After reading Carter's masterful Science and Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics
, I eagerly awaited the second book in his three-book series. Science and the Near-Death Experience builds a powerful and compelling case that the mind is not dependent on the brain and can exist independently of the brain.
To build this case, Carter postpones discussion of near-death experiences (NDEs) and survival of death until after he has spent the first 100 pages discussing the fundamental question underlying these issues: Does consciousness exist independently of the brain? After an eye-opening, extremely lucid tour of neuroscience, quantum physics, memory storage, and theories of life (what animates and organizes living organisms), he concludes that empirical evidence and the known laws of science fully permit the filter theory. This says that the brain doesn't produce consciousness, but rather acts as a filter that allows through, as Aldous Huxley put it, only "a measly trickle" of consciousness.
He then moves on to Part II: The Near-Death Experience. In my view, the strongest part of the book consists of several chapters exploring and refuting the proposed psychological, physiological, and pharmacological explanations of NDEs. These chapters were a real tour de force. He examined each of a dozen proposed explanations in detail, finding in each case that the phenomenon that supposedly explains NDEs (e.g., dissociated states, oxygen starvation, ketamine) is simply not a good match for the actual characteristics of NDEs. By the time he is done, all of the proposed alternative explanations look so weak and flimsy that they appear to really rest on the underlying confidence that a materialist explanation simply must be true.
Then come chapters on NDEs that contain veridical perceptions from an out-of-body perspective and NDEs in which those born blind experience sight. These appear to be direct refutations of the mind's dependence on the brain (drawing on Karl Popper's idea that science advances by refutations). In the end, the common equation of science with materialism comes out looking like an ideology, like its own kind of dogmatic faith.
This deserves to become a landmark book in the survival debate. Carter has a real gift for presenting complex, technical issues in simple, layman's terms. And he has an even more impressive gift of total fearlessness in the face of prevailing dogma. He never flinches, yet he meets this dogma, which depends so heavily on ridicule, without ridicule of his own. His arguments have the feel of a Zen swordsman, dispassionate but deadly accurate.
I am simply glad that Carter is out there writing. His book shows that those who believe in survival do not have to apologize, be timid, or take refuge in the mystery of "faith." On strictly scientific grounds, they are in the stronger position. With more books like this one, our society may start slowly waking up to this fact, with all its immense implications.