John C. Hagan. (editor) The Science of Near-Death Experiences. University of Missouri Press, 2017.
With a title like this, and publication by a university press, one might think that this book would present some new neurological research and insights into NDE’s. This is not the case, as the contents of this book are a series of op-ed pieces from the journal Missouri Medicine, of which Dr Hagan, an ophthalmologist, is the editor.
The papers include an introduction by Raymond Moody, an overview by Bruce Greyson, an essay by Dean Radin putting the experiences in the context of parapsychology, Pim van Lommel reporting on his research in the Netherlands, a study of veridical perception in NDEs, NDE’s in children, a brief section on 'distressing NDEs' and a number of personal testimonies. All but one of the thirteen papers are by promoters of paranormal (or should I say supernaturalist) interpretations of the experience, with only one paper, by Kevin Nelson, looking at possible non-paranormal interpretations.
The papers add little to the already voluminous literature on the subject. They may serve some purpose in bringing the experiences, however interpreted, to the attention of clinicians, but one would think that after more than forty years since the publication of Raymond Moody’s Life after Life few people, physician or otherwise, would be unaware of them.
The general theme of the majority of the papers is that NDE’s provide evidence of supernatural realms that will overturn secular science and 'materialism'. I suspect that this is our old friend the wedge again, a suspicion not allayed by the fact that editor Hagan is an associate of a right wing think tank called the The Fund for American Studies, and believes that children in America are being indoctrinated into the far left in kindergartens: https://tfas.org/news/featured-supporter-john-c-hagan-m-d/
Of course science has to be secular, as that is the only way that scientists with very different cultural, religious and ideological backgrounds can find common communication. Science balkanised into Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox Jewish, Reform Jewish, Sunni, Shia, Druze, Bahia, Sikh, Hindu, Mormon and countless other faith sciences would be impossible. It is often overlooked that Descartes did not introduce his form of dualism as an alternative to materialism, but rather by sectioning off the soul and handing it to the Pope, he sought avoid unpleasantnesses like being burned at the stake while espousing a philosophy far more radically materialist than any held by any scientist today, one which treated animals as mere machines and allowed for the vivisection of live animals.
- Peter Rogerson.