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Are Near-Death Experiences Just Another Branch of Research Now?

We should hope so because there are a number of interesting allied research areas that would be better studied without preexisting prejudice against NDEs

Recently at Psychology Today, Canadian psychotherapist Mark Shelvock asked some questions of philosopher Monika Mandoki, who has written a dissertation on near-death experiences (NDEs). Both are based at the University of Western Ontario. Here are two of the exchanges:

Shelvock: Do you think that near-death experiences are real?

Monika I believe that a consciousness-only or mind-only reality works out better than any other types of philosophically-advanced theories because the uniformity of reality solves many difficult philosophical questions, such as the relationship of mind and body and the relationship of this world and the next. Therefore, its conclusion that consciousness or mind survives death and continues in an afterlife is the most convincing philosophical option.

“A philosopher on the possibility of near death experiences and the afterlife, Psychology Today, February 11, 2024

Shelvock: How was your work received?

Monika So far, it has been received very well. Firstly, I defended my dissertation successfully without having had to do any revision. Secondly, my dissertation in the past two years has been downloaded by close to 4000 individuals. “And the afterlife

Here’s the abstract:

This project is a philosophical investigation into near-death experiences (NDEs). It attempts to answer the central question: Are near-death experiences veridical? The aim of my work is to defend the veridicality of near-death experiences within the framework of idealism. However, this aim is not achieved simply by adopting an idealist standpoint. Instead, I present arguments for the reason this idealist standpoint is necessary. First, I argue that the traditional way of assessing near-death experiences is often oversimplified and carries an unnecessary bias in favour of a materialist interpretation, which eventually sets it up for a failure to demonstrate that an afterlife state can exist. Once this materialist bias is examined, I make an attempt to level the playing field, so to speak, to see where this equal level can take the discussion. Ultimately, I argue that it is best to fit all evidence and arguments into a theory that best explains near-death experiences; and, the theory that best explains these experiences is philosophical idealism. At the end, I provide examples of this theory and also a synthesized version of the best imaginable theory to show in what way(s) these idealist theories can explain near-death experiences and in what way(s) near-death experiences can be demonstrated to be veridical in nature.

The paper is open access.

It’s significant that Psychology Today is publishing material on near death experiences and that Mandoki did not experience efforts to get her Canceled. That may be for several reasons:

Psychiatrist Bruce Greyson, author of After (2021), wondered how his book on NDEs would be received. He soon discovered that colleagues’ responses fell into two general categories: “Are you out of your mind?” and “Oh, let me tell you about my near-death experience.” As more people are rescued from imminent death by medical interventions, perhaps there are enough of the second group out there to act as a check on the impulsive responses of the first group.

Hard to just denounce

Second, research into NDEs, using the accepted standards of science, is coming up with information that is hard to just denounce, ridicule, ignore, or explain away. That includes veridical experiences, where the near-death experiencer sees something while clinically dead that is verified later. For example, from Gary Habermas’s chapter in Minding the Brain (Discovery Institute Press, 2023),

In the case of Kristle Merzlock mentioned earlier, the young girl who nearly drowned and was resuscitated by Morse: she reported more than the specifics of the resuscitation attempt and the sequential details from the emergency room. Upon regaining consciousness three days later, her intensive care nurses initially heard her recollection of having visited heaven, guided by an angel. Though there was no way to verify the angel, Kristle also testified that, although she was unconscious and hooked up in the hospital, she was “allowed” to observe her parents and siblings some distance away, at home for the evening. She provided exact details regarding where each person was located in the house, identifying the specific things they were doing, as well as the type of clothes that they were wearing. For instance, she identified that her mother was cooking roast chicken and rice for dinner. All of these particulars were subsequently confirmed very soon afterwards.

Quoted in “There’s a growing number of verified near-death experiences,” Mind Matters News

Besides, there are complexities like the fact that the brain is active after death, that one in 5 cardiac patients may have a near-death experience, and that many people gain remarkable clarity, despite dementia, just before dying (terminal lucidity). All of these areas warrant further study without the drag created by an atmosphere of one-way skepticism.

How it will all turn out is anyone’s guess right now. But the fact that the topic can be fairly discussed is evidence that things are changing. Materialist atheists who claim to speak for science when announcing their faith statements should take note.

You may also wish to read: Fine-tuning of universe makes a top neuroscientist “very hopeful.” Allen Institute’s Christof Koch talks about the assumptions underlying his consciousness theory — assumptions that led many other neuroscientists to try to Cancel him. When one of the world’s most prominent research neuroscientists goes off the classic materialist script — and gets away with it — things are changing.

Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Victoria, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul; and with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor of the forthcoming The Human Soul: What Neuroscience Shows Us about the Brain, the Mind, and the Difference Between the Two (Worthy, 2025). She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

Are Near-Death Experiences Just Another Branch of Research Now?