Chris Carter is the author of Parapsychology and the Skeptics, and Science and the Near Death Experience. He was educated at Oxford in Economics and Philosophy.
1. It’s always interesting to find out what motivates people. Can you explain what drives your interest in parapsychology.
I have always been fascinated by science, and also by controversial topics in science and philosophy. So, dealing with this issue has been a natural progression from my other interests.
2. Your latest book “Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death” came out in August. What prompted you to write the book?
It grew out of a lengthy debate I had with a very stubborn and dogmatic skeptic. I was shocked by his ignorance, and by the crudity of his arguments. So I decided that a book was needed to examine the evidence for psi, and evidence that the mind can function independently of the brain. What had been planned as one book became three. The first was Parapsychology and the Skeptics, the second is Science and the Near Death Experience, and the third is not yet published.
3. Where does NDE research find itself in 2010?
Research into the NDE is largely carried out by cardiologists around the world. This is because they are often dealing with victims of heart attacks who have been resuscitated, and then report that they left their bodies and observed the surrounding scene.
4. One theory of NDEs that seems to attract a lot of commentary is the oxygen deprivation model. Why do you think that is?
I suppose it attracts attention because oxygen deprivation seems to be an obvious explanation, at least to some people. However, on close examination oxygen deprivation utterly fails to explain the classic NDE.
The effects of oxygen deprivation are well known. Mountain climbers often experience it, and pilots flying at high altitude have experienced it. It’s well known that as the brain is deprived of oxygen, it ceases to function properly. As the oxygen supply is reduced, the person becomes progressively more disoriented and confused. This is in sharp contrast to the clarity of thought and perception described over and over again in the reports of near-death experiencers.
Pilots in training regularly undergo acute anoxia in flight simulators to make sure they can get their masks on in time. Those who fail do not have NDEs: they experience confusion and disorientation, sometimes trying to land their simulated planes on top of clouds before losing consciousness.
Finally, I mention in my new book Science and the Near Death Experience the report of a man who has experienced both anoxia and the tunnel while near death. Allan Pring was a British Royal Air Force pilot during the Second World War, and experienced anoxia while flying at high altitude. Several years later he suffered a heart attack, and experienced an NDE.
I found myself “floating” along in a dark tunnel, peacefully and calmly but wide
awake and aware. I know that the tunnel experience has been attributed to the
brain being deprived of oxygen, but as an ex-pilot who has experienced lack of
oxygen at altitude I can state that for me there was no similarity. On the
contrary, the whole [NDE] experience from beginning to end was crystal clear.
5. Your first book was “Parapsychology and the Skeptics” and you wrote two thought provoking chapters in “Debating Psychic Experience: Human Potential or Human Illusion?” What is your view on the current state of skepticism?
In the first place, the term “skepticism” is inappropriate when referring to debunkers such as James Randi, Michael Shermer, or Richard Wiseman. True skepticism involves the suspension of belief, not the refusal of belief. These people are not truly skeptics, and so a more accurate term would be deniers.
At any rate, the current state of pseudo-skepticism is extremely impoverished. The Ganzfeld, the micro-PK experiments, Sheldrake’s experiments with telephone telepathy and with animals, and many others, have provided indubitable proof that psi is real. However, most of the deniers simply ignore the evidence; when they can’t ignore it, they try to dismiss it; when they can’t dismiss it, they try to suppress it. I provided several shameful examples of this in my first book Parapsychology and the Skeptics, and in the chapters I wrote for Debating Psychic Experience.
Remember, strenuous denial of disagreeable data is the defining characteristic of pseudo-science. And these people have been strenuously denying the data for over a century.
Essentially, as I argued in my first book, this debate is not primarily about evidence. Rather, the debunkers and deniers are defending an out-moded world view in which psychic phenomena are simply not allowed to exist. It is essential to realize that most of the deniers and phony-skeptics are militant atheists and secular humanists. For various reasons, these people have an ideological agenda which is anti-religious and anti-superstitious. One of the pillars of their opposition to religion and superstition is the doctrine of materialism: that is, the doctrine that all events have a physical cause, and that the brain therefore produces the mind. If they conceded the existence of psychic abilities, and of the NDE as a genuine separation of mind from body, then this pillar of their opposition would crumble. Hence, their dogmatic denial of the evidence that proves materialism false.
Thank you Chris.
You can learn more about Chris’s books by clicking on these links.