August 20 2018


Headline: “British And German Scientists Prove There Is Life After Death.” Thanks to reader Mark Charters for discovering the study.

British and German scientists have confirmed there is some form of life after death. The astonishing conclusion is based on the results of two separate European studies using a new type of medically supervised near-death experience that allows patients to be “clinically dead” for almost 20 minutes before being brought back to life.

In the British study — a large scale research project involving more than 2,000 people — scientists confirmed that consciousness does carry on after the heart stops. It had been believed the brain stopped all activity 30 seconds after the heart had stopped pumping blood around the body, and that with that, awareness ceases too.

But the shock research from the University of Southampton proved “clinically dead” people continue having thoughts — and also uncovered the most convincing scientific evidence yet that “out of body” experiences are real.

The study is from the peer-reviewed paper “AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study“, in the journal Resuscitation by Sam Parnia and a boatload of others. The study details are these:

Cardiac arrest (CA) survivors experience cognitive deficits including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is unclear whether these are related to cognitive/mental experiences and awareness during CPR…

The outcome measures were (1) awareness/memories during CA and (2) objective verification of claims of awareness using specific tests…

Among 2060 CA events, 140 survivors completed stage 1 interviews, while 101 of 140 patients completed stage 2 interviews. 46% had memories with 7 major cognitive themes: fear; animals/plants; bright light; violence/persecution; deja-vu; family; recalling events post-CA and 9% had NDEs, while 2% described awareness with explicit recall of ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ actual events related to their resuscitation. One had a verifiable period of conscious awareness during which time cerebral function was not expected.

Not resisting the urge to quote Princess Bride, there is an infinite distance between mostly dead and dead. In math, this would be a number greater than zero and zero. Barring miracles, there is no coming back to life from dead, but as technology improves there is a chance of regaining consciousness after being only mostly dead.

That there is no coming back from dead, save miracles, might be best explained in an abstract to another paper by JT Eberl in Bioethics, “A Thomistic understanding of human death” (I added paragraphifications for readability).

I investigate Thomas Aquinas’s metaphysical account of human death, which is defined in terms of a rational soul separating from its material body. The question at hand concerns what criterion best determines when this separation occurs. Aquinas argues that a body has a rational soul only insofar as it is properly organised to support the soul’s vegetative, sensitive, and rational capacities.

According the ‘higher-brain’ concept of death, when a body can no longer provide the biological foundation necessary for the operation of conscious rational thought and volition, a substantial change occurs in which the rational soul departs and the body left behind is a ‘humanoid animal’ or a mere ‘vegetable.’ I argue that the separation of soul and body does not occur until the body ceases to function as a unified, integrated organism. A rational soul is not only the seat of a human being’s rational capacities; it is also the principle of the body’s sensitive and vegetative capacities.

Since Aquinas defines a human being as a composite of soul and body, and not with merely the exercise of rational capacities, the determination of death requires incontrovertible evidence that the body has ceased all the operations that correspond to the soul’s proper capacities. The evidence of this is the body’s loss of its integrative organic unity and the criterion for determining when this loss occurs is the irreversible cessation of whole-brain functioning.

So there you are. Mostly dead is not dead. This of course does not mean “near-death experiences” are not real. They appear to be not terribly uncommon, if this study is right. Something is happening to the body as it brushes up against The End. That some of these experiences are remembered, in some vague sense, shouldn’t be surprising.

The causes of these experiences are ripe subject for study. Doubtless many, probably even most, are caused by bodily processes, in some form or other. But that does not mean all experiences are strictly body-caused. Meaning the obvious: some might be the intellect making contact with immaterial entities.

How to tell the difference, since the brain’s operations are correlated with intellectual awareness, is not likely to be solved soon. Or any time.

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