Month: October 2012

191. Dr. Victor Stenger Slams Parapsychology, Calls Dr. Stanley Krippner Charlatan

Interview with Dr. Victor Stenger about his new book, God and the Folly of Faith, and the science of consciousness and near-death experience. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with physicist, Atheist and author Dr. Victor Stenger  about his new book, God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion.  During the interview Stenger explains why he believes many parapsychologists, consciousness researchers and near-death experience researchers are charlatans: Alex Tsakiris: As you mentioned, Stuart Hameroff is an anesthesiologist, so he may be crossing disciplines, but he’s also publishing with a Nobel Prize winner and some of the top people in the field. But let’s move on from that a little bit because what I really wanted to get to with that is what is at stake for Atheism with this idea of consciousness being more than materialism? Mind being just the brain? Dr. Victor Stenger:   All the Atheists I know, that is those who are scientists and really understand the scientific method, will say, “You show me the evidence for something beyond matter, then we’ll believe it.” So we’re open to that. It’s not so much that we have any particular stake other than the stake of determining the truth as best as we can. And that’s the problem. These people are charlatans to be claiming that there’s evidence for a quantum aspect of the mind. That’s just not true. Maybe they’ll find one someday. We’re open to that. But they just do not have the data to support that and they don’t have the theory to support that. And that’s the thing that’s so upsetting about it because they’re able to get away with this because they’re talking to audiences who are not aware of the science, who really don’t know the science. Alex Tsakiris:   You’re not saying Christof Koch is a charlatan? Or Stuart Hameroff is a charlatan? I assume, right? So who are the charlatans? Dr. Victor Stenger:   I know that I know Stanley Krippner, I know some of the other people that are on the list of people you’ve interviewed in the past. I saw your list and I’ll tell you they’re not part of any mainstream that I know of. Alex Tsakiris:   So do you think Stanley Krippner is a charlatan? Dr. Victor Stenger:   Absolutely. Victor Stenger's Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: Listen Now: Download MP3 (52 min.) Read It: Today we welcome Dr. Victor Stenger to Skeptiko. Dr. Stenger is an adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado but that’s really a second academic career for him. He’s also Professor Emeritus in Physics and Astronomy for the University of Hawaii. He’s also a very successful author, having published 11 books including the 2007 New York Times Bestseller, God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist, and his latest book, God and the Folly of Faith. Welcome to Skeptiko, Vic. Thanks so much for joining me. Dr. Victor Stenger:   I’m glad to be here. Alex Tsakiris:   Great. I’m looking forward to the discussion. Let’s give folks a little bit of a background on you. Quite an impressive academic career, well-respected in your field. Well published, known. But then you also have this parallel career as one of the founders, really, of this movement that’s come to be known as “New Atheism.” Take us through a little bit of that and in particular this interplay between your academic career and then how you got interested in the Atheist movement. And maybe along the way help people understand what a New Atheist is?


190. Dr. Eben Alexander on the Medical Mystery of Near-Death Experience

Interview with Dr. Eben Alexander about his new book, Proof of Heaven, and the medical mystery of his NDE. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with neurosurgeon and author Dr. Eben Alexander about his new book, Proof of Heaven.  During the interview Alexander explains why his medical training did not prepare him for understanding his near-death experience: Alex Tsakiris:   One of the really fascinating parts of the book is the professional transformation you go through as a result of this experience.  As you tell it, you weren’t totally unaware of the near-death experience research.  It was out there.  You had heard of, for example, Dr. Raymond Moody, but it was something you looked past because all your training had told you this was impossible.  So, it had created this blind spot in your medical knowledge. Dr. Eben Alexander: …it did require a tremendous amount of re-education. Having been an academic neurosurgeon for over 20 years, I thought I understood brain and how brain generates consciousness and mind and soul, spirit, what-have-you. But my thinking was clearly that when the brain and the body die that’s the end of consciousness. I now know that’s absolutely not true. And to get to that point after my experience I really had to learn a tremendous amount about consciousness I never had to know as a practicing academic neurosurgeon. I knew a few things about consciousness. I knew a few things that seem to turn it off. Every day we use general anesthesia which is effective at turning off consciousness.  Yet having used it for 150 years we still have absolutely no clue how general anesthesia works. I think that should give the listener a little bit of an idea of how little we really understand about consciousness. In fact, my experience showed me this very clearly, and I go into nine neuroscientific hypotheses in my book that I entertained and discussed with others in neuroscience, neurosurgery, trying to explain how my ultra-real experience might have happened in my brain given the severity of my meningitis.  My conclusion is  that none of these explanations work. Eben Alexander's Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: Listen Now: Download MP3 (56 min.) Also of Interest: Anomalous Experience: share your real anomalous experiences and read about the experiences of others. Read It: Today we welcome Dr. Eben Alexander back to Skeptiko. Dr. Alexander has just published Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Near-Death Experience and Journey into the Afterlife. Welcome, Dr. Alexander. Thanks for joining me on Skeptiko. Dr. Eben Alexander:   Well hello, Alex, and thanks very much for having me back. Alex Tsakiris:   Well, you’ve written quite a book here. One part medical thriller—it really is—and one part near-death experience science book. It’s a great read. I didn’t think neurosurgeons were supposed to be writers of this caliber. Dr. Eben Alexander:   Thanks a lot. I appreciate it. I think you can tell it’s really a story from the heart because it’s a very personal story and my experience was absolutely life-changing in every sense of the word. And I mean, to me I think a lot of people are most interested when they hear that I had a profound near-death experience like millions of people have had and witnessed that ultra-reality and the startling nature of that realm.


187. Graham Nicholls, Out-of-Body Experiences Aren’t All About Angels and Demons

Interviews with author and out-of-body experience expert Graham Nicholls explores misconceptions about OBEs. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Graham Nicholls, author of Navigating the Out of Body Experience: Radical New Techniques. During the interview Nicholls discusses some misconceptions about out-of-body experiences: Alex Tsakiris: Your answer is very much in line with Dr. Rupert Sheldrake there, so you guys are on the same page, but I just don’t know how we can walk that fine line of --okay, don’t worry, “science” will figure this out eventually. There are a number of well known out-of-body experiencers who talk about a much more rich spiritual landscape that they feel like they’ve traversed and have come back and tell us about. They’ll tell you about lower levels; they’ll tell you about different kinds of beings, including what we would call evil or demonic beings up to beings we would associate with a lot of religious traditions. They’ll tell you directly that they’re related to some religious traditions. So I guess my point is I think we’re obligated to really take that stuff much more seriously once we cross over and say yes, this really is happening. I don’t know how we can really have such a wall and say it’s all going to be explained. Graham Nicholls:   I don’t feel there’s a wall. I feel I’ve explored a lot of those kinds of ideas.  I’ve found that those things just didn’t hold up. Alex Tsakiris:   Didn’t hold up in terms of as you went and tried to explore them yourself and validate them, you couldn’t personally validate them. Is that what you’re saying?  Graham Nicholls:   But not just me personally. Also the people I work with… I’ve tried to really dig beyond the preconceptions and step outside of the box a bit and saying, “What might actually be going on,” rather than just going with the presumption that it’s all spiritual and demons and Angels and that kind of thing. If I saw those things or if I saw a consistency across cultures with everyone I worked with, I would take those things onboard. But the thing is I don’t see that so it doesn’t give me a strong reason to take them onboard. Graham Nicholls' Website Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It: Listen Now: Download MP3 (38 min.) Read It: Alex Tsakiris:   Hi Graham. It’s so great to have you back on Skeptiko. Graham Nicholls:  Hi Alex. It’s great to be back on.