Re: [asa] Question on recent OBE study, NDE

From: David Opderbeck <dopderbeck@gmail.com>
Date: Fri Aug 24 2007 - 14:53:13 EDT

Jon asked: *Can a Christian view maintain a rejection of traditional
dualism? If so, what is left but a materialist reductionism of saying the
human soul can be reduced to merely the activity of physical neurons in the
brain, giving us our consciousness? If we don't presuppose a non-physical,
spiritual spirit/soul as the essence of who we are, apart from our physical
bodies, aren't we left with simply matter, and thus materialism?
*
I find the notion of "nonreductive physicalism" helpful here. Nancy
Murphy's book on this is good (http://tinyurl.com/2py8hy). I'm not sure,
however, that even on a nonreductive physicalist view of consiousness we
can't have a "soul" or "spiritual nature" that is entirely apart from our
bodies.

On 8/24/07, Jon Tandy <tandyland@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
> I think this original article and a number of assumptions about it miss
> the point in quite a few ways, as concerning reported near-death
> experiences.
>
> 1. This was a clear case of technological intervention, with cameras
> playing games with the volunteer's visual perception. Such antics, as
> goggles and scratching the person's back, are not being done on a dead body
> lying on the operating table. One would have to engage in some clever
> gyrations of logic to interpret anything like this in the experience of a
> dead individual. However, suppose some research shows that chemical changes
> that occur in a death process can do something like this in various portions
> of the brain? Does this explain NDE experiences?
>
> 2. This experiment shows that, with clever camera angles, the volunteers
> can see their own body out in front rather than where it truly is, being
> filmed from behind by a camera. This falls 100% short of many NDE
> experiences, where for instance people see themselves going through dark
> tunnels, or as in the case of my grandfather, seeing an old relative or
> friend (I forget which) in glory, feeling like he wanted to stay with her in
> that state of glory, but being told by her that he had to go back, because
> it wasn't his time yet. The gap between a camera angle of one's self and
> this sort of mental (or spiritual) experience is tremendous. It's
> ludicrous, IMO, if one thinks this research actually explains the origin of
> NDE's.
>
> 3. In this experiment, the body physically had goggles on it, showing the
> person a visual image. The image showed the person's body somewhere remote
> from the actual location of the physical body. The person could "see" his
> own body being stroked somewhere in front of him. This is the opposite of
> what I've read in many NDE's, where the individual literally seems to be
> lifted out of his body and looks down to see the dead form lying on the
> operating table. In this case, the perception angle is turned around --
> it's not the physical individual seeing his body projected somewhere else,
> it's actually that "unreal self" (so to speak) seeing the physical body at a
> distance.
> In other words, if the conscious part of the individual is what is
> actually doing the projected "seeing" of his own body, then the NDE analog
> to this experiment would be that the resuscitated individual would report
> seeing his body hovering in the air over the operating table. In reality,
> it's often the other way around. I would argue from a traditional dualist
> view, that the conscious part of us, the part which is really "me" in the
> perception of reality, is the spirit, and thus it makes sense that a spirit
> separating from a body would see the dead body on the table, not the other
> way around.
>
> 4. The suggestion that activity in the thalamus after death can stimulate
> certain mental images may prove to have some merit, yet (I believe) still
> falls far short of explaining many NDE's, as discussed above. It is also
> interesting that the article suggests a correlation with the neurological
> experiences due to drug or alcohol use.
>
> Yet, there is a deeper question behind all this. In any case, whether
> stimulated by cameras or chemical processes in the brain, or by a true
> spiritual experience of the human spirit departing from a body (as people
> feel about NDE's), there is a deeper question to be answered. What is the
> human soul that is experiencing these things? There must be some rational,
> conscious part of us which is distinct from the simply biological. At least
> I believe a Christian view would have to conclude this. I'm struggling to
> express the idea here, but I'll take a stab at it.
>
> a. Take the case of drugs - chemical effects on the brain might be able
> to cause hallucinations in the mind of a living individual. In this case
> there is a rational soul (individual consciousness) which can experience
> these mental pictures.
>
> b. Now take an individual at death. Maybe chemical changes in the brain
> at death could cause some rational soul to experience certain mental images,
> which are remembered when the person is brought back to a clinical "living"
> condition, and described by that person as an NDE. What would have
> happened if this individual weren't brought back to life? We would never
> know about the sensations experienced, because the person didn't live to
> tell about it.
>
> c. What happened to the individual consciousness at the point of death?
> If the individual stands on the knife edge between life and death, and
> doesn't return, what happened to that conscious part of him that made the
> difference between life and death? Or what was that conscious part of him
> to begin with? Is life and consciousness simply the result of neurons and
> brain wave activity, which having ceased makes us dead? As you suggested,
> even neuron or brain activity doesn't necessarily cease at clinical "death".
>
> d. I know there has been discussion recently about the concept of
> dualism (spirit/body dichotomy) versus an alternative view of the human
> soul. Can a Christian view maintain a rejection of traditional dualism? If
> so, what is left but a materialist reductionism of saying the human soul can
> be reduced to merely the activity of physical neurons in the brain, giving
> us our consciousness? If we don't presuppose a non-physical, spiritual
> spirit/soul as the essence of who we are, apart from our physical bodies,
> aren't we left with simply matter, and thus materialism?
>
> e. If there is truly a spiritual soul to an individual, how can science
> ever claim to answer the ultimate questions dealing with that spirit, since
> spirit would necessarily fall outside the bounds of testable, empirical
> science? Or, for those who may reject a dualist view, what experiment could
> science construct which would disprove the existence of a non-physical
> spirit?
>
>
> Jon Tandy
> <http://www.arcom.com/>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> *From:* asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] *On
> Behalf Of *drsyme@cablespeed.com
> *Sent:* Friday, August 24, 2007 12:35 PM
> *To:* asa@calvin.edu; Christine Smith
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Question on recent OBE study, NDE
>
> (snip)
>
> Since experiences very similar to NDE can be replicated by stimulation of
> depth electrodes, in the thalamus as I recall, my opinion is the NDE are due
> to ongoing thalamic activity after most cortical activity has stopped, after
> cardiac arrest.
>
>

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Received on Fri Aug 24 14:53:32 2007

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