The immortalization commission: science and the strange quest to cheat death

New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2011)
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Abstract

A great philosopher will change the way you think about your life. For most of human history, religion provided a clear explanation of life and death. But in the late 19th and early 20th centuries new ideas -- from psychiatry to evolution to Communist -- seemed to suggest that our fate was now in our own hands. We would ourselves become God. This is the theme of a remarkable new book by one of the world's greatest lving philosophers. It is a brilliant and frightening look at the problems and opportunities of a world coming to grips with humankind's now solitary, unaided place in the universe. Gray takes two major examples: the belief that the science-backed Communism of the new USSR could reshape the planet, and the belief among a group of Edwardian intellectuals -- popularized through mediums and automatic writing -- that there was a non-religious form of life after death. Gray presents an extraordinary cast of philosophers, journalists, politicians, charlatans and mass murderers, all of whom felt driven by a specifically scientific and modern world view. He raises a host of fascinating questions about what it means to be human. The implications of Gray's book will haunt its readers for the rest of their lives.

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