Toby Young Toby Young

Dr Alexander’s afterlife

There was quite an important news story buried beneath all the post-match analysis from the party conferences. Apparently there really is life after death.

Perhaps the reason this ‘news’ didn’t receive more coverage is because it’s not based on any startling new evidence. Rather, the claim has been made by a man called Eben Alexander who had one of those near-death experiences that cannot be explained by science.

What’s startling about this particular experience is that Dr Eben Alexander III, to give him his full name, is a neurosurgeon. Not a scientist, exactly, but a man of science nevertheless. He describes himself as a Christian, but ‘more in name than actual belief’, and used to be sceptical about the out-of-body experiences related by those who’d returned from the undiscovered country. ‘I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death,’ he says.

That was until he fell into a coma in the autumn of 2008. He was suffering from viral meningitis and, judging from the CT scans and all the other neurological evidence, his cortex completely shut down for seven days. According to our current scientific understanding of how the brain works, he shouldn’t have experienced anything at all during this period, not even the most fleeting dream. Yet he embarked on an odyssey in which he flew above the clouds with an angel, heard organ music booming from the heavens and managed to communicate with other beings telepathically.

Dr Alexander was so impressed by this experience that he’s written a book about it called Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife which is being published next week. No doubt he will appear on Newsnight in due course where he’ll be pitted against some militant atheist like Dr Evan Harris or the Revd Giles Fraser.

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