Monday, 21 December 2015

Shared Death Experiences

Interesting article about a phenomenon called a "shared death experience"

Beyond Goodbye

Reading the article Joe Nickell asserts it is grief which wholly causes a shared death experience. One might wonder how he can be so certain? What evidence does he have that he is content in asserting such a thing? I strongly suspect he doesn’t actually have any evidence.

He’s a skeptic and thinks that the notion of a “life after death” is extraordinary implausible.No doubt he shares Sean Carroll’s sentiments. Later in the article it says that Sean Carroll asserts that “life after death” is dramatically incompatible with everything we know about modern science.

It would be helpful if physicists didn’t pontificate on issues which reside outside their area of expertise. Unless one embraces reductive materialism (which is conceptually incoherent) then current science completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality. Indeed, so far as science is concerned, we might as well all be what has been termed philosophical zombies — that is to say we might as well all be entirely devoid of any conscious experiences whatsoever, even though we externally look and behave exactly like real people.

So we cannot say consciousness is incompatible with physics, it simply is not something which currently lies in the purview of physics. And of course this applies to whether we’re talking about consciousness before death, or after death.

Going back to Joe Nickell’s assertion: It seems then he has neither any evidence for his assertion, and, as we have just seen, no reason either. But it’s worse than that. A good rule of thumb is that similar effects have similar causes. “Shared death experiences” have a number of similarities with NDEs. Hence it seems likely that whatever causes shared death experiences will also cause NDEs. Hence if it is grief which causes shared death experiences, then it seems likely that it is grief which causes NDEs.

But this seems to be clearly false. Let’s put aside the fact that NDEers are on the threshold of death and really shouldn’t be experiencing any emotions at all. From their reports they often say they were filled with profound joy and are extremely reluctant to return to their bodies. Sometimes it’s reported that they experience confusion as to whose body they can see below. On odd occasions they report unpleasant feelings if they perceive malevolent entities etc.

But I can’t recollect them reporting grief. At most there is sorrow at leaving loved ones behind, but that is outweighed by their anticipation of what is to come.

So it seems to me that Nickell’s hypothesis is simply not plausible. It’s a hypothesis conjured up out of desperation to explain away the evidence for an afterlife.

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