Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Eben Alexander & Raymond Moody vs Sean Carroll & Steven Novella - Death is Not Final 2014

This debate ( audio | video | transcript | 1:43.05s ) was an Intelligence Squared Debate that took place in New York and featured Dr Eben Alexander Neurosurgeon and living proof himself that death is not final paired with Dr Raymond Moody, the man who first coined the term Near-Death Experience (NDE) versus Cal Tech Physicist Dr Sean Carroll and Neuroscientist plus noted awesome skeptic Dr Steven Novella. The topic was "Death is Not Final".

3.75 Stars. Easily 4 stars based on the performances of Carroll, Novella, and to a lesser extent Alexander but taken down a notch due to the rather one-sided debate topic and the overly domineering moderator.

Eben Alexander went first pretty much presenting himself as the penultimate case for his side's claim that death is not final. Alexander went into a 7 day coma and was essentially a vegetable but he astonishingly awoke and eventually recovered from the event. He further claims to have profound visionary experiences during his coma.

Alexander explains all of this he actually comes off very well and I could certainly see how his presentation could seem even persuasive. However he really just sticks to his own case and actually gets cut off by Donvan due to time.

Carroll follows and is very well spoken, though he gives more of a lecture and uses what I now know is one of his favorite lines about Kant and blades of grass. More substance appears to come from Novella in terms of opening presentations.

But even though Carroll's opening isn't as vigorous as I'd like it's still where this debate pretty much dies for the other side. Even with Alexander standing as an actual opposing anecdote right there with Carroll and Novella, and even if he was fairly impactful in his own opening, he's just one guy. Just one guy with a few others versus the rest of the scientific knowledge we've gained about the topic. So Carroll certainly gets the lance ready and aimed at the opposition and Novella sinks the death blow in deep.

Alexander never really has as much umhf as his opening displayed during the remainder of the debate and Moody seems pretty demure about the entire subject. Whereas Carroll gets stronger both in terms of arguments and rhetoric and Novella gets specific with Alexander's claims in a pretty persuasive manner.

However the debate seemed like it was just too weak a topic. There's a reason why (good) atheists debaters talk about the mind-body dependency argument amongst three or four other arguments and a reason why Craig will mention it amongst eight's just not a whole lot to chew on for a full-on debate. Good for a radio discussion, sure...but not a two on two epic event.
So it seems like that plus the moderator pull this debate out of being a 4 star listen, especially when we consider the ultimately weak arguments from Alexander and Moody, too.

Concerning the moderator

This is the first IQ^2 US debate I've heard and in short I will check them out only if there are other great speakers in the other debates because the moderator John Donvan who was just unnecessarily barging in on everything, cutting off any of the debaters, repeating what one guy just said to the other side even though everyone heard the first guy speak already. He also apparently decided to cut off questioners or skipped their questions if he deemed them irrelevant to the debate. Noted skeptic Richard Spencer (I think) actually asked a question and Donvan cut him off and told him he's gonna skip his question. This wasn't the only questioner Donvan decided brought nothing to the topic, either. It seemed completely against the spirit of the structure of these types of debates.

To be fair, John Donvan is not the only moderator I have seen done this in the past. For some reason, people who have more extensive presentation backgrounds, like Donvan, think they need to be more prominent in debates in the same way they might be more active in a panel or for a Natural History Museum Event or something.

Gang, don't do this for debates. Even when moderators do this and support the side I support, it is annoying. One example was the last Dillahunty debate I posted and another absolutely dreadful example was a 2012 911 Conspiracy debate between Jonathan Kay and absolute crackpot Webster Tarpley. David Frum moderated and he was smug, obnoxious, and caused a lot of unneeded tension during the event. He didn't interrupt the speakers, though, which is nice.

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