Baloney Detection: A trek adventure into…Near death experiences


Click the picture to listen to a talk on ‘The Baloney Detection Kit’ by Michael Shermer

‘Baloney Detection’ is a new feature of this blog and based on a short talk by Michael Shermer who explains the virtues of scientific questioning as a way of testing the strange beliefs people hold.  This first post of the series is by Kiran Saini L5E.

Is the phenomenon of ‘Near death experiences’ baloney?

Using the Baloney Detection Kit, I investigated whether near death experiences are real or just baloney. I researched several articles about different people’s near death experiences and eventually settled on attempting to disprove Tom Kennard’s experience. He was 60 years old at the time.

He had just left the ICU unit in a hospital when he suddenly lost consciousness. He later described himself as ‘floating upwards to the top of the room… looked down and … could see his body on the bed.’ Then he claims the hospital ward disappeared and he entered a pink room, where his dead father was standing. Later he returned to the hospital ward ceiling and looked down at the nurse and doctor. According to Tom, the nurse was putting a lollipop-shaped instrument into Tom’s mouth. He could also see a woman beyond the cubicle curtains, who kept twitching them. Then Tom ‘was floating backwards and went back into my body on the bed.’ Strangely, his right hand which had been frozen since birth into a claw-like position opened and flexed. This should not have been physiologically possible, as the tendons had permanently contracted. The nurse verified that everything Tom ‘saw’ while unconscious was accurate, including the names of the consultant and physiotherapist.

I then focused on using three questions in the Baloney Detection Kit to disprove this phenomenon. The first was ‘Is the claimant playing by the rules of Science?’ I realised that he was not, as there was no scientific evidence that this experience was real, only Tom’s word. He may also have known the names of the doctor and physiotherapist as they may have treated him just before he left the ICU. The second question I focused on was ‘How reliable is the source of the claim?’ I could only find one article on this particular near death experience and from this it is unclear as to whether Tom was religious. Tom may have had a dream about meeting his dead father, but if he was religious, he may have believed this was a miracle of God. He may have woken up, talked to other people and then related what other people had told him. The final question I answered was ‘Have the claims been verified by someone else?’ These claims have not been verified by anybody else, as Tom had this experience alone, therefore it is very difficult for someone to verify his claim. However, if this was true, then all other people who have come close to death in similar situations should have had near death experiences, but most people do not.

To conclude, I am almost certain the Tom was not transported to an alternate dimension and his claim is just baloney. It is unclear from the article whether he had spoken to others before he recounted his experience to the nurse. Finally, this near death experience does not account for the mysterious healing of his hand.


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