Science vs. religion

Science and religion represent two different paths to truth. Along one path, truth emerges on the basis of objective and unbiased scientific evidence. Scientific evidence relies on data, and it is of paramount importance for scientists to ensure that the data they collect is a representative of the "true" situation. In a nutshell, some hard-core proof. If you choose to walk on the path of religion, then the answers to your questions will be entangled among the recesses of myth, legend and folklore, tracing themes and motifs that you have faith in, and accepting them as the truth that they are. Science holds out to mankind the good promise of real, solid, unchanging truth. And that is perhaps why Mary Roach adopted a scientific approach to investigate the possibility of an afterlife. This truly got me thinking about how cleverly she clears the controversy between science and religion, by using one path to clear the other path. Working hand in hand to discover what God holds for us beyond death's door.

Some much-needed humour

When you get to the chapter on ectoplasm, you really need some humour. The comments and comebacks from Mary Roach really kept me entertained and engrossed and made non-fiction an easier genre to sail through. I have always love non-fiction - but the other books that I read have always been brimming with heavy content and mind-boggling facts and figures.

Maybe what's doesn't exist, does exist?

Do you believe in ghosts. Duh, of course not! But if you ask me now, after reading Spook, the chills have changed my answer. After telecommunicating with the dead and weighing souls, a new dimension has been created - new-found hope that keeps scientists wanting to uncover the truth with newly-designed experiments everyday. However, hoaxes have become more prevalent because people want money, fame and their name in the headlines. The supernatural is something I am very fond of - you know mystifying reality and wandering off into different worlds and eras where it all stemmed from. Mary Roach enlightens her readers through little anecdotes of spiritualists, doctors, farmers and gives everyone a chance to be heard out - all this in the search of truth. Spiritualism is the belief that the spirits residing in the "spirit world" have the ability and the inclination to communicate with us, human beings, with life through mediums - but the book mentions that these thoughts might be biased and morphed according to the medium's beliefs and opinions.

Favourite Quotes

“In my experience, the most staunchly held views are based on ignorance or accepted dogma, not carefully considered accumulations of facts. The more you expose the intricacies and realtities of the situation, the less clear-cut things become.”

“In the words of the late Francis Crick...You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. (13)”

“A bright light at the end of a tunnel can seem warm and inviting, or it can seem mysterious and terrifying. People of the world "all working on their arts and crafts" can seem like heaven or, if you're me, hell.”

“I am very much out of my element here. There are moments, listening to the conversations going on around me, when I feel I am going to lose my mind. Earlier today, I heard someone say the words, "I felt at one with the divine source of creation." Mary Roach on a conducted tour of Hades. I had to fight the urge to push back my chair and start screaming: STAND BACK! ALL OF YOU! I'VE GOT AN ARTHUR FINDLAY BOX CUTTER! Instead, I quietly excused myself and went to the bar, to commune with spirits I know how to relate to.”

“Instead, I quietly excused myself and went to the bar, to commune with spirits I know how to relate to.”

“Religion says that your soul goes to heaven or possibly to a seven-tiered garden, or that your soul is reincarnated into a new body, or that you lie around in your coffin clothes until the Second Coming. And, of course, only one of these can be true. Which means that for millions of people, religion will turn out to have been a bum steer as regards the hereafter. (13)”

― Mary Roach, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife

Favourite Chapters

I love how Mary Roach discusses the scientific enquiries done on the stories of the reincarnated children. I could imagine how difficult it must be for those children whom scientists and enquirers refuse to believe - and deem their pleas as "tales" and "hoaxes" to earn fame. Especially, those who believe they had a family and are daunted by their past life. These are in the end real stories, real experiences, real interviews.

Though familiar with the theory of infrasound - basically sound at a frequency too low for humans to hear can cause the experience of supernatural phenomenon - I was immensely intrigued to discover that a tiger's roar contains infrasound and some speculate that the fear we feel in the presence of infrasound is left over - and that is why we feel shaken and paralyzed in their presence - and the chances of escaping are reduced.

Spiritualist mediums also faked the extrusion of ectoplasm - through regurgitating acts and sheep lungs - very gory but direct truth. Ectoplasm was a very graphic topic to learn about - loads of hoaxes and cheating just for the purpose of fame and glory.