Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Robert Mays did a bit of fact checking on Luke Dittrich’s Esquire article about NDEr Eben Alexander, and it came up rather short in terms of journalistic integrity. I’ve written about this in my blog already, but Craig suggested that I continue here with some additional commentary. It’s important to set the record straight.
There were some red flags in the Esquire article that stood out immediately, such as the bizarre way in which the Dalai Lama’s comments to Dr Alexander were mischaracterized by Dittrich. It certainly makes no sense to anyone who has seen the video of that event. Just watch the video yourself. As Robert Mays pointed out, Dittrich somehow missed some rather important bits of dialogue, such as this:
[47:46] [DL] And for that also you see, we must investigate. Through investigation we must get sure that person is truly reliable and his experience is something not just illusion of these things. [48:02] Through then thorough investigation, that person is reliable, never telling lie – and in this particular case [there] is no reason to tell lie – therefore, [translator] so then one can take the testimony to be credible. [translator] So the point I’m trying to make is that with respect to science and its scope for discovering knowledge, we need to make a distinction about the fact that there might be certain types of phenomena which are beyond the scope of scientific inquiry. (emphasis added)
The main impetus of the Esquire article was to debunk all of NDE research based on one case. It’s essentially telling us that the “biological robot” meme is true, so stop wasting time reading about NDEs. It’s an appeal to be willfully blind to the large body of evidence in peer-reviewed literature that considers many such cases, based on Dittrich’s attempt to debunk a single case. And he wasn’t even able to do so honestly.
Interestingly enough, Dittrich is currently writing a book about his neurosurgeon grandfather’s work on memory. Just the sort of work being brought into question by today’s consciousness research, especially work focusing on NDEs. Could that be the reason Dittrich so aggressively attacked Dr Alexander’s reputation without actually checking the facts?
Alex Tsakiris, host of the Skeptiko podcast, invited Mr Dittrich on the show to give him the opportunity to defend his work and explain why there wasn’t a reasonable effort made to do some basic fact checking. Dittrich declined.
Quite honestly, The Esquire article goes beyond just being sloppy and inaccurate journalism. Dittrich seems to have purposefully twisted statements and misrepresented the facts in a determined effort to cause harm to Dr Alexander’s reputation. The most damning statement in regards to the inaccuracy of the Esquire article comes from Dr Laura Potter, Dittrich’s prime witness against Dr Alexander.
“I am saddened by and gravely disappointed by the article recently published in Esquire. The content attributed to me is both out of context and does not accurately portray the events around Dr. Eben Alexander’s hospitalization. I felt my side of the story was misrepresented by the reporter. I believe Dr. Alexander has made every attempt to be factual in his accounting of events.” —Dr. Laura Potter
I recommend reading Robert Mays’ full article on the IANDS website. He goes into a great deal of detail on a number of inaccuracies in the Esquire article.
Thank you, Robert, for setting the record straight.