Book Review: The Afterlife Revealed by Michael Tymn
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Carter vs Woerlee on Near-death Experiences

Anesthesiologist and sceptic Gerald Woerlee has had a go at Chris Carter's book on near-death experiences at Subversive Thinking, and Carter has made an extensive reply. It makes interesting reading.

Woerlee stoops from a great height to put poor Carter in his place. 'Imprecise and sloppy' statements; 'same tired old and discredited arguments'; 'disturbing points ... totally destroy the pretence of any scientific credibility'. Carter's discussion of quantum mechanics provokes in him a 'weary sigh'. Other knowledgeable physicists struggle to suppress 'impolite hysterical laughter' at such ideas. Etcetera and so on.

Why do sceptics talk like this? What makes them so superior?

On QM, Carter responds:

In my chapter I discuss the famous interpretation of quantum mechanics developed by mathematician John von Neumann and physicist Eugene Wigner. Von Neumann was one of the most important intellectual figures of the twentieth century, and his friend Eugene Wigner was awarded the Nobel prize for his work in physics. In my book I argue that this theory is by far the most rigorous and logical interpretation of the quantum facts. The von Neumann/Wigner interpretation makes quantum mechanics an inherently dualistic theory - that is, it requires the existence and action of a non-physical mind - and the several respected academic physicists that I quote in support of this interpretation do not seem to be "suppressing hysterical laughter."

Returning to the Pam Reynolds case, which he has persistently tried to debunk, Woerlee continues to insist that a patient showing no responses to 100 decibel clicks in her ears could nevertheless hear sufficiently in order to fabricate the content of a suppose out-of-body experience. Carter is surely right to call this 'desperate'. Woerlee's next observation is quite remarkable:

...the report of Pam Reynolds clearly tells us she could hear. She awoke to the sound of a "natural D". Pam was a musician, and many such persons have natural pitch. So by saying it was a "natural D", she meant a sound with a frequency of 293.6, or 587.3 Hertz. This fact together with the stimulus parameters reveals how she could hear the sounds of speech etc (I will write an article on this for the JNDS if they are interested).

If I understand this correctly - and someone please tell me he's not being this obtuse - Woerlee is using a paranormal element of Pam's paranormal out-of-body experience - a paranormal sensibility, in other words - to support his contention that no paranormal event occurred.

Another remark caught my eye:

Chris Carter ends the description of another seemingly remarkable case study with the words: "The skeptic must say that the dying person telepathically or clairvoyantly gains true information about a recently deceased friend or relative, ..." I find this a remarkable statement. A skeptic with even a basic knowledge of body structure and function also rejects belief in telepathy and clairvoyance. These are paranormal sensory abilities which the experiences of the blind, the deaf, and gambling casinos teach us simply do not exist.

I'll let Carter do the honours on that one. In my view his response is an excellent job.


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Hey keep reading the discussion, I am still refuting Woerlee on this issue.

Current discussion-

Older discussion-

Woerlee is one of the easiest skeptics one will ever deal with. He is weaker then even Harley and that takes talent.

Robert, I'm a musician, and I too was trying to figure out the part about hearing a "natural D". (I saw this debate on Amazon, I believe, under Woerlee's review for Carter's book.

Woerlee's struggling here with concepts and terms that that are foreign to him. He says "natural pitch", but he's actually referring to the musical ability that musicians call "perfect pitch" or "absolute pitch". It simply means that Pam could hear a certain pitch, and without referring to any instrument, recognize it as, for example, a D.

I think Woerlee is saying that if Pam could use her perfect pitch ability, then by definition, she must have been using her physical ears.

Now I know for certain this is false. Because years ago I woke up from a dream in which I heard some music, and said to myself, wow--I know what note that is. (I was just training my own sense of perfect pitch at the time, and was delighted to have this confirmation of my ability.)

Still "hearing" the note in my head, I then went over to the piano, played it, and was spot on. This happened to me more than once.

So yes--it is possible to "hear" a pitch, without using the physical ear, and know precisely what pitch it is.

Oh wow.

Woerlee is the archetypal mean and nasty skeptic.

Even if his arguments were good, he should be thoroughly embarrassed about how he's behaved online.

Total a-hole.

His arguments also suck.

By the way, I read the most recent argument between Chris/Kris/Tim and Woerlee. There is a little stopping to Woerlee's level of sarcasm going on, but I do know it's very hard to avoid that with these people. They are true pieces of work.

As you said in your excellent book, Robert (paraphrasing), the most amazing thing about Randi was how normally critical scientists and media accepted his and other media skeptics' version of events so readily. Woerlees piece is typical skeptic bluff and willful ignornace served up with a heavy garnish of sarcasm. All it did was present Chris Carter with a good oportunity to show woerlee up. Good to hear that Gerry unwittingly helped strengthen the case in the missing dentures NDE, similar to Wisemans data in the Jaytee case. You can fool some of the people some of the time ....

Woerlee has been making essentially this same argument for quite a while. His claim is that if someone reports seeing or hearing anything while clinically dead, or having any kind of conscious experience at all, then the person must not have been dead at all or even fully unconscious - because perceptions and consciousness are possible only to those who are living and awake! QED.

It's a classic case of begging the question, since the whole point at issue is whether or not people can perceive and think even when their brains have shut down. FWIW, I wrote a post about Woerlee's argument back in 2010:

Yes Woerlee is a jerk but as mercies go he is a very easy jerk to refute. I am so grateful he is the one leading the charge for the dying brain/hallucination argument about NDEs.

Michael, your post makes the point well. It's a common tactic by sceptics to claim that human capabilities can sometimes extend to create seemingly paranormal perceptions. But the result is hardly less fantastical than what they're trying to explain away.

'Woerlees piece is typical skeptic bluff and willful ignorance served up with a heavy garnish of sarcasm. All it did was present Chris Carter with a good oportunity to show woerlee up.'

As far as sceptics are concerned he's blown Carter out of the water and nothing Carter says will change that. But I agree, to a wider audience the different debating styles work in our favour. Carter's kind of clear, dogged, reasonable argument is surely more convincing than the tone adopted by crabby know-alls.

I think something is being missed here. Woerlee's arguments are horrible, it is true, but he has something important going for him: that air of complete confidence. The snideness and sarcasm only bolsters that effect. He will, of course, turn off a lot of people who might otherwise be swayed, and I don't think it's the *best* attitude for a skeptic to take in terms of propagandizing. BUT, it nevertheless is a good method for an atheist and has been, is, and will be effective. Dawkins, Shermer, et al. are also quite good at this.

It's asymmetrical warfare, and the advantage is to the skeptics. A snide, confident tone is quite effective when you're denying something, since you can denigrate the thing (and its supporters if you choose). It's *not* effective if you're supporting or proposing something, since it's your own beliefs that are under fire and you don't have the luxury of denigrating your opponents' (if you do, it will only seem you do so because they are your opponents).

Plus, our side is supposed to be more spiritual and seem more spiritual.

It's tough, but the only thing to do is hang in there, deal with our opponents in the nicest way possible, and wait for the truth to win.

Can somebody clarify if 100dB clicks at around 10Hz is sufficient to block out higher frequencies, given that human hearing is sensitive in the range 20 - 20,000 Hz, as in the Pam Reynolds case. Has Carter replied anywhere to Woerlee's rebuttal?

Hey Michael look at it this way with Pam

Right next to her ear drum-90-100 decibels

Then you got a custom fitted ear plug- minus 22 decibels from the conversations going on around her.

Subtract another 3 decibels to compensate for the tape and bandaging .

So before it reached the sound in Pam's ears the 65 decibels of sound would have filtered down to 40 decibels which easily would have been masked by the 90-100 decibels.

is that the case for higher frequencies? Would they be masked by these ultra-low frequency clicks?


I think you won that argument about the earplugs when you suggested an experiment.

Pretty easy to put earbuds in people's ears with the exact same noise that Pam was experiencing and see if they can hear.

Woerlee didn't seem too enthusiastic about conducting that experiment.



I do not think the earplugs would have masked the clicking for the following reason

90-100 decibels + clicking

then earplugs

hen taping and gauze

If the sound from the clicking was traveling toward the ear drum there was nothing to filter them.

Hey Kris, I'm with you completely with the attenuation in hearing from all the tape, plug and guaze. I'm just doubtful the clicks would have made much difference because of the low frequencies, unless someone can point me to a reliable source that shows evidence that it might.

Well the clicks are not what is important to me in the end.

I am far more concerned about making skeptics explain how Pam heard and saw accurately period.

Kris, I have just read the comments on the Amazon website, and you already answer this point by providing evidence the clicks ranged in frequency from 10 to 30 Hz, thus providing audible saturation from outside conversations most of the time. I'm generally unimpressed with Woerlee's pedantic and quite puerile outpourings. He does make some interesting points, however, concerning cardio-reversion and the contradiction between the OBE accounts of jumping 2 feet in the air and what actually happens (nothing as theatrical).

Watch this video-

go to 1:28

Notice has hands, they go a bit more then a foot above his body. So from a certain perspective this description given us is not as off as Woerlee would have us believe.


Exactly. Any veridical information on our side, Woerlee will do anything to dismiss it. Anything slight thing he perceives as bolstering his own case--well, that just completely disproves our side!

It's quite an amazing game.


Woerlee's piece is rooted in what seems to me to be the basic skeptical dictum: It can't be and so it isn't.

I read throught the Amazon exchanges and I have to confess I was depressed by the level of snideness, sarcasm, and downright unpleasantness, on both sides, unfortunately. I thought back on Pam's experience and her encounter with her grandmother, which was so sweet and so loving. The part I remember best was where Pam was feeling that she didn't deserve to be in this place. Here is the excerpt:

"When I saw the wonders of the place I was in I thought 'i sure hope to be in the right place. I have not led a perfect life.' There was great laughter as my Grandmomma communicated 'You were a child sent away to school. As a child, it was expected that you would spill your milk. It's the manner in which you cleaned it up that gives us cause for pride.'"

OK, Woerlee is not only hopelessly biased but witheringly unkind. I just feel like when we trade insults with him, we dishonor the very experience we are arguing about. It would feel so good to me if we could treat him as a child who was sent off to school and who, as expected, has just spilt his milk.

+1 Robert.

I've tussled with skeptics before, and I've gone over the Dark Side more than once. It's true, we need to maintain a spiritual perspective and demeanor in these debates.

Gerry ( I refuse to even call him a doctor anymore) is simply vile in my book. I do not mind some sarcasm etc in a conversation, because that keeps things interesting but all that man does is try to obfuscate. Can anyone reading my arguments with him say in sincerity that I held back knowledge and tried to confuse anyone reading my views. I think I made clear analogies and provided resources that one can check.

Kris,In the video you pointed to, the man seems to be merely having an abnormal heart rhythm treated and appears to be receiving 100 Joule shocks. I think I am right in stating that 1 joule equals one watt second. The Sabom case security guard that Woerlee refers to (Man my body jumped two feet off the bed) received 2 .... 400 watt shocks, which is four times the power. So this may indeed have caused his body to jump up. Apologies if I have it wrong.


Thanks, as it is I do not know much about this case but I know an awful lot about Gerry and his sheer inability to engage in nuance.

Kris you hit the nail on the head when you said you cant reason with a zealot. Youll neverconvince such a person to change their position, but your hard work wont have been in vain. Exchanges like that are really useful to anyone new to the subject, which is why i agree its important to try to present your case calmly and clearly, difficult as that may be at times! I also find it useful to keep a list of questions and points you make that are avoided /ignored by your opnent which you can later present to encourage them back on topuc.
I think nDawkins has done much to promote this bullish style of debate. INteresting that he seems to be dodging debate with visiting Christian philosopher, William Lane Craig. Despite many requests to do so by pother parties. Fellow Oxford professor and atheist said his refusal to denate "the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glasing omission on your cv and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part"
I understand AC Grayling has also refused to debate WLC, Polly Toynbee has stepped in to fill the empty chair that was going to be left for Dawkins should he have changed his mind :)

Thanks for the link Kris. From a certain perspective (and given memory, even from a transcendental perspective isn't infallible), then those OBE accounts under reversion seem tenable.

Another thing that makes criticizing the "jumped two feet" wording a cheap shot is that the people reporting the NDEs are not professional writers and may not be particularly skilled, verbally. Thus, they may simply be using descriptions that crudely describe their actual memories, which may be perfectly clear and correct. This includes the possibility that they didn't really "see" themselves jump two feet but are simply using that trope because it's the stereotype.



Lets just wait until he published the critique of the case and pull that apart. It shouldnt be hard.

Hey I like that idea!

Hey Robert could you post his critique here so we can attack it like lions on a gazelle.

Kris, calm yourself.

My own reply to Woerlee can be found here:

- Pat

What are you referring to Meow?

Most of what little free time I have lately has been devoted to reading Steve Volk's book Fringe-ology, so I'm late to the discussion. Excellent book, BTW!

Worlee is a cartoon. That's not ad hominem, it's an objective observation. Seriously, with even a casual reading of exchanges with him, whether involving Chris Carter or "Kris", it becomes obvious that Worlee has intellectual and emotionally driven issues that prevent him from seeing the weaknesses and occasional absurdity in many of his arguments.

He's a real embarrassment.
Kinda like the J.Z. Knight of sceptics.

I consider myself a skeptic, but Woerlee is too much of a crusader to be taken seriously. He compares NDEs to suicide experiences, he never did any field research and most of his claims are based on supposititons.

Definitely, there are better spokeperson for the skeptic community.


His is the sad thought for your side, he is your expert on NDEs. He is the best your side can do on this subject. Whatever pay your side gives Keith Augustine he has well earned it by making Woerlee and Blackmore sound intelligent from a distance.

Meant to say here is, note to self, caffeine before typing!!

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