We probably all heard of Doctor Eben Alexander by now, the neuroscientist who now believes in heaven. For reference http://www.lifebeyonddeath.net/ is his website.

What is the TA opinion about this man's experiences?

Is he a crafty man exploiting the gullibility of the religious and becoming very rich indeed by selling his books.

- or -

May he indeed be on to something? Could there perhaps be such a thing as a collective universal conscience that we all join upon death and is our idea of simply ceasing to exist too short sighted?

So in short, is he a charlatan or a visionary?

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If I'm trying to do anything with my post then it is to provoke thought. It is TA thoughts and opinions that I am after. If anything I'd expect most atheists here to dismiss the man's notion of life after death and I'd agree for the most part. The reality is not as black and white as I set forth in my first post.

I reserve three opinions about this man.

1. The poor man may have had a profound near death experience and has become trapped in his own delusion. His reasoning does make me curious. How can a brilliant man become so trapped? How profound must these dreams be? What goes on in the human mind that leaves such vivid memories of life after death?

2. This man may be a very intelligent charlatan who found a way to make money off gullible people who hope for a better life after death. He wouldn't be the first or the last con artist taking advantage of desperate people.

I only know of his work trough a one hour radio interview he gave. I found it unpleasant to listen to because of desperate people calling in, in tears, to share their near death experiences. This enforced my suspicion that this man may have built on his own experience, which no doubt was powerful, and he now uses this for his gain promoting a book. I'm sure it sells well enough.

So I am atheist. That doesn't mean that I am going to be as closed minded about death as the religious folks. On the contrary. I like to leave my mind open so I can wonder at the universe and all that is within. I like to be wrong and have to review my opinions. I like to think about the impossible as if it were reality. So here is my third opinion which I've kept reserved for my imaginative mind to wander with. I use the term wander loosely.

3. Let us imagine that this man is on to something. He may have had a glimpse of something far bigger then even he can imagine. Why not? We know so very little of the universe and it's possibilities. Think for a moment of the Mandelbrot fractal. Are you with me? You can keep zooming in and in and in on the graphic and you will keep finding a reflection of the top pattern. We can put ourselves in a situation where we all are a reflection of a, albeit imperfect, pattern. The planets are all connected by gravity to the sun, the sun in it's turn is connected by gravity to other stars and these are all connected to our galaxy and the galaxy is connected to the rest of the universe. The distribution of galaxies has been compared of the structure of dendrites in the brain. At this point I make my final leap, we are all connected by this means, a Thinking Universe.

Welcome back. I hope that you had at least a good laugh at my hypotheses. My imagination wanders and I like it that way. To me being an atheist doesn't mean that I have closed my mind and cannot appreciate mythology and stories of gods and heavens. On the contrary. To me they represent glimpses in to the mind of a culture and society. Their believe may reflect in their reasoning, building style and superstitions.

Back to reality. His career as a neuroscientist is probably over. His book is probably selling well. A self aware and thinking universe? I don't know. I lack proof for it, but fun to imagine it as such.

I had not heard of this book or of Dr. Eben Alexander.... but thanks to you, he just sold another book. 

I consider myself an atheist and I know that Christianity is complete myth but on the other hand I have had some experiences that prove to me there is more to this life than we know. I do not see a conflict between atheism and an afterlife.... but I am interested in real truth, not the comforting kind. 

I can't say much about this book until I read it but I think I can do that with a truly open mind.

It's clear you didn't consider what I said for more than 5 seconds.....

Saying I have personal proof of "something" more to this life is a far cry from claiming I have proof of a deep truth about the universe. 

I witnessed a rock fall from the sky and land at my feet. My only claim is that I have seen evidence that rocks fall from the sky. Religion takes that personal experience and parades it as proof that Jesus exists and he throws rocks. I realize that all I have is a rock and without others witnessing what I did there is no evidence that my rock wasn't just there on the ground the entire time. I cannot prove it came from the sky... but that is what I saw and for me that is personal evidence.

I can say Christianity is a myth because I have studied the history of their book and of the claims Christians make. It is a clear example of myth and legend. I am making no claims of what this "something" I have experienced is, nor have I claimed to know real truths about the nature of the universe. Maybe you should try harder not to read more into what people say.....

I was a six years old catholic school boy with pneumonia and a 104 degree fever. After an ice-bath, while sleeping in my hospital bed my mother claims I suddenly sat up and with a 10,000 yard stare and starting talking to jesus. Scared her to death. I can't claim memory of any of it, but I am certainly not claiming it's PROOF of anything. I have also had dreams that I was a super fast ocean fish, is that PROOF of evolution? "Want" is not scientific.

I would like to give the good doctor the benefit of the doubt and suggest that he believes it.  He most likely did undergo a NDE and catch what he believes to be a glimpse of Heaven. However it is a purely subjective experience to him. It is not, as the book title suggests “Proof of Heaven”.

His quote that “consciousness is the most profound mystery in the universe” is not a profound statement. Even those of us who are not medical professionals know that the mind can play tricks on us, especially under duress, as the act of dying could be. I will go further than say he is not just mistaken and suggest that he is deluded.

This book, like those about Angels, is dressed up to sound profound and meaningful.  The word “charlatan” is ringing in my head because as a doctor he should know better. If Joe the mechanic had a similar experience would he get published so easily?

It is strange that the Theists who lap up this sort of crap insist it must be true because it is written by a doctor with a scientific background can tomorrow turn around and say a book written by someone else from a scientific background is wrong because it does not confirm their beliefs. It will sell millions and become a meme that will be taken for granted as being the truth. No, I have not read it but I have standards so I won’t and I don’t wish to vomit on myself. I can dismiss it out of hand for I know it is doggerel and I am open-minded.

We already know how oxygen deprivation can cause hallucinations, and we already know that subjective yet uncorroborated information cannot be taken as fact. 

Imagine I was giving evidence against this man in court, and I said that I saw him kill a man.  There's no body, and no other witness.  Would my evidence be enough to convict him?  I think not.

In my mind, this man is preying on the fears and superstitions of the scared.  If he donated all the profit from the book to a charity - heck if he donated all his possessions to some 'good cause' then at least I might believe that he believes it.  That's as far as I would go.

But he isn't.  So I don't.  He is a predator of the susceptible, and representative of a modern day charlatan.

Imagine I was giving evidence against this man in court, and I said that I saw him kill a man.  There's no body, and no other witness.  Would my evidence be enough to convict him?  I think not.

I agree, but with careful jury selection...TA DA!

Yep - hang him after he gets a fair trial...

I don't know to what extent he might be intentionally duping the public for the sake of selling books; but what I DO know, for sure, is that the implications he and credulous people draw from his "research" are preposterous.  

Dr. Alexander says in a television interview I saw a couple weeks ago, that another reason he believes his experience was real was because the part of the brain that would be attributed producing such hallucinations, was showing no activity during his experience.

I am curious to know what others in his field would say to this. Is Dr. Alexander implying that anytime someone is having a hallucination or dream, there is a part of the brain that will show activity and this has been solidly proven?

Blackmore says:
The soup-like state of Dr Alexander’s brain was, he writes, “documented by CT scans” (although CT scans don’t say anything about the activity of the brain) and “neurological examinations”.

Novella says:
Quote by Alexander: "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.

-----------
This is more where my thoughts are. Why are we assuming without evidence that these thoughts were even formed at the time the brain was supposedly not functioning, or even in real time. In a dream, when a story unfolds in a few minutes, does it really take a few minutes to dream it? These memories could have just as easily been formed in the period after his brain functioning returned.
Please read Sam Harris' responses to this:
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/science-on-the-brink-of-death

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