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Kelsey McMillen's picture

Written by Mary Roach in 2005, Spook tackles the afterlife from the point of a scientific scholar. She examines the concept of death in relation to what people believe to be true and how people react to certain phenomena. Yet it can be applied to biology because one must have a strong idea of life to recognize death.

Roach tackles many of the concepts that we hold as faith and supernatural such as reincarnation, ethereal beings, and the idea of the soul. The soul is part of life because it is so closely related to how we continue in our world. Without a soul many people believe that we would not be able to go on living, yet it is not something that can be physically seen.
Covering the topic of what is not physically seen, Roach explores the theories of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Rene Descartes and Duncan MacDougall. Leeuwenhoek was responsible for a theory that believed that the soul came from a preformed human inside the male sex cell and Descartes studied the anatomy looking for the soul. He was able to find what he believed to be a soul in the pineal gland, which he chose mainly because of its location. MacDougall was the first scientist to spend research time measuring a person before and after death to look for a soul. What he found was the difference of 21 grams between a living and a dead person and this number has become synonymous with a soul's correct ‘mass'.

Exploring faith is a very difficult and sensitive subject, but often times there are many parts of life that are based totally on faith. For example, in class we discussed the beginning of life and where everything once started. We do not know whether it was a God or a chance in nature that started the world we live in. We do know that we are intensively complicated and well-organized creations made up many atoms, molecules, and systems.

In exploring death, Roach is also able to come to a new conclusion about life. In our course, we explored the central question of ‘What is life?' and how to further life to things outside our realm of understanding. Since this is the topic question that we tend to focus the most on, I myself have come to a new idea on the overall theory of life.

With Roach death is a final thing. She is a skeptic in a land of believers in the supernatural. To be alive, Roach tends to believe that we must be in constant motion forward, just like we have talked about in class. Life is made of so many things that we can only begin to understand when we see something so small and complicated like cells. Cells themselves are made of so many other parts (organelles) that they too are a complex part of life.

In this way we are bigger and more intricate than we may appear to be, but we are also smaller than so many other parts of our universe.

As she learns about death, the author helps to show how complex life is for humans. With the idea of a soul, life for humans becomes more involved. Life is far more complicated and made up of many more aspects than what is simply seen.