Newsweek, which has done away with any aspect of fact-checking whatsoever, has a cover story this week about how Heaven is real… written by a doctor who follows the popular script of falling into a coma, going to “heaven,” and then cashing in by writing a book about the experience:
Dr. Eben Alexander knows how silly this sounds, he admits, so he prefaces his “proof” with this:
I know how pronouncements like mine sound to skeptics, so I will tell my story with the logic and language of the scientist I am.
“Language”? Who cares? Big words don’t make your experience any more factual.
But “Logic”?! I can’t wait! Show me the evidence!
Before you go into his proof, take a second to imagine what you *think* Heaven would look like. As it turns out, your preconceived vision is probably pretty damn accurate! (Who knew?!)
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.
It took me months to come to terms with what happened to me. Not just the medical impossibility that I had been conscious during my coma, but — more importantly — the things that happened during that time. Toward the beginning of my adventure, I was in a place of clouds. Big, puffy, pink-white ones that showed up sharply against the deep blue-black sky.
… A sound, huge and booming like a glorious chant, came down from above, and I wondered if the winged beings were producing it…
This new picture of reality will take a long time to put together. It won’t be finished in my time, or even, I suspect, my sons’ either. In fact, reality is too vast, too complex, and too irreducibly mysterious for a full picture of it ever to be absolutely complete. But in essence, it will show the universe as evolving, multi-dimensional, and known down to its every last atom by a God who cares for us even more deeply and fiercely than any parent ever loved their child.
This is what it boils down to: He’s a doctor. Colton Burpo (the subject of the similar, bestselling Heaven is for Real) was 4 when he “experienced Heaven.” But they’re practically saying the same thing. You get the feeling an agent somewhere was thinking, “If the American public fell for what a four-year-old boy said, just think of what’ll happen when a doctor says it!”
But a fancy title doesn’t mean we should believe everything the person says. Doctors can be wrong, Presidents can be wrong, and we all know Pastors can be wrong. Just because you have an honorific in front of your name doesn’t mean you automatically deserve respect. You have to earn that. Even when you do, you can lose it quickly — Dr. Oz promotes quackery, after all. Maybe Alexander is a skilled neurosurgeon, but he’s abandoning everything he ever learned about science when he proposes a “We don’t know what happened to me… so it must be Jesus!” answer.
Either Heaven is for real and the only people who can see it and come back to tell us about it just happen to be coma victims who are also Christian… or Alexander fell into the same trap as many others before him and has convinced himself his experience must be the truth because it felt so real. (Because that’s how good science — and bestselling books — work.)
Keep in mind he’s publishing this article in Newsweek — which has no fact-checkers. And writing a book about it, which also allows him to avoid fact-checkers. (You can’t trust the publishers — since they’re in the job of making money, not selling facts.)
More importantly, for something that Alexander claims to be scientific and logical, note that he’s completely bypassing publishing all this in a scientific journal, where peer review would be applied. He has “authored or co-authored over 150 chapters and papers in peer reviewed journals…” but when it came to the issue of Heaven, he just felt that writing a magazine article would be more convincing…
It’s all a sham.
Gawker makes the point clear by offering a quiz where you have to decide whether a particular passage is taken from the Newsweek story or from descriptions of people who have taken drugs.