X-Message-Number: 16272
Date: Sun, 13 May 2001 02:39:47 EDT
Subject:   (final) Natural Selection for the Near-Death Experience

Date:   05/12/2001 5:28:33 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From:   Biologist501
To: Biologist501


Catching pieces of a TV documentary on the Discovery Channel titled "Between 
Life & Death" over the last few minutes (but now watching the remainder more 
closely), several disparate ideas seem to have congealed to a degree of 
coherence for me.

Hence my new theory to follow starting in the next paragraph. By the way, I 
hold no illusions that the following thoughts represent novel ideas and might 
even be recorded in print stretching back prior to Darwin (Charles).  They 
may only be novel to me just now.  In fact, I have been wondering if I will 
be able to finish a draft of this post (mostly writing during the 
commercials) before I have to blow it all out as decidedly "old news."  So 
far, so good.  I apologize in advance for the verbosity--As my grandmother 
use to say/write, "If I had more time, I would have written you a shorter 

Here's the theory:

Man's subjective experience to the biochemical mechanisms of the dying brain 
OR by the temporarily "impaired" brain via hallucinogenic and/or anesthetic 
drugs (such as the NMDA-blocker ketamine, apparently known in the druggie 
world as "Special K") which apparently account for the particulars of 
reported near death experiences (i.e., traveling the tunnel, the light, 
floating out of the body, meeting dead relatives, etc.) may have evolved and 
been conserved via natural selection.

The accounts of these "subjectively supernatural" but very "real" experiences 
have probably been convincingly and authoritatively passed along to relatives 
and friends after the occasional ("permanent" or temporary) recovery from 
terminal bodily peril (and also from "sobering up") by the least, but also by 
the most, credible of a prehistoric group's tribesmen/women. Such accountings 
provide part of the basis for a society's/species' belief in a life after 
death (e.g., religion). Such beliefs are at least indirectly beneficial to 
the survival of the species (the argument or axiom omitted here), thus 
natural selection for the near death experience. Can't resist--While there 
are others, one benefit would be an increased propensity for self-sacrifice 
by some individuals for the good of the group. The knowledge that a new (and 
improved) life immediately awaits and that glorious credit may even be 
awarded for one's selfless effort is further inspiration for the sacrifice.  
("Suicidal" W.W.II Japanese pilots come to mind.)

Also by the way, I sure do not know whether there is a "traditional" life 
after death in the cards. Maybe that is my religion (i.e., just not knowing) 
and there is probably a name for it but I do not know that either.  However, 
I would suggest that such an existence might not be any more improbable than 
our own existence here and now.

Nuff of that.

I had hoped to be able to pass on a time that the program would be re-showing 
again for today or tomorrow.  That is how the Discovery Channel often does 
its programming.  I checked their website (www.discovery.com) for the first 
time just now.  Unfortunately this is the last showing (last of 3) for a 
while.  I would however suggest that others consider familiarizing themselves 
with their website for scheduling.  I plan to.  The shows' titles are 
hyperlinked to give a review and also a listing of times of broadcast.  
Pretty decent site.  Apparently you can even check a box for a specific time 
of a scheduled showing and the site will send an email reminder to you.  
Damn, that's nice.


For Internet newbies, after checking out the above URL, you can navigate to 
the homepage or go directly to it by typing the following into your browser's 
address line:  www.discover.com.

Another BTW, like George Smith, I too have appreciated recent writings on 
CPR/CPS (as well as decade old Cryonet archives) by the more contemporary 


David C. Johnson, Raleigh, NC

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