Saturday, May 10, 2014

You can't always get what you want

 
You can't always get what you want.
But if you lie sometime, you just might find
Many still believe. Aaaaahhwaw...
(and buy millions of copies of your "nonfiction" book).
 
In defending the proposition that death is not finalEben Alexander cited Demon Haunted World to claim that "Carl Sagan admitted that [the evidence for] past life memories in children...is overwhelming." Steven Novella called him out on this during the debate and quickly posted the relevant quote afterwards - clearly showing that Sagan thought these claims were probably not valid and that there was only "dubious" evidence for them at the time he wrote the book (it was published almost 20 years ago now). Yet in his own post-debate reflections Alexander not only fails to correct his mischaracterization of Sagan's view on this issue (or mention the audience vote showing he lost), but he then proceeds to cherry pick another Sagan quote - on the suppression of uncomfortable ideas.

But unlike Velikovsky's worlds in collision, Alexander's ideas are not at all uncomfortable to many who desperately want to believe them. And he provides no evidence to support them - only anecdotes and an argument from ignorance (the hard problem of consciousness). I think we know how Sagan would have dealt with Alexander's "overwhelming evidence"...



And since we're quoting Sagan, where are those eloquent words on the actual proposition at hand?
If some good evidence for life after death were announced, I'd be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote.... Better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy...
I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking...
The world is so exquisite, with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better, it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look Death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides...
 - Carl Sagan 



Our lives here are not dress rehearsals. This is the act. This is the one performance that we get.
 - Sean Carroll 

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