Don’t let facts get in the way of a bad story

Some of you may remember Dr Eben Alexander, who had a Newsweek feature about his book Proof of Heaven. (That Newsweek went belly-up and was consumed by the Beast soon should not be seen as a causal connection). Dr Alexander, in gripping and bad Dan Brown prose describes his experience of what he considers the after life.

Sure, many people claim to have crossed over, experienced NDE (near-death experiences) but – come on! – this dude is a doctor and he wouldn’t lie. And he has a bow-tie and is a scientist-kinda-thing.

Except, yeah. He’s still wrong, mistaken and probably – as according to a new story from Esquire ($) – a slight fibber (or at least Alexander is a highly inaccurate reporter).

Michael Shermer and Sam Harris have already pointed out obvious faults. The one that we should all keep reminding ourselves is why assume the supernatural, when drug-induced hallucinations can have equal – if not more intense – effects. It makes no sense to assume validity merely because of a person’s qualifications, let alone validity based on such apparently obvious side-effects that  anyone can experience.

Why jump to Heaven when science can tell us what happened right now, on the ground? (Obviously for various reasons: financial, to sell a story, fame, a genuine yearning or belief for it to be true. Nonetheless, these are not rational moral justifications.)

Alexander’s story, however, has a worse crime than not being true: it’s also bloody boring. If you are going to fib, do us the favour of being eloquent, exciting and original. Dante, thou art not.


  1. machintelligence says

    Here’s Krassner describing LSD: “Last week I took my third acid trip. This time I saw God. Otherwise, it was nothing.”

    That appeared in Realist magazine about 50 years ago.
    Why anyone is willing to believe first person reports of God or heaven is beyond my comprehension.

    • says

      Hey, if you have some kind of divine experience or revelation or other Meaningful Event, and it makes you happy to believe that it’s god, more power to you, have fun with it.

      Just don’t expect others to follow your Unverified Personal Gnosis….

  2. robinholt says

    I actually purchased the linked article. It was very puffed up. At the time of reading, I thought I would have preferred getting rid of all the hyperbole and getting just the facts.

    Upon reflection, I think the extra hyperbole did give a better idea of what the greedy doctor is doing and why.

    I would not recommend buying the article unless you, like me, have numerous people in your immediate circles which have purchased some of Dr. Alexander’s products and use it to constantly beat the local atheist over the head. It does give a better foundation for casting doubt upon Dr. Alexander’s claims.

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