Is there life after death? Theologians can debate all they want, but radiation oncologist Dr. Jeffrey Long says if you look at the scientific evidence, the answer is unequivocally yes. Drawing on a decade’s worth of research on near-death experiences — work that includes cataloguing the stories of some 1,600 people who have gone through them — he makes the case for that controversial conclusion in a new book, Evidence of the Afterlife. Medicine, Long says, cannot account for the consistencies in the accounts reported by people all over the world. He talked to TIME about the nature of near-death experience, the intersection between religion and science and the Oprah effect.
Medically speaking, what is a near-death experience?
A near-death experience has two components. The person has to be near death, which means physically compromised so severely that permanent death would occur if they did not improve: they’re unconscious, or often clinically dead, with an absence of heartbeat and breathing. The second component [is that] at the time they’re having a close brush with death, they have an experience. [It is] generally lucid [and] highly organized.