I literally laughed out loud when I read this article describing how scientists are attempting to explain near-death and out-of-body experiences. During one of these experiences a patient who is brought back to life can recount everything that occurred during their temporary death, sometimes down to detailed descriptions of the surgery (and surgical instruments!) or other interventions being performed on them while they were clinically dead. Interestingly, stories such as this do not vary greatly across different cultures and times.
In class, we have been discussing at length the components of the immaterial aspects of man, including the soul which we define as the entire “body” of a person’s immaterial make-up, and the spirit which is the animated, ever-evolving, and truest essence of who we are. Clearly, in the case of these near-death experiences there is a component which continues to exist beyond death, and which witnesses, remembers and perceives. This immaterial component is not readily identifiable by medical protocols, and does not subject itself to the rigors of the scientific method. Because of this, scientific purism will not permit the immaterial's existence or tolerate its shenanigans, but will, with vigor, produce an alternate (reaching) explanation that is more palatable to the scientific agenda.
Coming from a secular medical educational background I should not be surprised at the lengths to which science will go to protect its reputation—a reputation which is preserved first and foremost by a strict separation from “religious nonsense” of any kind. The ultimate purpose of the scientific method is to extract and refine the most likely reason for the phenomena being observed so that it may be explained in the most concrete terms possible; in terms that have nothing to do with God, and everything to do with natural law. Refusing to even brush shoulders with the idea that there is more than meets the eye in this, our physical reality, prohibits scientists from concentrating on what is feasible, and instead focuses their efforts on the creation of esoteric fairy tales. Oh, the irony. A good example is the explanations scientists are putting forth as further evidence that the immaterial does not exist. I mean there’s nothing like an “REM intrusion” or a “stimulated angular gyrus” to ruin a perfectly good near-death or out-of-body experience.
This rigid separation and unyielding denial of “something more” is precisely where medicine (specifically psychiatry) fails its patients. By purporting that the human body houses only predictably symbiotic biological systems, and by precluding the existence of a God-planted soul in us all, dis-ease of the spirit is never seriously considered, let alone addressed. Admittedly, strides are being made toward making doctors more cognizant of the value of religious belief, but it should not be assumed that this means their own personal beliefs and agendas have been altered.
But by the same token, the scientific community and its method are as they should be, as matters of the soul and spirit are not the business of science, but of God and His chosen, and especially those called to counsel. I am not suggesting that science is without merit (far from it), or that all scientists are unbelievers, but I am suggesting that we stick to our respective specialties and respect the inherent boundaries and limitations of each. In this spirit, let medicine care for the physical body up to, and not an inch beyond, the magnificent mystery of our immaterial "bodies", while Christian counselors provide care for the aspects of us that we don't need to see with our eyes to know with our hearts.