Dinesh D’Souza recently discussed and debated the arguments in his new book, Life After Death on KPCC’s AirTalk (http://www.scpr.org/programs/airtalk/2009/12/16/life-is-that-all-there-is/). I, of course, had to run to the computer and order the book. I read it quickly–he is gifted with an ability to write clearly and persuasively, and his humor–although quite biting and even sarcastic at times–was actually quite refreshing in a field that takes itself very, very seriously. I admit that I was initially worried about his openly Evangelical background and the endorsement of pastor Rick Warren, who runs a Christian empire in the O.C. I am nervous about the kind of Christian that D’Souza openly professes to be: a fundamentalist who sees little gray area in life, death and the afterlife. For me, the gray areas are all I have been able to find; the more I know, the less I know–but D’Souza could always claim that is where I lack faith, or I am simply not sufficiently persuaded by his arguments.
For one thing, there are some obvious flaws with his approach to the evidence. They are:
- A total dismissal of what he calls “spooky stuff,” namely anything in the field of parapsychology. With one line, he brushes aside all of the work of the SPR and the ASPR of the last 150 years or so–in fact, he doesn’t even mention them at all or any of the voluminous work they carried out on mediumship, deathbed visions, apparitions, ESP, and all the other areas of study they engaged in (by “they”, I refer to the distinguished founders and those that continue to carry on the work). This makes sense, I suppose, since Christians do not believe in contact with the dead. The Bible prohibits such contact on the grounds that souls cannot be reached from the afterlife, and any purported communication with souls is in reality a tool of the Devil to trick the unsuspecting and gullible.
- A refusal to explore in depth the most heavily researched area into life after death of the last 50 years, namely, Dr. Ian Stevenson’s unbelievably thorough and exhaustive research into children’s past life memories. The work he did was so meticulous that one can barely wade through the details, but taken as a whole, the evidence clearly points to reincarnation as a fact. D’Souza, however, refuses to go into any depth on the issue for the rather unconvincing reason that not enough children remember lives from other countries. This is an interesting fact, but by itself does not in any way invalidate the claims of reincarnation. Again, this makes sense for a fundamentalist Christian: reincarnation is not what is supposed to happen to the soul after death. It’s either Heaven or Hell, not the Eternal Return. Interestingly, later in the book D’Souza seems to accept the reincarnation possibility as part of his argument, but he appears uncomfortable with the implications.
- A complete dismissal of the “multiverse” theory of quantum physics and a general superficial glossing over of what quantum mechanics has to say about other dimensions where consciousness could reside. He doesn’t even mention consciousness and its centrality to the most famous experiments in quantum physics. I don’t think he fully understands that branch of science, and certainly I don’t, but I have read enough to know that D’Souza has more homework to do. He should at least discuss Shrodinger’s infamous cat!! And if, as quantum mechanics maintains, there are multiple dimensions beyond the ones we able to perceive, then why in the world could it not be possible that life continues or replays itself within the folds of an 11th dimension, a place–or many places–that all of our alternate possibilities as humans play themselves out? D’Souza brings up String Theory, but hardly attempts to explain it. You just can’t gloss over such fundamental theories of reality without weakening your argument. Again, if you want to preserve a place for God, you have to drop-kick quantum mechanics out the window, for it says nothing about God or a Creator.
Given all the above, I am not sold on D’Souza’s arguments, but I am impressed by his passionate reasoning. I wish that he were not so willing to ignore or under-analyze areas of inquiry into consciousness with which he does not agree, or with which he is not comfortable. But then again, D’Souza is less interested in survival of consciousness and more interested in God and His afterlife.
I understand that, but without faith, D’Souza won’t make you believe. He would argue that his book does not require faith, since it proves by a preponderance of the evidence that God exists and life after death is a fact. I want to be converted, yet D’Souza needs to write a few more books on the topic and be willing to include the “spooky stuff” if he wants to do justice to the topic and win over intelligent readers who need more proof and less metaphysics.