Thursday, March 03, 2011

Visiting the unknown.

There have been many tales of those who have clinically died, been brought back and who have described either an afterlife or the attempts to resuscitate them as seen from another part of the room. Sometimes both.

Where someone describes the scene around their 'dead' body, there are things that can be verified. Things that were said and done, things that others saw happening, can be checked. The sceptical view must always be - were they really unconscious all the time? They might believe they were, but did they pick up a spoken word here and there? While these cases can be verified, they can't be absolute proof as long as that shred of doubt exists.

Anything concerning the afterlife is easily dismissed by the sceptics even when multiple cases describe the same thing. They could have read about those other cases, they might be based on the same set of beliefs, and since the person survived they obviously didn't 'cross over'. Such cases don't constitute proof, only evidence.

What we need are more cases like this one.

Scepticism alert - the family are trying to make money from a book based on the story. It's not really enough for a book, it's just a case study and only one aspect of it really matters. The descriptions of heaven, of sitting on Jesus' knee, of God and angels, are all things that could have come from the boy's Christian upbringing. I'm not saying he imagined them, I'm saying we can't use any of that as evidence for anything.

Book-hype notwithstanding, the one interesting aspect of this case is that the boy said he met his dead sister while he was 'dead'. Not remarkable in itself but when you take into account that this boy was four years old and that his sister died in a miscarriage a year before he was born, then it does get very interesting.

The parents say the boy had no knowledge of his mother's miscarriage and there is no reason to disbelieve what they say. Dead babies are not a normal topic of conversation between parents and four-year-olds. It would be a macabre family indeed who would discuss a miscarried baby with such a young child. Indeed, few people who experience such trauma wish to speak of it at all.

So I, for one, fully accept that the parents did not tell the boy about his dead sister. His meeting with her ghost might well be real and it is certainly far more convincing than any description of an afterlife none of us have seen. There is only one way to test such descriptions and I'm in no hurry.

However (yes, there's always a 'however') there is one tiny detail that cracks this otherwise amazing story.

As I said, I believe the parents never told the boy about his miscarried sister. Could he, though, have overheard them talking about it at any point? Could that information have crept into his mind without even him realising what he was hearing? It's not impossible. His parents wouldn't know so their statement that they didn't tell him is still true.

It's often said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence but that's not really true. What's needed is not extraordinary evidence but absolutely unbreakable evidence. It can be mundane, such as the location of a particular key, or a password known only to the deceased, but it must be absolutely impossible for anyone still living to get hold of that information without direct contact with the dead.

In this case, it seems highly likely that the boy genuinely didn't know about his dead sister before his own unfortunate experience, but there is that nagging shred of possibility that he might have, and that is enough to break the proof. It's one small hole that a determined sceptic can get a finger into, and from there they'll tear the story apart. The only way to produce proof is to have no holes at all.

There is another explanation that does not involve an afterlife, but sceptics won't like this either. When I was young, I always had the feeling that someone was missing. That there should be more family than those I saw around me (even though there were already more than I felt able to cope with). Something was missing. I even mentioned it to my mother at one point and she brushed it off with 'Don't be silly'.

Years later, many years, I found out about the adoption. Not mine. Hers. My mother had been adopted and had eight brothers and sisters, who she later contacted. There was a lot more family after all - in fact I had been right through school with one of my cousins and never known!

Family ties are stronger than science can ever realise. It might be that the boy knew at some subconscious level that someone was missing. Couple that with an overheard snippet of conversation and then put his mind in a calm, resting state with anaesthetic and he could have worked it out. Dreams would do the rest.

So it's not proof. It is, however, compelling evidence, even though we can find a few possible holes in it. It's a step closer to proof and that's good enough for now.

Naturally, some who call themselves sceptics are actually cynics who would refuse to accept any evidence at all, even if they met a ghost themselves. Those are beyond the reach of logic and research and can be ignored. There is no point banging our heads on brick walls.

This case, though, is very interesting indeed, possibly unique. Many have met parents and other relatives in these experiences but they have always known of the existence and death of those relatives beforehand. This is, I think, the first description of meeting a dead sibling the subject didn't know existed.

That is a very big step forward.

3 comments:

Regina Richards said...

Very interesting indeed.

Southern Writer said...

Since I have been there, naturally, I believe. However, my experience was nothing like his. Because I didn't die, that may be the difference. I have to say, though, that from the first moment I heard about this, something about it did not sit right with me.

'I remember Jesus, there's streets of gold and a lot of colours. I sat on Jesus' lap and then I just felt safe. God, he is the biggest one in Heaven, he can hold the world in his hands.'

Gimme a break. This is straight out of Sunday school.

First, they're trying to sell a book. That's reason enough to be skeptical. The publishing industry came to them? Then they truly are one in a million. But for sake of argument, let's say it's plausible. The publishing industry is dire straits these days. Too few people read. Borders just declared bankruptcy. Thomas Nelson, the publisher of this book, publishes Bibles and religious books exclusively. They saw an opportunity to sell a million books to pablum-minded sheeple, and of course they went for it. Wouldn't you?


Secondly, some kids love attention, and I'm sure this kid is being adored all over the place. The more he embellishes the story, the more praise he gets. I don't like the pictures of him beaming upward. Something about it rings false.

Thirdly, is there any proof that the mother actually did miscarry a child? Medical records are fairly private (although, in case you didn't know, collection agencies see them all the time; I know for a fact because I worked in one for a while), and HPPA laws would prevent anyone from verifying it. Could the kid have just said he met his sister, and the parents jumped on it, thinking Oooh. Good one. Let's go along with it" ?

Finally, where's the glimpse of Armageddon? He told us all about "heaven," did he tell us anything about The End? Or do we have to buy the book to read that part?

This is a major eyeroll for me.

Ver: squey

Screwey is more like it.

Romulus Crowe said...

It's interesting, but for me too the warning bells went off when they mentioned 'book contract'. There is nowhere near enough here for a book. It's one single case study.

I have no idea whether there's a Heaven but if there is, I won't be going there. I won't know anyone and since only good people get in, I'd have nobody to torment.

I have a feeling that if there is truth in religion, my seat's booked.

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