Still another take on Dr. Eben Alexander's book, PROOF OF HEAVEN

In this blog, I earlier mentioned one writer's take on Dr. Alexander's book.

Here's  another, this by John Horgan, that appeared in a Scientific American blog. His post,  What Should We Do With Our Visions of Heaven—and Hell?     raises some technical criticisms of Dr. Alexander's report on his experience (of near-death).  But Horgan then adds some more experience to the discussion with a report of his own "travel" (or NDE or OBE or whatever) during an experiment in his college years.

I get the sense he still doesn't know what to make of what he encountered.  It's worth reading, I think, so I won't try to summarize, or even introduce my take on it.

What I do find puzzling are the reader comments to Horgan's article: many, maybe most, are hostile to the idea of even considering these possibilities.  That mindset reminds me of the mindset of the medieval church (even until not-so-long ago) pronouncing ANATHEMA!  (Meaning, thanks Wikipedia,  "either set apart, banished or denounced".

At least nowadays we don't burn at the stake "heretical thinkers" -- those who explore questions that the Establishment had decreed settled.

One  put-down of  Harvard Med trained neurosurgeon Dr. Alexander was to the effect, What kind of real scientist can he be given that he wears bow-ties? (Sorry, in a hurry and can't put my finger on the exact quote, but it's in the response to Horgan's article.)  In other words, Dr. A doesn't dress like us, so therefore he's not to be credited.  Anathema! Ban bow-ties! Block off your ears to those who experience what is not to be believed!





More on "when is death": now "organ donors who are 'pretty dead."

In the previous post, we looked at a couple of intriguing--maybe disturbing-- articles on the issue of harvesting organs from "recently dead" humans. (That post was "A REMEDY FOR DEATH. Ah, but what IS death? Two interesting articles.")

But that got into the emerging hot-button related issues of "what is death--how should it be gauged?" and "how dead does one really need to be an organ donor?"

In another take on the question, Dick Teresi in Discover Magazine, May 2012, wrote an article,   "The Beating Heart Donors"   Donors," --- that is, in some cases, those are "pretty dead." But how dead do you have to be to be an organ donor?  A couple of intriguing excerpts from that article:

  • "The only people who do not get a share of the transplant wealth are the most essential: the donors and their families. By law, they are the only ones who cannot be compensated. Joseph Murray, the surgeon who performed the first solid-organ transplant, maintains that donors must not be paid, in order to maintain the integrity of the field.
  • "The organ trade claims transplants are the neat extraction of body parts from totally dead, unfeeling corpses. But it's more complicated and messier than that."
  • "Organ transplants would be peripheral to the story of death if they were what the organ trade claimed them to be: the neat extraction of body parts from totally dead, unfeeling corpses. But it is more complicated and messier than that. The grisly facts compiled in this article are not an attempt to derail organ transplantation—an impossible task, given how entrenched the industry is—but knowledge that has been gained from the medical establishment’s obsession with recycling the bodies of people who are, in the words of Dr. Michael DeVita of the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical Center, only “pretty dead.”"

Just to be clear, these are Dick Teresi's words and thoughts.

In another of those little strokes of synchronicity that make my life so interesting, literally as I was writing this entry, I got a call from a friend, a retired Army Colonel, who told me he'd had a transplanted eye for 25 years now, still working well.

Transplants, good.  But still up in the air is the issue of donation.

Best yet, still to come, is the whole field of bio-artificial organs, organ fabrication, organ regeneration and the like .  It's happening, bio-artificial organs are being --what's the word? Created? Generated? Grown?  (On this, I recently did several posts noting current research in these fields. You'll find these mostly in the September 2012 archives of this blog.)

A couple of words more about Dick Teresi.  That Discover article is based on his newest book, THE UNDEAD: ORGAN HARVESTING, THE ICE-WATER TEST, BEATING HEART CADAVERS--HOW MEDICINE IS BLURRING THE LINE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH (available in both e-book and p-book version via Amazon  and other booksellers.)

And this: way back, when I was first beginning the research for my technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with Body, Soul & Bio-tech, one of my earlist and most helpful resources with the book  THE THREE-POUND UNIVERSE  by Judith Harper and --you guessed!--Dick Teresi.  (Without giving away the plot of Remedy, suffice it to say that the three-pound universe is that thingee up inside your head, also known as "the brain."  And that one of the lead characters in Remedy just happens to be a experimental neurosurgeon with some ideas that are definitely outside the experimental mainstream.)

A REMEDY FOR DEATH Ah, but what IS death? Two interesting articles

"What's the difference between life and death? We're fretting too much about the distinction." --that's the title of an article by Druin Burch, that I saw in Slate this noon.   (The broader title sets the context: " Want to save lives? Don't worry so much about defining death.") 

It drew my eye because of the link to some of the activitiy in my medical technothriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH: Playing God with Body, Soul, and Bio-tech.

The article also picks up on a new book by Janet Radcliffe Richards (the Oxford Professor of Practical Philophy!), entitled THE ETHICS OF TRANSPLANTS: WHY CARELESS THOUGHT COSTS LIVES.

The overall points raised revolve around when is it legally/ethically acceptable to "declare death," in order to remove organs for transplantation to someone who needs them?  Yes, those organs can save lives, but what if--what if--the donor isn't quite finished living?

Which brings us to another article, "Organs taken from patients that doctors were pressured to declare brain dead: suit " 

That appeared first in the New York Post, September 26, 2012, and was picked up quickly in several other spots.  The lawsuit cites four examples of allegely improper organ harvesting. In one of them, a drug overdose victiim's body was about to be "harvested" when one of the attending nurses noticed that she "was being given 'a paralyzing anesthetic' because her body was still jerking."  

In another case, cited in the suit, a 19-year old auto accident victim was allegedly "still trying to breathe and showed signs of brain activity, the suit charged.  But doctors declared hm brain dead under pressure from donor-network officials. . . "

Hmm, better stay safe till the doctors and lawyers and judges (and no doubt legislators will chime in, as well) get it all worked out.

Or will the issue ever be settled?

The human brain and how it works-- two good visuals

 As the workings and formation of the human brain play a role in my speculative medical thriller, A REMEDY FOR DEATH, I thought it would be helpful to include two different slide shows on related topics, as background for your reading.

 The first is from Britain's New Scientist, and provides a sort of map of the parts of the brain, and what each part plays in the overall workings.   That is, click the link to "emotions"  or "social interactions," and the slide flashes the related part of the brain.  New Scientist graphic: How the human brain works    Though it doesn't explicitly say so here, I anticipate that the scientists have linked the brain part to the function by using various kinds of brain scans.

 The second is from a recent Washington Post series on brain injuries, particularly those suffered by American soldiers as a result of roadside bombs.  This slide show also shows visuals of the various brain parts, though here the focus is on the consquences when any of those parts is injured.  You'll  find those visuals here:  Washington Post: The science of brain injury   Bear in mind that these graphics are only part of an extended series in the Post, and you can link to the rest from that graphic.

"Chimpanzees seem to know what's on other chimps' minds," suggests study reported in London Guardian

"Humans may not be alone in having insight into the minds of others, a chimpanzee study suggests."  You'll find the link to that article in the London Guardian below.

I'm including that link as background here in this post as "Chimp Donnie" plays a role in two aspects of my speculative scientific thriller, THE LIFE AFTER LIFE CONSPIRACY.  You'll meet Chimp Donnie is the chapters "Cannibals, "Chimera," and "Chimp Donnie," which you'll find in these sample chapters. (In the book, Donnie is a chimera, a hybrid of human and primate.)


And for the link to the Guardian article on  mind-reading chimps:

London Guardian article: chimps as mind-readers?

"Banishing consciousness: the mystery of anesthesia"

Britain's New Scientist magazine ran two articles recently on consciousness. They drew my attention, as lost or altered consciousness plays a role in my scientific/spiritual thriller, THE LIFE-AFTER-LIFE CONSPIRACY.

In "Banishing consciousness: the mystery of anesthesia"  writer Linda Geddes begins and ends with her experience "going under" for an operation, then puts that into context with an exploration of what we know about the kind of lost consciousness that results, and what science knows about what actually happens.

What does happen? How does surgical anesthesia really work? At this point, no one really knows, though current research studies are moving toward some understanding.  In these studies, anesthetized subjects are subjected to EEG and fMRI scans while under.

Of particular interest to me and THE LIFE-AFTER-LIFE CONSPIRACY, much of what is being discovered about anesthesia also seems to carry over to expand our understanding of PVS (persistent vegetative state) and other levels of coma.


For the record, the second New Scientist article, "Consciousness is a matter of constraint" by Terrence W. Deacon, is based on his new book, Incomplete Nature: How mind emerged from matter. (W.W. Norton). The article and the book explore how mind or consciousness can be "generated" (or whatever  you care to term it) from matter.  Put differently, how is it that consciousness seems to come from the three pounds of wet matter in the human head, and not from three pounds of wood or coal or sand?


"Drugs could cleanse brain of bad memories" --- Independent (UK)

From article: "Fears about how drugs manipulate a person's memory are overblown, claims law professor Adam Kolber.

 "Millions of people who suffer from post-traumatic stress after a harrowing experience could benefit from mind-altering drugs that can rid the brain of bad memories, a legal scholar has suggested.

"Yet the prospect of using drugs to dampen the memory of a distressing episode in someone's life is being thwarted by unfounded concerns about their misuse, according to Adam Kolber, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School in New York."

Why am I including a reference to this article here: Because my thriller, The Life After Life Conspiracy, is in part about memories--- where they are "stored" and how they can be manipulated or moved.  This article (and the underlying paper published in the prestigious science journal Nature) touch on that related issue, of howand whether factual recall can be altered . . . and when and if it should be done, legally or ethically.


"Drugs could cleanse brain of bad memories" --- Steve Connor article in Independent (UK)