In 2005, my conclusion following my five year prospective hospital research project into NDEs was that our current science simply cannot explain NDEs and requires expansion and updating because it is too limiting. The more prospective hospital research carried out into NDEs is also showing that NDEs can no longer be explained away, dismissed or ignored. Further information on my research has been published in my book The Near-Death Experiences of Hospitalized Intensive Care Patients: A Five Year Clinical Study which is available from most libraries.
I have worked as a nurse for 21 years and as an intensive care nurse for 17 of those years. I have nursed thousands of unconscious patients and was awarded a PhD for my prospective research. From my experience of working as a nurse and undertaking my doctoral research, although it conflicts with my scientific nurse training, I realise I have to remain open minded and conclude that we have no alternative but to look for other explanations of consciousness. To say consciousness is merely a by-product of our neurological processes is not supported by the research I undertook or my experience of dealing with unconscious patients.
I’ve recently noticed how apparent it is becoming that more people are agreeing that there is something about NDEs that simply cannot be explained by the current reductionist science.
I am getting many interesting comments from scientists trained in this reductionist science but who are now recognising that something is happening which is beyond the limitations of the current science.
This is very exciting to me because I believe it symbolises the beginning of a huge shift in the way we understand ourselves and consciousness.
Last week I was contacted by Dr Howard Berman. I have already posted his comments but I wanted to ensure that these very important comments were seen by as many people as possible:
Penny, I am a PhD neuropharmacologist with emphasis in Functional Brain Imaging trained at Cornell in the reductionist processes that a scientist usually is. I point to the work of Sir John Eccles, Noble Laureate, who described the correlation between mental processes and neural activity. In other words, when you do anything or think anything or move your arm for instance, what happens in the brain prior to that? Yes, there is activity in the premotor cortex and motor cortex which initiates the movement. But what happens prior to that; Electrical activity cannot be spontaneous; the question is what gives rise to this in the first place. John Eccles described mental phenomenon preceding electrical activity in the brain; he became a dualist at the end and realized that activity in the brain arising out of nothing was not possible; the tenets of cause and effect require a genesis of activity and that likely serves as the bridge between our free will and action. He further described elements which today are mentioned in the literature as quantum mechanics that serve to link this non tangible and tangible aspects of neural activity. I personally believe that mental phenomenon cannot be specifically centered in the constraints of time/space in the physical brain and there is something else which links this together. This corresponds with memory as well. Consider the cloud computing phenomenon where you can store large amounts of data remote from your computer and have it recalled by your computer. This is likely very similar to some form of field where by memory is stored and can be recalled in the brain. Regardless, this is a fascinating area and has led me to not believe in a purely reductionist hypothesis. Something is going on and for skeptics to outright deny is wrong.
In a second comment Dr Berman wrote:
Penny, how can something arise out of nothing? Meaning how can an electrical signal in the brain arise from nothing? If someone touches your hand, the ensuing electrical activity that orginate from the nocicepters in your skin travel up dorsal column medial lemniscus to subthalamic regions to your cortical regions and your brain processes these signals in the form of electrical activity. Thus, there is cause and effect for these neural signals. However, lets discuss signals originating in the brain through thought or intention; such as something as simple as reaching my hand out to touch someone or as complex as playing a violin. The intent to do it in the first place; where did that come from and how could the brain originate this intent given that electrical activity would have had to be spontaneously produced which gave rise to your intention. Not to be philosophical, but there must be something that bridges the intent with the functional activity in the brain. This is the hard question. This is probably what underlies free will and the non material and non tangible essence of intent. Could this be the ‘soul’ mediating activity in the brain through complex quantum processes? The brain is critical to our functioning in this world; however, I believe it is not the only mechanism. Remember one other thing; how is it possible that people who are clinically dead and yet return are able to experience vivid near death experiences with sight, sound, and emotion? How is this possible and more importantly how can these patients return and recall the memory of that event? The brain was purportedly in crisis or shut down and had little or no blood flow; how could memory of such an event survive? The ONLY way possible is for this external field to somehow ‘hold’ the memory in packets of information, much like a cellular signal that could be reprocessed from cell tower to cell tower and converted into understandable language on your phone. Something external is occurring from the brain which allows an intermediation of non physical process and physical process and packets of information or memory or the essence of whom we are or our free will with intention are able to somehow jump from this external field to the functional aspects of the brain.
Again another Doctor trained in the reductionist science who has now also questioned what he was taught is Dr Eben Alexander. On November 22 nd Skeptiko’s Alex Tsakiris broadcast an interview with Dr Eden Alexander the neurosurgeon who had a NDE (I have written a previous post on this very interesting case and this highlights a second interview that was broadcast).
The interview is fascinating and what is particularly striking is how, as a result of experiencing a NDE, Dr Alexander has totally changed his view and acknowledges that there is so much more about consciousness that what he was taught in his scientific medical training. If you haven’t already heard the interview it is well worth listening to.
The Skeptiko interview with Dr Alexander is available on the following link – it’s also transcribed