Can Anyone Ever Design An Experiment to ‘Prove’ Life After Death?

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Dr. Sam Parnia

The Holy Grail for paranormal researchers is a study that will “prove” life after death, or survival of consciousness. For cultural reasons, the only ‘proof’ that the general public will accept must come from studies carried out under strict, scientific protocols. If hard science can’t resolve the issue, the assumption defaults to “there is no survival of death.” That in itself is a questionable and illogical assertion, yet we are all yoked to materialism even in cases where that stance may not help us find an answer and be an inappropriate tool for what we seek to discover; something akin to staring at test tube reactions in order to discover the nature of God.

In any case, Dr. Sam Parnia–author of What Happens When We Die–appeared to believe in the genuine possibilities for survival of consciousness, and with that in mind, developed the AWARE study whose results were supposed to be published this year. That does not seem likely, as evidenced by his web page report from a few months back. When I first heard about this project, the red flags went up. I watched the videos where Dr. Parnia discussed the study and the results he expected. He clearly expected this study to fail (see Skeptico’s blog for a thorough discussion of this topic: The study seemed far too simple and. actually, simplistic for a topic of such importance. Somewhere between 10-20% of resuscitated cardiac arrest patients report conscious experiences during the time that they were clinically ‘dead’. Of those, Dr. Parnia figured at least a few should be able to report target pictures placed in the room from the perspective of someone floating on the ceiling.

We are waiting to see if anyone who reported a conscious experience after clinical death is able to accurately report the content of those targets placed below them. There is much speculation that no one was able to complete this task, with the consequent assertion that life after death has magically been ‘disproven,’ with no regard for the fact that this subject has 25 some years of solid research behind it already. Worse, for me, is the idea that Dr. Parnia might have intentionally designed a flawed study with the goal of discrediting the entire field of consciousness research.

The second red flag for me (before I read any formal critiques of his study) in addition to Dr. Parnia’s expectation of failure, was how poorly designed this experiment is and the odd expectations behind it. The targets placed in the room assume that everyone’s perspective during an OBE will allow them to see the pictures. As the Skeptico site states, there are multiple reports of OBEs during NDEs where patients are NOT looking down in the wide arc that these targets require to be seen. Objects interfere with one’s OB vision; patients do not always float to the ceiling, or float to the same spots on the ceiling; but more importantly, WHY would ANYONE be searching out target pictures and memorizing their content when they have just separated from their physical body and are watching the drama of resuscitation play out near them (assuming, of course, that they are even ‘around’ when the resuscitation takes place)?

This study does not look at people as people, but as subjects in an experiment who know what they are ‘supposed’ to do in order to prove that what is happening to them is real. There is no reason to assume that during the most traumatic and confusing moments of our existence, our attention would be focused on pictures placed about the room. You would, in a disembodied state, be looking at the action surrounding your dead body. Anything that the medical team was doing to your dead body would be your main interest. Why is a detailed description of surgical instruments, dialogue among the medical team and other details regarding their clothing or appearance ignored as valid evidence of conscious experience? Why does this one, poorly conceived study claim to decide the issue of survival once and for all?

That makes me doubly suspicious. As Alex Tsakiris notes on the Skeptico site, there appears to be a set up here, an experiment designed to ‘debunk’ all notions of life after death. I fear that there is, indeed, an agenda. I can’t prove that, and no one can at this point, but Dr. Parnia’s own lectures point in that direction by the very attitude he displays towards the topic and his word choice when discussing the design and intent of the AWARE study. I can imagine all the true sceptics rejoicing when the negative results of this study ‘prove’ that we are all slaves to the materialist paradigm.

So much careful work has been carried out in the consciousness field by so many respected researchers, and yet that work will be ignored, as usual, when the AWARE study finally states that no one correctly identified Dr. Parnia’s targets. We’ll all be back to square one: you either “believe in this stuff” or you don’t. There will be no middle ground, no shades of gray, no wait and see, no suspension of disbelief and no intelligent and reasonable conclusions arrived at by a “preponderance of evidence.” We have had a preponderance of evidence for a long time, certainly more than a sufficient amount to reasonably accept that the mind outlives the brain. Any thinking person could not be faulted for arriving at that conclusion.

As long as we have studies like the AWARE project, however, we will have the same two camps staring at each other from across the abyss and we will go nowhere in our understanding of the biggest mystery in the universe. We may be eternally conscious beings, but we are, as well, profoundly unconscious on so many levels.

Kirsten A. Thorne, Ph.D/PHW

  1. Joanne says:

    Oh I have no doubt there is life after death. A very highly respected, loved and smart young man died, came back from the dead and told us all about it. It’s even in the biggest selling history book. His name was Jesus. So, I don’t really care what some people think. Jesus gave me the only proof I need 🙂

    Plus, I’ve seen, felt and heard from the dead myself.

  2. GOPACH says:

    Is death in the physical world what Dr. Parnia is trying to scientifically proof? That there can not possibly be a physical return or continuance thereof after death? I fail to see the actual proof he is looking for that is we all are mortals, yes physically we have an expiration date of some kind. Can this expiration date be changed? Yes, I believe in prayers, miracles and existence of God. How about reincarnation, ask Jesus Christ. There are also many accounts of individuals remembering a past life or two. Don’t forget those individuals that die, and are awakened returning to report descriptions of heaven and/or hell. Others with have no psychic awareness until returning from a near death experience (NDE). Maybe I am missing his question. Is he looking for death of consciousness? I believe then he is looking for death of a soul. He will have to consult with God for that answer. As our soul is united with many others and in many dimensions his experiment will always fail. He would have to set up the experiment in every way possible that our soul would travel through death and its return. That path is only available between their soul and maker. If Dr. Parnia is really interested, the best proof would be on his death bed and hopefully one of us is able to reach him on the other side.

  3. hortencia says:


  4. Anton Constantinescu says:

    Anyway, if the life quality in the afterlife would be as bad as in our material world, I would not have any more envy to die!

  5. Javier says:

    I agree with you Kirsten.
    It’s very unlikely that the aware project leds to the demonstration of the existence of the afterlife.
    Indeed, I think that that demonstration is imposible to carry out by means of the scientific method.
    The existence of the afterlife is a real mistery, hidden to the human being; at least God knows how to avoid the human being to reach that knowledge.
    The answer will be in the beyond (or perhaps no …, who knows, …).
    Besides, if the afterlife was demonstrated scientifically, ¿who could avoid that millions of people would commit suicide in order to reach the heaven (where theoretically they would live without pain and suffering)?. That would be catastrophic. Sometimes is better to ignore the reality.
    Best regards.

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