Evolving news on the science, writing and thinking about Near Death Experiences (NDEs)

Fake News

The term “Fake News” has recently entered the modern lexicon, especially in reference to stories from unconventional sources that have been repeatedly shared on social media relating to the US election. Without going into whether or not this is in itself is just a fake story created by the establishment to distract the public from the lack of good political candidates from any source, there are aspects to the whole meme of fake news that is very relevant to the area of NDE research. How so?

Firstly, there is the similarity of a recognizable existing establishment that lays claim to being the ultimate authority on what is real and what is fake. In the case of politics etc., it is the existing mainstream media that asserts that it alone is the protector of the truth, and properly vets stories and sources to insure accuracy and authenticity. These establishment organizations have loudly asserted that alt-media internet sites that create and distribute stories do not apply the same rigor when it comes to insuring accuracy, and in some cases may be deliberately falsifying stories to sway opinion. Given the dominance the establishment media has over the air waves/pages/web, their authority has, rightly or wrongly, largely been accepted by the general public. If someone sees a story on the BBC, CNN and so on, then they are much more likely to believe it than if it is from a less well known source. There are good reasons for this position of power, but at the same time power is abused, and the power of these media giants, who make alliances with commercial and political entities, has been proven to be abused in the past, for example the WMD Iraq reporting fiasco. So it is fair to say that there is a place for alternative media, and that sometimes these organizations may prove to be better sources of the truth than the establishment.

The existing establishment in research is the group of scientific and academic societies and journals that oversee and produce the vast majority of scientific research and publication of such research. Publishing your findings in a well-established and respected peer-reviewed journal is the necessary hallmark required for it to be taken seriously. Short of this a poster or oral presentation at reputable congress also provides a stamp of credibility. There are exceptions, but by and large this mode of moving understanding forward has proved remarkably reliable and for the most part has not been abused due to the desire of those involved in the system to preserve its integrity. I am one of those, and have published or presented a number of articles on medicinal chemistry or HIV clinical studies, and know that the research has to be authentic and reproducible for it to pass muster, and the scrutiny of journal editors. Therefore, it is very hard for a piece of research to be taken seriously if it has not gone through this accepted process.

However, there is a clear problem with this approach when a whole area of research is regarded with skepticism, or even derision, and the establishment will not even countenance it. This position is re-enforced by the mantra of methodological materialism that dominates the modern scientific establishment. This states that for a hypothesis to be testable, and therefore valid, no “supernatural” explanation can be invoked…there must always be a materialistic or natural explanation. This obviously has implications for NDE and OBE research.

I was recently sent an article by one of the readers of this blog about Nicolás Fraisse, a French man whose story many of you will no doubt be familiar with. The article was translated into English and is available by clicking on this link . It is a fascinating article and for those of us who believe that the soul or conscious is an entity that is capable of existing outside of the brain, the case of Nicolás Fraisse seems plausible. However, in the interview, the researcher states the following:


“The fact that the results are published in a book (link here) will not help. In general, anything not published in a scientific journal is not taken seriously. But we very much hope that scientists are interested in it, that they are looking for further study. The original objective was of course to be published in a scientific journal, but for that we would have had to continue our study, involving in particular external observers. It would certainly have taken several years of research and new funding.”


Now, I have no view on whether this case is a hoax or is real, but I would not personally cite the findings of this study, without clear caveats, in any material I was producing to enhance the acceptance of NDEs and OBEs as a real phenomenon. They have been sitting on this data for a long time, they have not made serious attempts to externally validate it, and have knowingly gone down the route of trying to commercialize their findings rather than the harder, less lucrative path of gaining proper scientific validation. Of course, there is a chicken and egg issue here. Establishment researchers or journals may shy away from this kind of project for fear of damaging their reputations (to my shame, I am guilty of this and do not use my real name due to the fact that I work in established science…I need to make a living!).

There is a middle path of course, and that is what the AWARE study is doing. The AWARE study focuses on many aspects of the relationship between consciousness and resuscitation, such as whether the recall of memories while technically dead enhances recovery, and the validation of OBEs is just one of many criteria being looked at. It is a valid scientific question that needs an answer. Many people claim to have OBEs during NDEs, therefore it is valid, as part of a wider study looking at what happens to the brain during resuscitation, to attempt to objectively either prove or disprove this subjective observation of seeing things outside of the body. The how or why is irrelevant to the scope of the study, but any positive observations will of course generate vigorous debate.

The methodology appears to be more rigorous than with AWARE I, so if there were two or more validated OBEs in the AWARE II study, then I hope that this time Dr Parnia will be able to present his findings at an “establishment” congress, or in a peer reviewed journal, before publishing a book containing the results. This will not by any means guarantee its acceptance by a skeptical, materialistic scientific community, but it will at least mean that it cannot dismissed out of hand as Fake News.



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