There’s a bloke called Jeffrey Long who claims to have scientific evidence that near-death experiences prove some form of afterlife.
So what, you ask? Whatever you think about the soul, you probably assume that he’s just another crackpot.
In fact, Jeff is a medical doctor specializing in oncology who has compiled many accounts of near-death experiences. His research is dismissed by his colleagues and his career has no doubt been limited by his obsession.
Jeff reckons he’s the victim of bias because medical journals refuse to publish his research even though it meets their criteria in terms of methods and statistical significance.
He’s written a book on the subject and is big in mystical, new age circles but sources very close to him suggest that there’s more here than meet the eye.
Word is, Jeff is as skeptical as they come.
Not only is he skeptical of the whole proof-of-afterlife business – he’s also skeptical about present scientific methods and standards used in medical research.
He’s taking the piss to make a point.
So far, the medical establishment has not responded in any meaningful way.
If you think Jeff’s far out, I’ve got another one for you. Eugene M. McCarthy has a Ph. D in genetics from the University of Georgia. He published a book on how evolution in birds can be driven by hybridization. In another paper (that failed peer review – that bias again!) he posits a form of non-Darwinian, hybridization-driven evolution for the whole of the tree of life.
Where do humans fit in, then?
Well, on his extensive website he says that humans emerged as a result of hybridization following a female chimpanzee mating with a male pig.
As you can see from that link, this was not some idle musing. He’s put an enormous amount of time and effort into developing this theory.
Rational Wiki, not an unbiased site, says:
This is the crux of the problem with this hypothesis. McCarthy has made an extraordinary hypothesis, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and McCarthy admits that there is no way to verify his hypothesis with genetic evidence.
You mean . . . it can’t be disproven?
I don’t know whether Eugene is a troll or not but if he is, I doff my cap. Disprove this, eggheads!
Another example of deliberately obtuse scientific theorizing is the Flat Earth Theory. There are other, more serious cranks who achieve the same end inadvertently, like that Nobel Prize winner who reckons there’s no such thing as HIV.
Whatever their motives, the effect of wacky outliers in any field is the same – something like throwing a cat among pigeons. Respected scientists who bother to evaluate their ideas seriously find themselves scrambling to prove that they are wrong.
The Flat Earth is the most easily debunked by showing evidence that supports the Spherical Earth Theory. Some of the others are trickier. If humans have no pig ancestry, how can you definitively show that? Yes, the idea lacks a testable hypothesis. Isn’t that a valid criticism of the scientific method as currently applied? Is there perhaps something wrong with the whole field of biology if scientists can’t easily demonstrate with hard evidence that humans did not evolve from a monkey fucking a pig?
If we’re so certain that’s wrong, what’s the hurdle? Should we perhaps be a little less certain about everything that is supposedly established?
Jeff of the Near Death Experiences is the best because he does use testable hypotheses and proper research methodology in his studies. Everything about his work screams to the wise, ‘Our supposedly empirical system of establishing truth is not as good as we think it is.’
Whether they are troll or loonies, we should respect those who generate and exhaustively defend crank theories. We should not laugh them out of peer-reviewed journals without justifiable cause nor censor them from social media.
Sometimes they win by making monkeys of us. In very rare cases, they turn out to be right.
Edit: I just found a perfect case in point. This video describes how research into clairvoyance was so hard to debunk that it ended up instigating reforms in psychological research standards. I’m not sure if that was the intention but that was what it achieved: