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Hallucinating the Afterlife: Oliver Sacks Talks to Skeptical Inquirer about Near-Death Experiences a

April 22, 2013

Famed neuroscientist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks casts a critical eye on near-death testimonials from those who claim to have visited the afterlife, in a new interview with Skeptical Inquirer.

Books such as Proof of Heaven and Heaven is For Real have been flying off shelves lately, tantalizing readers with what purport to be   genuine glimpses into the great beyond. But Sacks, whose own books include Musicophelia, The Mind’s Eye, and Awakenings (on which the Robin Williams-Robert DeNiro film was based), explains that while these kinds of experiences seem real, in the confines of a brain experiencing a hallucination, “a few seconds of altered consciousness as one emerges from coma would be enough” to give someone what felt like a lifetime of meaningful experiences.

Dr. Sacks, a professor of neurology at New York University, is interviewed for Skeptical Inquirer by neuroscientist Indre Viskontas, who has her own experience investigating such “heavenly” claims as the former host of the Oprah network’s “Miracle Detectives,” and as co-host of the podcast Point of Inquiry.

Also in this issue: Benjamin Radford carefully works to explain what looks like a “false flag” conspiracy regarding the death of Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza;

Air Force Academy professor and civil libertarian Barry Fagin challenges what he sees as the skeptic movement’s bias toward liberal politics and policy at the expense of critical evaluation; and George Mason University’s Eugenie V. Mielczarek and Brian D. Engler look at the fallout from the government’s incentivizing the insertion of alternative medicine into medical school curricula, calling it a “two-decade fiscal morass of mythological non-evidence based delivery of medical care.”

The May-June edition of Skeptical Inquirer is available on newsstands now. For more information, visit

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Skeptical Inquirer is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. CSI encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. Learn more about CSI and SI at