Debunking the “Death Rock”

In a previous post (“Death Rock“) I wrote a story about hallucinating a boulder accurately warning me of pending death.  Below I offer a short rational explanation that shows how this experience can be explained in naturalistic terms instead of supernatural terms.  Commenters have asked why I feel it is important to try and disprove the supernatural — I hope to answer that in a future post.  But for now, here is why I think my supernatural experience was very natural:

  • Humans can easily hallucinate voices from within their own heads (especially in times of stress). I think some “natural” atheists have never had these experiences and thus too easily dismiss those with these experiences as “whacky idiots”.  But otherwise sane people can easily hallucinate the voices generated by their own minds as external voices.
  • In my earlier models, I explain my understanding of these voices as coming from one of our many selves. Usually we perceive the voices as just internal chatter. Some people label these quiet inner voices as the voice of a god or a spirit (as I illustrated in this post). However, sometimes the voice is overwhelmingly strong and does not feel internal at all. For instance, in the “Death Rock” post I perceived the voice as clearly outside my head. If our mind generates voices which are overwhelming and debilitating, we call this “pathology”. But the boundary between normal and pathological is a spectrum and not sharp — as illustrated above.
  • So, in the “Death Rock” story, I am under stress and my mind talks to me telling me of the danger by saying “Death” and my eyes are looking at an impressive boulder when it happens and it comes out “Death Rock”.
  • Coincidentally, another climber dies the same day. My mind then ignores normal probability issues and I create a supernatural event.  In other words, my mind says: “Wow, you heard a voice talking about death, and bang! someone died.  It must be the universe/god/the spirit world or some other uncanny phenomena which entered my life.
  • Finally, I am sure my memory has colored this event over time.


  • I am not saying all experiences can be easily explained away.
  • I am not saying such experiences can not be valuable.


Filed under Cognitive Science, Science

5 responses to “Debunking the “Death Rock”

  1. Temaskian

    Have you posted on how you would debunk the ghost experience related to this Death Rock incident?

  2. @ Temaskian
    No, I haven’t. This is the only one of my “supernatural” experiences that I have tried to explain in a post — of course I have ideas about the others, yet not every aspect. For instance, the German one I will post today is a bit of a mystery to me.

    Is there a particular reason you are interested in the ghost one?

  3. Temaskian

    Well, for one, the ghost story is more scary. To me. I was scared of ghosts when I was a kid. So it’s more intriguing to me in that sense.

  4. interesting. so this would be a psychological phenomenon that occurs naturally when our subconscious breaks into our conscious just before we’re about to do something stupid or risky? am i reading you right?

  5. Yes, essentially, though I don’t use the term “subconsciousness”.
    This phenomena is also exactly what happens in this post: “Athlete’s Prayer” (which you have read).

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