Thursday, September 9, 2021

Eben Alexander’s Questionable NDE

Home  >  Christianity  >  General


Eben Alexander was on Capturing Christianity’s channel recently (as of this writing) on NDEs, titled Eben Alexander Discusses His Wild NDE with Gary Habermas. I mentioned some things in the comment but couldn’t post links (the YouTube algorithm erases my comments when I do for some reason) so I’m writing this short article here.


At around 1:18:08 to 1:26:00 Alexander responds to a question of mine, “What is Eben Alexander’s response to reported evidence that his NDE experience was fraudulent (e.g., testimony from one of the doctors who treated him)?”

The genesis of this, as a casual internet might turn up, is the August 2013 issue of Esquire which published an exposé in an article called “The Prophet” which can be read for free online. Alexander’s says his FAQ responds to the lawsuits, which it does, noting that they were settled (lawsuits usually are, particularly when it's not a close call) but doesn't respond to the e.g., the doctor's testimony against him. The NDE article he refers to is apparently Eben Alexander's Near-Death Experience: How an Esquire article Distorted the Facts by Robert Mays (a guest editorial). That article does not interview Laura Potter, the key physician witness of the Esquire article (apparently she was unresponsive to telephone calls by this person). The article does claim a quote by her nonetheless supposedly issued to the Associated Press which if veridical would seem to cast doubt on the Esquire article, but I've been unable to verify the veracity of the quote (a google search turns up nothing solid).

One of the reasons for suspicion is that at the time Eben Alexander had a far higher than normal lawsuit load against him, something he left out in this interview when he talked about his lawsuits (settlements are the norm, not the exception, and are usually done when it's not a close call about who would win). The Esquire article reports:
By the time all his pending cases are resolved, Alexander will have settled five malpractice cases in the last ten years. Only one other Virginia-licensed neurosurgeon has settled as many cases in that time period, and none have settled more.
Alexander had a powerful motive to acquire cash (settlements aren't necessarily cheap, especially if you undergo them far more than usual as Alexander did). Alexander had his alleged NDE when there was a $3 million lawsuit pending. He made a lot of money with his NDE, selling webinars and even co-founding an organization called “Eternea” where (at the time) if you paid $1,200 a year or more, you could qualify for a membership status called “archangel.” There was also a “Governor’s Guild” in which membership dues began at $10,000 per year. Lifetime membership was offered to anyone who made a major lump sum gift of $25,000. To insinuate that there was no financial gain here (1:25:36 to 1:25:59) strikes me as somewhat misleading.

At 1:23:51 to 1:51:55 he says the Esquire article author (Luke Dittrich) was “obviously blackballed” by the industry, but the evidence he cites for this (not having published an article in the press for several years) seems insufficient, since it's unclear that writing articles for newspapers and magazines is his intended primary source of income. However, Alexander's claim that some 200 scientists questioned Dittrich's book appears to be factual (one can find it reported in Scientific American) to at least some degree; there was dispute about Dittrich's characterizations of an MIT neuroscientist.

I'm not saying that I know Eben Alexander is a grifter, but I think some amount of skepticism is warranted.