Murphy, a thoughtful commenter, of my last post, asks:
If indeed your main point is that Harris’ initial response was in haste because he had not read the book, it sounds more as though you are holding a grudge rather than evaluating a situation. He read the same article that everyone else read when the book was still not available. He further listened to a 1-hr interview that he links to in that piece (just like he links to the article) and encourages anyone else who may be reading his piece to do so. And he did in fact read the book when it was available, and posted again when he had more information. Nothing in that process should be described as lazy. I easily grant you, when you posted this original post, he had not yet read the book. But if the book was not out, how can he be lambasted (by you) for not reading the book? I think he critiqued the information that was available to him rather poignantly. He explains at length that his objections do not stem from this point going “against the naturalist orthodoxy”, as you state. His problem is absence of proof.
Further, to say this topic is something that he knows zero about is not correct.
I can and would speak further to this, but I have a hard time believing that you could possibly change your opinion, because I believe your opinion is based more on emotion than logic. I would imagine you are losing interest on this topic, but can you provide me direct quotes that you feel best demonstrate his laziness? Can you tell me specifically what you believe is wrong with Harris’ assertion that unless Alexander can provide proof that his experiences occurred at a point in time when his brain was dead, that his entire account is somewhat pointless? If those experiences occurred at any other point in time, they are no more noteworthy than a dream. I do not understand why you feel this does not qualify as a valid and important point (despite being raised after only reading the article, mind you).
Less importantly (since this was never your original intent), I am aware of qualia and intentionality; I just happen to agree with Daniel Dennett, that while consciousness seems so mysterious to us now, with time, it will be as explainable as anything else we have discovered. The developments they have made in unraveling what seems to be our illusion of a self in the last two decades is astounding. It feels a bit grand to me to impose such a level of importance on ourselves as a species considering everything we do know about the universe (which is still close to nothing). I am, however, always open to other ideas in the presence of sound data, which is why I requested direction to the data on NDE’s you continue to reference. Does this data extend beyond the fact that we currently don’t know for sure, so anything is a possibility?
And I don’t care if Harris’ resume is 20-pages and Alexander’s is one sentence… it still would not only be a weak comparison, but not matter to this argument. I actually do not even doubt Alexander’s qualifications, but that does not change the fact that he has not provided proof of the timing of his experiences.
I apologize for the lengthy response if you are indeed losing interest… but there are so many things about this that interest me.
So Harris, to you, isn’t being intellectually lazy when he felt reading an article and watching an hour-long interview over at youtube was more than enough to lambast a book of which he first admits could have “a more persuasive account“, yet went on anyway to (prematurely!) conclude that he “very much doubt[s] it“.
Harris says Eben’s reasoning is “so lazy and tendentious” and then calls his (Eben’s) media forays and coming book an “unfolding travesty“, despite not having read a single page of it. And this, to you, is all fine and dandy; “Oh no! He’s not being lazy at all! Come on!”
You’re not being reasonable, Murphy.
Eben in his book, and as told by your fellow skeptic who actually read the book, “did as much research as he could as a neurosurgeon, as a neuroscientist, to try and come up with a conventional explanation for this. He talked to many of his colleagues, many of the brightest and well-respected people in the field. He tried to come up with an explanation for this[..]”
Yet, according to Sam, Eben is, well, “Lazy and tendentious“, despite that, if he actually read the book before opening his pie-hole, he would have found out that Eben, again according to your fellow skeptic, “spent months devouring every paper he could get his hands on that might explain what happened to him.”
So, come on Murphy. Sam was being lazy, period. That doesn’t mean Eben is right, mind you, it just means Sam is — was — being lazy. And that’s evidence he knows little — if not zero — of what he’s attempting to critique.
Look, I don’t even know if I buy Eben’s conclusion — primarily because it sounds more Deepak Choprian then Christian. I don’t think he’s lying; I think he really did experience something. But it’s one thing to say some weird thing happened to him, and it’s completely another to say his conclusion that heaven, or at least something like it, is real.
As for Sam’s point about Eben being unable to prove the experience happened during brain death, I think it’s a valid one. But it’s not something that’s been completely glossed over by Eben, as he does touch on it somewhere in his 9-point hypothesis which you can read here.
As for Dennet’s promissory note that science will be able to materialistically explain away intentionality and qualia, he’s just plain and simple wrong there. (Actually, I thought Dennet was an eliminativist? I thought he didn’t think it could be explained, but rather that it didn’t need explaining, as eliminativists are wont to think.) He can issue all the promissory notes he wants, but it ain’t happening since the gap is, as I and some philosophers of mind believe, unbridgeable; the hard problems of consciousness actually show that mind cannot in principle be reduced to brain. You don’t even have to be a theist to believe that; Chalmers, Nagel, and other respected philosophers of mind do, and they scarcely can be said to be sympathetic to theism.
If you’re looking for proof from Eben or others, then you’ll be looking til wit’s end. There can be no proof that Eben went to heaven, or that he experienced what he did during –and only during — brain death. We’ll just have to look at the data and see what conclusion best fits the evidence.
That being said, Eben, for the most part, knows what he’s talking about. Assuming he’s not lying through his teeth for fame, money, or what have you, then it’s people like him who have, more than others, the credibility to lead us in one direction or another. To dismiss him outright because of a metaphysical commitment to naturalism is, I believe, a big mistake.