alle0518: March 2012 Archives

Heaven is For Real

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The New York Time's best selling book Heaven Is For Real is about a four year old boy named Colton, who went to heaven while he was in surgery after a burst appendix. Skeptical? So was I.
His parents say that they at first didn't want to entertain the little boy's stories, but three things convinced them that they were true.
1.He know where his father was and what he was doing while he was being operated on.
2.He came back with knowledge of meeting his miscarried sibling, who he had no prior knowledge of.
3.He claimed to have met his great-grandfather, and could identify pictures of him when he was a young man.
His parents claim that there is no way he could have known any of these things, so therefore his story must be true. As a skeptical person, I would have still said this story isn't true, but some of the things I learned in psychology are going to help me say that. First: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I do not consider the testimony of a four year old extraordinary evidence, especially after learning about the shortcomings of memory in chapter 7. As we learned, children very susceptible to suggestions, as shown with the example of "Sam Stone." Children also have a hard time telling which memories are real, and which are false. Besides that, everyone's memory is susceptible to false memories!
Here is where the story gets fishy. Colton's father, who was the one who wrote the book, is a preacher. Colton was raised in a very religious household, with Bible stories being told to him every night before bed. Colton claims to have seen the Holy Spirit "shoot down" power to his dad preaching to their congregation while sitting in Jesus's lap. First thing, his father didn't preach at all while Colton was in the hospital. Second, Christian doctrine says that the Holy Spirit resides within a person, not in heaven.
Here are some more inconsistencies:
Colton describes details of what Jesus looked like, including the nail marks in his hands and feet. It is well known that Romans drove nails through the wrists during crucifixion, not the hands, which wouldn't have held up the weight of a body. When shown pictures of Jesus and asked which one looked most like him, he identified Akiane Kramarik's portrait of Jesus with blue eyes called "Prince of Peace". princeofpeace13_thumb1.jpg He chose a popular image of Jesus, not a more accurate one of a man with more middle-eastern looking descent. He story also fell to popular conceptions of heaven, like the pearly gate. He described a golden gate, with many pearls on it. The only description the Bible has of pearly gates is seven gates made of a single pearl, no gold.
I could pick on more things, I am only going to keep it to two more. First, Colton never died while he was in the hospital, he claims to have gone to heaven while he was in surgery. If he had died we could explain his story as a near-death experience, the result of endorphins overwhelming the brain. Next, his stories came about over the next few years, not right after his "experience." Occam's Razor: Is it simpler to believe that Colton went to heaven, or that he is experiencing false memories created by phenomenas like the misinformation effect?

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