Below is the text of a review I recently published regarding Chris Carter's remarkable book, Science and the Near-Death Experience: How Consciousness Survives Death.

Chris Carter's examination of the documented accounts of near-death experiences -- and his analysis of the implications of this corpus on our understanding of human consciousness -- should be essential reading for everyone with a mind and a body. His analysis is sober and decisive, which makes the remarkable conclusion that the evidence appears to suggest all the more compelling. He carefully examines the evidence and thoroughly presents the various theories that have so far been advanced to explain this evidence, including those of the most committed skeptics. He gives full weight to the various objections and probes those objections to see whether they have merit, demolishing most of them in the process (and giving them their due if to the extent that they present valid alternative ways of understanding the evidence).

The book's calm and dispassionate presentation of the descriptions of NDEs themselves is gripping, and the accounts (often in the words of the survivors and occasionally in the words of attending surgeons and physicians) are unforgettable. This aspect of the human experience should not be hidden from the general public and this book belongs in everyone's home library (and should be translated into as many languages as possible).

Finally, Chris Carter's analysis of the implications for the question of "consciousness" is both important and fascinating. He is eminently qualified for the task, and characteristically thorough and articulate in his discussion. This analysis actually is arranged in the first half of the book, so those who hunger to read the moving accounts and discussion of NDEs could go to them first and then dive into the question of consciousness, while those who choose to read it straight through may want to start right back at the beginning after reaching the end the first time, because the weight of the evidence offered by the NDE discussion makes the discussion of different theories of human consciousness seem all the more vital.

This book truly possesses the potential to advance our understanding of what it means to be human.
This really is a book that everyone possessed of a body and a brain should have an interest in examining. Furthermore, its subject is by no means off-topic to the general subject matter covered in this blog, as the boundary between the worlds of life and death is absolutely central to much of the ancient cosmology of the celestial world, discussed for example in this previous post.

Chris Carter's book is an intriguing analysis of the subject of the NDE and its implications. Part I of the book provides a fascinating and important analysis of the question, "Does consciousness depend on the brain?" He points out that NDEs provide some of the strongest evidence refuting the strict materialist dogma that consciousness depends on the brain. Some of the most fascinating discussion in the book concerns the possibility that, rather than somehow producing or manufacturing consciousness, the brain actually functions as a receiver or a transmitter of consciousness, or even perhaps that "the brain functions as a selective inhibitor of consciousness" (100).

The descriptions of actual NDEs, which begin in earnest in Part II of the book (chapters seven through seventeen) are stunning all by themselves. During this portion of the book, Chris Carter provides scholarly and thorough analysis, and then examines various theories which have been proposed to try to explain the NDE evidence while still asserting that consciousness depends upon the physical mechanism of the brain. He provides a clear assessment of the strengths of each the various materialistic explanations, and points out ways in which the weight of the evidence from NDEs appear to undermine those materialistic explanations.

This subject, as well as one of the most famous NDEs on record (which is discussed thoroughly in Chris Carter's book) was visited earlier in the blog post entitled "The ideology of materialism."

Finally, the book concludes with an amazing discussion of deathbed experiences from both recent history and older records, in which persons who actually did not recover reported experiences and visions quite similar to those documented in thousands of NDE accounts. Chris Carter's analysis of the similarities (and differences) -- and the implications of these similarities and differences -- is original and important.

This is a book that demands the serious attention of everyone who is interested in the question of consciousness. Furthermore, it is the second in a trilogy by Chris Carter discussing scientific evidence bearing on the question of consciousness, following the first book in the series entitled Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics (which is discussed in this previous post).

The third book in this trilogy is due out at the end of this month. It will be called Science and the Afterlife Experience: Evidence for the Immortality of Consciousness. While it appears that it will spend quite a bit of time discussing apparitions (which I find somewhat scary to read about, as I mentioned in this previous post), I'm sure I will be sitting down to see what Chris Carter has to say in the third book of this outstanding series soon after it hits the market.