A Lawyer Presents the Case for the Afterlife

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VICTOR J. ZAMMIT: A Lawyer rebuts a negative psychologist on NDEs'

(Questions about the validity of the Out of Body experiences come up all the time. Some people are confused because of the debunkers’ erroneous claim that, ‘science now proves NDEs are not valid.’ Accordingly, below is my relatively brief but substantive rebuttal of the major claims made by psychologist/lecturer and writer Susan Blackmore Ph.D. She is a member of the Debunkers Association- formally known as CSICOP- a negatively entrenched, debunking organization. Accordingly, as a lawyer I state that Susan Blackmore's NDE argument completely fails on two most fundamental grounds: her proven entrenched anti-paranormal partiality and her lack of 'technical comptenence' as NDE analyst. Below in italics are the questions put to me, thenafter are my replies. For any more questions/comments email )

1# A number of hard lined skeptics cite their anti-NDE, anti-afterlife heroine erroneously saying, “ …oh, Susan Blackmore proved that science does not support NDEs as having anything to do with the afterlife.”

As a matter of fact, Ms Blackmore herself states, “I have not claimed that any of my work proves the Dying Brain Hypothesis.” Clearly, she is stating that her NDE argument contains only CONJURE, SPECULATION and GUESSWORK– NO science, NO empiricism, NO objectivity at all. This concession would have made many anti-NDE, anti-afterlife, anti-paranormal CSICOP members squirm. NDE expert Greg Stone, professionally trained in physics and psychology, says that her NDE research is “first and foremost, a personal opinion in support of the skeptical viewpoint, not a statement of scientific evidence.”

2.# Have there been any formidable rebuttals of Blackmore’s claim that the neurological "Dying Brain Hypothesis" better explains the evidence than the more paranormal "Afterlife Hypothesis" ?

Yes, a number of formidable NDE experts have rebutted the Dying Brain Hypothesis. These experts came to the conclusion that Susan Blackmore’s work is purely speculative – see Greg Stone’s A Critique of Susan Blackmore’s Dying Brain Hypothesis. He shows her argument is irrelevant to the afterlife and has absolutely nothing to do with legitimate hard core science. She superimposed her debunking subjective negativism onto the NDE model.

3.# But Dr Susan Blackmore is impartial about NDEs.

First, Susan Blackmore Ph.D is (or was at the time of her writing) a ‘fellow’ of CSICOP –an actively anti-afterlife, anti-paranormal organization. CSICOP is unofficially known as The Debunkers Association. The culture of CSICOP is that members have to unqualifiedly and in absolute terms believe and formally accept that the afterlife and the paranormal do NOT exist and cannot exist - AND be actively lecturing against the existence of the afterlife and the paranormal.

The negatively entrenched Ms Blackmore has never ever produced any research paper in favor of the existence of the afterlife and the paranormal. Inevitably she has a deeply entrenched negatively skewed perception of the evidence for NDEs and for the afterlife. Her conclusions inexorably are a priori that NDE and the afterlife do not and cannot exist. She can never be empirically impartial – this is a huge empirical problem for her. This issue is not dissimilar to the analogy where a Ku Klux Klan Wizard is claiming to be impartial in writing about whether or not the African American is inferior to the white man.

4.# But she says she is a ‘scientist.’

Blackmore is not a pedigree scientist. She is a writer and sometime psychology lecturer – someone who deals with abstractions and theories – a million miles away from brain surgery operations and face to face experience with patients. She is inevitably very restricted in her knowledge. Unlike the brilliant specialists: like Dr Spetzler a highly respected and formidable brain surgeon and other highly qualified scientists such as Dr Peter Fenwick a neuro-scientist and cardiologists Dr Sam Parnia, Dr Pim van Lommel who as a result of their high quality NDE research and experience came to accept the mind/brain duality. Further, these great specialists substantiate their findings by citing actual cases. Blackmore does not cite one case - she just uses her 'intuition' - which is unscientific, un-imperical and inevitably scientifically unacceptable. Blackmore is not medically qualified and is no match for the above-mentioned highly qualified in medicine and biology. If you were a patient with brain problem – would you go to journalist/writer/teacher Blackmore or to professional brain surgeons and medical scientists?

5.# But surely her NDE research is well accepted?

Given her proven negative partiality, deletions and omissions and lack of any empirical and theoretical equanimity when dealing with NDE - no court, no scientist, no empiricist from any University or credible institution in the world would accept that Ms Blackmore is able to be impartial about NDEs. Where entrenched partiality is proven even on a prima facie basis, the results automatically will be invalid and rejected.

6.# But skeptics say all the time that she is an authority on NDEs.

You are referring to the closed minded skeptics and debunkers and her colleagues at csicop. They can delude themselves - as they do everyday. They can deceive and fool themselves as often as they like – but no objective academic authority will accept she is an authority on NDEs. Further, debunkers, materialists, cynics and the hard core skeptics who accept something they claim to be scientific when clearly it is not, believe it because they want to believe it. Just as much as Fundamentalist Christians want to believe that Jesus came down to earth to save us from eternal hellfire.

7. # Does she not deal with mind/brain separation and afterlife matters in her writings?

She raises the issues but does not deal with them empirically. Contrary to NDE researchers who have meticulously amassed evidence across many cultures she just repeats with obstinate determination and with her negative prejudice that there is no such thing as mind separate from the physical brain. In fact as the above mentioned Greg Stone states in his article, contrary to the proper role of an impartial investigator, not once does she pursue the possibility that what the NDEers state about the afterlife could be true. Further, she uses the strongest determination to negate the afterlife hypothesis. This restriction is a huge insurmountable problem which makes her writing, for the objective observer, a waste of time, money and energy.

8.# "... but she never said the afterlife does not exist .."

To me she does. She repeated rejects any notion of the paranomal and in her writing on NDEs says words to the effect there is no reason to accept the afterlife... However, because of her technical incompetence as a writer or an empiricist she miserably fails to take into account that NDEs are not an isolated phenomenon. There are TWENTY ONE other areas of objective evidence of mind/brian duality and the existence of the individual afterlife that I presented in LAWYER PRESENTS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE AFTERLIFE Incidentally, after eight years on the NET, no debunker, no scientist, no empiricist no theoretician nor anybody else in the world has been able to rebut the objective evidence for the afterlife - IN ADDITION to the evidence I presented for the afterlife in NDE research.

9. " ... Blackmore says that the veridical experiences of NDEers are caused by, " ... prior knowledge, fantasy and lucky guesses and the remaining senses of hearing and touch."

She does NOT account for NDEers describing in minutest detail what was going on during an operation. She negligently avoids dealing with the matter. When she says "oh, they get lucky, or fantasize" on every occassion- that is NOT science, or objectivity or emprical observation - that is a materialist, a debunker and a closed minded skeptic refusing to deal with the specificities of the what the NDEer actually witnessed. And that is totally inadmissible as a rebuttal. Nor can she state 'prior knowledge' when the experience had NOT taken place before the operation. This shows Blackmore's lack of depth, lack of understanding, lack of skills and competence to pursue what the NDEers are ACTUALLY experiencing. Dr Michael Sabom's empirical work completely demolishes this attempt to rationalise.

10. # Does she not have the prerogative to write about the field in her own way?

A true empirical writer is in no position to willfully omit evidence for an alternative view just because that alternative is inconsistent with her own personal, negative beliefs. That would NOT be empiricism, it would NOT be objectivity, it would NOT be science. That would be self serving inadmissible and invalid nonsense.

11.# Ms Blackmore states “Science tells us that death is the end and as so often, finds itself opposing religion.” Is this not a clear statement of a truth?

As Greg Stone puts it, Ms Blackmore here “misrepresents both religion and science.” Science is a method of learning about the physical universe by applying the principles of the scientific method, which includes making empirical observations, proposing hypotheses to explain those observations, and testing those hypotheses in valid and reliable ways. Scientists who have not investigated the afterlife are in no position to make a pronouncement that “death is the end”.

Ms Blackmore is using her position as a psychologist to mislead, misinform and misdirect the public. She deliberately ignores the fact that many scientists of the highest caliber used scientific method and came to the conclusion the afterlife exists. (see chapter 2 A LAWYER PRESENTS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE AFTERLIFE ).

12. # Are you saying she deliberately omits critical evidence relevant to NDEs?

Yes, absolutely. Ms Blackmore’s mind consciously or otherwise deletes critical evidence – her mind just will not allow her to accept the huge volume of confirmed information which is inconsistent with her own personal negative cherished beliefs. Psychology and Neurolinguistic Programming confirm that. Greg Stone deals with this issue most eloquently and convincingly – as he says, it is her prejudice, not the research which dictates her conclusion.

MOST FUNDAMENTAL OMISSION: the fact that Blackmore did not deal with those patients who were blind and had a NDE – relating accurately what was going on during their operation, shows that Blackmore is either 1) incompetent as an analyst or 2) she does not understand what is admissible evidence or 3) she is too negatively entrenched to include information fundamentally inconsistent with her own subjective negatively prejudicial beliefs. These are all consistent with other informed critics of Blackmore's negatives conclusions in other of her psi research.

13. # What about her argument that it is the dying brain that causes NDEs ?

An internationally renowned surgeon relatively recently talked about the case of one of his patients, Pam Reynolds. During an operation for a brain tumor her eyes and ears were sealed, her body temperature was lowered, the blood was drained out of her brain, there was no electrical activity in her body at all, her brain was ‘flat-lined.’ From a physiological point of view her brain was dead for over an hour. But during this time that the monitors were showing flat lines she had a powerful NDE including verifiable observations of what was happening around her. This completely destroys the argument that the NDE is caused by the dying brain shutting down.

14.# Why do you think you can rebut a psychologist - you're not a psychologist, she is.

In addition to my law degree, I have a Major in Psychology with an adjunct major (three years) in Scieintific Method and Statistics from the University of New South Wales - one of the leading Universities in the world in the teaching of Psychology and Law. I was going to do a Masters in psychology, but found there was very little, if any, science in it. So I switched to Law and studied evidence at the highest level and practised law at the highest level. In afterlife matters, it is critical to know what is admissible evidence, what is not. What Susan stated is not admissible empirical or scientific or objective evidence. It is a subjective, personal view about her own restricted cherised beliefs.

15. # But Ms Blackmore claims to be a Buddhist. How is it that she ignores the afterlife?

Whilst Susan may be a nice lady she appears not to understand something very important about the religion of Buddhism. There is a huge irreconcilable problem for Ms Blackmore; she states she’s been a Buddhist for some 20 years but when she denies the afterlife hypothesis she is acting inconsistently with all the tenets of Buddhism. The religion of Buddhism is based on the separation of the mind from the brain and the afterlife. Again, this is most embarrassing for someone who claims to a practitioner of Buddhism but has trouble accepting the afterlife aspect of Buddhism.

16# What about Blackmore’s statement “The problem with evolution is, and has always been, that it leaves little room either for a grand purpose to life or for an individual soul.”

This is a totally journalistic, speculative and unscientific assertion not backed by a shred of evidence. Again, it reveals her deep seated irrevocably entrenched anti-afterlife position.

Part 2 by Greg Stone, psychologist

Here are some observations made by psychologist and science (physics) trained Greg Stone about Blackmore’s NDE article:

“(She) misrepresents both religion and science.”

“She offers the unsupported and blatantly false statement that “science tells us” death is the end.”

“Dying to Live turns out to be, first and foremost, a personal opinion in support of the skeptical viewpoint, not a statement of scientific proof.”

“Blackmore never presents the actual Afterlife Hypothesis; she presents a version intended to be refuted – a straw man argument.”

“Skeptics make the mistake of claiming scientific proof when she offers only opinion.”

“The dismissal of the key issue (separation of mind/body) casts doubt on the integrity of the (her) work ..”

“ … We are presented with amateur psychology in lieu of scientific proof.”

“… she needs to distinguish core factors – such as separation from the body – from the varied content of perception. When this critical difference is overlooked (in her NDE research) the validity of the work is undermined.”

“When it comes to the study of humans, such reductionism results in absurd conclusions”

“She assumes incorrectly, that NDE phenomena must be purely medical, psychological or physiological with no spiritual component.”

“Throughout the book, one finds this pattern repeated. Evidence that clearly supports the Afterlife Hypothesis is presented, then, without explanation, the opposite conclusion is advanced.”

“Bias and prejudice undermine scholarship.”

“Prejudices erode and damage the quality of her NDE research.”

“Non-sequitur conclusions diminish her case. She takes evidence A and concludes B.”

“She favors scientists’ assumptions over firsthand accounts.”

“… she has no intention of considering the Afterlife Hypothesis.”

“… when evidence points to the Afterlife Hypothesis, it is blatantly ignored.”

“The bias toward philosophical materialism prevents consideration of the alternative hypothesis.”

“Contrary to skeptics’ claims, she fails to weigh the evidence in light of the two opposing hypothesis.”

“One must at least attempt to come to grips with the details and not summarily dismiss the phenomena as brain-induced hallucination.”

“Her (descriptive) dismissal of evidence that stands in opposition to her theory makes no sense …”

“Not only does Blackmore blatantly toss out primary research and substitute her own prejudices, she makes the outrageous statement, “For there is nothing else.” This begs the question, how does she know “there is nothing else?”

“When making a decision on which hypothesis is supported by the research, without doubt, the Afterlife Hypothesis wins out.”

“In the face of data that clearly contradicts her theory, Blackmore simply contends the Afterlife Hypothesis is false.”

“If one follows the arguments in the book, however, it’s clear the sole purpose if to debunk.”

“ …we arrive not at scientific conclusions but rather at her personal view of the world.”

“Blackmore’s final attempt to dismiss the evidence by attributing it to ‘lucky guesses’ is an insult … is an arbitrary method of eliminating research that contradicts one’s pet theory.”

“She offers no proof that NDE perceptions are imagination …”

“If, as the data suggests, spirit exists separate from the body and survives body death, it is Blackmore’s desire to deny the existence of spirit that leads to exaggeration, falsification, and fantasy. The Dying Brain theory is the result of her passionate desire to debunk the Afterlife Hypothesis.”

“She fails to understand the ‘reality’ of the subjective – energy patterns that make up the mind (not the brain), which encompass the spirit and account for much of the content of the NDE.

“She falls back on prejudice, “the brain did it.”

“Her simplistic, reductionist model fails to account for natural everyday consciousness, let alone the NDE reports of perception from the outside the body.”

“Skeptics may be surprised to discover she holds this viewpoint which directly contradicts their debate platform.”

“(Her) ‘we can never know’ theory simply fails to cross the threshold into an understanding of the subjective and the objective, and the relationship between them.”

“Drugs bring confusion not enlightenment” – (referring to her claim she had a NDE by taking ketomine.)

“Blackmore, in my opinion, ignores the research and takes a tortuous route into pure speculation of a most tenuous nature. She speculates only …”

“Most of those reporting NDE know the difference and state they are perceiving from outside their body very vividly. Not memory. Not imagination. First hand, in- the-present -observation.”

“One might suggest her theory derives from the confusion arising from the drugged state.” (when she took the drug ketomine).

“Her theory falls apart on this point; the seashore example is a ‘cheat.’ ”

“She fails to account for OBE without drugs, or injury, or near death.”

“She fails to account for their vivid perceptions which differ from recall or imagination.”

“She turns away from actual research data, from the reports, and from logic in constructing her ‘model.’ She makes false claims for her model.”

“She tells us nothing new and employs false standards.”

(Regarding her claim that NDE’s are, inter alia, ‘memories’): “Why would one have ‘memories’ of something one never experienced?

(She has not answered:) “Why do NDErs consistently report being outside their body instead?”

“Again, the perceptions of NDEers contradict her explanations.”

“Thus her conjecture does not fit the data. Not only it is not scientific proof, it is conjecture that does not conform to the facts at hand.”

“In an amazing intellectual sleight-of-hand, Blackmore goes on to claim a bird’s-eye viewpoint is a prediction that supports her Dying Brain theory.”

“The ability to predict a factor that supports the Afterlife Hypothesis does not support the Dying Brain hypothesis.”

“Her research fails to correlate OBE with imagination, yet she states the OBE is imagination.”

“The remainder of her NDE research only furthers the basic errors seen in the earlier chapters. These include a failure to consider the assumptions of the Afterlife Hypothesis, a failure to confirm to the data on hand and the presentation of conjecture regarding brain theories that don’t fit the NDE reports.”

“Skeptics claim Blackmore provides scientific proof that NDEs are merely phenomena, proof spirit does not exist. This is simply false. Dying to Live presents conjecture, assumptions, speculation, but NO proof. Furthermore, her concencture does not match the evidence she presents.”

“Everytime the evidence and the reports clearly support the Afterlife Hypothesis, she makes a non-squitur leap to the Dying Brain Hypothesis. Should we blame her for not understanding the Afterlife Hypothesis? No. This is NOT her are of expertise.”

Susan Blackmore Ph.D replies:

“I have not claimed that any of my work proves the Dying Brain Hypothesis.”

“My account is far from complete.”

“Am I as horribly biased as Greg Stone suggests?”

“I found that many of my assumptions were wrong …”

“As happens with many NDEers, my (NDE) experiences and my research have taken away the fear of death …”

(Read her full page response in Greg Stone's article mentioned above)

-- Victor Zammit, September 2005

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