Heavens on Earth
A scientific exploration into humanity’s obsession with the afterlife and quest for immortality from the bestselling author and skeptic Michael ShermerIn his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality along with utopian attempts to create heaven on earth.For millennia, religions have concocted numerous manifestations of heaven and the afterlife, and though no one has ever returned from such a place to report what it is really like—or that it even exists—today science and technology are being used to try to make it happen in our lifetime. From radical life extension to cryonic suspension to mind uploading, Shermer considers how realistic these attempts are from a proper skeptical perspective.Heavens on Earth concludes with an uplifting paean to purpose and progress and how we can live well in the here-and-now, whether or not there is a hereafter.

Heavens on Earth Details

TitleHeavens on Earth
Author
ReleaseJan 9th, 2018
PublisherHenry Holt and Co.
ISBN-139781627798570
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Philosophy, Religion, Technology

Heavens on Earth Review

  • Peter Mcloughlin
    January 1, 1970
    In this short book Shermer tackles the human mortality and beliefs about the afterlife with pertinent side forays into transhumanism, religion, and utopian ideologies we substitute for immortality and meaning. For such a short book a lot of ideas are touched upon from the starting point of human mortality we explore what happens physically at death, We move into traditional conceptions of the afterlife from antiquity and in the Abrahamic religions. We also cover briefly the afterlife possibiliti In this short book Shermer tackles the human mortality and beliefs about the afterlife with pertinent side forays into transhumanism, religion, and utopian ideologies we substitute for immortality and meaning. For such a short book a lot of ideas are touched upon from the starting point of human mortality we explore what happens physically at death, We move into traditional conceptions of the afterlife from antiquity and in the Abrahamic religions. We also cover briefly the afterlife possibilities open to atheists. These include cryonics, various technological options like gene therapy, medical interventions, and mind uploading into the cloud, even Frank Tiplers extremely speculative Omega Point Theory where a supercomputer of the far future resurrects us all into a simulated heaven. Shermer is skeptical of all these ideas and points out the problems with all of them. He touches on my favorite form of afterlife the true slacker option of letting huge amounts of time and space to randomly resurrect us after an inconceivably long period of time or huge expanse of space. He calls it something like resurrection and the googolplex. I call it Poincare Recurrence since that is the mathematical name for it. (see video below). He also explores ideas around mortality which could supply meaning to a finite life. He talks about terror management theory which he argues is too simplistic an idea. Human behavior could maybe be explained as partially the management of our fears about mortality but we have drives also around reproduction which also explains some of our behavior (again not all of it). He then talks about utopian ideologies to make a better world as a substitute for meaning if we must live a finite life. The Classless society is one recent utopia, the master races is another even darker vision (unfortunately making a comeback with the alt-right.) The 20th century is a guide for what happens with such projects. Hint they don't end well. Anyway, I am to the left of Shermer politically but he does a good job of pointing out the problems of getting carried away with Utopias especially ones based on shoddy thinking. I enjoyed this book but is only a teaser I would love to see his ideas more fully fleshed out. I will include a video on Poincare recurrence to give a flavor of my oh so slacker vision of the afterlife. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFILt...
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  • Dan Graser
    January 1, 1970
    Michael Shermer is simply an indispensable writer and his latest volume is one of his very best. This is a complete survey and analysis of the various notions of the afterlife and immortality divided mainly between:1) How these claims have been scientifically tested and evaluated 2) How such notions have been depicted throughout humanity's history in works of art, philosophy, and literature.3) How we have attempted to transcend our mortal limitations4) What we can reasonably expect in this areaN Michael Shermer is simply an indispensable writer and his latest volume is one of his very best. This is a complete survey and analysis of the various notions of the afterlife and immortality divided mainly between:1) How these claims have been scientifically tested and evaluated 2) How such notions have been depicted throughout humanity's history in works of art, philosophy, and literature.3) How we have attempted to transcend our mortal limitations4) What we can reasonably expect in this areaNot only dealing with those familiar claims from the various monotheisms, Shermer casts an equally critical eye on those claims from New Age "gurus" (a nice way of saying charlatan), near death experiences, reincarnation, gruesomely cynical mediums preying on the desperate, as well as the efforts of some scientifically and pseudo-scientifically minded people seeking to extend human life as long as possible in the form of cryonicists, extropians, transhumanists, Omega Point theorists, singularitarians, and mind uploaders.There are many skeptical writers I enjoy but Shermer's worldview is probably the closest to my own and his indefatigability to examine the numerous spurious claims in this area of discourse with an objective, scientific mind is commendable and makes for mind-clearing, lucid reading. Where many volumes on this subject are just full of woo-woo, pseudo-scientific, and platitudinous nonsense, here there is only reason and science and yes; it is possible and necessary to speak of such matters in such terms. That we have been led to think otherwise is among the most frustrating things surrounding mature conversation of this subject and an act of intellectual abnegation. Shermer is a sagacious guide through this territory and his broadly focused work ends on the most reasonable and hopeful of tones. A must read.
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  • Crystal Ellyson
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC copy of this book through Librarything.com Early Review giveaway. I received this book to give an honest review. I found this book to be okay, but not great. It was hard to keep my interest. I kept putting the book down and not wanting to pick it back up. There was some interesting things in the book.
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  • Jerry James
    January 1, 1970
    If you're already a skeptic there is not much in this book that's surprising, but Shermer is always enjoyable. The end of the book was the most fun for me as he outlined all the things that provide meaning for life without the use of religion.
  • Thomas Stark
    January 1, 1970
    I read this with interest but then, I am a member of choir.
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