Eben Alexander's Proof of Heaven?
Eben Alexander is a neurosurgeon who had an unexpected near-death experience that has convinced him of the afterlife, or what in Newsweek he calls "My Proof of Heaven" (October 15, 2012), the title of an article in which he describes his extremely vivid experiences undergone while lying unconscious in a coma for seven days, and not a near-death experience in just any coma:
I'm not the first person to have discovered evidence that consciousness exists beyond the body. Brief, wonderful glimpses of this realm are as old as human history. But as far as I know, no one before me has ever traveled to this dimension (a) while their cortex was completely shut down, and (b) while their body was under minute medical observation, as mine was for the full seven days of my coma.He then expands upon this point:
All the chief arguments against near-death experiences suggest that these experiences are the results of minimal, transient, or partial malfunctioning of the cortex. My near-death experience, however, took place not while my cortex was malfunctioning, but while it was simply off. This is clear from the severity and duration of my meningitis, and from the global cortical involvement documented by CT scans and neurological examinations. According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.Dr. Alexander describes an intriguing experience, one worth reading about, but two things strike me from his words above, that he was "under minute medical observation" and "[a]ccording to current medical understanding of the brain and mind," no scientific theory exists to explain his experience, for these strong points that direct us to a mystery -- namely, how could his brain have generated such vivid mental activity that went unrecorded by the finest scientific instruments -- are also simultaneously weak points, for they depend on current medical technology, which is imperfect, and current science, which is incomplete, leaving open the possibility that this 'proof' is no better than what is called "the God of the gaps," an expression referring to the gaps in our techniques and our knowledge that are used by some as evidence for God's intervention in the world and thereby for God's existence.
It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but -- more importantly -- the things that happened during that time.
In other words, Dr. Alexander is saying that because science and technology cannot currently account for his experience, then his experience must be real. Granted, it seemed real enough to convince him, and I can't exclude the possibility that a similar firsthand experience would convince me -- nor can I exclude the possibility that the book, with its "hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey," might convince me as well if I were to read it.
But I have to maintain a sensible skepticism, reflecting both creatively and critically . . .