Tag: science media

Esquire Magazine caught lying. Dr. Eben Alexander’s NDE account prevails |220|

 Interview with Robert Mays reveals a disturbing pattern of misrepresentation and distortion in Luke Dittrich's Proof of Heaven expose published in Esquire Magazine.

photo by Derek K. Miller

Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Robert Mays about his recently published article,  Esquire article on Eben Alexander distorts the facts.  During the interview Mays talks about  what his investigation discovered:

Alex Tsakiris:   The Dittrich article in Esquire, it's extremely well-crafted. Let's give them that. And he builds this case with the facts that he has, but he really builds this whole thing around -- this guy's a liar.  He approaches it from a number of different angles, some of which are really substantive to the story like the coma thing, and these other things that he picks at, but they do kind of stick in your mind as you're reading the article.  Like the rainbow thing. Tell us what the rainbow thing is all about and then tell us what you found out.

Robert Mays:   In the book, on Sunday morning according to the story that Dr. Alexander wrote, his sister, Phyllis, and his mother, Betty, were coming into the hospital and saw a perfect rainbow. They felt this was a sign. Dittrich took this as saying Heaven itself was heralding Eben Alexander's return. Dittrich then asked the meteorologist whether there could have been a rainbow then and the meteorologist said, “Well, the day was clear so there couldn't have been.”

I said, “Well, wait a minute. Two people said they saw it.” So I called Phyllis Alexander and she said, “Definitely we saw a rainbow. Betty remarked that it was a perfect rainbow.” They talked about it. Then they went immediately up to Eben's room and there Eben was, sitting up. So that was the time that he had recovered.

Alex Tsakiris:   And just to add a little tidbit that you talk about in your article that I thought was great and is the real kind of journalism that we would have liked to have gotten from Esquire is that you not only talked to these eyewitnesses, which he did not--he just went on some meteorological report--but they also had evidence. It was such a spectacular event that they had written an email.

Robert Mays:   Right. That day Phyllis said she had written to friends in Boston who were praying for Eben. She said, “Eben has recovered and I saw a beautiful rainbow as I was coming into the hospital.” So there's that documentation, as well. So Luke Dittrich's argument there is empty.

Alex Tsakiris:   It's shoddy journalism. If you're trying to debunk something, which I've run across so many times, that's one thing. You're a debunker. You're just out there throwing whatever you can against the wall and seeing what sticks. But if you're Esquire, who still has some kind of legitimacy as a journalistic enterprise, you have to do more than this. You have to talk to witnesses. You have to get their side of it. I think this lays a pattern for what else we're about to talk about.


Alex Tsakiris:   Here's what you get from Luke Dittrich's story in Esquire -- Dr. Laura Potter discredits Dr. Eben Alexander's story.  It couldn't have happened the way he described.  He wasn't really in a coma. He was delirious.

So why don't you pick up from there, Robert? You've said you put a couple calls in to Dr. Potter at this point in the story. You haven't heard back. What happens next?

Robert Mays:   I received, from members of the family copies of emails that they had been sending back and forth.  In that was a statement that Dr. Potter had made. Later I learned it was a statement that she had issued to a news organization. Apparently that news organization did not use it. In any case, that statement was that she was misquoted and taken out of context. So I said, “Whoa. This is really quite strange.”

Alex Tsakiris:   In fact, she stated that her account was misrepresented, and that she felt like the questions weren't fair.  And this is backed up by what you heard from the family, right? Because the family talks to Dr. Potter and she's apologizing, saying “Gosh, I don't know how this happened.” That's what I took away from your article. Is that what you got from talking to the family?

Robert Mays:   Right. And basically Dr. Potter expressed to the family that she had been misrepresented and that her words were taken out of context by Luke Dittrich and that he had led her to say certain things.

The question that Luke Dittrich says he posed to her I don't think is a question he actually posed to her when she said, “Yes, conscious but delirious.” It would be very interesting to see what exactly happened in that interview and just understand what she was responding to.

Alex Tsakiris:   I think it would be more than interesting. I think it's absolutely his responsibility, given the damage that this article has done and sought to do from the beginning. There's an added level of journalistic responsibility to get your facts right. These things being called into question this way demands that he really back up his claims.

(interview transcript continued below)

Robert and Suzanne Mays Website

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Commentary: Esquire article on Eben Alexander distorts the facts

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Today we welcome Robert Mays to Skeptiko. Robert, along with his wife, Suzanne, have been longtime researchers in the field of near-death experience and consciousness studies. They've published quite a few papers and have done presentations for both, the International Association of Near-Death Studies Conference, and the well-known Science of Consciousness Conference in Tucson, Arizona. So, anyone who's familiar with this field very well might have bumped into the work of these two very interesting and excellent near-death experience researchers.

Robert is here today to talk about a new article they just published titled, “Esquire Article on Eben Alexander Distorts the Facts,” in which they tell about their investigation into the near-death experience account of Harvard neurosurgeon Eben Alexander, who last year published a blockbuster best-seller book titled, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Near-Death Experience and Journey Into the Afterlife. So with that I'd like to introduce you to Robert Mays.

Robert, thanks so much for joining me today on Skeptiko.

Robert Mays:  Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

Alex Tsakiris:   Before we dive into this article that you've published on Dr. Eben Alexander's case and then the book and the controversy that's stirred up around that, I thought you could tell us a little bit about the research that you and Suzanne have done. In checking out your website there's a lot of stuff that you guys have published in this field. Tell us a little bit about that.