Esquire digs into “heaven” doctor’s NDE story. It’s not pretty.

In a followup to this story about neuroscientist Eben Alexander and his so-called “proof” of heaven (a claim for which it falls FAR short), he’s having a hard time looking credible these days.

The ‘Proof of Heaven’ Author Has Now Been Thoroughly Debunked by Science – Esther Zuckerman – The Atlantic Wire.

A book called Proof of Heaven is bound to provoke eye rolls, but its author, Eben Alexander, had space in a Newsweek story and on shows like of Fox & Friends to detail his claims. Read into those endorsements — and nearly 15 million copies sold — whatever you will, but in a big new Esquire feature, Luke Dittrich pokes large holes in Alexander’s story, bringing into question the author’s qualification as a neurosurgeon (which is supposed to legitimize his claim) and the accuracy of his best-selling journey.

The Esquire feature charges $1.99 to access is available here. Their “months-long investigation” reveals:

a series of factual omissions and inconsistencies that call significant parts of Dr. Alexander’s story into question. Before he was a celebrated “man of science” who visited the afterlife, Dr. Alexander was something else: a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention.

This makes me very curious but I’m sorry I can’t devote time to digging into to this now. If anyone does, please note in comments or write up for a guest post. I’m also interested into why Esquire was keen to dig into these claims and expose Dr. Alexander. He is currently marketing his ideas to a gullible public. His faith-based ideas don’t hold any water with the scientific community. In order to PROVE Heaven, you must do a hell of a lot better than a popular book. Nice try Doc. I’m sure those royalty checks come in handy.

The article notes that he has had past legal troubles and the evidence of his medical emergency that spawned the Heaven story is now in dispute. He was conscious, not brain dead. These stories always seem to fall through. Believe it if you want but recognize that there is GOOD reason to doubt it completely.

  17 comments for “Esquire digs into “heaven” doctor’s NDE story. It’s not pretty.

  1. Bob Rupp-Kilgore
    July 2, 2013 at 10:07 PM

    I’d like to see his “proof”. Photos? Air samples? A vial of angel tears? Without tangible proof all we have is the anecdotal reports of a man whose brain was in an altered state.

  2. Sean Elliott
    July 3, 2013 at 1:10 AM

    Well, as far as why Esquire would question the claims, I think the answer is in the next sentence, that his ideas are being marketed to a gullible public. Hopefully suspect claims are enough to merit investigation.

    I am not at all surprised there is an audience for magical answers to what happens when we die. Personally, I don’t care what happens when I die. Most of the fear surrounds the extinguishing of the indelible ego would be my guess. Somehow, I find that scenario rather a relief.

    However, if a near death account sells that many copies, I think I might have had one too….. Yes, I’m starting to remember!

  3. July 3, 2013 at 2:01 AM

    The paywall seems to be gone. I accessed it at 2 AM Wednesday morning.

  4. Woof
    July 3, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    Paywall is UP, but “View Page Source” is your friend.

  5. Pete Attkins
    July 3, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    Sam Harris has written a very informative article about this.

  6. July 3, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    I have read the Esquire piece. If I assume what is in it is true, I now detest Alexander. Five malpractice suits in ten years is an abysmal record that strongly suggests he is not competent as a surgeon. The news that he consulted “life after death” references like Kubler-Ross and Chopra suggests he is overly credulous and buys into the New Age nonsense. The data regarding his illness suggests he is totally off base on his “conclusions”. And, most damning, are the clues that he has a habit of changing the story. I’m being kind. This story makes him look like an a-hole.

  7. Pete Attkins
    July 3, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    A neurosurgeon who fails to understand the findings of modern neuroscience is almost excusable; one who twists the findings for financial gain is inexcusable.

  8. Eve
    July 3, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    It wasn’t Chopra he was reading; it was Dinesh D’Souza’s Life after Death. I found a couple of things interesting about his reading of NDE books. First, it sounds as if even he thought his experience was a hallucination before he started reading those books. Second, I thought he had claimed that after he saw a picture of his deceased biological sister (whom he hadn’t met) he realized she was his beautiful-beyond-description guide. In Dittrich’s article, the chronology is different: he reads a story in Kubler-Ross about a little girl who had seen a dead brother she never knew during an NDE. He looks over at a photo of his sister and THEN he recognizes her. The fact that he didn’t recognize her as soon as he saw the photo is…interesting.

  9. July 3, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Hmmm. I can still see the article. Perhaps the NoScript browser add-on has interfered with this poorly done paywall.

    Anyway, Alexander’s claim is entirely dependent on his assertain of being in a coma caused by his illness, and how that coma made him effectively brain dead and so incapable of hallucinating. Dittrich shows that Alexander was in a medically induced coma — a drug-induced coma — and so was not brain dead and was quite capable of hallucinating. That alone kills Alexander’s claim. It’s doubly damning that his medical assertions about his coma seem to be outright lies, not a misunderstanding of his experience.

    The other criticisms are interesting but not necessary — this claim is dead, dead, dead.

  10. July 3, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    A rather gullible friend asked me to find a copy of the the book for her (I sell used books). Once I read an on-line description, I refused to buy it for her as it looked too new age & not Christian. (We belong to the same church so I can get away with that! I’ve refused to buy other books for her, too.) I’m happy to see that my first impression was right.

  11. July 4, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Most people are religious. These feelings evolved in our ancestors way back in time, possibly when they were proto-human Homo heidlebergensis, to cope with the emergence of self awareness. All religions are the same in two respects, they sell the idea that man is the predominant species in the universe and they postulate that there is some continuing existence for us after death. Both of these suppositions are as unlikely as they are illogical.

  12. Eustice Seeney
    July 6, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    Let’s get serious, there are no butterflies in heaven.

  13. Diana Booth
    July 7, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Dr Alexander’s story may or not be true.
    There are occasions though where people have viewed themselves outside their bodies. I have known two people. My sister after an operation. No heaven, just saw the doctors and told my mother what they did.
    The second was after joking with a young junior about dying and looking down down at them to make sure they were working. The young girl went quiet and told me that after a she was knocked on the head and thrown into the water when sailing. She didn’t know she was drowning. She was standing up in the yacht and wondered why her friend was rushing towards her. She watched as he reached into the water. As she looked down, she saw her body under the water. He pulled her out and as she hit the side of the boat, she gasped and was back in her body. I asked did she tell anyone. Only my parents she said. She told me she didn’t like to talk about it. She is still recovering with some brain injury and was unable to walk for a period due to the injury. She was very sincere and I knew her story to be correct as she posted her hospital photos on facebook at the time.
    So how would you explain these experiences as they aren’t dreams, because she couldn’t have dreamed the friend dragged her out. She didn’t even know she was knocked out. She was hit from behind.

  14. July 7, 2013 at 10:40 AM

    I don’t think it’s even the right question to ask if it’s “true” unless we assume he is making it up entirely (which I don’t presume though that is always a possibility). It is what he perceived and that is how he interpreted it.

    Tests have been done on out of body experiences. The evidence does not hold up the claim that it happens.

    I’m not a fan of anecdotes because I can’t confirm anything about them and they often can’t be tested at all. Sincerity of the witness has absolutely zero to do with how truthful or accurate the account is. It’s all perception and human perception and memory is flawed.

    I would not even presume to explain other people’s experiences. I lack too much verified information on it.

  15. July 7, 2013 at 12:35 PM


    I don’t know much about NDE but I should note that many people who confabulate under hypnosis see themselves in their “memories.” That is, they switch from a first-person to a third-person point of view, as if they’re watching themselves act up on a movie screen. It’s not an absolute sign of confabulation but can be an indication the person is filling in gaps in their memory or conjuring up a scene that explains a curious event.

  16. Diana Booth
    July 17, 2013 at 5:48 AM

    Okay, points taken, but might I add many of these events are not the brain filling the gaps. They are confirmed by others in the out of body experience. As I mentioned, the young lady described the actions of her young partner. Filling in the gaps would merely have had her imagine him pulling her out, not the the description of his rush to her from his yacht. Don’t forget she was hit from behind, next she found herself standing in her yacht watching the young man rush over to her from where he was sailing.
    I look forward to future investigations on these matters and until then I have an open mind.

  17. Kathy Moyd
    May 7, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    This book was on the NY Times Bestseller list for months. So any mainstream (i.e., not aimed at skeptics) debunking is welcome.

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