"The Afterlife Experiments"
If there were scientific evidence that human consciousness survives after death, how would you live your life differently?
That is just one of the provocative questions raised in Gary E. Schwartz's fascinating new book, The Afterlife Experiments. The book chronicles a series of laboratory experiments conducted with a group of well-known mediums - including John Edward - to see if their claims of contact with "the other side" could be scientifically measured and documented. The results of those experiments are intriguing, to say the least, and profound, if considered seriously. Schwartz is convinced enough of the findings to subtitle his book, "Breakthrough scientific evidence of life after death."
Schwartz is no New Age pitch man or a guy who's thrown himself into the subject because of a near-death experience. Rather, he is a professor of psychology, medicine, neurology, psychiatry and surgery at the University of Arizona and director of its Human Energy Systems Laboratory; his credentials include a doctorate from Harvard and a professorship at Yale - an impressive background he carefully lays out at the beginning of the book. The point is to show his intention of approaching the subject with objectivity and scientific scrutiny. His intent at the outset was not to prove or disprove the existence of life after death, but to determine whether the successes that many mediums claim could stand up to the scientific method.
Working with his research partner, Dr. Linda G. Russek, Dr. Schwartz devised experiments that, as best they could, would eliminate the possibility of cheating or fraud of any kind. They were able to enlist the cooperation of such well-known mediums as John Edward, Suzanne Northrup and George Anderson, who to their credit placed no conditions on the experiments; they would participate exactly as directed by the scientists.
The early experiments were conducted much like John Edward's "private sittings," if you've seen his popular TV show "Crossing Over with John Edward." In this situation, the medium sits facing a "sitter," whom he or she has never met, and proceeds to apparently receive information from a deceased friend or relative of the sitter. The medium is often able to relay initials, names, dates and specific incidents relevant to the sitter and the deceased. In Schwartz's tests, each medium had a session with the same sitter, and the experiment was repeated with several sitters. The sitters were instructed to reply to any questions from the mediums with either a yes or no, with no elaboration. All "messages" from the deceased were carefully recorded - videotaped, in fact (some of the sessions were shown on a program for HBO) - and then later analyzed, point by point, for accuracy. Accuracy was scored on a hit-or-miss scale in the range of -3 to +3:
- -3: a complete miss
- -2: a probable miss
- -1: a possible miss
- +1: a possible hit
- +3: a definite hit
How well did the mediums do? The results showed that the mediums ranged from 77 to 95 percent accuracy! Their average for +3 hits was 83 percent!
But is this proof of contact with consciousness that exists after death? Or are the mediums just good guessers?
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