Thursday, April 1

David Fontana: Is There An Afterlife: A Comprehensive Overview of the Evidence.

From the back of the book:
Do aspects of our personality survive our physical body? The fruit of many years research and experience by a world expert in the field, Is There An Afterlife? presents the most complete survey to date of the evidence, both historical and contemporary, for the survival of physical death. It looks at the question of what survives, in particular exploring the question of consciousness as primary to and not dependent on matter in the light of recent brain research and quantum physics. It discusses the possible nature of the afterlife, the common threads in Western and Eastern traditions, the common features of “many levels,” group souls and reincarnation.

The author of this fascinating work lists Fellow of the British Psychological Society, Past President of the Society for Psychical Research, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Cardiff University and much more amongst his qualifications. It is no surprise then, to find this book has a strong academic style. Extensive references are supplied for all the topics addressed and reported experiments include thorough descriptions of methodology with an emphasis on control of variables. While at times this can make for rather slow going it is worth the effort of reading such details in order to appreciate the results obtained. It is an ongoing lament of the author that there is so little academic interest (and funding) to repeat many of the experiments undertaken in the past.
The author takes great care to answer claims that much evidence of the afterlife can be dismissed as symptoms of mental illness, overactive imagination or outright fraud. While agreeing that many cases fall into these categories he searches for explanations for those that don’t and proposes that where no other reasonable explanation can be found that a paranormal one be considered.
He presents some of the more convoluted explanations for phenomena presented by critics for whom no evidence will ever be sufficient to accept a paranormal causation. He also presents paranormal explanations that have been put forward as alternatives to the concept of surviving death (some of which are almost as complex as those suggested by die-hard critics).
I have long believed in a number of parapsychological phenomena but had never given a lot of though to the details of what exactly they are, or process by which they occur. My image of the majority of investigators in the field was one of new-age hippies, gullible innocents and self-proclaimed experts of questionable pedigree, at best I imagined good academics gone bad. If nothing else, this book had opened my eyes to legitimate parapsychological research, an area I wish I’d known about twenty years ago when I was starting out on my academic career-I certainly would have pursued it then, and may still now-Lynn.

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