October 05, 2011
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach
The first chapter, You Again, details her trip to India where she explores reincarnation. More specifically, she joins another researcher who is trying to see if a young boy is really a reincarnated villager from another town.
The next, is The Little Man Inside the Sperm, Or Possibly the Big Toe. This chapter was somewhat odd and explained the beliefs through history of where the soul came from and the belief that it was mainly located inside sperm.
How to Weigh the Soul, was just that. An exploration through various scientists attempts to weight the sould as it was leaving a dead body.
The next chapter, A Vienna Sausage Affair, moved on to what the soul might look like, and the colors it would have if it were seen.
Hard to Swallow, covered ectoplasm, or at least in this book, debunking ectoplasm and showing the various contrivances Mediums often made to "create" ectoplasm.
Continuing on that aspect was The Large Claims of the Medium which she watched researchers perform experiments on well known mediums and there results and even had some experiences herself. She follows this with the next chapter Soul in a Dunce Cap where she enrolls herself skeptically in Medium school.
Can You Hear Me Now, briefly covers the use of EVP's (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) in researching through records and other devices. More specifically, she joins a team who are trying to collect EVP's of the Donnor mountain party.
Inside the Haunt Box, she subjects herself to high EMF fields in a controlled research. EMF is electro-magnetic frequency. The chapter Listening to Casper takes this a bit further to specific locations.
Chaffin v. the Dead Guy in the Overcoat details a families experience with a ghost having appeared and showing a "new" will in order to contest the unfair inheritance that had been executed to the family. She uses an expert witness as part of her debunking.
The last chapter, Six Feet Over, details her research into near death experiences and the research that is currently being done on them. She is allowed to witness one such experiment but doesn't actually give a great deal of information about it.
While her books are easy to read and contain quite a bit of humor (some not even relating to the topic) I found that she is not very objective. In spite of her claiming in the beginning that this was not a book for debunking, and in the end saying she doesn't know what to think, this book seemed to poke a lot of fun and strongly try to debunk everything that she was studying. In order to truly be objective, she should have offered evidence for the other side of the debate as well instead of poking fun at those researchers she did work with who did believe.
While it is a bit of a tedious read due the sheer amount of research and peoples names, places, etc. since she is not an expert she tells it so anyone might understand it. She is no more an expert than any regular person reading the book would be and that makes it easier to understand what she is trying to explain.
While I enjoyed the premise of the book and certain ideas that came through, the blatant objectivity of it made it a less than stellar read for me.
Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife