Many cases have been reported in which dying persons viewed individuals, events, or circumstances in another place with amazing accuracy when they were comatose. In other words they reported independently corroborative data that would not normally have been in the range of their sense experience even if they were fully conscious at the time, in spite of the fact that they were near death or already pronounced dead. Some of these reports were investigated using rather ingenious controls and other quantitative data. This research found that at least some of these persons reported facts that they could not have known by natural means.
Another type of corroboration is from cases in which an individual, after a near-death experience, reports having just seen a loved one whom he claims was also deceased. In the more evidential cases, the loved one was not previously known to have been dead either by the one who was near death or in some cases by anyone immediately involved. As a result, the experiencer was sometimes so convicted that his entire attitude toward death was altered to a sense of peace, well-being, and even a desire to be with the loved one. Later it was discovered that the other individual had already died, sometimes at that very hour.
Some near-death experiences have been reported during the absence of brain waves. Eminent cardiologist Schoonmaker announced the results of his 18-year study of 1,400 near-death experiences, including those of about 55 persons whose experiences took place while flat EEG readings were recorded. [Gary R. Habermas: Some of this information was received from a personal interview with Fred Schoonmaker, June 1, 1982.]
The most vivid experiences these people had, many of which were also corroborative, occurred when their brains registered no known activity, sometimes for periods of 30 minutes to three hours. This is strong evidence that consciousness may exist after death. It is of course conceivable that the EEG may not in fact measure all brain activity (though at the present time the absence of brain wave function in the EEG is both the best and the most widely accepted definition of brain death).
Independently corroborative experiences and testing also compliment each other. While there was no brain or heart activity, individuals have reported near-death experiences that were independently verified by others, even over a distance. A woman with a flat EEG reading and no vital signs had been declared dead. She spontaneously revived about three and one-half hours later. She reported floating above her body during the resuscitation attempts. She described precisely the procedures used to try to rescue her, how many persons came into the room, what was said (she even related a joke that was told to relieve the tension), and most interestingly, she reported the designs on the doctors’ ties. All of this information was carefully checked with the medical records and with the doctors who were present, and it was discovered that her total description was correct, even though her EEG reading was flat during this time. [This specific case is reported by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. For example see her essay “The Experience of Death,” in The Vestibule, ed. Jess Weiss (New York: Pocket Books, 1972), pp. 57-64; cf. “Life after Death?” Newsweek, July 12, 1976, p. 41.]
This combination of flat EEG readings and empirically corroborative scientific data presents strong evidence for at least a minimalistic view of life after death, which disproves a major pillar of naturalistic thought. In fact even the many other cases of clinical (or reversible) death that are accompanied by corroboration, sometimes of a rather spectacular variety, are also good evidence since these verified observations themselves are unexplained in known natural terms and because they evidence consciousness beyond the initial states of death. Therefore while irreversible death has obviously not occurred in these instances, the crucial point is that these occurrences are not explained by any known bodily function, since clinical death (and sometimes brain inactivity) has already occurred. This consciousness presents evidence strong enough to indicate a probable case for the initial stages of life after death.
This minimalistic life, however, is not a detailed heavenly existence; irreversible death is not required in order to establish the point being made here. Rather, if the brain is not functioning (or is otherwise unable to account for the corroborated phenomena in question) and the person is still verifiably conscious during that time, then such is minimalistic life at that moment. Thus if veridical consciousness is both separate from and extends beyond brain activity, there is no reason to think that, just because the latter has not irreversibly ceased, one can somehow magically account for this life by naturalistic means. Since such intellectual faculties therefore exist independent of brain activity (and even when it has momentarily ceased), there is no viable reason to assume that the permanent cessation of brain activity would affect personal consciousness. This data actually provides strong evidence for consciousness beyond death precisely because such has both survived temporary brain cessation and cannot be explained by normal bodily activity anyway.
In an article in The Humanist, Beloff argued that the evidence is strong enough that even humanists should admit survival after death and try to interpret it in naturalistic terms. Perhaps this signals a new shift in attitude on this subject. Beloff stated that the evidence points to a “dualistic world where mind or spirit has an existence separate from the world of material things.” [Notice Beloff confuses mind with spirit, when the Bible treats the mind of the soul distinct from the spirit.] He admitted that this could “present a challenge to Humanism as profound in its own way as that which Darwinian Evolution did to Christianity a century ago.” Yet, he added, naturalists “cannot afford to close our minds . . . to the possibility of some kind of survival [mechanism to maintain life after the death]” [John Beloff, as cited in David Winter, Hereafter What Happens after Death (Wheaton, IL Harold Shaw Publishers, 1972), pp. 33-34.]
In an American Psychological Association convention a panel discussed the nature of near-death experiences. Only one of the panelists, UCLA psychologist Ronald Siegel, held that those could be explained totally by natural means. However, when challenged later by cardiologist Michael Sabom to explain his then unpublished corroborative accounts by naturalistic means, Siegel responded that he was unable to do so. The other panel members agreed that neardeath research points to or provides evidence for a spiritual realm and life after death. [Near-Death Experiences Defy Single Explanation,” Brain-Mind Bulletin, September 14,1981, pp. 1,3.]