National Catholic Register

Books

A Question of Life and Afterlife

BY Wendy Johnson

March 28-April 10, 2010 Issue | Posted 3/22/10 at 11:07 AM

 

LIFE AFTER DEATH

The Evidence

by Dinesh D’Souza

Regnery, 2009

256 pages, $16.77

To order: regnery.com

(888) 219-4747


The subject is taboo in Western culture. It is couched in euphemisms, whispered in hushed tones by uncomfortable people who want to escape it and get back to “real life.” The irony is that this topic is undeniably part of real life.

I am talking about death.

That’s also what Dinesh D’Souza is talking about in Life After Death: the Evidence. It would be a great tragedy if one would let his fear of death prevent him from asking himself: Is death the end, or rather a beginning?

A former White House policy analyst and prolific author, D’Souza offers a unique perspective on this age-old question.

The evidence D’Souza offers sets his work apart from other books on this subject. “A believing Catholic but a poorly practicing one,” as his biography states, D’Souza does not argue his thesis on the basis of faith. He argues for the existence of life after death based purely on reason.

This is an unusual way to approach a question that is largely regarded as a matter of faith. But faith-based arguments often lack the power to persuade those who are alienated from traditional religious groups. To reach these individuals, Catholics need to be able to address them with reason and verifiable facts.

D’Souza makes his case in a clear, systematic way, which he outlines at the end of the first chapter. He offers arguments from neuroscience, philosophy and morality, and fortunately, the reader does not have to be a physicist, psychologist or philosopher to make sense of D’Souza’s reasoning. He discusses near-death experiences, discoveries in quantum physics, empirical realistic philosophy and ethics in light of Darwinian evolution.

For example, in his chapter titled “The Physics of Immortality,” D’Souza asserts that “new discoveries in physics provide scenarios under which matter can survive with different properties in realms other than our universe.” He provides examples such as Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity, as well as his laws of quantum mechanics. These peculiar concepts undermine the confident assertion of atheist materialists that we’ve got the physical world figured out.

“So surprising, unexpected, and even counterintuitive are these laws,” D’Souza writes, “that the physicists who discovered them spent countless hours debating whether nature could actually behave this way. One of the leading figures in quantum physics, Niels Bohr, would sometimes tell his students, ‘The problem with your idea is not that it is crazy, but that it is not crazy enough.’ Bohr’s point was that reality has shown itself stranger than science fiction … this strange new world offers possibilities that weren’t thought of before.”

In the style of Aquinas and Chesterton, D’Souza does not hesitate to state the strongest arguments of his intellectual opponents, quoting extensively from well-known atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Steven Pinker and Richard Dawkins. At the book’s conclusion, D’Souza has built a solid case that the scientific discoveries of the 20th century have served to buttress what Catholics already believe — that there is indeed life after death.

D’Souza does not pursue an intriguing related issue: what does the evidence suggest an afterlife might be like? This is perhaps beyond the scope of the book, but several chapters (“View from the Edge” and “The Physics of Immortality” come to mind) could offer some insights. If science indicates that an afterlife is probable, it may also give hints on what we are anticipating.

The question of the existence of life after death isn’t just an interesting intellectual conundrum. It is, quite literally, a matter of life and death. D’Souza’s Life After Death provides a valuable resource towards the serious pursuit of the truth. Eventually we must choose, D’Souza appeals, “as if everything depends on your decision, because it does.”

Wendy Johnson writes

from Davenport, Iowa.