The recent paper “The Surge of Neurophysiological Coherence and Connectivity in the Dying Brain” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argued that Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are a result of heightened states of consciousness just before death.
The research doesn’t explain all the data and assumes naturalism in its hypothesis.
The authors reasoned “that if NDE stems from brain activity, neural correlates of consciousness should be identifiable in humans or animals after cessation of cerebral blood flow” (p. 1). This begs the questions in favor of naturalistic mechanisms involved in NDEs. What this hypothesis does demonstrate is the physical correlation between the experiences and the physical mechanisms involved.
However, this research does not explain evidential NDEs. Evidential NDEs can empirically verify descriptive accounts in NDEs. Such circumstances cannot be explained by brain function alone since evidential NDEs describe events that occurred beyond the locality of the brain and could not have been known by a brain-centered consciousness.
The author’s conclude that “NDE represents a biological paradox… and has been advocated as evidence for life after death and for a noncorporeal basis of human consciousness, based on the unsupported belief that the brain cannot possible be the sources of highly vivid and lucid conscious experiences during clinical death” (p. 5). Though this paper provides excellent evidence for explaining purely subjective and non-verifiable NDEs it does not explain evidential and verifiable accounts. Evidential NDEs happen when the person can later accurately verify events that took place, such as events inside the emergency room, that would require a consciousness not centered purely on brain activity. The authors present a straw-man argument when they suggest that non-corporeal consciousness is only proffered based on the belief that the brain cannot explain such experiences. That’s not what’s being argued at all. It’s the evidential and empirically verifiable NDEs that serve as positive evidence for noncorporeal consciousness.
Finally, it needs to be understood that NDEs don’t point to any specific worldview but it does serve as evidence against a purely naturalistic worldview—the worldview that is assumed in this study’s hypothesis, and reiterated in its conclusion. Thus, this paper only offers a partial explanation for NDEs.