An article circulating online claims that German scientists have discovered scientific proof of life after death. Is this article real or a hoax?
The Story is Fake
This fictional article was written by World News Daily Report, a website which is known to post fake news in the name of satire. As with many of these recent sites that have adopted a humorless breed of satire, a story will sometimes begin a viral spread through social media as people mistake it for reliable and genuine news. Perhaps manipulating preconceived notions and strong beliefs also plays a role in the spreading of viral memes. It seems that people want to believe these stories are true.
Without a doubt, this story is false, though. One need only look as far as the disclaimer page posted at the top of the World News Daily Report website. Here is what is says:
“World News Daily Report is a news and political satire web publication, which may or may not use real names, often in semi-real or mostly fictitious ways. All news articles contained within worldnewsdailyreport.com are fiction, and presumably fake news. Any resemblance to the truth is purely coincidental, except for all references to politicians and/or celebrities, in which case they are based on real people, but still based almost entirely in fiction.”
The fabricated piece relates the story of a team of German scientists conducting clinical experiments on near death experience (NDE) at a university in Berlin. It goes on to claim that the four year study included 944 volunteers who were brought to a state of clinical death for up to 20 minutes and then revived using a combination of drugs and state-of-the-art medical equipment. These volunteers then supposedly described vague NDEs during their period of clinical death, which included common NDE components such as out-of-body experience, feelings of being at peace, and witnessing the presence of a bright light.
If the disclaimer is not enough to convince people, here is a list of problems with the articles account:
- Nonexistent doctor – A Google search on the doctor heading the research, Dr. Berthold Ackermann, reveals no such person. The only results returned are those from worldnewsdailyreport and people who have shared the original article.
- Volunteers – Who in their right mind would volunteer for an experiment that brought about clinical death? Especially for a period of up to 20 minutes. Would you volunteer for such a study?
- Ethics – There is no way that an institutional review board (IRB) at any university would license an experiment that achieved a state of clinical death (even if temporary) in human volunteers. Such an experiment would be a major unethical liability.
- Unpredictable/immeasurable variables – Real scientific studies operate on the manipulation of predictable and measurable variables. Significant statistical changes in one variable that occur due to manipulation of another variable constitute evidence towards or against a hypothesis. In this instance, neither death or near death experience is a predictable or measurable variable that could be accurately manipulated in a way that gleaned statistical data to prove belief in the afterlife.
Near Death Experience
Despite the fictional nature of this article, near death experience is a phenomenon reported by many people worldwide. It seems to transpire in people of every culture, religion, and belief system with a handful of common elements, yet each account seems be somewhat filtered through the perceptual framework of the individual’s particular culture or religion. Due to the subjective and unpredictable nature of these experiences, it is very difficult to establish any scientific evidence. However, several scientists and doctors have compiled NDE reports and written books on the subject. Raymond Moody and Jeffrey Long are two such doctors.
For reliable information on NDEs the following websites can be helpful:
- Near Death Experience Research Foundation – A site run by Dr. Jeffrey Long
- International Association for Near Death Studies
To be fair, skeptics have dismissed NDEs as hallucinations or false memories brought on by states associated with a dying brain. They also argue that the brain may somehow still be temporarily active when a person is first considered to be clinically dead. In other words, perhaps the person was not really dead. The Skeptics Dictionary maintains a page devoted to NDEs which can be found here.
The recent article claiming that German scientists have proven the existence of life after death is fake. A disclaimer on the article’s website of origin admits that they only publish fictional news stories that are meant to be taken as satire. Additionally, there are a number of problems with the article’s portrayal of science. Although real near death experiences have been reported from all over the world, there is a lack of scientific evidence in relation to the phenomenon, and skeptics have discharged such accounts as false and/or hallucinatory.
- Debunked: German Scientists Prove Life After Death (badsatiretoday.com: Sept. 1, 2014)