Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A few thoughts about a few things

I composed a couple of entries about Dr. Raymond Moody's visit to Paratopia but never posted them, mostly because I wasn't sure of what I wanted to say (I'm only sure of what I want to say when no one is reading it). But my basic thought is that, even though Dr. Moody has been a regular on paranormal-themed shows, he's always been a favorite of mine... I've bought all his books from way-back-when, even his book on Elvis Presley, which is actually pretty good. He's an anomaly in the field of the paranormal because even though he regards paranormal studies as a "pseudoscience," his books have wide appeal to the paranormal audience. He's never said anything that I have found not credible. And he backs his statements up with direct experience as a physician.

I think that the only people who would be in a position to refute his observations would be other physicians. About the clearest refutation of the near-death experience phenomenon (that I've found) has been the critical analysis to Pam Reynolds' experience, which can be found in the "Critical Analysis" section of Wikipedia's entry on "Pam Reynolds (Singer)." (Yeah, I know, but it's the best I can do on short notice.) The detail that went into compiling this rebuttal of Ms. Reynolds' experience suggests, to me, that opponents of NDE phenomenon found her case to be particularly strong--and it is indeed cited by proponents of the phenomenon as the most convincing NDE case. However, when you drill down a little deeper in the criticism cited by Wikipedia, you find that only one has clear medical credentials (Gerald Woerlee, an anesthesiologist who, according to his website, has a strong belief in atheism). The other, who is cited most extensively, Keith Augustine, has an MA degree in Philosophy (so I think Dr. Moody out-ranks him); and the other links to a forum hosted by the Amazing Randi. Weigh this against the tonnage of evidence provided by Dr. Moody, and it's not hard to be convinced that he's right.

Add this to the fact that, until just very recently, Dr. Moody has asserted that he has not personally convinced of "life after death," whereas most of his detractors would say that they are convinced of just the opposite. He has let the evidence persuade him, as it should. And his most persuasive evidence, I'm sure, has been his most personal--because we live in a scientific world, where science has become the predominant belief system, and we won't be really sure of anything until science says it's so.

Fortunately, Dr. Moody and other important thinkers believe that this may be around the corner. In another recent interview (can't remember which, but I could find it), Dr. Moody speculated that we might have the basis for scientific proof of the afterlife within five to ten years due to changes in "logic." And I hope that he's right. If we were to scientifically establish that consciousness can exist independent of the body, our society would be revolutionized. Religions (including the belief in atheism) would be upended; after all, if you knew that you survived physical death, you'd be less inclined to follow religious or theocratic figures who insist that you can't get to that other world unless you follow their rules. If you knew that beyond the perceived physical world was a reality that is both tangible and structured, you might begin to wonder, "What's there? And how can I explore it?" And the current authorities might be afraid of what you would discover.

It's easy to downplay, but, really, the most credible analysts (and critics) of the paranormal are scientists who are willing to look at the subject. For now, we have mostly a compilation of anecdotal personal data that's very convincing on a personal level, but which has not resulted in a broad consensus outside of the confines of the paranormal field. People like me are drawn to the paranormal because we've had direct personal experience with the phenomena and are convinced that something is there; but until these personal experiences are validated on a broader level, they will remain just that--personal beliefs that will not convince the skeptics. So I think that Paratopia is going in the best direction--by persuading credentialed scientists to ponder the evidence--to advance the search.

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