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Dr. Eben Alexander’s so-called after-life – Salon.com

Mexikaresistance.com Note: And then there's this asshole...
In 2008, Dr. Eben Alexander contracted a rare form of bacterial meningitis that, according to his account, shut down his neocortex, the seat of human consciousness. The near-death odyssey that followed was, he writes, “perhaps one of the most convincing such cases in modern history.” At the end of it, he could declare, “I didn’t just believe in God; I knew God.” No mere intimation of immortality, Dr. Alexander’s memoir carries the audacious title “Proof of Heaven” and, at time of writing, it bestrides the New York Times best-seller lists like a Colossus. When he fell ill, he was a brain surgeon, but he has given that up to pursue something more worthy of his talents, namely to “break the back of the last efforts of reductive science to tell the world that the material realm is all there is.”

You may already be familiar with Dr. Alexander. His story made the cover of Newsweek in October. He has appeared on such TV shows as “Nightline” and “Good Morning America,” and has been all over the print, online and televised media. Time and again he invites us to gasp at the full comprehension of his abilities, from the nurses cooing over “the most beautiful baby in the nursery” to his extraordinary return from the brink (“Everyone was surprised by the speed of my recovery — except for me”). He tells a story in the preface about a skydiving incident in which his reaction speed was so fast as to be actual evidence that our souls reside outside the body.

“Proof of Heaven” is billed as the authoritative voice of science speaking of the afterlife. But on meeting its author in the lounge of Le Parker Meridien — where a New York parade of eerily familiar faces floated by to the heavenly strains of Bach’s “Preludes and Fugues” — I didn’t want to talk too much about science. Why? Dr. Alexander explains: “I can tell you that most skeptics aren’t really skeptics at all. To be truly skeptical, one must actually examine something, and take it seriously.” Let us review this story’s scientific content.

Trust Me, I’m a Doctor

Careening through his publicity schedule like a juggernaut, Dr. Alexander gains much momentum from his status as a brain surgeon and his credentials as a scientist. “Remember who is talking to you right now” begins a typical exhortation from “Proof of Heaven.” “I’m not a soft-headed sentimentalist.” When he communed with the godhead, he “was actually ‘doing science.’ Science that relied on the truest and most sophisticated tool for scientific research we possess: Consciousness itself.” When pressed as to how he can claim that his near-death experience was not a creation of a traumatized brain, he makes much of nine hypotheses presented in his book that purport to run the gamut of orthodox scientific explanations. Dipping blindly into the hypothesis bag, here is No. 7: “The thalamus, basal ganglia, and brainstem are deeper brain structures (‘subcortical regions’) that some colleagues postulated might have contributed to the processing of such hyperreal experiences. In fact, none of those structures could play any such role without having at least some regions of the neocortex still intact. All agreed in the end that such subcortical structure alone could not have handled the intense neural calculations required for such a richly interactive experiential tapestry.”

The claim that his neocortex was totally kaput during his coma is the principal — in fact only — scientific hook on which he hangs “Proof of Heaven”: “During my coma my brain wasn’t working improperly — it wasn’t working at all.” If his brain was not functioning, the consciousness that rode the “butterfly through paradise” existed outside the body, and the door to immortality is wide open. So far, so logical. Only Dr. Alexander has already changed position on this issue. We probably have Sam Harris to thank for that. Harris, author of “The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation,” responded to Dr. Alexander’s Newsweek piece by seeking the opinion of neuroscientist Mark Cohen, whose reply was unequivocal. According to Cohen, the neocortical inactivity described by Dr. Alexander is “brain death, a 100 percent lethal condition.” By the time I met Dr. Alexander and mentioned his inactive neocortex, his line had changed. He told me, “Well, the thing is I would not say completely inactive.”

Only, he did. It is in his book. But with me, Dr. Alexander essentially conceded Harris’s point, adding, “There’s no way that [the neocortex] gave me that incredibly rich odyssey that I remember.”

Remove the claim that he was thinking without a brain, and we’re left with the assertion that his vision was all too incredibly incredible to be the product of stodgy old gray matter alone. But this won’t take the wind out of the doctor’s sails. Intensity has been the core of the book’s argument from the start. The scientific terminology and Dr. Alexander’s years of medical school are about as relevant to his case as his customary bow tie. He is asking us to trust him and believe. Another of his hypotheses, No. 1: “A primitive brainsteam program to ease terminal pain and suffering (“evolutionary argument” —possibly as a remnant of “feigned-death” strategies from lower mammal?). This did not explain the robust, richly interactive nature of the recollections.”

ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: Dr. Eben Alexander’s so-called after-life – Salon.com.

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