William Reville on NDEs-a potentially open-minded take?

2 Replies, 650 Views

A rather bizarre piece from the Irish Times (I don't blame you if you haven't heard of them, they're not very popular from what I can tell) from a scientist who seems to be afraid of admitting that NDEs (probably) aren't neurological. 

I was mislead by the opening paragraphs, which actually did a decent job at describing the main features, and even him referencing veridical NDEs. But then it all goes downhill from there:   

Quote:Science assumes NDEs have an entirely physiological explanation and scientists are interested in the phenomenon as an opportunity to study the mind-body connection...
I think that should be adjusted to some scientists assume. The 'current state of play' is hardly summarised by Koch (whose abysmal SA article he decides to reference after this statement), who has shown in his own article and a previous thread that he is still rather uninformed on NDEs as he presents an outdated, rehashed theory, which the author then tries to vaguely reference as well. 

Quote:NDEs raise the possibility that human consciousness (mind), can exist independently of the human brain. Patients report, for example, floating upwards and observing doctors and nurses frantically working on their body on the operating table below. Later these patients accurately report the activities they saw and heard. But no report to date has absolutely and convincingly indicated a disembodied mind.
That section in bold is nothing more than a subjective opinion. Given the fact he only references the Maria's shoe case makes me suspect Reville here has not looked into very many veridical cases at all, such as the dozens covered in The Self Does Not Die. Of course they haven't persuaded everyone, but to try and say they're objectively not completely convincing is inaccurate. Additionally, is he forgetting veridical cases where patients have been able to acquire information beyond the operating table/room they were in at the time? Bruce Greyson has plenty of examples of such cases. Once again, he hasn't done very much research into these increasing number of reports. 

Quote:As a scientist my working hypothesis is that NDEs simply reflect the activity of the dying brain as oxygen levels fall and carbon dioxide levels rise. For example, NDE reports of light at the end of a dark tunnel could simply reflect oxygen levels falling in the retina, starting at the periphery and moving inwards towards the centre, producing tunnel vision. Various other experiences reported in NDEs, for example, out of body experiences, can be simulated, even if only weakly, by stimulating certain parts of the brain and they are also reported by astronauts after fainting from exposure to high g-levels.
Really that's the view of a scientist who wants to avoid losing his credibility by suggesting anything that isn't at least vaguely physicalist. The old 'tunnel light' explanation due to apoxia/hypoxia hallucinations has long been almost debunked and heavily refuted by this point and anyone who has actually taken the time to thoroughly research NDEs should understand this by now. How are these parts of the brain being stimulated and by what? I've also heard this astronaut thing be parroted online before, and again, it's cherry picking. I do not understand how Reville can write about several common features of NDEs surprisingly accurately before descending into vague, hand-wavey reasoning as to a neurological cause that doesn't align with these features. Those astronauts had OBEs but they were not verified, and they did not have any other features of the NDEs just listed only a few paragraphs back. Also, the evolutionary criticism also comes into play here. 

It is amusing to me that he references the AWARE study but does not consider the criticisms Parnia has made of the oxygen explanation, or those that others have made as well. When will these skeptical scientists stop resorting to the same old oxygen deprivation explanation? I'm fairly certain the Journal of Near-Death Studies has covered the reasons for why oxygen deprivation doesn't hold up, namely because it's also associated with negative side effects as well that are not reported in most, if any, NDEs. 

Quote:Nevertheless, disembodied consciousness has yet to be definitively ruled out. Imagine the excitement if rigorous testing eventually rules it in! We would then have to reimagine the mind as some sort of complex electromagnetic algorithm normally coupled to the brain but also capable of detaching from this base.
But that is based on the assumption that the mind was ever fully understood in the first place, which it isn't. And it's bizarre that he chooses not to explain what he means by 'complex electromagnetic algorithm'. And I'm fairly certain that Parnia's work is rigorous. I hope that this author is not implying otherwise. He does mention however research on NDEs is accelerating-he just doesn't bother elaborating on examples of this, which include Parnia and Greyson. 

This article feels like someone who is trying to sound neutral but knows they'll be criticised heavily if they try to give any greater credibility to the (imo, more obvious) alternative that NDEs are not hallucinations. It's notable that this guy is a professor emeritus of biochemistry, NOT psychological or cognitive neurosciences, so I'm honestly not surprised. But this is just lazy. This honestly reads like an average, run-of-the-mill 'scientific' article on NDEs that could be written by anyone who just skimmed through Wikipedia or some other medical site, doing the usual cherry picking of details to form a theory that doesn't fairly represent the phenomenon. The fact that this guy only mentions Koch, someone who evidently doesn't understand the phenomenon either and has not conducted any studies on it himself, shows a lack of actual research and familiarity. Then again, I don't expect a biochemistry professor to be an expert on cardiology or neuroscience. 

But posting this makes me wonder if more scientists in journalism are becoming more open-minded towards the phenomena, and are more aware of veridical NDEs and how the so-called 'neurological' explanations don't really hold up all that well. Reville here, like I said, comes across as someone who perhaps wants to believe, but can't risk putting his reputation on the line. I get that this was clearly a rather rushed piece aimed at a certain target demographic, so it's naturally brief and vague and lacks depth, but still. 

This article has also made me realise a recurring trend/trope in these pieces. It is rare that they ever say some scientists believe they are genuine glimpses into the afterlife, they instead use the term people, which is then diminished in value when the author refers to scientists seemingly having a separate opinion much of the time, which is, as Bruce Greyson's latest works have shown, false. This kind of writing is again showing a lack of research and is effectively misinformation. I've noticed that the better articles on NDEs tend to actually note that the phenomena is still unexplained and that consciousness detaching from the body is a view held by plenty academics and scholars of science. 

But this also makes me angry for another reason. This is yet another instance of an article on NDEs being published in a newspaper/magazine trying to almost definitively make NDEs out as hallucinations during the COVID-19 pandemic. I don't know about you guys, but trying to diminish or even 'debunk' these experiences during a time of death and anxiety is very inappropriate and insensitive. Giving examples and accounts of NDEs and describing how they are still unexplained, allowing readers to form their own view, is fine. But stuff like this is where I start to have a problem. Koch's was definitely worse and more biased, but I still find these kinds of articles are not beneficial/useful in any way during a pandemic, especially when they consistently have nothing new to offer.
(This post was last modified: 2020-09-20, 11:39 PM by OmniVersalNexus.)
Another debunking post that belongs in the Debate section.

Reported, so hopefully moved soon.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

[-] The following 1 user Likes Sciborg_S_Patel's post:
  • OmniVersalNexus
(2020-09-20, 11:37 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Another debunking post that belongs in the Debate section.

Reported, so hopefully moved soon.

Fair enough, apologies.
(This post was last modified: 2020-09-21, 12:14 AM by OmniVersalNexus.)

  • View a Printable Version
Forum Jump:

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)