Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Science Studies Near-Death Experiences

Human Lives

Life After Life: “Some cardiac arrest patients recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining.” The Telegraph writes.
Photo Credit: Shaun Wilkinson; Alamy
Source: The Telegraph

An article, by Sarah Knapton, in The Telegraph looks at a large scientific study on near-death experiences; while this has long been the realm of religion and philosophy, medical science is trying to understand more about the boundaries separating life and death, which are not always so clear-cut.

In “First hint of  ‘life after death’ in biggest ever scientific study” (October 7, 2014), Knapton writes:
Death is a depressingly inevitable consequence of life, but now scientists believe they may have found some light at the end of the tunnel. The largest ever medical study into near-death and out-of-body experiences has discovered that some awareness may continue even after the brain has shut down completely.

It is a controversial subject which has, until recently, been treated with widespread scepticism. But scientists at the University of Southampton have spent four years examining more than 2,000 people who suffered cardiac arrests at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria.

And they found that nearly 40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted.
There is today a greater interest and discussion about death and what happens afterward; death is not seen by many as a final point, but as a stop on a continuing journey of human activity or life. For some, this seems far-fetched and absurd. But the truth is that we really do not know, do we?

Our understanding of human consciousness is currently limited by both our knowledge and our instruments of measurement. While neuroscience’s various models of the brain are interesting and help us in many other medical ways, their strength might also be their limitation. The impression that our brains are essentially chemicals and circuits will not likely shed more light on what happens to persons who are clinically dead, and yet are still alive.

It would seem reasonable to conclude that brain activity alone is an insufficient measure, as is the computer model underpinning it. Some will be fearful or frustrated at the lack of a precise scientific definition, while others will realize that our understanding of our human selves often leads us to dark corners. If only for a little while. Not knowing is not easy.

We are humbled, once again; this position of humility—contrary to the argument of forceful and direct scientific attack and of building better instruments of detection— might in the end help us see things more clearly. This will not be an easy problem to solve, and it will take not only the disciplines of science to solve it, but also those of the humanities.

For more, go to [The Telegraph]

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