Sunday, August 18, 2013

Near Death Experiences are nothing but...


From the Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen:

At the end of our street there is a factory producing tons of surplus fat and lard. It’s called the Nothing Buttery. As you pass by, you can hear the cheerful sound of workers all the day singing the Company Song, its delightful refrain echoing all around: “Nothing but…nothing but…nothing but.” Now I see our homely little Nothing Buttery has a big brother rival based at the University of Michigan. There they also sing the song, “Nothing but…” And one of the most popular verses in their song goes like this: “Near death experiences are nothing but doubly-increased gamma oscillations in electrical activity in the brain at the point of death.”

Scientists everywhere are welcoming this as a terrific increase in our understanding of what near death experiences might be. Unfortunately it is a tale told by an idiot full of flashing electrical activity and non sequiturs and signifying nothing. It is just part of the accumulated dogma of reductionist – nothing but – rubbish of scientific materialism.

What, the innocent philosopher asks, can be meant by the statement that electrical conditions cause these NDEs, or indeed that electrical conditions cause any of our experiences? We observe the electrical conditions and we note the experiences. All we are entitled to say is that the electrical conditions and the perceived experiences are alternative descriptions of one and the same event: the one lab-based and forensic, the other personal and subjective. They are the inside and the outside, so to speak, of the same phenomenon.

The only thing that emerges about all this is that the “discovery” of a correlation between electrical activity in the brain and NDEs proves exactly nothing concerning the ontological status or reality of the NDEs. For electrical activity in the brain accompanies all our ideas and perceptions, including our illusions, delusions, visions of mirages and the sight of the wife at breakfast. When I look at a vase of flowers on the table, a scientist – if he had nothing better to do – could, if he wished, clock my brain for electrical activity. Such electrical activity, or the lack of it, can have no bearing at all on whether the table and the vase of flowers exist or don’t exist. The same goes, of course, for the correlation of electrical activity with NDEs.

But the general asylum of scientistic materialism and reductionist gormlessness persists and receives widespread acceptance in the mass media – as if it actually gave us information. It doesn’t. And if this is a sample of the catalogue of fatuities produced by the Nothing Buttery, I’ll stick to olive oil.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is an author and former rector of St Michael's, Cornhill in the City of London.

114 Comments:

Blogger Martin said...

I think the reported details of NDE indicate that they are nothing more than the brain shutting down. The variety forces that conclusion.

If they were genuine experiences of the World beyond they would be consistent with each other and the Bible.

18 August 2013 at 08:07  
Blogger Sister Tiberia said...

I think if anyone really thinks they're nothing but the brain shutting down, then I would like to direct them to the writings of the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who made a lifelong study of the subject. Her works aren't always easy to read, she was a medical professional writing for other professionals and not for the general public, but it was that very dry professionalism that impressed me. She went out not to prove but to disprove, and changed her own mind in the process.

Martin, bearing in mind that the police tell us even a bunch of conscious people witnessing a road traffic accident will not have consistency between their stories, would you expect the brain at the point of death to suddenly be significantly better?

18 August 2013 at 08:42  
Blogger F.McDuck said...

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18 August 2013 at 08:49  
Blogger Fergus said...

Martin - That is one hell of an 'if'!

How on earth are NDEs supposed to be consistent with the Bible? After all, no-one would suppose that Jeremiah knew of 'doubly-increased gamma oscillations in electrical activity in the brain at the point of death'. Nor could we say with any certainty what sort of brain activity ought to be associated with a vision of Heaven!

A search for 'consistency' here seems to be nobbled by the fact that we have very little idea of what ought to be consistent with what. Consistency of brain activity? Consistency of reports of the NDEs? It might also be observed that the fact that NDEs correlate with the sort of brain activity occurring when brains begin to die is entirely unsurprising: they are 'near-death' experiences.

Ultimately the problem is one of meaning: what the Scientists of the University of Michigan mean by 'NDE' is a particular physical phenomenon in the brain. The assumption is that once they have isolated the physical aspects of brain activity , they will have solved the problem. When ordinary people talk about NDEs, they mean the experience itself, not the underlying physical phenomenon on which is supervenes.

An analogy might be made to the case of pain. One might say that it is nothing more than 'C-fibres firing in the brain', but to do so would leave out the most important piece of information about pain: the fact that it hurts!

From a certain perspective then, it matters not a jot that NDEs 'are' the activity of a brain in the process of shutting down: it is the conscious experience that goes along with that process that is interesting.

18 August 2013 at 08:56  
Blogger Tim said...

Would Martin think that the different eschatological perspectives offered by Jesus, Paul and Revelation prove that there can be no such thing as a second coming?

18 August 2013 at 09:08  
Blogger IanCad said...

"If they were genuine experiences of the World beyond they would be consistent with each other and the Bible."

Good point Martin.

Tim wrote:

"--different eschatological perspectives offered by Jesus, Paul and Revelation--"

Please explain.

18 August 2013 at 09:50  
Blogger seanrobsville said...

There is no causal explanation for the effects of neurophysical events (including the brain shutting down) on subjective experience. Our mechanistic models of causality break down at the interface between the physical and the mental.

Over 140 years ago, the eminent Victorian physicist John Tyndall wrote:

"... the passage from the physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of consciousness is unthinkable. Granted that a definite thought, and a definite molecular action in the brain occur simultaneously; we do not possess the intellectual organ, nor apparently any rudiment of the organ, which would enable us to pass, by a process of reasoning, from the one to the other. They appear together, but we do not know why.

Were our minds and senses so expanded, strengthened, and illuminated, as to enable us to see and feel the very molecules of the brain; were we capable of following all their motions, all their groupings, all their electric discharges, if such there be; and were we intimately acquainted with the corresponding states of thought and feeling, we should be as far as ever from the solution of the problem, "How are these physical processes connected with the facts of consciousness?" The chasm between the two classes of phenomena would still remain intellectually impassable.

Let the consciousness of love, for example, be associated with a right-handed spiral motion of the molecules of the brain, and the consciousness of hate with a left-handed spiral motion. We should then know, when we love, that the motion is in one direction, and, when we hate, that the motion is in the other; but the "Why?" would remain as unanswerable as before."


Subjective experience is probably 'non-algorithmic', in which case it is not amenable to mechanistic explanation and must forever remain an impenetrable mystery beyond the reach of science.

18 August 2013 at 09:57  
Blogger Rambling Steve Appleseed said...

Agreed. I don't think NDEs signify any more or less than dreams or indeed drug induced hallucinations. They tell us nothing about what may be beyond one way or another.

We must look elsewhere for information about what happens after we die. I choose to trust Jesus on this as other matters. He ought to know since he was once dead and is now alive for evermore.

18 August 2013 at 10:04  
Blogger seanrobsville said...

I should also add to my previous comment that in the intervening 140 years since Tyndall made his pronouncement, we have learned a great deal about the workings of the brain, but absolutely nothing more about the 'mechanism' of the mind/brain interface, probably because there is no mechanism in the Turing sense.

Devotees of reductionism and 'nothing buttery' may be interested to note that some scientists now reject such arguments as circular:


- The structures and operations of mathematics are reducible to the concepts and operations of the mind.

- The structures and operations of the mind are reducible to the structures and operations of biological macromolecules.

- The structures and operations of biological macromolecules are reducible to the structures and operations of organic chemicals.

- The structures and operations of organic chemicals are reducible to the structures and operations of atoms.

- The structures and operations of atoms are reducible to the structures and operations of mathematics.

- The structures and operations of mathematics are reducible to the concepts and operations of the mind... (deja vu!)

This New Scientist video is an illustration of sunyata, in that no rock-bottom explanation for any physical phenomenon is ever findable.

18 August 2013 at 10:19  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

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18 August 2013 at 10:24  
Blogger Albert said...

For electrical activity in the brain accompanies all our ideas and perceptions

Exactly. So if there were no electrical activity, they would say that there is no NDE because if there were, there would be some brain events. In other words, these people have defined NDEs as unreal regardless of the evidence. Thus this materialistic interpretation is not a scientific position (as usual).

Given that the materialists have not come up with any materialistic explanation of any consciousness, they obviously cannot claim to have explained away consciousness of NDEs.

We may be technologically and scientifically advanced but we are in a philosophical dark age. Aquinas would have been appalled.

18 August 2013 at 10:27  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

I thought my daughter was going through a NDE, when she couldn't get onto the net for a couple of hours... but of brains, how do we know we are not all just brains in vats, onboard some giant spaceship and are really experiencing some kind of artificial 'matrix' type world? (I except Explorer will have a view on that one).

18 August 2013 at 10:28  
Blogger The Explorer said...

David:


Interesting new Avatar.

Except or expect?

Assuming it's the latter, I assume you are referring to our discussion on a long-gone thread about giant lizards controlling us? You raised it, and I expressed scepticism, and we resolved it with reference to 'Borat'.

18 August 2013 at 10:37  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

The University is on weak speculative ground here. Not the first time this kind of ‘maybe so’ thing has been passed off as academic knowledge...

18 August 2013 at 11:16  
Blogger Nick said...

Good post Dr Mullen. It could of course have been extended to cover many such instances of scientific reductionism, including "Big Bang" and evolution.

The case of NDEs reminds me a little of the attempts by doctors to explain liinesses such as depression and schizophrenia in terms of brain biochemistry. Having found some changes in levels of chemical such as dopamine, and that drugs that corrected the imbalance helped the patients condition, they go on to concluded that chemical imbalance per se is the CAUSE of the illness.

Sloppy science, but I can assure you that modern medicine is only partly based on theoretical science. Mostly it is based on empirical evidence

The masses are of course happy to accet all this without questioning it. It saves the effort of asking deeper qustions about our human condition, questions that might lead the atheistic mind into areas it can't explain so easily.

These stories are grabbed by the popular media too. They appear as fascinatiing revelations into our mysterious world..Hey, those good old scientists have done it again!

It is of course lazy thinking to assume we have these strange phenomena "in the bag" because of a couple of lab experiments. As you say, correlation is not necassarily explanation. It can be just a side-effect.

18 August 2013 at 11:48  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Death is first a spiritual and not a physical concept. That's why we have such great difficulty pinpointing the moment of death. We really don't know what it is. We are simply observing physical phenomena associated with death. The unbelieving materialist begins with his unbelief and says "Because there is nothing else, this event must be a wholly immanent event fully explainable in terms of biochemistry." It is this presupposition that drives modern science. Everything else is considered 'magic.' The inability to explain something like the brain/mind connection does not indicate a flaw in the presupposition but only a current lack of understanding. This is the faith of the materialist - that he is theoretically capable of explaining everything without appeal to the transcendent.

That said, I give little credence to NDEs because death is not something from which you return. By definition, the man who is still alive was never dead. So you can't make any metaphysical claims from NDEs. They are the medical equivalent of speaking with the dead - a desired glimpse of existence beyond death. But we don't find that glimpse in experiences that have no provenance and cannot be validated. For all we know, they are the delusions of a fevered mind. Materialists are not always wrong. We may find our glimpse of life after death only in Scripture. Only God can reveal that mystery because only He understands it.

carl

18 August 2013 at 12:14  
Blogger Nick said...

"So you can't make any metaphysical claims from NDEs. "

Agreed Carl. It's a bit like the term "UFO" which really means nothing at all but has certain accepted connotations.

NDEs, whatever they are, have been quite widely reported. I would not like to presume they all have the same cause or nature. My main point is that scientists tend to jump on a bit of evidence for otherwise mysterious phenomena, and they consider that evidence to be a full explanation.

18 August 2013 at 12:30  
Blogger seanrobsville said...

@ carl jacobs

For all we know, they are the delusions of a fevered mind.

The brain is a biophysical organ that has evolved to present a censored and distorted view of reality to the non-biological and non-physical mind (as Darwin himself suspected).

Consequently, disruption of the brain's 'normal' function (whether by meditative techniques, near-death biochemical changes, or misuse of substances in a misspent youth in the late 60's and early 70's) may allow the mind to temporarily push the doors of perception ajar, and peek beyond mundane biologically-determined appearances.

18 August 2013 at 12:39  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Nick

The UFO analogy is sterling. NDEs are much like reports of abduction. Some people believe because they accept the underlying premise of aliens. Others disbelieve because they reject the underlying premise of aliens. But the abduction report is actually not evidence of anything at all. It is unsubstantiated testimony that cannot be confirmed or denied.

carl

18 August 2013 at 12:41  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Much confusion, but this ain't rocket science. Neither measurable brain activity prior to death, nor reported near death experiences tell us doodly about anything but a physiological process and anecdotal claims by very sick patients. Conclusions that electrical signals in the brain undermine the notion of a life after death is pseudo-science; attempts to prove life after death with fancy anecdotes is pseudo-religion.

18 August 2013 at 13:41  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

David, you are very fortunate for having to deal with your daughter's comparatively sedate virtual NDE events upon being cut off from the Matrix for a couple of hours. My daughter has developed much more dramatic means of fighting attempts to limit her use of the iPod. These include high pitched vocalization, levitation and hurling of objects and other hair-raising episodes best approached by special weapons and tactics commandos and certified exorcists.

18 August 2013 at 14:34  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl, how do we know the visions of the prophets were not: "the delusions of a fevered mind"? Or personal encounters with the risen Christ, such as Saint Paul and all those after him?

I think seanrobsville has a valid point when he commented: "... disruption of the brain's 'normal' function ... may allow the mind to temporarily push the doors of perception ajar, and peek beyond mundane biologically-determined appearances."

But then the results of the "peek" have to be conceptualised. Which is why Scripture forbids the use of hallucinogenic drugs. So many pagan, shamanic religions are based on them. Once you open that door who knows what your inviting in?

Then the ever rational and sceptical Avi has a point too: "Conclusions that electrical signals in the brain undermine the notion of a life after death is pseudo-science; attempts to prove life after death with fancy anecdotes is pseudo-religion."

I agree, the scientific method cannot prove or disapprove God's existence - nor the validity or otherwise of visions.

18 August 2013 at 14:38  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

No one here has seen fit to reference any actual person's experience who has actually had a NDE. Surely respect and listening to them are suitable. What about watching some youtube videos, for instance the Russian man who was an atheist who was put in the refrigerator in the morgue, but came back to life and is now a committed Christian. Some people seem to assume that such people are lying or deluded. To suggest that they are lying is to suggest an extremely heinous crime and is something which one should be extremely slow to do, and they are likely to be super-sensitive to it.

There is a much better Californian group of doctors who treat the people who speak to them with respect and belief, which is quite a relief for those who find themselves in the somewhat isolated position of experiencing such a thing.

If it were the brain shutting down how come that the experiences are more vivid, more charged, more meaningful and more real than ordinary life, and how come some people can describe things which have happened in rooms where they were not and after they were supposedly dead?

And how come that there is a massive "coming down from the mountain" and re-earthing experience needed afterwards?

And how come researchers exist who think that these basic questions can be ignored and those who have had the experiences be unlistened to and patronised?

I like what Dr Mullen says, (and am no known relation!) though I may come from the same Scottish clan,

18 August 2013 at 14:44  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Then the ever rational and sceptical Avi....

Peter D, a minor correction: "rationalist" rather than "rational." My refusal to quit smoking, my love for salty and fatty foods, my insistence on continuing in one of the most dangerous and underpaid occupations and the corroborated opinions of friends and family would suggest that I'm anything but rational.

18 August 2013 at 14:50  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi - true; and as Carl might comment, you chose Canada as your domicile too.

While I'm on, as some know I continue to enjoy a special relationship with one Dodo. Some even mistake me for him. Now, Dodo still follows this blog and asked me to report that Mrs Dodo has had many 'out of body' experiences.

18 August 2013 at 15:10  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Miss Mullen, all patients, including those undergoing traumatic episodes in their lives or near-lives, as it were, should be treated with kindness and respect. No doubt they experienced powerful psychological events. There is nothing wrong with the notion that they need to be believed in the impact and meaning in their lives stemming from what are essentially subjective experiences. The issue, scientifically and theologically, is whether these point to anything other than the most reasonable, minimalist and "null hypothesis" assumption that they are unique hallucinatory experiences relating to our psychology, culture and experiences. Curiously, one of the most ignored and quite revealing aspects of NDE reports is the heavy cultural component; Christians have Christian views of Heaven or Hell and any insights or "messages," Jews, Hindus, Spiritualists and others have their own. This parallels the phenomenon of "UFO abduction" reports which mirror current science, medicine, science-fiction and popular entertainment portrayals of "aliens," their technology and assumed motives.

18 August 2013 at 15:15  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

That is because you insist on wearing your Cardinal's hat and sox to bed. I don't blame her...it's called a freak out:)

18 August 2013 at 15:19  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter D, perhaps Mrs Dodo's OBEs are a dream-state manifestation of a repressed desire to escape Mr Dodo's messy cage bottom which undoubtedly serves as the matrimonial bed. Rx: Frequent clean-ups and fresh newspapers.

18 August 2013 at 15:21  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

18 August 2013 at 15:21  
Blogger Cressida de Nova said...

Chuckles and guffaws Avi!

18 August 2013 at 15:27  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Avi. In what sense is a near death experience "subjective" as compared to say, walking out of your back door and seeing a robin sitting on a spade handle. You cannot prove you have seen a robin, especially if no one else was there, and you cannot prove its colour, given the wide variety of eyesights out there. Some would see its breast as salmon pink, others as green. Nor can you prove the sound of its song, given that human hearing varies so much. If you told s.o. what you had seen you would be startled if they looked suspicious and said they had never seen a robin so doubted that they existed. And you might be just a bit narked if s.o. said it was "subjective" and quite possibly a sign of your brain closing down. That is what NDE folk have to put up with, and why so many choose not to speak at all, or to be extremely careful as to whom they trust.

This study is not likely to help those folk, who will get from it the message that they need to keep silent, and not to "cast their pearls before swine". If they did believe it , what would it tell them? That nature is deceitful and highly unfriendly, and tries to encourage a person to die by lying to them? That is a horribly dark suggestion, and mercifully untrue. I do not wish anyone to believe that horrid untruth, but to believe that God, who is Love, life, and laughter, is good, kind and truthful.

18 August 2013 at 15:29  
Blogger Owl said...


In the past when something unexplainable happened, it was explained that God was the cause.

As science is trying to replace God, science has to offer an explanation of the unexplainable and we are into the realms, once again, of pseudo-science.

The application of pseudo science is the fashion of our modern world.

The only well known scientists who even tried to investigate the relationship of conscious/subconscious especially with regard to religious phenonemen were Willian James and his brilliant successor Carl Jung.

I can't help thinking that since these two, we have progressed backwards.

Our modern pseudo scientist knows that if he/she doesn't know then invent an answer and then manipulate enough worshippers to form a concensus. If you're able throw in a few meaningless metadata statistics/opinion polls and your home and dry.

Group think is the order of the day. To hell with that old fashioned "Science" where you actually had to prove somthing.

18 August 2013 at 15:47  
Blogger Peter D said...

Yes, well, I rather walked into this one!

Avi and Ms de Nova
An offended Dodo has asked me to say that you clearly know little of the mating habits of the Dodo or the nature of their abode! They do not reside in cages; and their nests are purely for the raising of their young. You have displayed shameful anti-Dodo tendencies based on prejudice.

'Peter Damian' is a brother visiting us from the 11th Century. He renounced his 'Cardinal's hat' and 'sox', preferring the quiet seclusion of a monastery. He never, ever, consorts with other species.

18 August 2013 at 16:18  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

Near Death Experience Research Foundation has the largest collection of near death experience stories and is in my opinion far better than this research. It is run by Dr. and Dr. Long; they show respect for their interviewees, have a vast data base and enormous knowledge and seem to be people of faith themselves. NDERF.org-not a link as such and purely for info, and not advertising, so hope this is ok!!

18 August 2013 at 16:50  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Miss Mullen, simply explained, an experience we have determined is a NDE is objective only as far as the subject can report it accurately. I see no reason to disbelieve reports of visions of Paradise, tunnels with a point of light at the end, Jesus, Moses, Krishna, Brahman, Gautama Buddha a myriad versions of Satan, demons, dybbuks and spirits, etc. The experiences are as real as any visions or thought processes can be real. The subjective bit is in the explanation provided; there is no way to establish, by any agreeable means, that what the subject experienced is a universal reality, rather than a thought process or a hallucination. There is also no way to adjudicate between the different visions as to who is correct and who is wrong. All visions of a life after death, God or gods cannot be correct.

As for the robin analogy you provide, a good camera with an excellent directional microphone trained on the said bird would establish for all the world and for all people no matter what their beliefs, that it indeed was a bird we agreed to call a robin, what its colours as we define them were and would record every note of its song.

Also, the conclusion that if NDEs were to be hallucinations would suggest a cruel nature and a merciless God does not necessarily follow. A hallucination is by its very definition a mental event independent of reality. There are many drugs which can trigger pleasant as well as unpleasant visions and again, not all can be equally true.

Peter D, upon reviewing this issue, I agree that dodos do not reside in cages. However, I regret to inform you that dodos are extinct, their remnants and facsimiles residing in glass cases only as stuffed specimens and clever plaster models in natural history museums and as illustrations in encycplopaedias. Memento mori.

18 August 2013 at 16:51  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi
You're the rationalist .... where is your proof for this assertion that Dodo's no longer exist?

An absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

18 August 2013 at 17:04  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@Avi- you are not entirely wrong about the camera, but nevertheless the fact that the vast majority of what we assess as having in reality happened is actually unwitnessed by any other, and never witnessed from our physical viewpoint stands.

I was trying to show that the 5 senses are not reliable landmarks, but fluid, and differing from one person to another. Actually also from one camera to another and in a constant state of flux. It is not even known whether we have 3 or 4 colour cones in our eyes or if we all have the same, while significant nos. of men apparently see colour in blocks without all the gradations.

The good thing about the Longs' research is that those who have had NDEs read the conclusions and say "yes, that's how it is..yes, they know what they are writing about...". The best Americans are really super and intelligent people, good people persons and listeners, whilst the worst....well, let's not go there....

18 August 2013 at 17:09  
Blogger Anglican said...

C S Lewis covered this issue in his essay 'Meditation in a Toolshed'. He made the distinction between 'looking along' and 'looking at'.

The essay can be found in two collections of his essays: 'Compelling Reason' & 'First and Second Things' (Selections from 'Undeceptions').

18 August 2013 at 17:18  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

18 August 2013 at 18:34  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Miss Mullen, human or animal perception is a fascinating field of study which does indeed show how hard it is to pin down objective truths. This should not lead us into a posture of obscurantism, though, where we all conclude that nothing is ultimately knowable and that all claims are good as long as the claimants are nice and smart people. Did medieval "witches" imagine that they flew, as the Church and the best universities ruled at first, or did they actually alight on broomsticks for their flights to their Witches Sabbaths. Was the whole notion of witches and their works a sign of demented unscientific thinking, bad theology, a cynical attempt by the powers to designate a class of people, widowed women, with inherited property as a danger, allowing for the systematic confiscation of their wealth...or all combined? I'm not trying to be an ass; the last European "witch" was burned in the 19th century and in some Islamic countries "witchcraft" is still a crime punishable by death.

The point is that explanations have consequences, real consequences; some unimportant, some deadly. Western, Judeo-Christian society has evolved systems which attempt to find ways to establish "objective realities," as hard to pin down as such may be. While it may be nice to take folks who believe in the reality of their NDE visions seriously and to validate their opinions out of kindness and respect, if these opinions ever acquire a political force which starts to compel and to endanger some of us, as is the case with so many unverifiable beliefs, then...Houston, we have a problem.

True, Peter D, one can never know. Several weekends ago I had to listen to a fellow coreligionist lecture on a primitive form of literalist Creationism who claimed that the dodo, all extinct species and even the dinosaurs are hiding away somewhere, perhaps "deep in the jungles." Deep in the jungles, I kid thee not. I suggested tongue-in-cheek that they could be living in the uncharted continents of the Hollow Earth. The fellow was confused, never having heard of that particular silliness, but bobbed his head frantically, happy for any imagined support to his thesis.

18 August 2013 at 18:35  
Blogger Peter D said...

Lol .... I'm not disclosing Dodo's whereabouts but can confirm there are no dinosaurs there.

18 August 2013 at 18:36  
Blogger non mouse said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

18 August 2013 at 19:21  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

And a good thing too, Peter D,given the dodo's reported defenselessness and inability to rapidly adopt to new challenges, it would have been trampled to a mess of proteins and feathers by the dinosaurs. R.I.P. dodo/Dodo wherever you may range.

18 August 2013 at 19:22  
Blogger non mouse said...

Thank you, Dr. Mullen!

Hmmm. Of course, it doesn't have to be mere coincidence that you've written about NDE - a topic I mentioned towards the end of yesterday's thread. However, coincidence does lie in my having then known nothing of the UMich study.

What I had in mind, though, was this article about the NDE of Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon connected with Harvard.

The topic of electrical activity in the brain is quite thought-provoking. Considering that neuro-transmission is an electro-chemical process, what other kind of physical activity should we expect there? And, given that reality, why could the activity not extend to electro-magnetic transmission/reception - even in wavelengths we cannot yet measure mechanically.*

I believe there is some evidence that the activity might so extend. For example, I have been in a room where several people witnessed a loud crack as two others, known to have 'powerful brains,' recognised each other's thinking processes - without saying so.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the capacity is consciously or wilfully, or even well developed in most individuals. I certainly don't believe that the "psychic" business is more than scam. Nevertheless, if electro-magnetic brainwave transmission is possible --- then there's no reason why it should not allow communication between individuals, including animals. I often wonder if pets are sensitive that way; and I've heard of an underwater diver who sensed a feeling of aggression behind him. Turning, he saw a barracuda, perfectly still, and watching him from maybe 20 feet away.

Furthermore ... if such brainwaves exist: might they not be even more efficient during the electrical surges of NDE? At that point, the separating mind-soul may well communicate with an external reality.

Differing interpretations of the experiences? Well - should we not at least factor in the extent of the memory retained in consciousness, and the life-context of the person whose brain-box is involved? Both will affect the conscious interpretation. That's what we mean by 'subjective.'

_______________
*One is aware of the arguments about "gamma waves."

18 August 2013 at 19:27  
Blogger Nick said...

" In what sense is a near death experience "subjective" as compared to say, walking out of your back door and seeing a robin sitting on a spade handle. You cannot prove you have seen a robin, especially if no one else was there, and you cannot prove its colour, given the wide variety of eyesights out there"

Good pont Lucy. It reminds me a little the conundrum: "If a man is all alone in forest, without his wife, is he still always wrong?"

Seriously though, it would be wrong to tell others who have had NDEs exactly what they experienced, since none of us were there to share the experience. We are all heavily indoctrinated by the modern view that it only exists if the scientists can explain it: anything else must be an aberration of the mind.

Such am appraoch is narrow and closes the door on the possibility of other explanations for "strange" phenomena. The rigour of the scientific process begins to break down when dealing with issues of metaphysics. As a result, they don't get investigated much, or are dismissed as psychological aberrations.

Belief in God does not deny the existence of science, or the evidence it provides, but it does also permit the possibility of phenomena beyond the measurement, observation, or comprehension of the human mind. That begs the question; who is more open-minded?

18 August 2013 at 19:40  
Blogger Berserker said...

Perhaps, there is no such thing as a universal reality. The mind creates an idea and that idea gives substance (a tangible world), To each his own.

Perhaps, the world consists of many minds or spirits or are we part of a whole mind?

If I sit in a chair, the chair exists because of my perception but it does not exist separately or materially outside of my mind or spirit.

Therefore time does not exist separately for me or you for that matter. It is contingent on my or your idea,

If an object exists outside the mind then it must be an unthinking entity.

Perhaps life and death (sensations) are meaningless in a general way except to the mind that embraces them.

As a child I did have a NDE. It was not a pleasant experience.

The largest question is: why do we want materiality? Do we need this structure?

18 August 2013 at 20:01  
Blogger plishman said...

As Mr Spock said: 'Nothing unreal exists.'

Subjective information is both real and existent. Arguably it is the only form of information that exists.

Before photography and film, subjective information was just about all there was, hence reputation, trustworthiness, and the honour system, were essential to the operation of society. Crime was much easier as a result, but correspondingly punished more harshly.

18 August 2013 at 20:30  
Blogger Martin said...

Aside from the vast differences I've seen in NDE experiences, the Bible gives a clear description of how people behave when they are before the living God.

Isaiah:

“So I said: "Woe [is] me, for I am undone! Because I [am] a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."” (Isaiah 6:5 NKJV)

The unbeliever:

“and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16 NKJV)

Every NDE description I have seen has described the event as not unpleasant, certainly not terrifying.

When we meet God it will not be like meeting an old friend.

18 August 2013 at 20:50  
Blogger Albert said...

Martin,

“So I said: "Woe [is] me, for I am undone! Because I [am] a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."”

An interesting quotation, in view of the fact that you believe such a person would be justified already.

18 August 2013 at 21:04  
Blogger Ros V said...

Why would the brain need to create an elaborate and often lengthy journey-experience just to close itself down?
It could be a dream yes - but why would so many people approaching death "dream" that they went away from this world and were welcomed into another world, often by God or angels?
Most dreams are just about some general anxiety or a jumble of things you experienced during the day.

18 August 2013 at 21:31  
Blogger Martin said...

Albert

Was Isaiah justified when he received the vision? Perhaps not. Perhaps this was his conversion experience.

18 August 2013 at 21:36  
Blogger Albert said...

Martin,

Was Isaiah justified when he received the vision? Perhaps not. Perhaps this was his conversion experience.

I would have thought he was justified when it then says:

Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven."

And 1 John says:

In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.

So although God is awesome, to the justified, I'm not sure that the experience will be the one of raw terror expressed in Is.6.5, but rather the confidence of Is.6.8.

18 August 2013 at 21:44  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

....it would be wrong to tell others who have had NDEs exactly what they experienced, since none of us were there to share the experience. Agreed, Nick, but with qualifications. It would be wrong for a doctor to tell a patient that the NDE he experienced is noting more tham gamma rays misfiring or whatever. On two counts. First, it's unscientific to infer a conclusion from signs or manifestations of a process, and secondly, interpreting a powerful personal event such as an NDE should be the job of the hospital chaplain or psychiatrist, and then only upon request. However, it would also be wrong for a doctor or a scientist to validate the subject's interpretation of the event up to the very question of whether it actually was an NDE. Again, this would be because there is no conclusive evidence either way and also, because even sharing an experience does not necessarily get us closer to understanding its nature.

We are all heavily indoctrinated by the modern view that it only exists if the scientists can explain it: anything else must be an aberration of the mind. Not "all;" many of us are religious and at the same time have a healthy respect for science and an understanding of what science can and cannot do.

"The rigour of the scientific process begins to break down when dealing with issues of metaphysics." Well, no, the rigour can be there, but attempts to apply the usual empirical rules of evidence, falsifiability and all that are as useful as trying to see a rainbow with an x-ray machine. The scientific method works only with testable phenomena not with religious or mystical experiences. One can be open-minded about the metaphysical, while refusing to use science inappropriately to support it.

18 August 2013 at 21:51  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Why would the brain need to create an elaborate and often lengthy journey-experience just to close itself down?
It could be a dream yes - but why would so many people approaching death "dream" that they went away from this world and were welcomed into another world, often by God or angels?


First of all, not all reported NDE involve good feelings, God or angels; some are apparently terrifying or involve visions totally foreign to Judeo-Christian conceptions. So, multiple potential explanations spring to mind, Miss V. That the reporting is a cultural phenomenon, like UFO abductions, a "fad" spurred on by literature, common mythology or memes passed on by entertainment industry. That not all NDEs occurred when approaching death, but are later interpretations of a traumatic electro-chemical event. That since the body or even the brain cannot foresee approach of death, it is an evolutionary coping mechanism to induce calm, prevent rapid heartbeats and allow for healing. Or that a great number of people simply imagine, wish for or make things up for various personal reasons. Without either robust scientific evidence or clear explicit religious doctrine, all these explanations are equally valid or invalid. Thus, one gets a real mish-mash of responses which are not necessarily stereotypical; a research scientist or a physician might accept the life after death glimpse hypothesis and a minister might reject it as a pure fantasy.

18 August 2013 at 22:16  
Blogger Peter D said...

Has science unlocked the mysteries of the origins of the Shroud of Turin?

18 August 2013 at 22:22  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter D, that's Simeon bar Kokhva or Rabbi Akiva. But seriously, I go with the medieval rubbing hypothesis. The style of the image is typical to that found on sarcophagus lids of knights. That the chemical composition of the pigments or the emulsion used is a mystery is not a great mystery; the alchemists of the time toyed with many chemical compositions and time, handling and the current state of chemical analysis technologies could make a clear identification difficult. But don't take my skepticism as a religious insult; I'm just as harsh on our Jewish mystics when they start spinning fables and offering "proofs" to the gullible. I note that your Pope Francis did not validate the shroud's authenticity. A rationalist could grow to like that pope.

18 August 2013 at 23:36  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi, then you're not up to date with more recent opinion or findings. Let's face it, rationalist or not, you're hardly ever likely to believe it is an authentic image created at the moment of the Christ's Resurrection.

I'm with Philip Ball: " ... it's fair to say that, despite the seemingly definitive tests in 1988, the status of the Shroud of Turin is murkier than ever. Not least, the nature of the image and how it was fixed on the cloth remain deeply puzzling".

As with all relics of this kind, the Catholic Church has made no pronouncements on its authenticity and the matter is left to one's personal decision.

My point is that science is unable to explain the Shroud and the arguments remain unresolved for both authenticity and possible methods of forgery - and probably always.

19 August 2013 at 00:30  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

Re: The Shroud of Turin

Yes, actually. People have replicated its 3D effects and it's likely those who made the Shroud didn't realize they had created such an effect. There is no provenance for the Shroud. There is nothing to tie it to the burial of Christ. There is nothing to locate the Shroud in time before the middle ages. I personally believe the Shroud is a forgery made to capitalize on the human lust for relics, and that some poor guy was murdered to create it. Think about that possibility for a while. It's frightening.

carl

19 August 2013 at 00:32  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

Re: Prophesy

I imagine that it would be self-evident when God speaks. After all, God is not constrained by human limitation. On the Last Day, people will not doubt who speaks to them. That is why they will say "Mountain, fall on me. Earth, cover me up." Now others might doubt, and that is why the words were confirmed with miracles. But ultimately the response to revelation depends on God Himself. Jesus said "My sheep here my voice. They follow me and they will never follow another." Ultimately people hear and follow because God calls them to Himself.

carl

19 August 2013 at 00:42  
Blogger Peter D said...

And don't read too much into Pope Francis' words. He wasn't being a rationalist, just cautious, as the findings of new research and theories were due for publication.

In 1998, John Paul II said: "The Shroud is an image of God's love as well as of human sin ... The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one's fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age."

In 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, wrote that the Shroud of Turin is " ... a truly mysterious image, which no human artistry was capable of producing. In some inexplicable way, it appeared imprinted upon cloth and is believed to show the true face of Christ, the crucified and risen Lord."

Pope Francis side-stepped its origins, saying "How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth ... This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty."

An icon is a sort of window that can lead the user into a different reality. But people can miss the point of an icon if they focus too much on the object itself (its age, its construction, its history) and forget to gaze beyond it.

19 August 2013 at 00:44  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl
"Re: Prophesy
I imagine that it would be self-evident when God speaks."


Imagine being the operative word. Otherwise you'll have to accept all the visions of those Catholic's seers down the ages. Think of that!

As for the Shroud - er, no it hasn't been replicated in its effects! These 'trials' failed dismally.

And your suggestion that a man was murdered to forge it is a gross calumny unless you have proof.

19 August 2013 at 00:50  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

You asked how the Prophet knew. You didn't ask how the one who heard the Prophet knew. Those are two very different questions.

You are the one who bears the burden of proof for the Shroud. The wounds on the cloth are correct. They reflect the actual effects of crucifixion. If the Shroud is a forgery, it was most likely produced by actually crucifying a victim. I realize this has implications for the RCC and its view of relics. That doesn't change the facts. There is nothing to tie the Shroud to the burial or the Resurrection except wishful thinking. There is nothing miraculous about the image. Relics were once big business. You do the math.

And against whom did I commit this gross calumny in any case?

carl

19 August 2013 at 01:06  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

Faking the Shroud

Don't tell me this isn't reasonable. Because it is reasonable.

carl

19 August 2013 at 01:26  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter, if you will disqualify my opinion on the grounds religious skepticism then, for the sake of consistency, you must disqualify yourself on the grounds of religious conviction. Anyway, the hullaballoo over the "mystery" is a no-brainer; forensic analysis is a developing science, an art in some ways, with many areas of uncertainty and "inconclusive" categories. That holds for current crime scene documentation and analysis and all the more to an artifact dating more than a few hundred years. If we are talking strictly science, all we can go on is a "balance of probabilities," which means we gravitate towards a medieval origin of the shroud, where most of the serious hypotheses, not to mention the fairly reliable carbon dating methods, appear to cluster. I think it hardly accidental that the image reflects contemporaneous medieval imagery of the long-haired Germanic medieval king, a la Charlemagne, not to mention the way the location of the stigmata wounds was imagined at the time, but which does not match Roman crucifixion practices. Historians are also well aware that the Middle Ages saw a proliferation of icons, as well as miraculous claims and a deluge of forged relics, as these brought pilgrims and substantial revenues. Since it seems that anyone can guess and play, allow me to speculate a bit that the shroud could have been of Syrian Christian manufacture (consistent with the herringbone fabric weave), sold either as an honest, devotional icon or as a forgery to a credulous Christian knight, a "palmer" (pilgrim) or a professional dealer in relics.

Another thing that occurred to me is that shrouding in Jewish burial is always preceded by careful and respectful cleansing of the body to prevent seepage of blood and other fluids, and a mikva/ritual immersion. Also, in shrouding the body a hevre kadisha, the learned and highly honoured society of volunteers who prepare bodies for Jewish burials, would never place the deceased's hands directly on or over the genital area.

19 August 2013 at 01:40  
Blogger LEN said...

If Jesus has wanted to leave physical evidence of His resurrection then He could have presented Himself to the Pharisees.
So 'the Shroud' is neither here nor there , nor are any other relics.

Jesus said the only evidence He would give to the unbelieving was the
'sign of Jonah'; The proof that Jesus gave to the unbelieving Pharisees that he was in fact the true Messiah was the "sign of the prophet Jonah". The Bible tells us clearly that Jesus our Savior, "died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." I Cor 15:3&4. So then the "sign " of Jonah was a forshadowing of our Lord's death burial & resurrection.

19 August 2013 at 01:56  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

The case for the Shroud is quite simple. Leave aside all the circumstantial evidence because it falls to dust once it is shown the Shroud can be duplicated. What remains?

1. We don’t know how it was made.

2. We are much smarter than people 800 years ago.

3. If we don’t know how it was made, then people 800 years ago certainly couldn’t have made it.

4. Therefore it must be the product of a miracle.

How many non-sequetors can you find in that argument? To me it is far more probable the Shroud is a clever fraud than the product of a miracle. The supporters of the Shroud disagree. They say it is a miracle. They are making a positive assertion, and so bear the burden of proof. They have not made their case. My objections are three.

1. Historical. If the Shroud is legitimate, then its supporters should be able to tell me who originally found it, and how it came to be in our possession today. They must explain how something as significant as the Shroud could be found in the tomb on the very day of the Resurrection, and yet disappear from church history. Did the apostles simply not see the image that was miraculously imprinted in the cloth? Was there yet no image because it developed over time? Then why did they keep it? And if not the apostles, then who? Who was in the tomb that morning with both the knowledge and concern to preserve the grave linens? Why did they do so? Why is there no record of it?

2. Scriptural. There is no mention in Scripture anywhere that the resurrection was accompanied by such a miracle. Only two of the four gospel accounts mention the graven clothes, and both say only that the apostles saw the linens in the empty tomb. The idea that the resurrection was accompanied by a physical phenomenon that would leave such an image is pure speculation. Do we add to the Word simply to tickle our own ears?

3. Theological. The Shroud being visible and tangible tends to displace the invisible and the intangible. We despise the greater testimony of God in favor of the testimony of our own eyes. Yet what did Jesus say in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus?

But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ Luke 16:29-31

Which then is the greater testimony - the Scripture or the voice of the dead? And how much greater is the voice of the dead over the voice of a grave cloth with an image? Yet we prefer the later because we can hold it, and touch it, and feel we have believed because we have seen.

But it is even worse. Assume for the sake of argument that the Shroud is a fraud, and that a man was murdered by crucifixion in order to establish its accuracy. How foolish are we to chase after the fraudulent testimony of a murderer when the sufficient testimony of Scripture was always right there in front of us?

carl

19 August 2013 at 02:02  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Gosh, Carl, what a frustrating teaser you gave us with that "Faking the Shroud" article. I was just getting into it when I scrolled down to see that the rest of it is behind a pay wall. Now you'll have to supply a précis.

19 August 2013 at 02:11  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

It was behind a pay wall? But I just read it.

Google the following:

shroud turin christianity today wilson

It should pop up right at the as an article called "Father Brown Fakes the Shroud." Select the link and click "View all" at the bottom of the page

I just checked it again and got the full article.

carl

19 August 2013 at 02:18  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Thanks. Will try now. Maybe it was behind a wall just for us Canadians. They never stop picking on us.

19 August 2013 at 02:22  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

if not, here is the essence...

The most immediate problems for me were the photo negativity of the image (and the impossibility of a medieval painting one) and the three-dimensionality of the image. First, the linen must have been of a darker color than we thought. It is not an issue of dark placed on light, but of light replacing dark. The most obvious method for lightening linen is the one housewives have used to bleach tablecloths for centuries and, more likely, millennia. Put the cloth outside beneath the sun.

If a face were painted onto a piece of glass, placed over the linen and left in the sun, the painting would cast a shadow on the cloth. Where the shadow lay, the cloth would remain dark. Everything else would bleach light.

The painting of a photo negative is obviously counterintuitive to any human. However, in this scenario, if a paint lighter in color than the linen were used, then what would be painted on the glass would be somewhat similar in appearance to the negative photos of the Shroud. In other words, if an artist were to paint a positive image of Christ on the glass using a white paint, the color of the linen would be used as shading. All the shadows would be free of paint while the lights had been painted over. This sort of painting would not be counterintuitive at all and would translate, through bleaching, into an apparent photo negative. Whatever had been painted white would remain dark beneath, while what had been left dark would bleach light.

If linen were placed beneath painted glass and bleached in the sun, the image produced would be three dimensional. The sun, in its course of rising and setting, would expose the linen beneath the glass from roughly 180 degrees. The edges would be softened and rounded and the image would achieve a depth not present in the two-dimensional original. In addition to this, the sun's course would also blur and spread all brush strokes and firm outlines—all small signs of an artist—leaving only a subtle combination of the painting's shadows throughout the days exposed.

Hypothesis: A medieval could readily place a three-dimensional photo negative on linen with nothing more than glass and some white paint.


carl

19 August 2013 at 02:30  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Thanks, Carl, but hang-on, found a "back door" link which led me to the same Books and Culture source, but without the pop-up and the pay wall.I'm in the middle of the article, so I'm not going to read your spoiler for now. Wilson is quite the writer, I must say. A modern day Father Brown for sure.

19 August 2013 at 02:44  
Blogger Peter D said...

Avi
There have been answers given to all your objections. Go onto the Shroud's official website for them.

Carl
My actual point was simply to indicate its origins and date is not known by science - and I doubt ever will be.

"Leave aside all the circumstantial evidence because it falls to dust once it is shown the Shroud can be duplicated."

But that has not been shown to be possible in the time supposed for its creation. And this is relevant.

Your critique isn't all that balanced. You're just following Calvin's dismissal of its possible divine origins based on an absence of scriptural and historical support.

"The Shroud being visible and tangible tends to displace the invisible and the intangible. We despise the greater testimony of God in favor of the testimony of our own eyes."

What utter nonsense! Pure hyperbole.

Belief in the Shroud's authenticity doesn't replace genuine faith at all or diminish the Bible. Is that what you think? Did you actually read the words of the various Popes I posted?

Science, including that rather one sided article you linked to, cannot explain the date of the Shroud or its origin. However, there is a growing school of thought, evidentially supported, that it dates from the time of Christ and some of the hypothesis support a resurrection explanation - sudden burst of energy.

Your theory that a group of greedy forgers faked the crucifixion in such precise detail - presumably in case their crime came to light in the 20th century via radiography - would be laughable if it wasn't so gross.

A man was crowned with thorns, had his face battered and beard torn from his face, was scourged, and had his side pierced by a lance? All to make a rather vague image on a sheet? Do be serious!

Len
"So 'the Shroud' is neither here nor there , nor are any other relics."

Actually, I don't disagree with you here.

19 August 2013 at 02:45  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

I refer you to the following:

[Hezekiah] did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done. He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. 2 Kings 18:3-4

At the root of this issue would seem to be dissatisfaction with the sufficiency of the Biblical witness. The Scripture is the best testimony we have available given its source and authority. And yet we demand something tangible. We seek after a sign. We desire more - something that thrills us with a direct connection to the miraculous. Is there one biblical statement that might justify the authenticity of the Shroud? No. Is there even so much as one person who can establish its presence in the tomb? No. And yet we declare it to be so on the basis of nothing more than wish-fulfillment. Why do we even require such testimony?

The Brass Serpent is the classic relic, and unlike the Shroud, its provenance is not questioned. But men abandoned the power of God behind the object (a power that cannot be controlled) in favor of the object itself (which can be controlled.) The Israelites worshiped the serpent, and it was destroyed as a result. Hezekiah was commended for this very action. When this is how God considers an actual relic, why then do we spend so much time on a relic that has been (to coin a phrase) made up entirely out of whole cloth? Why is the brass serpent not a fair parallel?

Consider what has been done. A Shroud of indeterminate unknowable origin has been elevated to the position of eyewitness merely because men desire the existence of an eyewitness that can be seen and held and interrogated. The circumstantial evidence here presented persuades only those who want to be persuaded. None of it establishes the Shroud is not a clever forgery. But why do we so what to be persuaded? Do we only believe because we see? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

There is no historical provenance for the Shroud. There is no biblical testament that links this particular piece of cloth to the resurrection. There is no ‘there’ there. Anywhere. There is only a piece of cloth with an image, and a great desire by some to connect the cloth with the resurrection. The argument literally comes across as “Because I want the Shroud to be legitimate, therefore it must be legitimate.” This is not a sound foundation upon which to build the many metaphysical speculations regarding the Shroud that have been advanced.

carl

19 August 2013 at 03:04  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Fascinating experiment, Carl. My only quibble is over why Wilson chose to use slow-drying oil paint rather than water-based tempera. Oil was rarely used in representational painting until the late 14th century at the earliest. Not that it affected the experiment in any significant way, though. Wilson impresses because he admits his amateur status and plays by the rules of science by avoiding conclusions such as that the shroud was a forgery and admitting that all his experiments can establish is that the effect can be duplicated, even by a non-artist.

Thinking about his experiment, and Wilson's remark that his skills are inferior to those of the presumed iconographer/forger, it occurred to me that the shroud could easily have been mass-produced in an artisan's shop as a "souvenir" item for pilgrims or a relic for export to Europe. That other examples have not appeared (yet) can be explained by the fact that organic materials, such as wood, leather or fabric rarely survive the passage of time. Wilson, an admitted non-artist and non-scientist claims to have made a fair rendition of a shroud image with minimal skills and in a short time. He also brings up the Knights Templars, who I also think would have been perfectly capable of running a relic racket, but whose "products" might have been destroyed when their Order was dismantled.

19 August 2013 at 04:27  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Peter, apart from my theological prejudice, if you will, as a classically trained painter and portrait artist, the shroud screams "medieval!" to me. There is no way also that a three dimensional body could produce that image on a two dimensional highly plastic plane which is what a shroud would be. Wet your face with water and quickly apply a sheet of paper towel and you'll see how distorted the impression will appear.

My first impression of the image appears to me as an impression of a rubbing from a shallow sculpted surface, a bas relief, or if produced by William's technique, from a tracing or even a reusable template very much like the ones we use for lettering or wall graffiti.

It is also inconceivable to me that contemporaries of Jesus would have buried a Jewish body apparently unwashed and un-groomed and with the hands positioned over the genital area. The latter would simply be a grave insult to the body, as touching "below the belt" has always been deemed unclean in Jewish custom, both physically and ritually, requiring a ritual hand-washing or a full immersion in the mikva to remove such a "pollution." I'm surprised that something this obvious doesn't appear in any of the scholarly discussions.

19 August 2013 at 04:57  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

Re: "classically trained painter and portrait artist."

OK, that settles it once and for all time. You are the real-life inspiration for the garbage man from the comic strip Dilbert. I have suspected this for some time but you can hide your identity no longer. I now half expect you to say "So I was driving across Canada the other day reformulating Schrödinger's equation ..."

btw. It was gratifying to see you admit on this thread that liking salty slimy fish is a moral fault.

carl

19 August 2013 at 05:27  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

Re: "based on an absence of scriptural and historical support"

But other than that, how was the play, Mrs Lincoln?

carl

19 August 2013 at 05:40  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

This discussion seems to have left the important subject of NDEs behind.

One or two people have mentioned negative NDEs. I was interested to see that Dr Jeffery Long wrote a book based on their organisation's research which states that only 10% of NDEs are negative, and that he left them out of the research study because, unlike the positive ones, they were way too disparate to draw any conclusions from.

As for whoever it was who felt terror to be appropriate when faced with the next life, God, or Angelic beings, I think that that is not quite in the spirit of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, where the Father makes the first move, out of love, to rush out and embrace the errant Son. Love overcomes Fear, and God's Love is vast.

19 August 2013 at 11:15  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

I know, Carl, totally nuts, but such is life. Didn't you ever read my profile? Mostly portraits of businessmen, politicians, rabbis, married couples, bar and bat mitzvah kids...people who won't blink and swallow at my prices... but very little original or high art stuff, as I'm technically competent, but unoriginal and derivative. Will eventually provide a link on my profile, sometime after the High Holidays, when driving slows down and I have time to re-do my ailing website and catch up on this year's portrait commissions. Mom wanted me to be a famous artist and sent me to some pricey art schools and apprenticeships instead of regular high school, mostly because the docs and shrinks were convinced that I'll never learn to read and write beyond lower grade levels. Until I decided to focus a bit and wrote a book on local history at seventeen with a Canada Arts Council grant. That sure got the family all excited and so I got shoved into university to become a super-egghead. But painting and academia are killers for severe LD and ADHD types; too little real-life stimulation, too sedentary and non-physical for someone who needs to move and see movement all the time. Truck driving (take note fellow afflicteds), which I discovered fairly late and fell in love with immediately, is the only occupation that's been able to make me care, to keep me away from fights and addictions and to keep my attention riveted on what I'm doing. And a good thing it is too for all you people zig-zagging like little idiots in front of my truck in your little roller skates you call vehicles.

19 August 2013 at 12:28  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

...Dr Jeffery Long wrote a book based on their organisation's research which states that only 10% of NDEs are negative, and that he left them out of the research study because, unlike the positive ones, they were way too disparate to draw any conclusions from.

Or, as some cynics might say on a glum day, he felt that they put a crinkle in his tidy little quack theory.

19 August 2013 at 12:46  
Blogger Humble African said...

Modern day scientists are acting like the google of knowledge. The only problem with their findings is the fact that they don't follow the evidence as they claim. Scientific truths are basically not meant to be based on a personal experiences or at least, not predominantly personal.

People like Dawkins illuminate the inability of many scientists to engage with basic philosophical principles.

In the end, their conclusions from experiments which are grounded on personal experiences are scaled down to what can be seen as adhering to scientific protocols, not nihilistic (such reason is nothing but electrical impulses) etc.

All common sense and philosophical knowledge which is the criteria for knowing "personhood" are left out of the equation. Thus, scientific experiments aimed at knowing personhood which are based on algorithm presents us with 1/8 of what is true.

Those incapable of using common sense take what they are told as wholesome. But can they be blamed? Well, they think common sense "is responsible" for flat earth science so everything based on common sense is flawed. But common sense says each of us exist.

19 August 2013 at 12:47  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Avi.
Errrm, "tidy little quack theory" is not the usual polite way to talk about s.o. who is an M.D. & has been an oncologist and now researches from a mass of data on this subject. Such folk are meticulous collaters and know all the research criteria in this field. You may disagree, that is your prerogative, but to call a qualified Dr. a quack on no evidence but only prejudice looks like a red card offence on the debating games field.

19 August 2013 at 13:37  
Blogger Peter D said...

Points proven, I'd say.

Carl
"At the root of this issue would seem to be dissatisfaction with the sufficiency of the Biblical witness."

There you go. I guess if it is shown to be of mysterious (possibly divine) origin from the time of Christ, this may raise some potentially difficult questions for you. To me, one way or the other, it wouldn't have any implications for my faith or what its based upon.

Avi
"Peter, apart from my theological prejudice, if you will, as a classically trained painter and portrait artist ..."

Ummm ... the theological prejudice makes you more than sceptical. The issues you have raised about Jewish burial rites has indeed been considered by the various Shroud scientific teams.

I raised this as an example of the limitiations of the scientific method and how subjective issues of researchers intrude in the face of "puzzlement". It's a phyical object and, as yet, there's no consensus about what period it came from or how it was made.

Now, "The Miracle of the Sun" at Fatima on Saturday the 13th of October 1917, anyone? Again, no scientific consensus about this but a whole myriad of theories.

19 August 2013 at 14:19  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Avi

So I have to comment on your list of movies. Except for Apocalypse Now.' That's mixed in with Vietnam and I can't be objective. You probably like 'Clockwork Orange' for all the reasons that I hate it. 'Das Boot' is one of the greatest war movies ever other than it's horribly nihilistic ending. I remember watching 'Raid on Entebbe' but it shouldn't really count since it was made for TV. I was suspicious of 'Grapes of Wrath' until I read a review by Whittikar Chambers and then it was OK.

But Dude. Seriously. DUNE?! The movie the set special effects back 20 years? The movie where the leading actor managed to play his part while only using one facial expression? The movie that has become the prototypical example of bad adaptation from a science fiction book? I told my younger daughter she had to watch that movie after she read the book. For your cultural education, I said. She still hasn't forgiven me. She said I just wanted to make her suffer.

carl

19 August 2013 at 14:27  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Miss Mullen, I can plaster my study with "red cards;" one more will patch a blank spot by the light switch. In any case, I didn't call Long a quack...I'm sure he's as honest, sincere and fired up about his hobgoblin as anyone can be...which probably makes him a well-meaning crank. I call the current field of NDE "research" quackery, or at least the prominent bit thereof, because from what I've seen of it over the years...going back to that late 70s...nothing has changed; it begins with the conclusion that certain poorly understood manifestations, all still based on anecdotal claims, "testimonials," of what may as well be pretty humdrum hallucinations or fantasies are...swoosh, fast speed ahead... evidence of life after death! Ta-dah, simples, i'n it? Never mind red cards for me, doesn't stuff like that pop red flags for you?

That isn't science. At best it's belief-driven advocacy, an attempt to buttress flagging religious beliefs with a carefully selected cast of supporting evidence all gilded with a micron-thin veneer of scientific jargon a deluge of "data" no one can ever properly verify. The quackery, dear Madam, is in the methodology, if not the intent.

Arguments from authority do not impress either. If you need to wave someone's credentials for credibility, it would help if they are applicable to the field, which in this case would be neurology or related neural research, not family medicine and oncology. Extra-ordinary evidence for extra-ordinary claims, as they say with a slew of research articles in specialist journal with peer reviews are a must as well for any claim from authority to carry weight. Bypassing the "establishment" with pop books for followers and publicity interviews with supportive interviewees does not cut with me.

Anyway, here's a prediction for your amusement. A pint for me or a glass of white for you that within the next five years a substantial gaggle of NDE "researchers" will gravitate towards the quacky sectors of quantum mechanics and simulated universe silliness. It's where the buzz and the big bucks are.

19 August 2013 at 14:32  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Avi. That is a very broad brushstroke look at the whole matter.
The research methodology used is suitable for eyewitness accounts, reportage, if you like, and similar to social science and psychology, even historical research.

There isn't really any "tada" about it. As I am sure you will habitually methodical and meticulous folk- something to do with one slip of the surgical instruments and your patients won't be able to sit down for weeks or months and will sue the backside off you in return!!

19 August 2013 at 15:42  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Carl, Apocalypse Now for the stunning, unprecedented cinematography. Clockwork for its prescience and again, amazing cinematography, costumes and acting. Snuck in a Viennese theatre in '71 and saw it with subtitles as Uhrwerk Orange. Bloody good book too, with an advanced look on ethics and criminology. Dune, all five books of it, is the science fiction work of the 20th century which blows away most of fiction of that era too. Sure, the movie can be criticized, but I enjoyed it for the visuals. Frank Herbert was involved in the costumes and props, so I looked at it more as a comic book type of series of illustrations than a film. Sorry that your scarred your daughter for life with it, you mean, bitter old rocketeer man.

19 August 2013 at 15:46  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Miss Lucy, broad brush strokes are most appropriate with some subjects. There is really one proper scientific methodology; one based on evidence, ability to duplicate research and one open to falsifiability. Anything outside of it is speculative...and I include much of social "science," historiography and psychology in that bunch.

Nothing wrong with non-science based fields; there are areas of knowledge that are not amenable to strict science protocols, often because the current state of knowledge base and tools are lagging. This doesn't mean they can not use a scientific research strategy, but it does mean that they can't over-reach and make unsupportable, untestable and unverifiable claims and still call the results "science." There is room for hypotheses and speculations and many scientists offer incredible speculative work which is respected because of their understanding of the limitations inherent to the study of their subject and their honesty.

Habitually methodical work does not guarantee valid results and people who are excellent in one field do not necessarily have competence in another. Some of the most brilliant and rigorous scientists and thinkers in one field become bug-eyed cranks and quacks in other fields. That is why we should focus on the subject matter and the methodology first and on the accomplishments, credentials and charisma of the personalities last.

19 August 2013 at 16:07  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Avi

Well said (in general, but specifically @16:07) - it's been my experience in the humanities that the most questionable research has tried hardest to appropriate a scientific veneer.

19 August 2013 at 16:17  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Avi
So you may be a good portrait artist but may never have done a doctorate nor be much versed in research methodology.

Are you seriously suggesting that people's NDEs should not be researched as you cannot do a double blind test on them or stick them in a test tube? You can take scientific materialism (which itself relies at times on the patently false premise that the 5 senses are immutable realities rather than a processing capability whose range and tone varies between human beings) much too far. Just because you cannot see ultraviolet doesn't mean other animals cannot. Just because you cannot conceive what other colours might look like doesn't mean that they do not exist. Just because you have not experienced the vividness and super-reality of an NDE does not mean you can tell those who have that it was not "real". Ontology is a whole philosophical field in its own right, and best not approached from a scientific "falsifiable data" approach in my view any way; you just end up with so much gobbledy gook.

If you stick probes on s.o. s head to show which part of the brain lights up all it shows you is what the processing unit called the brain is using to process info- a bit like what part of a TV screen is lighting up. It shows you next to nothing about quality, spirituality, right and wrong, or ontology. "The brain closing down" is a supposition based on a highly questionable premise, as the continuation of life after death is what we are supposedly looking at, so they are positing that that is impossible before they make the assertion. It is like a robot saying "can't compute".

Denying the use of all human story in research would certainly please the Gradgrinds of this world, but would, I think be silly.You appear to consider all research methodology that uses human experience as its base as wasted time and effort. That is radical, and I think decidedly shooting from the hip and unhelpful to humanity.

19 August 2013 at 17:34  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

One of my sentences has been mangled in the posting. I know it was there when I sent it. It should have said that oncologists are habitually methodical and meticulous folk, as one slip of the surgical instruments and your patients can't sit down for months and years, and might sue the backside of you in return.

Not likely after many years of such meticulous to throw caution to the winds and become "bug-eyed loons" are they? It also isn't the kind of field that attracts those seeking the kind of glamour that usually appeals to those with psycopathic or snake-oil salesmen tendencies, is it? Not the kind of field that has the girls swooning at your feet exactly, is it?

Wow, what exactly have you got against people researching these stories? I find that alarming. You quoted the well worn observation that people tend to see things acc. to their own religious upbringing. Well a friendly figure surrounded in light does not have a label on them with a name attached, does it? So that is bound to happen. Who the figure is will be a matter of interpretation. But what the research also shows is a tendency for those who have had these experiences to become more spiritually focused, more focused on helping people, more impatient with religious institutions, and less interested in the minutiae of religious observance. In fact some with strong fundamental-type beliefs were a bit puzzled not to see what they expected to see.

19 August 2013 at 17:54  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

And one more thing: it is pretty unhelpful to suggest any comparison between so-called alien abductions and NDEs. These are the immediately obvious differences:
1. In the vast majority of NDEs the body of the person is locatable by others.
2. In "alien abductions" it is very rarely claimed that any other human knew where the person was.
3. The NDE person is often clearly identifiable as having gone through near death, or likelihood of death, whereas in "alien abductions" it is unusual to be clear that anything has happened, or to know whether hypnosis or drug use has happened.
4. NDEs have a long history, "alien abduction" stories do not.

There are probably many other differences as well, but these are basic.

19 August 2013 at 18:12  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Peter

I guess if it is shown to be of mysterious (possibly divine) origin ...

The point being that divine origin cannot be inferred from a lack of alternate explanation. If you want to establish such an origin, you have to do the hard work and demonstrate it. Hence my demand for Scripture and history. You can't simply bootstrap a miracle from an unknown. What for example is this "sudden burst of energy" and how do you know it occurred and how did it leave the image?

... from the time of Christ, this may raise some potentially difficult questions for you.

It raises no difficult questions for me. It is an inducment to idolatry. People already venerate mummified body parts in glass cases. What would they do with a legitimate icon of this significance? To be able to see the face of the crucified Christ? They would put it in a shrine and conduct perpetual adoration before it. There is a reason Jesus came before the advent of video cameras and photographs.

...as yet, there's no consensus about what period it came from or how it was made.

There is no concensus about how the Egyptians built the pyramids either. That doesn't imply we should give credence to those who say "The pyramids must have been built by space aliens." But that is the equivalent of whay you are saying about the Shroud. The analogy is exact.

carl

19 August 2013 at 18:47  
Blogger LEN said...

N D E`s

Well speaking as one who had a NDE as a child witnessed by my mother who was a trained nurse I can tell you that there is more to these experiences than the medics can explain.
I would agree with the Bard when He said to a ' scoffer' "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,than are dreamt of in your philosophy."



19 August 2013 at 19:14  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Len
Completely agree, but note that while Dr.Long has written a carefully scholarly book from his research that results on its own merits in a recognition that what you and I have experienced is real, this man, who is a Christian brother, has taken quite a lot of flak- and even foul language- for stating what the results of his research are from some quarters.

Nevertheless he and his wife have kept at it, and that is honourable and right of them.

Weird really, that such good news as a loving God and Father welcoming you into the next life should arouse such ire, when it is what we really most want!!

So some of the medics really do listen and understand and work with us. Thanks for sharing.

19 August 2013 at 21:19  
Blogger Peter D said...

Carl

To me, frankly, it matters not whether the Holy Shroud is the actual divinely created image of Christ's face at the moment of His Resurrection. I happen to believe it is. One day this may be disproved. It can never be proven.

However, you're missing my point. For decades millions of Catholics have believed it is genuine but have not resorted to the idolatry you fear. Again you're demonstrating an ignorance of Catholicism and its use of symbols and icons and relics.

I shall repost the most recent Pope's statements and see if you can begin to appreciate my faith better.

John Paul II said: "The Shroud is an image of God's love as well as of human sin ... The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one's fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age."~

Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI,: " ... a truly mysterious image, which no human artistry was capable of producing. In some inexplicable way, it appeared imprinted upon cloth and is believed to show the true face of Christ, the crucified and risen Lord."

Pope Francis: "How is it that the faithful, like you, pause before this icon of a man scourged and crucified? It is because the Man of the Shroud invites us to contemplate Jesus of Nazareth ... This disfigured face resembles all those faces of men and women marred by a life which does not respect their dignity, by war and violence which afflict the weakest… And yet, at the same time, the face in the Shroud conveys a great peace; this tortured body expresses a sovereign majesty."

No call to fall down and worship the Shroud as containing miraculous powers! Just to contemplate its possible origins the meaning of the suffering it conveys.

I've had one with me throughout my career. Initially, a black and white one and then digitally enhanced ones. They're on my blog if you want (can bare or trust yourself) to look upon them. They wont bite or harm your soul!

I have lost count of the times people have enquired about the image and what it might mean. This has led to discussions about Christ - not the possible divine creation of the image. Somehow, I doubt, a copy of the Bible on my desk would not have had the same effect. People have a wide range of responses to the image too.

I have it located in my eye line when I'm meeting with people. I use it to remind myself of God's redeeming love and how He can mend the broken life's of the people I am with. Often, when I feel hopeless about what to say and do, I say a quite a prayer for help. Again, producing a Bible and thumbing through would not be quite as effective!

Hardly idolatry - and I do have a Bible in my office desk too!

As I've already said, an icon is a sort of window that can lead its user into a different reality. The point is not to focus too much on the object itself (its age, its construction, its history) but to gaze beyond it.

19 August 2013 at 21:29  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

My apologies for the long hiatus, Miss Mullen, but trucking emergencies and urgencies come up quite often in this busy season.

So, witout further ado, So you may be a good portrait artist but may never have done a doctorate nor be much versed in research methodology. Ouch! No, no doctorate, an ok portrait artist, but some experience with research methodologies, although none in the medical field. But I know, for example, that any research methodology or strategy which claims to be scientific, must outline its overall epistemology and be kind enough to reveal the general rules it operates under. Ontological marvels are fine and dandy, but not in this case.

Are you seriously suggesting that people's NDEs should not be researched as you cannot do a double blind test on them or stick them in a test tube? Heavens forbid! All phenomena, real or assumed should be researched of course....provided there are helpful grants.

You can take scientific materialism (which itself relies at times on the patently false premise that the 5 senses are immutable realities rather than a processing capability whose range and tone varies between human beings) much too far. Not sure what you mean by "scientific materialism." Modern science is, by its very nature materialistic; that is its strength and limitation. Non-materialistic ways of knowing and expressing are not science. These include philosophy, ontological approaches, religious and mystical experiences, ethics, art, intuition and so on. These are legitimate ways of looking at the world...but they are not what we understand by science.

continued....

20 August 2013 at 03:22  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

cont'd...

Just because you cannot conceive what other colours might look like doesn't mean that they do not exist. Oy, that one again. Ok, let me speed this up. Just because a blind man cannot see colours and the rest of us can, doesn't mean that everything anyone imagines must exist. Colour is a conceptual construct of a frequency in what we, with the sensory organs call eyes, have agreed to be our "visual spectrum." But all frequencies on this spectrum, and beyond, can be "translated" by electronic means for a blind person. Which leads us, of course, to: Just because you have not experienced the vividness and super-reality of an NDE does not mean you can tell those who have that it was not "real". I don't plan on telling anyone about what is real or not, but I don't have to accept their "reality" as applicable to me or the world in general if they have no other way of convincing us except by stridently insisting that we believe them. Hallucinations are starkly real for many too, as are mystical visions, but do not accept all of them and everyone's as real.

If you stick probes on s.o. s head to show which part of the brain lights up all it shows you is what the processing unit called the brain is using to process info- a bit like what part of a TV screen is lighting up. It shows you next to nothing about quality, spirituality, right and wrong, or ontology. Precisely. Such things are outside the operational area of scientific strategies.

Denying the use of all human story in research would certainly please the Gradgrinds of this world, but would, I think be silly. Perhaps so, but science does not deny the value of all subjective explanation. It reserves the right, though, to examine and test the validity of subjective or emic explanations.

The bottom line, Miss Mullen, is that I'm not denying the possibility of NDEs being real in the sense of being genuine subjective experiences and explanations. I'm not even saying that NDEs cannot be real glimpses into another world either. I'm saying, if you were to see my first post on the subject, that neither science nor metaphysics can, at this point provide a definitive answer. I'm also saying that not a single NDE researcher has provided a scintilla of scientific or even a credible scientific explanation which can design a research strategy that can distinguish a NDE claim from a hallucination, a neurological glitch, a lie, or a fantasy. I'm neither saying it has to, but if it doesn't, it should admit to being an ontological, rather than a scientific strategy.

20 August 2013 at 03:23  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

In any event, Miss Mullen, having now read through your following posts and seen that you, and Len as well, have experienced an NDE, I need to qualify my position more precisely. I do not mean to mock or dismiss personal mystical experiences. I have had my own, my wife has had hers and a few friends of mine as well. These were arrived at by different means and not all were NDEs. I'm aware that these are powerful, sometimes life-changing events. The point I'm making is that these must be understood on their own terms; individually or perhaps as part of one's religious paradigm.

Science, though, cannot at this time diminish or validate such events. It simply lacks the tools and methods to do so. In pointing out certain neurochemical mechanisms it is doing just that...pointing out certain neurochemical mechanism. Whether these are naturally caused or through hallucinogens, mystical exercises, exhaustion or even torture does not matter on a certain level; the subjective human experience may be totally genuine and it may point to certain realities. A good scientist will carefully specify what he can study. For example, he can say that he can give you this pill or crank up this gamma ray gizmo or whatever he can produce this or that vision or feeling. But he cannot say that the vision or feeling has no metaphysical validity.

But I do mean to mock and insult fools and charlatans who over-step the bounds of honesty or possibilities. So, a bad scientist, a quack or a crank, will reach beyond the limits of his method and claim that as a scientist he can establish that either a mystical experience is meaningless or, conversely, that the experience is ontologically authentic. No degree, hours of meticulous study or number of anecdotal stories can provide a scientifically valid "ruling" in either direction on this topic. For such questions we have ourselves, our religions, traditions, scriptures, doctrines, our meditations and contemplations, priests, ministers, rabbis or gurus.

20 August 2013 at 04:09  
Blogger Ivan said...


The main source of the "murkiness" surrounding the Shroud is that the last time the scientists had a piece for analysis, it turned out to be from a comparatively recent darning, and not from the shroud itself. Hence the question remains open.

20 August 2013 at 07:08  
Blogger IanCad said...

Avi,

I know the roads are little travelled and long and straight but I sincerely hope that you are not typing all this as you drive. It would be quite something to experience an NDE - or cause someone else to have one - while you are writing about it!

Good Stuff! Good Stuff!

20 August 2013 at 08:55  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

I feel quite left out here. I've never had a NDE experience, never had a close encounter of the fourth kind and have never seen the shroud of Turin! I thought I saw Nessie when I went to Scotland once, though and seem a few few people almost spontaneously combust.

But on reflection, surely what matters is the outcome of all of these experiences. If the person thinks they are real and does some good, e.g. a life changing bit of positiveness, then that's good. So long as they don't start to think they are Nero or something and dress in a toga all the time.

20 August 2013 at 09:50  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Avi,

Several interesting points there.

At least you never ended up doing a portrait for Dorian Gray... imagine having that worry on your hands.

ps- on the choice of films I'm surprised there isn't room for Logan's Run?

pps- My brother Samuel -Transformers G1 fan that he is- reckons you must be more of a stunticon , aka 'motormaster' than Optimus prime....

20 August 2013 at 10:07  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Lucy,

The question is, do you actually need science to underwrite such a mystical experience? The answer is probably no, because I suspect if NDE's are 'real', then perhaps they are meant for the individual going through them, rather than as a means of 'proving' god etc to the world?

20 August 2013 at 10:09  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

You don't necessarily need science, but you do need to be part of the social group called humanity, and part of that is that if someone has had what to them is a massive, meaningful and life enhancing story it is unnatural in the community to keep it hidden away and not to discuss it.

In our age the community has research methods which produce some abilities to verify and attempt to see what is happening- not perfect, but not to be disrespected either. They seek what the truth is, and where they are open and willing to sift through the evidence without prejudice, treat their "subjects" with courtesy and consideration, and lay their methods, results and tentative conclusions before the public and answer criticisms in the public forum I really cannot see the problems nor why to call them "quacks". 1300 stories is quite a data base, and the treatment was far from sensationalist, so that some readers who wanted all the nice stories felt disappointed at the amount of statistical analysis.

For me the effect of the NDE was largely to know that the portrayal of God as Loving Father who rushes out to meet the Prodigal Son is real and there for all of us after death. There in the Scriptures but we don't live in the full life of the reality of the word, and most believers only partially believe.

We need experience to understand the Word, and the Word to understand experience; it is symbiotic.

20 August 2013 at 11:56  
Blogger DanJ0 said...

I've always fancied going to Israel to see if I get afflicted by Jerusalem Fever. Now there's an interesting phenomenon.

20 August 2013 at 20:31  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

"Modern science is, by its very nature materialistic; that is its strength and limitation. Non-materialistic ways of knowing and expressing are not science. These include philosophy, ontological approaches, religious and mystical experiences, ethics, art, intuition and so on. These are legitimate ways of looking at the world...but they are not what we understand by science."

I think I might print this out on business cards...

20 August 2013 at 23:37  
Blogger Peter D said...

DanJ0
Go for it! There's plenty of hills to climb in Zion and lots of interesting sights to see.

Who knows, you may even meet a good Jewish girl or Christian girl and convert. 'Jerusalem fever' soon wears off but may just leave a lasting impression.

Belfast
Why print it - you 'know' this already?

20 August 2013 at 23:45  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Peter

I meant for handing out to others, since the first thing I must invariably defend when I "out myself" as a Christian is that I am not a rabid opponent of science, nor ignorant of its methodologies (though on more than one occasion it has become apparent that the same cannot be said of my inquisitors).

21 August 2013 at 00:11  
Blogger Peter D said...


Then it needs to be shorter and sharper.

21 August 2013 at 01:30  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Not to worry, IanCad, my longer diatribes, ones with html ornaments like bolds and italics are, made on my laptop, at home or in my cab's sleeper. The misspelled unadorned quips are usually fired off from my phone while stuck in traffic, at border crossings or during loading and unloading, when the warehouse chaps don't want an old fart who thinks he is still twenty-something to get in their way "helping" them.

David, two confessions: Never saw Logan's Run and having grown up in Eastern Europe, most of my toys were made of wood in some village cooperative or at a reformatory for drunks, with the fanciest one for me being an East German wind-up train set with rails that never really fit together...leading to some spectacular trail derailments involving ghastly massacres of toy figurines "accidentally" positioned at dangerous bends. We didn't even dream of Transformers.

Miss Mullen, reading cracks on sheep bones is also a valid "community research strategy," one practiced by millions for millennia, but it's not science either. Look, the issue here is fairly simple: If science gets trashed for being too "materialistic" for daring to show measurable physical events around an NDE on one hand, its prestige shouldn't then be exploited on the other by pretending that mystical experiences, group support and belief validation can be tarted-up to look like science just by waving degrees around and writing in scientific-sounding jargon. One can certainly try to have it both ways, but one can't expect people who notice to keep their mouths shut just not to offend some sensitive souls.

22 August 2013 at 13:31  
Blogger david kavanagh said...

Avi,

Yes, I appreciate that feeling all too well- being the elder brother meant that I was brought up my folks were quite poor (having all their property and wealth stolen by Iraq). At least you are a Jewish lad done good now!

23 August 2013 at 09:55  
Blogger Lucy Mullen said...

@ Avi.

We all live by working hypothesis as you well know, so to suggest that research confine itself to the few "subjects" that are scientific is just ridiculous. Maybe you want to abandon all study of the humanities, but don't expect to take humankind with you. I'm too far on in life to really want to spend much time arguing the case for some of the commonsense things that are already happening and will continue to happen. Some people find it fun in their early 20s. Post 30 and you find incredibly few takers.

This kind of research is happening in lots of places- including Oxford- and will continue. Hard luck if you don't like it. Perhaps you can mount a lone man protest against it!!

24 August 2013 at 13:04  
Blogger Raven said...

Yep, I agree. It's the 'nothing but' brigade doing their rounds again.
Do these studies even take into account that NDEs don't always have to be experienced by the dying. People very much alive can also have NDEs and OBEs.
Cleary they are not necessarily the product of a dying brain.
I for one don't believe you can understand 'reality' simply by looking at firing neurons, gamma waves, oxygen levels or tunnels with light at the end.
My own experience of communication with deceased loved-ones is that the NDE is not a typical life-after-death even anyway. It tells us very little about the true nature of post mortem existence, so the NDE may be a spiritual experience at best, but not one which tells us what it is like to be 'dead.'
If you want to know what it is like to be 'dead' then look around you. Being 'dead' for most souls, is (from what I can gather) very similar in some ways to being alive on earth!


10 April 2014 at 16:09  

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