I was just really dissappointed with Sam Harris’ reasoning. I feel like sceptical thinkers should be strict adherents to good logic.
First and most importantly, he makes the argument that Eben Alexander’s neocortex could well have been working. This seems like the most important point of the entire debate. Did Eben Alexander have an experience with a “rich tapestry” while his neocortex was down? Eben Alexander offers some clinical evidence that he claims would indicate that his neocortex was not working. Sam Harris basically says that the evidence offered by Eben Alexander is not sufficient to prove it. He offers some explanation, but it is not enough.
Just as I am not willing to accept Eben Alexander’s word that his clinical signs prove a nonfunctioning neocortex during the time of his vision, I also will not accept Sam Harris’ word that the evidence is insufficient. I realize I am asking Sam Harris to put in a lot more work, with a lot more scientific detail, but it is necessary for him to fully make his point. I won’t succumb to the authority fallacy from either side.
My other big criticism is Sam Harris’ argument against the idea that the brain is a reducing valve for consciousness. He tries to explain that if this were true, then damaging the brain would mean less reduction, and thus greater consciousness. This is not a fair claim to make. We are only talking about a metaphor here. How you choose to interpret the metaphor is entirely subjective. One could just as easily explain that by damaging the brain you are closing the reducing valve tighter, and thus reducing consciousness. Generalizing from a metaphor is a terrible idea.
I also felt like Sam Harris’ tone was condescending. Personally, I feel like that reduces his credibility. Perhaps he was justifiably angy at Dr. Alexander - I don’t know. I just think it helps pundits be taken more seriously if they firmly maintain a professional demeanor. Penny Sartori, an NDE researcher from the other side of this debate coin, sets an excellent example for this.
Am I asking too much? Did I just evoke a mass response where everyone will accuse me of being a total idiot? I hope not.