Title: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
Author: Mary Roach
What’s Auntie Reading Now? picture
Publisher’s Blurb: “What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that’s that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?” In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die.
This could also be titled Mary Roach Travels the World in Search of an Answer Which Doesn’t Exist. The book starts in India with Roach trailing a doctor collecting anecdotes about reincarnation in search of proof that reincarnation actually exists. It ends in a hospital at University of Virginia with a tablet computer mounted to the ceiling facing away from the operating table beneath it. The researchers hope to prove out of body experiences by having a subject astral project and tell what’s on the computer screen.
Inbetween she travels to England to take classes to learn to be a psychic, gets a cold reading from someone, and discusses spiritualism along the lines of The Witch of Lime Street. Roach’s snobbish tone arrives at the same place we all do, there is no scientific proof for what happens after we die.
Believers gonna believe, skeptics gonna question; ain’t none of us got a lock an answer which makes universal sense. And while I didn’t mind the process Roach used to satisfy (or not) her curiosity, I did mind that while asking her questions, she was not so openly mocking those who believed in something with no proof. That’s why it’s called faith, Mary, it can’t be proven.
My own reading, and conversations, have led me to the same conclusion many have, there may be something bigger than all of us at work (something I choose to believe in), but there’s no definitive answer to what happens next. In the end, it isn’t what one believes or doesn’t, it’s how one behaves in the present that matters. Chances are we won’t know what happens next even as it’s happening.
So good for Mary Roach for getting to go interesting places to ask questions about an interesting topic. If only she’d been willing to set aside her preconceptions for the duration.