Eben Alexander and the face of near-death experiences
For most of his life and career, Eben Alexander was skeptical about any world there might exist beyond the reach of a materialist science. His professional credentials are outstanding. He graduated from Duke University Medical School, trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, completed a fellowship in cerebrovascular neurosurgery in England, and spent fifteen years on the faculty of Harvard Medical School before returning south to Virginia with his wife and two sons. Alexander helped develop and refine leading-edge surgical procedures, including stereotactic radio surgery (surgery using radiation beams) and MRI-guided neurosurgery. He has contributed to more than 150 scientific publications and made presentations at more than 200 medical conferences around the world.
This was a man confident in his knowledge. And one of the things he knew for many years was that stories of near-death experiences were nothing but fantasy. When the brain stops working during a medical emergency or as death approaches, consciousness stops. With no brain function to process thoughts or remember them, there could be no near-death experience (NDE). As Alexander put it, “Pull the plug and the TV goes dead.”
A quick survey of the medical literature confirms that Alexander’s colleagues agreed with him. The consensus was that near-death experiences have normal, organic explanations. A 2011 paper in Trends in Cognitive Science gives away its viewpoint in the title: “There is nothing paranormal about near-death experiences: how neuroscience can explain seeing bright lights, meeting the dead, or being convinced you are one of them” (yes, that’s the title). Noting that three percent of Americans claim to have had a near-death experience, the authors conclude, “Taken together, the scientific evidence suggests that all aspects of the near-death experience have a neurophysiological or psychological basis.” [Read more…] about The Faces of Miracles — Chapter 4