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?
I have not seen much of him, only some internet references and short articles, but I know a couple of very smart people who are also believers, who when asked all said they were convinced by accounts of people who have had near death experiences. I doubt Dr Alexander is willfully taking advantage of people just to sell books. If I can, I will look more into his claims and get back to you.
Personally I can say that some of the most convincing things I have read about have been reincarnations and near death experiences, however, the evidences given have never been tested by rigorous scientific method, so are always suspect. Taken with the odd results of some of the quantum science experiments, I do think mankind has much to learn and some of it may completely change our understanding about our place in things.
I struggle and flip flop on this, very cynical and negative about humans in general to trying to assume someone has good intent by default.
Your tagline says a lot. We atheist are cynical by our nature and experience makes us that way. Still it is hard for me to by default have the opinion that this guy is writing this stuff without believing it is true. But that says nothing about the claims being really true. Wanting something to be true is a flag for me to doubt my own conclusions. I am too aware of how easy it is to become bias.
I am also extremely honest, to a fault really and I am constantly surprised when I find that others are not this way, so I have to remind myself. We tend to assume other people are just like we are. This is not at all true.
From what I've read he had an experience well explained by his own field of study, an experience that completely refutes his religious beliefs, but he has chosen to write a book detailing how his experience is inexplicable by his own field of study and thus proves his religious beliefs. Either he is brain damaged by his neuro-injury, psychologically compromised by his cult indoctrination, or is just trying to make some cash to cover the financial burden of having his practice diminished by his convalescence.
Like Heather, I wonder about the current condition of his brain. He had a major trauma to his brain which has altered people's personality and behavior so why should he be any different?
Is it likely we don't have all the answers about how the universe works? Definitely. Is his story likely? Very, very doubtful.
Hmm, maybe I need to read more on the guy. He might not be the person I am thinking of. I agree that there a bunch of research that explains how and why people have these vivid experiences when in comas.
You know, I would love it if there was a cosmic consciousness that we became a part of after death, but wanting does not make something so. I have a vivid imagination and love SF, but I know the difference between know facts and imagination. I need to read more of what this guy is claiming and maybe I can get a feel of who he is and how willing he is to make the leap from imagination to believing something that has no reality. Still, I do think he believes this and writing books is not as profitable as it was. You have to sell a lot of copies to make much money.
I just realized I have written more than I have to say about this. ;}
I think a real scientist wouldn't commit the fallacy "I can't understand something, therefore it doesn't exist."
Me, personally...I love to quote Mark Twain when expressing my view on life after death..
So really, the way it was before you were born, is the way it will be when you die.
As to your OP.
Given your two options, I would say that he perhaps believes what he believes, so as such, perhaps in his OWN mind, he is not being crafty or a charlatan.
That said, there is a HUGE audience out there, near RABID in their "need" for an afterlife to exist. Many world views are based on that premise after all and hey... if a sciency guy is out there backing up their "faith" assertion, well.. there is a pile of moolah to be made.
Facts are though.. those experiencing NDE's are in the minority. Around say 15% of "clinical deaths" experience this phenomenon. One would assume IF there is some collective universal conscience, then ALL parties, not just 15% of them, would experience it.
It is also interesting to note that all these experiences are reliant on cultural elements. A xian for example, or someone exposed TO concepts of xianity, tend to speak of the "white light" stuff.. with long-haired Jesus.. greeting them....when of course they have a "jesus" vision. No one has EVER reported their Jesus vision of being a 1CE Jew with sidelocks....not from any study I have read on it anyway. As such, it sort of goes to show that they run with the taught impression, rather than a presumed "truth". (I don't believe any Jesus of Nazareth existed BTW..)
My question to Eben Alexander would be... as you now believe in heaven and I would assume has claimed to be there, where IS it exactly in the cosmos? Perhaps sounds silly, but usually these "experiences" are coupled with being told 'It's not your time.. go back"... why has not ONE person... friggin asked specifically where they ARE? Not silly after all when one looks back at pre abrahamic religions and they can actually "pin point" where their god supposedly lived and didn't have to die to "know" it.. (dogon is one such religion)...which one would assume is where "heaven" would be?
Clearly only thos 15 percent are true Xians then... or predestined to become one someday. Jesus in his mercy is not showing the other 85 percent what awaits them.
[Did I just offer an argument that Calvinists might use, once they outgrow Hobbes?]