Science and the Afterlife Experience (Anglais) Broché – 22 août 2012
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Carter has emerged as one of the most careful analysts of a body of data that has gradually accumulated for most of the twentieth century. His previous books Parapsychology and the Skeptics and Science and the Near-Death Experience are nightmares for those who believe that the Great Questions -- the origin, nature, and fate of consciousness -- have long been answered. Carter has an intellectual embouchure that is elegant and precise. He has something else as well: a confidence based on an encyclopedic knowledge of the field, filtered through trenchant logic. Carter commands the philosophico-analytical high ground, with undergraduate and master's degrees from the University of Oxford.
Carter's book is divided into four parts: Reincarnation, Apparitions, Messages from the Dead, and Conclusions. After providing provocative observational material, including the key characteristics of reincarnation and apparition-type experiences and messages from the dead, he provides alternative explanations for these ostensible phenomena. He meets head-on the criticisms of skeptics. His summary sections, "How the Case for Survival Stands Today" and "Is Survival a Fact," is not a winner-take-all conclusion. He proposes three categories for possible conclusions: (1) proof beyond all doubt, (2) proof beyond all reasonable doubt, and (3) preponderance of evidence. His final chapter, "What the Dead Say," offers the conclusion to those who, if survival is a fact, are most qualified to weigh in with an opinion. They've been there. We haven't. These sections are a tutorial on how the evidence in a controversial domain should be handled.
Anyone who has followed the debates about the origin and fate of consciousness in recent decades realizes our appalling ignorance about these great issues. The nature of consciousness remains a mystery -- not just its origin, but also its fate. As cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman of the University of California-Irvine, says, "The scientific study of consciousness is in the embarrassing position of having no scientific theory of consciousness" ["Consciousness and the Mind-body Problem." Mind & Matter. 2008; 6(1): 87-121]. As to how consciousness might arise from a physical system such as the brain, if indeed it does and for which there is no convincing evidence, Harvard University experimental psychologist Steven Pinker confesses, "Beats the heck out of me. I have some prejudices, but no idea of how to begin to look for a defensible answer. And neither does anyone else" [How the Mind Works. New York, NY: W. W. Norton; 1997: 146].
Recognizing our ignorance about the origin of consciousness, we might muster a bit of humility about its fate.
This is the gap Chris Carter is attempting to fill with Science and the Afterlife Experience. Those who think they already know the answers don't need to waste their time with this book. For the rest of us, it is a gem.
We should drop the pretense that the question of survival is not worthy of the attention of really smart people. It is and always has been the key question of humans throughout history. Thank you, Chris Carter, for shedding light on this, the Greatest Question.
Larry Dossey, MD
Author: THE POWER OF PREMONITIONS and REINVENTING MEDICINE
With the rising acknowledgment of the profound nature of the hard problem of consciousness, and the contributing role of the enigma of quantum physics, serious scientific assessment of the deep nature of consciousness, including its extension beyond time and space and any dependence on the necessity of the physically intact brain, is coming back into fashion. Chris Carter's trilogy addressing the scientific aspects of the prospects for the afterlife concludes with Science and the Afterlife Experience, a very thorough analysis of the data, its interpretation, and any significant alternative explanations.
Addiction to the materialistic paradigm has wreaked immense havoc upon the world over the last few centuries. Many believe it has brought us to the brink of an apocalypse. Chris Carter opens this marvelous book with a statement of concurrence with philosopher David Griffen on the current dire predicament wrought by this addiction, and how it has reached a crucial juncture. Coming to know that our souls do not die with our bodies, but have a much grander role on the stage of eternity, offers a glorious reprieve from this ignominious fate that is the inevitable result of limited materialistic beliefs. The rapidly growing community of near-death experiencers resulting from the rise in survivors of cardiac arrest and others rescued by the tools of modern medicine over the last five decades comprise the tip of the spear poised to slay the blind and pedestrian materialistic world view.
Carter's first book in this trilogy Science and Psychic Phenomena offered a rigorous examination of phenomena such as telepathy, indicating the overwhelming evidence of the existence of such phenomena. He also attacked the towering edifice of denial surrounding the conventional scientific camp even in the face of irrefutable ocean of evidence. His second book Science and the Near-Death Experience was a landmark work supporting the survival hypothesis -- that some aspect of our personal awareness survives bodily death. The current book, which completes the trilogy, pursues additional lines of inquiry concerning reincarnation (notably children remembering previous lives), communications through mediums and apparitions. Those who deny the reality of these phenomena because they cannot explain them from their limited simplistic materialistic world view are willfully ignorant. Just do the homework!
As Carter points out in the current work, the scientific assessment of the survival question is addressed first and foremost through a knowledge of modern physics, although deep knowledge of the science of consciousness, philosophy of mind and psychology also contribute to its resolution. In fact, the enigmatic results of experiments in quantum physics invoke the non-locality of extended phenomena of consciousness, and the existence of consciousness independently of the brain.
The current volume proceeds through a detailed review of reincarnation, apparitions and messages from the dead. In my opinion, he establishes the existence of the afterlife "beyond a reasonable doubt." I congratulate him on such a solid synthesis of the relevant data and arguments, both for and against.
In this book Carter deals with children's past-life recollections, apparitions, and mental mediumship. He selects his examples carefully, and weaves further examples into his rebuttals of skeptical arguments, covering a considerable amount of ground with economy and skill. The result is a book that can be read quickly, but which will also reward rereading and detailed study.
In his coverage of mediumship, Carter provides clear and persuasive accounts of the investigations into Leonora Piper and Gladys Osborn Leonard, stressing the seriousness of the investigators, their gradual evolution from skepticism to "super-ESP" explanations and finally (in some instances) to complete acceptance of life after death. He addresses the super-ESP position in depth, demolishing its claim to be simpler and more parsimonious than the afterlife hypothesis, and supplying a wealth of cases that strain super-ESP past the breaking point.
Perhaps the most impressive of all this evidence are the cross correspondences. Carter devotes three chapters to the subject, expertly summarizing several cases and making it abundantly clear that no non-survival hypothesis other than willful fraud on the part of all the mediums and researchers can explain them. He also takes pains to point out that mere logical possibilities unsupported by any empirical evidence (for instance, the notion of a massive fraudulent conspiracy) simply have no weight, and should not be confused with reasonable possibilities grounded in evidence.
Having concluded that postmortem survival is a proven fact -- a fact established beyond reasonable doubt -- Carter boldly explores the messages that come through mediums to paint a picture of the dying process and the next stage of existence.
Science and the Afterlife Experience is perhaps the best book I've read on evidence for life after death, and I've read quite a few. I recommend it highly.
- Michael Prescott, author of Grave of Angels and other bestselling suspense novels
Carter expended a lot of energy arguing, and counter-arguing, a variety of opposing theories held against afterlife experiences. He certainly proofed his rock solid position with sound reasoning and with known testimonial data, practically shredding every dead-end opposing theorem into pieces. However, therein may lay the burden on the readership; that is to say Carter beat the same horse to death too many times over.
Overall, Carter made use of well known cases and referred to them quite repeatedly for argument's sake, which at times became a bit strenuous when one is looking for fresh material throughout the pages.
It is a necessary work, certainly for the more prolific readers of the afterlife genre. Newcomers may become tired of Carter's studious style and the lack of angelic butterflies healing one's broken heart, but attentive minds will find it a satisfying and complimentary work to settle some of their questions.
As a latecomer to his third in the series, I highly recommend THE AFTERLIFE EXPERIENCES and will certainly look forward to his preceding works which are said to be even more insightful and rewarding.
In this effort Carter takes us on a tour of the reincarnational, apparitional and mediumistic evidence for life after death. He spends most of his time on mediumistic evidence, and it is here that both strength and weakness are revealed. As to the strengths, there are many. Carter has essentially demolished the "super ESP" hypothesis, and put a big dent in the fraud theory as well, but we are left with a few questions. He puts forth a wonderful explanation of the "cross correspondences" the most cogent I have seen. However, most of these powerful communications date to the turn of the century, the twentieth century, and average one hundred years old. Where, one must ask, are the "cross correspondence" cases of today? Why no such cipher like coded messages today? Are the spirits not still out there?
Later towards the end of the book Carter presents a series of message purporting to come from F. Meyers, the brilliant deceased mind who was behind the intricate "cross correspondence" cases. I mention his brilliance because it is well deserved. Yet in these later communications, via the medium Geraldine Cummins, the brilliant Meyers explains dementia as a withdrawing of the "silver cord" from the brain. How quaint. In his previous book Carter gives a sound scientific explanation of mind/ brain interaction via the quantum based theories of von Neumann and Stapp. No silver cord here. One would think that, even though his communications were predating von Neumann, a discarnate mind like Meyers, possibly able to communicate with many wise spirits, would be able to advance a better theory than the one believed in by mediums of the day.
Enough negativity. Why do I still rate this book four stars? Because there is much more to recommend. Carter shows how and explains, the skeptical use of logical possibility versus the more correct use of empirical possibility. This alone is worth the price of admission. Then there is the chess match between a Grandmaster of today versus a Grandmaster from the past. I hope Carter has another effort in him. I will read it.
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