September 28, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

John Gray, he of ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ fame, has a new book out. It’s been out for two months here in the UK, but today the book get’s its US launch. Ben Good gives his thoughts on Gray’s most recent effort…

Death and Taxes. Attempt to cheat one and you will end up in prison, attempt to cheat the other and there will be a more interesting set of situations, as explored in John Gray’s new book.

‘The Immortalisation Commission’ catalogues the attempts of late 19th and early 20th Century scientists and intellectuals to reconcile life after death with the implications of evolution by natural selection.

The book begins well, successfully evoking the panic and chaos of a society struggling to come to terms with their mortality with no promise of an afterlife. It then goes on to describe the attempts of Western Europeans to use ‘automatic writing’ to receive messages from the dead, before moving on to Soviet Russian occultism then taking a look at more modern concepts such as cryonics. Whilst these tales are no doubt interesting, I am not sure they are engaging enough to sustain a full book. The book is too fixated on ideological experimentation, I was hoping for more information on experimental attempts such as Demikov’s attempts to keep decapitated dog heads alive.

Despite these reservations, it is still worth a read as it gives you a window into an issue that is rarely discussed when the initial impact of the theory of evolution is discussed.