Are Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences Mystical or States of the Brain?
Some of the most impactful studies on out-of-body and near-death experiences were done by the U.S. Air Force when it purposefully induced the conditions on fighter pilots.
Steven Kotler is an award-winning journalist, a New York Times bestselling author, and executive director of Flow Research Collective. His books include the non-fiction works The Rise of Superman, Abundance, A Small Furry Prayer, West of Jesus, and the novel The Angle Quickest for Flight. His works have been translated into over 30 languages. His articles have appeared in over 60 publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, Wired, GQ, Popular Science, and Discover.
His latest book, co-authored with tech CEO Peter Diamandis, is Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.
Steven Kotler: Some of the most interesting studies into near death and out of body experiences were run by the Air Force, right. As airplanes got faster and faster and faster over the past 20 years, right, pilots kept flying themselves into GILOC, gravity induced loss of consciousness, right. And they kept crashing. So a guy named James Winnery was a guy kind of charged with solving this problem. And what he did down in Texas he spun like 1,000 pilots in a giant centrifuge into GILOC, right. And as he was doing it he noticed something interesting. GILOC means you pass out and if you’ve experienced it what actually happens is your vision forms into a tunnel. It looks like – if you’re watching it it looks like an old television set turning off where it goes down into one point and then disappears, right. So it looks experientially a lot like you’re walking down a long dark tunnel which is kind of one of the classic near death experience phenomena. What he discovered along the way is that as he started spinning people towards GILOC kind of the longer he spun them people started reporting out of body experiences.
And after they were out of their body if he kept spinning them it would turn into a near death experience, right. So he’s the person – the U.S. Air Force is the person – the U.S. Air Force discovered that out of body experiences and near death experiences are actually on the same continuum. They’re part of the same chain of effect. Now a lot of it has to do with the right temporal lobe. There’s other things going on as well. And there are, of course, certain mysteries, right. There are unsolved things and near death experiences we’ve got lots and lots and lots of research that shows people report things when they were supposedly dead that they should not have known about at all. So there are people who died on operating tables, right in research studies came back, were brought back. They had near death experiences and while they were dead the nurse would take their glasses off and put them in a drawer. And later when everybody was running around looking around for their glasses the person who was on the operating table at the time, the patient, was dead at the time said oh yeah, they’re in the bottom drawer over there. This is Pim van Lommel study that was actually done in the Netherlands. This is where that actually happened but there’s lots and lots of experiences like that. So somewhere along the line information is getting through, right. We don’t know that yet. That’s still the mystery but a lot of the other stuff we understand the biology behind it now.
Some of the most impactful studies on out-of-body and near-death experiences were done by the U.S. Air Force when it purposefully induced the conditions on fighter pilots. The results of the experiments have shed light on how the brain functions during what have always been mysterious states of consciousness: observing yourself from the outside, seeing tunnel vision, having extrasensory perception, and so on. Yet some mysteries remain, explains Steven Kotler.
Physicists create quantum entanglement, making two distant objects behave as one.
What do we want to do with convicted criminals? Penology has several philosophies waiting to answer that question.
- What is the purpose of punishing a convicted criminal supposed to be? It depends on which philosophy you prescribe to.
- None of these ideas are without their detractors, or qualifying evidence.
- As the United States grapples with criminal justice reform, the arguments each philosophy has behind it will have to be considered.
Retributive justice<p> Perhaps the most straightforward idea about <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/punishment/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">punishment</a> there is; if someone does something very wrong, they cause themselves to be worthy of <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-retributive/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">punish</a><a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-retributive/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ment</a>. This punishment is good by itself, even if there are no side effects. Most theorists in favor of this system also posit that the punishment should be proportional to the crime and that it should only affect those duly convicted. </p><p>Most people have a strong intuition about this. A famous thought experiment with many variations asks people to imagine that murderers enjoy long tropical island getaways where they can't hurt anyone after conviction but appear to be suffering in jail for TV cameras every now and again, to deter other potential murderers. Even if the deterrent works, you might feel that something is off here. Something that can only be corrected by inflicting some kind of punishment on the murderer. </p><p>University of Chicago Professor Albert W. Alschuler argues that retributive justice can have positive consequences in addition to any inherent justice it <a href="https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1893&context=journal_articles" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">offers</a>. </p><p>He puts forward the idea of a neighborhood where no one parks correctly, with drivers frequently boxing in others and parking too close to stop signs and fire hydrants. The laws against this are unenforced in that neighborhood. Because there is no consequence for inconsiderate parking, there is no reason to be considerate yourself; your neighbors will continue to act like this in any case. It ends up being the case that everyone acts this way to avoid being a sucker. He points out that this situation could be resolved by punishing the lawbreakers, as it would drive people back to a state of fair play. He summarizes the concept by saying, "Withholding punishment is inappropriate when doing so would encourage people to conclude, 'Everyone else is looking out for themselves, and I'll be a fool unless I become a little bit like them.'"<br> <br> </p><p>Arguments against retributive justice often focus on the difficulties of justifying harsh treatments (rather than just punitive damages or restitution) against the convicted in a way that aligns with broader principals of justice. Many theories that attempt to do so have been deemed unsatisfactory by other <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/justice-retributive/#QuesJust" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">philosophers</a>. Others point out that retributive systems only look backward on what has been committed and not forwards, to what situation we'd like to be in after matters are settled. </p>
Deterrence<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/G21L5bvxARM" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Deterrence theory is the idea that punishments for crime should exist primarily to discourage others from committing a similar crime or to assure the punished individual won't do it again. For example, making the potential costs of committing a crime too high to justify doing it in the first place. </p><p><a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bentham/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jeremy Bentham,</a> the <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/most-eccentric-philosophers-history" target="_self">eccentric</a> founder of Utilitarianism, took a consequentialist approach to punishment. Seeing punishments as "always evil," he nevertheless hoped that the use of them could deter crime by others, increasing the total happiness of society overall and reducing the number of criminals in the future. He combined this support for deterrence with elements from other <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bentham/#PenLawPun" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theories</a>. </p><p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesare_Beccaria" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">C</a><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesare_Beccaria" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">easre Baccaria</a>, a jurist in Milan during the Enlightenment, argued that crimes strained the social contract and that punishments should be used to assure that people continued to stick to it. Rather than a retributive scheme, this called for a deterrence system to ensure that neither those punished nor those aware of the punishments would desire to commit such crimes in the future. </p><p>Of course, there are objections to this idea as well. The most common revolves around the theory's assumption that most people who break the law weigh costs and benefits before doing so. A point many would contest. The previously mentioned thought experiment (with the murderer on the island) also points to another objection to pure deterrence theories. Deterrence can be produced without actually punishing the convicted, a situation that strikes many as unsatisfactory. </p>
Rehabilitation<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/q_hAE95LriQ" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Rehabilitative theories of punishment are diverse in their foundations. In general, they look at what causes a person to turn to crime and try to remedy the situation.<strong></strong></p><p><strong> </strong>Many proponents of rehabilitative theories argue that the decision to engage in criminal behavior is not as clear cut as other theories suggest. Factors of economic opportunity, addiction, mental illness, social issues, and circumstance can make it more or less likely that a person will be driven to crime. With that in mind, they suggest that the penal system should focus on resolving or mitigating those issues. </p><p>Others are more utilitarian in perspective. They argue that a person who went into jail with a criminal tendency is likely to come out the same way unless some action is taken. What that looks like, be it job training, education, counseling, or something else, depends on the situation. Making it less likely someone will return to crime by providing these services, they argue, benefits society as a whole. </p><p>This comparatively holistic and often humane approach doesn't mean there isn't a potential dark side to rehabilitation. The theory is very dependent on our understandings of psychology, sociology, and criminology being accurate. Mistakes can have horrible results. The modern practice of solitary confinement, a practice now deemed <a href="https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=25633&LangID=E" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">torture</a> by the United Nations when used for more than two weeks, goes back to recommendations by the Quakers that leaving criminals alone and slightly sensory deprived would allow for <a href="http://learning.law.harvard.edu/frontiertorts/topics/solitary-confinement/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repentance</a> and reformation. They were extremely <a href="https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/10/solitary" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrong</a>. </p><p>Even when it works, there are concerns about its implications. In his pro-retribution <a href="https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1893&context=journal_articles" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">essay</a> on criminal justice, Professor Alschuler cites Francis A. Allen's argument that a dedication to rehabilitation can make it challenging to limit the scope of state involvement, as "one immediate consequence of a rehabilitative regime is a drastic enlargement of state concerns. The state's interests now embrace not only the offender's conduct, but ... his motives, his history, his social environment." </p><p>The concerns of libertarians and others interested in a limited state are easy to comprehend. </p>
Enough of this abstract philosophy, what does the data say?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/buCU6eP9iVA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Empirical data does exist in a wide variety of areas related to the criminal justice system. Here, we can use it to see if the above conceptions of justice can do what they set out to do. </p><p>Retributive justice benefits from only seeking to deal punishment out to those convicted of crimes, which it often manages to do. It isn't easy to empirically measure such a thing, but its various side effects can be measured.</p><p>Studies show that those close to a convicted individual can share the effects of punishment despite them not having committed a crime <a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/6148/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">themselves</a>. Similarly, a criminal record's impact can follow people long after they have "paid their debt to society," suggesting that it is more difficult to assure "proportionality" in sentencing than might be <a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/134712/wounds-incarceration-never-heal" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">supposed</a>. In the United States, unequal sentencing is a known and well-documented <a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/un-report-on-racial-disparities/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">problem</a>, suggesting more difficulties in reaching the ideals of retributive justice in reality. </p><p>Deterrence theory has a fair amount of empirical evidence against it. Studies suggest that many crimes are committed under the rationality reducing influence of <a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Deterrence-in-Criminal-Justice.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alcohol</a>, that few people can tell you what the punishments for a given crime <a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Deterrence-in-Criminal-Justice.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are</a>, and that many people don't consider the possibility of being caught when planning a crime. </p><p>Longer sentences are associated with slightly higher recidivism <a href="https://www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/gendreau.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">rates</a>, the opposite of what a proponent of deterrence theory would expect from people with first-hand knowledge of the prison system. Likewise, programs like "scared straight" don't seem to do much. </p><p>However, Professor Daniel Nagin has argued for the existence of a general deterrent <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20161005063450/http://faculty.washington.edu/matsueda/courses/587/readings/Nagin%201998.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">effect</a> while also suggesting it is difficult to use this to make any new policy. Dr. Valerie Wright suggests that a deterrent effect does <a href="https://www.sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Deterrence-in-Criminal-Justice.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exist</a>, but adds that it is tied to how certain a person is that they will be caught and given a specific punishment rather than how terrible their punishment might be. </p><p>Rehabilitation has shown promise in achieving its goals. Efforts at providing <a href="https://static.prisonpolicy.org/scans/ny_ged.shtml" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">education</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/research/action/aftercare" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">addiction treatment</a> in the American prison system lead to reductions in recidivism. The Norwegian prison system, based on rehabilitation and renowned for its <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/feb/25/norwegian-prison-inmates-treated-like-people" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">humanity</a>, boasts one of the lowest recidivism rates in the <a href="https://www.salve.edu/sites/default/files/filesfield/documents/Incarceration_and_Recidivism.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">world</a>.<br> </p><p>Despite this, American efforts have yet to match the Norwegian system's effectiveness levels, and some studies also suggest that modern treatment programs have little effect on individuals with <a href="https://www.gwern.net/docs/algernon/2006-harris.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">psychopathy</a>, who are disproportionately incarcerated and have a high rate of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/can-you-call-a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recidivism</a> to begin with. <br></p><p>What this data means is going to be influenced by which of the above arguments appeal to you. Do the side effects of retributive policies or the problems we have in assuring equal punishments for similar crimes outweigh the moral intuition towards punishing criminals? Do failures in rehabilitative practices make the concept worthless? Can deterrence be of use even if we know a disproportionate number of criminals aren't acting along the lines of its assumptions? </p><p>The raw numbers can't answer these questions by themselves. Philosophy has to step in and provide the tools for value judgments, answer questions of justice, and help determine where the line between theory and practice has to be drawn. </p><p>We'll probably never be rid of the need to do something with people who harm or violate the rights of others. What we do with them is another question. No definitive answer exists for what models of justice and punishment are best. Still, by considering the philosophy and raw data around each model, we might find something that works for our society. While many people would support a system that uses elements of all three of these considered philosophies, alongside others, how much of each to use remains the subject of continual debate. </p>
Researchers have just discovered the remains of a hybrid human.
90,000 years ago, a young girl lived in a cave in the Altai mountains in southern Siberia. Her life was short; she died in her early teens, but she stands at a unique point in human evolution. She is the first known hybrid of two different kinds of ancient humans: the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.
Andrew Wakefield turned away from science and to the tabloids to spread his fabricated data.
- Investigative journalist Brian Deer has published a new book on anti-vaxx ringleader, Andrew Wakefield.
- Discredited in the science community, Wakefield turned to the media to share his anti-vaxx propaganda.
- The disbarred doctor fabricated results and filed for his own vaccine patents, Deer reports.
Brian Deer on the media's role in vaccine scares<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8fb353300760fa3da4cff23f5875bc51"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/P8uBzQC3Xz8?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Gershon realized the slides were likely contaminated in the laboratory. He wasn't the only one. Science has long suffered from the "<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/12/13/the-truth-wears-off" target="_blank">replication crisis</a>"—many studies come to a conclusion that cannot be replicated upon further research. Not only did future research fail to confirm Wakefield's research, the doctor balked when his research institution, Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine, offered a large sum of money to conduct a follow-up study. If Wakefield's work was sturdy, it would have held up.</p><p>Wakefield never even tried. Instead, he turned to an increasingly popular trick when your data fails: let the media do your work for you. Science is hard and expensive. Clickbait, cheap and addictive. </p><p>The actual data is mind-boggling. The 12 children in the original study were handpicked, which is antithetical to clinical research. Wakefield falsified the results from pediatricians. He used microscopic-level stains; a more reliable molecular method found nothing. The parents of study subjects, some with their own agendas (such as litigation), kept changing the timeline of their child's conditions—some children showed symptoms of autism <em>before</em> the MMR vaccine was given while others claimed symptoms started hours after injection when previous reports state that it was months. While Wakefield was raging against the vaccine, he filed for two patents on single measles shots. </p><p>After purchasing a six-bedroom house on five acres of prime Austin real estate—Wakefield moved to America to take advantage of growing anti-vaxx fervor—he realized the equation for success: "<em>Autism + vaccines = money</em>."</p><p>Every chapter drops your jaw. Consider this example to better understand the myth of vaccine-created autism. On July 20, 2005, Wakefield, with support from anti-vaxx congressman Dan Burton, spoke at the National Mall. The event was a rally against the vaccine ingredient, thimerosal, which itself is a red herring: thimerosal was removed from almost all vaccines in 1999, yet autism cases continued to rise. </p>
Dr Andrew Wakefield (C) walks with his wife Carmel after speaking to reporters at the General Medical Council (GMC) on January 28, 2010 in London, England.
Credit: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images<p>Wakefield read a statement from a UK newspaper apologizing after the former doctor brought a defamation suit. By this point, Deer had published numerous groundbreaking stories in the Sunday Times (circulation: 1.2 million). A tiny local newspaper, the Cambridge Evening News (circulation: 5,000), had reprinted two sentences from Deer's coverage. Instead of bringing Deer to court (which he would do later, unsuccessfully), Wakefield sued the fragile paper in eastern England, which did not have the resources to defend itself.</p><p>No one on the Mall that day understood the specifics. They weren't told the backstory. All they heard was that Wakefield was vindicated, for which they cheered. </p><p>Every schtick has a shelf life. Deer details the increasingly absurd stakes of Wakefield's career: measles causes Crohn's disease; the MMR vaccine causes autism; all vaccines are suspect. Over the course of two decades, the disbarred doctor chased money wherever it led, taking a willing media along with him. His efforts culminated in the 2016 pseudoscience documentary, "Vaxxed."</p><p>Actions have consequences. Andrew Wakefield saw opportunity in vaccine-resistant parents. At first, he filed for his own single-jab measles vaccine—at the time, the demon was supposedly the triple shot MMR—but he wasn't fully aware of what lurked inside of this Pandora's box. Wakefield was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to fabricate the study, as Deer's reporting shows. A long game hadn't yet been imagined. </p><p>Twenty-two years later, during the worst pandemic in a century, 35 percent of Americans claim they will not take an FDA-approved, free COVID-19 vaccine, according to a <a href="https://news.gallup.com/poll/317018/one-three-americans-not-covid-vaccine.aspx" target="_blank">Gallup poll</a>. The science community called Wakefield's research out for what it was, yet by manipulating the media—more forcefully, social media—the "doctor with no patients" has made a large percentage of people skeptical of one of the best therapeutic interventions ever devised. The cost, if and when a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, will be high. </p><p>Never say one man cannot change the world. And never think that change is always for the better.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>