Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Near Death Experiences More Vivid Than “Life”


What comes next? That has usually been a question of religion or philosophy. Some look to a heaven or a hell. Others to a reincarnated existence. Some, to nothing at all. For materialists, who claim there is no evidence at all of an afterlife, a soul, or anything other than the chemicals and substances of the body, dust we were, and quite literally and completely, dust we shall become.

And yet, thanks to the miracles of modern science, the many reports of the near death experience have convinced some that the afterlife is real, while others say they are merely the imaginations conjured by a dying brain. Whatever the actual cause, scientists are taking the phenomenon seriously now. It turns out that studies show that the “memories” of the “afterlife” or “hallucinations” of people supposedly utterly unconscious from cardiac arrest are often more vivid than those of conscious life. From the CNN story:

Laureys and his team studied the near-death memories of people who survived — in particular those of coma patients — with the help of a psychological examination. The Memory Characteristics Questionnaire tests for sensory and emotional details of recollections and how people relive them in space and time. In other words, it gauges how present, intense and real a memory is. They compared NDEs with other memories of intense real-life events like marriages and births, but also with memories of dreams and thoughts — things that did not occur in physical reality. The researchers paralleled new memories with old ones. And they compared the patients who had NDEs with groups of others who didn’t.

Memories of important real-life events are more intense than those of dreams or thoughts, Laureys said. “If you use this questionnaire … if the memory is real, it’s richer, and if the memory is recent, it’s richer,” he said. The coma scientists weren’t expecting what the tests revealed. “To our surprise, NDEs were much richer than any imagined event or any real event of these coma survivors,” Laureys reported. The memories of these experiences beat all other memories, hands down, for their vivid sense of reality. “The difference was so vast,” he said with a sense of astonishment. Even if the patient had the experience a long time ago, its memory was as rich “as though it was yesterday,” Laureys said. “Sometimes, it is hard for them (the patients) to find words to explain it.”

Whatever this is all about, I think it demonstrates that we still have no real idea what actually causes “consciousness,” nor for that matter, what it actually “is.”

And indeed, Laureys reports that coma patients, not just those who are dying, also experience “NDEs”’ Hmmm. Perhaps we should consider that before we take away their food and water or try to redefine them as “dead” so we can harvest their organs.


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