20 octubre 2008

BOOKS I LIKED

By "the famous norteamerican woman's writer"

SPOOK. Science tackles the afterlife.
Mary Roach. 288 pgs.

"People frequently confuse a breezy style, humor and ability to entertain with being superficial. While Mary Roach's latest book isn't quite as compelling as "Stiff" it's an enjoyable journey one step beyond. When Roach is serious (which pops up between very funny quips)she asks some important questions about the afterlife, our perception of it, ghosts and reincarnation. Perhaps it's the subtitle that disappoints people but having read "Stiff" I knew what to e
xpect. If you come to this book ignoring the subtitle (this skeptical humorist tackles the afterlife and science although more about that later with a sense of humor but doesn't quantify the afterlife with science herself). Roach asks some penetrating questions with humor. For example, she discusses an author that discusses reincarnation, birthmarks and how a pregnant woman can see the corpse of someone. The soul of the slain man turns up in her child. Also, she discusses a pretty creative idea--emotional imprinting from an event that can leave birthmarks on the skin of the unborn creating a duplicate of a birthmark from the person whose soul has flown into the unborn child. She goes on a journey to investigate a family that claims their child has memories from a previous life and while going as an unbiased observer using humor and logic to deflate some of these unusual claims. Yet she's always hopeful. She relates the story of a computer that is used for near death experiences. She discusses Professor Bruce Greyson's experiment in near death experiences using a computer with images that can only be seen if you were hovering below the ceiling. Patients that have had defibrillators put in have their hearts stopped to see if their defibrillators are working (they should restart the patient's heart). Many people claim to have seen the attempt to revive them floating above their body. If that's the case they should be able to see the computer screen and tell Greyson what images are on it. She also takes a look at cases involving ghosts and other related areas. Roach focuses on the scientific approaches taken by various people to try and verify the afterlife's existence. This isn't a "science vs. faith" argument. Instead, this is an attempt to see if the scientific approach works or not in these various experiments. Roach asks some practical and hard questions about these various experiments, theories and researchers. The subject is more elusive here than in "Stiff" for obvious reasons. This isn't a book about faith. Roach is trying to find some solid basis for faith in the afterlife and that is going to continue to be challenging. Roach discusses in her afterword that she starts all of her books in complete ignorence of the subject. Does that provide her with a sense of the impartial attitude that journalists need to write material like this? I'm not sure but it does allow errors, holes and mistakes to occur. It also means that she really doesn't have a whole lot to prove. Regardless of whether "Spook" is as balanced and informed as it should be Roach asks some provocative questions and tries to find answers. You may not be enlightened but you will be entertained and the questions that Roach asks are always interesting. While the answers don't always hold up to scrutiny Roach's journey to discovery is always entertaining."

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