Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 3

Do Near-Death experiences give evidence of theism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In Chapter 3, Jelbert goes after Gary Habermas’s essay on near-death experiences. Near-death experiences are fascinating events being talked about now and some are even talking about post-death experiences and shared near-death experiences. In these, a person somehow experiences what they say is a separation of their soul from their body. While you can often have visions of seeing a tunnel or angels or things like that, sometimes there are things seen that can be independently verified.

Of course, if we have experiences where all one sees are such things as angels and the like, then we cannot verify that any of that has been seen. What are interesting are the cases that have people seeing things that they could not see any other way. Naturally, this information has to be gathered immediately before they can talk to people who would tell them the events. For this reason, I place further huge suspicion on something like Heaven Is For Real.

Jelbert looks at one prime example of Habermas which was a case told by Melvin Morse. The girl nearly drowned and was without a pulse for nineteen minutes. When Katie came too, she gave a description of many of the events that happened, including the two physicians who worked on her and events that were going on in her home. We could try to think of other ways someone could gain such information, but good luck finding them.

Habermas also gives accounts that Jelbert says he thinks could be NDEs, such as the account of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Stephen’s sighting in Acts 7, and Paul in 2 Cor. 12. Of these, I only think Paul could likely be a near-death experience. I think Stephen was granted a vision and I don’t see an NDE at all in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Jelbert’s response starts by saying that the view that consciousness can be separated from the brain goes against the dominant neuroscientific view. The first problem with this is that his source for this is Wikipedia which he does say is very thorough and has lots of other research. Readers here know about my thoughts on Wikipedia. It is the abomination that causes misinformation.

Jelbert goes on to cite Kenneth Ring on NDEs, but none of it deals with the more evidential cases. He then cites Jansen who says many of these sensations could be produced by Ketamine. Perhaps some cases are like this, but when you get to evidential cases, it is far harder.

Jelbert looks at this case and says that Morse is the only doctor there and he has interest in NDEs. He also points out that Morse has been found guilty of some crimes such as waterboarding his wife’s 11 year-old daughter and was sent to prison for three years. Even if this is so, we have to look at Morse’s claims and ask if they pass peer-review and if any fraud can be found in them. To not do so is to commit a genetic fallacy.

Even if we went without Morse, there are others like Moody and Sabom and many more who are collecting these stories. Jelbert is looking at one case with one doctor and dismissing the whole based on this. Even his look at how Morse could investigate is found wanting.

He describes Morse talking to a mother and asking if they had chicken like the daughter said and the mother replying “Yes, that sounds right. Which night did you mean? It was a few days ago now, but I think so.” Morse then replies with “Wow, so she saw you eating chicken!”

It’s amazing that we are to reject Morse’s view, but we should accept the view of Jelbert, who wasn’t there at all, that this is how Morse’s interviews went. A doctor wanting to follow proper procedure and not embarrass himself will want to follow through accurately, especially if he’s publishing something to be peer-reviewed. Jelbert just thinks he can tell a story and that explains it all.

Jelbert also tells about figures being placed in areas of hospital operating rooms that are not visible from the floor to see if anyone can read them during an NDE. No one has yet. Perhaps not, but some things have been cited and why should we think someone having an NDE will automatically want to go and read some strange writing somewhere instead of going to see his family?

Finally, Jelbert tells us that experiences happen regardless of religion (I’d also add lack there of considering A.J. Ayers had one), but that does not provide evidence for any deity of specific religion. Habermas I am sure would agree. NDEs cannot prove any religion. Again, Jelbert faults an argument for not doing what it was never meant to do. What it does do is show naturalism has a problem. If it does, then we should be more open to theism.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

  • Hi Nick. I’ve been reading through your posts. Thanks for taking the time.

    To clarify, I am not “going after” anyone. I am explaining why the arguments do not convince me. I’m not trying to convince you of my perspective. Perhaps that will clear up some of the incredulity you have expressed in your essays. I’m not attacking – at best I’m shrugging my shoulders and asking what else they’ve got.

    In this essay, if there are other NDEs to be considered, I will gladly consider them separately. But I was looking at Habermas’s essay and he cited one that turned out to be very unconvincing to me. It was not peer-reviewed, and the sole witness turned out to lack credibility. If you are over-turning established science based only on your own account of some phenomenon, I personally will wait until experts in the field are convinced. I presumed Habermas did us the courtesy of choosing one of the best examples, which itself speaks volumes.

    In other words, I’m not saying that it is impossible in principle to have mind-brain separation. I am just saying that Habermas’s essay (and Morse’s account) did not convince me that such separation necessarily occurs.

    I also was not citing Wikipedia. I was pointing out that the information was publicly available, and so Habermas should have known about it. I.e. it was not behind a paywall. I would never cite Wikipedia as a source.

    Are you planning to respond to all the chapters one-by-one?

    • I could respond to all of them. It depends. Some I might not have much to say on, such as on ID. As for the differentiation between mind and body, from a secular perspective there’s a book called “Your Self Does Not Die.” I have not read it yet, but Mike and Gary both speak highly of it.

  • Elliot George

    There is an obvious explanation for how the girl came by the information: she wasn’t dead.

    • ibnt

      Elliot George is John Richards, btw, who somehow thinks it adds to his mistique if he hides behind a pen name.

      John has also accidentally just given part of the argument for theism from consciousness / qualia — have a read of (atheists) Raymond Tallis (“Aping Mankind”) or Thomas Nagel (“What It Means To Be a Bat”).

      I work in medicine, btw, and NDEs are taken quite seriously — there are several major research projects going on right now on them.


      • Yep.I know who he is. I reviewed his book. One of the worst out there.

        • ibnt

          Ah, glad you know who he is. I like to make sure he’s always identified and not allowed to hide behind silly pseudonyms!
          Keep up the good work, Nick!

          • I recommend you look up my review of his first book here. I understand he has a new one coming out.

            As if the first wasn’t bad enough…