Pharyngula

It’s been a while since we had a pointless poll…so here’s a light snack to nibble on. We are asked, “The best evidence for an afterlife is from…“, and the answer so far is:

Mediums
3% (20 votes)
Near-death experiences
26% (147 votes)
Reincarnation memories
15% (86 votes)
Ghosts
5% (29 votes)
EVP and similar
3% (19 votes)
Crisis apparitions
2% (14 votes)
All equal
11% (64 votes)
Other
7% (41 votes)
There is no evidence
27% (156 votes)

I don’t get the popularity of the NDE “evidence”. I had a friend once who told me that he had the most awesome experience on ‘shrooms — he’d melted into a purple puddle that soaked into the earth, and he had spiritual sex with tree roots. I’m pretty sure that didn’t actually happen, and I wouldn’t use it to argue that human beings were capable of phase changes into a fluid state or that intimate congress with plants was fun and rewarding, but people use the same logic all the time in arguing that while they were in a brain-damaged state, befuddled by anoxia, their perception of the hallucinatory state afterwards is evidence that there is a heaven.

I have no idea what “crisis apparitions” are. I don’t care to know either.

I have heard of EVPs — they’re all the rage right now thanks to all those horrible ‘ghosthunter’ shows on TV. Leave a tape recorder running in an empty room, then play it back with lots of amplification of the background hiss and crackle of noise. If you are gullible and really want to believe, you will hear random splutters that you can imagine are sort of voices. And the really cool thing is that if you tell someone that this scrap of noise says something like, “Paul is dead”, then their pattern-forming circuits in their brain will impose your interpretation on the noise for you, and they’ll hear the same thing! Very convincing, I’m sure.

I voted for no evidence. If you vote otherwise, maybe you can come back here and explain your evidence to us. We need a good laugh on a Saturday morning.

Comments

  1. #1 blueelm
    February 21, 2009

    LMFAO @ “spiritual sex with tree roots” Voted with no evidence. I think people are thinking of the way that testimony is a type of evidence in court. I think a lot of people in the US have the court model of thought. We all should put fourth our “evidence” and a jury of our peers will decide which is the most persuasive.

  2. #2 KI
    February 21, 2009

    I’ve known two people who died and then returned-one on an operating table, one at his worksite. Neither had anything to report from the other side. Anecdotal evidence, yes, but no less valid than the “white light” enthusiasts.

  3. #3 www.10ch.org
    February 21, 2009

    “Reincarnation memories” also seems very popular. I am sure that some people when they read up on history, have an inclination to imagine themselves as really great (or not-so-great) and important people in the past, whether it be Caesar, Einstein, the Dalai Lama, Voltaire, and so on.

  4. #4 Zeno
    February 21, 2009

    I think a “crisis apparition” is when your late grandmother appears to you and tells you to stop believing in ghosts.

  5. #5 Tim
    February 21, 2009

    There’s something to be said for an afterlife as imagined by Mark Twain, but oblivion is what I expect.

  6. #6 Marcus J. Ranum
    February 21, 2009

    I’ve tripped on nitrous oxide any number of times, and have seen the light and the tunnel – it’s a perfectly ordinary experience. One time, I even confabulated that I went down the tunnel and there was a Rammstein concert at the other end with Amy Lee from Evanescence doing vocals alongside Till. Was I in heaven or hell? It depends on your point of view, I suppose. :)

  7. #7 Primal Curve
    February 21, 2009

    “‘Alternative Spirituality/Occult’ content is forbidden by [My Big Corporation] policy.”

    Ha! That cracks me up. I wonder who put that policy in place and whether or not s/he would like to have a beer.

  8. #8 Marcus J. Ranum
    February 21, 2009

    I am sure that some people when they read up on history, have an inclination to imagine themselves as really great (or not-so-great) and important people in the past, whether it be Caesar, Einstein, the Dalai Lama, Voltaire, and so on.

    True story of epic woo-fail:
    I used to work with a woman who was really into the whole new age scene. Her guru (or whatever it was called) convinced her, through hypno-woo, that she was the reincarnation of some egyptian queen or other. She took this so seriously to heart that she finally arranged a trip to the valley of the kings to see if it would jog and open up her memories further. While she was on the trip, she met another woo-addled new ager who was ALSO the reincarnation of the same egyptian queen. D’oH! It was really interesting because she came back to work and told a few of us about it, laughed, and seemed to have learned something from the experience. But over time, it’s as if it wore off and she convinced herself it had never happened, or that it really didn’t mean much – to the point where she was comfortable with the idea that the other woman was “delusional” but she wasn’t.

  9. #9 Ryan F Stello
    February 21, 2009

    From the previous post there:

    Now – I cannot convince anybody else of the veracity of my own personal experience. But I don’t have to.

    Right, because he/she isn’t trying to convince anyone else by posting his/her personal experiences.

  10. #10 Scott
    February 21, 2009

    Okay, I went and looked up “crisis apparition”: “An apparition in which a person is seen within a few hours of an important crisis such as death, accident or sudden illness.”

    Not sure how common that’s supposed to be — when I was a kid, I’d eat up every spare “true ghost stories” book I could find, and I don’t remember that one being mentioned very often.

  11. #11 GT
    February 21, 2009

    “Total votes: 666″
    LOL, and “There is no evidence” is in the lead with 37% (246 votes).
    Greed + Mortality = belief in eternal afterlife.

  12. #12 Marcus J. Ranum
    February 21, 2009

    Primal Curve writes:
    “‘Alternative Spirituality/Occult’ content is forbidden by [My Big Corporation] policy.”

    Ha! That cracks me up.

    Did you catch the “alternative”?? It probably means “non-christian” or, if the place is ‘forward thinking’ “non-jewish/christian/muslim”

  13. #13 The Science Pundit
    February 21, 2009

    It?s my sweet Satan.

    The one whose little path would make me sad whose power is Satan.

    Oh, he?ll give you, give you 666.

    There was a little tool shed where he made us suffer, sad Satan.

  14. #14 Kel
    February 21, 2009

    When one can simulate this phenomenon through mind-altering substances or though physical interaction (such as sleep deprivation), or when one can see these patterns through mental illness – why would anyone jump to the highly speculative and seemingly impossible conclusion that life carries on after death, but the dead are in contact with us?

  15. #15 aratina
    February 21, 2009

    Just yesterday on NPR (Doubting Darwin: Debate Over the Mind’s Evolution) they had on neurologist Steven Novella of Neurologica and neurosurgeon Michael Egnor of the Discovery Institute. Egnor threw out near death experiences as evidence for a soul that exists even when the brain has ceased functioning (no EEG waves).

    So we have a neurosurgeon who directly manipulates the brains of people and sees causal results of tampering with patients’ brains proposing nonchalantly that even if the brain of a person is dead, that person is effectively still alive! And anecdotes count as evidence! I suppose such a belief makes it easier to cope with botched or impossible surgeries, but it isn’t reality based.

  16. #16 KI
    February 21, 2009

    Anyone else notice that none of the “reincarnation” experience woo-hoos ever have a Chinese peasant in their past? One in four humans has been a Chinese peasant, but none of these people ever talk about that, it’s always some princess or high muckety-muck in a palace somewhere.

  17. #17 DaveL
    February 21, 2009

    I have heard of EVPs ? they’re all the rage right now thanks to all those horrible ‘ghosthunter’ shows on TV. Leave a tape recorder running in an empty room, then play it back with lots of amplification of the background hiss and crackle of noise. If you are gullible and really want to believe, you will hear random splutters that you can imagine are sort of voices.

    Not to mention that a basic AM receiver is nothing more than a diode, a low-pass filter, and an amplifier. Then there’s the problem of one layer of tape bleeding through onto another.

    I’m an electrical engineer by profession, and the various “high-tech ghost hunting” gimmicks are one of my pet peeves. The basic common thread throughout is about finding new kinds of observations to gather that humans are unused to interpreting. They’ll go around waving crude EMF sensors and declaring that high readings indicate ghost activity. They’ll find “cold spots” with infrared thermometers and interpret them as a spiritual presence. I want to grab them by the lapels and ask them whether they walk around in their everyday life noting readings for a baseline comparison.

  18. #18 stewdes
    February 21, 2009

    @KI #17,

    That’s right! I was and you can help me regain my rightful place in the world by sending me money! Do it now or feel my considerable wrath!

  19. #19 Psychodigger
    February 21, 2009

    Codswallop. Went for ´no evidence´, but there´s really no alternative.

  20. #20 MikeMa
    February 21, 2009

    Connie Willis wrote a book Passage, which was a romp through a scientific study of NDE. Great read, all fun. BTW, it’s fiction:-)

  21. #21 Robin
    February 21, 2009

    I saw a documentary on EVPs years ago – on the UK science programme “Equinox” which really, really ought to have known better. The ‘ghosts’ that the various wackjobs claimed they they could hear among the random clicks all apparently spoke broken English – “Carl die here” and so on. The programme producers helpfully subtitled the clicks so as not to give viewers the impression they were just clicks. There was never any attempt to verify the ghosts’ stories against death records, nor the obvious test of playing the same clicks to two separate listeners and seeing if they heard the same words.

  22. #22 Moth Eyes
    February 21, 2009

    Surely religion would be the strongest argument? Well, aside from ghosts and bananas, anyway.

  23. #23 some dude
    February 21, 2009

    I’m not sure how to answer on this one, though I’m leaning toward ‘no evidence.’ In my opinion, near-death experiences are equivalent to an afterlife. I’ve hallucinated entire lifetimes in the space of a minute while under the influence of psychoactive plants. I’m willing to bet that as my brain freaks out under the duress of death, the chemicals it throws off could easily provide me with an experience equivalent to heaven or hell, subjectively lasting who knows how long.

    Does this mean there is an afterlife? No. Does it mean I plan on having a crazy time when/as I die? Hell yes.

  24. #24 Peter
    February 21, 2009

    Forget about ‘shrooms’. Take dimethyltryptamine as in the jungle concoction ‘ayahuasca’. It’ll give you a (rather violent) NDE for sure. Most scary and beautiful moments of my life. I took it 8 times. It enhanced the notion that everything is indeed happening in the brain. Even though I could clearly hear entities and space insects talking to me. :-)

  25. #25 ennui
    February 21, 2009

    Top 5 reincarnation memories:

    * stillborn
    * subsistence farmer
    * damnit, stillborn again
    * eaten by brown hyena at age 4
    * the plague

  26. #26 Krystalline Apostate
    February 21, 2009

    he’d melted into a purple puddle that soaked into the earth, and he had spiritual sex with tree roots.

    Wow, your friend certainly had…creative issues.

  27. #27 blf
    February 21, 2009

    “Bananaman” Comfort seems like good evidence for reincarnation: No-one could have accumlated that much stupid in one lifetime.

  28. #28 Kermit
    February 21, 2009

    No evidence @ 50% …woot!

    If people were more knowledgeable about science, maybe they wouldn’t think they need woo to make the universe a magical place. It’s spooky beautiful enough in its own right.

  29. #29 Joshua Williams
    February 21, 2009

    I’m surprised some sort of more traditional woo isn’t listed, like pastors or Rabbis. I happen to be a Christian pastor, but I don’t belive in an afterlife. However, I’d like to think that I could make as little sense about it as a ghost or a medium.

  30. #30 Bad Albert
    February 21, 2009

    At least give these guys credit for including the “no evidence” option. That’s more than we can expect at most woo sites.

  31. #31 dean
    February 21, 2009

    “I think a “crisis apparition” is when your late grandmother appears to you and tells you to stop believing in ghosts.”

    No, I think it’s when your ex-wife shows up at the door.

  32. #32 Anne Keckler
    February 21, 2009

    Crisis Apparition:

    My brother swears he saw our dad’s ghost during my dad’s funeral. Then again, my brother did a lot of drugs and also probably felt guilty about being a bad son, not visiting Dad in the hospital, and then not attending the funeral!

    After my uncle died, my aunt routinely told us about him visiting her. She said it as if it was actually him, in the flesh, though, rather than his ghost or something. He regularly visited her and was much nicer than he’d ever been when he was alive! She continued to get visits from him when she moved to a nursing home a few years ago, until she died this week.

    My mom claims to have seen one of her late husbands (I don’t remember which one) sitting on the bed, as plain as day.

    I think people who are in a crisis will sometimes imagine things because it gives them hope or consolation.

  33. #33 RamblinDude
    February 21, 2009

    He also has an article on James Randi?s million dollar prize, explaining why it isn?t fair. It seems a common tactic among the ?spiritual.? Paint Randi as a biased self promoter who sets up impossible odds to overcome so they can dismiss his tests as unscientific.

    Why do so many people not want to live in the real world? All the mental energy going into silliness when reality has mystery after mystery after mystery. . . .

  34. #34 normalityrelief
    February 21, 2009

    Well THAT was fast! Clearly we’ve been starved for one of these… :)

  35. #35 mostlywater
    February 21, 2009

    I’ve had a few NDEs on mushrooms, but probably not the kind to which this poll refers. It was more like a small yet persistent part of my brain insisted that “maybe you oughta check the other side before jumping off of that”.

    Regardless, if I ever go back to school, I’ve found my thesis: Intimate Congress with Plants: Fun and Rewarding.

  36. #36 druidbros
    February 21, 2009

    I think the EVP’s are voices from a parallel universe. Or they are from my ex-wife. Thats why I ignore them.

  37. #37 PlaydoPlado
    February 21, 2009

    Why do so many people not want to live in the real world?

    To paraphrase that old saying about drugs, “Woo is for people who can’t handle reality.”

  38. #38 sbh
    February 21, 2009

    I voted for ghosts, recalling the historian Edward de Vere’s detailed account of the appearance of the ghost of a murdered Danish king to his son, prince Hamlet, which he published under the pen name “William Shake-speare.” In this well-documented case the ghost actually revealed the name of his murderer and the method of his murder, facts that were subsequently ascertained to be accurate through psychological testing of the accused murderer, carried out by the prince himself. In addition to this information the ghost revealed certain facts about the afterlife which, while they can’t be confirmed directly, are entitled to considerable weight, given the accuracy of the ghost’s other revelations.

    In view of cases like this, how is it possible for anybody with half a brain to deny the existence of an afterlife?

  39. #39 AJ Milne
    February 21, 2009

    Today’s serendipity: the random quote when I clicked on comments came up with Steven Wright: ‘If God dropped acid, would he see people?’

  40. #40 Steve Ulven
    February 21, 2009

    Ha! I was just having an argument with a friend over ghosts a couple nights ago. I just sent him here, not that this is the end-all argument against ghosts. But that was a pretty good summary of EVP’s.

  41. #41 Molly, NYC
    February 21, 2009

    Best evidence? I live in a place with a well-deserved historical reputation for high population density (still true) and violence (not so much anymore). Every step you take here is apt to land on what had been a pool of someone’s blood (now tidied up, of course.)

    If ghosts existed at all, everyone in town would be up to his or her kiester in them. I’d have to exorcise the kitchen just to use the coffeemaker.

  42. #42 Elwood Herring
    February 21, 2009

    Cue Pete Rooke in 3,2,1…

  43. #43 'Tis Himself
    February 21, 2009

    KI #17

    Anyone else notice that none of the “reincarnation” experience woo-hoos ever have a Chinese peasant in their past? One in four humans has been a Chinese peasant, but none of these people ever talk about that, it’s always some princess or high muckety-muck in a palace somewhere.

    Virgina Tighe claimed to be Bridey Murphy, a middle class 19th Century Irishwoman, in a previous incarnation. However, generally people claim to be reincarnations of royalty or aristocracy of various flavors.

  44. #44 arekksu
    February 21, 2009

    i’ve been having an extended Near Death Experience since i was born, and it’s called being alive.

  45. #45 gman
    February 21, 2009

    One of my more cynical students argues that near-death experiences are no more representative of death than near-birth experiences (i.e., miscarriages) are representative of birth.

  46. #46 TheBlackCat
    February 21, 2009

    I remember reading about a particular tape recorder that was particular popular with ghost hunters because it was really good for recording EVPs. This particular model of recorder was also notorious for being inadequately shielded against electromagnetic noise, so it had the habit of accidentally recording local radio stations at very low volumes on tapes. These two facts were, of course, a complete and total coincidence, unrelated in any way.

  47. #47 Elwood Herring
    February 21, 2009

    No, not Pete Rooke, it was Kenny was always going on about NDE’s wasn’t it? My memory is playing up on me.

  48. #48 Jafafa Hots
    February 21, 2009

    “In view of cases like this, how is it possible for anybody with half a brain to deny the existence of an afterlife?”

    Especially when you consider the fact that the other possible explanation, “people making shit up,” is such an uncommon occurance.

  49. #49 bobxxxx
    February 21, 2009

    Since the afterlife idea made 9/11/2001 possible, which led to two wars we’re still wasting money and lives on, it would be a worthy goal to eradicate this childish insane belief. I do my bit by telling Christians they’re too cowardly to accept reality.

  50. #50 Samurai Scientist
    February 21, 2009

    Science published a nice article on recreating out-of-body experiences not long ago. It’s an old field.

  51. #51 blf
    February 21, 2009

    I’m confident Pete “Less Brains Than The Ghost of Dead Sushi” Rooke is unable to not be an utter fool on almost any subject, even if he happens to actually know something about the subject.

  52. #52 Blake Stacey
    February 21, 2009

    sbh (#38):

    The Prince of Denmark had the good sense to look for corroborating evidence. After all, even if the “ghost” he had seen was not a hoax or some kind of mental delusion, it might have been a malevolent being wishing to deceive him and do him harm — “the Devil hath power t’assume a pleasing shape”, as De Vere (or was it Marlowe?) noted. For the sin of seeking evidence before seeking revenge and the crown, later generations branded the Prince a vacillating, lily-livered milksop. Thou shalt not escape calumny, indeed.

  53. #53 blf
    February 21, 2009

    I do my bit by telling Christians they’re too cowardly to accept reality.

    The form these days is to poke your thumb in their eyes. Happy monkeys!

  54. #54 Metalraptor
    February 21, 2009

    Everyone knows that ghosts are merely interdimensional cyborgs looking for a way to enter our universe so they can chop us to bits and shove us inside a metal suit…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army_of_Ghosts

  55. #55 Jafafa Hots
    February 21, 2009

    “In view of cases like this, how is it possible for anybody with half a brain to deny the existence of an afterlife?”

    Okay, just thought of another response to this question that I want to try out.

    “Apparently it’s not.”

  56. #56 Graculus
    February 21, 2009

    I understand that the best way to have an NDE without the “D” part is ketamine… it produces the same “mandala” and “tunnel” effects.

    One of the more interesting evidences against the NDE being meaningful is that children do not have the same “experience”… in the West adults usually claim to meet their dead friends/relatives/angels.. children meet STILL LIVING friends, etc. They are not yet culturally conditioned to intepret their experience as anything to do with the dead.

  57. #57 erk
    February 21, 2009

    I’ve hallucinated entire lifetimes in the space of a minute while under the influence of psychoactive plants.

    This is a very misleading way of describing what happens. Non-users are going to get the wrong idea.

    You experienced a highlight reel of memories of another life, and had the sensation that you’d lived a very long time, rather like one imagines a very old person must feel.

    You didn’t actually sit through every dreary and banal moment of that life. I think that’s what you meant to say; that, or you’re just lying.

  58. #58 blf
    February 21, 2009

    For the sin of seeking evidence before seeking revenge and the crown, later generations branded the Prince a vacillating, lily-livered milksop.

    Ah, but as Oor Hamlet puts put, The Prince of Denmark “made up for hesitating once by killing Claudius twice.”

  59. #59 Jafafa Hots
    February 21, 2009

    OK, I guess I’m just thick and sbh was just joking.
    Hey, all I got is an 8th grade education, what can you expect from me.

  60. #60 Rik G
    February 21, 2009

    I’ve known a few people who’ve had NDE’s; some of them interpret the experience mystically, some don’t. Either way, the most you can say about them is that they are reports about the subjective experience of being NEAR death, not dead.

    Although it might not technically count as a “near death” experience, neuroscientist Jill Bolt Taylor gives a great TED talk about experiencing a stroke, and the amazing things she learned about her mind as a consequence. I love the fact that she interprets experiences that many would call mystical thru the lens of reason and science, and does justice to the mysteries of the mind and it’s relationship to the awe-inspiring universe it was born into without stepping in the woo.* (Not only that, but she’s a great entertainer as well!)

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html

    * “Woo”. I don’t think I heard that term ’till I started reading this blog. It’s a good one–anyone know it’s origins?

  61. #61 Elwood Herring
    February 21, 2009

    To DaveL and any others here who are into EVPs and generally mucking about with sound recording: A few years ago I put together a 50 minute electronic piece called Dreamer of Dreams which incorporates many of my own sound experiments along these lines. I was attempting to depict a disturbing dream I had once in a “sound painting” of sorts. It’s freely downloadable from this page if anyone wants to have a listen. Best to hear it in a quiet dark room with no distractions. I’d be interested in hearing any comments anyone has about it.

  62. #62 amphiox
    February 21, 2009

    Sadly, the majority of chinese peasants, through history, being not christian, did not have souls, and so could not reincarnate, despite the fact that the majority of them subscribed to religions that believed fervently in reincarnation.

    Those few who did reincarnate, being not christian and therefore not virtuous, would not have been rewarded with reincarnation into a human body. Most of them probably ended up as grasshoppers. Or mice.

    And everyone knows that the truly great souls are amoeboid. They fission after death and reincarnate into multiple individuals.

  63. #63 Harebell
    February 21, 2009

    I’ve been away for a week in your country and heard the following:
    “Nobody can tell me, for 100% sure, what happens once we die!”
    Then a guy come up to me and said, “Dude you’re wrong, my mum got hit by a train and was dead for 4 minutes, when she came back to us she told us that she had seen god, so there!”
    “Hey man I wouldn’t believe anything your mother said she saw, she couldn’t even see a train.”

    Yup that sums it up for me

  64. #64 Nominal Egg
    February 21, 2009

    I remember seeing a documentary a few years ago about that King of Denmark murder case.
    What really struck me was how the young Prince looked so much like a young Laurence Olivier.
    Weird.

  65. #65 Crudely Wrott
    February 21, 2009

    I just cast the 1964th vote, of which 1534 are for “no evidence.” 78%.

  66. #66 Sastra
    February 21, 2009

    There’s been a lot of neurological analysis of both Near Death and Out-Of-Body Experiences which demonstrate them to be powerfully convincing states of the brain which only mimic self-leaving-the-body — but True Believers of course discount them. What I see a lot of people doing is trusting reports which relate tales such as “a girl who was blind from birth was able to see, and then later describe, everything in the operating room.” They’ll say that it was verified that a patient was “flat-lining” the entire time of their experience, or that the person who left their body was later able to amaze everyone by knowing what the conversation in the next room had been about, with exacting detail.

    In other words, they tell stories which, if true, really would pretty much rule out any natural explanations involving brain chemistry. The problem is, these stories don’t check out. They either fall apart on examination, can’t be traced to sources, or are interesting, but don’t meet the high level of verification one needs to rule out mistakes in recall or accuracy — in favor of the alternative theory that everything else in modern neurology is leading in the wrong direction, and mind/body dualism is true.

  67. #67 Tom Coward
    February 21, 2009

    “There is no evidence” is up to 80%.

  68. #68 Monado
    February 21, 2009

    “Woo” was new to me, too — perhaps from “Dancing Wu Li Masters”? Or wooing the gullible? The classic term is, of course, snake oil.

  69. #69 Eddie Janssen
    February 21, 2009

    What about a before-life?
    (I have the feeling Richard Dawkins mentions it somewhere in one of his books, but I cannot remember where)
    And I don’t mean the events before your umptieth reincarnation.

  70. #70 Joel
    February 21, 2009

    I think P.Z. has managed to skew the poll results in favor of reality… since his post on this the votes for “There is no evidence” have gone up to 81% of the total… Rationality FTW!

  71. #71 Don
    February 21, 2009

    As Arthur Dent put it, ‘Not so much an after life, more an apres vie.

  72. #72 Janine, Ignorant Slut
    February 21, 2009

    If you have ghosts, you have everything.

  73. #73 dave
    February 21, 2009

    Sure, there’s life after death. Just not yours.

  74. #74 ice9
    February 21, 2009

    Trick poll. None of it is evidence.

    ice

  75. #75 Joshua Williams
    February 21, 2009

    “Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage.”

  76. #76 Sastra
    February 21, 2009

    Monado #68 wrote:

    “Woo” was new to me, too — perhaps from “Dancing Wu Li Masters”? Or wooing the gullible?

    I’m not sure who first coined the expression, but I think scienceblogs picked it up from Orac’s Respectful Insolence.

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/08/reader_mailbag_what_is_woo_1.php

    He writes:

    “Woo” is shorthand for “woo woo” and is not just limited to alternative medicine but rather represents an entire philosophy of credulity of the sort favored by New Age types. It’s clear that “woo” or “woo woo” can refer to either a person or a belief system… If I had to boil it down, I’d define woo as beliefs that clearly demonstrate magical thinking, uncritical acceptance of things for which no good evidence exists. This includes, but is not limited to, psychic phenomenon, ghosts, the paranormal, “energy healing,” the use of “colon cleansing” and “liver cleansing” to rid oneself of “toxins,” homeopathy (especially quantum homeopathy), and a wide variety of other mystical and pseudoscientific beliefs. Woo is resistant to reason. Indeed, woo has a double standard when it comes to what it considers to be good evidence. It is very accepting of a wide variety of fuzzy, mystical ideas, but is often incredibly distrustful and skeptical of anything having to do with “conventional” science or “conventional” medicine. Woos tend to be very quick to react to defend their particular brand of woo and very unforgiving of its being questioned.

    I think the word itself is supposed to come from the sound people sometimes make when moving their hands back and forth in something like a slow clapping motion and trying to convey a ghost/alien type noise. Either you know the one I mean, or you’re more confused than ever.

  77. #77 kevinj
    February 21, 2009

    I knew a lass who was apparently ultra sensitive to supernatural phenomena and said how she could sense areas where lots of violence and deaths had occurred.

    fortunately my house was safe which was quite strange considering it was near the old town gallows and on the edge of a battlefield.

    so with this poor success rate i asked her about a few other places in town all of which also were nice and chilled. again a bit strange since apart from a few control items all of them were confirmed battlesites from either the 1st or 2nd battle of st albans.

    i tuned out on her excuses.

  78. #78 khan
    February 21, 2009

    “Crisis apparitions” provided by magicians.

  79. #79 Holydust
    February 21, 2009

    they say that no good comes from doing drugs, but i would say that my one experience with LSD (accidental/unexpected, but i was fine) is a big part of what proved to me that mumbo-jumbo wasn’t real. once you understand what the human brain is capable of conjuring on its own, it dispels much of one’s ability to chalk such things up to the supernatural.

  80. #80 Crudely Wrott
    February 21, 2009

    Other influences on the use of the word (and the sound) “woo” might be:

    a) The involuntary sound frequently made when one is suddenly surprised, overawed or taken unaware.
    b) The use of theramins in movies that posited things fantastic and bizarre.
    c) Try rolling your eyes and wiggling your hands about at head level without making the sound.
    d) The distinct similarity to the word “poof” which is equally useful.

    I’m sure there are more influences. These are the ones that stand out in my lexical memory.

    The word and the way it sounds are remarkably fine-tuned to convey the otherwise difficult and time consuming task of explaining why someone’s brand new interpretation of old, old superstitions does not offer new hope to mankind.

    I often use the term when leaving the presence of a true believer. Sort of like a sigh of relief accompanied by a relieved wiping of my brow. “Whhoooo (I’m glad that’s over).”

    An apt word.

  81. #81 GILGAMESH
    February 21, 2009

    I was on the wrong end of a pedestrian vs car collision in 1995.

    During one of my operations I was clinically dead for >30 minutes. Several days after the incident I ‘remembered’ an NDE. I attributed it to lack of oxygen. The ‘memory’ is vivid and not surprisingly reflects my mundane, pragmatic personality. In my hallucination I was transported to a place crowded with people where I was told to “go back, its’ not your time” by a being with a clipboard.

    From the reading I’ve done on NDEs, claimants seem to experience what they are conditioned to; e.g., a bright light, Buddha, Jesus, etc.

    I am circumspect about describing this to people and am only comfortable writing it here because of the level of anonymity in this comment section, I don’t want to feed the woo masters.

  82. #82 AnthonyK
    February 21, 2009

    Oh, the existence of ghosts – I thought you meant….

    It’s difficult to tell with ghosts. They tend to be stressed and unfullfiled, so their agenda is frequently suspect. This is presumably the domain of parapsychologists. I’m not sure personally that for this reason their portents have much interest. There’s little to be gained for me by hearing the travails of a decapitated Roman Soldier, or a lovelorn and (just between us) frankly menstrual maiden, whose lost 17th Century love is now most unlikely to return – the more so since her suicide.
    I mean when you come down to it, aren’t ghosts really just historical bag ladies, forever arguing with themselves?
    I know I may sound heartless, but to be honest I have enough problems with the problems of the temporarily alive, myself included.

  83. #83 BMS
    February 21, 2009

    “No evidence.”

    I get into some dumb conversations with my limbo-wife’s grandmother. Who’s 90.

    I know she’s afraid to die, but I just can’t lie when she asks me what I think.

  84. #84 Watt de Fawke
    February 21, 2009

    Your purple puddle pal is mistaken. Trees are flowering plants. Their sex organs are aboveground.

    BTW, I used to be troubled by ghosts. Then I got a digital TV, and now I get occasional jams.

  85. #85 «břnez_brigade»
    February 21, 2009

    Voted for an abundant lack of evidence.

    Current stats:
    Mediums – 1% (21 votes)
    Near-death experiences – 6% (157 votes)
    Reincarnation memories – 3% (88 votes)
    Ghosts – 1% (32 votes)
    EVP and similar – 1% (20 votes)
    Crisis apparitions – 1% (15 votes)
    All equal – 2% (65 votes)
    Other – 2% (46 votes)
    There is no evidence – 84% (2295 votes)
    Total votes: 2739

  86. #86 Dahan
    February 21, 2009

    These things suck. They don’t even mention “Pygmies and Dwarves”.

  87. #87 Kayla
    February 21, 2009

    Well..I.. voted for “other.” Which to me, would be “personal experience.” Because of this I do believe in some form of an afterlife, just not one any religion claims. Hell, I’m still an atheist too.

  88. #88 hyoid
    February 21, 2009

    @78. do, do, do, lookin’ out my backdoor.

  89. #89 E.V.
    February 21, 2009

    Because of this I do believe in some form of an afterlife, just not one any religion claims.

    Conscious afterlife?

  90. #90 smellyoldgit
    February 21, 2009

    No evidence now at 87%.
    Sanity beckons.

  91. #91 Kayla
    February 21, 2009

    @#89: Maybe. I don’t really know. I guess I’ll find out when I’m dead.

  92. #92 Cambrico
    February 21, 2009

    Currently lights and TV have made all the ghosts dissapear. In my Grand grand dad days, it was a good shot with a .45. Once a ghost appeared in a remote mountain pass,a ghost that happened to scare many others in the same place. But just one shot was enough to make it dissapear for ever. It seems skepticism is deeply rooted in my family.

  93. #93 Anton Mates
    February 21, 2009

    Marcus,

    While she was on the trip, she met another woo-addled new ager who was ALSO the reincarnation of the same egyptian queen. D’oH!

    Ah, but as a certain acquaintance of ours explained, it’s entirely possible for many people to be the same simultaneous reincarnation of a historical figure, because they all get a few “soul fragments” or some such thing.

    Hundreds/thousands of people all have Cleopatra’s memories, or Alexander the Great’s, because Cleopatra and Alexander just had that much soul.

    Most poor people, on the other hand, don’t have any souls to speak of, so it’s natural that no one remembers being them in a past life.

  94. #94 Snark
    February 21, 2009

    …I had a friend once who told me that he had the most awesome experience on ‘shrooms…

    A “friend”, eh? ;-)

  95. #95 Katkinkate
    February 21, 2009

    Posted by: KI @ 16 “Anyone else notice that none of the “reincarnation” experience woo-hoos ever have a Chinese peasant in their past? One in four humans has been a Chinese peasant, but none of these people ever talk about that, it’s always some princess or high muckety-muck in a palace somewhere.”

    Many moons ago (ooo, maybe 20 years) I heard a radio program where the seemingly very skeptical host interviewed a reincarnation expert and consented to be hypnotised and allow the guest to attempt to bring out a previous life. He described a period of life as a small-scale fisherman on a remote lake in inland China. This was before the ‘chinese boom’ that has been happening recently, when not many people new much about China, except as where the cheap stuff comes from and chinese culture was no-where found in mainstream media (at least here in Australia). The host seemed very surprised and shaken by the experience. Of course, he could have been just a very good actor.

    It didn’t convince me of reincarnation, but did make me wonder for quite a while. I’ve read a lot about it since and have come to the conclusion that most of the people doing regressions for money are scammers as much as ‘professional’ mediums and aura-readers. But I must confess I still consider myself an agnostic about the whole field in general, strongly leaning to skeptical and totally disbelieving on an individual basis, especially if they want my money.

  96. #96 Knockgoats
    February 21, 2009

    I had a friend once who told me that he had the most awesome experience on ‘shrooms ? he’d melted into a purple puddle that soaked into the earth, and he had spiritual sex with tree roots. I’m pretty sure that didn’t actually happen, and I wouldn’t use it to argue that human beings were capable of phase changes into a fluid state or that intimate congress with plants was fun and rewarding – PZ

    I had a friend once who told me that he had the most awesome experience with a melon… ;-)

  97. #97 Knockgoats
    February 21, 2009

    I am sure that some people when they read up on history, have an inclination to imagine themselves as really great (or not-so-great) and important people in the past, whether it be Caesar, Einstein, the Dalai Lama, Voltaire, and so on. http://www.10ch.org

    I’m sure I’ve read that someone asked the current Dalai Lama what it was like to remember a previous life, and he replied:
    “I have not had that experience”.

  98. #98 George E Martin
    February 21, 2009

    I’ve read Sastra @76.

    I don’t know when woo originated in the meaning P.Z. used it. James Randi has been using it with this meaning for some while. Perhaps this usage is derived this definition of woo,
    (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary):

    2 : to solicit or entreat especially with importunity

    George

  99. #99 Randall
    February 21, 2009

    Speaking of poorly-shielded tape recorders randomly recording local radio stations, I once had a really shitty pair of computer speakers which did the same thing. My computer was playing nothing, and yet I heard sounds coming from the speakers; when I turned up the volume, I realized it was a radio station. Pretty freaky, but completely explained by known science.

  100. #100 Knockgoats
    February 21, 2009

    Your purple puddle pal is mistaken. Trees are flowering plants. Their sex organs are aboveground.

    He must have been getting it on with microrrhizal fungi.

  101. #101 JennyAnyDots
    February 21, 2009

    @ smellyoldgit (no. 90) – it seems to have dropped back down to only 85% now. Mind you, that is 2580 votes with only 1 of the other suggestions – near death experiences – at over 100 (158 votes, or 5%). I think their poll is well and truely crashed!

  102. #102 Ghost of Kenny
    February 21, 2009

    From the reading I’ve done on NDEs, claimants seem to experience what they are conditioned to

    What about the secret dead uncle, that is NOT explaned by Science, that is my OPINOIN. I love Scinece.

  103. #103 Pierce R. Butler
    February 21, 2009

    100 comments and nobody’s yet made a poll-tergeist crack?

    No wonder atheists don’t get invited to more parties!

  104. #104 Mobius
    February 21, 2009

    As of my vote, “There is no evidence” is at 85%.

    w00t!!!

  105. #105 michel
    February 21, 2009

    #79

    once you understand what the human brain is capable of conjuring on its own, it dispels much of one’s ability to chalk such things up to the supernatural.

    exactly. i really don’t understand why neuroscience doesn’t do more research with psychoactive drugs. it can tell us a lot about the strange territories the mind can go to. it makes the reasons for all these ‘revelations’ a lot more mundane.

    of course religious people maintain that psychoactive drugs merely open a channel.

  106. #106 AnthonyK
    February 21, 2009

    Psychoactive drugs are fun, and instructive – though you do need to grow out of taking them. If you haven’t tried – why not? I mean most people don’t get the experience of being genuinely out of their mind, and at least with the odd drug trip you get to enjoy it.
    Ecstasy’s good too :)

  107. #107 coffeedryad
    February 21, 2009

    Bah! How can you be so skeptical about the transmigration of souls when we have first-hand testimony from that great vers-libre bard, Archy? Next you’ll be telling me cockroaches aren’t heavy enough to operate manual typewriters even by jumping onto the keys!

  108. #108 Jacob Cagney
    February 21, 2009

    Well.. I voted for no evidence.. but after thinking about it.. the question arises.. “what” is an afterlife.. is it just what happens after life? then yes, I believe that something does happen after life… bloating, worms, bacteria, decay, grave wax… to name a few.

    Is there some wonky feel good cloud filled dance party with harps and weird songs that only a deaf mouse (yes, mouse, the little cheese eating rodent) could write the tune for.. no.

    It isn’t so much that there is no evidence for a spiritual/religious “afterlife” because religion and spirituality is based on faith, and there will never be proof of “faith” and what it is.. but when it comes down to it, it just plain doesn’t make sense. Not to anyone with half a brain cell still functioning properly.

    Modern religions (catholic, christian, muslim, etc) are not peace and love based, they are fear based.. their versions of god say do this or die.. do this or I will kill your children.. do this or I will kill your childrens childrens children, do this or I will make you suffer… if you do all of this.. I might.. but only MIGHT.. let you have peace after you have spent a lifetime doing my evil bidding but only if you are one of the original chosen ones, the number of which are less then 500K and since that number was written down 2k plus years ago, why would anyone think it applies to them today?

    Is there any wonder why the religious are mostly nutcases and submissive babies.. sheep.. blindly following whichever rod carrying vocal person happens to be standing up front? They are told their whole lives to obey others or suffer immense pain and other tortures.

    It makes no sense? Why wouldn’t I try to live my life to the fullest here so that I can enjoy the wonders of the world that exist now.. instead of trying to claim 40 virgins in an “afterlife” or live with lions and lambs?

    If I spent my whole life doing the evil nasty bidding of some fantasy wraith who had nothing but hatred and contempt for most of the human race, I would damn sure want a “happy place” as my reward from the SOB and I would be very happy to wallow in my delusions about said “happy place” including, but not limited to, believing that there is a heaven, that mediums can talk to the dead and bring back nice news of all the other dead people, seeing that happy place after I got whacked on the head, etc.

    Religions are the cruelest form of mass brainwashing.

  109. #109 Sastra
    February 21, 2009

    Jacob Cagney #108 wrote:

    Modern religions (catholic, christian, muslim, etc) are not peace and love based, they are fear based.. their versions of god say do this or die..

    You can’t win. The traditional religions which advocate the existence of a Hell believe that the atheists reject their religion because atheists are evil people who don’t like the idea of having to go to Hell.

    Ah, but what about the gentle, ecumenical religions of the New Age, where there is no Hell, and everything is peace and light and laughter and love forever and ever? Well, those people believe that atheists reject their religion because atheists are evil people who don’t like the idea of experiencing peace, light, laughter, and love forever and ever — or anyone else having that, either.

    I’m not sure which is worse. In some ways, I prefer the nasty religions, because at least when they accuse me of not wanting to believe in Hell, they’ve got a point. In fact, while it’s not the major reason I don’t credit their religion as true, I’m rather proud of being the kind of person who doesn’t really want there to be a burning Hell of eternal punishment for the damned — and I’m a little suspicious of those who apparently do.

  110. #110 David Marjanovi?, OM
    February 21, 2009

    the afterlife idea made 9/11/2001 possible

    Nope. The idea that there’s something that’s worth dying for made 9/11/2001 possible. There have been plenty of atheist suicide bombers.

    microrrhizal

    Mycorrhizal. From the Greek for “mushroom” and “root”.

    ————————-

    On the origin of “woo-woo”, be aware that it could lie much, much farther back in time than you suppose. My grandmother uses Wauwau to refer to spoken nonsense, in German. (It’s BTW also the noise that German-speaking dogs make.)

  111. #111 Alan Kellogg
    February 21, 2009

    This is another situation where we don’t have the tools to check it out. We don’t even have the knowledge we need to develop the tools we need to do proper research. Based on what we can know, life after death does not happen.

    There is one thing to remember about NDEs, what the subject tells you is what he, as a human being, remembers. His experiences and upbringing will shape how he remembers.

    Then there is a change in those who have an NDE, it changes them for the better. More tolerant, more patient, more focused on life and the joys that life brings.

    Why? It might be because they had a post life experience that changed them, but we can’t prove it.

    BTW, some people have NDEs, most people simply lose consciousness. There is a difference.

  112. #112 John Kemp
    February 21, 2009

    A Beatles joke/reference nice! I’m always amazed by the human brain’s ability to perceive patterns whether in clouds, tree bark (suuure jesus came “back” as an elm tree) or meaningless static in this case.

  113. #113 sil-chan
    February 21, 2009

    I voted “They are all equal” since they all suck.

    Not really. I voted there was no evidence^.^

  114. #114 JohnnieCanuck
    February 22, 2009

    No, I think it’s when your ex-wife shows up at the door.

    No, I think it’s when your about to be ex-wife shows up at the bedroom door, having caught an earlier flight.

  115. #115 joseph
    February 22, 2009

    Isn’t the best evidence for an afterlife, the food chain?

  116. #116 richardh
    February 22, 2009

    if anyone as already pointed this out then sorry for doing it again but i just voted on this site (no evidence of course) and just thought i should mention that no evidence is up to 87% of the vote. apparently 3132 people do have their heads screwed on properly. (unless you can vote multiple times, in which case, damn.)

  117. #117 KI
    February 22, 2009

    Katkinkate@95
    Doggone it, one damn piece of evidence destroys a case made over a lifetime. I’ll have to go to the animal kingdom now I guess. “None of them has ever been a slime mold in a previous incarnation”. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  118. #118 michel
    February 22, 2009

    #106 anthonyk

    Psychoactive drugs are fun, and instructive – though you do need to grow out of taking them.

    what a load of politically correct crap. why do you need to grow out of them? because you have to get serious and responsible at one point in your life? if psychoactive drugs are seen as juvenile, that’s probably because they are generally used in juvenile ways.

    if you just want to get wasted, you should indeed better stop once you get a proper job. and using psychoactive drugs as a road to high school wisdom like ‘everything is relative’ will probably not last beyond your twenties either. even experiences like ‘i became liquid and had sex with tree roots’ are boring after a few times. not to mention that they’re boring stories to listen to anyway.

    but what if you use it recreationally? if you create conditions in which your experience will probably be related to your daily life? that’s pretty easy to do. you can then use your trip as a way to occasionally stir up your mind a bit, and to possibly get a fresh view on whatever you do. in that sense, it becomes the same as taking a break or short vacation.

    i claim that there are mature ways to use psychoactive drugs. it’s not for everyone, as sometimes things can get stirred up a bit more than you would like. but to claim you need to grow out of them is ridiculous. used properly, they can last a lifetime. just read some aldous huxley. and forget timothy leary.

    Ecstasy’s good too :)

    maybe, but it can be much more than just that. did you know mdma was first used in psychotherapy, before the happy happy rave kids discovered it and it was made illegal? nowadays, it’s really hard to do official research on psychoactive drugs. but the research that is done, shows promising results for the use of mdma in the treatment of rape victims (or post traumatic stress syndrome in general) and the relief of terminally ill patients in their dying hours. lsd is also believed to have superior pain relief properties in terminally ill patients.

    lsd failed in it’s original aim to create artificial psychoses that could then be studied in the lab. but i do believe that lsd, and other psychoactive drugs, can give us valuable insights into the psychosis that is called religious belief.

    now if only that research was allowed.

  119. #119 clinteas
    February 22, 2009

    @ 118,

    lsd failed in it’s original aim to create artificial psychoses that could then be studied in the lab

    Artificial psychosis in humans,is that what youre talking about? And studies in the lab,as in studied in humans in the lab?

    now if only that research was allowed.

    You need to stop taking that stuff mate.Seriously.

  120. #120 Knockgoats
    February 22, 2009

    Mycorrhizal. From the Greek for “mushroom” and “root”. – David Marjanovi?, OM

    Gah! I went to the trouble of checking whether it was the “r” or the “h” that got doubled, then my internal spellchecker showed it’s as stupid as Microsoft’s!

  121. #121 Monado
    February 22, 2009

    Peter [24], Is there a longing to repeat the experience with ‘ayahuasca’ (dimethyltryptamine)? I’ve heard it described as realer or more wonderful than anything in real life and it seems that some people get hooked on trying to recreate the experience.

  122. #122 michel
    February 22, 2009

    #119 clinteas

    please, look a bit further before posting your knee jerk reaction. from the wikipedia page on lsd:

    Since LSD could produce changes in perceptions and emotions, early researchers hypothesized that the cause of some mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia, were caused by endogenous compounds with a similar activity to LSD. Much of the research during the late 1940s dealt with this hypothesis and many LSD sessions conducted for scientific study were often termed “experimental psychoses”, and this is where the terms “psychoactive” , “psychotomimetic” and “hallucinogenic” were coined to refer to such drugs.

    psychomimetic = mimicking psychoses.

    of course, wikipedia is not the definitive source. but, if you’re really interested, look for more serious sources and you’ll find out that indeed there was research with what the researchers thought of as induced psychosis. in the lab. on humans.

    You need to stop taking that stuff mate.Seriously.

    you need to stop assuming that i take that stuff at all. the assumption that everybody who sees value in psychoactive drugs is either on drugs or must be a (heavy) user is simply false. and a sign of prejudice. and even if i did use them, what makes you think i couldn’t rise above my own personal experiences?

  123. #123 Monado
    February 22, 2009

    The last choice in the poll should be “no credible evidence”, surely?

  124. #124 tim gueguen
    February 22, 2009

    Musical instrument effects pedals are another example of electronics that can act as radio receivers despite not being designed to. It seems not more than a week or two goes by on some musician webforums without someone complaining their setup is picking up a radio station. Wah pedals and certain old fuzz pedal designs seem especially prone to such behaviour. Methinks that the EVP crowd isn’t full of guitar players.

  125. #125 deang
    February 22, 2009

    Why do EVPs always happen to be in a familiar language? With all the languages that have been spoken in the world and with some people claiming that EVPs are the voices of people long deceased, you’d think there’d be a lot more diversity of languages heard, including some unrecognizable to people today.

    And the near death experiences – has it never occurred to their proponents that those who claim to have experienced them were never truly dead in the first place, just sort of dreaming?

    I had a roommate years ago who believed in reincarnation and past lives and all that. I used to ask her and her friends why the past lives described are always from familiar cultures, like ancient Egypt or Dickensian London or colonial Salem or whatever, and how so many people can have been royalty in past lives – I mean, I heard so many claim they were Nefertiti or King Tut that it got ridiculous.

  126. #126 dan
    February 22, 2009

    I had a record player that picked up taxi radio traffic.
    Scared the hell out of me when a voice suddenly said “Where are you now?” in the middle of (I’m not sure now) either Oxygene by Jean Michel Jarre, or Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield, which would have been really scary.

    Anyway, I agree, why don’t we here more about the Beforelife?

    Dan

  127. #127 michel
    February 22, 2009

    #119 clinteas

    just to be clear: inducing controlled psychosis was the first line of research with lsd back in the 1940s and 1950s. it has long been abandoned and i have no interest in it.

    but the psychoactive drug research that i would consider useful includes research into relief of psychiatric problems like post traumatic stress syndrome and pain relief in terminal and chronically ill patients. other than that, inducing controlled experiences that are usually labeled as religious could be interesting. check out walter pahnke’s 1962 ‘good friday’ experiment for a taste of that.

    the sad thing is that nowadays, this research is almost impossible.

  128. #128 pegleghippie
    February 22, 2009

    I was going to vote, “there is no evidence,” but that doesn’t really answer the question. Given that none of these choices are compelling evidence, no one choice is the ‘best,’ so I voted “all equal.”

    I know that the pole-creator included the option “there is no evidence,” but it just felt too much like avoiding the question by stating my view on a related-but-separate-question of whether evidence for the afterlife exists at all.

  129. #129 Facilis
    February 22, 2009

    I believe when they are talking about near-death experience they are talking about places where the person sees something that is then confirmed later. for example trheere was this near death experience a woman had when she floated out of her body and saw a tennis shoe on the roof and described it when she came to. the hospital attendants went onto the roof and saw that there was a shoe matching the desciption exactly. there is another instance where a woman who had surgery was able to recount some of the speech of the surgeon. NDE’s aren’t really evidence for a uniquely Christian afterlife per se, but are good evidence against naturalism.
    I vote for NDE’s

  130. #130 Sven DiMilo
    February 22, 2009

    You can add to your little list of unattributed anecdotes ol’ Kenny’s favorite, the secret dead uncle.

  131. #131 'Tis Himself
    February 22, 2009

    Facilis,

    Anecdote ? data.

  132. #132 Kel
    February 22, 2009

    NDE’s aren’t really evidence for a uniquely Christian afterlife per se, but are good evidence against naturalism.

    Only to those who are already dispositional against naturalism, otherwise NDE’s are perfectly consistent with what we know about the way the brain works.

  133. #133 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 22, 2009

    there is another instance where a woman who had surgery was able to recount some of the speech of the surgeon.

    How is that NDE?

    And the shoe story has been shown to be not as you describe it. The shoe was visible from the parking lot. And it wasn’t on a roof, it was on a ledge outside a window.

  134. #134 Facilis
    February 22, 2009

    Anecdote ? data.

    No but medically documented near-death experiences= data.

  135. #135 Kel
    February 22, 2009

    If you were able to show one example in the history of the world where one could show under reasonable conditions that the mind can detach from the body and consciousness can perceive without a material mind… I’ll give you my piano. One of my legs. And my wife.

  136. #136 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 22, 2009

    No but medically documented near-death experiences= data.

    Medically documented? How so?

  137. #137 Sven DiMilo
    February 22, 2009

    what kind of piano?

  138. #138 Kel
    February 22, 2009

    what kind of piano?

    Tim Minchin’s grand piano.

  139. #139 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 22, 2009

    what kind of wife?

  140. #140 Kel
    February 22, 2009

    Nerd of’s wife.

  141. #141 'Tis Himself
    February 22, 2009

    No but medically documented near-death experiences= data.

    Please give citations.

  142. #142 flashbazzzbo
    February 23, 2009

    This thread reminded me of an old joke.A pastor is speaking to his congregation and asks if anyone has had any experiences with ghosts.A man raises his hand,and the pastor says” You,sir,what experience have you had with ghosts?”The man says,”Well,I had intercourse.”The pastor,somewhat taken aback,says”You had intercourse with a ghost?!The man says”Ghost’s?….oh,I thought you said goats!……………I know……ok …..(crickets)…..well……….ok……… I’ll go then…

  143. #143 rodiel
    February 23, 2009

    Afterlife, huh? Better not – although the really worse part of my family is still alive, I wouldn’t want to meet the rest either. And ghosts… well, I’m already one, if you take out the ‘dead’ part (meaning that I have no future, I’m stuck in this world, and I have unfinished business with some people which’ll go unfinished by infinity).

    Regardless, I went for no evidence. I’ve seen Flatliners (even liked it as a kid) but I can discern movie from reality.

  144. #144 Black Jack Shellac
    February 23, 2009

    I was watching the end of Amélie last night, with the beautiful and incomparable Audrey Tautou, and at the point where her heart melts near the end and her entire body changes to water and splashes to the floor, my 3 year old son looked horrified and on the point of crying. It was one of those moments that parents experience when they are in that zone between laughter and tears of joy/love/pain/… Imagine that eh, and atheist who *feels*.

  145. #145 E.V.
    February 23, 2009

    Any of you of the over 40 crowd remember comedian Robert Klein and his falsetto “woo” theremin imitation? I reflexively imagine a cheesey Dark Shadows-like theme when I come across “woo” in print. It goes well with the ever present bamp chica wow wooow porn soundtrack in my mind….

  146. #146 Paul Lundgren
    February 23, 2009

    he’d melted into a purple puddle that soaked into the earth, and he had spiritual sex with tree roots.

    Sounds like a typical Tuesday night to me…

  147. #147 Ken Cope
    February 23, 2009

    he’d melted into a purple puddle that soaked into the earth, and he had spiritual sex with tree roots.

    Sounds like something dreadful from Orson Scott Card and his sentient morphing self-cannibalizing trees from Speaker for the Dead or similar, fiction I’ll never stop regretting having subjected myself to.

    their perception of the hallucinatory state afterwards is evidence that there is a heaven.

    When Oscar Janiger gave LSD to everybody from Anais Nin to Lord Buckley in the 1950s, everybody reported having been at one with the universe which was a vast conspiracy on their behalf, experience similar to the ones I had that convinced my I had intimate evidence for the reality of Kozmik Woo, until a few conversations with Oscar in the early 1990s got me straightened out; he asked me why I would consider hallucinations to be more representative of reality than of the nature of the brain when its balance of neurotransmitters is off? Those conversations were the beginning of the end of my theism.

    And the really cool thing is that if you tell someone that this scrap of noise says something like, “Paul is dead”, then their pattern-forming circuits in their brain will impose your interpretation on the noise for you, and they’ll hear the same thing!

    If you’re so young that “Paul is dead” makes you go, “Huh?” the best resource I can point you to is the record of the presentation delivered to the Game Developers Conference a few years back by Brian Moriarty, whose topic was the value of symbol and content-rich game worlds, that should be able to take on a life of their own due to the consumer’s urge to constellate meaning and pattern where there is none originally, citing “the best game he ever played” when he was thirteen, the game of “Is Paul Dead?” when everybody of a certain age was combing Beatles albums for mysterious clues. Really worth the viewing, particularly to amplify PZ’s point, check out Who Buried Paul?

  148. #148 undrgrndgirl
    February 23, 2009

    why do you claim people who report past lives always say they were someone of importance?? and then NOT question archaeologists for claiming that everyone they have ever dug up is someone of importance??

  149. #149 blf
    February 23, 2009

    archaeologists [claim] that everyone they have ever dug up is someone of importance

    Archaeologists do not claim that. Here’s a recent example: http://www.i-italy.org/bloggers/2558/ancient-roman-slave-cemetery-found-ostia-antica

    It’s trivial to find more examples of people who are not known historical figures (“not important”) being “dug up”.

    What I suspect is confusing you is it is, as far as I know, common for archaeologists to claim the find will yield a valuable insight; that is, the find is important. Not that the person found is “important”, but that the find?including the context in which the person was found?is important to our understanding of the times.

  150. #150 Sastra
    February 23, 2009

    undrgrndgrl #148 wrote:

    why do you claim people who report past lives always say they were someone of importance?? and then NOT question archaeologists for claiming that everyone they have ever dug up is someone of importance??

    I don’t understand this. Archaeologists uncover ancient bodies all the time, and very rarely claim that they’ve found the body of someone specifically known to history. They would certainly have to support such an extraordinary claim with evidence good enough to persuade their skeptical peers. Do you have some examples in mind?

    By the way, talking about past lives always makes me think of Dierdre Flint’s song “Past Life Regressed.” She finds out that, unlike her friends, she’s always just some low-life peasant who never had a committed relationship.

    http://www.deirdreflint.com/music-1.html

    Someone played it for me at an Atheist Alliance convention…

  151. #151 Stark
    February 23, 2009

    OK, I’m late to the party I know but I was :shudder: without internet access all weekend.

    EVP’s – one of may favorite woo topics! I have a neighbor who is seriously into the idea of EVP’s ever since seeing that horrible piece of horror film called “White Noise”. He’s setup numerous devices to catch EVP’s around his house and goes on EVP hunts every darned weekend all around town. A couple of years back he came to me with a very noisy recording of a child crying followed by some creepy sounding singing (in which you could only pick out a word or two – “die” being the most readily identifiable one)…. a recording which I recognized. I recognized it because it was my son crying and me singing to him to calm him down (he was sick and had just had a nightmare). Seems some of my neighbors “amazing” equipment picked up the baby monitor I had on in my sons room… even though I identified the source of the recording for him (I even sang a bit of the song for him) he was still convinced it was a ghost. The song, BTW, was American Pie by Don McLean which my then 2 year old son loved. As a four year old he still loves it and asks me to sing it regularly though he calls it the “Long time ago” song. Yeah, it’s an odd lullaby but he enjoys it.

  152. #152 charmedquark
    February 24, 2009

    Stark,

    Thanks for sharing that great story. It reminds me, a few years ago when we were still using baby monitors, our next door neighbor also had a baby and often times our monitor would pick up their monitor so that we could sometimes hear their baby crying, or them talking etc……

    I used to have some old Sony computer speakers that would pick up CB talk on a random but very clear basis.

    My start on the road to becoming a skeptic began around the 6th grade. I was interested in the bible and allready had a lot of questions. I went to a Catholic scholl and asked the parish priest who would occassionally teach the religion course as to his best evidence for an afterlife. Father Constantine then recollected his personal near death experience at a hospital. I recall he floated toward a bright light, felt at complete peace, saw relatives at teh end of the tunnel and was told that it was not yet his time.

    I began reading about NDE’s at the time there was a book out by a Peter Moody?. After reading numerous scientific studies I was convinced thatt eh compelling evidence was that NDE are no more then a neurological response to the brain’s altered condition. People’s interpretation of this response is framed in their cultural expectations and experiences.

    On an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit they claimed that 20% of pilots exposed to high g’s in training experience a version of a NDE before they black out.

    As an aside, I got to meet Penn Jillette this past weekend after his Vegas show. A very bright and nice guy and a great assett to teh critical thinking communnity.

  153. #153 charmedquark
    February 24, 2009

    Stark,

    Thanks for sharing that great story. It reminds me, a few years ago when we were still using baby monitors, our next door neighbor also had a baby and often times our monitor would pick up their monitor so that we could sometimes hear their baby crying, or them talking etc……

    I used to have some old Sony computer speakers that would pick up CB talk on a random but very clear basis.

    My start on the road to becoming a skeptic began around the 6th grade. I was interested in the bible and already had a lot of questions. I went to a Catholic school and asked the parish priest who would occasionally teach the religion course as to his best evidence for an afterlife. Father Constantine then recollected his personal near death experience at a hospital. I recall he floated toward a bright light, felt at complete peace, saw relatives at the end of the tunnel and was told that it was not yet his time.

    I began reading about NDE’s at the time there was a book out by a Peter Moody?. After reading numerous scientific studies I was convinced that eh compelling evidence was that NDE are no more then a neurological response to the brain’s altered condition. People’s interpretation of this response is framed in their cultural expectations and experiences.

    On an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit they claimed that 20% of pilots exposed to high g’s in training experience a version of a NDE before they black out.

    As an aside, I got to meet Penn Jillette this past weekend after his Vegas show. A very bright and nice guy and a great asset to the critical thinking community.

  154. #154 Leo MacDonald
    February 24, 2009

    I voted all of the above evidence. Hijacking a poll about rather their is evidence for an afterlife or not is typical of materialists.

    One of the best evidences for evp an experiment that shows evp’s are not stray radio signals.

    http://victorzammit.com/book/chapter04.html

    As far as induced gi loc out of body experiences this has been refuted.

    One of the earliest and most persistent of the physiological theories proposed for NDEs is that lowered levels of oxygen (hypoxia or anoxia), perhaps accompanied by increased levels of carbon dioxide (hypercarbia), have produced hallucinations…. One study frequently cited is that of Whinnery (1997), who compared NDEs to what he called the “dreamlets” occurring in brief periods of unconsciousness induced in fighter pilots by rapid acceleration in a centrifuge… He claimed that some features common to NDEs are also found in these hypoxic episodes, including tunnel vision, bright lights, brief fragmented visual images, a sense of floating, pleasurable sensations, and, rarely, a sense of leaving the body. The primary features of acceleration-induced hypoxia, however, are myoclonic convulsions (rhythmic jerking of the limbs), impaired memory for events just prior to the onset of unconsciousness, tingling in the extremities and around the mouth, confusion and disorientation upon awakening, and paralysis, symptoms that do not occur in association with NDEs. Moreover, contrary to NDEs, the visual images Whinnery reported frequently included living people, but never deceased people; and no life review or accurate out-of-body perceptions have been reported in acceleration-induced loss of consciousness.

    For those who say their is no evidence for an afterlife you surely haven’t don’t any research of your own. Have you?

  155. #155 Knockgoats
    February 24, 2009

    Hijacking a poll about rather their is evidence for an afterlife or not is typical of materialists. – Leo MacDonald

    Inability to put together a coherent sentence is typical of wooists.

  156. #156 woodsong
    February 24, 2009

    I’m late again, I know. Oh, well, I feel like posting this anyway.

    Curiously, I know several people who claim reincarnation memories of some sort, none of whom claim to have been someone “important”.

    One woman has told of having an image come into her mind while working on scrubbing a floor. She saw herself as a young man of about sixteen, wearing armor and sitting on a horse, with a boy dressed as a page nearby, at a medieval castle. As she tells it, she had this pop into her head, nodded to herself thinking “Yes, that was me” and went on scrubbing, then sat up saying “WHAT JUST HAPPENED???”

    Another story, from a man I know, is of the recurring dreams he had as a child, of being a young page in service to a medieval knight. He remembers that page’s name, and when he first went to England visiting a friend, found an area that seemed very familiar. He says he asked his friend to drive down a particular country road where he expected to find the village and castle, and there they were, or rather, there was a village and the ruins of a castle. He stopped at the local church to explore the graveyard and found a stone bearing the name of the person he’d dreamed of. I’ve seen his photograph of that tombstone. While the dates are not legible in the photo, he told me he thinks he died young.

    Could this be made up between these two? Certainly, but I don’t see any real motive for them to do so. They’re not trying to convince Randi or otherwise looking for fame–for that matter, they’d probably be highly annoyed to see their stories posted here!

  157. #157 Stu
    February 24, 2009

    Could this be made up between these two? Certainly, but I don’t see any real motive for them to do so.

    So the fuck what?

    What does this prove?

  158. #158 Stu
    February 24, 2009

    For those who say their is no evidence for an afterlife you surely haven’t don’t any research of your own.

    You don’t know what research means.

  159. #159 Leo MacDonald
    February 25, 2009

    Well, Please inform then what research is?

  160. #160 Psst
    February 25, 2009

    Psst, use the RefControl Firefox add-on (or an equivalent for your browser of choice) before crashing polls to block your referrer. Handy for a slight privacy boost, too.

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/953

  161. #161 Ema
    February 27, 2009

    Hahahaha
    I love that you brought up shrooms because as I was reading through that poll I immediately thought of my experience on shrooms. It was amazing! If my ability to reason and conduct logical thought wasn’t so darn amazing, I maybe would have thought I had a “spiritual” experience. But nope. The whole time I was readily aware that this was simply the function of a neurotransmitter-like molecule wreaking havoc on my brain.

  162. #162 sei
    February 28, 2009

    “I voted for no evidence. If you vote otherwise, maybe you can come back here and explain your evidence to us. We need a good laugh on a Saturday morning.”

    Looks like you’re trying to simulate those “pattern-forming circuits” (a tired and inaccurate analogy) as well.

  163. #163 E.V.
    February 28, 2009

    For those who say their is no evidence for an afterlife…

    There, Leo… “there“.
    And no Leo, there is no credible evidence for an afterlife.

  164. #164 A.Ou
    March 1, 2009

    @Leo MacDonald

    Well, Please inform then what research is?

    Research means peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals of established reputation. Research means reproducibility in a laboratory setting, not just relying on dubious anecdotes.

    If you can’t do that, then we are free to reject your assertions unconditionally.

    As the link you provided…do you seriously trust a lawyer to dispense evidence for the afterlife?

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