Thursday, June 29, 2006

The 'Miracle' of Near Death Experiences

I've seen this article popping up on quite a few religious news sites recently and have been amazed at the terrible scholarship and shoddy conclusions those of religious persuasion have been applying to this study.

The study investigates near death experiences and seeks to identify what experiences are common amongst them. The most common was that those who had such experiences felt like they had risen from their bodies and seen a bright light.

Also noted was the religious affiliation of those surveyed. OF them, 54% were from the Church of England, 12% Catholic, 19% other Christian, 1% Jewish, 8% agnostic, and 2% atheist. This corresponds with the percentage of the population of each faith indicating that any person is equally likely to have such experiences, regardless of faith.

There are a few other interesting tidbits in there, but nothing else that I feel needs to be commented on at this point.

However, what I have noticed is that the article portrays such experiences as legitimate, religious experiences, yet have chosen to ignore the scientific justification for them. Similar experiences and hallucinations are frequently reported as a result of oxygen deprevation, especially the characteristic bright tunnel.

The article goes even further, quoting a Dr. making extremely unscientific conclusions:
According to a second prominent researcher, Dr. Kenneth Ring of Connecticut, the main lessons learned from such experiences can be synopsized as follows:
-- There is a reason for everything that happens.
-- Find your own purpose in life.
-- Do not be a slave to time.
-- Appreciate things for what they are -- not for what they can give you.
-- Do not allow yourself to be dominated by the thoughts or expectations of others.
-- Do not be concerned with what others think of you, either.
-- Remember, you are not your body.
-- Fear not -- even pain and certainly not death.
-- Be open to life, and live it to its fullest.
-- Money and material things are not particularly important in the scheme of things.
-- Helping others is what counts in life.
-- Do not trouble yourself with competition -- just enjoy the show.
I find no way that many of these are related to the research in any manner. Instead, most are vauge philosophical statements tossed in as an attempt to give them some sort of legitimacy.

The only one that seems to fit in any manner is the "you are not yoru body" conclusion. However, in light of the studies showing that such experiences are not a result of some metaphyical realm, but instead simply of natural effects, this statement is directly contradicted.

However, if you're going to ignore such things and are really interested in drawing conclusions from this, here's a few that I'd recommend:

-- Since religious affiliation doesn't play a role in getting to such a paradise, it proves that all religions are equally wrong.
-- There is a life after death so why bother doing anything worhtwhile in this one?
-- The article mentions that injuries in the afterlife are miraculously healed, so why not go chop someone's arm off?

If you haven't caught the sarcasm, let me take this opporunity to point out that each of those was sarcastic and, when viewed in light of the complete body of evidence, cannot stand. However, I doubt any amount of evidence would convice those that what they saw wasn't real. I've not had such an experience, so I suppose I have no room to pass judgement. Nor do I have room to pass judgement on people that have been abducted by aliens, or seen bigfoot, etc...

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