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October 15, 2012

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I've been following Eben Alexander for most of this year, and I guarantee you he has a well-oiled publicity machine. In this case, I think that's a good thing. He seems to be champing at the bit to take on his reductionist / materialist colleagues, but has been restrained from doing anything significant until his book is officially available on the store shelves.
He is especially fond of talking to the medical and scientific communities on their own terms, using their own language.

Alexander not only has the drive, but also the *pull* and (I hope) the intellect to bring serious discussion out from under the carpet so we can re-dust the room. I don't think he will provide any definitive earth-shaking answers, but maybe the level of discourse will rise to a higher level, with a wider, better informed public awareness.

I'm hopeful that Dr Alexander will consider evidence more analytically in his forthcoming book but Sam Harris' recent blogpost presents compelling evidence as to why his own experiences are questionable.

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/this-must-be-heaven

Bensix, the post by Sam Harris, as well as Novella, and others have been thoroughly addressed and present nothing new... just the usually "skeptic" psycho-babble

For example, Bernardo tears apart Harris' "Critique" here: http://www.bernardokastrup.com/2012/10/sam-harris-critique-of-eben-alexander.html

Interesting post, Robbie. Thanks! I must say, however, regarding the first point, that while it might be true that NDEs are prompted by brain chemistry it was Dr Alexander who denied the relevance of such physical means. ("Not at all. That is not even in the right ballpark.") This doesn't invalidate his experience but it's a reminder to be sceptical as to his judgements.

Robert,

I fully agree with your summary and analysis. I would add that the primary mistake by Alexander or by the magazine or the publicists is to talk about "heaven" rather than "survival," the "other side" or other realms of existence after death, whatever. Once the word "heaven" enters the discussion, it is linked to orthodox beliefs and superstitions, and the pseudoskeptics go on the attack even more. On the other hand, it will likely sell more magazines and books by having that word in there.

Once the word "heaven" enters the discussion, it is linked to orthodox beliefs and superstitions, and the pseudoskeptics go on the attack even more. - Michael Tymn

Good point Michael. Also, including the word "proof" in the title also feeds the lions more red meat. Proof of Heaven, as Robert pointed out, "...has the smell of publishers and editors".
On the other hand, "The Ontological Ramifications of My Transcendent Experience" would gather dust on the book shelves. :D

I just hope that serious, meaningful discussion manages to emerge from the noise, somewhere. We'll know in the next few months.

I dunno about proof. It didn't even look particularly evidential IMHO.

I think that pseudosceptics would still attack if a more neutral term than "heaven" was used - if the book was called "Proof of an Afterlife" or "Proof of Survival" that would still get them going as many of these type of people seem completely closed-minded to the notion that there might be anything after death - and anyone suggesting otherwise seems to infuriate them, for some reason which I haven't figured out. But I do agree that the word "heaven" probably riles them even more.

We can only hope that people will at least give the book a fair hearing, consider what he has to say, and then make up their minds whether they agree or disagree, or whether what he has to say has merit or not.

If it wasn't a threat to them (the brothers materialist ) they wouldn't all be turning out to show their cards. I haven't heard one credible response from any of them, PZ Myers, Coyne, Novella, Harris )he's not too bad).
They don't know anything NDE's nor the thirty year research.

Apologies,
that posted before I had time to edit.

Apologies,
that posted before I had time to edit.

Alex Tsikiris has an interesting email exchange showing that Sam Harris won't debate Eben Alexander:
http://www.skeptiko.com/sam-harris-wont-debate-eben-alexander-on-near-death-experience-science/

Audio:
http://www.skeptiko.com/upload/skeptiko-189-sam-harris-eben-alexander.mp3

What is Sam afraid of? He's getting lots of press because of his views.
*sigh*

To the people who point out how the proponents use terms to hype sales, as usual, people typically only look at one side. Just note the titles of programs on the Science channel or any written justification used for Government scientific program funding. The all use text the stirs the imagination or directs the readers down an intended path regardless of the fact.

Or how about the social sciences conducting experiments and only one out of ten experiments show any positive results, they publish the results of the one test and ignore the other 9.

I get well-and-truly heartily sick of this ongoing war of words between the two sides in this matter. The only thing that psychological force can ever produce is the further digging-in of heels. Sorry, Alex, if you're reading this, but sometimes I feel you're doing little more than stirring the pot, even though I'm sure your intentions are good. 8/

Before I say anything else, let me say that I am extremely glad that Eben Alexander is making his case to a wide audience. I think he's very courageous for doing it and I hope it makes a difference. That being said, I had to admit to being uncomfortable with some of the things he's said about the importance of his own story. Perhaps he hasn't been around the block enough to know that all the skeptics will do is sneer and laugh. That's all a way of saying that the things you said, Robert, captured that sense I was having. I really do hope his book makes a difference, but clearly it is going to take a sea change in the culture. One textbook perfect case is just not going to do it. We've had those. Sounds like we had a lot of them well over a hundred years ago, and yet the fortress is still standing, seemingly as strong as ever.

I must admit I do feel sad about the things I'm reading on these skeptical blogs. Why do they have to be so cruel about it?

Well said, Robert Perry, well said!

Your point about hubris is well-made, Robert. It is painful to see so many people desperate to bring a real scientist on board, as if no-one else really matters. Er, no. We all matter. Scientists are not special. They just think they are, and we should not subscribe to that myth.

That's what I wonder myself, Robert. (Perry, that is.) Why do some sceptics present their case in such a nasty and unpleasant manner? Why do they feel the need to fling insults around?

I've never understood that. Why the aggression and, in some cases, bullying? I can understand the odd bit of sarcastic humour and mockery, but some people really take it to a whole new (and nastier) level. It's their freedom to do so of course, but I don't understand *why*. And why do so many people seem to encourage and enjoy that sort of nasty and insulting behaviour? I sometimes wonder if they think that believers in the spiritual and paranormal are inferior beings and *deserve* to be treated like this.

People in the paranormal and parapsychology community have (seemingly) never done anything to these people, never harmed them in any way. So I don't understand the abuse that some people throw at them.

There are three events coming to head in the near future that may bring the discussion of NDE's and the afterlife into the public view. All of them are not necessarily good.

We know about Eben Alexander's forthcoming book and its heavy promotion. I personally think this is a good thing, but the value is up to the observer.

The AWARE Study results are also due to be published within the next few months. Although right now, only the administrators of the study know what its conclusions were, we can find clues in the Amazon blurb for the as yet unpublished book by Dr. Sam Parnia.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Lazarus-Effect-Rewriting-Boundaries/dp/1846043077
From what I can tell, Parnia confirms that consciousness can exist for at least a short period of time after modern medical standards have written it off. He describes it as "going into hibernation". The study may not confirm the continuation of consciousness, and it surely doesn't present "proof of Heaven", but it should definitely give organ transplant ethicist's many sleepless nights.

Finally, U.S. Pediatrician Melvin L. Morse, who is "widely described as an expert in near-death experiences" (Wikipedia) is due to start his trial on charges of child endangerment. The most damning allegation is that he tried to induce a near-death experience in his unruly 11 year-old adopted daughter by 'waterboarding' her under a sink faucet.
To be fair, the same 11 year-old has made false accusations in the past. However, the fact that Morse was seen dragging her across his front yard in the full view of neighbors doesn't seem to be disputed. How cruel this was is apparently up to debate.

So far, the only folks that seem to be keeping up with the case are near-death community advocates and sceptics, but if NDE's start to gain widespread public attention, you can bet the sceptics will have a field day.

The official State of Delaware press release:
http://dsp.delaware.gov/news%20release/August%202012/08082012couplearrestedforendangeringtheirchildren.shtml
An article describing Morse's defence:
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57494844-504083/melvin-morse-delaware-doctor-denies-waterboarding-his-daughter/

Google is chock-full of stories with more detail.

Then my suggestion is that the sceptics are allowed their 'field day'. It will say more about them than about Melvin Morse's published NDE research. Ditto their likely ad hominem attacks on Eben Alexander. I only hope Eben can find the strength and patience to turn the other cheek.

I disaggree that Alexander's NDE and book won't make a difference. It's not going to change anything immediately but the more open minded members of academia will take note.
As regards Aware, the same derision will be heaped on Sam if there is anything other than completely negative results (no hits)

This where is gets interesting though. I believe all veridical OBE's will be taken into account whether or not the target is spotted or not. If they've done what they said they would, the 'remembered events' of what took place in the ICU during cardiac arrest etc should be able to be checked for accuracy and pinned down to a time.
So, this is still going to give the sceptics a headache one way or the other.

True, very true. But, somehow, I can't entirely shake off the feeling that everyone's going to finish up with a headache, regardless of which side of the fence they occupy in relation to the NDE and related phenomena.

Hi there,

Just been reading this post and the previous one about Chris Carter's book on the afterlife.

I've been thinking about the comments made above, concerning the likelihood (or not) of the "skeptics" having their worldview overturned by such material.

I don't think for one moment that this will happen. BUT - and this is my point - I don't think it matters in the slightest!

Here's the thing: I've been following the activities of "skeptics" for several years, and there are two factors which, I believe, will ultimately lead to their demise as an organised movement - irrespective of any scientific evidence.

FIRSTLY, we have to recognise that most "skeptics" are young, and want a trendy youth movement to belong to - one which makes them feel smarter than their patents' generation, and smarter than their less well-educated contemporaries.

In my day, most thinking youngsters thought that Communism was the movement that was going to lead to Salvation. Life experience gradually tought them otherwise, and today my some of my most Mao-worshipping former classmates are merchant bankers and venture capitalists!

Today's young "skeptics" will eventually come up against bereavement and serious illness. All the metaphysical scaffolding one so confidently erects during one's youth comes crashing down with a spouse's (or worse, a child's) death, or a cancer diagnosis. As they age, a lot of these "skeptics" will find their glib dismissals of matters spiritual, will no longer seem as convincing as they used to.

SECONDLY - and more importantly - once the "skeptics" have had enough time to think long and hard about what their worldview actually MEANS - they may not think it's such a good idea!

The average "skeptic" would affirm their belief that the universe started from nothing, for no reason; that life is a fortuitous accident; that there is no intelligence behind the universe and no ultimate purpose in life.

How do they cope with this? Well, these same "skeptics" will usually say "I create my own meaning in life". They simply haven't thought this through! When they eventually DO think it though, they'll realise that in a meaningless universe, there can, by definition, be no meaning! In other words, "creating one's own meaning" is a DELUSION, since no such meaning can possibly exist. And once the "skeptics" realise they are living their life according to a delusion, they might just start to think that a more positive delusion, such as spirituality or religion, might be preferable!

In other words, a lot of these people will grow up, and realise that they - like the rest of us - know nothing about the ultimate nature of reality. They might open up to the mysteries of life and death; they might actually start to look at the evidence that points to a creative intelligence behind existence, and become humble enough to concede that there might be something to it after all.

Whilst I completely agree with the two main points raised by Rupert McWiseman (above, Oct. 21), it needs to be stressed how important it is to reach conclusion(s) that are correct regarding the issue of post-death survival.

The Sam Harris critique, unlike so many others that I have seen, of Dr. Alexander's NDE is balanced and reasonable. He raises sensible objections to the whole idea of postmortem survival that are difficult to refute or deny. One objection to the notion that the NDE represents a manifestation of something that is actually real, that S. Harris does not mention in that particular article, is the problem of the relationship that would have to exist between that which is 'spiritual' and transcendent and the purely mundane and physical. How does one influence the other? Does not such a consideration of the supernatural, for lack of a better term, make the mind a more complex entity?

What if there really is no afterlife? I person claiming to be open-minded would at least consider this possibility, no matter how depressing it may be to them.

"An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents: What does happen is that the opponents gradually die out." - Max Planck

Perhaps this is the paradox of profound truth, but my understanding is the very opposite of what Rupert suggests. In my experience, it's mostly the die hard materialists (of the older scientific school) who are flatly dismissive of the NDE and its evidence of non-local consciousness.

The Sam Harris critique, unlike so many others that I have seen, of Dr. Alexander's NDE is balanced and reasonable. He raises sensible objections,,,

Hi, Im not trying to be argumentative but I think that's completely wrong. Harris hasn't read the book and won't engage with Alexander about the details. Plus he's trotting out the same old tired objections about the experience not occuring when Alexander said it did.

I don't think it's 'proof' of heaven of course but it's certainly strong evidence (if only for him (Alexander) that the mind can continue to function without the brain. And taken with all the hundreds of other cases of reported memory during coma and heart stoppage it surely would be ridiculous to think it doesn't mean anything.
What has occured to Alexander that has driven him to come out with this ? Hallucination, drug trip ? It's clearly an experience way beyond that.

I do agree with you, Peter, that open-minded people must be open to the possibility that they may be wrong and there is no afterlife - just as true sceptics should be open-minded to the possiblity that they may be wrong and there *is* an afterlife.

Most of us commenting fall into the "believer" camp. I myself am a firm believer in not just the afterlife, but spiritual and paranormal phenomena. I'm interested in magick and occultism and astral projection, among other things.

But I do admit that I don't known for sure 100%. It is possible that my belief is wrong. I only dismiss criticisms when I feel sceptics are being unnecessarily rude and aggressive. If a sceptic ezpresses disbelief in a respectful and intelligent manner, then I respect that.

It is possible that we are mistaken and there is no afterlife. I personally don't think it very likely, though. I have read various accounts which indicate, to me, that an afterlife exists, and I have also seen several mediums who I am convinced were genuine.

Peter A:

"What if there really is no afterlife? I person claiming to be open-minded would at least consider this possibility, no matter how depressing it may be to them."

I entirely agree. It is quite possible that a materialist explanation for NDEs and other "spiritual" experiences will be found. The problem is, that if any concept of purpose or meaning to the universe IS eventually ruled out, human life will be based on nihilism. People will have no higher purpose other than to grab a good time for themselves while they can - even if this means riding roughshod over others. And the billions of disadvantaged members of society, who have no hope whatsoever of indulging in a fun-filled life, would fall into depression, addiction or suicide.

Now, IF the universe is proven pointless, and IF consciousness is proven to be just a secretion of the brain, and IF near-death and other experiences are proven to be hallucinations, then we'll all just have to bloody well accept a nihilistic existence - there would be no other choice. However, we need to be very, very careful before we accept a materialist worldview without exhaustively studying the evidence against it. Stories have consequences!

Julie Baxter:

"In my experience, it's mostly the die hard materialists (of the older scientific school) who are flatly dismissive of the NDE and its evidence of non-local consciousness."

I think we have to differentiate here between the LEADERS of the "skeptic" movement, and the followers. The leaders are indeed elderly men, but they are elderly men of a particular stripe - arrogant, egotistical and publicity-seeking. They need to be noticed, and they need to be worshipped.

But my interest is in the followers or disciples. For the most part these are young, well-educated, well-fed, white middle-class males with comfortable lifestyles. (Just like the rabid Communists I was at school and college with!) Most of them have had few hardships in life, so they've had little to challenge their wordview. And most of them certainly haven't thought hard enough about the full implictions of living in their supposedly meaningless cosmos.

I feel most of these youngsters will eventually go the way of the young Commies of my generation - once they've had a taste of real life for two or three more decades, they will be FAR less certain in their beliefs.

For this reason I forsee the "Organised Skeptic" movement imploding in a couple of decades. (The "Skeptical Enquirer" will probably become about as popular and trendy as the "Socialist Worker"!)

Having returned to the Harris article in question I can see why so many have an issue with it. He really DOES come across as being aggressive, insulting, derisive and dismissive, which is unfortunate because he raises some good points.

I just cannot fathom the smug, superior attitude that so many 'sceptics' display towards those they disagree with. Don't they yet understand that one does not make 'converts' to one's cause by insulting and belittling people?

I don't think they're so much interested in converting as in taking something away. Haven't you ever noticed how, for instance, miserable people can't bear happy people? Or how the mean-spirited view kindness as weakness? Or how the corrupt loathe the innocent? I don't think there's a simple cure for spiritual bankruptcy.

The AWARE study was mentioned above. On that note, look at what I came across recently on the nderf.org site:

Christopher M NDE. 10/16/12 . …the closet was a cabinet (a wardrobe) by the window. It stood away from the wall and was maybe six feet tall. With two doors in the font and a drawer in the bottom. As she was helping me into my shorts I remembered that someone had left an L. E. D. sign on top. I could tell it shocked her when I told her about it. She ask. “What did it say?” I explained it was not turned on so it was dark. Then she helped me back into bed and said she would be right back. She returned with a doctor that questioned me about the sign. The sign was twenty four inches long by four inches wide. It had a dark color (black or gray) plastic face with red L.E.D’s. It was not turned on so it had no message. The doctor stood on a chair and lifted the sign up so I could see it. Then explained that it had been left in the room to help with a study for Out Of Body Experiences.
NDE due to auto accident.

So if there are enough credible witnesses willing to verify that incident then game over? 8)

Unless, of course, James Randi has some far-flung theory that will satisfy the fundamentalist debunkers. Which will, of course, be followed almost immediately by a passionate and public argument between Tsakiris and Randi - complete with a six-foot length of e-mail exchanges - after which everyone will go back to the trenches for more mud-slinging and verbal gymnastics and all will live happily ever after? ;)

Julie, I think you about nailed it. Actually, I've heard of an immeasurably more impressive case. A woman who was a nurse and is now a PhD of some sort has gone on video to recount a story she personally witnessed, in which an NDEr claimed to have rose up and read the 12-digit serial number on top of a machine in her room. The nurses wrote it down, and when it was checked some time later, it checked out completely. Of course, the odds of that are one trillion to one. I know an NDE researcher who is looking into this case.

But yeah, I'm sure the skeptics will be real impressed!

'Tis my powers of precognition, our Robert Perry! ;)

Returning to Peter A's and Julie's musings over the belligerence of "Skeptics" -

My perusing of "skeptic" websites over several years has convinced me that "skeptic" communities are made up of three groups of people:

1) Genuine skeptics. Very much a minority, coming across one of these is like finding a diamond in a dungheap. Many of them leave the "skeptic" community when they realise that it doesn't do what it says on the tin.

2) Youngsters disaffected by religion. These form the majority of "skeptics".

This majority group has been discussed by David Leiter in his articles "The Pathology of Organised Skepticism" and "Organised Skepticism Revisited", published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. Leiter joined his local "skeptic" group to find out what made these people tick. He discovered that the vast majority had had a negative experience of an orthodox Religion during childhood - e.g being raised by fundamentalist parents, being punished in a religious school etc. - and, in adulthood, threw off their parents' or teachers' religion with a vengeance. This included rejecting ANYTHING that is even remotely connected to religion, such as NDEs, ghosts, ESP and so on.

3) Hate-filled, malicious bigots. These again are a minority group, but they're probably the most vociferous members of the "skeptic" forums, the ones that Peter A and Julie often encounter, and the ones that give the whole movement a bad name.

These individuals simply want someone to hate. A few decades ago they would have targeted Jews, Blacks, women, or homosexuals. Such targets are now politically off-limits, so these bigots have found another group of scapegoats for the all world's ills - those holding religious or spiritual beliefs. The level of hatred spewed out by these tormented souls bears comparison with the propaganda of the Waffen SS or Ku Klux Klan.

The irony is, that all such grievously hateful individuals are actually SELF-haters, externalising their own inner negativity. And the very thing that might help them have a better life - spirituality - is the very thing that they reject!

Rupert, perhaps you should start up a website dedicated to informing (or warning?) the general internet user about these very strange people. You seem to know more about what makes them tick than anyone else I've come across lately.

I agree entirely with you, Rupert and Peter. In the age of the anti-hunting brigade it was obvious, at least to anyone looking for the truth, that the most ardent campaigners were simply hate-filled individuals looking for an aggressive cause to support.

Their concerns were rarely the interests of animal welfare. Several times I saw fireworks thrown under the legs of hunt horses - and on one occasion a jumping-jack-type banger was thrown into a field of cows as they were waiting to come in for milking. Can you imagine the carnage! 8(

If this is the Eben that was on the program "I Survived Beyond and Back", his experience was one of my favorites from the show. He never mentioned much about Heaven or religion but simply told his experience. For what he thought was months, not just days, He claimed to have an "earthworm's" view of the world he was in, as if his spirit was still in a brain that was empty of memory. At that time he said he had no memory and then after what seemed forever, he was taken by a spirit (his consciousness so tiny he was on the wing of a butterfly) and went to another place where a whole new world (or maybe really old world) and shown exactly what happens when we die. I found his story refreshingly truthful and I'm sure his need to write about exceeded any doubts people may have. Thanks for your experience, Eben.

"I found his story refreshingly truthful and I'm sure his need to write about exceeded any doubts people may have. Thanks for your experience, Eben."

Hear, hear, Anita! 8)

Having perused the media reaction to Eben Alexander's book "Proof of Heaven", I think that the whole episode is going to backfire - in a big way.

Look at the book's title, for starters. Whatever else it is, Alexander's account is not "proof" - it's a subjective experience which might (or might not) point to a transcendent level of reality.

As for the word "heaven" - well, this word comes with a whole load of religious baggage attached. (And 11th-century religious baggage at that.)

Alexander was surely most unwise to allow his publisher to come up with this slick marketing ploy.

Now, following on from RabbitDawg's comment "He (Alexander) seems to be champing at the bit to take on his reductionist / materialist colleagues", one can only think that this will all end in tears. The materialists will not be swayed from their views by ANY amount of evidence, and certainly not by evidence of the anecdotal and subjective sort such as Alexander is providing.

Further, I doubt that Alexander has any idea of the tsunami of negativity that is about to descend upon him from the "skeptic" community. He may be prepared to deal with genuine and well-considered scepticism, but that will be the least of his problems - he will encounter a veritable avalanche of ridicule, sarcasm and outright abuse from the nastier specimens of organised "skepticism" (and there are a lot of these, unfortunately.) Ultimately, the result of all this mud-slinging will be that enough of it will stick to his reputation to damage his career prospects, both as a physician and a credible scientist.

I really wish that Alexander had chosen the title of his book more carefully, and had promoted it in a more low-key way. As things stand, I fear that the author may, in time, come to regret ever having had an NDE!

I disaggree with much of that, Rupert. I don't like the title either, it's only proof to >him< of course...but taken with all the other NDE literature we would be foolish to not pay attention.

As to damaging his career prospects...I'm certain he really doesn't care two hoots whether he has a career or not. I don't get why "a career" is so important to anyone anyway, let alone someone who believes he has chatted with the creator of the universe.

He clearly wants to get this out because of the power and truth of the experience and whatever flak he receives from 'rent a sceptic and co' well bring it on. :-)

I disaggree with much of that, Rupert. I don't like the title either, it's only proof to >him< of course...but taken with all the other NDE literature we would be foolish to not pay attention.

As to damaging his career prospects...I'm certain he really doesn't care two hoots whether he has a career or not. I don't get why "a career" is so important to anyone anyway, let alone someone who believes he has chatted with the creator of the universe.

He clearly wants to get this out because of the power and truth of the experience and whatever flak he receives from 'rent a sceptic and co' well bring it on. :-)

Well, we don't know what Alexander's priorities are. It may well be that he has decided to fully accept the consequences of "going public", even if this means the end of his scientific and medical career.

(And, whether or not he is interested in a "career" any more after his brush with the transcendent, there are still bills to be paid, children to put through school etc.)

On the other hand, Alexander may simply be quite uninformed (naive, even) concerning the closed-mindedness and militancy of the "skeptic" community. He may genuinely believe that his status as a neurosurgeon will sweep all objections before it, and that science will sit up and take notice.

My concern is that he will suffer a totally unexpected level of abuse and attacks on his professional reputation. I'm not at all sure that this will end well for him, but at the end of the day it's Dr. Alexander's decision to make.

I understand your concerns, Rupert - we can only hope that Mr Alexander is prepared to deal with the nastiness that he will likely receive from some people. If he is unaware or naive, as you speculate, then he could be in for an unpleasant shock. Let's hope he is thick-skinned enough to let any personal attacks wash over him.

I'm not sure if I will ever understand people's need to get so unpleasant and use personal insults. If they disagree with someone's beliefs, ideas or theories then that is basically what they should focus on - not making uncalled-for personal attacks. The only time I can think of that it is justified to bring the person's character into it, is if the person in question has been demonstrably dishonest. Then that can be used to question their reliability.

Incidentally, this is the kind of criticism that I see some people in the paranormal community making about Randi. Rather than go after him with cruel and vicious personal attacks, they question his credibility by reporting examples of when they feel he has acted less than honestly. As long as they refrain from personal attacks against the man himself, I think this kind of critique of Randi is probably justified. I just wish that more people in the paranormal community got the opportunity to have their views be given equal hearing.

@ Michelle:

"I just wish that more people in the paranormal community got the opportunity to have their views be given equal hearing."

The problem is that there is NO "paranormal community" as such. There are people who have had so-called "paranormal" experiences; there are highly credulous folk who will believe in any sort of nonsense; and there are people (like Robert McLuhan, most contributors to this forum, and myself), who believe that "paranormal" phenomena MAY point to some hitherto-undiscovered (and possibly paradigm-changing) aspects of reality, and that such phenomena are deserving of proper, unbiased, scientific investigation.

The "skeptic" community, on the other hand, presents an almost totally united front of extreme antipathy towards anything relating to the concepts of God or spirituality. Their members are mainly young, white, well-educated, middle-class males who are somewhat unhealthily obsessed with the Internet, and are most definitely on a Mission To Save Mankind.

It's difficult to counter this level of messianic zeal, so I think we have to see the "skeptics" as fellow seekers-after-truth who haven't yet fully wised up to how little they (or any of us) really know.

You can't usually argue with these guys (they seem to have firmly fixed the boundaries of their reality for all time), so my feeling is that we should listen carefully to what they have to say (and much of it is very valuable), but NOT get into heated confrontation. (That would be about as productive as trying to convert Richard Dawkins to Catholicism!)

@Rupert,
Hi, you don't need a career to pay bills etc you just need to work, of course. The graveyards are full of succesful high flying careers. In the end I'm afraid one finds out there is nothing 'there' at the top of the pole.
I believe it's one of the great lies of the western world that fighting to get to the top is going to make us happy... but I'm ranting on off topic there, so apologies.

Back to Alexander's experience. I happen to know that he talked it over for months with colleagues (he was kind enough to respond to a series of emails) before making the decision to publish. He was so completely overawed and convinced by it that he simply couldn't keep it to himself.

Whether of not he will be hurt by the sceptical invective that will be hurled at him, I don't know.
I also think that some scientists will secretly pay attention even though they won't 'come out' just yet.

@ Duck Soup

"The graveyards are full of succesful high flying careers. In the end I'm afraid one finds out there is nothing 'there' at the top of the pole."

Well, I agree entirely; your "rant" is just telling it like it is!

"Back to Alexander's experience. I happen to know that he talked it over for months with colleagues (he was kind enough to respond to a series of emails) before making the decision to publish. He was so completely overawed and convinced by it that he simply couldn't keep it to himself."

That's very interesting, so it would seem that Dr. Alexander has in fact thought long and hard before going public with his experience. I just hope he emerges relatively unscathed from the antagonism to which he will undoubtedly be subjected. It surely says something about his conviction concerning the truth behind his NDE that he's prepared to stick his head above the parapet.

"I also think that some scientists will secretly pay attention even though they won't 'come out' just yet"

Yes, that's quite possible. I remember reading a comment by a scientist (can't recall who it was, or where I read this) that being a member of today's scientific community is like living in the Soviet Union under Brezhvev: you claim to hold certain beliefs in public, while holding completely different ones in private!

@ Rupert - if that is the case (that a sizeable number of the scientific community are forced to hide their true views) then I wonder how things will ever change for the better?

Presumably they are too concerned about their repuation and job security to speak openly about what they really think (and that is understandable.) They are too intimidated to speak freely as they will receive bigotry and intellectual persecution. They won't be burned at the stake, but they will have people rushing to discredit them and hurl some very nasty abuse at them.

I think what needs to happen is a kind of revolution among these scientists, in which they band together and speak out and push for reform and open-mindedness in the current scientific climate. Otherwise, how is anything going to change?

Thanks for the reply, Rupert.

"That's very interesting, so it would seem that Dr. Alexander has in fact thought long and hard before going public with his experience. "

Yes he definitely did. Not with me of course, sadly I don't have the credentials to advice someone of his status and expertise but I also learned that a couple of his high ranking trusted colleagues were also very impressed and bewildered by his experience.
I think your Soviet Union analogy is not far from the truth. One of my oldest fiends is an academic and he accepts survival based on the evidence but he would never ever say so in front of any of his colleagues. His grants would be withheld etc.
Where does this leave us then. As Michelle says, how is anything going to change ?

Dunno but I have a funny feeling that it is going to.

@ Michelle and Duck Soup:

"How is anything going to change?"

I think things will change, at the latest, in about 20 years. By then, today's young, militant "skeptics" will have raised their families. Their kids will have been brought up in an atmosphere of strict atheistic materialism, and unquestioning subservience to the scientific status quo.

Well, what do kids do when they come of age? That's right, they REBEL! And if you want to seriously piss off your fire-breathing atheist parents, you start getting involved with spirituality.

I think that the next generation of bright kids, raised on a soulless diet of materialism, will start looking at the evidence for a more life-enhancing worldview.

If enough of them become practising scientists, it may be that discussion of, and research into, "spiritual" matters may actually become permissable within the corridors of science. THEN we might finally start to get some answers.

Think, for a moment, about the almost unimaginable amount of time and energy we have wasted in trying to convince people who, by their own admission, would not be convinced by any amount or quality of evidence. Why do we indulge ourselves this way? Why does it matter so much to us to convince others? We should be using all the resources available to us, including our personal energies, to explore our areas of interest. When we try to examine these subjects using the tools of science, we quickly find they are inadequate and produce results that are misleading or, worse, pointless. For heaven's sake, let's forget about convincing people and concentrate on adding to our store of knowledge. Lots of people didn't believe that the Wright brothers had made a plane that flew. They could have spent the rest of their lives arguing with these people, but instead they chose to spend their time MAKING AIRPLANES THAT FLEW. There's a lesson there for all of us.

"Why does it matter so much to us to convince others?"

It's a good question, Ellen. It wouldn't matter if the materialists would stop trying to eradicate belief in survival but they won't. They are taking away a basic human need, a reason for existence, from a great many people who are swayed by their seemingly logical arguments. But there is no good reason why we cannot take the hints from NDE's etc as strong evidence that survival is a fact.

It's ridiculous not to pay attention to it as the the experience by and large stands up and no material explanation has been found in over thirty years..

I agree that their refusal to consider a great body of evidence is really ridiculous. But then, in spite of their proclamations to the contrary, "logical" people aren't really so logical. I probably didn't make my point very well, but I was trying to say that we should stop wasting our efforts on ever more rigorous experiments that don't convince those who simply won't be convinced by anything. I think we'd be better off trying to make sure this information reaches people who need it - those people who, as you rightly pointed out, are being denied a reason for existence. Yes, it's possible to sway a person when you're skilled at logical argument and they are not, and when you frame the argument carefully and choose your battles. Personally, I think it's rather despicable, but I'd rather arm those who are being attacked than try to persuade the attackers.

"I think we'd be better off trying to make sure this information reaches people who need it - those people who, as you rightly pointed out, are being denied a reason for existence."

Probably right, Ellen but the information is there already for those that want it but there are so many pseudo sceptics doing their upmost to rubbish that information with lies and smearing tactics that we've just got to push on IMHO until enough open minded people get it.

"I think we'd be better off trying to make sure this information reaches people who need it - those people who, as you rightly pointed out, are being denied a reason for existence."

Probably right, Ellen but the information is there already for those that want it but there are so many pseudo sceptics doing their upmost to rubbish that information with lies and smearing tactics that we've just got to push on IMHO until enough open minded people get it.

sorry for the double post. The soup is sending me quackers.

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