Thursday, May 08, 2014

Death is Not Final?


That was the subject of a recent debate between Eben Alexander and Raymond Moody, on the one hand (arguing the affirmative), and Sean Carroll and Steven Novella on the other hand (arguing the negative).

The good guys -- Carroll and Novella -- won handily here. Alexander came off like a charlatan and Moody like a new age babbler. Carroll and Novella came off like the serious scientists they are.

Moody -- described as a philosopher! -- babbled about a "higher dimension" and "higher domain of existence". He believes there are "new ways of thinking" and "new logical principles" that will let us understand the afterlife -- but of course, he doesn't say what these new ways and principles are! And he apparently also believes in ghosts, not just an afterlife. Then again, Alexander believes in "telepathy, precognition, remote viewing, out-of-body experiences, past-life memories in children" as well as "lower spiritual realms".

Alexander egregiously misrepresented the views of Carl Sagan at 1:26:30. He claimed "a very renowned skeptic and scientist, Carl Sagan, admitted that, past-life memories in children, the evidence for that is overwhelming" and justified this with an appeal to The Demon-Haunted World, p. 302. Well, here is what Sagan wrote on that page:

As you can see, Sagan describes the evidence as "at least some, although still dubious, experimental support". That is a very far cry from "overwhelming".

I really have to wonder, however, about the organizers of this debate. Why are they giving Eben Alexander's goofy claims any attention at all, considering that very very serious questions have been raised in Esquire about the truthfulness of his account? It certainly undermines their credibility. And I wonder why neither Carroll nor Novella explicitly brought up the Esquire article at all. Perhaps it was a tactical decision on their part.

8 comments:

Bert Brouwer said...

Is death not final? Only the Mathsiah can tell.

IThinkWithMy Liver said...

Unbelievably, it is actual a sign of progress for the religion-woos to even consider the possibility of reincarnation, because it is about one epsilon >0 more testable a hypothesis than any of this god & heaven stuff. i.e. they are putting themselves at "risk" by presenting whatever "evidence" they have and having it tested/falsified/disproven.

All those debates across the internet between atheists & theists should be deleted. They contribute nothing of value to human knowledge. They waste & consume bandwidth, that could & should be used to store information that could at least be practical & useful.

I would LOVE to see a REAL INVESTIGATION (not a childish debate) between, say, complete UFO-deniers versus those who take aliens seriously, on the topic of the alien hypothesis for technologically advanced aliens visiting earth.

I am an atheist, but I strongly disagree with the way fellow atheists put the alien hypothesis into the same category as woo stuff that humans make up: crystal power, psychics, homeopathy i.e. any claims of a special unique superpower that a single individual makes, which the collective efforts of all the scientists & engineers & mechanics have been unable to reproduce.

The alien hypothesis is consistent with the proven theory of evolution and with the general fact that it takes the combined massive efforts of MILLIONS of individuals over millions of years to produce advanced technology.

In a REAL debate, skeptics & ufologists would examine the thousands of photographs & video, crop formations, etc and consider whether the alien hypothesis is or isn't the best explanation to unify them all.

Diogenes said...

You should never debate a pseufoscientist unless you're willing to say they lied when they lied.

Bert Brouwer said...

There's no denying that the idea of an afterlife makes some people uforic.

colnago80 said...

Re IThinkWithMY Liver

The problem with alien visitation is the vast distance between the stars and the limitations of the speed of light. As Physicist Bob Park used to point out in his physics courses at the Un. of Maryland, in order to achieve interstellar flight, one has to explain why advanced civilizations might choose to visit our Solar System. If such advanced civilizations are as rare as Ernst Myer opined in an Internet debate with Carl Sagan, the chances of an advanced civilization being close enough to our Solar system to detect the planets is rather slim, much less make a journey that would last thousands of years. Chances are that they would find planetary systems a lot closer to their planet then our Solar System.

Bert Brouwer said...

I never heard anyone talking about ufo's making sonic booms when they apparently whisk through our atmosphere with lightning speed. That's a tell tale sign, I would say. So whatever these sightings may represent, they remain as intangible as the afterlife.

Henry Ashley-Cooper said...

What a horrific liar Alexander is. I am astonished that people give him any credit at all when he makes claims like this.

Especially when his wikipedia article includes this note:

"Alexander had been terminated or suspended from multiple hospital positions, and had been the subject of several malpractice lawsuits, including at least two involving the alteration of medical records to cover up a medical error.[8][9] "

I am not attempting an ad hominem here. I am not arguing against his points. People have already achieved that. Now that he has lost such a debate, people should really know what a kind of scummy guy he is.

cody said...

It's a little bit funny, a little bit sad, and a little bit scary, that people are so desperate to believe in an afterlife, and that a brain experiencing severe brain damage would be the very best evidence of it.

Yeah, I took a bunch of drugs and discovered there is more of life too, except all the details mirrored my preconceived desires (instead of his).

It's also insane that in the 21st century we're still divided on whether personal experience and revelation are equally productive ways of discovering what is and is not true about the world as actually looking at the damn thing and measuring it.