The immortality of the soul has been on the philosophical agenda arguably since day one. On the scientific agenda, however, it registers fairly low down. Until now, that is. In his new book, The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death, political philosopher John Gray explores the history of scientific attempts to prove the existence of, and to even achieve, immortality. A history, it seems, that is more rich and contemporary than one might at first expect of the traditionally pragmatic and non-metaphysical subject.
In a lengthy article for the Guardian, Gray gives a summary of some of the more eyebrow raising events which go to make up this particular part of the history of science. The first is the reaction of post-Darwinian scientists, who for one reason or another felt compelled to respond to the anti-spiritualist worldview that Darwin’s work entailed. They did so by meticulously examining thousands of automatic-writing scripts – a popular phenomena in 19th century clairvoyance whereby the medium channels a spirit in such a way that a message from beyond can be written out – in search for evidence that might suggest their authenticity, such as information about the purportedly channeled spirit that would otherwise be unknown to the medium, or the occurrence of “cross-overs”, where separate mediums appear to be channelling the same thing independently of each other. Continue reading “Do you really want to live forever?: The Science of Immortality”