Friday, November 1, 2002

The Matter of Convincing Others

Two British scientists are seeking 165,000 ($256,000) to carry out a large-scale study to discover if clinically dead people really have out-of-body experiences.

Fenwick and others are not positing life after death per se, merely consciousness after death. Nevertheless, the implications are enormous. If near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences don't come from the brain, where is consciousness based? "There are two ways to view the universe," says Fenwick. "Our current world model is that everything is matter." In other words, everything that we think of as "real" in scientific terms has a physical form that can be perceived by our senses. But this model, which philosophers call "radical materialism," cannot explain the existence of consciousness, which has no physical essence. So how do we account for consciousness? "There's a little (unexplained) miracle, and consciousness arises," Fenwick says of the current paradigm.

"However, another theory proposes that the basic building block of the universe is not matter but instead consciousness itself. This is described as the "transcendent" view, a perspective shared by many of the world's religions. "This second, transcendent, view of the universe makes it much easier to understand NDEs," says Fenwick, who believes that science will eventually replace the material view of the universe with the transcendent one.

"So will this convince the skeptics? "No, nothing will, but that's OK," says Fenwick, laughing. "It's how science progresses. Any research that says you have to have a major rethink in your world model is always rejected. But it will prove that consciousness is not in the brain."

I think I like this guy! I need to laugh more often when I run into opposition to changing the way sociology is done ;)


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