Discoveroids & Near-Death Experiences

Everyone has heard of near-death experiences (NDEs). They’re a category of hallucinations that some religious people experience while comatose. Other common forms of hallucinations are seeing ghosts, out-of-body travel, etc.

One example of an NDE is making the news in the form of a book by Eben Alexander, described in this article in the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper based in Toronto: Heaven or hallucination: Are near-death experiences proof of the afterlife?

It will not surprise you, dear reader, to learn that although they dismiss the overwhelming evidence supporting Darwin’s theory of evolution, these strange tales of heavenly visions are eagerly embraced by the neo-Luddite, neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

The latest article at the Discoveroids’ blog is Near-Death Experiences: Putting a Darwinist’s Evidentiary Standards to the Test. It’s by Michael Egnor, a neurosurgeon who is an occasional contributor to the Discoveroid blog. He is also a signer of the Discoveroids’ Scientific Dissent from Darwinism. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us and his links omitted:

Over the decades, Darwinists have proven themselves to be famously gullible. Think of the fairy tales that have been spun about fossil fragments in various rocks (Nebraska Man, Piltdown man, and Archaeoraptor come to mind). Today as well the evidence for standard Darwinian narratives of life’s history remains startlingly sketchy and ambiguous.

That’s in contrast to creationists like the Discoveroids, who always have rock-solid evidence for the miraculous deeds of their magical designer — blessed be he! — whose existence is as obvious to them as the Pacific Ocean, yet is somehow denied by the “Darwinists.” Egnor continues, mentioning what he claims is sketchy evidence for human evolution, and the fact that there is no solid evidence yet for the origin of life, and then he says:

Contrast this for a moment with Darwinists’ contemptuous dismissal of the life-changing experiences of millions of people. At Why Evolution is True, Jerry Coyne takes a swipe at the report of an out-of-body/near-death experience of formidably distinguished neurosurgeon Eben Alexander (photo at right), who was in a coma for a week due to meningitis. Widely published, Dr. Alexander teaches at the University of Virginia Medical School and has been on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. An excerpt from his forthcoming book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, was published in Newsweek. A week before publication it is the #2 bestseller on Amazon.

It’s an outrage! The Darwinists contemptuously dismiss Dr. Alexander’s tale of his unconscious trip to heaven, yet they cling to the theory of evolution. Egnor, as we will see, is of a different mind. He believes Alexander’s ethereal tale and he’s contemptuous of Darwin. He gives us what we assume are a few quotes from Alexander’s book, which we find delightful:

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…

Oooooooh! How pretty! Let’s read on:

Higher than the clouds — immeasurably higher — flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long, streamerlike lines behind them.

Jet trails? Spider silk? It doesn’t matter, it’s just heavenly! Alexander’s dream continues:

It gets stranger still. For most of my journey, someone else was with me. A woman. She was young, and I remember what she looked like in complete detail. She had high cheekbones and deep-blue eyes. Golden brown tresses framed her lovely face.

A heavenly hotty! We’re starting to like this. Here’s more:

Without using any words, she spoke to me. … The message had three parts, and if I had to translate them into earthly language, I’d say they ran something like this:

“You are loved and cherished, dearly, forever.”

“You have nothing to fear.”

“There is nothing you can do wrong.”

Wow! What did Alexander do then? Had this encounter been ours, we would have reached out and grabbed her by the — Well, never mind. Alexander says this:

What happened to me demands explanation.

That’s all right, Dr. Alexander. There’s no need to explain. Your Curmudgeon understands these things. Anyway, back to Egnor. He tells us:

Such reports are very common among people who are comatose or who have near-death experiences (NDE). I know of several reports by patients in my practice, and I have spoken to neurosurgeons who have had patients with experiences that can be confirmed.

Confirmed? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Moving along:

From a scientific standpoint, I think that we need to consider these personal reports as real evidence, of varying credibility.

Evidence? Evidence of what — heaven, or a heavenly hallucination? Egnor tells us what he means in this next excerpt:

The most “parsimonious” explanation — the simplest scientific explanation — is that the experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences. That is tens of millions of more times than we have observed the origin of species, which is never.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! It seems that Egnor will believe virtually anything — except the theory of evolution. But then he hedges a bit:

As to the veracity of the actual content of these reports, the issue is very complex. It is very hard to say scientific things about massively anecdotal non-reproducible unpredictable experiences of millions of people. The corroborated NDE’s do offer an option to do science, but they have not been carefully compiled and critically analyzed, to my knowledge.

Awwwww. No one is seriously studying this stuff. Hey — why don’t the Discoveroids do it? It’s the perfect subject for them. One last excerpt:

Materialists hate these accounts, because they (especially the corroborated ones) are very difficult to square with a materialist picture of reality.

[...]

The materialist reaction, in short, is unscientific and close-minded. … Somebody finds a crushed fragment of a fossil and it’s earth-shaking evidence. Tens of million of people have life-changing spiritual experiences and it’s all a big yawn.

So there you are. It’s time to decide, dear reader. Do you want to be one of those narrow-minded materialist Darwinists, or do you want to open your mind to the glory revealed in near-death experiences?

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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33 responses to “Discoveroids & Near-Death Experiences

  1. Egnor said it very well: “It is very hard to say scientific things about massively anecdotal non-reproducible unpredictable experiences of millions of people.”

    He also says, ” the simplest scientific explanation — is that the experience was real. Tens of millions of people have had such experiences.”

    It sounds like he’s talking about dreams. “Tens of millions of people” have had them. So how can one tell whether what one has just experienced was a “near-death experience”, or just an ordinary ol’ dream?

    Anyone? Do I hear an answer? OK, since no response is forthcoming, I’ll answer that question. You can’t tell the difference. And it certainly seems likely that a religious person, when they can sense they are in dire straits, would start dreaming about going to heaven.

  2. Egnor is getting worse. He used to simply write stupid stuff but now he’s quite delusional. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was suffering from some kind of dementia. I’m sure the leprechauns he sees on a daily basis are quite real to him. Yeah, Egnor, hallucinations are real, if you say so. Yep, rock solid.

  3. Ugh. The IDiots at the DI are turning on neuroscience now. Or course they are. It cannot be denied that mind corresponds to brain. Dualism is simply not a tenable philosophy in the face of modern neuroscience.

  4. “Tens of millions, hunh? Be interesting to see the documentation for than number, wouldn’t it?

    If the number is true, that’s plenty to draw from for a statistically reliable sample, so the Discoveroids have a chance to do some breathtaking science here. Show us that at least hundreds of people from different cultures, holding widely varying religious beliefs (or none at all) experience similar visions on the cusp of the inevitable transition out of this life.

    Another study they could undertake is to test the nearly departed with brain scans. If a person reports experiences that occurred while the brain was showing no electrical activity at all, then those experiences must have occurred to a disembodied “soul” or something like it.

    We’re in Nobel Prize country here, folks.

  5. The namesake of “egnorance” has been touting dualism forever. He once used the analogy (I kid you not) of the brain being like a cell phone and God being like ATT. Actually, he might be on to something there …

  6. Ah the NDE thing. Every time I bring this up I get to enjoy a multidirectional beatdown. I get smashed by the rainbows-and-unicorns post-modern/new age types to the left of me, and then I get kicked once I’m on the ground by the good old fashioned GGG-type knuckledraggers.

  7. During a high fever I had a vivid hallucination that I was immersed in water and being eaten by scintillating, zebra-striped fish the size of minivans. Subjectively, I actually did experience this.

    If I were religiously inclined and it had been of Jesus would it count as evidence? If so, then why doesn’t it count as evidence of a dimension of monster fish waiting to eat us as soon as we leave our bodies?

    It’s not even hard to understand my fish hallucination. When I was a child my father was extremely fond of keeping various kinds of fancy saltwater fish. Brightly colored and exotic fish, kept in a clean and clearly visible tank, leave quite an amazing impression on a child.

    Overturning most of science is hardly a more parsimonious explanation than assuming that mystical experiences reside in the brain. I’d rather be dead and rotting than surrender this world to prophets and medicine men again.

    This Eben guy needs to hire a better writer. His description of the afterlife is extremely lame and self absorbed. He ain’t got sh** on Dante Alighieri.

  8. Our Curmudgeon suggests

    No one is seriously studying this stuff. Hey — why don’t the Discoveroids do it? It’s the perfect subject for them.

    I shudder to think of the experimental methodology one would have to frame to investigate NDE’s.

    Or at least, I shudder to contemplate the legal bill for the drafting of the waiver the volunteer subjects for such a study would need to sign…

  9. I’ve never read an NDE report from someone who was from another religion or race. Would they see blonde haired, blue eyed angels as well? ;)

  10. AlpsStranger reports:

    I get smashed by the rainbows-and-unicorns post-modern/new age types to the left of me, and then I get kicked once I’m on the ground by the good old fashioned GGG-type knuckledraggers

    But did a woman with “high cheekbones and deep-blue eyes” and “golden brown tresses” framing “her lovely face” appear to you at that moment?

  11. “fraiming”????

    Clear and indisputable proof of a near-dyslexic experience…

  12. Meg: “fraiming”????

    I’m glad you caught that rite aweigh. I was starting to think it was another example of colourful British spelling.

  13. Retired Prof: “Show us that at least hundreds of people from different cultures, holding widely varying religious beliefs (or none at all) experience similar visions on the cusp of the inevitable transition out of this life.”

    Even that would not be meaningful unless they were from cultures with NO media contact. So many people have reported what they have “seen” that others now would have the same dream, because they have heard what they’re “supposed to be seeing”.

    And even with no media contact, it still wouldn’t be decisive. There are many common dreams that millions have, such as flying, being naked in public, etc. It’s certainly possible that another common dream would be “seeing a blindingly bright light while a chorus of angels sang”. Hell, I’ve had that happen a number of times. Turns out the bright light is a policeman’s flashlight as he awakens me from sleepwalking naked through the neighborhood after flying out of my bedroom window. The “chorus of angels” was just the siren.

  14. My late, darling mother was a Christian her whole life — although not the crazy, intolerant kind. She had heart failure for the first – but not the last – time in 1988 and was, according to the hospital staff, “gone” for several minutes. Needless to say, we were ecstatic when she recovered. One by one the Sisters of Mercy came to her room to interview her, each with apparently the same script. Mom was never one for mincing words, or for gilding lilies. In answer to the question “Did you see the light at the end of the tunnel?,” she answered plainly: “I didn’t even see the tunnel!” Polite, but firm – a square-shooter, as always. So much for NDEs. That said, I hope there really IS life after death. For my parents’ sake anyway, not so much for mine.

  15. It is interesting that pilots and astronauts training in certifuges also have these out of body experiences. Are all the stories of heaven and hell through various cultures the result of a LSDesque end of life acid trip? These rational facts put the issue to rest. There is also the physician that puts a sign where no one who isn’t actually floating couldn’t see it, so far no one has revealed what it says; though many of his patients have claimed to have OBEs.

  16. The whole truth

    “From a scientific standpoint, I think that we need to consider these personal reports as real evidence, of varying credibility.

    Yeah, the credibility varies from crap to even more crap.

    What is it with people who swallow and regurgitate such ridiculous fairy tales?

    I remember dropping some acid a long time ago and while high I saw, among other things, the stars in the night sky turn into big kernels of popcorn that fell on me for several minutes, and I thought an oily spot on the driveway was a big black dog. Now that I think back on it I’m sure that the grease spot was jesus and the popcorn was angels.

  17. Megalonyx wrote:

    I shudder to think of the experimental methodology one would have to frame to investigate NDE’s.

    They would sit you down and make you read “The Complete David Klinghoffer.” The risk of permanent brain injury would be significant.

  18. It’s scary when a neurosurgeon believes in strongly in an attractive and alluring afterlife. What’s his motivation for bringing someone out of a coma, and back into our paltry existence? If his afterlife experience is true, as he says he believes, they’re better off passing on.

  19. docbill1351 chillingly suggests

    They would sit you down and make you read “The Complete David Klinghoffer.”

    Aaarrrgghhhh!! That would be tantamount to ‘intellectual waterboarding.’

    If I have nightmares tonight, it is entirely your fault…

  20. Ceteris Paribus

    Tens of millions of people report having watched a sleeping dog making unconscious running motions, as if it were dreaming of chasing the neighbor’s cat up a tree. And probably if you asked the cat in that dream, it would report it was experiencing an NDE. As would the mouse that the cat had been dreaming about just before being rudely awakened by that damn dog.

    The most parsimonious explanation of NDEs might be simply the “first cause” cosmology of “turtles (or elephants) all the way down”. In short, Dr. Alexander’s NDE was just the result of his creator playing a dirty trick on him.

  21. Ed says: “It’s scary when a neurosurgeon believes in strongly in an attractive and alluring afterlife.”

    I, for one, find this tale to be most inspirational. I eagerly look forward to an afterlife in which I am guided around by a blue-eyed sweetie whose heavenly attributes are heaving and straining against the bodice of her gossamer garment …

  22. As a presumably “close-minded” materialist, I kind of wonder what my mind is supposedly close to. Laughing out loud, is my guess.

  23. Dr. Alexander wrote to The Atheist Experience blog this past January to convey the information that God is real. Not to put too fine a point on it, he is insane.

    I sure wouldn’t want someone who reasons like that to be cutting into *my* brain.

    @AlpsStranger, I am jealous, I adore zebrafish. But no lovely being telling you that nothing you do is wrong (like, you know, murder)? Try again!

  24. Our Curmudgeon fantasises:

    I eagerly look forward to an afterlife in which I am guided around by a blue-eyed sweetie whose heavenly attributes are heaving and straining against the bodice of her gossamer garment …

    OK, but in this life, Olivia Judson is mine!!!

  25. Megalonyx proclaims: “Olivia Judson is mine!!!”

    I hear they have free health care in your country. I urge you to call the National Health Service and find out if they can treat a case as advanced as yours.

  26. Even more people have dreams about teeth falling out. Just what shall we make of these Near Dental Experiences?

  27. TA – I have had such dreams; we need to write a proposal for the ADA and for the Templeton Foundation – they like proposals with multiple funding possibilities.

    Megalonyx – recently chuckled my way through your website!

  28. “…Darwinists have proven themselves to be famously gullible” – talk about an understatement.

    You acolytes refuse to accept a “designer” may have had a hand in creation, but are satisfied in believing life arose from non-life, huh? A secular miracle we have never seen, past or present. I know I know, Darwin worshippers at this point will quote from all kinds of secular doctrine and philosophy, then claim it is scientific literature.

    [Massive Ark-load deleted.]

    As most rational thinking people can see. Darwinism is nothing more than wishful thinking, speculation and darwin of the gaps arguments. The irony is, you zealots have the cheek to call ID and the religious community irrational, haha…

  29. @SC: I’m guessing that “[Massive Ark-load deleted]” was due to an Intelligent Blogger reaching his benevolent hand and keeping the rest of us from being bored?

  30. Gary, it was a bunch of quotes from various creationists that no one ever heard of.

  31. SC said:

    it was a bunch of quotes from various creationists that no one ever heard of.

    In other words, the answer to my original question was, “Yes”.

  32. Rather than mock Dr. Alexander’s thoughtful account, it’s worth noting two things: 1) he appears to still believe in evolution (p. 84), and 2) his account of the afterlife is decidedly non-Christian.