Evidence of the existence of God?

October 14, 2012

Eben Alexander recently wrote this article in Newsweek magazine describing the amazing experiences he had while in a coma, experiences which he claims prove that consciousness survives the brain, that there is life after death, that heaven is real, and that there is a divine and all-loving God.  He writes, for instance, the following:

In the fall of 2008, however, after seven days in a coma during which the human part of my brain, the neocortex, was inactivated, I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death…

There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.

But that dimension—in rough outline, the same one described by countless subjects of near-death experiences and other mystical states—is there. It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey.

The spiritual experience that Alexander goes on to describe so poetically is compelling in part because Alexander is himself a neurosurgeon who has worked at some of the most prestigious medical institutions in the US. So his claims are not so easily dismissed; they are not, one would think, the ravings of a lunatic or a gullible fool.

Or are they? Sure enough the world’s premier defender of the absence of faith, Sam Harris, has quickly issued this reply to Alexander, which does not question the lucidity or subjectivity of Alexander’s vision, but completely rejects the suggestion that his experiences correspond to anything in objective reality. 

Both the original article and Harris’s reply make for interesting reading. One feels that the flames of the human imagination have just been extinguished by the cold waters of rationality and science.


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