Oct 11 2012

Proof of Heaven?

In an article for Newsweek, neurosurgeon Eben Alexander recounts his near death experience during a coma from bacterial meningitis. This is sure to become a staple of the NDE/afterlife community, as Alexander recounts in articulate and breathless terms his profound experience. His book is called, Proof of Heaven – a bold claim for someone who insists he is and remains a scientist.

Alexander claims:

There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.

While his experience is certainly interesting, his entire premise is flimsily based on a single word in the above paragraph – “while.” He assumes that the experiences he remembers after waking from the coma occurred while his cortex was completely inactive. He does not even seem aware of the fact that he is making that assumption or that it is the central premise of his claim, as he does not address it in his article.

Of course his brain did not go instantly from completely inactive to normal or near normal waking consciousness. That transition must have taken at least hours, if not a day or more. During that time his neurological exam would not have changed significantly, if at all. The coma exam looks mainly at basic brainstem function and reflexes, and can only dimly examine cortical function (through response to pain) and cannot examine higher cortical functions at all. His recovery would have become apparent, then, when his brain recovered sufficiently for him to show signs of consciousness.

Alexander claims there is no scientific explanation for his experiences, but I just gave one. They occurred while his brain function was either on the way down or on the way back up, or both, not while there was little to no brain activity. During this time he would have been in an altered state of consciousness, with different parts of his cortex functioning to different degrees. This state is analogous to certain drug-induced mental states, or those induced by hypoxia and well documented, and there is even some overlap with the normal dream state. All of these are states in which the brain’s construction of reality is significantly different from the normal waking state.

Documented features of these altered states (and features commonly experienced by everyone during dreams) include a sense of oneness with the universe, a sense of the profound, of being in the presence of a godlike figure, and of automatic knowledge with absolute certainty. The latter is not uncommon during dreams – you just know things in your dreams that were not communicated or directly observed, and you have no doubt about that knowledge.

Alexander writes:

According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.

It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but—more importantly—the things that happened during that time. Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky.

The “hyper-vivid” description is also common of altered brain states. It is naive to assume that such experiences must be hazy or “dreamlike.” By inhibiting certain parts of the brain extremely vivid and hyper-real seeming experiences can result.

Further, he recounts that it took him months to come to terms with his experiences. This brings up another important aspect of such experiences – that we must remember them with our waking brains. Most people have probably had the experience of having a vivid and bizarre dream that makes perfect sense to your dreaming self, and then when your waking self tries to recount the dream major aspects of it no longer make sense, and you marvel at how your dreaming self did not question the fantastical aspects of the dream.

The story that Alexander now tells is the attempt by his waking brain to make sense of experiences that occurred in an altered mental state. We therefore don’t know what he really experienced, only what his waking brain interprets and remembers about what his partially functioning brain experienced.

In addition to fluffy clouds, Alexander experienced beautiful angels and an overwhelming feeling of love. Even though he says he was not a devout Christian before the experience, his experience is strangely consistent with the cultural norms of his background. This is also typical – hallucinations and delusions often take the form of cultural and personal beliefs.


I understand that what Alexander experienced was strange, powerful, and profound and is coupled with the fact that he experienced a brush with death and survived.  I will not presume to know how such an experience would affect me. This does not mean, however, that we can take his interpretation at face value.

Alexander, in my opinion, has failed to be true to the scientist he claims that he is. He did not step back from his powerful experience and ask dispassionate questions. Instead he concluded that his experience was  unique, that it is proof of heaven, and that it defies any possible scientific explanation. He then goes on to give a hand-waving quantum mechanics, the universe is all unity, explanation for the supernatural. This is a failure of scientific and critical thinking.

Addressing his one major unstated premise, that the experienced occurred while his cortex was inactive, demolishes his claims and his interpretation of his experience.

As a neuroscientist I admit to a fascination with such experiences. I would love to experience something similar, to see what it is like (although I am not willing to damage my brain or take mild-altering drugs to do it). I would think that a neuroscientist would see such an experience as a powerful window into how the brain works (as Susan Blackmore did), how it constructs reality, and how the subjective experience that results from that construction can be altered, not as a window into a mystical and supernatural world.

113 responses so far

113 Responses to “Proof of Heaven?”

  1. saraighon 11 Oct 2012 at 8:25 am

    Hi Steven, fantastic critical look at something that a brain phenomenon that people just take too far and attribute way too much meaning to! Thanks for the write-up.

  2. SARAon 11 Oct 2012 at 8:47 am

    It seems unlikely that no one pointed out his huge assumption. If they did, then he wrote of his experience choosing not to address this flaw in his thought process.

    I find it those sorts of cognitive tricks that we play on ourself to be fascinating. He is obviously quite sincere, and would vehemently deny that he was manipulating the data by not addressing this assumption. But he did.

    I also find the different NDE experiences and how they relate to a person’s culture and beliefs quite interesting.

    Does it really relate to some deeper belief, or is it just a piece of information swarming in our brain that gets chosen for it’s relationship to the known experience that I was just dead or almost dead. In other words, as a non-believer, would my NDE be a more Xtian oriented or would it be more obscure. I’m guessing Xtian, since I was raised that way. That’s where most of my more colorful death related lore is.

  3. skrileon 11 Oct 2012 at 8:49 am

    I fear some will read your post and think “sheesh, another wet blanket skeptic”. I’m sure you get that frequently (I know I do). What’s great about today (2012) versus even 10 years ago is speed at which story goes from hint (I heard about this near-death thing) to public (yeah, here’s the Newsweek article) to analysis () to mental catalog (yeah – just a abnormal brain activity).

    Thanks for your work.

  4. locutusbrgon 11 Oct 2012 at 9:11 am

    Out of all the Non sequiturs of scientists I find these to be the least troubling. I know this will quantify me as a Shruggy in Steve’s world, but I have few problems with near death experience crowd. Whatever gets them through their natural fear of death. They’re not stopping vaccines, selling magic wrist bands, or trying to get dinosaurs with cowboys in textbooks. Interesting example of how our brains trick us but not much else. Everyone, even skeptics have illogical thinking, sacred cows, and confirmation bias. Basically this is a Null Hypothesis failure by a scientist that is a very attractive low harm conclusion. Not a stack of evidence denying an afterlife that he is ignoring. If he starts recommending coma trips to meet god then I would begin to object.

  5. Steven Novellaon 11 Oct 2012 at 9:34 am

    locutus – I agree that different claims have different implications and levels of harm. I also tend to focus my efforts on claims that have more direct harm, like anti-vaccine nonsense.

    But I also think that lack of critical thinking skills, appreciation of how the brain works, scientific thinking, etc, is all part of one big picture. A neurosurgeon saying that a dream is proof of the supernatural erodes critical thinking. People do hang onto cases like this, that are presented as authoritative, to justify other beliefs that do have consequences.

  6. Jim Shaveron 11 Oct 2012 at 10:56 am

    Regarding your response to locutusbrg’s comment, well said, Steve. Also, I’m not sure you should be so afraid of “mild-altering” drugs. My personal favorite of those is Scotch Whiskey. 🙂

  7. locutusbrgon 11 Oct 2012 at 11:42 am

    I see what you are saying, but isn’t that a little bit of a slippery slope argument.
    Dr. Oz because of his wide ranging recognition I can see the the point, but this neurosurgeon is kind of stretch. I do not disagree with any point in this blog. I do not want to put in the untenable position of arguing for this nonsense. What you say is correct even your criticism of my comment. I applaud your diligence and effort in supporting science and critical thinking. In my opinion there is a public perception downside to chasing down every last bit of nonsense. I agree with #skrile’s comment I fear some will read your post and think “sheesh, another wet blanket skeptic”. There is some truth to that sentiment. Given that Illogical minds can twist anything to suit their needs is it really decreasing the erosion of critical thinking to jam your finger in the dike every time there is the proverbial leak. I don’t know what the answer is for me but I am not on the front lines. Maybe that is why you have a widely read blog and I am widely unknown soapbox skeptic.

  8. Steven Novellaon 11 Oct 2012 at 11:50 am

    It’s a complex issue, I agree. I specifically added the bit at the end about how fascinating the brain and neuroscience is to counter the “wet blanket” response, but if someone is more interested in magic and fantasy over science and reason, there’s not much I can do.

    I don’t think it’s a slippery slope argument – attitudes are the cumulative effect of individual experiences, beliefs, and claims (on the background of personality and psychology).

    I have had multiple experiences with regular people (not true believers or skeptics) who held out for some supernatural belief that were using one apparently solid piece of evidence to justify all their supernatural hopes and claims.

    “Yes, but this one supernatural claim is iron clad, therefore all these other beliefs are plausible.”

    The Harvard neurosurgeon presents an absolute claim – scientifically impossible – and makes it sound as if science supports it. I suspect this will become the irrefutable evidence that many people make the central piece of their belief for an afterlife, and therefore the supernatural. It would be bad for it to go unchallenged.

  9. Ufoon 11 Oct 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Here’s some more background on Eben Alexander, you might find it interesting, there’s also a very useful transcript of the interview:


    Btw. Steve and many others already know this, but the podcast Skeptiko (with a “k” in the end) is not run by a skeptic but rather a “true believer” Alex Tsakiris.



  10. DOYLEon 11 Oct 2012 at 12:32 pm

    I think there is a simple aspect of human nature behind such reporting of near death experience.The person feels a deep resonating poignancy,that for a fleeting moment, umbilically connects them to the supernatural.For some this must be such a delightfully intoxicating and tender impression.Still it’s a dream.

  11. petrossaon 11 Oct 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Having died twice myself, i can only say that it feels like a movie that’s been cut, a piece taken out, and stuck back together. You feel the time line is broken. Weird feeling. For the rest just nothing. I read a psych paper somewhere that noted that after death experiences where frequently conform the preexpectations of the person in question and culturally bound.

  12. Bronze Dogon 11 Oct 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks for the coverage, Steve. I thought many of the same things about the story when a troll brought it up. We aren’t like computers. Our memories don’t have timestamps and we don’t have high precision clocks in our heads.

    I first suspected going into or coming out of consciousness would be a likely window since I’ve experienced something somewhat similar: Many of my most vivid dreams occur when I stay in bed in the morning, drifting into and out of sleep. They’re also commonly distorted temporally: I’ve had dreams that seemed to last hours but when I look at the clock, I notice it’s only been 10 or 20 minutes.

    I also questioned the assertion that there was absolutely no brain activity whatsoever, since I didn’t have a expert on hand, or a readout of his brainwaves. It’s hard for me to simply trust that a living brain that later recovered had zero activity for such an extended duration, and it seemed plausible there might be some occasional low-level activity, which would leave some additional room for altered state/dream experiences. Neurology denialists seem overly fond of black-and-white thinking, so I’m wary of absolutes, especially since consciousness is a widely varied continuum, not a simple toggle switch.

    My reason for talking about the issue: This is one more anecdote dualists and the like will use to shout, “Brick wall!” whenever we ask questions about the nature of consciousness. They use stories like this to discourage discovery and inquiry just because they find the existing answers blasphemous or uncomfortable and are worried about scientists discovering more such answers from studying the brain. I don’t like being told what I can and can’t explore.

  13. ccbowerson 11 Oct 2012 at 2:20 pm


    I don’t think that slippery slope applies here: no one is saying that if someone finds this neurosurgeon’s account credible then that will necessarily lead to other questionable beliefs in a direct fashion. That would be a slippery slope argument. What does apply here is that a person is giving an account that may appear compelling if looked at with an uncritical eye. It is an opportunity to show how without apply critical thinking skills, intelligent people can come to erroneous conclusions. Some people may find this a more illuminating example of critical thinking than an example that you think is more “important,” and introducing critical thinking to somone could result in more widespread effects if that start using those skills in other areas.

    As an aside: slippery slope arguments are not necessarily incorrect (although I do not think it really applies in this case anyways). Slippery slope refers to the informal logical fallacy that “argues” that if ‘A’ happens then ‘B,’ ‘C,’ ‘D,’ etc will necessarily happen. The problem is that for the argument to be reasonable, there should be some logical connection between ‘A’ and what follows (B,C, and D). When this “argument” is a fallacy it is because there is no logical connection

  14. amberraine1on 11 Oct 2012 at 2:34 pm

    People believing these experiences are true are not hindering science. Science is forging ahead with it without their beliefs. And one day science will discover the truth about the afterlife. Its true some will hold onto the idea that a neuroscientist experienced it and if it helps them deal with their fears of death or grief from the death of a loved one then no harm is done. Spirituality in humanity predates civilization and is a fundamental part of the human experience. It is very unrealistic to expect people to change this. It’s akin to asking them to stop eating. People are not robots but come with a complex array of emotions and attachments. Only a sociopath would disagree.

    On the issue of when the experience happens. What do you make of the various corroborated accounts of the operating table etc witnessed by people when the brain shouldn’t be functioning in the near death experience study’s?

  15. Ab Norm Alon 11 Oct 2012 at 5:47 pm

    If you grant the premise, that the experience occurs while there is no or nearly no brain activity, then no matter what the person experiences during the NDE, they will not be able to remember it, because the brain will be unable to store the memories, due to the lack of brain activity. Even if you believe in duality and that there is a soul, I think we have established memories ARE stored by the brain. Of course, there is also special pleading that the soul has its own backup or separate storage capacity. Try to prove that one false!occurs

  16. locutusbrgon 11 Oct 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Thank you for your definition but I still think you could easily argue that Steve’s examples are anecdotal, experiential, and not controlled for confirmation bias. Just because you Steve and I agree about them does not mean that there is a logical connection. I still think my criticism holds water. In truth you can poke holes in almost any argument in real world conditions there are no controls.

    “Yes, but this one supernatural claim is iron clad, therefore all these other beliefs are plausible.”

    Again anecdotal, you could easily challenge this by finding true believers who have absolutely solid foundation in science otherwise. Breaking the logical connection. A: neurosurgeon, B scientific proof of afterlife, C: other illogical thinking.
    My point being is that even great skeptics can have sacred cows, and still be excellent critical thinkers otherwise.
    Be afraid of A because you might get C always leaves an unsatisfied taste in my mouth.

  17. Davdoodleson 11 Oct 2012 at 9:57 pm

    A concern troll methinks. The “I-used-to-be-a-narrow-minded-cynic-but-then-the-Wonder-Mop-changed-my-life” rhetoric is a bit too perfect:

    “Now, having been through my coma, I can tell you that’s exactly wrong and that in fact the mind and consciousness are independent of the brain. It’s very hard to explain that, certainly if you’re limiting yourself to that reductive materialist view.” (from the interview Ufo links above)

  18. pseudonymoniaeon 12 Oct 2012 at 2:08 am

    Steve I would be surprised if this man even really believes half of what he is saying. It is pretty clear from the article that he is being disingenuous.

    He states that he “will tell my story with the logic and language of the scientist I am”, and then proceeds to do nothing of the sort. I counted more than half of dozen statements to the effect that “his entire brain was shut off” during the period when he was experiencing this NDE, including a dreamy, two-page description of the experience and only a single statement to provide a modicum of evidence:

    “This is clear from the severity and duration of my meningitis, and from the global cortical involvement documented by CT scans and neurological examinations.”

    The logic and language of a scientist are entirely absent from his article, and presumably from his entire book.

    I have to wonder whether maybe those bacteria really did eat his brain…

  19. Lukas1986on 12 Oct 2012 at 3:46 am


    First I would like to thank Dr. Steve Novella for a great article. Now I would like to share my two cents about NDEs. We had two people who had a NDE in my family and I must say that the thing that it changes your life is not every time true. My grandfather had a NDE in 1955/1965 when he had a high electroshock on electro therapy when he had a hard depression and he even saw a tunnel and lights like the people with NDE describe. He however didn’t wanted to stay there because he wanted to be with his wife and new born child. After this he didn’t change to become better man or a spiritual man but was the same depressed man like he was before. The second person who had a NDE was my mother and the daughter of my grandfather who had a NDE. She had the NDE when my grandfather was drunk and slapped her very hard that he found some cigarettes in her pockets. My grandfather hatted smoking very much. This caused her a NDE because she lost consciousness and she had said that her NDE looked like a giant meadow where happy people were and she heard some music there on the meadow and when she was leaving her body. She didn’t wanted to go away from there. She was 15/16 years old when this has happened. The strange thing in both cases is that my mother had the same depressions like my grandfather but when she was much older and therefore I believe their both NDEs can be linked to the genetic make-up or the disease that was genetically inherited. This is however only my opinion what I saw. To get to the point I wanted to say that no one of them became after these events spiritual or something like that. They lived their lives normally. They only changed their views but only a little bit when the New Age folks came here after the fall of Communism (I am from Slovakia) and started to say these things that they had visions of an afterlife etc.. Then changed my mother her views about her NDE and that was 40 years after this had happened but even after this they don’t became so changed because several times they doubt their beliefs in their life. As I am concerned then I don’t believe in NDEs that they are the images of the afterlife and I think Dr. Eben Alexander is making a big fuss about some weird dream he he had – because to my opinion it was too earthly. He saw some butterfly, light etc.. Everything we can see here in the normal world. If the NDEs were afterlife images I think they would be more complex and the people would see something that is beyond this world and beyond our imagination, something that we cannot even imagine but this is my opinion.

  20. Matthewsanon 12 Oct 2012 at 8:01 am

    You’ve made well thought arguments; however, discussion at this time is based upon short interviews and articles about an entire book that has not even been published. I would like to come back and read your thoughts addressing the entire argument the author makes to validate his experience. The book will be avalible for review later this month, upon publication. I am interested to see how he will approach this and if he will entirely refute scientific method or somehow use it to validate his conclusions. He should be well aware by now that there is a peer gauntlet of highly educated professionals waiting to rip this to shreds. In light of this, I would bope to see that Dr. Alexander makes a strong argument in his book that we may further dissect in terms of plausibility. I will say that a big red flag was raised during one of his interviews where he states that a good friend of his wife wrote a book about contacting loved ones while they were in coma. He claims that his wife’s friend also made contact with him “out of the muck” during his compromised state. If we are to consider the individuals that he and his family hold in regard, it may not be unfair to identify a pre-existing sphere of influence that could indicate predilection towards these type of NDE belief structures.

  21. ccbowerson 12 Oct 2012 at 10:12 am

    “Thank you for your definition but I still think you could easily argue that Steve’s examples are anecdotal, experiential, and not controlled for confirmation bias.”

    Of course… I do not think anyone presented them as a controlled experiment, but I still don’t understand your objection. Is it that Steve shouldn’t comment on what you view as minor lapses in critical thinking, or is it more than that… that skeptical outreach itself is futile?

    “My point being is that even great skeptics can have sacred cows, and still be excellent critical thinkers otherwise.
    Be afraid of A because you might get C always leaves an unsatisfied taste in my mouth.”

    I don’t think that “if A then C” needs to be the argument for a discussion to be beneficial. There doesn’t have to be direct a connection between A and C, although I will say that there is evidence that certain beliefs tend to group together (but that isn’t necessarily the argument here). I agree that people do have a great ability to compartmentalize, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about and/or challenge these “sacred cows.” In fact, I find these the most interesting discussions. Since we don’t have good evidence of which approaches are best at engaging audiences into incorporating critical thinking in their lives, I wonder why you object to the choice of any particular topic

  22. daedalus2uon 12 Oct 2012 at 12:11 pm

    I have a hypothesis that NDEs are a manifestation of the physiological state I call the Euphoric Near Death state, ENDs.

    When organisms are running from a predator, they have the ability to run themselves to death, that is to divert so many resources (primarily ATP) to escape that there is not enough left to maintain viability. Essentially all organisms exhibit this behavior, my interpretation is that it is an evolved “feature”, that is organisms that had the capacity to run themselves to death survived from more predators than those that did not have that capacity and so all extant organisms have that capacity. This capacity is from deep evolutionary time, when there were first predators and prey, likely the Cambrian or earlier.

    I think this is the physiological state that is evoked when there is near death metabolic stress; coma from sepsis, hypoxia, toxicity, solvent huffing, hyper and hypothermia, and the stimulant drugs of abuse. I think the stimulant drugs of abuse trigger the euphoria of ENDs by the same mechanism, diversion of ATP from “housekeeping” to immediate consumption and survival. They don’t provide any “extra” energy, the feelings of “extra” energy come from diversion of ATP from maintenance. It is that maintenance that keeps organisms healthy, so when it is forgone for immediate survival there is degradation and a potential shortening of lifespan if critical repair pathways are degraded.

    Trying to enter this state from the normal at rest state is difficult, there are significant barriers. I suspect that is what depression is, the necessary aversive state between the normal at rest state and ENDs. Evolution has minimized the sum of deaths from being caught by the predator, from dropping dead while escaping, and from suicide due to depression. There have to be deaths in all three categories for the sum to be minimized.

    However, experience in this state is valuable, because if you ever do need to run from a bear, a little bit of experience in how your body operates under near death physiological stress could save your life.

    I suspect this the reason that many cultures do have customs of inducing mind-altering states, via hallucinatory and other drugs, via hyperthermia (Native American Sweat Lodge), via extreme exercise, via fasting.

    I think this is also the physiology behind the runner’s high, where a runner has the delusion that he/she can run for ever. You can’t, there is no emergency energy supply that comes on line under such extreme conditions. The feeling is an illusion/delusion. If you are running from a bear, it is a very useful delusion to have. You don’t need to run forever, only until you escape, drop dead, or until the bear catches you which as far as evolution is concerned are the same as forever.

    It is probably not possible to invoke this state without risking permanent damage. The safest way is probably via hyperthermia, or maybe hypoxia, but “safest” is relative, it has to be near death metabolic stress to be effective, and if you are not extremely careful you could easily die (as happened to the people following that quack in Colorado) and David Carradine.

  23. gemduoon 12 Oct 2012 at 12:33 pm

    As just a regular Joe, when reading Dr. Alexander’s recount of heaven it strikes a chord in my being.
    I had an experience ones while serving in the Altar as an Altar boy of 17 years of age. When it was time to consecrate the wafer and wine the priest turned to me and I was to incense him then turn to the congregation and incense them. As I turned to the congregation I felt as though something blew a bubble of energy around me and instantly I felt perfect and in the infinite. There was no space between me and anything else. I was one with all. This energy was both perfect love and intelligence.
    Looking at the congregations eyes this energy was looking back at me and I also heard the words. This is heaven on earth. There was a large coral rose I saw in my mind’s eye and a sent involved. This had to have happened in seconds. It was as though the energy of the universe that animates all matter shown through and there was no need for spoken language. I just knew instead of think.
    Took at least four years to sit down and talk about the experience with my parents. As the years went by I talked to friends and people about it as though it was a normal event in my life and nothing special. I do know at the time I was very sincere in my heart to finding answers to Gods existence. I had other experiences after such as seeing the white light in prayer and feeling like I was being ripped out of my body and that scared me. I know that years later when I went through a divorce I was so depressed not being with my boys I could not get out of bed. My bones weighed a ton. Then one day I sat down on my porch closed my eyes and recollected my experience of that day. It was as though my depression was washed away and I was strong enough to continue life. I am so grateful for that experience and I don’t care if there is a scientific explanation or spiritual one I just know it is part of my being now.
    There was so much more to that experience. One thing for sure, I was fully awake not in a coma.

  24. Steven Novellaon 12 Oct 2012 at 12:51 pm

    gemduo – thanks for sharing. I can only speculate from a distance as to what those experiences represent. It is possible that they were brief seizures. Non-dominant temporal lobe seizures are known to create “one with the universe” spiritual/religious type experiences. Your description has many typical features.

    As you point out – you were awake and not near death. So those types of experiences do not require being near death. One explanation for this is that they are simply brain experiences that can be invoked in a number of ways, the stress of being near death is only one.

  25. locutusbrgon 12 Oct 2012 at 4:01 pm

    @ ccbowers
    “Of course… I do not think anyone presented them as a controlled experiment, but I still don’t understand your objection. Is it that Steve shouldn’t comment on what you view as minor lapses in critical thinking, or is it more than that… that skeptical outreach itself is futile?”

    I think I clearly indicated that I have no argument with the issues he takes and I am not arguing against the conclusions. I was just responding to your comment/definition. The objection is where do you draw the line in skeptical outreach. I did not say or indicate that I think outreach is futile. I do think it is prudent to question what is Nit Picking and What is not to avoid alienating people and giving them the “skeptic as a wet blanket syndrome.”

    “I don’t think that “if A then C” needs to be the argument for a discussion to be beneficial. There doesn’t have to be direct a connection between A and C, although I will say that there is evidence that certain beliefs tend to group together (but that isn’t necessarily the argument here).”

    I disagree, I think that was exactly the point Steve was making. That this maybe a victim less belief but it can lead to messy thinking and a argument for other nonscientific beliefs that are more harmful.

    I agree that people do have a great ability to compartmentalize, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about and/or challenge these “sacred cows.” In fact, I find these the most interesting discussions. Since we don’t have good evidence of which approaches are best at engaging audiences into incorporating critical thinking in their lives, I wonder why you object to the choice of any particular topic”

    I am not saying let people have their crazy beliefs I think you are magnifying what I am saying expanding beyond the scope of my point. I am not saying leave anti-vax alone because scientific life after death proof is relatively harmless.
    I think if you read through the progression of my comments you will see that I am saying is..Is this worth it? Steve feels yes that is enough for me.

  26. Michael Bradyon 12 Oct 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I’m fascinated by altered states of consciousness because of what they can tell us about brain anatomy and physiology and the perceptions and cognition our mind assembles. I had an OBE as a child, and while it was very interesting, I do not regard it as proof of anything other than that the brain can fill in a lot of gaps when subjected to injury, pain, and fear. I’ve experience auditory and visual hallucinations while taking mefloquine (never again, thank you) that felt both real and really unpleasant. Considering that NDEs, OBEs, and other altered states can be caused by bodily mortification, brain injury, breath control, chanting, consumption of hallucinogens, dance, dehydration, delirium, dementia, dreaming, drumming, epilepsy, extreme emotion, exposure to chemicals, fasting, fatigue, fever, food poisoning, intense concentration, isolation, macular degeneration, meditation, migraine, nightmare, oxygen deprivation, pain, prayer, ritual, sensory deprivation, sensory overload, severe illness, sleep deprivation, sleep paralysis, and starvation, it’s actually surprising we’re not tripping in one way or another all the time. Or maybe we are, and these ineffable but vivid events are made sense of using mystical, religious, or spiritual language while the physical causes are forgotten.

  27. herberton 12 Oct 2012 at 5:40 pm

    These are interesting thoughts, Steven. but I’d like to echo the resistance offered by locutusbrg. In particular, I find myself mystified as to why anyone would want to debunk an experience as transformative, inspiring, and innocuous as this one. Who wouldn’t want to believe in an omnipotent, benevolent God who is ensuring that our lives and the universe have a transcendent purpose? I can understand resisting Catholic damnation doctrine, or anti-gay Bible interpretations, but what Eben is presenting strikes me as devoid of religion’s rough edges and replete with the values and hopes that all humans cherish deeply. Why would anyone want to undercut the veridicality of his experience?

  28. BillyJoe7on 13 Oct 2012 at 2:23 am


    “I think this is also the physiology behind the runner’s high, where a runner has the delusion that he/she can run for ever. ”

    That has not been my experience.
    When you get a “runner’s high”, you suddenly feel as if the effort of running has been lifted; your breathing eases even while maintaining the same speed.
    I was able to do this quite regularly towards the end of a long distance run (about 20km) while maintaining a constant, comfortably fast, but not rapid, speed.

    The physiology also sounds wrong to me.
    From what I’ve read, it is a switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.

    And, if you say that my experience of the “runner’s high” has shortened my lie expectancy, I’m just going to flat out deny it :l

  29. diagonalon 13 Oct 2012 at 3:22 am

    Since this journey to “heaven” was accomplished as a round trip, how were the billions of calcium ions, sodium ions, carried over to this realm and back, so that memories were both carried to this place, and carried back? He may wish to consult with Nobelist Dr. Eric Kandel about the physical nature of memory formation and retention. How was phosphorylation accomplished, as part of the memory-forming episode, in this other universe? How was this supernatural experience melded into the correct locations within his physical, Earthbound brain?

  30. BillyJoe7on 13 Oct 2012 at 6:39 am

    Here is Sam Harris’ take:


  31. JoeWon 13 Oct 2012 at 10:56 am

    My initial reaction to Alexander’s report was similar to yours. Did he have the experiences going in or coming out of a coma?

    I am a scientist by training and belief (yes we have our own dogma) with 25 years of experience and recognition as a distinguished professor of research at my university. During 1992 I had an experience with my “dead” wife. For the next ten years I read more about death, dying, NDE, ADCs and everything I could find about the subject. I probably read more than I ever read for a PhD in multivariate psychometrics. There is overwhelming cumulative circumstantial evidence that something continues after death. Probably some of the best evidence is Ian Stephenson’s “Twenty cases suggestive of reincarnation.” http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-Cases-Suggestive-Reincarnation-Enlarged/dp/0813908728

    Start there and expand your studies. You too will come to this conclusion. It is not an easy road to travel with much fuzzy headed thinking along the way. But it will open your eyes. Read some of Steven Braud’s work for a reasonable foundation. Are you truly curious about this most important of all questions? Why are we here? – the answers are not all that surprising.

    Alexander’s reading list on his web site also has some good references.

  32. gemduoon 13 Oct 2012 at 11:31 am

    Obviously this discussion is dedicated to explaining away every and any spiritual experience. Isthere an open mind anywhere here?

  33. Lukas1986on 13 Oct 2012 at 12:43 pm

    @gemduo: I would be open-minded when I would finally receive normal and rational answers from believers and open-minded people on these questions:

    – How do you explain people with alzheimer disease when there is a immaterial soul? Will these people be in heaven like they were once before with all their memories or they will be with alzheimer and blank like “tabula rasa”?
    – People with mental retardation, schizophrenia, asperger syndrome etc.. how they will look like in heaven? Will they still be retarded or will they be normal like we are?
    – We descended from animals? This means that animals have also a soul because apes and gorillas behave similar to us in many situations?

    These are only the few questions that come to my mind in a hurry if you dare please answer these questions because so far no believer could give me a answer..

  34. Lukas1986on 13 Oct 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I made a error, sorry for the mistake:

    in the second question where I write about people with mental handicaps(schizophrenia, mental retardation and asperger syndrome) I didn’t wanted to write retarded in the second sentence of the question.. Sorry for the typo error..I don’t mean to offend no one..

  35. PacFranon 13 Oct 2012 at 1:09 pm

    To: gemduo

    I’m open to people’s reports of opinions and experiences of spirituality, but not to accepting fantastical, magical and supernatutural intertpretations that they claim as “fact”.

  36. Xplodyncowon 13 Oct 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Feelings override reason all the time. Dr. Alexander’s experience must have made him feel so good that he will do anything to preserve that feeling, no matter what the cost.

    Or maybe the bacteria ate his common sense.

    Or maybe he just wants to sell books.

    My first reaction to spotting this Newsweek article while surfing the ‘Net was: “I wonder what NeuroLogica has to say about this?”

    Dr. Novella, please don’t ever stop writing things.

  37. daedalus2uon 13 Oct 2012 at 3:20 pm

    BJ, I don’t dispute your data or your observations, just your subjective interpretation of them. It makes very little evolutionary sense for there to be an actual source of energy held in reserve until near exhaustion. Such an energy source would only be used very rarely, and there would be a very high cost to it (carrying it around all the time it isn’t being used), and all the forgone reproduction from holding it in reserve instead of using it for reproduction.

    We know that muscles can use more ATP than mitochondria have the capacity to supply. That is why you get tired in the first place. We know that ATP is used by essentially every physiological pathway, we know that basal metabolism is significant, even when muscles are not called on to do anything. We know that the consumption of ATP by basal metabolism is for something important, or physiology would not have kept doing it over evolutionary time. We know that the ATP consumption of a tissue compartment can change promptly, as in ischemic preconditioning.

    In ischemic preconditioning the ATP production and consumption of a tissue compartment is lowered, and that state persists for a period of time ~24 hours. If that state could be maintained long term, evolution would have configured organisms to do so because then more ATP can be diverted to reproduction.

    In ischemic preconditioning the ATP consumption is reduced. That can only happen if pathways that are consuming ATP are turned off. Which ones are turned off? Presumably the ones that are not time-critical and need to be maintained during the next 24 hours or so.

    Another way of looking at it, is what are the priorities for ATP consumption. The highest priority is maintaining viability. The next highest has to be the maintenance of the pathways that maintain viability. Maintaining the viability maintenance pathways has to come third in priority because maintaining viability has to be first.

    I don’t know where endurance exercise starts to cause permanent damage, but over use injury is not at all uncommon in endurance athletes. Presumably when they were doing the exertion that caused the overuse injury they were not aware that they were causing injury. How one feels in such a state may not be a reliable indication of how one’s physiology is actually doing.

    People taking cocaine and amphetamines feel great, even as their bodies are deteriorating. “Feeling great” is a complex physiological state. Drugs of abuse likely trigger such a state that physiology has evolved to use for other purposes. I suggest the euphoric “feeling great” state evolved to facilitate running from a predator.

  38. BillyJoe7on 13 Oct 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Gem duo,

    “Obviously this discussion is dedicated to explaining away every and any spiritual experience. Isthere an open mind anywhere here?”

    You obviously wrote this without having read the link in my post immediately before yours, so I have to question who has the closed mind here?
    In case you are not familiar with Sam Harris, in the past he has experienced and written about his spiritual experiences, but in the linked article he explains why he thinks this neurosurgeon’s explanation for what happened to him is nonsense.
    I would be interested in any comments you might have on the contents of that article.

  39. sonicon 13 Oct 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I don’t know what Dr. A. says is true. I don’t know it isn’t.

    The claim in the post is that this experience is explained by Dr. A. ‘filling in’ the details after the fact.
    How could one verify this speculation?
    Is there any possible way to falsify this claim?

    One thing I thought of was the fact that I’ve had people relate these kinds of experiences to me immediately upon revival (CPR works!)
    But one could imagine that the brain was ‘filling in’ before the awakening and so even though remembering was seemingly immediate it was actually not so.

    I’m thinking the speculation is therefore unverifiable and unfalsifiable.
    Apparently the claim does make some people feel better. And feeling better is often what one uses to prove the correctness of something– right?

    I don’t think I would qualify as a believer, but I can give you answers to the questions you pose (I read things by believers)

    First if one contemplates the possibility that the soul or consciousness (or chi or life force or …) resides outside the brain– then one can imagine the brain as a receiver and translator of thought. Brain disease then is like a TV that is mistuned or has parts broken. The signal is still available, but the receiver is down.
    Apparently in heaven (or whatever) the true self is unencumbered by the need for the physical object to manifest. So the signal is pure. This is what is meant by phrases like- the thoughts came to me without words… that you read in these accounts.

    That should give you the answers to the first two questions.

    As far as people coming from animals- is your mother something other than human? 🙂
    Kidding aside– I think there are those who would argue that people didn’t come from animals- there are those who would say that all life is a reflection of ‘soul’.
    Kind of like some evolutionists argue for group selection- others argue against such a notion.
    That is to say I think that there are differing schools of thought on that matter.
    I hope these are OK with you even if they come from a less than believer.

    You make a good effort at putting these experiences in terms of first principles (for you that means evolution- right?).
    The question would be– why these experiences? If I’m running from a bear how will thinking that I won’t really die if it eats me make me run faster? Seems it might give one a reason to stop running.
    Further I’m fairly sure that saying “I’ve been to heaven and back,” would end more mating rituals than it would start.
    You can test that for me if you’d like. 🙂

    ccbowers- locutusbrg-
    thank-you for a demonstration of a reasoned discussion.

  40. daedalus2uon 13 Oct 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I didn’t suggest that thinking one has an immortal soul is part of the euphoria of near death experiences. I don’t think it is. The idea of an immortal soul was concocted by self-proclaimed religious leaders to rationalize why they should be obeyed, because they speak for God, and God has an infinite reward if you do what God’s self-proclaimed religious leaders say God wants you to do, so by Pascal’s wager one should obey the self-proclaimed religious leaders no matter how detrimental those orders are.

    Such self-proclaimed religious leaders can lead a pretty good life without much effort and can get access to lots of mates. Polygamy was and still is widely practiced by self-proclaimed religious leaders.

    Most religious people were told this by people they trusted when they were children, and now as adults they don’t want to abandon those beliefs which still have no evidence to support them.

    As far as physics knows, a number of physical quantities are absolutely conserved, mass/energy, charge, spin, momentum, and so on. Any interaction of a non-material mind with a material brain that has any effects would have to change these conserved quantities. Any transfer of information requires a transfer of mass/energy.

    Why is the idea of an immaterial mind which has these properties that contradict much that is well known in physics even considered? We know that people can hallucinate even when their brains are seemingly operating nominally. Why are “memories” that supposedly happened during a NDE considered to have the slightest bit of reliability?

    The idea of an immaterial mind was made-up by self-proclaimed religious leaders who had no knowledge or understanding of the physics of physical reality. There is no instrumental data behind such assertions, there are only interpretations of subjective experiences.

    Why these experiences? Because that is what the brain does, it takes sensory data and converts it into experiences that “make sense”. That is what happens during neurodevelopment, the brain self-modifies until the sensory data from different senses goes to different brain regions to be decoded and transformed into a representation of the environment. When the brain is out of “sync”, and various processes are deranged, with drugs, with physiological parameters out of nominal range, there is much more noise and spurious signals. The brain still tries to interpret the “noise”, and because humans have hyperactive agency detection, the brain will eventually find “something” even if there is just noise to start with.

    That is how memory and the brain work. Every time you try to remember something, you do more processing on the memory and the memory changes a little bit. If you are not careful, you can turn a memory into something that didn’t happen quite easily, especially if the brain is not operating nominally.

  41. ccbowerson 13 Oct 2012 at 10:42 pm

    “The claim in the post is that this experience is explained by Dr. A. ‘filling in’ the details after the fact.
    How could one verify this speculation? Is there any possible way to falsify this claim?”

    I think you have things backwards here. The claims are made by Eben Alexander when he says:

    “While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe.”

    Steven did not make the initial claim, but provided an alternate (and much more likely) explanation for Eben Alexander’s experiences. With a very reasonable natural explanation for a phenomenon, why should we jump to a supernatural one? Well, we shouldn’t.

  42. ccbowerson 13 Oct 2012 at 10:55 pm

    “ccbowers- locutusbrg-
    thank-you for a demonstration of a reasoned discussion.”

    I had to reread our exchanges to see if there is sarcasm here. I am taking this literally.

    Thanks. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if typed exchanges are read with the correct tone. In my experiences it is easy to read assertiveness or confrontation in type, especially when communications are relatively short. On the other side sometimes the assertiveness is intended. I’m always wondering (overly concerned?) if I’m being misunderstood, which usually makes me choose my words carefully (if I have time)

  43. BillyJoe7on 14 Oct 2012 at 12:26 am

    Oh, I think it’s just sonic being his usual self. Open to everything, weighing nothing, mixing chaff with the wheat, sliding from seriousness to comedy. Oh we’ll…

  44. BillyJoe7on 14 Oct 2012 at 12:28 am

    …my iPad makes some stupid corrections. Fancy changing well to we’ll.

  45. Lukas1986on 14 Oct 2012 at 2:44 am


    Thanks for the answers. I heard this explanation on that the brain is a TV set then the consciousness must be a TV studio of some sort. The answer on the TV set : Our consciousness is limited to this world – all images and feelings are from this world and therefore the NDEs of people look like a mixture of our world images – white tunnels, light, butterflies etc.. – all are from this world mixed up with our imagination. Therefore heaven or afterlife must be different then our world and much different.

    Wow its really strange that believers in the paranormal still reject evolution when its proven that evolution did occur and all life evolved.

  46. Lukas1986on 14 Oct 2012 at 3:13 am

    @sonic: Sorry for the double post but a second thing came to my mind. If consciousness is a TV studio then why do we need our senses – earing, seeing, smell etc.? When our consciousness is a TV studio it should work without the need of these things like eyes, nose or ears.

    This is all I have to say to this moment.

  47. BillyJoe7on 14 Oct 2012 at 4:25 am


    You are stretching an analogy that didn’t make sense in the first place.
    The brain does not have a receiving device for consciousness.

  48. BillyJoe7on 14 Oct 2012 at 4:25 am

    ….sorry I misspelled your name.

  49. Lukas1986on 14 Oct 2012 at 4:42 am

    BillyJoe7: Nothing wrong. Thanks for your thoughts. I know that brain doesn’t have that thing and second I only wanted to reply in the non-sense way of sense that the believers do.. I wanted to get into their heads why they are so fanatical in their beliefs even when they are out of the picture.

  50. sonicon 14 Oct 2012 at 1:52 pm

    The question most people have is “Am I a physical being having a spiritual experience or am I a spiritual being have a physical experience?” It has to do with the way the world is experienced.
    For example- A number of the golfers I work with get into a frame of mind where they are focused on the target (where they want the ball to go) and they feel separate from the body– which swings the club.
    “I think of the target, the body swings the club,” would be an English wording of the situation. The level of dualism can get to where the person literally thinks of his body as a completely separate entity that is like a trained monkey. It does what it does without any conscious guiding.
    And ordinary people have these experiences quite regularly apparently. At least when I talk to them that is how they describe things.
    “My body did this,” “My brain is acting up,” My mind is cloudy,”…
    Who owns these objects?

    Apparently you have not had these feeling and experiences.
    But the reason people think of themselves as spirits is due to the way they experience the world– not what they are taught about god IMHO.

    If you want to understand how the physics would work in this case —

    And I’m saying that the explanation isn’t going to sound convincing or scientific to someone who isn’t a ‘believer’ in materialism to begin with.
    “I see, you make a claim that is unverifiable and unfalsifiable and you want me to think you are being scientific and the other guy isn’t?”
    You can see the problem, perhaps.

    And no sarcasm was intended with the reasoned discussion remark. Thanks again. 🙂

  51. sonicon 14 Oct 2012 at 1:52 pm

    What you are relating is the descriptions people give. If you read the narrative they will often include the disclaimer “It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen or experienced- I’ll give the best description I can…” (the other world is not perfectly described using words that describe this world…)

    In the TV analogy- I believe the interface is seen working both ways. I think what are called ‘veridical NDE’s’ are seen as examples of how the spirit really doesn’t need the brain to view the physical.
    I’m not sure why people get stuck in their heads. Beyond my expertise. 🙂

    Re: evolution. Pretty much everyone knows that Finch beaks get bigger and smaller. And that there are lots of breeds of dog. What is called ‘micro-evolution’ aka ‘natural selection’. This is observable and true.
    But how species become distinct is still largely unanswered.
    Further, nobody knows how life first began “life comes only from life” being the experimental answer–
    So one can expect that different people would have different ideas about how it began. We have no scientific answer as yet.

    Here is an article by Coyne where he tells of a situation–

    “Virtually all of the non-creationist opposition to the modern theory of evolution, and all of the minimal approbation of Shapiro’s views, come from molecular biologists. I’m not sure whether there’s something about that discipline (the complexity of molecular mechanisms?) that makes people doubt the efficacy of natural selection, or whether it’s simply that many molecular biologists don’t get a good grounding in evolutionary biology.”

    I will say this– it appears that as we find out more about how cells work and how DNA regulates the activities, we might make discoveries that are important to the final conclusions about how life started and what brings about evolution.
    Project ENCODE is one example that might have some big surprises for us.

  52. daedalus2uon 14 Oct 2012 at 3:11 pm

    sonic, I have had those feelings. I recognize them as subjective feelings, not as objects with their own objective reality.

    I looked at the paper you linked to and where is the quantum mechanics? They start by assuming that “consciousness” and “effort” are labels for objects that exist and which classical physics has no explanation for (which is false). They then claim that according to classical physics, the operation of a machine can’t affect the machine (which is also false). So when thinking in certain ways (mindfulness meditation or directed thinking) changes the brain, they invoke a not correct interpretation of quantum mechanics as a necessary (and magical) explanation.

    “When people practice self-directed activities for the purpose of systematically altering patterns of cerebral activation they are attending to their mental and emotional experiences, not merely their limbic or hypothalamic brain mechanisms. And although no scientifically oriented person denies that those brain mechanisms play a critical role in generating those experiences, precisely what the person is training him- or herself to do is to willfully change how those brain mechanisms operate—and to do that requires attending to mental experience per se. It is, in fact, the basic thesis of self-directed neuroplasticity research that the way in which a person directs their attention (e.g. mindfully or unmindfully) will affect both the experiential state of the person and the state of his/her brain. The existence of this close connection between mental effort and brain activity flows naturally out of the dynamic principles of contemporary physics, but is, within the framework of classic physics, a difficult problem that philosophers of the mind have been intensively engaged with, particularly for the past 50 years.”

    This is just silly. If what we call the mind is generated by the brain, then of course everything that the mind does will map onto something that the brain does. The process of thinking will map onto processes that the brain is carrying out. That process dissipates metabolic energy, of course there are changes going on in the brain during that process. The brain has to change in response to whatever the mind does, even if that change is only to instantiate memories of what ever thoughts were going on during the process.

  53. BillyJoe7on 14 Oct 2012 at 4:57 pm


    I see you saw through the (false) analogy between the tv studio and TV set on the one hand and consciousness and the brain on the other. No reception device, no analogy.

    As for evolution. The plain fact is that the basic tenets of evolutionary theory have never been refuted a don’t look like being refuted anytime soon. Nothing even looks close to replacing random mutation and non-random selection as the basis of evolutionary change. Certainly it’s a lot more complicated than Darwin envisioned, but that was 150 years ago and science progresses, but his basic conclusions remain.

    As for life. We don’t know how life evolved but there is really not doubt that it did. We’re really just looking for the mechanism. Science has never found evidence for supernatural intervention. In fact, the history of science is of replacing supernatural “solutions” to mysteries with natural explanations.
    Is a virus alive. Nobody seems to be happy with either answer and that should tell us that, at the interface between non-life and life, there is actually very little difference between the two. And, therefore, all you need is a very small change to get life from non-life.

  54. finnamoredon 14 Oct 2012 at 6:48 pm

    Dr. Novella,

    I’m curious about your unwillingness to try “mind-altering” substances in order to experience the states of mind often ascribed to NDE and alike. Is your objection out of health concerns? Fear of legal/professional repercussions?

    It’s true that one doesn’t need to have read the bible to understand/refute creationism, but the experience can be illuminating, and is relatively harmless.

  55. smillsishereon 14 Oct 2012 at 7:23 pm

    (I accidentally posted this elsewhere! Apogies, it’s supposed to go here under Proof of Heaven)

    Me and my partner listen to SGU every Saturday and often find ourselves falling asleep to the pleasant tones of Steve and his skeptic family.

    This blog post in itself (as with many analyses) raises questions about the extent to which skepticism can be of use in society. I completely understand the well constructed and logical opposition to the anti-vaccine movement. I understand in generic terms the critique and possible dismissal of poor research and unsubstantiated claims that can have a negative impact on our progression as a species (one topic comes to mind immediately, the use of ‘interpretors’ to help parents communicate with their autistic children, an abuse of common decency and trust). However, sometimes I wonder if skepticism often targets topics or elements of human culture that are neither harmful or unhealthy?

    For example, I like to consider myself a skeptic, having become considerably more aware of practices in society that in the first instance sound completely off (a recent colleague of mine in an evidence based field has received training in NADA’s 5 Point Protocol, a form of acupunture used to compliment the detoxification process). I’m looking to see whether any evidence stands through any available research (apparently there’s plenty). However, what about elements that concern ‘meaning’ in life? Skepticism as a form of critical thinking using empiricism as a tool to gauge reality is not compatible with ‘meaning’ in peoples lives. I don’t know why I’m here and science will never be able to answer that question. Staunch (as they often seem to me) atheists attack various religions for their mass delusions, whilst the religious claim that atheists are inherently bad/evil. Personally I find skepticism is more compatible with agnosticism, because both atheism and religion offer definitive answers in light of absolutely no evidence for either.

    So, in relation to this post, I wonder about the utility of the criticism. Should life after death as an idea be dismissed enirely in the realm of skepticism? Sure, wipe the name of catholocism with a recently emptied bowel, level the creationists who seek to subvert and un-educate the youth with their daft imaginings and selfish agendas. Of course, I do understand this post. a scientist has made a rather unscientific claim and has probably done little to distance his scientific understanding (or lack there of) from his personal beliefs, thereby creating a contradiction. But one dissident, not a movement, has described this experience and has left his creation to public consumption, where it can be taken as a sign of hope for some (human emotion) or receive derision from others. So of course, here is an analysis, but is it at all usefull or meaningful? I don’t believe in God, I have no idea what’s next and I certainly believe that any experiences reported in this existence had their source in this existence (in a healing or deteriorating brain in this instance), but does skepticism lose its focus when it pries apart individual experience? Just what would that really change?

    I don’t have an answer. It just struck me is all!

  56. Richardg837on 14 Oct 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Hi Steven

    Well written as always. The thing I don’t understand is this.
    I had an NDE in 98 after a motorcycle accident. I saw many things, experienced fear, love, longing, sadness and overwhelming happiness. I hallucinated such events as being on an 18th century galleon being in a field hospital, meeting dead relatives and being told my daughter would be well looked after if I died! Once I finally came out of my coma the feelings of otherworldliness continued, I longed to go back and experience those things again, I was amazed at what I had gone through.
    Do I believe in an afterlife now, after all these events? Of course not! I was on morphineand propaphol, my body had momentarily stopped, my mind had blocked out the actual accident as it was obviously too traumatic to remember. All these things tell me the brain can fool you to believe just about anything. But I am intelligent enough to know that is what happened, my unconscious self protected my conscious self as millions of years of evolution have allowed it to do.
    There is/are no God/Gods. No afterlife, ghosts, psychics et al. This is it people, we are here to procreate the species, that’s it. Stop worrying about the end, just enjoy now.

  57. Shelleyon 14 Oct 2012 at 11:54 pm

    My husband had several PEs some years ago. He lost consciousness, spent a few weeks in hospital. He described a near death experience of one-ness, of choice (stay or leave this life?), light, and so forth. But while curious and interesting, we both saw it as hypoxia. He did not see me frantically searching for a flight to get to him (he was out of town when he colapsed), no sense of our childrens’ day, or of any other outer world reality. Just a weird altered state brought on by a lack of oxygen, and a fading in and out of consciousness that felt somehow deliberate. We were fortunate. He survived to talk about it. Interesting stuff and fine dinner conversation, but alas, not evidence of an afterlife.

  58. Lukas1986on 15 Oct 2012 at 5:03 am

    @sonic: If you read my post above my grandfather had a NDE and as a my mother. I also was a believer and true one but after so many years wasted on this – I tried almost everything without drugs I came to the conclusion that there is no soul. I even finished science of religion with a Master degree and found out that people who believe don’t have all the information in science or are fanatics because they lost someone or hope that there is a afterlife because they have a fear to die. These are the things why the believe and priests and other people make a fortune out of it. The best thing is that priests and other who are on the top of believers don’t believe in the things that they are saying.

    As for your arguments:

    “It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen or experienced- I’ll give the best description I can…” (the other world is not perfectly described using words that describe this world…): People who had schizophrenia even say there things and I know my friend got this disease(I work for the red cross now and saw people with alzheimer and its not just the brain). Besides science can now even erase memories – Erase painful memories: Scientific breakthrough could let us delete …, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/…/Erase-painful – google it and you will find it.

    Vertical NDE’s’ – If NDEs are true why everyone has a different NDE and why the heck doesn’t everyone have a NDE of all the people who had a cardiac arrest or something like that if there is a spirit? If there is a soul everyone should have a NDE and it would be for sure no? Why these people describe it by normal physical means and I have witness it first hand on my mother and grandfather that they both had NDEs – and the words “it cannot be described by normal means” doesn’t count for me because its the same rhetoric that fanatics say when they have a ecstacy in church that I witnessed and say they saw Jesus.
    As for me I also was on a Nightwish concert and during it I had a moment I could not describe when everyone of us were shouting and listening to the voices of the singers in the single Nemo. I was so blasted for two days from the concert that I could barely talk. I had also this feeling when I felt in love with my wife for the first time when we were at a restaurant. I was shocked like she was. These feelings are normal but they are not a proof of a afterlife or a separated consciousness from the brain. My mother had the same moment in her NDE but she could describe the meadow and happiness but she returned and became a normal self not too spiritual or something.

    I also know about the AWARE study and no hits were made so far in the experiment when they can see a monitor or the symbols. If Dr. Sam Parnia the leader of the project would make a success he would have published it and he would have a Nobel prize in his pocket now but all he is doing is delaying the results because it brings nothing new. Besides on forum mind – energy which is Alex Tsakiris (Skeptiko moderator) there one guy wrote who knows the answers that there were no hits.

    As for life: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller–Urey_experiment – these people created life.

    As for evolution – Heck every day we find that dolphins are almost smart as we are.. Monkeys plan ahead etc.. How do those who don’t believe in evolution explain dinosaurs? A failed experiment of god I guess?

    Sorry if these are the arguments that believers point out then its nothing.

    Last argument that here comes to my mind now against the soul is for me is: Healers claim that they use the soul/life energy to heal then why the heck are those healers also sick? Why they wear glasses or get cancer when they claim that they have a strong soul with god powers inside them? They would be able to heal themselves and not only other people and they should be like superman when they have the power of the soul with the right technique like they claim.

    This is all I have to say.. As for NDEs they are just for now and for me wishes of a afterlife.

    Like we prayed to priests for answers to a afterlife now we pray to doctors and scientists for a afterlife. Nothing has changed.

    @BillyJoe7: I agree with you. I think science will bring the answers but we have to wait. I admit that I don’t know the answers of everything but those evidence the believers point out is for me personally too bad and not too logical in several cases. I don’t want to offend no one but if they have only these evidences then its the same to believe in Zeus and the Greek Gods.

  59. Lukas1986on 15 Oct 2012 at 5:46 am

    @sonic: Last thing I wanted to add: that every person who had a NDE, is a healer, etc.. Even Dr. Alexander is making big money from it or want money for it. According to Mind-energy forum he was from Newsweek to some shows and now he is also releasing a book. So why so much promotion and commercial? If he is such a spiritual man and all those who had a NDE are so changed and spiritual why they need to publish it and make money for it? Why do they desire so much fame and money? If something spiritual would happened to me I would not want money from it because when its about money then it is the same pattern like priests, cult leaders use. So the point is: Why people who should be spiritual are in the end again greedy and publish it for money again. Someone who was on the other side and saw god, angels etc.. Should release books for free and not want money for it because he knows that when he will die he will get his rewards by sharing his wisdom with humanity and thus fulfilling some plan and reason in the world. This is the thing that came to my mind.

  60. BillyJoe7on 15 Oct 2012 at 6:51 am


    There’s an even bigger argument for thinking that people who say they believe in an after life really don’t believe in it at all:
    They strive so hard to stay alive!

  61. BillyJoe7on 15 Oct 2012 at 7:03 am

    …BTW, Miller and Urey, did not create life.
    They created the building blocks of life (amino acids), not life itself.

  62. Lukas1986on 15 Oct 2012 at 7:31 am

    @BillyJoe7: Sorry my bad but they made out of chemicals the building blocks of life that means they made something from inorganic precursors to organic compounds.

  63. Harry Kelleyon 15 Oct 2012 at 9:03 am

    I have temporal lobe epilepsy. Actually I have lesions in both temporal lobes. My seizures have resulted in some pretty fantastic experiences all described in the literature on these experiences. One involves the feeling of a bird fluttering above my head. I know, it’s not like riding on the wing of a butterfly with a “peasant” girl but it’s still pretty amazing. Another is a sense of a light rain falling all around me. Both of these experiences have happened in the middle of church services. Utterly embarrassing.

    I began in my teens to pray that these experiences would go away. I came to hate them for two reasons. One, they would often precede a violent, devastating full-body seizure. Two, they never made me into a better person.

    Today I am grateful for medicines that keep me from having seizures including the seizures that came with soundtracks and light shows.

    I recently was asked to teach a class on prayer at my church. It turned into six sessions in which we looked, at least half the time, at how the brain works. Yes, I know little, but it seemed to me we had to address a central reality of spiritual experience and at least ask questions about how this organ (or organs) fits into our prayer life. One of the most fun, if completely unscientific, ideas we came up with was that the interplay between the “reptile,” the “mammal,” and the “primate” brains can look like various expressions of Christianity or religion. For instance, the “reptile” and reactive brain creates fight or flight responses. If the “higher” brain functions perceive these as real, regardless of analysis, then fundamentalism becomes reasonable. The “mammal” brain, the seat of more pleasant emotions, when perceived as the source of truth produces the kindler, gentler form of Christianity that I prefer. And of course: there’s always Bach and who the hell will ever account for that? I encouraged the class to meditate and thereby mediate the devils of primitive function with the angels of “mammalian membership,” before expressing anything as reasonable.

    As a Christian, gay man whose life has been lived in the arts, I am surrounded by friends who think I am hilarious and will occasionally ask me to explain the Incarnation or the Trinity. Usually I have to answer honestly by saying, “I’m still trying to figure out why a raspberry tastes the way it does. I’ll get back to you.”

    All of this day-tripping by Dr. Alexander seems really appropriate for a neurosurgeon who lives in Lynchburg, one of the epicenters of Christian fundamentalism in America.

  64. ccbowerson 15 Oct 2012 at 2:02 pm


    “Skepticism as a form of critical thinking using empiricism as a tool to gauge reality is not compatible with ‘meaning’ in peoples lives. I don’t know why I’m here and science will never be able to answer that question. ”

    I disagree with the first sentence: skepticism is perfectly compatible with “meaning” in people’s lives. Where do you see an incompatibility? I do agree that science and skepticism don’t create the meaning themselves, but they certainly have a role in informing a worldview in which meaning, which are human constructs, are created.

    “Personally I find skepticism is more compatible with agnosticism, because both atheism and religion offer definitive answers in light of absolutely no evidence for either.”

    As far as I’m concerned the term atheism includes agnosticism. One can use the term agnostic atheist to differentiate from other flavors of atheism, but it appears you are using too narrow a definition of atheism because to me it just indicates a lack of a belief (and not necessarily anything more than that)

    “So, in relation to this post, I wonder about the utility of the criticism. Should life after death as an idea be dismissed enirely in the realm of skepticism?”

    It seems that you are taking this post as a criticism of a belief in life after death, when I view it as a good example of a skeptical discussion about an individual making a claim based upon flimsy evidence. This individual showed a lack of critical thinking and made fairly common mistakes in thinking such as unchallenged assumptions about his experiences, and this allowed for such a discussion to take place. It appears some people don’t like the application of skepticism when it brushes up against certain topics, but I don’t think that concern is justified as long as the skepticism is used correctly

  65. BillyJoe7on 15 Oct 2012 at 3:00 pm


    “both atheism and religion offer definitive answers in light of absolutely no evidence for either”
    ” I don’t believe in God”

    I’m going to change “God” to “gods” because there is more than one god that people believe in.
    You are an atheist in the sense that an atheist is someone who does not believe in gods.
    You are not an atheist in the sense that an atheist is someone who believes there are no gods.
    The first sees no evidence for the existence of god and therefore does not believe in gods,
    The second believes there is evidence that gods do not exist and therefore believes there are no gods.
    But substitute “fairies” for “gods” and you will see that there is very little difference between the two.
    Would you say “I do not believe in faeries” or “I believe there are no faeries”.
    It is always useful in these discussions to substitute “gods” for “God” and “faeries” for “gods”.

    “I don’t know why I’m here and science will never be able to answer that question.”

    Science can inform you about how to answer this question.
    For example, cosmology and evolution can inform you that the question makes no sense.
    There is no reason why you are here, but there is an explanation for how you came to be here.
    And because there is no reason why you are here, you can find your own reasons to be here.
    And I think this is the most liberating conclusion scepticism and science have ever come up with.

  66. sonicon 15 Oct 2012 at 7:01 pm

    The link I provided assumes the orthodox interpretation of QM.
    Given that interpretation, a resolution of the ‘mind-body’ problem is proposed. One of the nice things about this proposal is that it fits with all the physics that is currently known and it also fits with experience– at least the way I experience things.
    Why do you reject this particular interpretation?
    Which one do you think is correct?

    You have a conclusion.
    That conclusion is based on ideas about how things must be.
    You ask why people have different NDE’s, for example.
    Why wouldn’t they? I have no knowledge that tells me everyone should have the same NDE. If everyone has a different one- or if some have none at all- I have no knowledge that tells me this isn’t exactly as it should be. I might even find it odder if people did have the same.
    What do you know that tells you that everyone should have the same experience?

    I do believe you are correct- the AWARE study has no hits as of yet. Unfortunately this is a one-way study– it might prove the hypothesis (or at least make for some difficult explaining away), but it can’t disprove the hypothesis. That is one of the reasons I don’t like the test that much. If producing evidence of a veridical NDE was worth a Nobel Prize, then they would have handed out quite a few by now. I don’t think it is the sort of thing they are looking for right now.

    If you think Miller- Urey created life, then you should tell Miller that. I believe he is quite certain they did not.
    There are no precursors of life other than life. At least that is the experimental evidence. You are aware of Pasteur’s experiments on this- right?
    But the idea that someday someone will refute this well known experimental result is unfalsifiable- so I would imagine that it will be with us for sometime.

    I don’t know what god thinks about money. Perhaps he wants Dr. A. to make a bunch. Why would you think otherwise?

  67. sonicon 15 Oct 2012 at 7:01 pm

    I believe Wittgenstein said it well-
    “We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.”
    Or am I misreading you?

  68. Lukas1986on 16 Oct 2012 at 2:02 am

    @sonic: You ask why people have different NDE’s, for example. Why wouldn’t they? I have no knowledge that tells me everyone should have the same NDE. If everyone has a different one- or if some have none at all- I have no knowledge that tells me this isn’t exactly as it should be. I might even find it odder if people did have the same. – your question my answer:

    Because everyone should have the same “heaven” if there is a heaven and not only psychedelic states. If there would be a “afterlife” everyone should have the same images and same after life world because everyone of us is living in the same material world which we all see like it is. Example you see a tree and I see a tree and for both of us its a tree not a mammoth. Because if everyone would have a NDE that everyone had then there is a chance that it is a afterlife but if everyone has a different afterlife how do you explain this? How do you explain that everyone was seeing something else? You want to tell me that everyone will go to a different heaven?

    The problem with this is the same like with my friends from high school who tried drugs and all of them from mushrooms to marijuana – not hard drugs. They were three friends but all of them had different visions when they were high on some mushroom drug they made but they both had something in common – they said they felt love and the beat of the universe in them and that all is one. Besides this their other visions were different according to their own world view but these three things they had in common the love, one with the universe and a pulse of the universe.

    If you think Miller- Urey created life, then you should tell Miller that. I believe he is quite certain they did not.
    There are no precursors of life other than life. At least that is the experimental evidence. You are aware of Pasteur’s experiments on this- right?
    But the idea that someday someone will refute this well known experimental result is unfalsifiable- so I would imagine that it will be with us for sometime.

    Answer: I already replied this to BillyJoe7: that it was a error on my side and besides scientist are making its way to create life – Dr. Craig Venter creates synthetic life form | Science | The Guardian – google it. I know its not made from scratch but they are working on it to create life from scratch.

    I don’t know what god thinks about money. Perhaps he wants Dr. A. to make a bunch. Why would you think otherwise? Answer:

    Because believers claim that those who have NDE are more spiritual and don’t care about materialism at all because these people with NDEs have found a meaning in life and are now spiritual and care only about the afterlife and giving the massage and NOT making money out of it. But no they are the same they still want money and don’t care about spiritual things only to make big bucks out of it. They are the same as they were before and only use the NDEs to take money from “blind sheep” like priests do with their own “sheep”.

    As for me my mind is not set but believers evidence is nothing more then believing in pseudoscience without critical thinking. But I must admit that believers are critical on normal science that is based on materialism. I don’t want to change your world view that you have sonic on the contrary you replied to me that you know the answers why believers believe and you were up the challenge to change my agnostic mind into a open mind.

    Thanks for your answers and I wish you a nice day.

  69. Lukas1986on 16 Oct 2012 at 2:40 am

    @sonic: If producing evidence of a veridical NDE was worth a Nobel Prize, then they would have handed out quite a few by now. I don’t think it is the sort of thing they are looking for right now.

    Answer: Give me the evidence-real evidence that even the skeptics cannot destroy..If you have that kind of evidence of it and if you have evidence that NDEs are proof of a afterlife..but if you don’t have this proof please spare it.

    Sorry for the double post but I missed that.

  70. No_spoonon 16 Oct 2012 at 6:35 am

    So most of you guys are skeptic about LAD. That is great and pretty obvious, easy, logical standpoint because there is no proof for its existence. For 35 years I have rediculed every idea that suggested otherwise. I am still not a believer, but in my opinion if you are interested in this question (U obviously are or U would not be here) you have to forget Eben’s and other similar stories and start it from somewhere else.

    Think about this:

    – the chance for anybody to live in the present (the only place in linear time where it is possible) is 1/infinity = 0!!
    – the chance for the existence of such a universe we live in with these parameters (where planets or any material besides hydrogen can exist) is 1/ infinity = 0!!
    – so the chance I am having a conversation with anybody on this site is mathematically 0*0!!

    You are gonna say that it is true mathematically but we are here so even if it is very unlikely my arguments are worthless cause you know you exist in this universe and alive although only for a very limited time. You also know that your brain tricks you all the time when you are dreaming for example, or even if you simply look at anything cause you are not supposed to see a full picture your brain fixes it fills the missing area everyone has in his eyes.

    You also know that Einsteins relativity and the kvantumphysics contradict each other. This is wierd but we can use them in certain circumstances and they work fine till a limit!! But there is a limit!!! There are many researches that can not be explained, and proove that our understanding of the world is very wrong.

    – Aspect’s experiment
    – Double slit experiment

    If intersted in this topic read biocentrism, holographic universe plus many other theories that to me seem at least that acceptable as the materialistic worldview.

    Plus – memories in the brain?? – there are very strong arguments it is not stored in the brain read Bohm, Pribram…


  71. tmac57on 16 Oct 2012 at 10:29 am

    I’m afraid that you have fallen for the Lottery Fallacy (also see the Law of Truly Large Numbers).

  72. Yehouda Harpazon 16 Oct 2012 at 10:37 am

    The quote says:

    “While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them”

    Does any body seriously believe that the neurons were “stunned to complete inactivity”?

    Steven Novella himself write as if he accepts that this is true, which I find surprising. Is there is any evidence for it?

  73. Yehouda Harpazon 16 Oct 2012 at 10:43 am

    Sorry, that went to the wrong place. How do I delete a message?

  74. Lukas1986on 16 Oct 2012 at 10:57 am

    @No_spoon: This is from your post – “Plus – memories in the brain?? – there are very strong arguments it is not stored in the brain read Bohm, Pribram…”

    I would like to know how Bohm and Pribram explain Alzheimer and Dementia if the memories are not stored in the brain? When people in hard dementia and last stages in Alzheimer disease loose their thoughts short memories and long time memories? I know this for sure in the case of Alzheimer because I have seen several patients who could not even recognize their loved ones..

    This is the only thing I wanted to ask.. Have a nice day..

  75. daedalus2uon 16 Oct 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Sonic, I reject the interpretation that puts a sentient interpretation or the “knowing” of something as being what makes the wave function collapse. I don’t think that is the orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics (and if it is, then it is wrong).

    The “problem” of the mind-body dualism problem is in human hyperactive agency detection applied to itself. Humans are predisposed to detect agency and will find agency even when it is not there. The requirement that there be an “agent” to cause the wave function to collapse is a cognitive illusion. The requirement that there be an agent animating the brain, the mind, is also a cognitive illusion. The requirement of an agent, a homunculus animating the brain adds no explanatory power. It simply begs the question of where human behaviors come from to the second order homunculus animating the first homunculus, and then the third order, and fourth order, and so on.

    The problem with the paper is that it is all motivated reasoning, motivated to come to the conclusion that mental phenomena are actual objects that have objective reality and which objectively cause downstream events without antecedent physical causes.

    There is no objective data that what we call consciousness is anything other than an emergent epiphenomena of the human brain. Some people feel that it is different, and for some, those feelings are very strong, such that they are unable to reconcile those feelings with the idea that the human brain is just a complex assembly of matter behaving according to known physical principles.

  76. Bronze Dogon 16 Oct 2012 at 12:40 pm


    1. Big fallacy you’re falling for is also known as the Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy. Imagine someone fires his gun randomly at a barn wall and then paints a bullseye around the biggest cluster of shots. It’s accurate to say it’s wildly improbable that the universe would lead to this exact form filled with these exact people in it. But there’s nothing inherently special about this particular configuration aside from the value your ego attaches to it. There were plenty of alternative forms the universe could have developed into instead, and they were just as unlikely. If one of them happened, you wouldn’t be around to complain about your non-existence.

    The dice rolled in this universe’s favor instead of one of the many other equally unlikely outcomes. You might as well complain that the lottery is rigged from the start because an individual winner’s chances of winning were very low. That’s because you don’t consider the prospect that millions of people bought tickets. We won because we were lucky, not because the lottery chose us.

    2. …What’s misunderstood about the Double Slit Experiment? I think I’ve got a decent grasp on it for a layman. If you’re going to argue that consciousness changed the result, I don’t see any reason to think so. When I realized why detecting which slit the electrons/photons went through changed their behavior, I smacked my forehead for not realizing the obvious: Observation is an inherently active process. We only think otherwise because we live in the middle world, where the changes we make to “normal” objects can be negligible. You have to interact with objects and thus change them to observe them. To look at a rock, I have to bombard it with visible light, which is going to warm and expand it slightly. At the level of individual electrons and photons, there really isn’t much room for “slightly,” so if you’re going set up a detector, that detector is going to end up having some effect on the particle. In the Double Slit experiment, that means collapsing its wave function to make it behave more like a particle and less like a wave.

    The consciousness explanation strikes me as an exercise in double-think and misrepresentation: It starts with the false assumption that humans are separate from the universe, sets that up as the straw man version of physics, and then pretends to be surprised when humans messing with particles causes those particles to behave differently when we change how we mess with them. Woos seem to bring it up so they can baffled by a simple, counter-intuitive notion and then project their own bafflement onto us.

  77. sonicon 16 Oct 2012 at 6:44 pm

    If you know of an interpretation for Quantum Mechanics that is better than the orthodox, then what is it?
    I really would like to know.
    Understand this– I have spent many hours trying to find and/or produce a better interpretation. Each interpretation that I know of has its pluses and minuses.
    Which do you prefer and why?

    BTW– There is no objective data that consciousness exists at all.

  78. sonicon 16 Oct 2012 at 6:49 pm

    I wouldn’t try to change your mind about something. I would give you the best contrary argument that I know of. And that’s so that you can judge your ideas against the best- or at least my version of it.
    You wouldn’t want to judge an idea based on anything but the best rendition of it, right?
    And I do try to present the ideas in the best light possible.

    It’s odd, I would think that everyone would get his own heaven. What I like is probably different than what you like- so why wouldn’t heaven be different for us?
    I understand that drugs can give one various feelings. I’m not sure how that relates to these questions.

    And they will continue to work on creating life from scratch.
    How many more years of failure should I wait before questioning that this will ever happen? 20 years? 100 years? 100,000 years?
    (And Venter would say that DNA is the instruction code for life and that he produced an instruction code from scratch. And he would tell you this is an entirely different problem from creating life from scratch. At least that’s how he described it in the interview I read.)

    If you want examples of veridical NDE, then check here-

    Until we meet again– 🙂

  79. ccbowerson 16 Oct 2012 at 8:45 pm


    “- so the chance I am having a conversation with anybody on this site is mathematically 0*0!!”

    Tmac57 was right on, but I would like to elaborate. The problem with your line of reasoning here is that you are using ‘a priori’ probabilities in a way that is inappropriate and misleading. It is often called the lottery fallacy because it looks at the end result of an unlikely event and tries to draw significance to it. The lottery is a good example, because the a priori odds of winning the lottery are 1 in several million, yet the fact that someone will likely win the lottery is not miraculous just because the a priori probabilities are low. You are ignoring all the “misses,” or people who didn’t win that same lottery

  80. sonicon 16 Oct 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Since the conclusion is incorrect (you are communicating, so the odds are 100%)- which of the earlier premises are you suggesting is false?

  81. ccbowerson 16 Oct 2012 at 11:50 pm


    I actually think its not a matter of wrong premises as much as it is a lack of connection between the premises, the conclusions, and implication of the conclusions. Its presented as rough mathematical estimation of probabilities, but the problem is the conclusion is (an incorrect) non sequitur

  82. Lukas1986on 17 Oct 2012 at 2:13 am

    @sonic: It’s odd, I would think that everyone would get his own heaven. What I like is probably different than what you like- so why wouldn’t heaven be different for us?
    I understand that drugs can give one various feelings. I’m not sure how that relates to these questions.

    My answer: This is just as you feel but your feeling is not the right thing because look if there is a heaven then it should be for everyone the same. In my opinion its like with this world for everyone its the same – this world is the same for me and for you even when you like snow and I like water etc.. Besides the sickness cold must always have the same symptoms if it doesn’t then its not cold but a other disease. This is the same with heaven if all the people don’t have the same images then its not heaven. Look if all people in NDE would be in some inferno like place then it would be hell right or would you still call it heaven? When there would be a heaven then everyone should have the same visions and not different ones.

    The drugs related to the question in the way that my friends had visions and all of them were different like all NDEs were different – get it? If my friends would be out of body they should all have the same images but they didn’t it all was different.

    And they will continue to work on creating life from scratch.
    How many more years of failure should I wait before questioning that this will ever happen? 20 years? 100 years? 100,000 years?
    (And Venter would say that DNA is the instruction code for life and that he produced an instruction code from scratch. And he would tell you this is an entirely different problem from creating life from scratch. At least that’s how he described it in the interview I read.)

    My answer: They are making progress and besides its the same with waiting for results if NDEs are true or not. Science is making its progress but people have to wait. Look if you look at it on the bright side our technologies have moved fast. In the past 50 years scientist have made milestones of work and it is going on. I think in a couple of years scientist will be able to create life and also that we will find consciousness in the brain. We even now have found that animals have consciousness – Prominent scientists sign declaration that animals have conscious … – google it.

    Or that it is in the brain – http://www.world-science.net/othernews/080219_conscious.htm
    Lucid dreamers help scientists locate the seat of meta – Science Daily – google it.


    My answer: From the text in the link :

    Can consciousness survive bodily death?” This last question likely cannot be proven true to the satisfaction of the skeptics using near-death research alone. This is because no matter how you define “death,” the only kind of definition that satisfies the skeptics is “irreversible” death. Just the very nature of the phrase “near-death” suggests that it is not true death – where nobody comes back.

    However, good scientific evidence for survival can be found in other realms of research such as psychic studies, quantum physics, consciousness studies, and remote viewing – not to mention the mountain of circumstantial evidence. – did I read good psychic studies??? Remote Viewing??? What is this Star Wars or Spider-Man?? This is not science but fantasies in my mind – there is no such thing as psychic phenomena because I studied this for a decade and found no proof. Heck I even tried these things and me and nothing worked. I brought so many New Age books and nothing worked only I lost so much money. Heck it is all about money.

    Look at this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI6_LsJX4Kg its about alien abduction and in the last minutes they talk how much money the New Age folk take from people for their books and meetings.

    Veridical Perception in NDEs in the text – no written evidence only talking about it that there is but nothing new to add. Also in the text – And although the available veridical NDE evidence does not constitute scientific proof of consciousness surviving bodily death, it does qualify as very powerful circumstantial and ANECDOTAL evidence, the kind of evidence that is upheld every day in courts of law all around the country.

    Example 1: An elderly woman had been blind since childhood. – Was she really blind or lost her sight during childhood if she only lost her sight she can made it up because as a child she could remember the doctors and use only fantasy to recreate the real image according to the words the doctors told her before the operation – in here Slovakia doctors have to tell you what they are going to do to you according to the law.

    I will not debunk every of the examples here because I don’t have the time but if you want read this:

    In the first it is written that they give too much meaning to NDE making the story bigger.

    Hallucinatory Near-Death Experiences
    Are near-death experiences just hallucinations? | sciencefocus.com
    Near-death experience – RationalWiki

    I also want to add that one person who is a nurse in my family had a dream that her grandmother was could not get home. Her grandmother was sick and she even died that night when the nurse had this dream. She then as a child came to the conclusion from this dream that her grandmother died and told this. The grandmother even died that is true that night but the dream was not about death itself but that grandmother has lost her keys and the nurse could not find them for her not could get home and had to leave. The nurse then contributed this that she wanted to leave a death message because she interpreted the symbols that she cannot return home as the death of her grandmother. To get to the point it was only a dream about lost keys and not a specific death where the grandmother told in the dream she will die. This is where people look for symbols and then interpret them like the nurse from my family did as a child. This is maybe also happening in NDEs where people take the symbols and interpret them according to their wishes and world views. But this is only my thoughts about it.

    Have a nice day sonic..

  83. Lukas1986on 17 Oct 2012 at 2:30 am


    Veridical Perception in NDEs in the text – no written evidence only talking about it that there is but nothing new to add. Also in the text – And although the available veridical NDE evidence does not constitute scientific proof of consciousness surviving bodily death, it does qualify as very powerful circumstantial and ANECDOTAL evidence, the kind of evidence that is upheld every day in courts of law all around the country. – the last line is not completely true.


    Witness testimony is a common form of evidence in law, and law has mechanisms to test witness evidence for reliability or credibility. Legal processes for the taking and assessment of evidence are formalized. Some witness testimony could be described as anecdotal evidence, such as individual stories of harassment as part of a class action lawsuit. However, witness testimony can be tested and assessed for reliability. Examples of approaches to testing and assessment include the use of questioning, evidence of corroborating witnesses, documents, video and forensic evidence. Where a court lacks suitable means to test and assess testimony of a particular witness, such as the absence of forms of corroboration or substantiation it may afford that testimony limited or no “weight” when making a decision on the facts.


  84. petrossaon 17 Oct 2012 at 2:41 am

    It’s good to see my opinion about philosophy as being a waste of time confirmed. Dozens of comments and all to no avail. The moment someone shows a veritable ghost or any afterlife phenomenon that goes beyond what is shown on Ghosthunters and shows like it i’ll accept that the human soul exists other then as a byproduct of excessive data manipulation by the brain.

    NDE’s fit nicely in the hallucination department and are totally and plausible explicable by deteriorating brainfunction.

    No other explanation which involves farfetched assumptions need be applied to explain what is epxlained already better.

  85. Lukas1986on 17 Oct 2012 at 6:31 am

    @sonic: Last argument that came to me during work today for the thing that everyone has a different heaven:

    – Example 1: Me and my wife die and both of us have their own heaven. What if my wife doesn’t want to be with me? Then she would have a heaven without me? And I want to be with my wife then I will have her in my heaven even when she doesn’t want to be with me? What heaven will win? The heaven where my wife would be without me or with me?
    – Example 2 : I person who is a killer a sadist goes to heaven (because according to Moody and believers all people go to heaven even the evil ones – according to them no NDEs were hellish which Susan Blackmore denied and said that there were hellish NDEs – look in Skeptic dictionary for NDE) and he wants to torture someone who is also in heaven will this person soul suffer because this sadist wants to torture this person? Or will the person have his personal heaven without the evil guy?
    – Example 3 : Someone who has erotomania (psychological sickness that he believes that someone is in love with a celebrity or a normal person who he stalks and even terrorizes). His heaven would be that he will get the person of his dreams but that brings the stalked person into hell because erotomaniacs are dangerous. Then what heaven will win – the erotomans heaven or the celebrities heaven where she would be free of the erotomianiac and with her own dreams?

    I also can explain why people who suffered NDE want to return to it because according to me its the same like with marijuana, candy, sex, concerts etc.. You feel great because your brain releases the chemicals that make you feel great – like in my cause with the concert or the first meeting in a restaurant with my future wife. We want this because we feel then great and therefore it is so astonishing. I and my wife go to this day in our “special day” to the restaurant to relive the moment because it gives us the great feeling and our brain relaxes and therefore it is only psychological why people want NDE or other things that return their brain into that chemical state which brought them the greatness. I once read something similar on Asktheatheist.com where once someone asked why people pray in danger = his answer was that their brain want to relax the big stress and therefore finds a childhood memory of the church where everyone was happy and was in a church and protected by the god. This is what I think also..

    This is all I have to add. Read this and my two answers above sonic if you want.. Have a nice day everyone..

  86. BillyJoe7on 17 Oct 2012 at 6:53 am


    Seems like he’s gone, but anyway…

    “the chance for anybody to live in the present…is 1/infinity = 0!!

    Actually, 1/infinity is undefined.
    The correct mathematical statement is: The limit of 1/n, where n approaches infinity, is zero.
    But the chance for anybody to live in the present is clearly one, not zero.

    “the chance for the existence of such a universe we live in with these parameters…is 1/ infinity = 0!!”
    “so the chance I am having a conversation with anybody on this site is mathematically 0*0!!”

    Similarly, the answer is one, not zero.

    “You also know that Einsteins relativity and the kvantumphysics contradict each other.”

    It is more correct to say that they are incompatible.
    Yes, we do not have a Theory Of Everything…yet, maybe never.

    “There are many researches that can not be explained, and proove that our understanding of the world is very wrong.
    – Aspect’s experiment”

    We cannot explain nonlocality. But we also cannot explain gravity. How does one mass attract another mass. Einstein says mass curves space. But then we can’t explain curved space either. In special relativity, time and space are interchangeable. How is that possible? And what is it that holds an electron in place around a nucleus and a proton and neutron together within the nucleus. We have given these forces names, but what are they actually. To my mind nonlocality is not really much different. What we can say about it is that it acts in a very “mechanical” way. We know exactly when it will occur and when it will not occur with 100% certainty.

    “- Double slit experiment”

    This is no mystery. You turn the sensors on and you get a scatter pattern. You turn the sensors off and you get a interference pattern. It happens predictably every time without fail. No consciousness required. The experimenter can put his experiment on automatic time delay and die before the experiment runs and the result will be exactly as predicted. A very “mechanical” result.

    “many other theories that to me seem at least that acceptable as the materialistic worldview.”

    Materialism/physicalism/naturalism is the assumption of science and, so far, it has panned out. Not one single confirmation of an immaterial/nonphysical/supernatural cause in 400 years. So let’s just keep on assuming materialism/physicalism/naturalism shall we.

    If intersted in this topic read biocentrism, holographic universe plus
    Plus – memories in the brain?? – there are very strong arguments it is not stored in the brain read Bohm, Pribram…

  87. BillyJoe7on 17 Oct 2012 at 6:56 am

    …oops, delete the last two lines.

  88. Bronze Dogon 17 Oct 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Materialism/physicalism/naturalism is the assumption of science and, so far, it has panned out. Not one single confirmation of an immaterial/nonphysical/supernatural cause in 400 years. So let’s just keep on assuming materialism/physicalism/naturalism shall we.

    Personally, I just prefer to call it monism when dealing with substance dualists. I think saying “materialist” and the like too much might inadvertently humor their notion that it’s a meaningful category, and thus that some things like the supernatural can be excluded from it. That lets them pretend we have a blind spot for their favorite false category instead of dealing with the idea that monism is all inclusive: If it exists, science can study it. I think pressing the issue from that angle would make them uncomfortable because it requires they justify creating the poorly defined category and why it would allegedly be beyond science.

  89. daedalus2uon 17 Oct 2012 at 4:23 pm

    sonic, I like the Copenhagen interpretation. The Copenhagen interpretation does not ascribe agency to what causes collapse of the wave function.


    I see that the von Neumann interpretation does have consciousness thrown in there and in an ad hoc and (to me) unsatisfactory way.

  90. KarlNon 18 Oct 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Reading your criticism and some of the other rebuttals to Eben Alexanders testimony I cannot free myself from the notion that you all truly misunderstands the whole point of his strange experience.
    To start with: What is life? What is existence? Why do we perceive things the way we do? And above all; what is reality?
    I must admit I don’t know the answers to my own questions – but for the sake of argument I insinuate that the rabbit hole runs a lot deeper than we thinks.
    The true meaning of Eben Alexanders story is that he perceived another type of reality, separated yet somehow interlinked with our everyday observed version (I deliberately try to avoid the matrix term) At the moment his normal brain function was inactivated, he encountered a very different level of existence as real as our own. He implies that it’s not the brains responsibility to construct reality–it has a slightly different set of functions: Filtering the amount of information so we are accustomed to only ONE version of the material realm.
    Now I admit that this assumption sounds farfetched, there are many questionable presumptions but try for a moment assume that he is in some aspects correct.
    This could truly transform everything we think we believe in.

  91. sonicon 18 Oct 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Copenhagen gives us the ‘measurement problem’ which leads to von Neumann’s mathematical analysis and that allows for consciousness causes collapse. It doesn’t prove it, it allows for the possibility.
    I think it is also a safe position in that we know what we experience are collapsed wave-functions.
    Schrodinger’s equation does not have any collapses in it. For that reason it is unclear that collapses occur without consciousness.

    This is logically and mathematically sound.

    At this point I’m not sure which my favorite interpretation of quantum mechanics is. I have studied the experiments and I will admit that I can’t say why they work the way they do.
    So is it many-worlds, or consciousness causing collapses, or Cramer’s transactional or Stenger’s objects going backwards in time– they all work- but how to judge– they all seem pretty absurd.

    Perhaps we need an interpretation that has consciousness causing collapses in other universes that move backwards and forwards in time– changing direction when things go bump in the night. 🙂

    Then again, maybe not.

  92. BillyJoe7on 19 Oct 2012 at 7:17 am

    The Parable of the Universe

    Collapse cannot occur without consciousness.
    The entire universe is a evolving wave function until consciousness arrives on the scene.
    But consciousness does not just suddenly arrive. It evolves.
    This means that the wave function collapses really slowly.
    Only when Homo sapiens finally appears on the scene does the universe fully collapse.
    Of course, that is only in the vanishingly small Homo sapiens’ part of the universe.
    The vast expanse of the unseen universe continues in suspended animation…
    …waiting patiently for the arrival of consciousness.

  93. BillyJoe7on 19 Oct 2012 at 7:18 am

    …then again, maybe not.

  94. Philgrimmon 19 Oct 2012 at 10:56 am

    I’ve arrived a little late to this party, but I have a few observations: I started out my medical carrier as a confirmed atheist and sceptic, but during my carrier i have watched thousands of deaths and actively participated in the death moments of hundreds. These experiences have convinced me that modern medicine is operating under the wrong basic assumptions.

    I have become convinced that there is a human essence, a soul if you will. Something that is present in a normal, functioning human being, an essence that frequently disappears in a noticeable way at a distinct and identifiable time that is not the same moment as the Homo sapiens death. The odds of ever seeing that spiritual essence after a Homo sapiens is place upon a respirator is extraordinarily small; meaning that while the Homo sapiens may survive 5 days on a respirator, the essence of or soul of that individual may not.

    This makes me a dreadful dualist and unfortunately I am both overly educated and smart enough to go off the rails and think outside the box far enough to develop a paradigm that explains everything: the location and nature of heaven, the true nature of what we call God, the true nature of Humanity, and the difference between the Homo sapiens host animal, the human soul and the Human being.

    Regarding the NDE that precipitated this; this event is rare, most who come this close to death will not come back, and the ones who do were still in possession of their souls. Many of those who comeback from near death events end up living in a nursing home without their former soul.

    My paradigm of understanding of the cosmos, the true nature of god, the true nature of humanity and a new hermeneutic for interpreting both human history and ethical monotheistic scripture, relies heavily on the works of two men: William James and J. Allan Hobson. Two works in particular are important: The Varieties of Religious Experience by James and The Dream Drugstore by Hobson(MIT Press).

    I have had a religious experience as powerful as any and the event itself is personally convincing but it is one that requires interpretation: you come away convinced of the existence of a divinity but unprepared for how that insight can be translated into practical application, let alone human acceptance.

    I believe that concept of Neuormodulation, particularly the lack of long term memory storage for no conscious mentation is an essential part of Homo sapiens inability, indeed an intransigent refusal, to recognize the divine.

  95. BillyJoe7on 21 Oct 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Anyway, seeing as there is no further reply to this one…

    I will offer my usual challenge to anyone who thinks consciousness has anything to do with quantum physics:

    Please link to just one experiment in quantum physics that demonstrates that consciousness is necessary for collapse.

    You can interpret all you want but, unless you can actually demonstrate it, you’re just pissing around.

  96. Ufoon 24 Oct 2012 at 6:58 pm

    The latest from Alex Tsakiris:


    “So let’s move on to the second critique of this article in Newsweek, and it comes from our old friend, Dr. Steven Novella…”

    “You’ll also know if you’ve dug into those shows that while like I say he’s a really smart guy, he’s very, very light on near-death experience science. I mean, he just doesn’t know the research. If you want proof of that, go back to the last time that he was on Skeptiko. I mean, he not only failed to back up a couple of his assertions but at the end of that interview, we left it with let’s come back on and have a debate.

    Steve was going to provide this big list that he had of all of the NDE research that proved his point. When I pre-empted that by publishing, Here’s the research that I think you’re going to publish and here’s how it’s been responded to by the near-death experience researchers that we’ve had on the show, Steve disappeared. I’ve followed up with him multiple times on that and I know he’s busy and all that, but really, when you piece the whole thing together what you see is somebody who’s really not dug into the research and really doesn’t know—there’s really no other way to say it—what he’s talking about when it comes to near-death experience science.”

    Steve, would be nice to hear your side of the story as well?

    And in any case, why not dance with Alex here? I’m sure many skeptics would like to hear you guys discuss this thoroughly in many future episodes of SGU and Skeptiko. Give the guy some slack and make your views heard to the alt community as well and as constructively as possible. His show and forum are very popular, and I happen to think that building friendly bridges (even if we have to swallow a lot of crap in our way) is a very important part of the skeptical movement. Plus, live debating can be very educational for everyone.



  97. Mlemaon 27 Oct 2012 at 2:30 am

    On this issue I would like to quote former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld:

    “There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know. So when we do the best we can and we pull all this information together, and we then say well that’s basically what we see as the situation, that is really only the known knowns and the known unknowns….
    It sounds like a riddle. It isn’t a riddle. It is a very serious, important matter.

    There’s another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way.”


  98. BillyJoe7on 30 Oct 2012 at 3:58 pm

    “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”

    But when the evidence that should be there is something is true is not there, then absence of evidence IS evidence of absence.

  99. Mlemaon 30 Oct 2012 at 9:59 pm

    BillyJoe, you sound just like Mr. Rumsfeld!

  100. BillyJoe7on 31 Oct 2012 at 4:47 am

    Thank you.
    But I hope you picked the typo because, otherwise what I said makes no sense.

  101. Bronze Dogon 31 Oct 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I recently visited a GIS conference where one of the speakers referred to Rumsfeld’s speech about unknown unknowns as his favorite poem.

    And yeah, I get annoyed with the absence of evidence line. An alternate phrasing of the idea of the Modus Tollens exception: If the evidence is absent when and where you expect it to be present, then the absence of evidence becomes evidence of absence.

  102. BillyJoe7on 31 Oct 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks, Bronze Dog, that’s what my typo corrected sentence, “when the evidence that SHOULD be there if something is true is NOT there, then absence of evidence IS evidence of absence”, meant.

  103. f.rodereron 02 Nov 2012 at 7:23 pm

    yes, you’re right there is no proof again.

    but you missunderstand alexander, when you think, he tried “give sense” to his experience. the experience does make perfect sense, even after you wake up. it stays all clear in mind. unlike dreams or hallucinations. it is just so far from our every day experience, that it is difficult to articulate it:

    try to explain to a child what an orgasm feels like.
    you simply can’t. no matter how hard you try. it’s not possible.
    the child will allways think you’d have gone crazy.

    its the same with this experiences.
    (i wish to you, that you will experience it before your last morning has broken and i promise you, it’s better than sex. 😉
    and by the way: the best thing is, you don’t even necessairily need a lifethreatening situation to get to this mindblowing state of mind…)

  104. TessForNDEon 15 Nov 2012 at 10:54 am


    Your not so subtle way of indicating your criticism is irritating and makes it difficult to read because, from the very first sentence, I can tell that you are more interested in mockery than in really writing valid criticism.

    I came here looking for someone highly trained to provide valid criticism.

    I’ve left, scratching my head.

    Why is this person posting here rather than contacting Dr. Alexander to look at the real facts of his case? Did you discuss with his doctors? Did you look at his medical records?

    The criticism I have of your criticism is your use of “of course”. Assumptions, not facts, “doctor”.


  105. Steven Novellaon 15 Nov 2012 at 1:18 pm


    I wrote: “Of course his brain did not go instantly from completely inactive to normal or near normal waking consciousness. ”

    Do you object to this statement?

    Alexander has extensively documented his claims. Confidentiality would prohibit his doctors from talking to me or me from gaining access to his medical records. But it does make a convenient excuse for you to dismiss my argument here.

  106. Steven Novellaon 15 Nov 2012 at 1:25 pm

    UFO – Alex is a crank, in my opinion,. He is not being fair at all. He has not been contacting me – I don’t know what he is talking about.

    The last time I was on his show he demonstrated a complete misinterpretation of an NDE study. I corrected him, after a very careful read of the study. He never admitted his mistake.

    I have read the research (that is such a tired refrain from Alex that it has become a standard joke about him) – that is his dodge when his analysis is simply faulty. It’s the “12 foot stack” approach that UFO proponents are also fond of.

    You try to examine the best evidence, and when that is flimsy proponents simply do their dance and talk about all the other evidence. I have done this dance with Alex more than enough. He doesn’t deserve another go around.

  107. zealoteson 29 Dec 2012 at 6:42 am

    A classic left brain scientific rationalist reduction of the spiritual affective transcendent experience to brain chemistry and electrical impulses. Oh how deficient and diminished is this limited 2 dimensional view of existence…and only as old as the Enlightenment. What a sad intellectually arrogant bunch are materialist fundamentalist left-brain scientific types. Proof of Heaven is one of the best books I have ever read, and I have 2 bachelor degrees and a masters degree from 3 reputable universities.

  108. BillyJoe7on 06 Jan 2014 at 8:17 pm

    An investigative journalist, Luke Dittrich, has a piece in Esquire magazine called “The Prophet” revealing the results of his investigation into Dr. Eben Alexander and the circumstances surrounding his experience of heaven/NDE/hoax.

    It’s a long piece that not everyone will be interested in reading, but it reveals that, prior to the events leading the the publication of his book “Proof of Heaven”, for which he has apparently made millions, Dr. Eben Alexander’s professional life was in decline. He had not practised medicine for a year and was facing a $3 million dollar lawsuit. Previously, after being successively terminated at two hospitals for undisclosed reasons, he had been out of work for fifteen months.

    He had removed a patient’s acoustics neuroma without informing her it could result in facial paralysis and, when that occurred, relevant medical history and parts of consent forms went missing. He left a piece of plastic in a patient’s neck and was sued. He had operated on two different patients at the wrong cervical discs (c4-5 instead of c5-6, and c5-6 instead of c6-7), failed to inform the patients of his errors, and falsified medical reports (including the radiologist’s MRI reports) and histories to cover up his error.

    There are also many inconsistencies in his account of what happened to him when compared to accounts given by medical staff. Apparently, the E Coli meningitis did not damage his brain and cause him to go into a coma. According to his attending AE doctor, he was put into an induced coma because he was hallucinating, delirious, and physically unrestrainable. And he was kept in an induced coma in ICU for the same reason – when they tried to bring him out of the coma, he started thrashing around again. And he could not have uttered “god help me” on his way from AE to ICU, because he had already been intubated in AE.

    He even falsified the weather, saying that during the five days of his coma it rained continuously and that as he regained consciousness, the sun broke through the clouds and formed a perfect rainbow. The Bureau of Meteorology told the reporter that it rained on only three of those five days and that there could not have been a rainbow on the day he came out of a coma.

    The author could also find no evidence for a parachuting incident Dr. Alexander mentions in his book. He was part of a six man team attempting a star formation which went wrong. He narrowing avoids killing both himself and a person called “Chuck” by taking evasive action. No one, including Chuck remembers the incident, and Dr. Alexander gets quite testy when asked about this incident. It’s rather obvious he is lying.

    Interestingly, Dr. Alexander doesn’t immediately start talking about his experiences in heaven after he comes out of his coma. He reads many books on the topic including “Life After Death” by Dinesh D’Souza, “Evidence of the Afterlife” by Jeffrey Long, and “On Life After Death” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Only then does he write his own book “Proof of Heaven”.

    A couple of things I found in his favour: He did not approve of the title of his book “Proof of Heaven”. He didn’t think you could actually have proof of Heaven in the sense of scientific proof. He described this “hubris”, “laughable”, “ridiculous”. Apparently his publisher came up with the title. He also cooperated with the author and encouraged him to speak with his treating physicians, even when he realised that he would be saying things he wouldn’t like. However, in the end, he pleaded with him: “I just think that you’re doing a grave disservice to your readers to lead them down a pathway of thinking that any of that is, is relevant. And I just, I really ask, as a friend, don’t…

    I suppose there’s two things you could say: it’s not an outright hoax, but he’s playing fast and loose with the truth. He probably believes his nonsense because he wants to believe it, but he’s adding drama (lies) to appeal to the public. On the others hand, there’s another book on the way, and a movie, and for $60 you can access an online material on his website

  109. douglundyon 08 Jan 2014 at 12:21 am

    I searched for this article after reading the book and asking, OK, if he is outside of space what is he doing counting the DAYS of his coma and estimating when he had this and that part of his dream. TIME is part of space..one aspect of location which he is far outside of..So there is this glaring logical contradiction based on his time calendar, a ‘reductionist’ part of his observation of a non-physical expereince..

    Yes, interesting expereince, I dont dissagree with its suggestions but its not good philosophy or logic and therefore bad teaching and bad science and bad metaphysics..And this guy is selling it like agypsy fortune teller along with tin plated teachers who channel and lending it to fundamentalists wanting to prove heaven and all sorts of whorish applications..

    What, is he tired of the hard work of neurosurgery or lost his edge?? Its not like he is broke, right?

    Thanks for this article and clearing up and affirming exactly my objection..To ramble..I know from MY dreams that time can work backwards and a long, detailed chain of events can ‘lead up’ to the cause such as an alarm going off..When in fact the alarm is the trigger for the complex dream which seems to have taken lots of time. “Time is a concept..” Real in some sense, yes..To the mind only an idea. Alexander’s dream teaches him this and yet he continues to practice the mental convention of reductionist time!

  110. TheLight954on 01 Aug 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Well, many people who claim to be skeptics or scientists are actually pseudoskeptics who reject data that don’t conform to your a priori hypothesis that consciousness cannot survive death. You are a good example, though I can sympathize as it’d completely destroy your field if NDEs were shown to be real. This is evident by the AWARE study where you twisted an ambiguous result to seem negative – first you’re just speculating that it was due to confabulation, and you also left out veridical details like how he identified the bald man and exactly what he wore. Unfortunately, when you claim to be a scientist and act the opposite of what a real scientist is – making speculations to force data to conform to your beliefs and equating them as proof.

    “Takes hours to get into and off of consciousness” – exaggeration, right? Most times it takes only minutes or less to make this transition into and out of consciousness in a near-death situation. Furthermore, you think he’s making an assumption of it happened while he was in brain coma, as if you know more about his experience than he does. In reality, he thinks he had veridical perceptions at some point, that’s how he knows about his experience. Furthermore, you seem to have no idea that the trigger of NDEs isn’t important to whether they are real afterlife experiences or not – in fact there MUST be some trigger as a completely normal brain won’t have it.

    Furthermore, TOO MANY unrelated triggers could also be evidence FOR NDEs – although none of the triggers is sufficient or necessary to cause a NDE. You don’t explain why the experiences sometimes seem to take for eternity, or why people get the “You are not ready message”.

    “I don’t want to take brain-damaging drugs” – well, nice excuse of not having a near-death experience when in reality you just are too afraid to verify if the experiences are real or exaggerated because it contradicts with your beliefs – ketamine is known to be a safe drug.

  111. Starobon 02 Jun 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Dude, I just don’t get how you can have the gall to make such a definitive statement and not realise you’re committing the same error the believers make. Do you not see that if there is another plane of existence, it is by definition “non-physical” and therefore no matter how advanced science gets we will not be able to perceive it from our physical universe of matter/time/space. Not to mention there is still a fuckton that science doesn’t have the answer to, most glaringly we are no closer to the answer of where exactly consciousness is located in the brain than we were 100 years ago. What foolish human arrogance to think we’re even close to knowing everything there is to know about existence.
    As an agnostic, I don’t understand the stupidity of both theists and atheists alike, in their attempt to give an answer to something we DO NOT AND CANNOT KNOW.

  112. Starobon 02 Jun 2017 at 4:18 pm

    We know that people with Alzheimer’s don’t actually lose memories because they are sometimes lucid and sometimes not. Obviously the memories aren’t gone because they’re sometimes present. So if we take the consciousness outside mind idea, the concept is that the brain is a receiver and interpreter of information that allows us to interact with the physical world of time and space, and therefore Alzheimer’s would be a scrambling of the messages received rather than damage to the actual mind/memories.

  113. Angela Edwardson 28 Aug 2017 at 7:52 am

    I know this article is five years old and I’m not trying to “reply” to anyone. I really appreciate this article because I have thought many times that the stories we hear just can’t be real and people thinking they are has bothered me for many years.

    I am a Christian so I do approach death and dying with that in mind. There is a verse in the Bible that says “it is appointed to man ONCE to die”. If all these people were actually dead, that would make that verse null and void. But that’s not my major concern. My major concern is that the stories are different from person to person. I even read one article that said that whatever religion the “dying” person had, that was their experience. Okay now that just simply doesn’t make sense. After we die, there will be some sort of reality. Even if my religion were wrong, SOMETHING is going to happen, even if it’s just that we cease to exist at all. It’s not going to be Peter gets X, Jane gets Y, Donna gets A. That’s not possible.

    The people who had NDEs while not actually being close to death likely were simply altered states of consciousness. Because I am a Christian, I believe that God can, indeed, use these “visions” to help people. But what is “beyond” is what is beyond. It’s not thousands of different variations.

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