One of the greatest, if not the greatest piece of evidence that the mind can and does survive bodily death is veridical perception in near death experiences.

Veridical perception in near death experiences is when a person acquires verifiable information which they could not have obtained by any natural means.

Here is an example of one documented by Dr. Raymond Moody:

"An elderly woman had been blind since childhood. But, during her NDE, the woman had regained her sight and she was able to accurately describe the instruments and techniques used during the resuscitation of her body. After the woman was revived, she reported the details to her doctor. She was able to tell her doctor who came in and out, what they said, what they wore, what they did, all of which was true."

And here is another one:

"In another instance a woman with a heart condition was dying at the same time that her sister was in a diabetic coma in another part of the same hospital. The subject reported having a conversation with her sister as both of them hovered near the ceiling watching the medical team work on her body below. When the woman awoke, she told the doctor that her sister had died while her own resuscitation was taking place. The doctor denied it, but when she insisted, he had a nurse check on it. The sister had, in fact, died during the time in question."

To my knowledge, there is no natural way to explain this phenomenon. And if it's true, it means the mind can and does survive bodily death, which then means there is an afterlife, which thus proves the supernatural/spiritual is true.

Is there a philosophical, or better yet, scientific explanation, for veridical perception in Near death experiences, or does this convince you that we have a soul and that the supernatural is true?

  • 4
    This maybe sounds more like material for Skeptics?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Apr 8, 2014 at 0:58
  • 3
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Moody - Scientists have written Moody's alleged evidence for an afterlife is flawed, logically and empirically. His methods have drawn criticism from the scientific community as many of the personal reports he collected on near-death experiences were given by the patients themselves, months and even years after the event. Terence Hines commented "such reports are hardly sufficient to argue for the reality of an afterlife. Apr 8, 2014 at 16:23
  • The question is whether if these accounts are true then are they very strong evidence for the spiritual world. The question is not whether these accounts are true, though that is a relevant question too.
    – yters
    Jun 12, 2014 at 2:14

4 Answers 4


From a scientific point of view these types of claims usually scream confirmation bias.

Consider your example of the two sisters in the hospital, if the diabetic had not died this would not have been recorded, and simply dismissed as a dream.

In your question you state "And if it's true," while the story may be true, it does not rely on any communication (or gain of knowledge) for the outcome. The outcome is unlikely to happen on every occasion, but if we select our data to only contain positive results (as you have done in your question) it becomes very likely, that these events occur every time within our data set, simply because the negative data is not recorded.

I wont do it, but if I went down to the hospital and collected a whole lot of data it would likely drown the few events where people predicted correctly because these events are anomalies, which will occur through chance.

A very simple way of thinking of this is think of an integer between 1 and 10, have 10 people guess the number 10 times, most of the 10 people should guess correctly at some stage just by change. Now only record the trials in which the people guessed correctly and give me the data. I now have a set of data with ~10 people guessing a number between 1 and 10 who are correct 100% of the time, (I have one maybe two trials per person not the 10 you have). Without knowledge of how you conducted your test in the first place I could conclude (incorrectly) from this data that these 10 people can read your mind (or slightly more correctly that there is a 1 in however many million chance that this data was obtained randomly). Of course you, with the full set of data know that the data does not show that there is an ability for people to 'read your mind', or that this statistical anomaly occurred. Although it should be noted that it does not prove the contrary either, but does make it unlikely.

From a scientific stand point, I see no reason why the claim of these experiences is not testable, (in a similar way to telekinesis has (probably) been tested), although I cant think of a way in which it could be tested. Dowsing, Homoeopathy (and maybe physic readings? I have not checked) are similar examples which have been tested and shown to perform no better than random chance.

The point is that there is no evidence to expect these phenomena exist at all. However as far as I know there is no evidence to exclude there existence either, just makes it unlikely.

For more details on these arguments from a statistical point of view most experimental statistics texts have something on confirmation bias. From a Philosophy of science point of view, works from Karl Popper are the common (among scientists at lest) and Kuhn are good starting points.

I will leave it to others to comment on what is essentially the mind vs brain question.

  • 1
    Note: This says nothing about the veracity of the individual experiences, as this cannot be obtained by considering a population. Saying these experiences are not real (or even less likely to be real) because of a lack of statistical evidence is to commit an ecological/division fallacy. Of course, there might be other reasons that are valid for thinking they're not.
    – Lucas
    Apr 13, 2014 at 2:09

What is the nature of proof in such a question?

In the experimental sciences we would have a test subject which we would attempt to locate the conditions of existence of such a phenomena, and attempt to identify whether such a phenomena actually exists. This setup doesn't apply to the situation at hand.

The only evidence we have here is in fact personal testimony.

The historical sciences rely at bottom on personal testimony, as in attested documents, interviews, etc. But these personal testimony have objective correlatives. At the situation at hand we have no objective correlatives.

What we have here is phenomena which lies outside of our attested means of evidence. Its unlikely then that we can substantiate the claims in any meaningful empirical way - however this does not mean that they are not meaningful in anyway. It requires a diligent investigator to attempt to extract meaning out of this. Some interesting questions suggest themselves - are there attested near death experiences outside of Christian or post-Christian cultures and how do they correlate with that subjects cultural matrix. How do they correlate with pharmacologically induced hallucinations or dreamstates. This is for course not to say that they are hallucinations, but to find out if they in fact are different, and how so; It might also shed some light on the nature of Hallucinations themselves. This would be either a structural or comparative approach to the phenomena in question.

Glaucon, in the last book of Platos Republic said:

“Haven't you realized that our soul is immortal and never destroyed?” He [Socrates] looked at me with wonder and said: “No, by god, I haven't. Are you really in a position to assert that?”

  • Isn't objective correlate the "veridical perception" part of this question?
    – yters
    Jun 12, 2014 at 2:12

When it comes to the word "prove" precise definitions are annoying but essential

To my knowledge, there is no natural way to explain this phenomenon. And if it's true, it means the mind can and does survive bodily death, which then means there is an afterlife, which thus proves the supernatural/spiritual is true.

A "near death" experience proves nothing about an "after death" experience, because one is not the other. It is rational to extrapolate from one to the other, and we do it all the time. However, "prove" is a brutal word and if you want to use it, you have to be very careful.

One particularly troublesome word is the one in the middle of it all: "dead." If you look in medical books, the word is frustratingly hard to define. There are dozens of definitions, including the one which is most readily accepted: a trained doctor declares death...and it's death!

Our understanding of consciousness is grossly limited. Near death experiences are right on the razor's edge of life, where such limited understandings truly show their ignorance. A skeptic may say "NDE's do not prove anything about the afterlife, because they may be nothing more than neurons firing in a different way." A believer may say "NDEs may prove there is an afterlife, because we don't know of any way neurons could fire to yield such memories." Neither one is provably wrong; in fact, it is entierly possible neither is even simply "wrong." We are simply so far from having definitions for the key terms that we could not even pretend to be ready to discuss the veracity of any claim.


To the conclusion: "To my knowledge, there is no natural way to explain this phenomenon. And if it's true, it means 'the mind' (change 'the mind' to consciousness) survives bodily death, which then means there is 'afterlife' (change afterlife to Eternal Life). It amazes me how people can still come up with reasons to dismiss spiritual truth. They answer: there are no people; there is only the One playing out as the appearance of people.

  • Welcome to Philosophy and thanks for the answer!! Is there any chance you could explore this a bit further? Why is this a persuasive answer to the question for you?
    – Joseph Weissman
    Jan 5, 2015 at 16:11

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