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Where Do You Go After Death?

Student Contributor to Biology 103's picture

In the beginning of the semester, we tackled the debate of what it means to be ‘alive.’  Mary Roach’s book “Spook” takes a spin on this ‘alive’ and examines whether or not there is an afterlife.  Rather than choosing a textbook, I picked this book in the hopes that it would answer this question that is not usually covered in biology textbooks.  Roach narrates her research in the antithesis of a textbook fashion.  Instead, she tells a story about science, much like in a way similar to Biology 103: Basic Concepts.

From the very start of her narrative, Roach states that she is looking for proof, for some form of evidence that a soul exists after a person’s body dies and stops functioning.  However, she acknowledges that scientific answers are not absolute and these answers are changeable when more data is presented.  Roach sees the science that Professor Paul Grobstein introduced to us, the ‘seriously loopy science.’  Scientific truth, as learned in class, is only as truthful as it can be for the men and women who choose to believe in it.  There will always be a different perspective to answer the questions of ‘life’ and those answers are truth for those people who select it.  For Mary Roach, she accepts that not everything taught by science is true but science is the closest thing she can find to help her answer her question.  She writes this book for the people who want to believe in an afterlife but need more than just faith.  Her approach to answering her question then, was to research the already conducted scientific studies done on afterlife ‘experiences’.

Roach uses several cases of ‘discoveries’ of the soul through science and religion.  She follows up on each of these cases and tries to find the concrete evidence she wants to prove the existence of an afterlife.  I found that the most striking cases Roach studied were the ‘studies’ based on human story telling.  In these situations where the soul is believed to exist by the people, Mary Roach revisited the situation and was unable to replicate the ‘evidence’ people claimed to have.  For example, she went to India to examine reincarnation of the soul.  In the specific case she was studying, the people who believed in the reincarnation present in their son would have evidence that supporting this reincarnation.  However, upon further research, Roach learned that most of this ‘evidence’ was reshaped by the parents, because they believed in reincarnation, they unconsciously molded what they saw to fit their beliefs.  Their perception was limited to only seeing what they wanted to see.  In another situation, Roach studied the research done on mediums in séances.  Once again, she found a flaw that negated whatever ‘evidence’ that was produced.  Unlike the reincarnation stories, which do not lead to monetary or personal gain (because it is so common in India), many of the mediums were frauds.  Roach even enrolled into a medium school where she deducted that a medium’s job is to start off with general guesses and try to persuade the person to agree with the answer.  This persuasion was based off belief, the more a person is susceptible to wanting to believe, she will find ways to apply these guesses to her actual life.

For these two examples, Roach reinforces a notion that truth is created by tailoring the beliefs of those who want to believe it.  The ‘truth’ which some people believe in is changeable; it is ‘seriously loopy science’.  In Biology 103, fall 2006, there were several proposals that the Earth, and not just its occupants, is alive.  The two sides of the argument (not alive versus alive) both had understandable and valid points.  And even so, with the logical arguments, there were some beliefs that could not be changed.  This statement ‘the Earth is alive/dead’ was debated on and what I have concluded from the debates is that the Earth whether it is alive or not, depends on the person judging it.

There was one instance, however, where Roach met a medium who was able to have accurate guesses.  This medium, the one who inspired the NBC television show, spoke about Roach’s brother’s obsession with hourglasses.  This ‘dead-hit’ is accurate and highly improbable of a guess, providing Roach with some type of evidence she can believe.

In “Spook”, consciousness is another topic which Mary Roach uses to try to answer her question.  A study in the University of Virginia Hospital, conducted by Professor Bruce Greyson, was done to see if the ‘consciousness’ can exist outside of the body in a near death experience (NDE).  In this line of research, he tried to find situations where people remember traveling outside of their body and seeing themselves ‘die’ before they are resuscitated by a defibrillator.  To prove that this actually happened, Greyson positioned a computer screen on the ceiling so if the people did indeed momentarily escape their bodies, then they would be able to tell him what they saw on the screen.  So far, none have been able to.  However, Roach also stumbled upon other research of this out of body experience.  In several instances, people would recall seeing shoes placed on the ceiling or somewhere obscure, in their out of body experience.  When people, usually a nurse who heard the story without other witnesses, went to look for the shoe they found it.  However, since they did not bring people along, they could be making the story up.

At the end of “Spook”, Roach concludes that she does not have an answer to whether the afterlife exists or does not exist.  What she is able to conclude, however, is that the more likely are you are to believe in ghosts, the most likely you are to see these ghosts.  This belief is something that is confused with knowledge.  Is it that when you believe something, it becomes knowledge to you?  Or is it that your knowledge of something causes it to be belief?  In this ‘seriously loopy science,’ the answers do not lie in the ‘proof’, because ‘proof’ can be subjective.  The answers are found in the person who chooses them.  As Mary Roach tells her readers, whether there is an afterlife or an absence of one that is up to you to decide.

Roach, Mary (2005). Spook. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc..


Jo's picture

Life After Life

Thanks for this post. The out-of-body experience is something that has captured my interest for a few years now, and I have read numerous accounts of it. I believe in an afterlife; there are some things science, advanced though it is, is still too crude to decipher or prove. What science cannot yet prove the soul must decide for itself. I believe in God and that He sent us here from His presence to gain life experience, become like Him and return back to His presence. Death is not the end but merely the threshold into a new, more advanced, and just-as-real life. An ancient American prophet revealed the knowledge his study about the afterlife revealed here: . Likewise, in 1938, a man named Joseph F. Smith had a vision of the afterlife and recorded it here: . Feel free to check them out!

Jo's picture


Here are the two links for anyone who might be interested and want to form their own conclusions. Don't know why they didn't show up in the comment:

Sandra 's picture

Were do we go after death

I found this reading to be very, very thoght provoking material

Hendri Ferdianto Pasman's picture

Do you believe it?

Life was actually Dead, and Dead is actually Alive

Have you ever run into a dead faint?
your spirit out of your body, and you see that your body is asleep?

I've been there many times.

in a long life after death, those who die live their lives again in another world. This is the opinion of my teacher, but I've never seen it.

when I run into a dead faint, I saw my body fall asleep, then I flew and flew, then I went back into my body when I fell. Regarding the above I have never experienced it.

But I had a teacher who is able to enter another realm which he shared with seven different levels on the basis of the level of subtlety.

They go into a science in Indonesian called "Kebatinan" or the Java language to say "ngelmu". This is a science that is very rare, not everyone can learn it and not everyone who has learned to achieve a high level.

They are capable of doing science is able to release his spirit from his body. Enter into another dimension of life, which is inhabited by those who have died, "the devil" (Djin, gunduruwo, setan2 others.
This science is known by science "meraga sukma"

You may believe it or not. will my story above. but this is the highest knowledge of the Javanese people.

Actually this science also exist in some countries, like India, china and other countries, but as I have to say the science is very rare, and difficult for ordinary people can know who mastered this science.

People who clean his soul or living away from worldly life is not necessarily the master of this science, but people who have mastered this science perfectly certainly far from mundane life.

Those who have been perfect would be able to enter and exit the spirit world, calling someone a good spirit who has died and those still alive (can communicate with those who are still alive only when they are asleep)

There was a time limit of 24 hours in a very good day to get into the spirit realm is at 00.00 until 03.00. According to my teachers the time between our real nature and the supernatural or spiritual realm, confronting each other, after passing at such a shift will occur, so they are capable of doing science will not be able to enter into the invisible realm.

why I believe in my teachers? and the science that "does not make sense" this?
after I met him, I said if I wanted to meet him on the phone, and then he asked me to send messages via SMS where my home address. at that time I was not at home and then at 18:00 I just send the message, and my position was about 25 miles from home, being my teacher positions more than 200 miles from my house. within a few minutes later my teacher to send messages via SMS, asking me to contact him. then I had to contact them, you try to guess what happens? he could clearly define the shape of my house, my house there are any and what color my home, also the road that leads to my house while he was saying this is all seen in the palm of his hand.

I just wanted to share this true story for the sake of your knowledge.

I currently live in the city of Sidoarjo, eastern Java, Indonesia.

Hope this is useful to you, and I translate it through

D.L. Burris's picture

Days After Death

I came across your website. It provokes so much thought.
Would you take a look at my website, My book chronicles a man's journey from the last day of his life through his spiritual transformation over the days that follow. He slips from being an exploiter of the environment, an executive in an energy conglomerate, to being an integral and healing part of the environment. He ends up immersing his spirit further and further into the planet's rhythms and healing forces and ends up as part of the elements that sustain the planet

Anyway, I enjoyed your thoughts. I don't know what brought me to serendip but I am comming back. Keep up the good work.