Eben Alexander (author)
|Eben Alexander III|
December 11, 1953 |
Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.
Eben Alexander III (born December 11, 1953) is an American neurosurgeon and the author of the book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, in which he describes his 2008 near-death experience and asserts that science can and will determine that the brain does not create consciousness and that consciousness survives bodily death.
Early life, family, and education
Alexander is the adopted descendant of a family of scholars, jurists, and physicians, including Eben Alexander Jr. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy (class of 1972), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (A.B., 1975), and the Duke University School of Medicine (M.D., 1981).
Alexander was an Intern in General Surgery at Duke University Medical Center, a resident at Duke, Newcastle (U.K.) General Hospital. He was a resident and research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital and is certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and the American College of Surgeons (F.A.C.S.).
Academic and clinical appointments
Alexander has taught at Duke University Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the University of Virginia Medical School.
He has had hospital appointments at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and Lynchburg (Virginia) General Hospital-CentraHealth.
Alexander is a member of the American Medical Association .
Proof of Heaven
Alexander is the author of the 2012 autobiographical book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, in which he asserts that his out of body and near-death experience (NDE) while in a meningitis-induced coma in 2008 proves that consciousness is independent of the brain, that death is a transition, and that an eternity of perfect splendor awaits us beyond the grave – complete with angels, clouds, butterflies, and deceased relatives, one of whom included a beautiful girl in peasant dress whom Alexander later identifies as his deceased sister. He further asserts that the current understanding of the mind
"now lies broken at our feet "— for "What happened to me destroyed it, and I intend to spend the rest of my life investigating the true nature of consciousness and making the fact that we are more, much more, than our physical brains as clear as I can, both to my fellow scientists and to people at large."
Alexander's book was excerpted in a Newsweek magazine cover story in October 2012. (In May 2012, Alexander had provided a slightly more technical account of the events described in his book in an article, "My Experience in Coma", in AANS Neurosurgeon, the trade publication of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.) Since the release of the book, he has lectured around the world in churches, hospitals, medical schools, and academic symposia, besides appearing on TV shows including Super Soul Sunday with Oprah Winfrey.
Alexander has further expanded on his NDE, and his scientific interpretation of it, in journals including the quarterly publication of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons and the Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association.
Criticism and reaction
In a 2013 investigation of Alexander's story and medical background, Esquire magazine reported that before the publication of Proof of Heaven, 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. The magazine also found what it claimed were discrepancies with regard to Alexander's version of events in the book. Among the discrepancies, according to an account of the Esquire article in Forbes, was that "Alexander writes that he slipped into the coma as a result of severe bacterial meningitis and had no higher brain activity, while a doctor who cared for him says the coma was medically induced and the patient was conscious, though hallucinating".
Alexander responded: "I wrote a truthful account of my experiences in Proof of Heaven and have acknowledged in the book both my professional and personal accomplishments and my setbacks. I stand by every word in this book and have made its message the purpose of my life. Esquire's cynical article distorts the facts of my 25-year career as a neurosurgeon and is a textbook example of how unsupported assertions and cherry-picked information can be assembled at the expense of the truth."
Alexander's book has been criticized by scientists, including Sam Harris who described Alexander's NDE account as "alarmingly unscientific," and that "everything – absolutely everything – in Alexander's account rests on repeated assertions that his visions of heaven occurred while his cerebral cortex was 'shut down', 'inactivated', 'completely shut down', 'totally offline', and 'stunned to complete inactivity'. The evidence he provides for this claim is not only inadequate – it suggests that he doesn't know anything about the relevant brain science." "Even in cases where the brain is alleged to have shut down, its activity must return if the subject is to survive and describe the experience. In such cases, there is generally no way to establish that the NDE occurred while the brain was offline." Neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks agreed with Harris, saying that "to deny the possibility of any natural explanation for an NDE, as Dr. Alexander does, is more than unscientific – it is antiscientific."..."The one most plausible hypothesis in Dr. Alexander's case...is that his NDE occurred not during his coma, but as he was surfacing from the coma and his cortex was returning to full function. It is curious that he does not allow this obvious and natural explanation, but instead insists on a supernatural one." In 2012 Alexander responded to critics in a second Newsweek article.
The Map of Heaven
Alexander's second book, The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion, and Ordinary People Are Proving the Afterlife, was published in October 2014. Alexander once again asserts his belief that there is an afterlife, and that consciousness is independent of the brain. To support his views, he cites the writings of philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders throughout history, and also shares letters from readers who have told him about spiritual experiences that match his own as described in Proof of Heaven.
- "Renown neurosurgeon Eben Alexander Dies at 91(2004)". Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
- "Dr. Eben Alexander – NDE". NDE Stories. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
- Dittrich Aug 2013.
- Alexander, Eben (2012), Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, Simon & Schuster, pg 169.
- Alexander, Eben (2012), Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife, Simon & Schuster, pg 40.
- Alexander, Eben (October 8, 2012), "Heaven Is Real: A Doctor’s Experience With the Afterlife", Newsweek.
- Eben Alexander III (2012). "My Experience in Coma". AANS Neurosurgeon. 21 (2). Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
- Ingrid Peschke (2013-10-24). "Dr. Eben Alexander Says It's Time for Brain Science to Graduate From Kindergarten". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "Dr. Eben Alexander Shares What God Looks Like". OWN TV. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
- "Best Sellers". Paperback Nonfiction. The New York Times. September 21, 2014. Archived from the original on October 1, 2014. Retrieved October 1, 2014.
- Alexander, Eben. "Becoming Conscious: A Neurosurgeon Discusses his Transformational Experience". Congress of Neurological Surgeons (Spring 2016).
- Alexander, Eben. "Near Death Experiences, the Mind-Body Debate & the Nature of Reality". The Journal of the Missouri State Medical Association (January/February 2015): 17–21.
- Dittrich, Luke (August 2013). "The Prophet: An Investigation of Eben ALexander, Author of the Blockbuster "Proof of Heaven"". Esquire. New York City: Hearst Communications, Inc. pp. 88–95, 125–126, 128. Page 95: "On August 6, 2008, the patient filed a $3 million lawsuit against Alexander, accusing him of negligence, battery, spoliation, and fraud. The purported cover-up, the changes Alexander had made to the surgical report, was a major aspect of the suit. Once again, a lawyer was accusing Alexander of altering the historical record when the historical record didn't fit the story he wanted to tell."
- "Was 'Proof of Heaven' author hallucinating?". Daily Mail. London. July 3, 2013. Retrieved July 13, 2013. Daily Mail Online, Published July 2, 2013. Includes photos of the Esquire magazine August 2013 cover and the article's author, contributing editor Luke Dittrich, and a response from Alexander on the controversy.
- Jeff Bercovici. "Esquire Unearths 'Proof of Heaven' Author's Credibility Problems". Forbes. Retrieved July 13, 2013.
- Harris, Sam (October 12, 2012), "This Must Be Heaven’’ @ SamHarris.com.
- Sam Harris (November 11, 2012). "Science on the Brink of Death". Retrieved November 26, 2012.
- Sacks, Oliver, "Seeing God in the Third Millennium", The Atlantic Monthly (December 12, 2012).
- Eben Alexander (November 18, 2012). "The Science of Heaven". Newsweek. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
- Alexander, Eben (17 October 2014). "What Heaven's Really Like - By a Leading Brain Surgeon Who Says He's Been There". [The Daily Mail]. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Alexander, Eben (19 October 2014). "Are these glimpses of the after-life? Top brain surgeon who claims he saw heaven while in a coma reveals the stories of others who say they have had similar life-changing experiences". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- Alexander, Eben (20 October 2014). "The wife who came back to earth as a butterfly: The poignant moment that a grieving husband lost his scepticism about the after-life". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
- "New York Times". New York Times. 2 Nov 2014. Archived from the original on October 28, 2014. Retrieved 28 Oct 2014.