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Life After Death: The Evidence Hardcover – Nov 2 2009
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A brilliant investigation of the fascinating and crucial issue of what happens when we die. It is an inquiry conducted on the basis of scholarship and reason and it provides a convincing answer that is explosive in its impact.”
--RICK WARREN, author of The Purpose Driven® Life
From the Inside Flap
Is death the end? Or, as bestselling author Dinesh D’Souza argues, do the latest discoveries in physics and neuroscience, the most convincing philosophical deductions, and the most likely conclusions from anthropology and biology lend increasing credibility to the prospect of life after death?
Life After Death: The Evidence presents a reasoned, scientifically based case that life after death is more than possible, it is highly probable. Indeed it has far more evidence on its side than atheistic arguments about death marking our complete and utter extinction. In a stunning tour de force, D’Souza reveals:
How modern science lays the groundwork for a science-based belief in life after death
The distinctions between mind and brain—and why it is perfectly reasonable to assume that your immaterial consciousness can survive the dissolution of your material body
The great atheist philosopher who provided one of the most ingenious proofs for the likelihood of an afterlife
How the theory of evolution, far from undercutting the idea of life after death, supports it
The evidence of Near Death Experiences—what it tells us, what it doesn’t
Why the Christian view of the afterlife is the most compelling and best suits the evidence
What the probability of life after death means for our lives before death
Provocative, and combining a mastery of the arguments from philosophy, physics, and biology with an incisive analysis of how the world’s major religions have viewed the afterlife, D’Souza shows why we can expect that what Shakespeare called the undiscovered country” will be discovered by us all.
Top Customer Reviews
Now for the good, the book is quite refreshing. Even though I just said I would have liked more content on NDEs, the fact that Dinesh didn't rely entirely on them was most welcome. I've read a significant amount on NDEs and I honestly expected this just to be one more kick at the can, albeit with Dinesh's great writing style. It was surprising to read arguments for the afterlife based entirely on philosophy, evolution, neuroscience and other essentially non-religious fields; it was great reading regardless of one's worldview. This book is also great because it challenges many views held by the fundamentalists out there, both religious and materialist. Those who take the Bible as 100% literal and those who refuse to acknowledge the possibility of a spiritual component to reality will either have their eyes opened by this book, or sadly, continue to shut their eyes and plug their ears. It is my hope when you pick up this book that you will not be the latter, because this book is important.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This being said, there are things the 1-star reviewers have mentioned that I agree with. The first, I think has been alluded to if not stated outright: The Title. I think it's misleading. Life After Death: The Evidence. Seems pretty general. But it's anything but. It should have been titled Life After Death: Reason for Belief from a Christian Perspective or something to that effect. Also, I don't know if I like the term 'evidence' as its used. Semantically, it sets up the expectation that the book will be mostly data-centered when the book, though comprehensive, is mostly rhetorical.
What I did not appreciate - which a few of the 1-star reviewers point out - is Dinesh's underhanded arrogance in dragging his tied-and-gagged colleagues to center stage only to ridicule them. I don't know him - so I might be projecting and maybe those he throws under the bus do not take offense? Though I can't imagine why not. An inside joke perhaps? Even still...I think the jabs he takes are childish. If I we had a chance to talk, I would ask him about this. I believe we're all trying to figure this life out. I understand that debate is competition, but I do not view it as sport - which Dinesh through his own words - seems to revel in. Debate is not about dismantling people - but ideas. For the honest, getting as close to Truth as possible is the ultimate glory - not the pride in our ability to arrive at it. Though this goes both ways - I believe Dinesh - as a professed Christian - bound to the unconditional Love of Christ - 'ought' (to borrow from the book) to speak the Truth in love and *humility*. And although I understand when making an argument, one needs to be firm, I don't think any talk regarding the after life can ever arrive at the absolute. I think this is especially true considering Dinesh demonstates science to be standing on the ground of perception. Therefore I think arguing from probability rather than the absolute would have been more consistent and persuasive. I was also surpised about how little he talked about `faith'... (blind or informed)
Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Some of the criticisms aimed at Dinesh I believe are warranted. However, if there's one thing I can't stand it's the ad-hominem. This book is anything but `idiotic'. Boring - fine. Don't agree? Sure. But idiotic? Having only skimmed a few of the top reviews but read nearly every tilted review, I was prepared to be disappointed. However, I was surprised to find how comprehensive this book is. One may disagree with the conclusion of his arguments, but one cannot deny how thorough his arguments are. Dinesh tackles all angles of the question and invokes the work of so many experts in their respective fields from a multitude of perspectives and cultures - from antiquity to modern day - it felt like an all you can eat buffet for the mind. That's what I respect most about this book. He doesn't wield his own sword - he invokes the wisdom of those who have gone before him - from the atheist to the muslim. He certainly sets out to defend his conclusions but not without addressing the other side of the argument. Despite the arrogance which percolated through every so often, I found him surprisingly even-handed a majority of the time. He might have been confident in his conclusion, but his journey there didn't resort to much dogma. He reduced a lot of his arguments to `possibility' and even gave positions he disagreed with merit. Although I disagree that his arguments provide `evidence' (as we know it in empirical terms), they do provide solid reasons why probability favors an after life. Perhaps I'm predisposed to believing so? I'm not sure how much more complete you can get when you argue from physics, neuroscience, religion, history, sociology, philosophy and psychology (forgive me if I missed one).
The last section on the Resurrection - though I understand where he was going with it - I don't know if it adds much to the discussion. If this is 'evidence' then the preceding chapters were unnecessary. But evidence? I'm uncomfortable with that. Although all the commentaries, debates and analyses of the historical accounts of the Resurrection corroborated by experience have led me to believe it's probably true, that's a matter of faith. A realm science will never be able to touch.
Despite my beef with Dinesh's title and public beef, I think he made a strong case. One day, we'll see if he's right. For all of us - death will be the ultimate unveiling. Either our beliefs will mock us, save us or die with us. No argument will be necessary and all this back-and-forth, he-said, she-said BS will end...
NOTE: I did not receive a free copy of this book. I bought it with my own hard-earned money because of my undying (pun intended) existential and intellectual questions regarding the trifold union of God, man and nature.
PS If anyone is interested in further research lying outside the boundaries of NDE's in respect to religion...namely Judeo-Christianity, and its relationship to other religions and world-views in light of historical and modern scholarship, may I suggest the robust apologetics315.com. A lot of Mr. D'Souza's debates are catalogued there. Aso....entirely supplemental: If you're into podcasts, check out Justin Brierly's UK based show "Unbelievable?" - its format is a respectfully moderated dialogue/debate between scholars of opposing viewpoints on any given subject related to science and religion.
D'Souza has spent much of the last decade debating the foremost atheists like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett on the validity of atheist claims that all religions are complete nonsense and in fact damaging to society. I've also seen some of his debates on C-Span, YouTube and BookTV. D'Souza's knowledge of atheism and debating skills are definitely impressive. The following statement from atheist Christopher Hitchens appears on the back cover of this book: "Never one to be daunted by attempting the impossible, Dinesh D'Souza here shows again the argumentative skills that make him such a formidable opponent."
In this book, D'Souza attempts to look for proof of life after death using only the atheist's tools, science and logic. He begins by making some pretty bold assertions in chapter one. D'Souza boldly claims he will successfully dismantle the atheist's arguments and show religious beliefs concerning the afterlife are equally or even a better answer to scientific discoveries and assumptions about the possibility and even the probability of a material and immaterial reality. After reading this, I really thought he was setting himself up for certain failure.
This is one of those books that must be read carefully, with attention to details, as each argument builds on the last one, and each chapter adds additional information to D'Souza's arguments. Skimming or reading a chapter here and there will fail to allow the reader to glean D'Souza's evidence. Clearly, some chapters are more interesting than others. However, I strongly recommend the reader resist skipping any material, or only read D'Souza's summary conclusions.
D'Souza tries to build his case by first revealing atheists as clever purveyors of false arguments and false accusations, which amount to what D'Souza calls "false advertising." Then he compares the atheist's refusal to consider life beyond the material world to that of actual cases of universal and philosophical-based belief in the afterlife. In one of the more unusual chapters, he explores communication with the dead, reincarnation, and near-death or beyond-death experiences. Unless this is a particularly interesting subject for the reader, this can be a tedious chapter. Some Reviewers take D'Souza to task over this chapter. Most seem to see this information as the most likely way to prove life beyond the grave and got pretty upset when D'Souza generally dismisses the validity of the claims of what he calls dialogues with the dead.
Beginning with chapter five, D'Souza gets to the science of his arguments. He considers how physics has changed in the last half-century or so and what Physicists now believe concerning our universe and beyond and the laws that govern it. He specifically compares Newtonian physics with Einstein's conclusions concerning relativity, spacetime and curved gravity, as well as information from quantum mechanics. I thought this was one of his best chapters.
The next chapter was a little confusing. Primarily because D'Souza seems to spend as much time personally embracing the evolutionary process as he does pointing out its shortcomings. He does point out that evolution cannot, and does not claim to apply the theory to the origins and beginning of time, space and matter, the essential building blocks of life. In chapter six, he focuses on Psychology and the search for the immaterial within the material body, the soul and the mind. According to D'Souza, many psychologists insist there is no immaterial part to mankind; thus the mind, thought process, reasoning, desires, wishes, etc. are simply the operation of neurons in the brain. Yet others, like biologist Jacques Monod, operate according to what is called "postulate of objectivity," which D'Souza says means modern science's subjective domain is limited to only the study of material (observable) things, making, therefore, the study of the mental outside the reach of science. By the end of this chapter, D'Souza concludes the scientific argument against the existence of a human soul collapses because the soul is neither material nor objective. D'Souza states, "Does this make life after death reasonable? Not yet, but it does make it plausible."
D'Souza then considers whether consciousness and free will actually exists and, according to science, is material or immaterial. In this chapter, he shows how doggedly stubborn scientists can be when faced with the obvious. D'Souza states that "Philosopher Daniel Dennett has made perhaps the best sustained effort to explain consciousness from a scientific point of view." Yet what is Dennett's conclusion?... "Consciousness does not exist." D'Souza summarizes one of Dennett's arguments about "Zombies" during a debate: "Although people aren't conscious and consequently have no feelings or intentions, we should treat them as if they were conscious and did have feelings and intentions." "Why would an intelligent man like Dennett say this?" replies D'Souza. Later, D'Souza closes that chapter showing that Immanuel Kant actually proved that both an immaterial human consciousness and free will do exist, something modern science denies. "We have seen with Kant's help that free will exists, and therefore it follows that we are not merely material objects in a lawful universe. The startling conclusion is that there is a part of human nature that transcendentally operates outside the physical laws governing material things." From this D'Souza draws his conclusion that consciousness and free will have no natural explanation and terefore function beyond the bounds of physical law. Thus, he says, they are not perishable and regardless of what happens to our material bodies and brains after death, our souls live on.
I took Philosophy classes in college and I admit that has been awhile ago. And I certainly never imagined myself a philosopher. So now after reading D'Souza's chapter entitled Philosophy Discovers the Afterlife, I am absolutely sure I will never become one either. Clearly, this was the most difficult chapter for me to grasp and I'm still not sure I understand D'Souza's central point. He contends that Kant's view of the real world, and the world of our sensory perceptions of it, allow the existence of a rational route to afterworlds. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, a kind of modern-day protégé of Kant, took Kant's volume of work even further, correcting and adjusting it as he went along. D'Souza concludes "In a sense they provide solid intellectual grounding for what previously was affirmed only on the basis of faith. Our conclusion, then, is that there is good reason to believe in the afterlife." In my opinion, that's easy for D'Souza to say. I feel like I missed a turn somewhere in this chapter.
D'Souza really begins to roll in the next few chapters. But rather than give away the specifics of the ending, suffice it to say D'Souza really bears down here and focuses on the final analysis and conclusions of his thesis. Yes, you will just have to get the book and read it for yourself. When I picked up this book, I expected a much larger volume. D'Souza has packed a lot of material in this book's 235 pages. Most of it has significant footnoting, which is cited in an Endnote section, along with a Subject Index at the end of the book.
Generally speaking, D'souza uses his last chapter to summarize his arguments. However, if you are tempted to flip back and read that chapter first, you will probably be disappointed. His summary is very brief and could leave the reader bewildered and dissatisfied. Most of the final chapter is not unlike the ending of his previous book "What's So Great About Christianity?" Some of it was worthwhile, while the rest of it left me with the question...Why was this added?
Just like the question "Is there an afterlife?" the book "Life After Death (The Evidence)" and its author's analysis and conclusions will be discussed, debated, lauded, criticized, and maligned for years to come. So, whether there is an afterlife or not, this question will continue to be asked, pondered and argued by mankind now and on into the future. Whether or not you took the time to carefully read and considered D'Souza's extensive material, arguments and conclusions, he has certainly shown courage in tackling this subject, knowing very well all the criticism he will draw. I do take my hat off to him for his bold adventure into such an emotionally-charged arena. Read it if you care, or just read it if you dare, but please avoid putting sneeringly sarcastic comments in print like those who didn't bother giving this book fair consideration, but rather opted to spill their ideological guts all over Amazon.com anyway. My time reading D'souza's book was time well spent, so I chose to write a Book Review instead of a personal blog full of my own opinions. This book was definitely a worthwhile read, even though all of D'Souza's arguments weren't always as clear and convincing as I'm sure he would have liked them to be.
However, if the atheist presses any further on the matter, most Christians would readily throw up their hands and concede with this refrain:
"I just know, ok? I know it doesn't all add up, but I can just feel that it's true deep down inside. That's enough to convince me."
Don't get me wrong. Personal experience is important -- as are fulfilled prophecies and archeological artifacts -- but the problem with arguing on these premises is that such matters seem utterly silly and unconvincing to your average nonbeliever. Unfortunately, the Church is fond of gathering evidence only so far as their own needs and curiosities require.
It is this type of Christian apologetics that Dinesh D'Souza hopes to enrich in his new book, Life After Death: The Evidence.
Although most of D'Souza's analysis is focused on proving the existence of an afterlife rather than simply the existence of God, many of his arguments could be used to support both propositions. What is clear, however, is that D'Souza's apologetics are far from the Christian norm.
"We speak one kind of language in church," D'Souza says, "and must learn to speak another while making our case in secular culture."
But what kind of "language" is that?
"I want to engage atheism and reductive materialism on their own terms, and to beat them at their own game...I am not going to appeal to divine intervention or miracles, because I am making a secular argument in a secular culture...[Secularists] wonder if there is something more beyond death, and they are eager to hear an argument that meets them where they are, uses facts they can verify, and doesn't already presume the conclusion it seeks to establish."
This is what separates D'Souza's arguments from the rest. He approaches the likes of Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins not with Bible verses or creationist appeals to God, but with pure and basic reason.
This reasoning is applied in three independent fields, and thus his application leads to three independent arguments. The first (and largest) argument is scientific, in which D'Souza jumps from biology to neuroscience to physics to basic empirical investigation. The second argument is philosophical, in which D'Souza provides a compelling pro-afterlife analysis backed by thinkers like Plato, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and Arthur Schopenhauer. The last argument is a moral one, and here D'Souza relies a mix of moral philosophy (a la Adam Smith), moral psychology, and cultural analysis.
Again, these three arguments are independent of each other. You could hang your hat on any one of them if you thought the others were unconvincing. However, all are equally compelling, and when considered together they provide an altogether convincing conclusion.
D'Souza is primarily concerned with proving the case for the existence of an afterlife (a somewhat universal concept), but much of Life After Death is also focused on examining which prediction is the most probable. On this matter, D'Souza's final conclusions all point to Christianity, but he stops at some interesting places along the way. For example, his thorough examination of Eastern conceptions of the afterlife (e.g. reincarnation) are particularly fascinating, not to mention surprisingly convincing.
On the whole, Life After Death will still leave questions for both the atheist and the believer (whatever your religion). Indeed, there is significant credence to the argument that believing in an afterlife -- or not believing in one -- requires an element of faith.
But D'Souza answers questions that are imperative for both believers and nonbelievers. If you have not yet considered the full scientific, philosophical, and moral implications of your beliefs about the afterlife, D'Souza will challenge you.
For many Christians, D'Souza's rare mention of God will be unappealing and his scientific and philosophical banter will be tedious, but this book should be accepted and promoted by believers not just as a useful tool for converting secularists, but as a fresh and challenging opportunity for the Church to stop being so intellectually stale.
D'sousa's book would be a great Philosophy 101 primer on the topic. It skims over some scientific gaps ( however, none of which science does not ask of itself), it introduces some of the great ideas of philosophy through the ages such as Socrates, Kant, Schopenhauer,( though I think Nietzche is misrepresented), as well as some criticism of modern scientists such as Dawkins and Gribbins and others atheists which, not surprisongly, are misrepresented. But from the beginning, though, it is clear that this will be another christian tract rehashing the same old stuff with not much new, though, giving credit where due,he had a few intersting slants...but slanted it ,indeed, was.
A few of my gripes were:
1. Presentation of Pascal's Wager as if it had any meaning. The idea that if you believe and are wrong you lose nothing but if you dont believe and are wrong you lose everything, is only valid when Christianity v. Atheism are the only options. But if the Muslims are right Christians will burn for their heresy; if Buddhists are right they will still be caught in the wheel of samsara; if hindus are right they might still take birth as a cockroach,etc. Other views are not adequatly covered because of its Christian slant which at least is NOT a HIDDEN agenda.
2. No new ideas are really present. The title claims that evidence will presented but there is none. Sure, it is an interesting survey of past ideas of philosophy and that science does not rule out an afterlife, but no evidence that there is an afterlife is presented.Though I credit him for his chapter on NDE, not because it was informative but rather that this is territory not often tread upon by Christians.Would have really been interesting if he touched on remote viewing.
I want an afterlife as much as anyone and I'm open to hear any new evidence but this book contains none.
3. It is a book intended to win souls and the author makes no secret of this. Therefore, he makes the standard christian blunder of jumping from " science has gaps" to " therefore the Bible must be true". HELLO...science KNOWS it has gaps.Guess what, so does religion and he does absolutly nothing to fill them.He points out that science may not be the only way of knowing and that the standards of reason and truth change over time. But the same is true of religion and faith is by definition not a way of knowing. So we're still left with nothing remotely resembling evidence for an afterlife.
4. He makes the standard arguments for the ressurection of Christ found in standard apologetic works none of which are logical or solid enough to convince anyone except those already convinced and I'm not." Will people die for a lie?". I refer you to 911. "There were eyewitnesses", just as there were when Ganesha was reported around the world to be drinking milk offerings in...oh, I forget the year, etc.
5. It presents the nonsensical view that morality has no real meaning outside of religon and belief in God.
Three stars because, while it is a very good presentation of the topic there is no evidence as promised in the title and I found it , on those grounds to be deceptive, nor was there even a solid argument for the afterlife.It still comes down to faith.
I'd love some evidence. Youre preaching to the choir when you tell me that science does not have all the answers and there are many gaps. I already know this. But there are no answers, no evidence to be found here, just a fairly decent philosophy review.
Life After Death stands apart from them by marching smartly into the teeth of the strongest arguments atheists can muster for a materialistic worldview. The author kindly takes them on, point by point, to show their arguments as superficial and inadequate to answer the larger questions posed by astrophysics, philosophy, sociology and psychology. He does not play the triumphalist who loudly proclaims victory over his foes, rather with humor and kindness gently leads the reader into the deeper waters of his arguments and makes his points one-by-one, piling up strong, if not overwhelming, evidence to support his thesis.
This is an ideal read for a layperson who is smart and curious but not expert in the various disciplines D'Souza explores. I recommend it highly.