University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

The eternal debate on life after death

The Badger

ByThe Badger

Nov 6, 2014

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YES

For sceptics, there will never be enough reliable data, replicated studies, or a representative sample large enough to convince people that life-after-death exists. Neurophysiologist Dr Peter Fenwick states himself there is “limited research into the mental state of the dying”.

Bearing this in mind, it is always going to be a task to convince people that, yes, out of body experiences are valid scientific phenomena.

I’d like to point out that I’m not here to convince you that these people are experiencing mind-blowing psychedelic hallucinations.

Nor do I think you need to be particularly religious or spiritual to agree with the subject matter of these studies.

Put simply, let’s consider the possibility that there might be something beyond this existence, that can potentially one day be explained by scientific reason.

The problem we face right now is that our biological and physical methods have not caught up with these philosophical ideas. How can we naturalise these mental states, the personal experiences that people consciously experience while they were “clinically dead”?

How can we prove that the study’s participants were not influenced by researchers, or making the whole thing up? Deceitfulness is something that no brain scan can prove.

These questions are things that our current methods technologies cannot account for. While nothing here on the subject is concrete, I believe this research gives us hope; that we have more than just a brief existence in the physical world, that we can still have experiences when our human bodies ultimately fail.

For now, we just have accept the fact we cannot systematically prove life after death, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with feeling little bit of optimism, to believe that there’s more to life than the world we live in now.

Chloe Kazatzis


NO

Death, I admit is a scary concept. Most of us can’t even imagine what the moment of dying would feel like.

However, years of movie clichés and inaccurate anecdotes have twisted our perception of this moment to give the impression that something supernatural or spiritual is occurring.

In actual fact, many of the sensations described can be explained through natural processes that occur in our body. For example a bright light at the end of the tunnel with a feeling of warmth and inner peace emanating from the light is one of the most famous portrayals of an out of body experience. Researchers have found that these images and feelings could be the working of our brain to make sense of the process of death.

The bright light that is often seen by people-is probably produced by the death of the cells we use to process the light picked up by our eyes and turn it into pictures. The feelings of safety and warmth can also be described by the physiological process of the brain releasing the hormone noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is released by the brain during times of high stress, such as a near death experience.

I am not contesting the fact that these people had these sensations, but that they are not proof for the existence of souls in the afterlife. The fanciful experiences that you often read of people floating above their body and witnessing themselves from a fly on the wall perspective may be exaggerated or it could be a symptom of an oxygen deprived brain hallucinating.

Near death experiences are definitely an extremely interesting topic for debate. They are the closest description we have of what the moment of death feels like but to take them as proof for a supernatural power at work or a soul leaving a body just has no scientific basis.

Varun Manoj

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