Harvard Educated Neurosurgeon Says Afterlife Exists

Here's an interesting story from the UK Telegraph about a Harvard educated neurosurgeon who scoffed at the idea of an afterlife until he feels he had a near death experience that changed him.

Some of us, like the apostle Thomas, need to see something before believing. I don't know about the particulars of this case but I find it amazing that we live in a world where God chases down a wayward soul and gives him a peek into something more or a vision (whatever it was) that his heart was changed instantly. To think that God loves us so, amazes me. How grateful we should all be.
Dr Eben Alexander, a Harvard-educated neurosurgeon, fell into a coma for seven days in 2008 after contracting meningitis.

During his illness Dr Alexander says that the part of his brain which controls human thought and emotion "shut down" and that he then experienced "something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death." In an essay for American magazine Newsweek, which he wrote to promote his book Proof of Heaven, Dr Alexander says he was met by a beautiful blue-eyed woman in a "place of clouds, big fluffy pink-white ones" and "shimmering beings".

He continues: "Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms." The doctor adds that a "huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it. the sound was palpable and almost material, like a rain that you can feel on your skin but doesn't get you wet."

Dr Alexander says he had heard stories from patients who spoke of outer body experiences but had disregarded them as "wishful thinking" but has reconsidered his opinion following his own experience.

He added: "I know full well how extraordinary, how frankly unbelievable, all this sounds. Had someone even a doctor told me a story like this in the old days, I would have been quite certain that they were under the spell of some delusion.
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"But what happened to me was, far from being delusional, as real or more real than any event in my life. That includes my wedding day and the birth of my two sons." He added: "I've spent decades as a neurosurgeon at some of the most prestigous medical institutions in our country. I know that many of my peers hold as I myself did to the theory that the brain, and in particular the cortex, generates consciousness and that we live in a universe devoid of any kind of emotion, much less the unconditional love that I now know God and the universe have toward us.
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Comments

  1. He has exactly as much authority as the neurosurgeons who say it doesn't—which is to say, none.

    Asking a neurosurgeon or neurologist about the afterlife is like asking a urologist or gynecologist for dating advice.

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  2. Then again, he also has exactly as much authority as any of the rest of us who claim any kind of spiritual experience or knowledge. Religious testimony is either worth something, or it is not.

    In this case, his atheism and solid conviction that he understood the mechanism by which it could all be explained away adds value in the same way it usually does in a 180 degree turnaround. Not to mention what it says that he's putting his reputation on the chopping block.

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  3. Out of body experiences prove nothing either way; they are by far the weakest evidence for personal survival after death. People whose brains are starting to die make lousy witnesses.

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  4. I'd really suggest reading the entire story before passing judgment. Dr. Alexander was in a coma for a week; the reason why it's interesting that he's a neurosurgeon is that, given the specific nature of what happened to him (his brain was soaked in e coli pus from a rare, swift and should have been deadly bout of meningitis), basically, he shouldn't be alive now, and he really, really shouldn't have been able to produce either memory or anything approximating a coherent thought--he should be vegetative. There are also details of his experience (e.g., who his "guardian angel" turned out to be) that can't be accounted for by other theories. You're right--he should make a lousy witness, but instead he makes an amazing one.

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  6. It doesn't matter how "good" a witness is, or how rationally they argue-- folks won't believe if they don't want to.

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  7. @Elizabeth K: The issue is, if you're in a coma, your brain is by definition not working right.

    Do you consider the ecstasies of the Bacchae or the visions of the peyote religion to be evidence in favor of those people's beliefs? Of course you don't. Their perceptions are impaired.

    I believe in the afterlife. In two senses—it is a component of a faith I accept on other, purely rational grounds (that faith specifically addresses the issue in 1021-1037 of its catechism); and there is strong anecdotal evidence in the form of ghost encounters, among other things.

    But I consider out-of-body or near-death experiences to be poor evidence, and I find the insistence on such experiences to be letting people off the hook for being too stupid or irrational to come to the truth of God's existence on their own. Foxfier's link up there is to a guy who I habitually refer to as John "Took a Miracle" Wright. Because for all his quaint "Cargo Cult rationalist" posturing, the fact is it took divine intervention to realize something some of us figured out on our own.

    I figured this stuff out on my own—I am a purely intellectual revert. Should I be impressed that they needed to be carried?

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  8. Because for all his quaint "Cargo Cult rationalist" posturing, the fact is it took divine intervention to realize something some of us figured out on our own.

    Well, that's a nasty way to re-phrase exactly what he frequently says himself, that God had to go to incredible lengths to get his attention. He even has a running joke that nothing less would've gotten through his skull.

    Congratulations, you managed to do what he laments he was unable to, and urges others to do.

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  9. Nevertheless he still refuses to admit he was an idiot when he was an atheist, and goes to great lengths to pretend that atheism is intellectually tenable. It isn't. Anyone who is an atheist is simply a failure as a thinking being, either too stupid or too cowardly to reason things out. The only atheist with any brains was Nietzsche—and him, Wright can't mention without lying (Nietzsche didn't say Christians were cowards, he said atheists who believe in morals were). Probably because Nietzsche knew, as Wright refuses to acknowledge, that Stoics are sentimental cowards who can't face the real implications of atheism.

    Wright also pretends Objectivism is somehow different from leftism, merely because its cultists are more likely to vote Republican (while holding views on human life and society that most leftists would recoil from). He also says things about Buddhism that indicate he is unacquainted with the concepts of Buddha-nature and karuna, which is like having an opinion on Christianity without having heard of the Image of God or agape. And he failed to grasp the point of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, a series whose target audience is in eighth grade.

    Mostly I'm just mad because not only did he claim that to say "if you acknowledge existence-as-such (as opposed to that-which-exists) as something real, you believe in God" is equivalent to saying "if you believe in the atmosphere you believe in Santa Claus"—a ridiculous strawman I doubt even John Scalzi would stoop to—but he compared me to Richard Dawkins for saying so. Which, I mean, at that point I'm pretty sure dueling is allowed.

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  10. Nevertheless he still refuses to admit he was an idiot when he was an atheist, and goes to great lengths to pretend that atheism is intellectually tenable.

    Quite the contrary, he points out how many horrible things you have to believe before any form of atheism becomes intellectually possible-- that said, there are baseline assumptions that would make atheism rational. They don't track well with any version of reality I've observed, but they exist.

    That said, since you apparently have a real issue with Mr. Wright that also doesn't track with observable reality, I'll bow out of this. You are quite fond of strawmen yourself, and I see no reason to grant you an audience for them.

    His conversion story speaks well enough for itself, and anybody who gets this far can read his writings for themselves.

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