I must admit that after the last generally successful book by author Dinesh D'Souza (What's So Great About Christianity?) his most recent book came as quite a surprise. I have read a number of D'Souza's books and I honestly had no idea why he would tackle such an unusual subject. I definitely debated whether to invest the time on his new book, Life After Death (The Evidence). I'm glad I did.
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.
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.
on August 29, 2010
Let's imagine that an atheist asks a Christian to prove the existence of God. Most Christians would typically respond by pointing to some kind of personal experience or encounter. If the atheist is especially lucky, the Christian may be able to talk about a few fulfilled prophecies or relatively unknown archeological artifacts.
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.
on January 19, 2010
For one of the best books on the topic see Spook by Mary Roach.
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.
on November 13, 2009
Like an extended conversation with a generous and likable friend, this is a book to treasure, and read more than once. I applaud D'Sousa's strategy of not using the often irrational, emotional and highly personal accounts of people who testify to NDEs. Nor does he engage in the circular arguments of the devout who use scripture to prove their points. There are many fine books that do both of these.
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.
on November 4, 2009
In all his previous books, Dinesh D'Souza has typically challenged long-held assumptions in order to find, or get closer, to the truth. "Life After Death: The Evidence," however, examines a question most of us ask ourselves and one which all of us should be asking: what comes after we "die"? And by using this method, he helps us question how we may get closer to the truth about life and mortality, which leads logically to the question of immortality. Atheists frothing at the mouth to belittle a book based on faith in God and immortality (hey Boston College - why not release the debate tape between Alan Wolfe and D'Souza if Wolfe is as bright as he claims?) rushed in typical fashion to write simple-minded reviews blasting this book for doing what D'Souza does best: tackle tough questions that atheists cannot answer. But D'Souza confuses the nonbelievers in his new book by providing evidence for life after death by employing the scientific method - the same logic atheists claim eliminates any possibility of an afterlife. What do we "know"? We are "born," we hopefully live a fruitful life, and we "die." What happened before we were "born"? What happens after we "die"? D'Souza is one of the best analysts of qualitative and quantitative data and a first-rate researcher and author, and "Life After Death" is a gift to all of us. If we value our lives and those of others, there are no other issues more important than the one D'Souza brings to life in his new book. As usual, is it clearly written and logical. Buy this book and re-think your life. Then re-think your afterlife. This book belongs on everyone's bookshelf.
on May 1, 2016
Book Review of Life After Death the Evidence
by Dinesh D’Souza
Regnory, Washington, D.C., 2009
In my New York debate on “Is Christianity the Problem?” with Christopher Hitchens, a lively affair, against a resourceful opponent - one of the most interesting questions came from a man from the island nation on Tonga. For centuries, the man said, Tonga suffered terrible vendettas, tribal wars, and even cannibalism. Then the missionaries came with their doctrines of God, universal brotherhood and the afterlife. Today, the man said, Tonga is a much more peaceful and happy place. Then, turning to Hitchens he said, “You have given us some interesting theories, but what do you have to offer us?” Hitchens was momentarily speechless (Pg. 185).
This, of course, raises two questions: “Does atheism have anything to offer?” and “Is there life after atheism?” Well, both of those questions are rendered meaningless by this book as it details comprehensively and then rebuts all the anti-cultural psychopathic depressing offerings of one atheist after another. Life After Death details by Thomistic erudition how the obsessional empirical rationalism of atheists is wrong and intellectually embarrassing. The scientism of atheists is shown to subvert truth and tradition as reasoned arguments are censored and distorted. The science of atheists does not ennoble mankind nor does it improve our understanding of ourselves even if it superficially improves satisfaction in this earthly life. The principle of uncertainty proves how the empirical fragmentation and mathematical specialization of atheistic science destroys all it studies because it reduces the being of its subjects as it studies them. Without transcendental interpretation and activation, science, with the arrogant pretentious satisfaction of anti-transcendental “creation,” creates non-being (which is a valid definition of “evil” in which atheists cannot believe without becoming spiritual). D’Souza makes us realize that it is more rational to act believing and knowing that there is life after death.
D’Souza’s review of near death experiences proves a fascinating topic deserving continued attention. The chapters on the laws of physics, the big bang, and the anthropic principle provide an understandable scientific basis for belief while the description of the wild bizarre zero-probability theories of a Multiverse (page 86) demonstrate to this reader the laughable God-phobic trivialities to which atheists flee.
The chapter, “Undeniable Teleology: The Plot of Evolution,” is great fun especially for those of us who are agnostics about evolution after having been “believers” of evolution for most of our lives. Consistent with D’Souza, we will not deny the teleology, but we will deny Darwinian evolution1 (Easy to do once one understands (1) the “pheromone problem” in that sub-human animals with biochemical certitude effectively only mate with their own kind, and thus there are no hybrids in nature; and (2) the “sterile hybrid problem” in that animal hybrids, when forcefully created by humans, cannot reproduce—Both facts absolutely prevent the major genetic transfers required by evolution as currently advertised). D’Souza presents evolution in a very gentle way –too gentle for me as I again loudly proclaim my discovering Richard Dawkins to be a bold scheming liar deserving no credibility—The suppression and censorship of my findings by the liberal press (as usual guiltless and without conscience) and scientists (as usual guiltless and without conscience) is an outrage (My criticisms of Dawkins and other loud atheists are available from me at [...]).
Chapter Seven, “The Spiritual Brain--Finding the Soul within the Body,” analyzes the neurological, psychophysiological, electrophysiological and computer aspects of mind-material-brain. This chapter is worth the price of the whole book, and it renders at least “plausible” that there is life after death.
The best evidence of contemporary neuroscience is that the mind cannot be equated with the brain, and while the deterioration of the brain might impede the operation of the mind, the two are separate, which makes it possible that our immaterial minds and consciousness might survive the termination of our physical frames (Pg. 125).
D’Souza’s analysis of consciousness, free will and immaterial self are adequate and nicely supplemented by my Theogeocalculus of Life2. His chapter on philosophy of reason, phenomena, subjectivity/objectivity, is transcendentalizing. He quotes atheist Schopenhauer: “Your real being knows neither time, nor beginning, nor end….Your immortal part is indestructible” (Pg. 162). Thus, the first modern atheist proves his Theophobia as he proclaims immortality—Schopenhauer, like them all, cannot bring himself to say “God,” and the psychology of unbelief can be seen as a mental disorder more delusional than any accusations or book by Richard Dawkins.
It is the atheists who are afflicted by Wunchtrum – wishful thinking. It is so thoughtless and easy to be a café atheist just mouthing off about that which is not known or believed. Like Freud3, the reaction formation to their childhood religiosity is overwhelmingly pathological.
So what do atheists bring except a denatured Christianity anyway? All their real goodness is a shadow of their latent and unconscious but denied Christianity. A real catastrophe would be an atheistic world. In fact, we’ve been there. While studying the Christian creation of America4, I found myself telling atheists to create their own country. Then I realized they did. It was called the Soviet Union. Godless materialism is all the Soviets offered – almost identical to what is now being offered today by those I call “soviets” (nee “liberals”)–it fits, except todays’ soviets do not have the overt militaristic expansion capability or forced unfree compliance yet, although the European Union does so more and more (The EU should be known more accurately as the European Soviet).
The significance of the book is that only those who act will win. Believers cannot sit on their hands. One must provoke to gain respect and receptivity from the man from Tonga and all others. One would be deaf, dumb and blind not to see the nothingness of what atheists believe and the contrary transcendental cornucopia of a life after death. The book made me reread the recommended book by Anthony Rizzi, The Science Before Science5.
Atheism is the prevention of evolution – it is the stagnating prevention of the human spirit. It is a polluting regression into non-being. It is soviet. D’Souza has defeated them all. One must read the book and embrace the exhaustive deep case D’Souza makes for Life after Death.
1. Nigro, Samuel, “Charles Darwin’s Bicentenary: Time for Celebration of an
Inquest? Social Justice Review May/June 2008, pages 72-76.
2. WWW. The TheoGeoCalculus of Life or Linacre Quarterly, August 2006.
3. Nigro, Samuel, “What You Should Know About Sigmund Freud,” Social Justice Review, May/June 2006, pp 71-76.
4. Nigro, Samuel, Book Review of The Crhistian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States by William Morris, American Vision, Georgia, USA 2007, 1060 pages, or
5. Rizzi, Anthony, The Science before Science: A Guide to Thinking in the 21st Century, Bloomington, Ind., Press of Institute for Advanced Physics, 2004, 390 pages.
on November 11, 2009
Polemic, irenic, elenchtic; all three styles of proof presentation are found in this book. Mr. D'Souza is at his best, inducing the reader to mull over the evidence for life after death.
Beginning with NDE claims, moving on to developments in physics that recognize possibilities beyond the limits of physical laws, observing a natural teleology evident in biology, exposing reductive materialism as counterfactual, identifying the naïveté of an empirical realism, offering the notion of "cosmic justice" as a basis for morality, that human choice is aspirational when clothed by conscience, and concluding that the products of science and philosophy posit beneficent design, the author reveals that the evidence is at least "clear and convincing" for life after death. Then, and most offending for some, it is evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that moves one to the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard of proof.
Despite the tenor of the reviews of this book, from virulent attack to accepting praise, the reader is only asked to think about the viability of the various models that currently occupy the field. And, that is certainly what the author has accomplished; he has advanced the discussion. He has done so thoughtfully and honestly and on a level that enables most readers to understand his argument.
Mr. D'Souza set out to offer a rational hope for immortality. In the process, he reveals that it is irrational to assume that ideas of eternality are somehow logically illicit and unscientific. Ironically, as demonstrated by this book, such an assumption is, in itself, intellectually unsophisticated and ultimately dishonest. Even a Sarte recognized that denial of immortality should lead to despair. All readers can agree on one fact - we shall all face death. One can despair, one can ignore, one can examine the claims of immortality, or one can deny without examination. One can act or be acted upon. In this context, examining the claims for immortality constitutes the act; being acted upon is . . .
on November 23, 2009
Life After Death is a breazy and readable introduction to a question that we all face: what happens after death?
D'Souza classifies beliefs in the afterlife into "Western" and "Eastern" -- a dubious system, since Advedic Hindus and Buddhists only account for a small number of "easterners." But most of the book, he argues from a more-or-less ecumenical perspective for the "religious" side against materialism. He gives seven main arguments for an afterlife: (1) Near-Death Experiences; (2) The possibilities for other worlds that modern physics opens up; (3) The apparent purposefulness that (he argues) modern science reveals to the universe. (4) Cognitive science does not explain the mind, he argues. (5) D'Souza attempts an argument for eternal life from the philosophy of Berkeley, Kant, and Schopenhaur. (6) He also argues that our sense of justice is best explained by supposing it to be fulfilled in the afterlife. He then takes a short break from arguing for the reality of an afterlife, to make the case that belief in it is good for us, as a society and as individvuals. (7) He winds up with a (more specifically Christian) historical argument for the resurrection of Jesus.
I found some chapters more persuasive than others. I wish D'Souza had spent more time on near-death experiences, by going more deeply into counter arguments. What he says is pretty good, and he does mention materialist theories, but more detail would have been helpful here. The chapter on justice is interesting. I would have appreciated more shoring up for his argument about the mind -- a very difficult issue to explain, given what happens when the brain deteriorates. What D'Souza writes on the Resurrection is short but I think covers the evidence well.
The chapter on philosophy seemed frankly bizarre. D'Souza tells us that his three philosophical heroes are highly persuasive, but that is not evident. For example:
"What Berkeley denies is not the world we experience, but rather the existence of a duplicate world of objects that correspond to our experience and yet exists apart from our experience."
D'Souza tries to involve an average New Yorker in his argument:
"Berkeley insists his philosophy would be completely obvious to the man in the street. Show (him) the Empire State Building and ask him, 'How do you know it's there?' His answer would be, 'Well, obviously I can see it . . . touch it . . . smell it.' . . . Never once would he pause to consider whether there was some 'real' Empire State Building apart from his perceptions that provided the external basis for his experience."
But that's the very question he's answering! "How do you know IT'S THERE!" The New Yorker's answer also assumes a "real Empire State Building" that was built long before he had perceptions: "I can see . . . 'IT.' Touch 'IT.' Smell 'IT.'"
Our senses provide evidence about the existence and nature of the world "outside." It is fair (I have argued in my books) to say that reason without faith cannot even perceive the world -- perception is based on faith, but not a blind faith. But what seeing faith allows us to see is really there!
Elsewhere, D'Souza remarks: "It is not life that must serve truth, but truth that must serve life."
On the contrary. One of the chief ends of life is to find truth; I would expect D'Souza to think so, too.
D'Souza occasionally makes smaller errors. Most importantly, despite our evangelical cliche, there ARE non-Christian religions that emphasize Grace, like Pure Land Buddhism. (See Reichelt's old book, Truth and Tradition in Chinese Buddhism, for copious examples, or my True Son of Heaven for the short version.)
But generally, D'Souza offers a fresh perspective on the facts. Most of his arguments are interesting, and some were new to me, at least. Having had the question of mind and body "on my mind" the past couple months, since hearing an Oxford neuroscientist (and Christian) deny the soul, I was glad to see D'Souza's book -- and overall, it was a worth-while read.
Aside from the force of his main arguments, D'Souza is generous with interesting detail. He goes behind Pascal's Wager to an interesting alternate version by the Muslim philosopher Al Ghazali. Some of his one-liners strike home: "We all know people who learned their morality through Hinduism or Christianity; whoever learned his morality from Hegel or Heidigger?" (Ouch! Marx, perhaps?) "Evolutionary theories like kin selection and reciprocal altruism utterly fail to capture this uniquely human sense of morality as duty or obligation." "Christianity is the only religion in history to consider another religion, Judaism, to be wholly true."
on December 6, 2010
If I had just read the Forward by Rick Warren, punctuated with statements like: "If this life is all there is, there is no basis for any meaning," "The Bible teaches our time on earth is essentially preparation for eternity," and "The logical end of such a life is despair," I would not have bought the book. But on first glance, the Forward seemed to contradict D'Souza's reason for writing the book, which he states is to convince the "Seekers ... who genuinely want to know the truth but haven't found it," and the "Fence sitters ... those who are alienated from traditional religion ... but cannot brace outright atheism either" of the scientific case for life after death. By this logic I am the perfect audience, fitting the two criteria to a T.
Although I'm giving D'Souza's book only one star, because he failed to accomplish what he set out to do; i.e., convince me, his target audience, of life after death; I must say, I found his book an enjoyable read. There's nothing wrong with poking holes in what science can tell us; it would be unscientific not to do so. Although I might nitpick here and there, the depth and breadth of the intellectual and scientific thought that D'Souza draws on is refreshing, encouraging me to almost want to dust off some of my old copies of Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Schopenhauer, etc. D'Souza's strongest argument is that there is mounting evidence that genetic code, contrary to Darwin's theory, is directional and inevitable. Although I believe there's much more he could have said on this subject, I don't think it makes his case for a hereafter. To his credit, I would give D'Souza high marks for writing clearly and the way in which he organized his argument. Quite frankly, I would hate to debate the guy.
But here's what didn't work for me: D'Souza begins his argument by effectively demonstrating that scientific truths are not infallible. He recalls how he successfully refuted a claim made by a student who invoked Hume's verification principle and gleefully demonstrated that Hume's principle itself could not be verified. He goes on to illustrate that even the speed of light is not an infallible truth, because we do not know what light might do in another galaxy; he states, "Even if you have measured the speed of light one million times on earth you cannot be even 1% certain that light travels at the same speed on a planet where you haven't measured it." Having completely demolished any pretense of scientific truth, and extolling the virtues of faith, he uses science to make his case. Does anyone have a problem with this line of reasoning? I sure do. So what are we to make of the rest of his argument?
I jump to his last chapter where he deals with the authenticity of Christ's death and resurrection. Without any reference to the historical accuracy of the Bible, he takes the Gospels and St. Paul at face value and within that context refutes any counter claims as to what might have happened 2,000 years ago. As a "fence sitter," I question why he doesn't take Bart Ehrman's challenge and demonstrate for us the historical authenticity of the Gospel accounts. From a scientific perspective, this would have been quite helpful. I've read that he debated Ehrman and loves "taking these people down with their own strength and forcing them to tap out." So why doesn't he take Ehrman on in this chapter?
His argument from morality refuses to admit of any other source than God. I find this astonishingly unscientific and naive. Certainly morality has evolved over time, often in direct conflict to the holy books. We generally don't consider it moral to stone an adulterer, or a blasphemer. The fourth commandment (honor thy father and mother...) is convenient for parents to keep their children in check, but where is the commandment that protects children from their abusive parents? Pope Benedict has approved condom use for prostitutes to prevent the spread of aids; but how many people had to die before this, with all due respect, rather obvious moral edict, could be granted? Without going into the multitude of historical atrocities that have been committed under the banner of God, to which D'Souza would simply counter with all the atrocities committed by the infidels, he fails to make the case that morality is transcendent and has a reality of its own.
Contrary to his stated objective of using science to make his argument, D'Souza easily slips from scientific arguments to theological ones. I suspect he does this for the benefit of the reader who's a believer. For example, in arguing that the big bang theory supports the Genesis account of creation, he states, "God made the universe out of nothing. Initially there was nothing and then there was the universe. The writers of the Bible didn't make this claim on the basis of scientific experiments. They basically said, `God told us.' And in essence, they were right." The skeptic in me wants to ask and were they also right about the six days or the talking snake? This is clearly not where you want to go if you wish to convince someone of the scientific merits of your argument.
It's getting late in the night and I realize I have a lot more problems with D'Souza arguments than I originally thought. So I would like to conclude by referring back to Rick Warren's claim, "If this life is all there is, there is no basis for any meaning." As a "fence sitter," and one who knows many other non-believers, this statement is simply counterfactual. In fact, many would find it easier to turn the statement around and live by the precept: "If this life is all there is, you better make it count." D'Souza's tells the story of a non-believing friend who he highly respects and who "insists that he has never given so much as a thought to whether he might survive beyond the grave .... Even if it was true, it would not affect my life in any way." His friend then goes on to explain what makes life meaningful to him." I ask, now what's wrong with that?