Thursday, October 29, 2015

Origin Story

My latest Secular Spectrum post tells the tale of how I transitioned from agnostic to atheist and finally evolved into a skeptic. Here's the link: Origin Story.

I was raised an agnostic, so when I realized I had become an atheist when I was 13 or 14, it was hardly a wrenching transition. But I reveled in tales of the supernatural and such pseudoscientific subjects as ESP and clairvoyance. I even thought I might be a bit psychic. Something changed when I began identifying as an atheist, however. Slowly, I began seeing the world through a critical filter. So long ESP, hello confirmation bias.


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Coma Girl

Coma Girl

Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine

In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.

I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.

But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.