010 09:31:29 UTC | #475021

Pete.K's Avatar Comment 7 by Pete.K

Comment 5 by Steven Mading :

. These electrical signals may not be the cause of near-death experiences. They may be the effect of them.

That's what the report more-or-less said. As I read it, the proximity of death caused the brain to react, in a last ditch attempt to keep the body functions going, by stimulating neurons en masse. The vast majority of people who enter this stage die, but thanks to modern medical science a few lucky people are dragged back from the precipice of death, and fewer still are able to recount the experience of more brain activity in a few seconds than they are used to.

Quite basically it's little more than a dream, we experience similar electrical brain activity, although to a lesser degree, when we dream, some people are able to recount those dreams, and a few deluded people see them as a message from a deity.

Shit happens, some people smell shit, some people smell roses!

Mon, 31 May 2010 09:39:03 UTC | #475024

black wolf's Avatar Comment 8 by black wolf

Oh, what do these doctors know. Has even one of them studied sophisticated theology? Have they ever immersed themselves in the rich tradition that lives in the body of the revelation that is truth itself? Pah, scientism.

/sarcasm

Mon, 31 May 2010 09:44:08 UTC | #475028

GaryHarmon's Avatar Comment 9 by GaryHarmon

Again and again I am amazed by articles like this. This is truly interesting and thought provoking stuff. Likewise, I'm amazed in how (if you'll forgive the pun) brain dead religious doctrine is concerning things like this. If it were up to them, this sort of study would not be taking place and any knowledge that is one day gleaned from it would be left undiscovered and forever unknown.

Thank goodness for those out there that don't take religious thought simply as read.

Mon, 31 May 2010 09:58:13 UTC | #475030

mira's Avatar Comment 10 by mira

You don't even need a near death situation to have the same experience. A simple faint and a good shock will do. I know from personal experience.

Mon, 31 May 2010 10:43:25 UTC | #475033

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 11 by Steven Mading

Comment 6 by Piero :

Steven, it's quite simple: can you hypothesize a mechanism whereby the near-death experience would cause the electrical activity in the brain? Of course, you cannot fall back on neural activity in order to explain the nature of the near-death experience, because then you would be chasing your own tail. That means you would have to define "experience" independently of neural activity. Since I'm pretty sure you won't be able to do it, I hereby declare the chicken-and-egg problem a pseudo problem.

You completely misunderstood my point. I already explained exactly what I was talkng about. Thoughts are made of brain signals - I;m not denying that and I'm in fact my point depended on it. Thoughts trigger other thoughts. They don't occur in isolation. There's never a situation where only one thought is happening in isolation. Thinking about X makes you think about Y which makes you think about Z and so on. There's a massive difference between claiming "these signals happened first and that's why these thoughts occurred." versus saying "These thoughts occurred (triggered by earlier signals) and as a result they triggered more thoughts, and that means thoughts triggered signals that triggered thoughts and so on."

I think there's a big difference between firings occurring spontaneously that trigger the brain to behave in a way that is outside the normal thought stream, versus the firings that are part of normal stream of consciousness. It's the difference between sensing the smell of strawberries because you've decided to take a trip down memory lane and think about it, versus sensing the smell of strawberries because of a hallucinogenic drug that bypasses the normal signaling process and just spontaneously generates sensory signals out-of-band. It's like the difference between a bit turning on in a computer because a program instruction made it turn on versus it happening because of a hardware glitch. One is unusual. The other isn't. Similarly, did these scientists discover the cause of near death dream, or did they discover the normal emotional "oh shit I'm dying" thought pattern that occurs as an effect of the death dream?

Basically what I'm saying is that since thoughts don't occur in isolation, if this is what's really going on: (A,B,C,D are signals, and X,Y,Z are the conscious thoughts they generate)

....etc... a -> X -> b -> Y -> c -> Z -> d .... etc...

If there is a chain of thought like this, and you notice that a certain signal accompanies thought Y, you can't tell if the signal you found is signal b or signal c. it might be the input or the output.

Mon, 31 May 2010 11:16:52 UTC | #475038

Martiniii's Avatar Comment 12 by Martiniii

From evolutionary point of view, why would you need a surge of this electric impulse?

Mon, 31 May 2010 11:23:39 UTC | #475040

mmurray's Avatar Comment 13 by mmurray

Surely this is the soul leaving ?

Michael

Mon, 31 May 2010 13:03:54 UTC | #475048

Ohnhai's Avatar Comment 14 by Ohnhai

Another thing of think on is the fact that the classic image of an near death experience is saturated in the modern zeightgeist. Pretty much every one can describe one and with near 100% correlation. Add to this the crazed firings of the brain in it's death throws and no wonder the saved patient makes connections.

Mon, 31 May 2010 13:27:27 UTC | #475054

Joel Jacobson's Avatar Comment 15 by Joel Jacobson

From evolutionary point of view, why would you need a surge of this electric impulse?

Evolution has nothing to do with it. After an organism has reproduced and survived, whatever happens (such as losing one's eyesight, mobility, or teeth) doesn't involve the process of evolution.

Mon, 31 May 2010 13:40:20 UTC | #475058

btheist's Avatar Comment 16 by btheist

While it's true correlation does not necessarily mean causation, the electrical activity hypothesis is certainly more probable than the sky guy waving a flashlight and yelling "Hey you, over here"!

So as much as we cannot conclude that the electrical brainstorm is the cause of the near death experiences, I finding much easier to accept this as a working theory until it duly falsified.

As for the proverbial Chicken and Egg question.... definitely the chicken, but she had already been immaculately conception-ed. (conceptionized?)

Mon, 31 May 2010 15:17:17 UTC | #475100

black wolf's Avatar Comment 17 by black wolf

Comment 12 by Martiniii :

From evolutionary point of view, why would you need a surge of this electric impulse?

As the other comment points out, you don't. It appears that the massive cessation of bodily functions, organ failures and muscle control disconnection involved with death leaves a lot of energy free to fire up the brain, and as its physiological job is to keep the body running, it tries to compensate the loss of control by yelling louder. The brain can't diagnose the body to understand that it's game over.

Mon, 31 May 2010 15:35:40 UTC | #475103

Gunga Lagunga's Avatar Comment 18 by Gunga Lagunga

Unfortunately, the converse is true for many religious thinkers: their "brainstorms" are actually indicative of their "dead brains".

Mon, 31 May 2010 17:07:02 UTC | #475135

digibud's Avatar Comment 19 by digibud

great quote, Aztek. Tim Minchin is a fucking hoot.

Mon, 31 May 2010 17:17:51 UTC | #475140

Friend of Icelos's Avatar Comment 20 by Friend of Icelos

Comment 7 by Pete.K :

Quite basically it's little more than a dream,

As a dream enthusiast, I take exception to your statement. I'd say it's nothing less. : )

Mon, 31 May 2010 17:32:28 UTC | #475147

seals's Avatar Comment 21 by seals

At least the near death experiences that are reported are mainly pleasant, which is lucky. I can't think of any reason why they should have to be pleasant or make sense at all, even the kind of sense that dreams have, when death is just a moment away. If anything, I would have expected them to be quite awful.

Mon, 31 May 2010 18:44:07 UTC | #475161

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 22 by Philoctetes

How can anyone claim to have seen Muhammed during one of these experiences? No one knows what he looked like and the Mullahs intend to keep it that way. I bet no Jews claimed to have seen Jesus, or Xtians Muhammed, or moslems Moses. No prises for guessing why. Aldous Huxley must have had a real party as his brain was doing its own nature weird, closedown to the accompaniment of his deliberately and rationally ingested LSD. I wonder what I will "see" as I quit this mortal coil.

Mon, 31 May 2010 19:21:44 UTC | #475171

Rationalist's Avatar Comment 23 by Rationalist

That's interesting and rather cruel. For believers just before they die, they think they're going to the afterlife and then

Mon, 31 May 2010 20:01:15 UTC | #475183

cornbread_r2's Avatar Comment 24 by cornbread_r2

For another article on NDEs see below.

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/keith_augustine/HNDEs.html

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 05:10:48 UTC | #475272

Net's Avatar Comment 25 by Net

steve, piero and his ilk are just as doctrinaire as the faith-heads. they think their interpretation of the facts is the only possible one. they'll also seize on the religious interpretations given to these experiences without even considering some of the other, non-religious interpretations and explanations that the experiences might hint at. you can tell that they're not into any sort of genuine debate or discussion because the rhetoric is all about trivialising and humiliating you whilst at the same time trying to sound ever so scientific. what a mockery they make of science.

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 12:12:25 UTC | #475335

JackR's Avatar Comment 26 by JackR

So, an unusually vivid mental experience is down to unusual brain activity? My God, who'd've thunk it?!

Tue, 01 Jun 2010 13:10:26 UTC | #475361

HappyPrimate's Avatar Comment 27 by HappyPrimate

In the spring of 1995, I started feeling tired and stayed home from work that Monday. That night I got the chills so bad I ran a hot bath and that didn't even warm me up. Tuesday, lying on the sofa I felt my temp spike and began to feel as if I were floating. Knowing that was impossible and obviously not a good sign, I had my dad drive me to the hospital. I was diagnosed as septic with a severe kidney infection and was told my heart might stop any second. They couldn't find even a trace of potassium in my blood. I had a micro-organism in my blood causing me to be extremely sick, but I felt no pain, nausea, etc. and during the fever spikes I felt like I was flying. It sorta felt really good and supernatural. Had I not been a reality based person, but a person who believed in magic, I probably would have died. The doctor said had I waited to get to the hospital one more day, it could have been too late. Four days on an intervnous massive dose of several antibotics and I survived. Point is I knew the flying feeling was a "side effect" of the fever and my brain was causing that feeling due to being affected by the high fever, nothing else. BTW it cost me out of pocket about $2,000 for the medical bills with insurance.

Sat, 05 Jun 2010 01:31:46 UTC | #476541

MegaKarlos88's Avatar Comment 28 by MegaKarlos88

My grandmother had a near death experience giving birth to my dad and was on a BBC programme about it some decades ago. Having talked to her about it I think that the people who have had these experiences want to believe they're real because they're scared having came so close to death. As for the rest of us, science is the answer

Fri, 25 Jun 2010 16:18:46 UTC | #483568

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 29 by ZenDruid

What surprises me is the duration of the observed EEG activity -- from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. That sounds like a very long time.

It would be difficult to catch this sort of thing by fMRI, unless the subject agrees to die in the machine. [Volunteers, please...?] I wonder if the activity is 'modulated' in any way by the amygdala, which has a purported connection to epilepsy and hallucinations.

Sat, 10 Jul 2010 03:10:01 UTC | #487645

ridelo's Avatar Comment 30 by ridelo

Comment 15 by Joel Jacobson :

From evolutionary point of view, why would you need a surge of this electric impulse?

Evolution has nothing to do with it. After an organism has reproduced and survived, whatever happens (such as losing one's eyesight, mobility, or teeth) doesn't involve the process of evolution.

Maybe experiences like this contributed to the belief in an afterlife, from there to religion and, as we al know, successful religions have run the world. Until now, at least. There you have an evolutionary boon for near dead experiences. Not good for the individual, but good for the group.

I know there's a discussion about group evolution, but I'm not sophisticated enough to partake in that kind of thing. Maybe somebody better understanding this can give some explanation.

Sat, 10 Jul 2010 09:18:21 UTC | #487677