Top positive review
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Comprehensive but I do have qualms with the presentation...
on June 15, 2010
When I'm interested in a book (specifically non-fiction) or a film (documentary), I always read the 1-star reviews first because I believe its important to listen to the cross-examination. If you believe in the great flying spaghetti monster (ala Dawkins) and someone writes a book offering 'proof' - you're probably going to give the book a high rating because it affirms your beliefs. Conversely, if your parents force-fed you spaghetti until you threw up and you abhor all things that fly, chances are you might give the book a terrible rating because you don't want to believe such a monster could exist. Point is - Sometimes people will see what they want to see. For instance - crop circles for some is evidence of aliens. Nevermind human ingenuity. In the interest of Truth, I think criticism - even the most extreme - only brings us closer to correctly perceiving it.
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.