NDEs: It still comes back to epistemology (Agnosticism)

by xeno6696 @, Sonoran Desert, Sunday, October 25, 2020, 22:21 (656 days ago)

While it's been a great long time since I've been graced by the presence of this site--I hope everyone is well!

My own journey has continued. As it relates to "the God question," it is one where the impasse hasn't changed. But I can better formulate now I think, my position. It all comes down to problems of knowledge, and while I've said that here before, it's in stark relief now.

There is a requirement in our knowledge system that knowledge be humanly reachable and understandable. This requirement requires reliable replication. Supernatural claims aren't repeatable. Further, supernatural claims have the issue of cultural relativism, and by that I mean that even when we take things like NDE and OBE into account, the knowledge gained never exceeds the bounds allowed by what the individual has encountered in his or her own society. In other words, we've never seen a Uighur have an NDE where they meet Vishnu and come back speaking Sanskrit. And yes, we should suspect fraud if such a claim were to be made: it isn't normal.

If you read about NDEs from Buddhist countries, they might talk about a "hell realm" or even being shown an animal world or perhaps even the original state of Nirvana, maybe one of the myriad pleasure realms... perhaps they might encounter one of several incarnations of the Buddha (talking Tibetan here) that they talk to as they pass the gates of death. Actually, the Tibetan Book of the Dead should be of interest to anyone interested in this, as in the whole of religious literature, it's the only one I'm aware of where religious scholars and practitioners have meticulously collated an account of what happens during the process of death. [Not going to lie, it's deeply rooted in the Tibetan mythology inherited as Buddhism was transmitted to that part of the world and it isn't easy reading.]

I *have* heard of atheists experiencing "the hellfire" but in almost all circumstances where I've either talked to or read accounts from these folks, they were almost always acculturated into Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, or similarly strict and brutal belief regimes.

And similarly, I've never read a story of a highly devout Brahmin converting to Christ after an NDE. In all circumstances by and large, these experiences reflect the core religious culture where the individual grew up.

Further: NDEs themselves are experiences that go beyond religious lines. What do I mean by that? Atheists suffer NDEs at the same rates at least as Catholics and Muslims.

This suggests to me, that NDEs have a biological basis... not just in mechanistic description, but in toto. (You would expect that if religion itself was a root cause of NDEs, that atheists would be excluded.) There is one other wrinkle: In a cross-religious study of NDEs, the only correlating factor that was common in *all* cases, is a carbon dioxide level greater than 5.7kPa.

However, and this is where Dr. Turell pushed me in the past, what does that say about the validity of any knowledge that might be gained from such experiences? Here I'm thinking specifically of that first case in Sabom's book that detailed the lady who pointed out a shoe that was on a ledge outside of the hospital. What about this? Isn't this *knowledge?* My kneejerk response is this: if I walked into a courtroom with a blood alcohol on the borderline of alcohol poisoning, exactly how much veracity should the judge and jury give any claims I make? I don't think its unfair to place extra scrutiny on such claims. Given we already know that testimony given from completely sober people about car accidents has been demonstrated time and again to be unreliable--and why? Because even people who witness a car accident have heightened emotional states that distort perception to the point where two witnesses can give completely contradictory accounts to what happened in same incident. I've been a victim of this myself--knowing full well in advance that these findings are a real thing.

I feel I'm being very generous in continuing here: the human body is under extreme distress during an NDE, hence the term "Near-Death." My personal analysis ends right here: This kind of testimony, even if it produces valid experiential results about the world, this isn't knowledge, and should be treated as immediately suspect. I will inject one other agnostic argument here: intelligence would suggest that we'd see some kind of variability or spike pointing to one thing or another. If atheists were somehow left out of NDEs this would suggest there's an intelligence at play that would be pointing us towards a theism of some sort.

I have to admit, I'm not really sure what exactly the argument is in regards to OBEs/NDEs except to serve as a sort of restatement of Cartesian Scepticism of the "Evil Deceiver/Brain in a Vat" kind? It should be of interest to those who don't know, that OBEs/NDEs are acceptable in Buddhism, and at its core, Buddhism rejects the notion of an unchanging "self" that pre-exists the body and exists after death. This creates a distinct problem if NDEs/OBEs are being used to argue for some kind of 'soul' that can leave the body and go collect knowledge like the shoe, and then come back. Any explanation here has to also answer the question of Buddhism's doctrine of Anatta.

\"Why is it, Master, that ascetics fight with ascetics?\"

\"It is, brahmin, because of attachment to views, adherence to views, fixation on views, addiction to views, obsession with views, holding firmly to views that ascetics fight with ascetics.\"

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