Just as intro to the explosion of text I’m about to post, I want to say that I viewed it as more fallacies that you can shake a stick at, infused with a good smattering of pseudo-science; however, I’m pretty sure the writer thinks it’s brilliant. And, well, perhaps it really is the case that I should just bow to his sources, which he assures me, below are much “smarter” than I am. To keep it less long (to call it short would be, well, a lie), I’m posting only his responses to me. Not only does this keep it less long, it also should provide him with full advantage in presenting his case. Let me know if you find his case more convincing than I did, and if I’m being too harsh a critic. For your reading pleasure:
Eben’s First Letter:
I just have a few simple questions for you.
I have noticed on your show that you repeatedly say that until some good evidence comes along for the existence of God you will not believe in this entity. Of course one would have to come to an agreement as to who and what God is I suppose to adequately answer such a question. So for the moment let’s agree that this “God” is some sort of original mind-a primal consciousness that has creative and directive powers and is responsible for the fine tuning of this universe for life (not paradise-just life) and the unlikely and nigh limitless intricacy of molecular mechanisms (not to mention the quantum zero-point gravity field that destroys and recreates universes) that without direction coincidentally arranged atoms one successive improbability multiplied by another until they teleologically resulted in DNA and cellular machinery and tissues and organs and an organism which became self-aware and capable of subjective experience which ultimately became a means whereby the universe could inwardly look upon itself and remark on the stars and even the atoms that comprised this sentient being which is circularly and retrospectively self-analyzing metacognitively. In other words, this God is, dare I say it? The DESIGNER of the universe. And let’s agree as to what God isn’t-an old man with a white beard and a sceptre murdering anyone who happens to disagree with him.
First Question: So then, with the aforementioned description of God in mind, I would like to ask Matt and everyone else at the Atheist Experience to give me an example as to what sort of evidence would lead you to believe in a God? What would it take to convince you there is, in fact, a designer of the universe? Or at least, what sort of evidence would lead you to consider the possibility there may be a God though you still may not lean that way? What would it take, evidence wise, for you to respect, as reasonable, a believer and their choice to believe? This is a reasonable question to ask as your answer should determine for any theist or even deist whether or not they should waste any time trying to convince you-you know-the “pearls before swine” thing? And that is no insult but only a parallel parable that describes a situation whereby the one bringing the good news finds it only falls on deaf ears. And worse, it causes the recipient of such news to turn and attack the messenger-like you do whenever a Christian calls in.
Second question: Every caller that calls in seems very uneducated and ill-prepared to defend their faith. There are great apologists out there such as Oxford Mathematics professor John Lennox who is informed theologically and scientifically but of course guys like that are too busy debating the big wigs in the atheist camp I suppose. They are not calling the Atheist Experience. Either you are posting cherry-picked stuff or this is the most coincidental and auspicious material ever seen. And Ray Comfort doesn’t count-a lousy apologist! Sorry Ray. The heart’s there but the arguments are not! His bent leans more experiential and less evidential.
I was going to ask a third question but I’ll hold on that for a while.
Keep up the good work. You guys really know how to shake up the young and the uneducated and defenseless. I’m impressed.
Eben’s Second Letter:
Hi Tracie, nice to meet you. I missed the hour but hopefully I can address your point(s) and call at a later date.
I had no idea you were going to send me an algebraic truism but fortunately I like algebra.
Answer to Question 1: I imagine that the evidence that anything-“X” exists would be the same regardless of X. A demonstration of how it manifests in a way that measurably differentiates it from *nothing*.
To paraphrase this answer in context and in reference to the question about what it would take for you to believe in God, would this next phrase be a fair interpretation of your axiom?:
“I imagine that the evidence that (God) exists would be the same regardless as to whether or not God existed. To believe in God you would need a demonstration of how he manifests in a way that measurably differentiates him from a condition or an environment whereby he didn’t exist.”
So in your mind there would be nothing in this universe to distinguish a god universe from a godless universe? If the above rendition or axiom fairly parallels what you were trying to say, then I think it’s fairly easy to deal with. I believe there are plenty of things in this universe that wouldn’t be here if God didn’t exist. In fact, many would argue that nothing would be here if God didn’t exist borrowing from Heideggar’s “Why is there something rather than nothing” statement. But unfortunately, and given my experience with atheists, this will only lead us to the standard scenario whereby we will both have the same evidence but will come to entirely different conclusions. The motivation in either case is based more on a worldview and what has been objectively measured by MRI that both belief and atheism fires up the regions of the brain that makes us feel most comfortable. This reminds me of that line from the movie “Hero” where the son asks his father, “What is truth?” His father answers with concern coming from a measure of experience, “There is no such thing as truth son. There’s nothing but bullshit-layers upon layers of bullshit. And you choose the layer that makes you feel the most comfortable.” Neither posit of belief or disbelief will be necessarily less logical than another presuming each postulation is derived from lack of absolute knowledge as to what constitutes reality (what you would refer to as the God of the gaps argument which still resolves nothing as those gaps are included in either side (one for science and one for God) which leaves us at square one. As to the evidence of a universe with a God vs a universe without a God, the Christian apologist counters with things like the teleological argument (The one that swayed the famous atheist Anthony Flew to convert to his own brand of deism), the first-causal argument in the cosmological argument, and the moral argument, and the fine-tuned universe (I stress finely tuned for “life” not “paradise”-so you can dispel of the argument pointing to the ultimate collapse of the universe, nature’s disharmony and biological imperfections that the constants were not finely tuned for life) that even the likes of physicist Paul Davies, an agnostic, finds questionable and seems to recognize that these principles are the very thing that would distinguish a God universe from a Godless universe. And why? Because so far there is nothing in physics which suggest that the universal constants, the electromagnetic constants, the atomic and nuclear constants and even the physic-chemical constants are required by any laws to be as they are. To counter, the atheist believes these are not sufficient points and ordinarily conjure up the anthropic principle which says “The fact of our existence as intelligent beings who can measure physical constants requires those constants to be such that beings like us can exist,” which amounts to nothing more than “things are the way they are because things are the way they are”-which again, solves nothing.
There’s enough evidence to distinguish a godless universe from a universe with a god-or at least the strong possibility for a god. I say evidence and not proof-huge difference. That is why atrophysicist Vilenkin said in regards to the big bang looking auspiciously biblical, “”It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”
Therein lies the basis for first causal arguments and the case for the supernatural-unless you’re a fan of infinite regression on either side of the fence which gets us, again, nowhere.
It’s a matter of faith gentlemen. But faith, dissimilar to your insistence, can be based on evidence. But most theists rely upon a personal experience and think it more than a delusion. But unfortunately, most will not seek to evidentially defend their faith. It begins by asking, is there something more substantial to this personal experience? Seek and ye shall find…knock and the door will be opened. Maybe as former Christians the door was opened for you but then slammed the door in God’s face. As to the reasons you did that, it’s between you and God. But then again, I’m making flat assertions without having resolved the problem as to whether there’s a God in the first place, right?
The evidence is strong enough for me, it just isn’t strong enough for you. But make no mistake, there is evidence, of that there is no doubt. Call it weak evidence if you like but to say there is no evidence is less than genuine…less than honest.
Eben’s Third Letter:
>>I believe there are plenty of things in this universe that wouldn’t be here if God didn’t exist. In fact, many would argue that nothing would be here if God didn’t exist
>My microwave is broken. I can’t figure out why. I suspect it’s gremlins. My microwave would not be inexplicably broken if gremlins didn’t exist. Therefore gremlins exist.
First, we’re not talking about gremlins or microwaves, we’re talking about some primal bearer of intention implied by the constants hitherto mentioned. It’s not that simplistic and rather…well, you fill in the blank. As for my microwave, I can think of many reasons other than gremlins as to why my microwave is broke. But you cannot give me a reason as to why the constants are the way they are. If you can, congratulations on your Nobel prize in physics Tracie. And gremlins are imaginary constructs with an obvious origin. God is a concept shared by many cultures across time. Huge distinction there. That’s why the flying spaghetti monster doesn’t cut it either.
>The universe exists. I suspect god produced it. It would not exist without a god. Therefore god exists.
This is downright silly. I never said that and marginalizing me by paraphrasing to strawman effect doesn’t help your case. Do you have something better? You are forgetting all the evidence mentioned in my last email-evidence that challenges the likes of Davies-a man much smarter than you or me. Stop airbrushing my points. That only makes you disengenuine as stated prior.I didn’t just say this universe couldn’t exist without a god therefore god exists. I sure hope your degree isn’t in philosophy.
>>this will only lead us to the standard scenario whereby we will both have the same evidence but will come to entirely different conclusions.
>No, because I say only “the universe is here,” and I don’t make further claims
You’d have to demonstrate your claim by showing how something as inanimate as the universe could have arrived at something as self-reflective and subjective as consciousness to convince me. And you would also have to define the borders of all that exists to make such a claim that there is nothing beyond what you taste, hear, touch, or see. I am also waiting for your proofs that demonstrate how qualia and the subjective experience can be accounted for physiologically to convince me that the only things that are real or materially substantial. Put a thought in a bottle and we’re getting somewhere. You want material evidence? Give me some material evidence that thoughts are real. A neuronal impulse doesn’t count. That is only circumstantial correlation and nothing more. It also falls short of explaining qualia-ask atheist Steven Pinker. Max Planck tells us there is no material in the universe, nothing really substantial so in your materialism you are clinging to “ghosts.” Neuroscientist John Eccles would assert the materialist is the mystic not being able to account for how the first thought gets initiated. And your reason for how this complexity just happened to fall together? Natural selection only goes so far (which requires a mutating replicator immune to any arguments suggesting anything less than teleological reasons) and chance and necessity which supposedly accounts for the 3 billion letters of the human DNA molecule, is far more complex than a simple letter from the alphabet which both carry semiotic meanings and if we chanced upon the letter A on the beach we would assume an agent behind it. How odd to believe that random chance accounts for us-things that are infinitely more complex than a letter.
>Do thAnd I can demonstrate my claim corresponds to reality—that for all we label “existent”—there is, in fact, a universe here. You, however, say some god produced it. But unless a god exists, it has not caused anything. So, we are compelled to *demonstrate* this god exists, not that the universe exists, in order to have actually produced “evidence” that (1) god exists and (2) god can therefore reasonably be put forward as a cause of anything whatsoever.
God can be reasonably postulated as the cause for everything in the sense that conscious direction is a good suspicion given the immense complexity of life. As to what made God? If things had a beginning it follows that something was non-contingent. I choose mind over matter. You choose inanimate stuff that just coincidentally arranged itself to create self-awareness. Now that strikes me as odd.
>We don’t know what a god is, as you’ve produced nothing I can examine to determine what a god is or what it might cause.
Like I asked in my original email, what would it take for you to believe? I gave you evidence whether you recognized it or not. What you want is proof. The evidence isn’t enough for you because your atheist worldview makes you feel more comfortable.
>So, any *claims* you make about what a god is or does are useless to me, until you provide me something to examine
Examine??? You want to centrifuge and dissect God and place him in a bottle?. Read “irreducible Mind”, study the universal constants, proteinomics. It just means you’ll have to look at the counter arguments to atheism a little closer which you refuse to do.
>And if you can’t provide me any method to verify your god exists—then I must wonder, how have you done this?
I never said I gave verification which in this case can be read as “proof.” Remember what Vilenkin said, “Even a fool can accept a proof. It takes a reasonable man to accept a good argument which I have given you here. I will state adamantly here and now-there is NO proof for God-just evidence for the likelihood. You have made a caricature of me similar to the characters that call into your show.
>>There’s enough evidence to distinguish a godless universe from a universe with a god.
>Not until we have a god to examine.
There you go with your examination again. Can you imagine God walking into Dr. Tracie’s office for a prostate exam? That would mean he would be coming to you on your terms rather than the other way around-making YOU God! That seems unlikely.
>Without it—who can speak in an informed way on what a god does?
Hardly anyone. I agree and that is why I’m not a fundamentalist Christian, or Muslim, or whatever.
>You’ve asserted many things about god
>but offered no verification that anything you’ve claimed corresponds to reality.
No verification-just evidence-but just enough to sort out who wants to know God-the source of all love, and who doesn’t-that is one strong reason for this god’s invisibility. It may not be THE reason. But if there is a possible reason, that only accrues as evidence along with the universal constants.
>We have the problem of Sagan’s dragon in the garage. The only difference is that you are asserting the dragon has produced the universe, and that since the universe exists, there must be a dragon.
I’ve read all of Sagan’s books. Good stuff but the man was on a tirade against unverifiable spirituality. Men smarter than him have believed. I’ll pull out the ole’ argument from authority no less than you.
>Thank you for informing me more clearly about what you believe and why you believe it. Circular logic has been put forward on the show before, however. If this is good reasoning, then it’s been represented on the program many times. I’m sure if you keep watching the Youtube clips, you’ll come across one or two.
That wasn’t circular and you failed to recognize that. I was hoping for something smarter and I have been left disappointed. Your arguments seem to be pulled out of a hat-like doing algebra but not understanding why it works. Your points were meant for someone else and misapplied here Tracie. You are just desperately trying to win what you perceive as an argument. And your hidden insults were meant for children. Try again.
A dump of “evidence” that Eben then followed up with. And you can thank me later for sorting out the formatting, as it was more than *I* got when it was sent to me:
Some good stuff for you
Maybe some circumstantial evidence will help. Upon closer observation the NDE is unlikely to be accounted for by the usual materialist explanations due to their veridical nature. Two years of research has allowed me to find what has to be the best accounts that support the authenticity of the NDE. Take the advice from a Harvard neuroscientist who was an atheist and ontological materialist. I will take firsthand experience over cynical conjecture any day of the week:
And below is his interview on Skeptiko with details concerning his assertion that brain models cannot account for the utter clarity of his perceptions at a time his brain was comatose.
Here’s one that defies the physio-chemical explanations:
Here’s a woman born blind from birth who sees for the first time during her NDE:
This may not be empirical evidence Tracie but given the numbers these things take place even circumstantial evidence hold weight in a court of law if they are in sufficient numbers.
Here’s that interview:
Today we welcome Dr. Eben to Skeptiko. Eben has been an academic neurosurgeon for more than 25 years, including 15 years at Harvard Medical School in Boston. In November of 2008, he had a near-death experience that changed his life and caused him to rethink everything he thought he knew about the human brain and consciousness.
Dr. Eben, welcome to Skeptiko.
Dr. Eben: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Alex Tsakiris: Well, your story is really quite amazing. For those who haven’t heard of it and aren’t aware of what you went through, do you want to tell us a little bit about your experience?
Dr. Eben: Yes. It really struck out of the blue. I’d been quite healthy up until that time. In fact, I was in reasonably good shape because my older son had been putting me through a big workout, anticipating a climb of a 20,000 foot volcano in South America.
Alex Tsakiris: Wow.
Dr. Eben: Luckily I was in pretty good shape. At 4:30 in the morning, November 10, 2008, I got out of bed. I was getting ready to go up to work. I was working in Charlottesville at the time and I had severe sudden back pain, much worse than I had ever experienced. Literally within 10 or 15 minutes, it got me to a point where I could not even take a step. I was really in tremendous agony.
My wife, Holly, was rubbing my back. Then my younger son, Bond, came in and saw I was in a lot of distress and he started rubbing my temples. I realized when he did that that I had a severe headache. It was like he took a railroad spike and put it through my head. But I was already really going down very quickly. I didn’t know it at the time.
I found out much later that I had acute bacterial meningitis and it was a very unusual bacteria. One that the incidence of spontaneous E. coli meningitis in adults in the U.S. is about 1 in 10 million per year. So it’s really rare. We never found out where it came from. But at any rate, it was in about 2 to 2-1/2 hours it drove me deep down and in fact, my last words really were to my wife, “Don’t call 911. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”
Luckily she overruled that and she did that because she saw me having a grand mal seizure on the bed. Of course I don’t remember that and I really don’t remember anything that happened for the next week because I was gone. I was very sick during that time as I heard later. In fact, I was so sick that I was on a ventilator the whole week.
They did several lumbar punctures trying to guide therapy. I was on triple antibiotics very early on, due to a very good medical team. They did a lumbar puncture about the second or third day into this and my cerebral spinal fluid glucose, which is normally around 60 to 80 and in a bad case of meningitis might drop down to about 20, well my glucose went down to 1. So I was really sick.
Alex Tsakiris: So at this point, nothing should be going on in your brain and yet something was happening in your conscious awareness.
Dr. Eben: Yeah, I’d say that’s correct. To me, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the last three years trying to explain this and that explanation initially, all I was doing was trying to explain it neuroscientifically. Meningitis is very helpful because it’s probably better than anything else at really diffusely wiping out the neocortex. But one can always argue that there’s some idling function at a deep level that might still survive.
In fact, one of the hypotheses that I entertained about all this was because the experience that I’ll describe to you seemed very hyper-real and extremely crisp and vivid, much more real and interactive than sitting here and talking with you right now. I mean, it was extraordinary. That is something that is often described in near-death experiences and of course one of my early hypotheses was well, maybe there’s some differential effect against inhibitory neuronal networks that allowed over-expression of excitatory neural networks and gave this illusion of kind of a hyper-real situation.
I can tell you from having lived through it that it was so powerful and so beyond that kind of explanation that I wasn’t very hopeful that that would work out in the end. But I figured I needed to give it a chance and look at the microanatomy in the cortex and the different connections with the thalamus and basal ganglia and see if I could come up with some way that one might have an illusion of hyper-reality.
I can tell you because of the kind of content of the experience and the powerful, overwhelming nature of it and the fact that it was so complex, I think much of what I remembered from that experience, I don’t think my brain and mind could possibly manage that even now.
I mean, the kind of mental function that occurs when you’re in that hyper-real state, the way that information comes in from spiritual beings and kind of the interaction with them is so intense and extraordinary, it’s really inexplicable in earthly terms. But it would basically outrun any of those kind of theories. That was something I was looking for. In fact, I never found an anatomic distribution that would support that over-activity of excitatory pathways.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. Thanks for doing that. I think we’ve jumped a little bit ahead of the story. For those who don’t know, tell us a little bit about your NDE.
Dr. Eben: Okay. Well, you were asking what it is like when one has their cortex shut down like that, and in fact, for one thing I was surprised that I remembered anything because as a neurosurgeon having had many patients who were in comas for various reasons and had a lot of them recover, my understanding was that in general you don’t really remember anything.
Even when the patients seem to be interacting I knew that usually if they’d been sick, for instance with meningitis, that they really wouldn’t remember much of it. Occasionally there were exceptions to that. You’d have patients who would remember very remarkable things from deep inside, but before I had always kind of explained that away with the standard answers. “Oh, that’s what the brain does when it’s very sick.”
What I do remember from deep inside coma, for one thing my first awareness was I had no memory whatsoever of my life. I had no language, no words. All of my experience in life, knowledge of humans, Earth, the universe, all of that was gone. The only thing I had was this very kind of crude existence. And I call it in my book the “earthworm’s eye-view,” because it really was just a crude, kind of underground.
I have a vivid memory of dark roots above me and there was a kind of monotonous pounding, a dull sound in the background pounding away eternally. It was just murky and gross. Every now and then a face, an animal or something would boil up out of the muck and there might be some chant or roar or something. Then they’d disappear again.
It sounds very foreboding to talk about it right now, but in fact, since I knew no other existence I don’t remember being particularly alarmed when I was in that setting. I think that that was the best consciousness that my brain could muster when it was soaking in pus. It turns out that that seemed to last for a very long time. Given that it was my first awareness of anything, it actually seemed to be years or eternity. I don’t know. It seemed like a very, very long time.
Then there was a spinning melody, this bright melody that just started spinning in front of me. Beautiful, beautiful melody compared to that dull pounding sound that I’d heard for eons. It spun and as it spun around, it cleared everything away. This was the part that was so shocking and so hard to explain. It was as if the blinders came off and the reality there was much more crisp, real, and interactive and fresh than any reality I’ve ever known in this earthly existence. That part is very shocking and hard to explain when you go through it, and yet what I’ve found since then is that a lot of people who have had NDEs discuss the same kind of hyper-reality. But it’s very shocking to see it.
For me, I was a speck on a butterfly wing. I had no body awareness at all. In fact, I had no body awareness through this entire kind of deep coma experience. I was a speck on a beautiful butterfly wing; millions of other butterflies around us. We were flying through blooming flowers, blossoms on trees, and they were all coming out as we flew through them.
Beside me on the butterfly wing was a beautiful girl. I remember her face to this day. Absolutely beautiful girl, blue eyes, and she was dressed in–what I was trying to write all this up in the months after I came back—I described as a kind of peasant garb. I can remember the colors very well. Kind of a peach/orange and a powder blue, just really beautiful.
She never said a word to me and she was looking at me and her thoughts would just come into my awareness. Her thoughts were things like, “You are loved. You are cherished forever. There’s nothing you can do wrong. You have nothing to worry about. You will be taken care of.” It was so soothing and so beautiful, and of course as I said, my language wasn’t really working then. So those particular words were words I had to put on it when I came back out. But a lot of this flowed perfectly when I came back out.
In fact, I didn’t read anything about near-death experiences or about physics or cosmology because of the advice my older son, Eben IV, who was majoring in neuroscience at the University of Delaware advised me. Three days after I left the hospital, when he came home for Thanksgiving back in 2008, he said, “Well, if you want to write this up as a useful report, don’t read anything. Just write everything down you can remember.”
I spent the next two months typing everything I could remember in the computer. It came out to about 100 pages of memories from this deep experience within the coma. I think from that beautiful valley scene on the butterfly wing, waterfalls, pools of water, indescribable colors, and above there were these arks of silver and gold light and beautiful hymns coming down from them. Indescribably gorgeous hymns. I later came to call them “angels,” those arks of light in the sky. I think that word is probably fairly accurate.
On this butterfly wing, the first time I was there, I remember having this sensation. It was as if there was a warm summer breeze that just blew by. Then everything changed and the scene stayed the same but I became aware. Again in looking back on it, that was my awareness of a Divine presence of incredibly indescribable, kind of a superpower of divinity. Then we went out of this universe.
I remember just seeing everything receding and initially I felt as if my awareness was in an infinite black void. It was very comforting but I could feel the extent of the infinity and that it was, as you would expect, impossible to put into words. I was there with that Divine presence that was not anything that I could visibly see and describe, and with a brilliant orb of light. There was a distinct sensation from me, a memory, that they were not one and the same. I don’t know what that means.
In my awareness, when I say I was aware, this goes far, far beyond the consciousness of any one—this is not Eben’s consciousness aware of being in that space. I was far beyond that point, way beyond any kind of human consciousness, and really just one consciousness. When I got there they said that I would be going back, but I didn’t know what that meant.
They said there were many things that they would show me, and they continued to do that. In fact, the whole higher-dimensional multiverse was that this incredibly complex corrugated ball and all these lessons coming into me about it. Part of the lessons involved becoming all of what I was being shown. It was indescribable.
But then I would find myself—and time out there I can say is totally different from what we call time. There was access from out there to any part of our space/time and that made it difficult to understand a lot of these memories because we always try to sequence things and put them in linear form and description. That just really doesn’t work.
But suffice it to say that I would find myself back at the earthworm eye-view. What I learned was that if I could recall the notes of that melody, the spinning melody, that would start the melody spinning again and that would take me back into that beautiful, crisp, clear hyper-real valley on the butterfly wing. My guardian angel was always there and she was always very comforting.
Then we would go out into what I came to call “the coal,” which was outside of the entire physical universe. Again, they would show lessons and often those lessons would involve becoming a tremendous part of what they were demonstrating.
So much of it is just indescribable and so much of it there are reasons why we cannot bring a lot of that back. And there are reasons, in fact, it’s why I’ve come to see that we’re conscious in spite of our brain. To me that makes a lot more sense.
I go into detail about all that in my book, but it turns out that I would oscillate from this beautiful, idyllic place in the core, coming back down into earthworm eye-view, and it seems it was three or four times. Like I said, sequencing was so strange because when I was in the earthworm eye-view, everything seemed to be one kind of soup of just mixed foam. It was very hard to put sequence on it but it was very clear to me that several times I would use the memory of those notes and spin that melody and go back in. They would always say, “You are not here to stay.”
Alex Tsakiris: Dr. Eben, a couple of questions. First, what is the title of your book?
Dr. Eben: Okay. Well, I’m going through several possible agents right now. I don’t have a publisher and I have a feeling that agents and publishers will have their own ideas. What I can tell you is that the tentative working title right now, and this could easily change, is Life Beyond Death: A Neurosurgeon’s Life-Changing Near-Death Odyssey.
Alex Tsakiris: Let me hone in on a couple of things. It’s an amazing experience, an amazing account. Tell us a little bit about coming back into this world. I want to hone in on a couple of things that we need to nail down if we’re going to really try and understand this account from our world.
One thing I want to nail down is the time perspective. How do we know that these memories were formed during the time when you’re in a coma? You’ve already laid out a couple of points about that in that normally we wouldn’t even expect you to have a lot of clear, coherent memories three days after coming out of this coma. But you said that’s when you started writing down this account. You also said you tried not to contaminate your memories with talking to other people. So those are good parts of your story.
What are some other aspects of it that you can tell us that make you confident that these memories were formed while you were in this severely compromised mental state?
Dr. Eben: I can tell you that when I first started waking up, it was very shocking because as I said, I didn’t have memories of my life before and my family, loved ones, sisters, my wife and sons, they were there. So initially I have a very distinct memory as I was emerging, which was on the seventh day of coma. I was still on the ventilator and still had the endotracheal tube in.
My awareness was of several faces. I remember one was my wife and one was a good friend of ours who is also my infectious disease doctor and a neighbor, Dr. Scott Wade. Then one was also my 10-year-old son. These faces were there. I did not recognize them. They would say words. I didn’t understand the words, but I had a very powerful visual memory. They would kind of boil up out of the muck and then they’d go away.
I’m fairly sure that was Sunday morning because much, much later, after I’d written everything down and I did start asking people about things that had happened, it seemed that that’s when people were doing that. Now in fact, they’d been doing it all week but I think I was unaware of it during the week. That’s mainly based on the people that I do remember seeing who only those who were there that Sunday morning were.
My language started coming back very quickly and so did my visual cortex, because I think—again, it’s so hard to put a time label on this. But in talking with people who were there, I think that probably over an hour or two or three I started getting language back quickly. My auditory cortex started coming online. My ability to understand speech, so what’s called Wernicke’s area in the dominant temporal lobe was starting to come back up to speed and I can understand things. I could then start making speech.
So I was having a very rapid return of cortical function, but I was still kind of in and out of reality. In fact, in my book I go into great detail describing what I call the “nightmare,” which was kind of a paranoid, crazy thing where I was halfway in and out of reality. My younger son, Bond, he can describe it to you. It was kind of a very frightening thing because I would seem to be with it and then I’d be saying things that were just out of my mind.
Of course, initially as I explained to some of my physicians, what I remembered was this incredibly powerful hyper-real spiritual experience. They would say, “Oh, yes, well you were very, very sick. We thought you were going to die. I can’t even believe that you’re back.” They were predicting that I would have two to three months in the hospital and then need chronic care for the rest of my life. So they were obviously quite shocked that I came back like I did. It was just so strange.
Initially I thought, “Gosh, it was almost too real to be real.” That hyper-reality that people describe, I just wish we could bottle that up and give it to people so they could see what it’s like because it is not something that is going to be explained by these little simplistic kind of talking about CO2 and oxygen levels. That just won’t work. I promise you that won’t work.
Alex Tsakiris: That’s an interesting point because as you mentioned briefly, you know it won’t work because you actually went and tried to see if there was a model that you were aware of from your training that could fit your experience, right?
So you became a near-death experiencer who became a near-death experience researcher from a neurophysiological standpoint. I think that’s one of the things that really draws people to your story. Tell us a little bit more about your quest to understand this from the perspective of your background as a neurosurgeon.
Dr. Eben: Okay, well I can tell you that I mentioned a few minutes ago that initially I was getting the message from my physicians that I was extremely sick and it doesn’t surprise them that I had very, very unusual memories. There was one other thing that really got my attention that I’ll mention, and that is I told you about the faces I saw kind of floating in the muck, which I think—again, it’s hard to put a time on it. I know that some of them appeared that Sunday morning and maybe the Saturday afternoon. Some could have been earlier.
There was one that I think was earlier, although she seems like all the rest. Her name is Susan Reintjes and she’s a friend of my wife’s. They worked together 25 years earlier teaching in Raleigh. Susan’s had a lot of experience helping coma patients. She wrote a book called, Third Eye Open. It’s about her going into a state or trance and then going to them in whatever fashion. That’s not something I claim to understand. But not through the physical material realm.
In fact, she had done that with a lot of patients and she discussed that in her book. Holly called her up, I think it was Thursday at night that Susan heard all this and said, “Yes, I’ll try and help.” I remember her being there very clearly. I mean, just like all the rest. She was there and she never was physically there. She did this from Chapel Hill where she lives.
Of course, in the first few days as I was coming around and I told my wife about the six faces that I remembered, that does not include my guardian angel who I still didn’t know at that time, but those six faces. And Susan Reintjes was there. Holly said, “She did come to you channeling. She came to you in the psychic realm.” I can tell you when Holly told me that I said, “Of course. Don’t need any explanation for that.”
Of course, as I healed—it probably took three or four weeks for a lot of my neuroscience and neurosurgical training to come back—all along that time I was still writing all this down and not reading anything. I was very tempted but my son had told me, “You want this to be worthwhile, don’t read anything else. Just write it all down.” I just was shocked; I was buffeted because my neuroscience mind said, “No, that couldn’t happen.” The more I heard about how sick I was, my cortex shut down, “No, that’s impossible, your cortex was down.”
Of course, for a while I was going after the hypotheses that involved formation of these very complex, intricate memories either right before my coma or right coming out of it. That really did not explain it at all. Part of the problem, when you get right down to it, is that whole issue of remembering the melody because that was a very clear part of it. I remember the elation when I figured that I could just remember that melody and that spun the melody in front of me.
Then all of a sudden, boom! Everything opened up and I went back out into that valley, so crisp and beautiful, and my angel was with me, as I came to call her, my companion on the butterfly wing. And then out into the core, outside of the universe. Very difficult to explain in that fluctuation.
I guess one could always argue, “Well, your brain was probably just barely able to ignite real consciousness and then it would flip back into a very diseased state,” which doesn’t make any sense to me. Especially because that hyper-real state is so indescribable and so crisp. It’s totally unlike any drug experience. A lot of people have come up to me and said, “Oh that sounds like a DMT experience, ”or“ That sounds like ketamine.” Not at all. That is not even in the right ballpark.
Those things do not explain the kind of clarity, the rich interactivity, the layer upon layer of understanding and of lessons taught by deceased loved ones and spiritual beings. Of course, they’re all deceased loved ones. I’ve kind of wondered where it is that these people are coming from. They say, “The brain was very sick but it was very selective and made sure it only remembered deceased loved ones.” They’re just not hearing something.
Alex Tsakiris: You know, I think that brings up a very interesting point and one that we’ve covered a lot on this show. To be fair—well, not only to be fair but to really understand the entire phenomena and understand how it fits in our culture, in our society, which I think is important because here you are, someone like yourself with your obvious intellectual capabilities but also medical understanding and you have this experience and you have to come back and try and make it make sense with all your training.
I think all the rest of us are right there with you trying to make sense of these completely counter-intuitive experiences and then trying to jam them back in our head and in our experience. In that sense, I do have a lot of empathy and appreciation for the NDE researchers, both the skeptical ones and the non-skeptical ones. So let me talk a little bit about that NDE research and get your perspective on it. Of course there are a few of these brave researchers out there who have stuck their neck out—really only a very few—and have tried to tackle this.
It seems to me that they’re really barely making a dent in the medical model that we have. The medical model that we have sees us as these biological robots and death as kind of the ultimate Boogeyman. Can we really believe that we’re really going to change such an entrenched system?
Dr. Eben: I think so. I think that is very much a possibility. There’s this whole issue of mind and brain and duality versus non-dualism and the physical material reductivist models. I go into this in great detail in my book but I think you have to go back about 3,000 years to really get to the beginning of the discussion and to start to see why certain things have transpired.
I think most importantly was the part of this discussion that happened between Rene Descartes and Spinoza back in the 17th Century. They started us into our current era. Our current era is one of mind/consciousness/our soul has been put in the realm of the church more-or-less. There was kind of a truce of sorts that I guess Descartes came up with back then to say there’s mind and then there’s body and just let the natural scientists, those with an interest like Francis Bacon and Galileo and Newton, let’s not burn them all at the stake. Let some of them survive.
So I think it was a good thing to have that truce so that science survived. I mean, I’m a scientist and I love science and the scientific method. I’ve just come to realize that the universe is much grander than we appreciate. So I have to simply broaden my definitions.
I think science is still very important to get us there. Getting back to that mind/brain issue, what happened over time is science kind of grew up and got to be more and more powerful at giving us many things. Science has been a real wonder. But I think that it’s been somewhat at a price and that price came from splitting out mind and body back then and that dualistic approach because as science gained more and more of an upper hand, people were losing track of the kind of mind part of it, the consciousness part.
Alex Tsakiris: Let’s talk about that a little bit right now because part of that does seem to be contradictory to your experience and the experiences we’ve heard from other folks who have had these transformative spiritual experiences in that if there is this broader knowing—and much broader—broader doesn’t even begin to describe it but that we hear over and over again.
We hear it from your account; we hear it from many near-death experience accounts. We also hear it from all sorts of transformative spiritual accounts, kundulini accounts, spontaneous spiritual awakenings. There’s this sense of knowing, much, much greater knowing that then must be crammed back into our body and it doesn’t fit, you know? So your account says that and others do, as well.
Can we really then hope to get out of the consciousness loop that we’re in now? Is it just going to be a matter of a philosophical shift like we had back in the 1700’s? Or is there something fundamental to the way that we’re constructed that’s going to keep us limited in how much we can really tap into and understand that knowing that you experienced?
Dr. Eben: In my view, what I think is going to happen is that science in the much broader sense of the word and spirituality which will be mainly an acknowledgement of the profound nature of our consciousness will grow closer and closer together. We will all move forward into a far more enlightened world. One thing that we will have to let go of is this kind of addiction to simplistic, primitive reductive materialism because there’s really no way that I can see a reductive materialist model coming remotely in the right ballpark to explain what we really know about consciousness now.
Coming from a neurosurgeon who, before my coma, thought I was quite certain how the brain and the mind interacted and it was clear to me that there were many things I could do or see done on my patients and it would eliminate consciousness. It was very clear in that realm that the brain gives you consciousness and everything else and when the brain dies there goes consciousness, soul, mind—it’s all gone. And it was clear.
Now, having been through my coma, I can tell you that’s exactly wrong and that in fact the mind and consciousness are independent of the brain. It’s very hard to explain that, certainly if you’re limiting yourself to that reductive materialist view.
Any of the scientists in the crowd who want to get in on this, what I would recommend is there’s one book I consider the bible of this. It’s a wonderful book but it is really for those who have a strong scientific interest in it. It’s called Irreducible Mind, Edward Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly, Bruce Greyson, Adam Crabtree, Alan Galt, Michael Grassa, the whole group from Esalen and also based in the Division of Perceptual Studies at the University of Virginia, have done an incredibly good job. Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century is the subtitle and that’s exactly what it is.
I felt their book was quite illustrative and of course it caused a huge splash when it came out in 1987, but again a lot of the reductive materialists like myself were not really going to put in the work to go through all of that. We just thought, “We can’t understand it so it can’t be true.”
Alex Tsakiris: I think you’re being a little bit too generous there because some of the folks do do the work. Do tap into the research and still come out the other end holding onto that materialistic model that we’re stuck with here because there’s a lot invested in it. With that, what I wanted to do was I sent you a couple of audio clips that I thought you might like to respond to because it fits in with what you were just talking about–people who have walked in your shoes and are still there in that model.
The first clip I’d like to play for you is a former guest on this show, Dr. Steven Novella, who is a clinical neurologist at Yale University. He’s a well-known and outspoken skeptic of near-death experiences but a nice guy who’s willing to engage the topic. What I thought I’d do is play this little clip and see any response you might have to it, okay?
Dr. Eben: All right.
Dr. Steven Novella: The three basic kinds of explanations are one is spiritual; that it represents the fact that the mind can exist separate from the brain. The second one is a psychological experience of some sort. And then the third is that it’s organic; it’s neurophysiological. The evidence and some of the best explanatory models that people are putting forward are blending the second two, the psychological and the organic, the neuroscientific. I think what we’re seeing is that there’s a core experience that’s primarily organic. It’s just the kinds of things that can happen to the brain under various kinds of stress.
Alex Tsakiris: Now, I’ve got to add that if you really listen to the whole interview with Steve and the follow-up that we had, what he’s talking about is really a bunch of fluff. [Laughs] There really isn’t any research that shows any neurophysiological cause for near-death experience. I really held his feet to the fire and he was unable to produce anything of any real substance about that research.
But maybe you can talk because it speaks so much to the position that you were in just a few years ago, about that position and that kind of entrenched “It has to be in the brain” kind of thing and how you think that relates to near-death experience.
Dr. Eben: I would say for one thing I think that a healthy skeptical approach to all this is a good thing because it helps us get to the truth. It helps us know the answer. What we have to be careful of, of course, is not getting in the trap of having our prejudices rule the day. A lot of these experiments and studies, how you interpret them will depend a lot on what your prejudices are going in.
I found early on in my experience, I had to do as Descartes recommended when he was talking about getting to the truth, and that was to really ignore or to reject everything I had ever accepted as real. That was the only way to start getting to where I could figure any of this out. I
know that a lot of the reductive scientific crowd out there—I have a favorite quote from Stephen Hawking. He says, “There’s a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority or imposed dogma and faith, as opposed to science which is based on observation and reason.” What I would say is I think his statement is true as a general statement but that science, and certainly those who believe in science and scientists, are as prone to addiction to imposed dogma and faith as our religious zealot. So one has to be very careful to really step back and want to know the truth. That’s what I think we all would like to know.
Alex Tsakiris: In this case, if we really do step back one of the things that’s troubling to me, and you touched on it a minute ago, is how overwhelming the evidence seems to be. At this point, we can confidently say that near-death experiences didn’t just start happening in the last 20 years since we had advanced resuscitation techniques.
We can confidently say that 4% to 5% of everyone who has a cardiac arrest is having this. There’s obviously hundreds of millions of people over time who have had these accounts and we have thousands and thousands of well-documented, consistent accounts across cultures, across times. These are the measures that we would normally use to say, “This is a real phenomenon.”
And then when the skeptics, and really the mainstream scientists have pounded against it for 20 years with really what amounts to a bunch of very silly explanations but ones that have been carefully looked at and dismissed—was it CO2 , a fear of death, other psychological factors? Is it all the different things like REM intrusion? All these things.
Clearly this would normally be something where we’d be putting a lot of attention into it. Or that it would then become the presumed explanation for it. But none of that’s happening. They have managed to hold back the dyke, you know? So what do you make of that?
Dr. Eben: Okay, I think in trying to get back to your original question with the previous guest, to me one thing that has emerged from my experience and from very rigorous analysis of that experience over several years, talking it over with others that I respect in neuroscience, and really trying to come up with an answer, is that consciousness outside of the brain is a fact. It’s an established fact.
And of course, that was a hard place for me to get, coming from being a card-toting reductive materialist over decades. It was very difficult to get to knowing that consciousness, that there’s a soul of us that is not dependent on the brain. As much as I know all the reductive materialist arguments against that, I think part of the problem is it’s like the guy looking for his keys under the streetlight. Reductive materialists are under the streetlight because that’s where they can see things.
But in fact, if you’re keys are lost out in the darkness, the techniques there are no good. It is only by letting go of that reductive materialism and opening up to what is a far more profound understanding of consciousness. This is where I think for me as a scientist, I look at quantum mechanics and I go into this in great detail in my book, is a huge part of the smoking gun. It shows us that there’s something going on about consciousness that our primitive models don’t get. It’s far more profound than I ever realized before.
That’s where I’m coming from because my experience showed me very clearly that incredibly powerful consciousness far beyond what I’m trapped in here in the earthly realm begins to emerge as you get rid of that filtering mechanism of the brain. It is really astonishing. And that is what we need to explain. Thousands or millions of near-death experiencers have talked about this.
Not only that but as you mentioned a few minutes ago, people don’t even have to go to a near-death situation. There are plenty of mystical experiences that have occurred over millennia that are part of the same mechanism. That’s why all this talk about oxygen, tension, CO2 and all that you can pretty much throw out the window. You really need to be working towards explaining all of those phenomena. Part of the problem is they’re hard to explain but that is a clue.
Willy Lomans was asked, “Why do you rob banks?” He said, “Because that’s where the money is.” Well, same kind of thing. They are hard issues and the whole understanding of what consciousness really involves. I came a lot closer to that in my coma experience and coming out of it and in doing all the very intense homework for the three years since then to try and understand it. It’s a difficult question because it’s close to the real truth that we’re going after. If it were easy it would be widely available. It would already have been written up by somebody who wanted to publish or perish. That’s not how it works. It’s not that easy.
Alex Tsakiris: Dr. Eben, in the little bit of time we have left what’s it been like being so public about your experience?
Dr. Eben: Well, many people have come up to me and said, “Wow, this takes a lot of courage to do this.” You know, it probably would have taken courage to talk like this right after I came out of it. I learned to put the lid on it but then as I did more and more work and talked with more people and started realizing, “Oh my gosh, this is all real.” Then I can tell you, it takes no courage at all. It simply is so powerful to know this.
One thing I’m trying to do in my book is to show why it’s so logical, why this is a very rational way for things to work, especially when you really delve into the profound mystery of conscious existence. Again, I’d recommendIrreducible Mind to any people with a scientific bent who really want to get into it.
Go in there because the whole issue is far, far deeper than we would like to think. It’s absolutely wonderful to realize this. I think it’s going to change this world in wonderful ways. But a big part of it, of course, is to try and broaden the boundaries of science and of what we accept and will use to get towards truth. I’m very hopeful that science and spirituality will come together hand-in-hand and go forward to help with getting these answers and help people to understand the true nature of our existence. A side effect will be that humanity and the grace and harmony that we will see around this world will expand tremendously as we move forward in that fashion.
Alex Tsakiris: Great. It’s certainly an amazing account and you do a great job of bringing forth this information. We wish you the best of luck with that and we’ll certainly look forward to your book, coming out when? Probably next year maybe?
Dr. Eben: I certainly hope so. I’m hoping to finish it now. I do have a web page which is lifebeyonddeath.net for any people who have an interest. I tell you, I’m so busy on the book. You can send me email or sign up for the newsletter or whatever, but I won’t be responding for a few months. If people are interested, they’re welcome to get in touch and sign up for the newsletter, which won’t come out until I’m done on the book. Then we’ll move from there.
It’s just a wonderful gift and I think people will see that it actually makes more sense than anything else has so far. That’s why I think it’s of inestimable value to get this out to the world.
Alex Tsakiris: Thanks so much for joining us today.
Dr. Eben: Thank you very much. I appreciate it, Alex.
Eben’s final note, with even more attached “evidence.” He also links me to “who he is.” Apparently he’s a comic artist, which is meaningful because…? And once again, you can thank me later for fixing the lousy formatting that came with it to me…
SEE THE ATTACHED FOR EVIDENCE!!!
This is who I am for your knowledge:
[link removed to protect his privacy. But comments on the attachments at the bottom.]
Or you can Google search my name in quotation marks for more info: [name removed to protect his privacy.]
Then read my responses below and we are finished unless you want to add something. But I would be remiss to not include this attachment for your review. If you don’t look at it you are deliberately remaing ignorant to reinforce an old idea. NOT very scientific! NOT very honest! You’re getting your information from one side only. I can see that. This is the evidence you asked for. I complied now the ball is in your court.
>> First, we’re not talking about gremlins or microwaves, we’re talking about some primal bearer of intention implied by the constants hitherto mentioned.
>That is irrelevant.
Irrelevant to someone who chooses not to aknowledge improbable statistics as an indicator.
>How you pretty it up doesn’t matter.
Hey, I’ll even put a pink dress on it for you.
>I can say it’s large, green, primal gremlins,
You could but that’s not the same as the notion of a primal consciousness which so closely resembles human consciousness which itself is so highly improbable and yet still is-think about that one.
>>who have bestowed humanity with love and goat milk…etc. And you’re not strawmanning me?
>You can insert anything you like. It’s still “X exists” that you are claiming, and nothing else matters until we have some X to examine.
Some have examined it but it was a personal and one time event for them-not a replicable event for city hall. And they have proof-for them, not for you or anyone else. Your sense of entitlement is showing. You dispel the experiential accounts as hallucinations or delusion and for the sake of fortifying your worldview. As Max Planck said, you have nothing akin to the classical matter you think is there and must anknowledge you yourself have examined nothing if you really understood what he did.
>Before then, we can’t say anything informed about X. No more talk until I can have a look at this thing to see if your claims about it align with the reality of what it is.
So tell me, what is real? You have a corner on that market? I have a quote from Max Planck below that may interest you as to what is real. Some argue the subjective experience of God is no less real than the matter that seems to surround us. And I say ‘seem’ due to what the physicists have to say. None of us knows what’s real Tracie. We can only guess as there is little agreement between the noumenon and the phenomenon. Your brain is enclosed in bone so how is it that you perceive light? It isn’t light that’s getting through your optic nerve-it’s only electrical signals that create the subjective experience of light. So tell me, what’s real?
>> It’s not that simplistic and rather…well, you fill in the blank.
>Actually, it’s not that *hard*.
No, I meant your gremlin analogy is too simplistic. The notion of God crosses geographical borders, time, ethnicities and it’s origins are not so obvious. The same cannot be said for gremlins. I wax philosophic on this point and agree with CS Lewis when he points out that if the atheists are right then the only thing we desire that cannot be realized would be meaning, purpose, and God. Seems a strange quirk of evolution to bestow a need or even a craving for anything that isn’t real. And quirks of evolution usually lead to extinction and yet we’re still here. This is not a proof, it’s only an indicator. I hope I’ve made myself clear on this point.
>> As for my microwave, I can think of many reasons other than gremlins as to why my microwave is broke.
>First of all, I said it was inexplicably malfunctioning. But this area seems to trip up a lot of people. “I have a better explanation” is *not* why the argument fails. It fails because it’s circular. Even if we had no competing explanation for why microwaves break, the construct of the circular reasoning would still be the problem.
But I never made that argument. I have seen many lucid adults who have come to believe in God but never gremlins-unless they’re in a rubber room wearing a straight jacket.
>I never claimed So, the competing explanation is not even relevant to why the example was problematic.
I will concede this point and missed the “inexplicable” part.But none of this negates the evidence you refuse to acknowledge.I’m talking about the sort of evidence which compels former atheist Fred Hoyle to say
“ Would you not say to yourself, “Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule.” Of course you would . . . A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
This quote followed an interesting use of the anthropic principle. In trying to work out the routes of stellar nucleosynthesis, he observed that one particular nuclear reaction, the triple-alpha process, which generates carbon, would require the carbon nucleus to have a very specific resonance energy for it to work. The large amount of carbon in the universe, which makes it possible for carbon-based life-forms of any kind to exist, demonstrated that this nuclear reaction must work. Based on this notion, he made a prediction of the energy levels in the carbon nucleus that was later borne out by experiment.
These energy levels, while needed to produce carbon in large quantities, were statistically very unlikely.
> This may be why you feel you were strawmanned. If you think your argument is better due to a lack of a competing explanation, then you don’t recognize the circular logic you’re employing is the real concern.
Again, my argument isn’t better due to a lack of scientific understanding but instead by the things I do understand-as I have pointed out repeatedly. Are atheists completely devoid of speculation? Get a little Wonder in your life.
>> But you cannot give me a reason as to why the constants are the way they are.
>Unless you think the Argument from Ignorance
We’re all ignorant Tracie –mine is the argument from what we do know and improbable statistics-not ignorance. I’m not throwing sticks at the moon here.
>and the Argument from Incredulity are compelling , I shouldn’t have to.
Unless you are willing to concede that God is probable, you are also making the argument from incredulity-you find the idea of God so unbelievable that you cannot believe he is real-argument from incredulity. There’s a flip side to every argument and in the end the criticism makes no point at all and we’re left back where we started.
>We’re talking about “a god exists.” If you claim god is the reason for the constants (or green apples, or anything), you must first produce that god. If you can’t, then you cannot make any informed statement that (1) the god exists or (2) what it causes.
As I suspected and as pointed out in my first email, you won’t be satisfied until God walks up and shakes your hand. That is why I said that if that is what you require trying to convince you otherwise is an utter waste of time-the pearls before swine thing-remember?? Evidence won’t satisfy you-you need physical proof-and the most radical kind like Jesus appearing before you in a nimbus of light and giving you the winning lottery numbers in all 50 states.. I can’t give that to you and neither can anyone else
>You have not examined a god. You do not know if a god would cause anything or even if it exists. Call the effect “the constants” or “a broken microwave.” A god must exist, before you can claim any attributes for it that can be validated and agreed upon.
Do you have any idea just how finely tuned these constants are? This isn’t just one simple fluke-these are improbabilities stacked one upon another working auspiciously in concert to allow sentient life. Think that’s chance? And my idea of God is much larger that what I think you suspect. Even Dawkins has said a reasonable case could be made for a deist God-not one he’d agree with, but still one that is reasonable. You need a better analogy than a microwave to account for the constant’s-you think the complexity of either doesn’t matter and that the simpler example is tantamount to the more complex example. But I don’t see it that way at all. I think it’s a category mistake. It is highly probable that something I don’t understand about my microwave could make it defunct and neither would I suspect gremlins as I see no reason to imagine them. But given the constants, me, Paul Davies, Fred Hoyle, Robert Lanza, Francis Collins, Max Planck and many others see that point (and I’m comparing my convictions with these men not my intellect). As for argument from authority, what about your Carl Sagan? And who would you have me quote, the Avon Lady? The kid down the street flipping burgers for minimum wage? If I did that you’d really have a hay day with me then. So either way, it seems the believer can’t win-you have a reply to everything and that should suffice as a reason to suspect your mind is closed to possibilities beyond what you’ve indoctrinated yourself with. For example, let me quote Max Planck, the “father of quantum physics” who best understands the material world you worship and see why I say you are chasing ghosts:
- As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
>> If And gremlins are imaginary constructs with an obvious origin. God is a concept shared by many cultures across time. Huge distinction there. That’s why the flying spaghetti monster doesn’t cut it either.
>Argument from Popularity. How many people believe in a proposition is irrelevant to whether or not it’s correct. A widespread misconception is no less a misconception.
No less than your atheism would be a misconception if God does exist.
>And I need to note that the god you put forward is not universal in the least. In fact, the deist model is quite a rarest form of a god. So your god is not “shared by many cultures,” anymore than gremlins (as mischievous spirits are quite common universally). However, we don’t need to debate this, as, again, the number of people who believe an error does not make it true. This is not an argument from popularity. It seems you have mistaken me for someone else. I have always argued that ideas that are popular are not necessarily right. At one time the Earth was once thought of as residing at the center of the universe but we now know that’s false. Though it may seem an argument from popularity what I meant to convey is the idea that it seems strange that that particular “misconception” has gained acceptance in areas of the world in times when borders closed people off to one another and yet they coincidentally shared the same concept-however vague-deist or theist. If you choose to splice the various concepts of God then you can say that gremlins are as popular as god but that wouldn’t be correct as an analogy as gremlins are not non-contingent beings and again, gremlins as a myth never crossed borders in their origins. I was also focusing on the idea that gremlins have obvious origins whereas God does not. That implies that God was always a part of the conscience of the human condition. Doesn’t that strike you as even minimally odd? But it isn’t the strongest argument so as you suggested let’s move on.
>>> The universe exists. I suspect god produced it. It would not exist without a god. Therefore god exists.
>>This is downright silly. I never said that and marginalizing me by paraphrasing to strawman effect doesn’t help your case.
>Actually, you did say it, and you repeated it above. Please see your own note. Are you not asserting god is responsible for “the constants”?
I assert the high probability for a god due to the constants.
>And are you not saying it’s because you can’t think of how else to explain it? Argument from incredulity and circular reasoning.
Everyone makes the argument of incredulity as pointed out above-including you. You find it incredulous that a God exists.That in and of itself doesn’t prove or disprove anything. In fact, whole papers could be written to defend incredulity-it’s all about statistics and probabilities-the likelihood of such immense complexity being guided to its teleological end vs mere chance to account for the same. Yes, I am asserting it is more likely a mind is behind this phenomenal universe due to what appears to be necessary intervention for its complexity and especially the phenomenon of consciousness-in all things including paramecium that can learn despite their lack of a brain and nervous system. And there are plenty of mechanisms that account for the universe’s workings but mechanism is not the same as agency. You cannot dispel with Henry Ford simply because the engine of a Model T runs by internal combustion. I would never ask anyone to choose between Henry Ford or internal combustion to explain the Model T as much as I wouldn’t ask anyone to choose between god and science. And laws never created anything- The law of 2 plus 2 never deposited $4 into my bank account.
>>>God exists. God causes the constants. The constants exist. Therefore god.
>> Do you have something better?
>> You are forgetting all the evidence mentioned in my last email-evidence that challenges the likes of Davies-a man much smarter than you or me.
>You made a load of assertions. I didn’t see any evidence offered, however. You asked questions and made assertions. I asked for you to provide measurable manifestation of your god.
Again, remember my first email? I said if this is what it takes to make you believe I can’t help you. You’re not looking for evidence, you’re looking for proof.
>Once we can examine it, we can talk about what it’s capable of—and at the very least be able to then say “OK, it actually exists.” At this time, however, you’ve only offered talk. I haven’t seen this god yet.
We can only examine the circumstantial evidence-not some corporeal God that lies within the realm of physics. The big bang required something prior to space and time and thus this causation lies outside space and time. And physicist Roger Penrose argues that the 2nd law of thermodynamics speculates that the further you go back in time the more cohesive and complex and organized a system is. This upholds the top-down theory of god. Now THAT’s evidence-but still not proof. Sorry!
>> Stop airbrushing my points. That only makes you disengenuine as stated prior.I didn’t just say this universe couldn’t exist without a god therefore god exists. I sure hope your degree isn’t in philosophy.
>All I have honestly seen is you assert that what exists couldn’t be without a god. I have yet to see you verify that god exists, though, which you are obligated to do, in order to validate your claim that a god exists and can do *anything*. You cannot call any effect the handiwork of a god, without being able to examine the god to see what it is and what it’s capabilities are. Have you done that? Or are you just asserting that *whatever is*–god did it?
See above (I’m getting bored)
>> You’d have to demonstrate your claim by showing how something as inanimate as the universe could have arrived at something as self-reflective and subjective as consciousness to convince me.
>Actually I haven’t claimed anything.
Actually you have. You have said it’s the only thing that exists and I assume those things you think you see and hear and touch-see above regarding our brains being enclosed in bone and the subjective experience of light. Fascinating stuff.
>I’ve merely said the universe exists–in the only meaningful way the word “existence” can be used. I haven’t made any claims about the universe beyond that–so it is amazing to me you’re asserting I have to demonstrate anything here. I haven’t claimed anything that requires a demonstration–unless it’s your contention that the universe does *not* exist? What else, exactly, do you think I’ve claimed?
I guess you’d have to demonstrate what the universe is before making a claim that it exists and that your conscious perceptions are true. The smaller we get in our observations the less we know.See the attached. You wanted your proof and this is the closest I can get. It doesn’t prove the Judean Christian God but it does prove that consciousness is primal and irreducible. God is just a stone throws away from this observation. Anyone who says otherwise is deliberately neglecting the facts. Let me guess-argument from incredulity??? You bet! And a little empiricism too.
>You, on the other hand, are making a very solid claim that god caused it.
>>I’m not claiming to know what caused it.
>That’s very wise of you Tracie. Thank you. I don’t really insist anything either but I feel supremely confident there’s the big cheese kahuna intellect out there laughing at us all. Personally, I believe atheists are here to hone our skills and force us to inspect our faith. Good job.
>So, how is it that *I* have to demonstrate *anything* to you?
You don’t. Unless you want to convert me.
>You’re asserting that what appears to be a nonexistent cause is responsible for this. I don’t have to offer a competing explanation to point out you have failed to support your own.
I have provided clues-that is all. I never offered proof-look at my first email.
>So, if you can’t find the reason my microwave failed, then it is, in fact, gremlins? You can plug in god and universe, or god and consciousness, or fairies and blooming flowers
(don’t forget the Leprachauns).
>It doesn’t matter. You must demonstrate your claim is valid by producing your god.
I cannot produce a being that is higher than me and chooses to remain invisible corporeally and for good reasons.
[I will insert one thought here. You also cannot produce a being that does not exist. I said further above he was making a lot of claims about this god, he replied with an incredulous “Really?” But see here, he is still doing it.]
Besides, I only side with faith and am quick to point out I may be dead wrong. I just don’t believe that I am. I am VERY certain consciousness is primal. The god thing in its more primitive expression seems a bit hard to swallow and that is strictly a faith issue-strictly.
>I’m just saying, you claim a god did it—but I still don’t see any god, so I don’t believe you.
That is your choice. Evidence doesn’t cut it for you. Only proof will suffice and I’m fresh out-except for the consciousness thing-see the attached.
>> And you would also have to define the borders of all that exists to make such a claim that there is nothing beyond what you taste, hear, touch, or see. I am also waiting for your proofs that demonstrate how qualia and the subjective experience can be accounted for physiologically to convince me that the only things that are real or materially substantial. Put a thought in a bottle and we’re getting somewhere. You want material evidence? Give me some material evidence that thoughts are real. A neuronal impulse doesn’t count. That is only circumstantial correlation and nothing more. It also falls short of explaining qualia-ask atheist Steven Pinker. Max Planck tells us there is no material in the universe, nothing really substantial so in your materialism you are clinging to “ghosts.” Neuroscientist John Eccles would assert the materialist is the mystic not being able to account for how the first thought gets initiated. And your reason for how this complexity just happened to fall together? Natural selection only goes so far (which requires a mutating replicator immune to any arguments suggesting anything less than teleological reasons) and chance and necessity which supposedly accounts for the 3 billion letters of the human DNA molecule, is far more complex than a simple letter from the alphabet which both carry semiotic meanings and if we chanced upon the letter A on the beach we would assume an agent behind it. How odd to believe that random chance accounts for us-things that are infinitely more complex than a letter.
>And put a nice big bow and you favorite shiny wrapping, and you still just have a big lump here of argument from ignorance and argument from incredulity. You don’t understand it, therefore god exists. Whatever is here is here, therefore god exists.
Hey Tracie, you have no argument for god’s non-existence and not even the big show to go along with it (sorry, now I’m being rude). Let me guess, you don’t need to prove anything as a negative can never be disproven. The burden of proof is on me, right? I was an atheist Tracie I know your bag of tricks. Know what? When I walked around claiming atheism something tugged on my heartstrings saying, “Who are you kidding?” Know why? The improbability thing. Yeah, incredulity-it’s overused by the atheist camp. I imagine it was marginalized strictly because it is so convincing. Hell, you could discredit any reality making these points meaning there is nothing to anything. We should all just pack our bags and go home.
>> God can be reasonably postulated as the cause for everything in the sense that conscious direction is a good suspicion given the immense complexity of life.
>I know that is what you *believe*…but are you going to do anything to VERIFY that for me (or yourself)? Or am I supposed to just believe you that a god is responsible, without even a shred of evidence a god even exists?
It’s already been verified in the observations. Why do I need to recreate the improbability that is already there? The evidence speaks loudly and in volumes. You just choose to turn a deaf ear to it. That is your choice.
>> As to what made God?
>I didn’t ask what made god. That’s irrelevant until we know there even *is* a god. There is no point going down paths of what god is, where god came from…and so on, until we’ve demonstrated there is a god.
[Here let me insert something about what he is about to say. I never touched the infinite regress argument. So, this was him just responding to something I never even brought up, as I see it as irrelevant. Again, where god came from can’t be addressed without any god to examine, so what’s the point of discussing the origins of any being-X that we have not yet established is even there?]
>That point is made in reference to the infinite regressive argument and first causal arguments. I’ll give you a quote from Dr. Kenneth Miller who debated an atheist at the Veritas Forum (Miller by the way wants creationism out of schools and he’s an evolutionary biologist-and a Christian):
“I view the hypothesis the notion that nature is self explanatory, that the universe exists without a cause, and that there is no need to posit a reason for its existence; I look at all three of those things and I regard them as unsupportable hypothesis. In other words, I am deeply skeptical of the claims that the universe exists without cause and without purpose. In the debate I had with Christopher Hitchens, he basically ridiculed the “first cause argument” which goes back to Aristotle, which basically posits that there must be a cause to the universe. And he (Hitchens) said that theists usually say that cause is God, and if that’s true, then what caused God? That’s the refutation of the first cause argument. But the interesting thing is, if I accept that argument at face value, Mr. Hitchens, I then have to say, what are you left with? You are left with an infinite regression of causes, going back as far as you possibly can with no beginning and with no special cause. Now, that’s not evidence for God, but it strikes me as profoundly illogical to propose an infinite regression of causes without beginning. It’s one of the reasons why the hypothesis of God makes sense to me.”
– “Why Do You Believe? David Helfand and Ken Miller at The Veritas Forum at Columbia University” Retrieved from:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7hoCb3SvK8
>In the end, the universe is here. You’ve constructed a huge explanation based on imagination for why it’s here and why it is as it is. And you wonder why I don’t believe you. I’m stunned you’re asking.
Look at the attachments-no imagination-pure facts from the world of physics. If you don’t understand it, don’t worry, nobody does, including Hawkings and Einstein. We are forgiven
>I’m not wasting further time. Do you have anything better than an argument from ignorance, argument from popularity, circular reasoning and the argument from incredulity? Yes, the better is attached. Is there a demonstration forthcoming of a god, or just more claims and assertions that all this just *has to be* because of your nonexistent god that you can talk about although you’ve never actually examined it? I have letters waiting from serious people with real problems dealing with discrimination and families rejecting them for their rational views. So, your need to validate that your belief in this being—for which you apparently have no evidence other than fallacies (the same ones, I should note, you condemned our callers for making)—should be considered reasonable to others is something you’re going to have to cope with on your own, I think, for now.
Don’t look at the attachments. It will bother your head and challenge your beliefs. It certainly has mine. And frankly, given the arguments presented, you are being most highly unreasonable-but you are smart. Even smart people can be unreasonable. You are no exception-and you seem so angry. Most atheists are. Therein lies their motivation I think. I should know-I used to be that angry atheist.
>Feel free to call us, however, as I really think the viewers would love to hear this on the air.
>Thanks for your letter.
This was Eben’s final statement. Again, seems like fallacies and pseudo science to me. But I don’t want to stifle a brilliant argument for god simply because I’m too stupid to understand it. So, I offer it here to help those atheists who are smarter than I am, and who see what I can only hope one day to understand.
I opened the attachments. They were JPG files of scans. I expected peer reviewed journal articles demonstrating the consensus view of neuro-scientists that qualia and NDEs are evidence of the supernatural. But I was surprised to find it seems to be a scanned chapter from a book. Page one shows the first page of the chapter—half a page of text that just describes in high level terms (read popular language) some thoughts about what quantum mechanics are about. It didn’t seem too objectionable. The rest of the scans appeared to possibly be the rest of the chapter, but they were low resolution, and when magnified, they were unreadable. A link to a neuroscience or physics journal explaining the hand of the supernatural is evident within these fields of study would have been sufficient, however. But why does a popular book scan as his evidence not surprise me? Pseudo-science, an interview, youtube videos, subjective experiences of others that he simply takes at face value, what amount to popular essays (as opposed to actual published, and peer-critiqued opinions), and reasoning glued together with countless fallacies–that’s all I see here.
When asked to provide any direct evidence this being exists, you get the “Finding BigFoot” reply that said being is really good at hiding, and doesn’t want to reveal itself, ironically as the writer is claiming that the existence of the being is so obvious you have to try to not see the being exists. Is the being so inept then at hiding, and I’m deluded? Or does it truly wish to remain hidden, but is showing its hand all over the place for anyone to see it? It makes no sense to me.
But I’m open to correction.