Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 03/25/2010 by Trevin Wax.
Recommended. A scientific and rational case for the reality of the afterlife.
Most people affirm the idea of life after death. But could it be that this idea is merely a persistent legend? A comforting thought that has no basis in reality? In Life After Death: The Evidence, Dinesh D'Souza builds a scientific and rational case for the reality of the afterlife.
When I realized what D'Souza was attempting to do here (prove the afterlife without appealing to faith or revelation), I doubted it could be done effectively. And while "prove" might be too strong a word, D'Souza definitely makes belief in the afterlife intellectually reasonable, and even compelling.
Life After Death engages atheists and materialists on their own terms. That's why D'Souza cannot limit himself to speaking only about the afterlife. He first makes the case for the existence of God by showing how naturalism is biased in favor of atheism. D'Souza pokes holes in the atheist's argument, in order to bring the atheist down to the same level as the theist. Interestingly enough, he accomplishes this feat while advocating epistemological humility!
D'Souza points to a variety of facts that bolster his view of the afterlife, including the near universality of this belief. He writes a fascinating chapter on near-death experiences, in which he gleans pertinent evidence for life after death without succumbing to a naive gullibility regarding all of these testimonies.
In another chapter, D'Souza delves into the "physics" of immortality, using intelligent design to make "space" (pun intended) for the concept of the afterlife. At one point, he uses the theory of evolution as evidence for the existence of the mind (soul) after physical death.
In the first half of the book, D'Souza makes the idea of the afterlife (in many forms, including reincarnation) possible. The second half makes it reasonable. D'Souza is willing to mount evidence from any source that helps his cause, even an atheistic philosopher. Here is D'Souza's presuppoisitional argument for life after death:
Unlike material objects and all other living creatures, we humans inhabit two domains: the way things are, and the way things ought to be. We are moral animals who recognize that just as there are natural laws that govern every object in the universe, there are also moral laws that govern the behavior of one special object in the universe, namely us.
While the universe is externally moved by 'facts,' we are internally moved also by 'values.' Yet these values defy natural and scientific explanation because physical laws, as discovered by science, concern only the way things are and not the way they ought to be. Moreover, the essence of morality is to curtail and contradict the powerful engine of human self-interest, giving morality an undeniable anti-evolutionary thrust.
So how do we explain the existence of moral values that stand athwart our animal nature? The presupposition of cosmic justice, achieved not in this life but in another life beyond the grave, is by far the best and in some respects the only explanation. This presupposition fully explains why humans continue to espouse goodness and justice even when the world is evil and unjust. (166-7)
The book works out D'Souza's argument by appealing to science, philosophy and morality:
- Modern physics demonstrates the possibility of realms beyond the universe.
- Modern biology shows that evolution transitions from matter to mind.
- Neuroscience shows that the mind cannot be reduced to the brain.
- Philosophy makes a distinction between experience and reality.
- Morality is understood because of cosmic justice.
- There are practical benefits to believing in the afterlife.
Readers may find some of D'Souza's argumentation perplexing. At one point, he says that early Jews did not believe in the afterlife. (Yet, Jesus quoted from Exodus and established the idea of resurrection in the Torah itself.) He also uses evolution as evidence for life after death, though it's clear he believes in intelligent design.
But Life After Death concludes with the Christian view of the afterlife, specifically the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. D'Souza then pleads with people to believe in Christ. In all, this book offers good arguments for the afterlife and should provide great conversation with those who wonder what happens when we die.