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addabook - Proof of Heaven
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Proof of Heaven
A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Eben Alexander
read on November 1, 2012

This is the most intellectually dishonest book I've ever read. Ever. You can imagine my excitement seeing the pitch for this book... a neuroscientist's view on spirituality? The back cover pitches it as some kind of objective look at whatever it is he experienced, "proof" of a miracle, etc etc. "Proof"! Scientists don't throw that word around lightly. I would have never gone anywhere near a book like this if not for the fact that it was written by a neuroscientist. I was optimistic I guess. I expected science. That is, I expected objective, scientific evidence. Falsify-able hypothesis. Controlled studies. Explanations of alternative possibilities. Etc.

Instead, here's what I got. Excuse the length here - but these two quotes really sum things up pretty well.

Remember who's talking to you right now, I'm not a soft sentimentalist. I know what death looks like. ... I know my biology, and while I'm no physicist, I'm no slouch at that either. I know the difference between fantasy and reality, and I know that the experience I'm struggling to give you the vaguest, most completely unsatisfactory picture of, was the single most real experience of my life.

And: (emphasis mine)

at the time I knew perfectly well that what Susanna was telling me [about a near death experience] was a grief induced fantasy. Over the course of my career, I had treated many patients who had undergone unusual experiences while in coma or during surgery. whenever one of these people narrated an unusual experience like Susana's, I was always completely sympathetic, and I was quite sure that these experiences had indeed happened\'85 in their minds. The brain is the most sophisticated and temperamental organ we posses. Tinker around with it, lessen the amount of oxygen it received by a few torh (a unit of pressure), and the owner of that brain is going to experience an alteration of reality. Or more precisely, their personal experience of reality. throw in all the physical trauma, and all the medications that someone with a brain malady is likely to be on, and you have a virtual guarantee that, should the patient have any memories when they come back around, those memories are going to be pretty unusual. With a brain affected by a deadly bacterial infection and on mind altering medications, anything could happen. Anything, that is, except the ultra-real experience I had in coma.

Literally, the entire book boils down to 'This experience felt real to me, so it must have been real' and it is then presented as real, and in fact, the story itself is presented as "proof" that the experience was real.

I would have been totally fine with it if the book was just his story. If he opened it up and said "hey, here's this amazing thing that happened to me. I can't explain it, but I think it was real and it's worth reading about - it's helped me, and it might help you." But to bill this book as "proof", to put the weight of a neuroscientist behind it and then not make a rigorous effort of objectively deconstructing what could have happened to him... sickening.

This is the worst book I've ever finished. Truly shameful clickbait.

Author Bio:

Eben Alexander III (born December 11, 1953) is an American neurosurgeon and the author of the book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, in which he describes his 2008 near-death experience and asserts that science can and will determine that the brain does not create consciousness and that consciousness survives bodily death.