What do near death experiences (NDEs) tell us about life after death? Do they tell us anything at all?
At the last Intelligence Squared debate, a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, a doctor and a physicist debated the proposition “Death is not final.” The thrust of the debate was based on the experiences of Dr. Eben Alexander and his book Proof of Heaven. Arguing for the motion that death is not final, Dr. Alexander explained how he was hospitalized with a severe brain infection, went into a coma, woke up, and eventually reported that he had been to heaven. It’s a fantastic tale, but science says otherwise.
Eben Alexander describes a near-death experience he had in 2008 while arguing in favor of the motion “Death Is Not Final.”
Arguing against the motion, Dr. Sean Carroll and Dr. Steven Novella explain the science of NDEs and how the brain creates reality. Most people who have NDEs aren’t in fact dying, and Dr. Alexander gets most of the facts surrounding his own case wrong. Not only does Dr. Alexander’s experience violate all the laws of physics, it gets basic brain science—like the link between the brain and mind—wrong too, or so Carroll and Novella argue.
Sean Carroll (left) and Steven Novella argue that testimonies about near-death experiences are not evidence of an afterlife.
Over the course of the hour and a half debate, you can decide for yourself. Personally, I found Dr. Carroll and Dr. Novella in absolutely peak form, and the moderating was fantastic. You can watch the whole debate, and even vote along with the crowd, below:
Head to the debate page to find out which team won—the team that changed the most minds from the pre-debate votes for or against the motion—and leave your comments below.
IMAGES: Samuel LaHoz/Intelligence Squared U.S.