In 2008, Dr. Sam Pernia and his team embarked in a one-of-a-kind research. His goal: to finally the answer the age-old question: is there life after death?
They released the initial results of the study in 2015. Though still incomplete, the team has couragely declared that consciousness is not immediately annihilated after death. It continues on several minutes after clinical death. This is important because science believes that the brain cannot function when the heart stops beating.
Pernia’s team discovered that even when the brain has shut down 20 to 30 seconds after the heart stops beating (which was believed to be the period of time when all the basic functions of the human body shuts down), consciousness continues up to three minutes after clinical death. The research team also found evidence of near death experiences (NDE), when patients accurately recollected the details surrounding their rescucitation.
The research was participated on by 2,060 cardiac arrest patients. Of that number, 330 survived and 140 said that they were partly aware during rescucitation. Of the 140, only 9 could be said to have had a genuine NDE. Dr. Parnia says that this could mean that people may have mental activity at the beginning, but loses it when the sedative drugs take effect, or brain injury ensues.
Patients studied also reported the same experiences found in most NDE: one in five said that they felt an unusual sense of peace, one third said they felt time slow down or speed up [see Does Time Really Move In One Direction if you wish to discover the connection between life and time]. Meanwhile, there are also a number of people who said that they saw bright lights, either a golden flash or the sun shining. Some experience a profound sense of fear, and a feeling of drowning.
Parnia believes that through their results one can say a number of things about death. For one, death is not a specific moment. Rather, it is a gradual occurrence, and is potentially reversible.
Implications for AI
Just as we predicted in a previous article [see Does Consciousness Continue After Death?], the result of Dr. Pernia’s study was met with widespread skepticism. For example, neuroscientist Steven Novella comments that the one case who had a vivid recollection of NDE does not prove anything, especially since the original data set was much larger. What Novella didn’t realize was that of the larger set of data, only two individuals could had a vivid auditory and visual recall of events. Their recollection was so accurate, Pernia was forced to accept that their consciousness was in fact present even when they were declared clinically dead.
Pernia’s research methodology was reviewed and found to be stringent. When he said that nine people had a genuine near death experience, it is backed by the same stringent categories and physical results he set out at the beginning. Discovering that atleast one of the two individuals who could accurately remember sights and sounds during rescucitation is important because for this one person, we can say exactly what happens a few minutes after a person dies.
There are many important points we can harvest from this research. First, if consciousness could continue for a few minutes after death, then it means that consciousness does not only reside in the brain, as has been believed by many materialists.
Second, we cannot simply disclaim the experiences of individuals with NDEs, not when there is evidence which shows that these events are genuine. Materialists would rather discredit results like these simply because there is “not enough evidence”. But real science does not rely on quantity of evidence. Rather, it relies on the capacity to explain occurences within a certain theory or framework. If a theory cannot explain one event (such as, how can a person remember events even when they have been dead for more than 30 minutes?), then science must change its explanation. It cannot hold hostage new researches due to mere statistics.
Third, further research is needed to understand why there seem to be a similarity in the experiences of individuals, regardless of their culture or race. If we, human beings, were all made of the same material [see Human Life And Its Connection To All Of The Universe’s Creation], and our experience of disengaging from our physical bodies are the same, what is that other reality? If the laws of thermodynamics hold true, and energy cannot be created nor destroyed, where does the energy that built and structured the human body go? Does it go back to the universe, to feed the next generation of stars? Where did this energy come from in the first place?
Answers to questions such as these are important because they lead us toward important conclusions about our next steps. If there is something greater than our material existence on earth, what is the value behind transhumanism, which hopes to trap us in this physical existence?
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