Pharyngula

I am so disappointed. The little evangelical goober has a new book that promises to provide evidence of life after death — it’s right in the title, Life After Death: The Evidence — but he doesn’t seem to have, you know, actually provided any evidence. Newsweek has a summary of his arguments.

The “evidence,” of necessity, is indirect: D’Souza doesn’t claim to have communicated with anyone who has died, and he doesn’t expect to. Instead, he looks to the human heart, and finds therein a universal moral code underlying acts of self-sacrifice and charity that appear to run counter to the Darwinian imperative to outcompete thy neighbor. This is a time-honored argument for the existence of a God who created human beings in his image and imbued them with a moral sense, as well as the free will to follow, or ignore, it. Berlinski uses the argument in his book, and Collins credits it with turning him from atheism to evangelical Christianity. (D’Souza acknowledges that the prominent atheist Richard Dawkins has offered an evolutionary explanation for human goodness, but he doesn’t buy it.) In a Jesuitical display that does credit to his reputation as “an Indian William F. Buckley Jr.,” D’Souza turns to his advantage one of the atheists’ favorite arguments, God’s apparent tolerance for human suffering. Precisely because evil so often goes unpunished in this world, he asserts, the moral code must reflect another reality, in which souls are judged, punished, or rewarded after death. “The postulate of an afterlife enables us to make sense of this life,” he writes. It worked for Dante, didn’t it?

The universal moral code argument is so tired. No, we don’t need a magic man in the sky to implant puppet strings in our brains to make us do good, and as the reviewer mentions, we have perfectly reasonable natural explanations that fit the phenomenon just fine. But even beyond that, an external-sourced moral code wouldn’t say anything about an afterlife. If I built a robot and included in its circuitry some code that inclined it to avoid colliding with cats, that does not imply that it is therefore eternal and will outlast any later encounters with a sledgehammer and a scrapheap.

The remainder of his argument is built on air. “If there is a god, and if there is an afterlife, and if there is judgment of earthly acts after death, then there is an afterlife” is an abomination of circularity and unsupported presuppositions.

But wait! There’s more! And it gets worse!

And if that’s not enough to convince you, D’Souza provides a checklist of benefits from believing in life after death: it keeps us honest, gives our lives “a sense of hope and purpose”–and “surveys show” that believers have better sex. It provides “a mechanism to teach our children right from wrong”–a mechanism that those who have been subjected to it tend to describe as a neurotic lifelong fear of going to Hell. And if your smart-alecky kid, full of all that Galileo stuff they get in school nowadays, should ask just where this Judgment business takes place, D’Souza provides you with a response. It happens in the multiverse, the infinitely multiplying complex of worlds predicted by some versions of quantum theory. In the multiverse, physical laws can take on different values, and matter itself may have a different form, so “there is nothing in physics to contradict the idea that we can live beyond death in other realms with bodies that are unlike the bodies we now possess.”

The argument from consequences is a non-starter, too. For instance, I have my doubts about the results of surveys about sex in populations where sexual behavior is both obligatory and a source of much angst about its effects on chances for a happy afterlife, but even if we were to think that the claim that believers have better sex, it doesn’t imply in any way that there is a god or an afterlife. Dinish D’Souza might have more satisfying orgasms if he fantasizes about having sex with Ann Coulter while he masturbates, but that does not mean that he is therefore having sex with Ann Coulter. It wouldn’t matter how highly he rated his onanistic experiences, it doesn’t provide any evidence of actual intercourse with a real live human (or in the case of Coulter, simulacrum thereof) female. Similarly, if his fantasies are all about a muscular bearded Jesus in a loin cloth sweeping him into his arms and teaching him the true meaning of ecstasy, that might make him feel good, but it is not evidence that Jesus loves him. Not even in a manly way.

And seriously…he’s going to trot out quantum physics as evidence for an afterlife? Man, join the crowd of crazies who have turned “quantum” into the “abracadabra” of the 21st century.

I don’t think I need to read his book if that is the quality of his reasoning. But if any of you stumble across it and find a compelling scrap of evidence that the reviewer neglected to pass along, let us know. If the above examples are any indication, they’ll be hilarious.

Comments

  1. #1 MKhan
    December 22, 2009

    The world (but not the universe) can end because of earthquake, tsunami, meteor strike, nuclear war, supernova, and some other natural or man made disaster. These are however just local ends that have nothing to do with The Day of Judgment. End will also not happen on any arbitrary date like December 2012. The end of the universe is an entirely different phenomenon that is built into the laws of the universe by the creator. The contraction of the universe with reversal of time and gravity will commence the beginning of the end which will last for thousands and possibly millions of years. We will be removed from the regressing effects of reversed time as we come back alive in our own time. We will the be taken across many dimensions to beyond this universe. A beautiful natural mechanism that is based on the laws of physics will cause all that to happen. This real end has nothing to do with wishful thinking and predictions of priests or shamans.