Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Monday, December 17, 2001

Why do I even bother?
Here's the breathless headline on the Netscape "What's New" pop-up window. "Scientists prove soul exists" (and they are not talking about Marvin Gaye!!) Clicking on the link gives us a description saying that a Dutch study published in The Lancet proves that near death experience cant be explained by known physical traumas, and therefore a soul outside the body must exist. The logical leap here is astounding, and I won't even bother debunking it (Ok, one sentence. Could it be that we don't understand every detail of the process of death, i.e. the cessation of bodily function? Just because the explanation previously put forward doesn't completely explain it, should we fall back on mindless superstition? Pun very much intended, if regretted!!!) What the study actually says is that when patients who underwent CPR and were resuscitated were interviewed, 18% recounted a near death experience similar to those previously reported (follow the light, see dead relatives, etc.) This # was substantially influenced by the definition used. This level seems low considering the hypothesized physiological explanation, cerebral anoxia (oxygen starvation of the brain). Those who had the NDE were much more likely to die within 30 days of the initial experience. This is the real finding of the study!!! It has nothing at all to do with the presence of an extracorporeal "soul". Of course, there was no mention of whether any of the people sold their soul prior to the heart attack!!!