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Not so fast: scientists recreate near-death experiences in rats, atheists go wild

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Atheists are excited, rats are afraid, and believers are being confronted with nonexistent conclusions. Researchers say they are able to recreate the well-documented "near-death experience" in laboratory rats and that is has a physiological cause.  Atheists are delighted, claiming this proves God doesn't exist. The authors of the study aren't going there.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A study which made headlines yesterday concerned research into near-death experiences in rats. Researchers seeking to study the enigmatic phenomenon hooked rat's brains to sensors, then proceeded to kill the rats by inducing cardiac arrest.

In the 30 seconds following the stopping of the heart, scientists noticed a dramatic increase in brain activity. These brainwaves are the same ones that are related to consciousness in humans.

What they learned is that the dying experienced heightened brain activity, not less as is commonly expected. The rats apparently experience hyper-awareness rather than immediate death. It's thought this may be the same for humans.

Humans who have had near-death experiences frequently claim to see a tunnel of light and to experience out-of-body sensations. This is universally reported across cultures and religions, and appears to be a common human experience.

In fact, near death experiences have been artificially induced in humans before. Decades ago, test pilots reported similar experiences during high-stress maneuvers and training.

That scientists believe they can recreate these experiences in rats leads some to conclude that the mystery is solved and no God is required. This is a ridiculous conclusion and it is not one reported by the research.

It should also be noted that a conclusion specific to rats doesn't necessarily mean it will also be true for humans.

But about those atheists.

Science has shown us many things. It has demonstrated that disease is caused by parasites and pathogens. It has explained human origins and the creation of the universe and Earth. Science is a useful tool, but it does not rule out the existence of God, nor does it invalidate the personal experiences and faith-based beliefs of billions of people.

To take a gruesome study involving rats and extrapolate that to conclude there is no God is quite a stretch.

Just as diseases have biological explanations, so also must near-death experiences have the same. This does not replace God as the creator or heaven as the destination for the faithful. Indeed, we have learned from science that God has used physical laws to rule the universe. We have also documented exceptions, which we understand as miracles.

Both science and God happily coexist because science is an expression of God Himself. To use His laws and our limited understanding of them to reach an inherently flawed conclusion is the height of hubris.

So temper your enthusiasm. Science is best when it is used to better understand  the world about us, but when it is turned against theology as a weapon, it will always fail. Indeed, despite the volume of scientific knowledge compiled to date, faith remains strong, right alongside it.

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