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Eben Alexander Follow-Up

Eben AlexanderNot too long ago, I wrote an article titled Eben Alexander Misrepresenting Carl Sagan, where I described how Alexander had completely misrepresented one of Sagan's positions from his book, The Demon Haunted World. Like I wrote then, it's not just the fact that he made a mistake that was troubling, but that he did it with such supreme confidence, even citing the page number.

I just happened to notice that on Alexander's personal blog, in the comments to his post, Post Debate Reflections: The Sound of One Hand Clapping, somebody called him out for this misrepresentation. Here was Alexander's chance to admit his mistake and apologize, but instead he responded with this comment of his own.

Just an honest attempt to remember something I had recently read - I was actually surprised I remembered the page number perfectly. I remembered recently reading the quote and being quite astonished that Carl Sagan, in his opinion, stated that the evidence for reincarnation, based on young children remembering details of a previous life, deserves serious study. That is striking. Sorry I used the word "overwhelming," but if you stop to think about exactly what Carl Sagan said, it should impress you significantly (why split hairs over "overwhelming" vs "deserves serious study"?). Novella said "I've read that book a hundred times" (really? 100?), and "That is just not true." He told me backstage that he had read that book several times and that he did not remember that quote at all, yet the next day he posted on his blog that I was correct, that the statement was on page 302 as I had remembered (minus the word "overwhelming"). The evidence is more powerful now than that of which Sagan was aware - read Jim Tucker's 2013 book "Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children who remember Past Lives." Extraordinary evidence supporting this reality -- to simply deny it outright is to be willfully ignorant.

This is no longer an oral debate relying solely on memory. Alexander can go look at Sagan's quote. He no longer has any excuse for misrepresenting Sagan, but he still does. If you don't feel like reading my old entry, here is just one portion of the Sagan passage that I quoted to remind you of his position.

I pick these claims not because I think they're likely to be valid (I don't), but as examples of contentions that might be true. The last three have at least some, although still dubious, experimental support.

It's not splitting hairs or just dropping the word 'overwhelming'. Sagan didn't think the evidence was at all strong for 'past life memories in children', but just barely worth further study on the off chance that it might be true. It was the general scientific mindset of always being open to new evidence.

Further, Alexander misrepresented what Novella wrote in the entry Alexander was referring to, After the Afterlife Debate. Whereas Alexander thinks, "yet the next day he posted on his blog that I was correct, that the statement was on page 302 as I had remembered (minus the word 'overwhelming').", Novella himself wrote of Alexander's interpretation of the quote, "That's pretty thin gruel on which Alexander is hanging his hat." Novella was calling out Alexander for misrepresenting Sagan, not admitting that Alexander was largely right.

At first, I thought Alexander's problem was a simple mistake coupled with over-confidence, which was bad enough. But now after reading this, it seems like the real problem might be integrity.

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