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Evidence Science

People Have Near-Death Experiences While Brain Dead

Dr. Michael Sabom is a cardiologist whose book entitled Light and Death includes a detailed medical and scientific analysis of an amazing near-death experience (NDE) of a woman named Pam Reynolds (1956–2010). In 1991, at the age of 35, Reynolds underwent a rare operation to remove a giant basilar artery aneurysm in her brain that threatened her life. The size and location of the aneurysm, however, precluded its safe removal using the standard neuro-surgical techniques. She was referred to a neurosurgeon, Dr. Robert F. Spetzler, of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, who had pioneered a daring surgical procedure known as deep hypothermic cardiac arrest. It allowed Pam’s aneurysm to be excised with a reasonable chance of success. This operation, nicknamed “standstill” by the doctors who perform it, required that Pam’s body temperature be lowered to 60 degrees, her heartbeat and breathing stopped, her brain waves flattened, and the blood drained from her head. In everyday terms, she was put to death. After removing the aneurysm, she was restored to life.

During the time that Pam was in standstill, she experienced an NDE. Her remarkably detailed veridical (i.e., verified) out-of-body observations during her surgery were later verified to be true. Her case is considered to be one of the strongest cases of veridical evidence in NDE research because of her ability to describe the unique surgical instruments, the surgical procedures used on her, and her ability to describe in detail these events while she was clinically brain dead. Pam Reynolds Lowery ultimately died from heart failure, on Saturday May 22, 2010, at the age 53.

Table of Contents

  1. Pam Reynolds’ Surgery and Near-Death Experience
  2. About the State of Pam Reynolds’ Brain Death
  3. The Pam Reynolds’ Debate in the Journal of Near-Death Studies
  4. More Links to Articles Related to the Veridical Perception Debate
  5. The Case Against Keith Augustine’s “Internet Infidels”
    a. Against Keith Augustine’s Naturalism
    b. Against Keith Augustine’s “Myth of an Afterlife”

1. Pam Reynolds’ Surgery and Near-Death Experience

When all of Pam’s vital signs were stopped, the doctor turned on a surgical saw and began to cut through Pam’s skull. While this was going on, Pam reported that she felt herself “pop” outside her body and hover above the operating table. Then she watched the doctors working on her lifeless body for awhile. From her out-of-body position, she observed the doctor sawing into her skull with what looked to her like an electric toothbrush. Pam heard and reported later what the nurses in the operating room had said and exactly what was happening during the operation. At this time, every monitor attached to Pam’s body registered “no life” whatsoever. At some point, Pam’s consciousness floated out of the operating room and traveled down a tunnel which had a light at the end of it where her deceased relatives and friends were waiting including her long-dead grandmother. Pam’s NDE ended when her deceased uncle led her back to her body for her to reentered it. Pam compared the feeling of reentering her dead body to “plunging into a pool of ice.” The following is Pam Reynolds’ account of her NDE in her own words.

Pam Reynolds’ NDE

The next thing I recall was the sound: It was a Natural “D.” As I listened to the sound, I felt it was pulling me out of the top of my head. The further out of my body I got, the more clear the tone became. I had the impression it was like a road, a frequency that you go on … I remember seeing several things in the operating room when I was looking down. It was the most aware that I think that I have ever been in my entire life …I was metaphorically sitting on [the doctor’s] shoulder. It was not like normal vision. It was brighter and more focused and clearer than normal vision … There was so much in the operating room that I didn’t recognize, and so many people.

I thought the way they had my head shaved was very peculiar. I expected them to take all of the hair, but they did not…

The saw-thing that I hated the sound of looked like an electric toothbrush and it had a dent in it, a groove at the top where the saw appeared to go into the handle, but it didn’t … And the saw had interchangeable blades, too, but these blades were in what looked like a socket wrench case … I heard the saw crank up. I didn’t see them use it on my head, but I think I heard it being used on something. It was humming at a relatively high pitch and then all of a sudden it went Brrrrrrrrr! like that.

Someone said something about my veins and arteries being very small. I believe it was a female voice and that it was Dr. Murray, but I’m not sure. She was the cardiologist. I remember thinking that I should have told her about that … I remember the heart-lung machine. I didn’t like the respirator … I remember a lot of tools and instruments that I did not readily recognize.

There was a sensation like being pulled, but not against your will. I was going on my own accord because I wanted to go. I have different metaphors to try to explain this. It was like the Wizard of Oz – being taken up in a tornado vortex, only you’re not spinning around like you’ve got vertigo. You’re very focused and you have a place to go. The feeling was like going up in an elevator real fast. And there was a sensation, but it wasn’t a bodily, physical sensation. It was like a tunnel but it wasn’t a tunnel.

At some point very early in the tunnel vortex I became aware of my grandmother calling me. But I didn’t hear her call me with my ears … It was a clearer hearing than with my ears. I trust that sense more than I trust my own ears.

The feeling was that she wanted me to come to her, so I continued with no fear down the shaft. It’s a dark shaft that I went through, and at the very end there was this very little tiny pinpoint of light that kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

The light was incredibly bright, like sitting in the middle of a light bulb. It was so bright that I put my hands in front of my face fully expecting to see them and I could not. But I knew they were there. Not from a sense of touch. Again, it’s terribly hard to explain, but I knew they were there …

I noticed that as I began to discern different figures in the light – and they were all covered with light, they were light, and had light permeating all around them – they began to form shapes I could recognize and understand. I could see that one of them was my grandmother. I don’t know if it was reality or a projection, but I would know my grandmother, the sound of her, anytime, anywhere.

Everyone I saw, looking back on it, fit perfectly into my understanding of what that person looked like at their best during their lives.

I recognized a lot of people. My uncle Gene was there. So was my great-great-Aunt Maggie, who was really a cousin. On Papa’s side of the family, my grandfather was there … They were specifically taking care of me, looking after me.

They would not permit me to go further … It was communicated to me – that’s the best way I know how to say it, because they didn’t speak like I’m speaking – that if I went all the way into the light something would happen to me physically. They would be unable to put this me back into the body me, like I had gone too far and they couldn’t reconnect. So they wouldn’t let me go anywhere or do anything.

I wanted to go into the light, but I also wanted to come back. I had children to be reared. It was like watching a movie on fast-forward on your VCR: You get the general idea, but the individual freeze-frames are not slow enough to get detail.

Then they [deceased relatives] were feeding me. They were not doing this through my mouth, like with food, but they were nourishing me with something. The only way I know how to put it is something sparkly. Sparkles is the image that I get. I definitely recall the sensation of being nurtured and being fed and being made strong. I know it sounds funny, because obviously it wasn’t a physical thing, but inside the experience I felt physically strong, ready for whatever.

My grandmother didn’t take me back through the tunnel, or even send me back or ask me to go. She just looked up at me. I expected to go with her, but it was communicated to me that she just didn’t think she would do that. My uncle said he would do it. He’s the one who took me back through the end of the tunnel. Everything was fine. I did want to go.

But then I got to the end of it and saw the thing, my body. I didn’t want to get into it … It looked terrible, like a train wreck. It looked like what it was: dead. I believe it was covered. It scared me and I didn’t want to look at it.

It was communicated to me that it was like jumping into a swimming pool. No problem, just jump right into the swimming pool. I didn’t want to, but I guess I was late or something because he [the uncle] pushed me. I felt a definite repelling and at the same time a pulling from the body. The body was pulling and the tunnel was pushing … It was like diving into a pool of ice water … It hurt!

When I came back, they were playing Hotel California and the line was “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” I mentioned [later] to Dr. Brown that that was incredibly insensitive and he told me that I needed to sleep more. [laughter] When I regained consciousness, I was still on the respirator.

2. About the State of Pam Reynolds’ Brain Death

For practical purposes outside the world of academic debate, three clinical tests commonly determine brain death. First, a standard electroencephalogram, or EEG, measures brain-wave activity. A “flat” EEG denotes non-function of the cerebral cortex – the outer shell of the cerebrum. Second, auditory evoked potentials, similar to those [clicks] elicited by the ear speakers in Pam’s surgery, measure brain-stem viability. Absence of these potentials indicates non-function of the brain stem. And third, documentation of no blood flow to the brain is a marker for a generalized absence of brain function.

But during “standstill”, Pam’s brain was found “dead” by all three clinical tests – her electroencephalogram was silent, her brain-stem response was absent, and no blood flowed through her brain. Interestingly, while in this state, she encountered the “deepest” NDE of all Atlanta Study participants.

Some scientists theorize that NDEs are produced by brain chemistry. But, Dr. Peter Fenwick, a neuropsychiatrist and the leading authority in Britain concerning NDEs, believes that these theories fall far short of the facts. In the documentary, “Into the Unknown: Strange But True,” Dr. Fenwick describes the state of the brain during an NDE:

“The brain isn’t functioning. It’s not there. It’s destroyed. It’s abnormal. But, yet, it can produce these very clear experiences … an unconscious state is when the brain ceases to function. For example, if you faint, you fall to the floor, you don’t know what’s happening and the brain isn’t working. The memory systems are particularly sensitive to unconsciousness. So, you won’t remember anything. But, yet, after one of these experiences [an NDE], you come out with clear, lucid memories … This is a real puzzle for science. I have not yet seen any good scientific explanation which can explain that fact.”

3. The Pam Reynolds’ Debate in the Journal of Near-Death Studies

Keith Augustine is a philosopher and executive editor of an organization and website promoting atheism called “Internet Infidels” — now renamed “The Secular Web” (www.infidels.org). Beginning in the summer of 2007, Augustine submitted three skeptical papers related to the Pam Reynolds’s case to the scholarly, peer-reviewed journal on NDEs called the Journal of Near-Death Studies. Normally, only papers by physicians, scientists, medical professionals and academics are accepted; but, according to the Editor of the Journal, Bruce Greyson, M.D., Augustine’s papers were accepted because of the large collection of skeptical arguments presented and the opportunity it would give to have them peer-reviewed.

Following Augustine’s papers and the peer-reviewed commentaries on them, another skeptic’s papers are presented related to the Pam Reynolds’ case which were accepted to the Journal and peer-reviewed. Gerald Woerlee (www.neardth.com) is a Dutch anesthesiologist and author of several books including the anti-religious book “The Unholy Legacy of Abraham” where he presents his skeptical theory about phenomena such as NDEs as being religious fantasies of the brain.

Altogether, these skeptical papers and critical commentaries give the NDE enthusiast with a library of information providing all sides of the issue concerning the materialist / agnostic / survivalist debate on NDEs.

Links to Papers from the Journal of Near-Death Studies on the Veridical Perception NDE Debate

A. Keith Augustine. “Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?” JNDS Vol. 25, No. 4 (Summer 2007) [PDF]
1. Bruce Greyson. “Comments on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘” (pp. 237-244). [PDF]
2. Kimberly Sharp. “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?” (pp. 245-250). [PDF]
3. Charles Tart. “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘” (pp. 251-256). [PDF]
4. Michael Sabom. “Commentary on ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?’” (pp. 257-260). [PDF]
a. Keith Augustine. “‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?’ DEFENDED” (pp. 261-283). [PDF]

B. Keith Augustine. “NDEs with Hallucinatory Features” JNDS Vol. 26, No. 1 (Fall 2007) [PDF]
1. Janice Holden. “A Response to ‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features‘” (pp. 33-42). [PDF]
2. Peter Fenwick. “Commentary on ‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features‘” (pp. 43-49). [PDF]
3. William Serdahely. “Commentary on ‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features” (pp. 51-53). [PDF]
4. Bruce Greyson. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 67-70). [PDF]
5. Kenneth Ring. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 70-76). [PDF]
6. Raymond Moody. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 77-83). [PDF]
7. Steven Cooper. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 83). [PDF]
8. Barbara Whitfield. “Responses to ‘Does Paranormal Perception Occur in NDEs?‘ [Letter]” (pp. 84-85). [PDF]
a. Keith Augustine. “‘NDEs with Hallucinatory Features’ DEFENDED” (pp. 55-65). [PDF]

C. Keith Augustine. “Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates Undermining a Survivalist Interpretation of NDEs” JNDS Vol. 26, No. 2 (Winter 2007) [PDF]
1. Bruce Greyson. “Commentary on ‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates…” (pp. 127-145). [PDF]
2. Allan Kellehear. “Comments on ‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates…” (pp. 147-153). [PDF]
3. Mark Fox. “Comment on Keith Augustine’s Article” (pp. 155-157). [PDF]
4. Harvey Irwin. “Commentary on Keith Augustine’s Paper” (pp. 159-161). [PDF]
a. Keith Augustine. “‘Psychophysiological and Cultural Correlates… DEFENDED” (pp. 163-175). [PDF]

D. Journal of Near-Death Studies. Vol. 26, No. 3 (Spring 2008)
1. P.M.H. Atwater. “Embellishment of NDEs [Letter]” (pp. 219-223). [PDF]
2. Michael Sabom. “Study of Perception in Autoscopic NDEs [Letter]” (pp. 223-227). [PDF]
3. Neal Grossman. “Four Errors Commonly Made by Professional Debunkers [Letter]” (pp. 227-235). [PDF]
4. Keith Augustine. “Augustine Responds [Letter]” (pp. 235-243). [PDF]

E. Journal of Near-Death Studies. Vol. 26, No. 4 (Summer 2008)
1. Rudolf Smit. “Further Commentary on Pam Reynolds’ NDE [Letter]” (pp. 308-311). [PDF]

F. Gerald Woerlee. “Could Pam Reynolds Hear? A New Investigation into the Possibility of Hearing During this Famous NDE” JNDS, Vol. 30, No 1, (Fall 2011) [PDF]
1. Stuart Hameroff. “Response to ‘Could Pam Reynolds Hear?‘” (pp. 26-28). [PDF]
2. Chris Carter. “Response to ‘Could Pam Reynolds Hear?‘” (pp. 29-53). [PDF]
a. Gerald Woerlee. “Rejoinder to Responses to ‘Could Pam Reynolds Hear?‘” (pp. 54-61). [PDF]
I. Reply to Woerlee’s Rejoinder on the Pam Reynolds Case (2012) – by Chris Carter [PDF]
II. Interview with Titus Rivas about NDEs, survival of consciousness, the Pam Reynolds case etc. (2013). – by Jime Sayaka [PDF]

G. Journal for Near-Death Studies, Volume 30, Number 3, Spring 2012
1. Rudolf Smit. “Failed Test of the Possibility that Pam Reynolds Heard Normally During her NDE” [Letter} (pp. 188-192). [PDF]

H. Pim van Lommel et al. “NDE in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest: A Prospective Study in the Netherlands” (Dutch Study) The Lancet Vol. 358 (Dec. 2001) (pp. 2039-2045) [PDF]
1. Rudolf Smit. “Corroboration of the Dentures Anecdote Involving Veridical Perception in a NDE” JNDS Vol. 27, No. 1 (Fall 2008) (pp. 48-61) [PDF]
a. Gerald Woerlee. “Response to ‘Corroboration of the Dentures Anecdote Involving Veridical Perception in a NDE‘” JNDS Vol. 28, No. 4 (Summer 2010) (pp. 181-191) [PDF]
I. Rudolf Smit et al. “Rejoinder to ‘Corroboration of the Dentures Anecdote Involving Veridical Perception in a NDE‘” JNDS Vol. 28, No. 4 (Summer 2010) (193-205) [PDF]

4. More Links to Articles Related to the Veridical Perception Debate

Below are some Internet links related to the topic of the Pam Reynolds’ NDE debate and paranormal out-of-body veridical perception evidence for the survival of consciousness after death.

A. More Journal of Near-Death Studies Articles on Evidence From Veridical OBE Perception in NDEs
1. Kenneth Ring et al. “Further Evidence for Veridical Perception During NDEs” JNDS Vol. 11, No. 4 (1993) [PDF]
2. Titus Rivas et al. “A NDE with Veridical Perception Described by a Famous Heart Surgeon and Confirmed by his Assistant Surgeon” JNDS Vol. 31, No. 3 (2013) [PDF]
3. Penny Sartori et al. “A Prospectively Studied NDE with Corroborated OBE Perceptions and Unexplained Healing” JNDS Vol. 25, No. 2 (2006) [PDF]
4. Janice Holden. “Visual Perception During Naturalistic Near-Death OBEs” JNDS Vol. 7, No. 2 (1988) [PDF]
5. Janice Holden et al. “Near-Death Veridicality Research in the Hospital Setting: Problems and Promise” JNDS Vol. 9, No. 1 (1990) [PDF]
6. Michael Potts. “The Evidential Value of NDEs for Belief in Life After Death” JNDS Vol. 20, No. 4 (2002) [PDF]
7. Janice Holden et al. “Out-of-Body Experiences: All in the Brain?” JNDS Vol. 25, No. 2 (2006) [PDF]
8. Robert & Suzanne Mays. “The Phenomenology of the Self-Conscious Mind” JNDS Vol. 27, No. 1 (2008) [PDF]

B. Other Journal Articles on Evidence From Veridical OBE Perception in NDEs
1. David Rousseau. “The Implications of NDEs for Research into the Survival of Consciousness” JSE Vol. 26, No. 1 (pp. 43-80) (2012) [PDF]
2. Bruce Greyson. “Seeing Dead People Not Known to Have Died: ‘Peak in Darien’ Experiences” Anthropology and Humanism Vol. 25, No. 2 (2010) (pp. 159-171) [PDF]
3. Pim van Lommel. “NDE, Consciousness, and the Brain” World Futures Vol. 62 (2006) [PDF]
4. Michael Nahm et al. “Terminal Lucidity: A Review and a Case Collection” Arch. Gerontol. Geriarr. (2011) [PDF]
5. Enrico Facco et al. “NDEs Between Science and Prejudice” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience Vol. 6, No. 6 (2012) (pp. 1-7) [PDF]

C. Articles Refuting Keith Augustine’s and Gerald Woerlee’s Arguments
1. “Veridical OBE Perception in Near-Death Experiences” – by Kevin Williams (Near-Death.com)
2. “Rebutting Keith Augustine’s Objections to the Near-Death Experience” – by Leo MacDonald (ParanormalandLifeAfterDeath.blogspot.com)
3. “NDEs / OBEs: An In-depth Examination of Veridical Evidence” – by Eteponge (Eteponge.blogspot.com)
4. “NDEs: Brain Physiology or Transcendental Consciousness? Or Both?” – by Kevin Williams (Near-Death.com)
5. “NDEs and Their Enemies” – by Michael Prescott (MichaelPrescott.typepad.com)
6. “Who Will Watch the Watchers” – by Michael Prescott (MichaelPrescott.typepad.com)

D. Other Articles on Evidence From Veridical OBE Perception in NDEs
1. “NDEs as Evidence for Survival of Bodily Death” – by Bruce Greyson (SurvivalAfterDeath.info)
2. “A Critique of Susan Blackmore’s Dying Brain Hypothesis” – by Greg Stone (Near-Death.com)
3. “The Survivalist’s Interpretation of Recent Studies Into NDEs” – by Titus Rivas (Near-Death.com)
4. “About the Continuity of Our Consciousness” – by Pim Von Lommel (IANDS.org)
5. “Medical Evidence for NDEs: A Reply to Shermer” – by Pim van Lommel (Skepticalinvestigations.org)
6. “Dr. Charles Tart’s OBE Research” (Autoscopic Evidence) – by Charles Tart (Near-Death.com)
7. “Debunking PseudoSkeptical Arguments of Paranormal Debunkers” – by Winston Wu (DebunkingSkeptics.com)

5. The Case Against Keith Augustine’s “Internet Infidels”

a. Against Keith Augustine’s Naturalism

Religious faith implies the possibility of doubt. Knowledge implies certainty due to scientific methods. This is why knowledge will always be greater than faith; and why scientific support for the existence of God is always stronger than faith in dogma. Kurt Godel, the foremost mathematical logician of the 20th century, offered a theorem and a proof that atheism is not logical. If you visit Keith Augustine’s website, Infidels.org, on the home page you will find the following statement:

Naturalism is ‘the hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it.’ Thus, ‘naturalism implies that there are no supernatural entities’ – including God.” – Quote from Keith Augustine’s website

However, Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem shows that no consistent formal system can prove its own consistency. See this Wikipedia article for the mathematical logic. In plain language, it proves that all closed systems depend upon something outside the system. So according to Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, the quote on the Infidels website cannot be correct. If the natural world is a closed, logical system, then it has an outside cause. Thus, according to Godel’s theorem, atheism violates the laws of reason and logic. Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem definitively proves that current scientific models can never fill its own gaps. We have no choice but to look outside of current scientific models for answers concerning illogical statements such as, “A God does not exist in the natural world.”.

The incompleteness of the universe’s own consistency regarding its existence isn’t proof that the God of any particular religion exists; but it is proof that in order to construct a rational, scientific model of the universe, a new scientific model that includes an outside, all-powerful Cause is not just 100% logical – it’s necessary. Kurt Godel also developed an Ontological Proof of God’s existence which has been proven by German computer scientists in 2013. However, Godel’s theorems and proof cannot be applied to prove the existence of Santa Claus, nor to prove the existence of a Flying Spaghetti Monster flatulating the universe into existence.

Dr. Juleon Schins, professor of Chemical Engineering at Delft University of Technology, declared that Godel’s theorem and Alan Turing’s thesis:

“…firmly establish the existence of something that is unlimited and absolute, fully rational and independent of human mind. What would be more convincing pointer to God?” — Dr. Juleon Schins

Dr. Antoine Suarez, of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies Center for Quantum Philosophy, in turn states that, because of Godel’s theorems, we are “scientifically” led to the conclusion that it is reasonable to reckon with God.

Then there is the logical argument from the Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis whose former belief in an unjust universe led him away from atheism to theism:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 1952)

So Lewis concluded that if the universe is meaningless, we would never have discovered it to be meaningless. And because the burden of proof lies with those who illogically claim the world is meaningless, and not upon those who disprove the claim by giving it meaning, shows the claim of a meaningless universe is false. The same is true of a “Godless” universe.

Near-death experiences also support the existence of God. On Wikipedia, other logical arguments for the existence of God can be found.

b. Against Keith Augustine’s “Myth of an Afterlife”

Keith Augustine, along with the late Michael Martin, is the co-author of the 675-page book, “The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death,” published by Rowman & Littlefield (2015). It also comes in a Kindle eBook Edition. From the Amazon.com description: the authors collected a series of contributions providing a “casebook” of the chief arguments against an afterlife. The authors brought together a variety of fields of research to make their case, including (1) philosophy of mind, (2) philosophy of religion, (3) moral philosophy, (4) personal identity, (5) psychical research, (6) anomalistic psychology, and (7) cognitive neuroscience. Divided into four separate sections, the book opens with a broad overview of the issues, as contributors consider the strongest evidence of whether or not we survive death — in particular the biological basis of all mental states and their grounding in brain activity that ceases to function at death. Next, contributors consider a host of conceptual and empirical difficulties that confront the various ways of “surviving” death — from bodiless minds to bodily resurrection to any form of posthumous survival. Then essayists turn to internal inconsistencies between traditional theological conceptions of an afterlife — heaven, hell, karmic rebirth — and widely held ethical principles central to the belief systems supporting those notions. In the final section, authors offer critical evaluations of the main types of evidence for an afterlife.

There are a couple of great critical book reviews on “The Myth of an Afterlife”: (1) by Robert McLuhan, “The Myth of an Afterlife” from The Society for Psychical Research; and, (2) by Julio C. S. Barros, “Requiem to a Stillborn 21st-Century Atheist-Materialist Grimoir” from the Amazon Reviews.

In my opinion, one of the most devastating failures of Keith Augustine’s book is that it doesn’t address the latest evidence from quantum mechanics (QM) as it relates to the survival of quantum consciousness. In fact, Augustine seems to favor mostly the opinion of philosophers than scholars of the “hard sciences.” QM does not rule out the possibility of an “afterlife” universe or “afterlife” dimension (a multiverse, a multidimensional universe) or the survival of brain function after death (quantum immortality). Through quantum decoherence and quantum superposition, the idea of parallel universes offers the possibility for the existence of a communicating parallel universe acting as a person’s afterlife universe when death occurs. As derived from the Many-WORLDS interpretation of QM, and its extending concept of Many-MINDS interpretation of QM, it is theoretically possible for a living person to exist in superposition in a parallel universe (including their mental states and electrical discharges occurring throughout their brain and nervous system). Many-Worlds views reality as a many-branched tree where every possible quantum outcome is realized including the possibility of branches to universes that doesn’t lead to a living person’s death. Theoretically, this makes it possible for a living person to continue living in a parallel universe when the person dies in this current universe. In fact, Augustine’s book doesn’t even mention the Many Worlds interpretation of QM although one of the authors of Augustine’s book is David Papineau, a prominent supporter of Many Worlds.

More support for the possibility of survival after death comes from the current string theory interpretation of the holographic principle of quantum physics. This principle defines our universe as existing as a hologram where all the quantum information perceived in three dimensions is stored. First proposed by the eminent physicist David Bohm (author of Bohmian mechanics and co-author of the holonomic brain theory along with Karl Pribram), a holographic universe can theoretically encode every quantized moment of our existence and experiences from the universe.

Rather than a constant flow of experience, mental states can be broken up in intervals or time-quanta of 0.042 seconds, each of which make up one moment of neural substrate. Each state consists of a certain amount of quantum information which can theoretically be stored on a hard drive for example; and there is much progress ongoing in this technology. This holographic model of reality allows for phenomena considered “paranormal” such as near-death experiences, other phenomena involving life after death, and mental telepathy for example. The universe as a single hologram also solves the mystery of quantum entanglement which Albert Einstein called “spooky actions from a distance.”

Also, the materialist model of conventional science is based on the old paradigm of Newtonian classical mechanics and is fundamentally flawed. Conventional materialist concepts of reality have been falsified such as: (1) locality, (2) causality, (3) continuity, (4) determinism, and (5) certainty in the last century by the modern science of quantum electrodynamics. At the core of materialism, the fundamental component of existence — the nature of consciousness — is intentionally ignored even though the pioneers of quantum mechanics demonstrated and believed consciousness has a definite role in creating reality. Mainstream materialist theories of consciousness use classical mechanics in assuming consciousness emerged and is produced from “goo”. So they focus particularly on complex computation at synapses in the brain allowing communication between neurons.

But because quantum vibrations have been discovered in microtubules in the brain, a theory known as Orchestrated Objective Reduction (Orch-OR), developed by the eminent physicist Sir Roger Penrose and anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, M.D., allows for a person’s quantum mind to exist in the multiverse, has garnered significant support. At death, the quantum information processed inside these microtubules doesn’t disappear. Instead, it is retained in the fine structure of the universe and on the edge of the event horizon of the singularity from which our universe projected; thereby allowing the information to be retrieved after death.

There is also much evidence suggesting NDEs are actual afterlife experiences. Here is a list of some of the best evidence:

Some of the Best Evidence of NDEs as Actual Afterlife Experiences

  1. People have NDEs while they are brain dead. (This article)
  2. Out-of-body perception during NDEs has been verified by independent sources.
  3. People born blind can see for the first time in their lives during an NDE.
  4. NDEs cannot be explained by brain chemistry alone.
  5. Some people were dead for several days then revived.
  6. NDEs have produced visions of the future which later became true.
  7. People having NDEs have brought back scientific discoveries, some are scientific breakthroughs.
  8. The so-called “dying brain” theory of NDEs has major flaws and has been falsified.
  9. The vast majority of people having NDEs are convinced they saw an afterlife.
  10. People can experience other people’s NDEs.
  11. NDEs have been proven to be different from hallucinations.
  12. NDEs change people in ways that hallucinations and dreams cannot.
  13. Studies show that people’s memories of their NDEs are more real than normal memories.

Read the rest of the 40+ other evidence supporting NDEs and the afterlife on this web page.

In conclusion, there is a new scientific paradigm emerging in quantum physics and medical technology which is yielding new discoveries concerning consciousness and the possibility of its survival after death. Skeptics and materialists rely mostly on the old paradigm, Newtonian physics to explain consciousness and the old explanation is becoming obsolete. New medical technology is bringing people back from death and providing research to validate out-of-body perception in NDErs.

Will science ever prove conclusively that consciousness survives death? Unless research laboratories become open to the idea of voluntary “flatline” experiments on a large scale to study veridical perception and long-term survival after clinical or brain death, I don’t see it. Until then, I consider myself to be first in line to be on the list of volunteers.

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