Saturday, March 01, 2008
The Audacity of Hopelessness
About 3-4 years ago I decided that near death experiences and other supposed evidences of life after death are about as likely to be valid as bigfoot or the lochness monster. The reasons I have for believing this are precisely the reasons reasonable people have to disbelieve bigfoot or lochness. After years of outspoken certainty of LAD, many people were baffled at my changing of sides on the issue. The standard claims of "he's crazy", "He's bitter" as reasons for not believing were sent my way.
Several people became fascinated and have become almost pseudo-stalkers such as Michael Gilmore and Lou Famoso who regularly tries to get me to add him to my facebook list (I can't believe the guy even remembers me). These people feel compelled to check up on me, possibly to see if their prayers of me getting struck by a lightening bolt or having a heart attack were answered, and that maybe I can bolster their desperate pleas for hope with a turn around story ("I died and yes Lou, Archangel Michael really does have gigantic gleaming biceps, wow you were right all along!").
As I've said before, my turnaround came not from bitterness, but a close reading of things I had previously avoided or ignored- human nature invented by natural selection, neuropsychology etc.. I came around only kicking and screaming. Although it is impossible to rule out life after death, all of my most powerful arguments for it have been drastically undermined in the past few years by new experimentation (they were already drastically undermined, I just didn't have the knowledge base to understand why).
NDE's, OBE's and alien abductions are almost synonymous by my lights. NDE's are more compelling because they occur near death, but the veridical claims have not been verified despite serious effort, and due to recent inducements of OBEs and feelings of a sensed presence (mainline attributes of NDE's) using brain stimulation and magnetic helmets etc... it is perfectly clear to all but the most insistent people that these feelings are created by manipulation of the brain. There is not an actual presence there, and you are not actually leaving your body.
There seems to me to be very little wiggle room left for the hypothesis that people actually do leave their bodies. After scouring OBE message boards I realized that scores of people were consistently unable to verify *anything* they supposedly saw out of body. They very commonly had overlapping attributes of NDEs (lights, tunnels, sensed presences, joy, bliss, realer than real experiences etc...). So I can infer logically that these experiences are overlapping and intertwined with the NDE. And I think I can infer logically that people almost certainly will never be able to prove that they can see out of body, because they almost certainly can't. A handful of interesting stories and anecdotes are expected. I have known at least two people who are sure they saw bigfoot, for instance.
I suppose also, the older one gets and the more experiences one has the more clear it is that people by and large are simply full of shit (my own natural propensity for gullibility and desire to exaggerate the significance of variance random experiences is also a case to be made for the shallowness of my prior belief). Particularly when they want to or need to believe something which gives them hope. They cry foul at the audacity of hopelessness. It bothers them so much they feel the need to stalk me. And the fact they need to know whether I believe or not is a tell that they really don't believe it strongly themselves.