Debate: bknapple32 vs Druid42: Life after Death?

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posted on Feb, 26 2013 @ 02:41 PM
This being my first debate, I'd like to thank the mods who allow us this platform. And a very special thanks to Druid for giving me the opportunity to debate one of the very best ATS has had. Druid and I have had our disagreements in other threads, but his candor and attitude towards cordial discourse throughout ATS speaks volumes on Druid's character.

Life after death is a topic no one truly wins. It is my hope that I will present proof positive experiences to almost put the judge in the shoes of those who have gone through this life changing, eye opening experience. It is also my intention to prove the credibility, and veracity of those who have experienced such events.

And in this debate, only one has to be true.

Let's start with

Case # 1: Harvard neurosurgeon Eben Alexander

"If there is evidence and proof of an afterlife, this is probably as good as it gets," Catholic Online, a Web-based Roman Catholic news service, wrote approvingly.

Eben Alexander was battling a rare bacterial meningitis that was systematically shutting down his neocortex. This is extremely important to Alexander's case. And it needs to be explained. The neocortex is a vital brain system found in mammals. It essentially allows a human"higher functions" such as sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language.

"For seven days, I lay in a deep coma," he recalled. Yet at the same time, Alexander "journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe, a dimension I'd never dreamed existed.

At first glance one might say, "So what? The Harvard neurosurgeon was in a coma and experienced a very lucid dream" But remember, his ailment essentially shut down his neocortex, thus disabling language and conscious thought. How then, could he be using that part of his brain in a lucid dream, if it was not working? His experience continues...

There he found "big, puffy, pink-white" clouds against a "deep, black-blue sky" and "flocks of transparent, shimmering beings… quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet." It turns out Alexander was not alone. His traveling partner in the afterlife was a young woman with high cheekbones, deep blue eyes and "golden brown tresses" who, amid "millions" of butterflies, spoke to him "without using any words." "You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever," she told the doctor, a father of two with movie star looks. "You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong."

Note that despite the use of his neocortex, he was speaking with another person and was able to decipher colors and beauty.

Case #2: Lono Ho' Ala

A “near death experience” changed a Colorado cowboy to become a Hawai’ian Kahuna priest. In the spring of 1982, when Arthur Costello was 34 years old, he was in a flooded crawlspace under his home when caught in the grip of 30 amps of electricity powered by 220 volts from an electric hot water heater that had shorted out in the water. When his ‘lifeless’ body was pulled from under the house his back was broken in 4 places, and his hips, shoulder joints, heart, and brain were all severely damaged. He suffered a second near-death experience two years later when his heart stopped beating properly due to the electrical damage. During both of these powerful NDE experiences transformed a man’s life and set the stage for his life’s work. Arthur Costello was born in 1948 in a small mountain town in Colorado called Salida. From his earliest years he knew he was born to be a priest. He talked about it so much that his parents sent him to a Benedictine Monastery when he was 13 years old. When he was 18 he left not only the monastery, but also the Catholic Church. He felt he had to do this because he wasn’t able to reconcile what he had been taught in the monastery with truth as he was beginning to see it.
He and his wife were told they were the “new world brother and sister that had been expected by the Mo’o.” The representatives of this ancient clan said they recognized Lono (Mr. Costello) because he was teaching their Message which had never been written before. He was using certain words in certain ways and teaching concepts in ways only members of their priesthood clan knew. Because of this, they not only knew who Lono was, but also that he had been born to fulfill, renew, and spread the ancient Mo’o Message to people across the world.

This man, born in Colorado had gone through not one, but two near death experiences. While he always had a calling to be a priest, he never in a million years found himself moving to Hawaii to do so. Because of what he went through, again, with damaged brain function at the time, he learned teachings of a people that was never written down before. He explained concepts only local priests knew.
edit on 2/26/13 by Hefficide because: Edited for size by Hefficide - edit approved. My own oversights in quoting also fixed.

posted on Feb, 26 2013 @ 02:42 PM
Second post removed with approval of staff. Character limit misunderstanding. Debate continues.
edit on 2/26/13 by Hefficide because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 26 2013 @ 08:19 PM
I'd like to open my position by thanking bknapple32 for accepting this debate challenge. Members of his caliber are rare, and indeed, I see the product of this debate to be an interesting investigation into the topic at hand.

Is there Life after Death?

To address this question properly, we'll need to define an acceptable biological term for human life, and it closely revolves around being conscious, and interacting with others, in the most simplistic of terms. Is there an "essence" that survives after said biological functions cease? Is the belief in such "essence" required to complete the act of consciousness? These are some tough questions I will be pursuing in the next segment of my position, but for now, allow me a moment to refute my opponent's position.

His examples so far are from comatose patients, not truly "dead" people. I use the term crudely, but death needs to be construed as "medically" declared dead. In truth, consciousness is a wiggly term that defies explanation, and accordingly, it's actually quite difficult medically to determine such a state.

Brain death is a condition in which there is "irreversible unconsciousness with complete loss of brain function". It is marked by the presence of apnea and the lack of any behavioral response to the environment (Medical Consultants on the Diagnosis of Death, 1981). Generally, an electroencephalogram demonstrates electrocerebral silence reflecting the absence of electrical brain activity. Transcranial doppler studies reveal the absence of cerebral blood flow. Finally, functional imaging, using cerebral perfusion tracers and single photon emission tomography (SPECT), illustrate the "empty skull" sign in which the "whole brain" (Facco et al., 1998) is inactive.

Detecting behavioral signs of consciousness is currently the main way to distinguish conscious from unconscious patients.

My opponent will need to provide case examples of clinically dead individuals that have had NDEs, and returned to tell the story, but I'll allow cardiovascular restraint to be included, the period of time when the heart quits beating, quits supplying blood to the brain, and in which the brain is starved of oxygen, and brain death occurs. I'd like for my opponent to provide one example of brain death that was survivable, but more importantly, provide evidence of an "essence" that transcends the biological form.

The neocortex will weigh heavily into this debate, so here is a brief description:

Neocortex: The newer portion of the cerebral cortex that serves as the center of higher mental functions for humans. The neocortex contains some 100 billion cells, each with 1,000 to 10,000 synapses (connections), and has roughly 100 million meters of wiring, all packed into a structure the size and thickness of a formal dinner napkin. The cells in the neocortex are arranged in six layers, within which different regions permit vision, hearing, touch, the sense of balance, movement, emotional responses and every other feat of cognition.

The brain is a fascinating aspect of our bodies, controlling everything we think and do, as well as all the autonomous responses required for life. It operates on a microscopic level, still not fully understood, yet has remained unchanged for approximately 1.6 million years. Is there a chance that the brain is due for the next evolutionary step, carrying forward our "essence" beyond our mere physical limitations? Is there a link between the dead and the living, somewhere out in the quantum foam?

I'll conclude my opening, and allow my opponent to proceed with the body of his position.

Over to you, bkn. The floor is yours.

posted on Feb, 26 2013 @ 10:54 PM
Indeed part of this debate relies upon the definition of death. However as my opponent stated, this definition is difficult to diagnose. My opponent would like to define death as brain death. I would go further and ask what is brain death? Is brain death what happened in my first case with Eben Alexander? I refer to this quote to explain what he and his doctors describe of his condition during his NDE.

My synapses—the spaces between the neurons of the brain that support the electrochemical activity that makes the brain function—were not simply compromised during my experience. They were stopped. Only isolated pockets of deep cortical neurons were still sputtering, but no broad networks capable of generating anything like what we call 'consciousness.' The E. coli bacteria that flooded my brain during my illness made sure of that. My doctors have told me that according to all the brain tests they were doing, there was no way that any of the functions including vision, hearing, emotion, memory, language, or logic could possibly have been intact.

How was this man capable of any kind of brain function? His doctors confirmed that in all their brain tests, there was no possibility of brain function. I would call the loss of vision, hearing, emotion, memory, language, or logic to be brain dead. Eben is a unique case because his brain was attacked by a bacteria, rendering the brain useless to Eben for a period. For all intents and purposes, Eben was brain dead in his coma.

A man with no brain activity to produce any cognitive though, had as vivid an experience as you and I looking at our computer screens. Something science would say is impossible.

My opponent asked for just one separate case where the patient was declared clinically dead by his definitions, that then had a NDE and lived to tell the tale.

Last year Parnia published a study indicating that 10 percent of clinically dead patients who were later resuscitated reported memories while they were lifeless. Evidence includes patients recognizing hospital staff they had never met but who helped during their resuscitation. Others have recalled conversations between doctors. According to known medical science, this should be impossible, given the absence of any brain activity.

In December 2001, a Dutch neurologist, Dr. Pim van Lommel of Hospital Rijnstate in Arnhem, Netherlands, led a team that published an article in The Lancet, the United Kingdom's highly respected journal of medicine. The study showed that 18 percent of clinically dead patients, later resuscitated, recalled near-death experiences years after the event.

Another study, this one conducted in the United States by the father of near-death-experience studies, Kenneth Ring, used blind patients, resuscitated from cardiac arrest, who likewise described seeing their body while clinically dead, although slightly out of focus. The book Mindsight was inspired by this research.


Both of these studies fit the criteria my opponent has asked for. Brains clinically dead or full cardiac arrest.

To some, this concept may be extremely hard to believe. Science does not accept NDE's in today's world. The official stance is 'more research needs to be done'. There was a time when more research needed to be done to determine if we were in a geocentric galaxy. Science had to adapt with new results to determine we did in fact orbit our sun. Again, if only one case convinces you that perhaps science does not hold all the answers, then that is all that is needed.

What the observer needs to determine is the following.

Is the patient clinically dead? In one case I brought up with Eben, his brain had shut down. His neocortex was non functioning. Yet..

The patient reports a heightened state of awareness. People with NDE's report being able to use all 5 senses more vividly than when they were alive. Blind people in life, seeing in death. How could Eben Alexander have used these 5 senses when the part of the brain that controlled them was shut down?

Patients come back with details they did not know before. Carl Jung the father of analytical psychology had a NDE and described seeing the Earth from 1,000 miles up. He described the globe in detail and accurately 20 years before astronauts had the chance to orbit Earth.Story

A heart attack left him clinically dead for a few moments before the doctors were able to bring him back. In his autobiography “Memories, Dreams, Reflections,” Jung recalls hating the doctor for bringing him back to life


I havent presented random people with NDE's. I have given you two respected scientists. Both with credentials a mile long. Both declared brain dead. Both coming back to tell their story

Floor is Druid's

posted on Feb, 27 2013 @ 07:43 PM
My opponent has done an admirable job providing the requested information, but perhaps did not go far enough to solidify his position. It would have been interesting to read about REM intrusion,

The area where REM intrusion is triggered is found in the brain stem -- the region that controls the most basic functions of the body -- and it can operate virtually independent from the higher brain. So even after the higher regions of the brain are dead, the brain stem can conceivably continue to function, and REM intrusion could still occur
or perhaps Orchestrated Object Reduction,

Dr. Hameroff presented this theory – known as Orch-OR (Orchestrated Objective Reduction) – in 1996 with English physicist Sir Roger Penrose. While some of their colleagues disagree with their work, he says: “So far nobody has landed a serious blow to the theory…”
but I won't aid him in his own position.

In fact, I was hoping he would step outside his comfort zone and produce several plausible scientific theories that may point to an afterlife, which is where I was intending this debate to flow towards, but we've kept it narrowed down to people who die, and live again, within a short period of time, and case examples of NDEs. Perhaps it should've been a debate series, as there is more information to be discussed than what space actually allows for.

To continue with my position:

It's possible that high levels of CO2 in the blood system may account for some of my opponent's case examples.

And while anoxia - in which brain cells die through lack of oxygen - is one of the principal theories as to why near-death experiences may occur, this was not found to be statistically significant among this small group of patients.

Instead, the researchers from the University of Maribor found blood carbon dioxide levels were significantly higher in the near-death group than among those who had no experience. Previous research has shown that inhalation of carbon dioxide can induce hallucinatory experiences similar to those reported in near-death experiences.

Also interesting to note is that brain wave surges occur during near death experiences. Is this an indication that the "essence" is building the energy to leave the body?

The medical staff kept seeing spikes in patients' brain waves just before death.

It's possible, but...

The doctors believe they are seeing the brain's neurons discharge as they lose oxygen from lack of blood pressure.
"All the neurons are connected together and when they lose oxygen, their ability to maintain electrical potential goes away," Chawla said. "I think when people lose all their blood flow, their neurons all fire in very close proximity and you get a big domino effect. We think this could explain the spike."

The feeling of life after death, more probably, may be just your mind playing tricks on you.

One of the researchers, Dr Caroline Watt, said: "Our brains are very good at fooling us."

"The scientific evidence suggests that all aspects of the near-death experience have a biological basis."

But Swiss researchers found such experiences could be artificially induced by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction in the brain that plays a role in perception and awareness.

The paper also suggests the action of noradrenaline, a hormone released by the mid-brain, can evoke positive emotions, hallucinations and other features of the near-death experience.

What we find, actually, is that life after death experiences, examined in such a narrow fashion, have completely plausible biological explanations, and that the case examples provided by my opponent can be easily defined to to exist within those possibilities.

I have tried for years to come to grips with my own NDEs (yes, plural), and while there is no suitable scientific explanation forthcoming, I have personally come to understand that there are many mysteries that cannot be explained, but in order to understand, we must be diligent in providing factual information, or the closest proximity thereof, in order to understand this amazing world around us.

I rest, and give the floor back to bkn.

posted on Feb, 27 2013 @ 09:24 PM
There has been a very specific reason I have narrowed this debate to the NDE realm. Quite simply, it is the only true scientific measurable way we as mere mortals can determine if there is something greater than ourselves. I find it impossible to debate science vs religion without some kind of deus ex machina providing an answer in the end. Short of that, all we have to go by are observations here on Earth. I do not wish to debate religion

Ignoring the fact that Druid so eloquently did not want to aid my position. I found it odd that he himself uses an article entitled "Is There Life After Death? Scientist Says The Soul Survives After The Heart Stops Beating"Story All that article does, when read in full, is point to another possibility to life existing after death. It jumps into Buddhist and Hindu beliefs on consciousness which I find quite compelling ( I have a dharmachakra tattoo on my forearm).

But like I said, I wanted to structure and narrow this debate around verifiable items. The neocortex being one of them. I provided case studies where the neo cortex was shut down, rendering brain function obsolete. Yet the patient's brain was more active than it ever had been in life. There are only two possibilities. Either the brain is playing a very long and complicated con, or there is something greater than even our brain in the universe.

Druid brought up the possibility of higher levels of co2 in the blood stream as a solution to NDE's. I quote his own source

Cardiologist Dr Pim van Lommel, who has studied near death experiences extensively, described the findings as "interesting". "But they have not found a cause - merely an association. I think this is something that will remain one of the great mysteries of mankind. The tools scientists have are simply not sufficient to explain it."

Two things- One, all this argument does is provide one possible explanation to patients who suffered cardiac arrest. My cases involved patients who have actual brain shut down. A completely different situation. Two, Druid's own source explains this as an association, not a cause. A very important distinction the reader has to understand.

Druid then brought up the idea of brain wave surges. Unfortunately I do not see this as an argument against NDE's, this whole brain wave surge could simply be part of the process in a NDE. Note that nowhere in the source, does it state that brain wave surges act as an explanation for a NDE.

But Druid did use that line of thought to continue one natural trend his argument was taking, that the mind was simply playing a trick on itself. And this is the crux of the debate, is it not?

Again I use Druid's own source as a quote. Story

Furthermore many people accurately report "seeing" events taking place at a time when the brain doesn't function (such as during cardiac arrest). These cannot be explained by brain changes, since the brain had shut down and 'flatlined'.

The end of druid's own article swings the debate back to where I feel it needs to be. Recorded events of NDE's in which the patient had lost the use of his or her brain. It was shut down, not useable, and lifeless. And yet in my case studies provided, these patients experienced events impossible if they were "alive". Now Druid provided some excellent quotes for his argument, and I feel I don't have to go tit for tat on the quote war. All I will do is point to the patients I have provided.

What we really find is that in fact, we do not have plausible biological explanations to the cases provided. Druid has given us an explanation to certain NDE's and I will grant him that there are in fact biological explanations to a certain number of NDE's. I agree the white light tunnel may in fact be oxygen deprivation to the brain. But what my cases, like Eben Alexander, experienced were FAR more extensive than a simple white lit tunnel. In fact there are not any medical answers to cases like Eben Alexander. His own doctors admitted as much.

I feel that I provided three separate unique, yet somewhat similar cases that all supersede the explanations of Druid and his team of scientists. I presented a case where the patient had no neo cortex activity. His brain was shut down, and Druid wanted a patient that was clinically dead. I then examined how all three of my cases had a patient that was declared clinically dead. Is there something greater than ourselves in the universe? My two scientists, Eben Alexander and Carl Jung would most certainly say yes.

I rest. And want to thank Druid for this debate. As an agnostic, I found it to be quite challenging and yet rewarding all in the same. If anything I may have a different view of the universe than I had just two days ago.

posted on Feb, 27 2013 @ 10:55 PM
There are 7 billion people on this planet.

A few isolated cases of NDEs are just that. Near Death Experiences. Near, but not complete death. Each patient was able to survive, and live to tell their tale. Yes, a tale. A story based on their own experiences. A story.

Each story presented by my opponent has no way to be scientifically duplicated, as they are each a personal experience. While my opponent's examples are credible, there remains no credible explanation, so we are left to accept opinion over fact. The fact is, and still remains, an eternal question.

Does life exist after death?

Over ten million people in the United States alone have had NDEs. That hardly compares to the total population of the world. If proof of life after death was to be meted out by individual stories, I'd think the scientific community would have a reasonable explanation by now.

They don't.

It's still speculation, with people giving testimonials, and writing books for profit, so I wonder how much reality is tainted by the desire for popularity.

My opponent has failed to prove the existence of life after death, yet in retrospective, I have not been able to prove there is not. What this debate boils down to is which is more likely. A biological explanation, or a supernatural one?

I of course, choose the biological route.

The brain, during periods of extreme trauma, causes glands and organs in our body to produce chemicals, adrenaline for one, which causes a cascade effect that deviates from the normal functions. The brain fights for it's own survival, directing every resource it has to compensate for the sudden irregularity in it's own balanced feedback system. Neurons fire, signals are sent, and in a perhaps futile attempt at survival, the brain does everything it can to ensure the survival of the biological body it's encased in.

The brain, surely, fights against the afterlife. It's job is to keep our bodies functioning. Trauma makes it go crazy with all sorts of compensatory effects. In that mode, all sorts of hallucinatory effects may be observed.

Sick? Major surgery? Sleep is the prescribed recourse. Your brain dictates what your body needs to be healthy. During sleep, your body heals itself. A coma? Deep healing. Visions are a residual effect of your imagination, nothing more. Pareidolia. Your mind relates to what it knows, and makes the closest connection it can.

Your brain wants you to remain in this reality, not only because this is the only one we have, but because it's sole purpose is to regulate and protect the life-form it is encased in.

In closing, I'd like to thank my opponent for an interesting discourse, the staff of ATS, and the readers and judges of this debate. We may discuss topics in this forum, but without the participation of members and staff behind the scenes, our positions may otherwise fall on deaf ears.

A sincere thanks to all for reading.

posted on Mar, 13 2013 @ 10:13 PM
Once again, I appreciate everyones patience! The results are in!

Judge one said:

Round 1 

Nice way to open for Bknapple giving some good examples to support his position. 

I love the position taken by Druid. Defining "death" will surely be the key here and I found myself looking back at Bknapple's examples in a different light and I had to ask, are the people in these examples actually "dead". After reading the links a second time, now I am not so sure.

Round 1 winner: Druid 

Round 2 

The "be careful what you ask for round" as Bknapple has done a great job of countering Druid. At first I thought bknapple may be a bit out matched for this, but his/her round 2 post certainly proves otherwise. Very well done. 

Druid's response for round 2 is really more of what I would expect from Druid. Well thought out, thorough, leaving me with more questions than answers. Also very well done. 

Round 2: This was a very very difficult round for me to judge. I thought both parties did an outstanding job but this round will go to Bknapple by the slimmest of margins. 

Round 3 

Another difficult round to judge. My hat off to both participants for an absolutely amazing job with a tough topic. I think Druid summed it nicely when he said, "My opponent has failed to prove the existence of life after death, yet in retrospective, I have not been able to prove there is not. What this debate boils down to is which is more likely. A biological explanation, or a supernatural one? " 

Round 3 Winner: Druid by a very slim margin. 

Again I have to say this was a very good debate by both participants. Both deserve a pat on the back for this and this was a very tough one to judge. Excellent job to both parties. 

Judge two said:


Good opening by bknapple32, clearly laying out his intentions and approach angle. Continues to give two examples, which should convince that Near Death Experiences are real. They actually do not wholly convince, but are remarkable as they are.

Druid42 starts by countering the examples given for NDE experiences, and rightfully remarks that these were experienced during a comatose phase, as opposed to clinically dead. Explains how hard it is to distinguish between alive and dead, even for modern-day science. Ends by stating how complex the brain is, and how we do not fully understand it yet, and raises the question whether or not a life essence is required.

bknapple32 acknowledges the importance of the definition of death, and how difficult it is to define. Succesfully points out how his first example, the Eben case, might be considered a true experience under brain death conditions. He then focuses on two separate studies; both indicating that NDEs are quite common among resuscitated patients.

Druid42 counters by introducing REM intrusion and Orchestrated Object Reduction, which may explain certain experiences under brain death conditions. Points out a study that shows that patients with an NDE had higher levels of CO2 in their bloodstream than those without. Sums up numerous other possible, biological, explanations.

bknapple32 closes by explaining his angle on the debate and countering some of Druid's arguments, explaining that these do not necessarily rule out a true NDE. Emphasizes the fact that his examples deal with true brain dead experiences and concludes by summarizing his evidence.

Druid42's closing post reflects on ecidence given by both, and draws the conclusion that neither could prove their point. He concludes by explaining how a traumatized brain reacts to survive, which may account for visions and hallucinations.


In my opinion bknapple32 focused too much on a few extreme cases, however interesting they are. I would have liked to see a more broad approach from his side, since this enabled Druid42 to easily counter certain aspects with a multitude of opposing data. Although I agree that the debate's subject is not settled by any means, by either of the participants, I have to conclude that Druid42 was more convincing in his rebuttals and presented us with a broader range of evidence to strengthen his case.

Thank you both for this very interesting read!

The winner is Druid42!

Another fantastic and close debate! Kudos to both participants and thanks to the judges and ATS community for keeping the debate forum such a success!

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