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Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization Hardcover – 3 Apr 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (NY); 1st Edition edition (3 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307884916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307884916
  • ASIN: 0307884910
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.9 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,025,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A beautifully clear and entertaining look at life after death. Cave does not shrink from the hard questions. Bold and thought-provoking."
--Eric Olson, author of "The Human Animal "and "What Are We? "
" "
""Immortality "plumbs the depths of the human mind and ties the quest for the infinite prolongation of life into the very nature of civilization itself. Cave reveals remarkable depth and breadth of learning, yet is always a breeze to read. I thoroughly enjoyed his book--it's a really intriguing study."
--David Boyd Haycock, author of "Mortal Coil "and "A Crisis of Brilliance"

"I loved this.Cave has set himself an enormous task and accomplished it--inspades. Establishing a four-level subject matter, he has stuck to his guns and never let up. As he left one level and went to the next, I was always a little worried: Would he be able to pull it off? This was especially true as he approached the end. There is a sense in which each level, as he left it smoking in the road, looked easy as he started the next. In fact, the last level, while it is the most difficult, is the best, the most satisfying. I am happy to live in the world Cave describes."
-- Charles Van Doren, author of "A History of Knowledge "

"Cave is smart, lucid, elegant and original. "Immortality" is an engaging read about our oldest obsession, and how that obsession propels some of our greatest accomplishments."
--Greg Critser, author of "Eternity Soup "
" "
"In "Immortality" Stephen Cave tells wonderful stories about one of humanity's oldest desires and comes to a wise conclusion."
-- Stefan Klein, author of "The Science of Happiness "and "The Secret Pulse of Time "

"Cave has produced a strikingly original and compelling exploration of the age-old conundrum: Can we live forever, and do we really want to?"
--John Horgan, science journalist and author of "The End of War"

Cave explains how the seeking of immortality is the foundation of human achievement, the wellspring of art, religion and civilization...The author is rangy and recondite, searching the byways of elixirs, the surprises of alchemy, the faith in engineering and all the wonder to be found in discussions of life and death...Luminous."
--"Kirkus Reviews"
"A dramatic and frequently surprising story of the pursuit of immortality and its effects on human history."
"--Booklist"

"A beautifully clear and entertaining look at life after death. Cave does not shrink from the hard questions. Bold and thought-provoking."
--Eric Olson, author of "The Human Animal "and "What Are We? "
" "
""Immortality "plumbs the depths of the human mind and ties the quest for the infinite prolongation of life into the very nature of civilization itself. Cave reveals remarkable depth and breadth of learning, yet is always a breeze to read. I thoroughly enjoyed his book--it's a really intriguing study."
--David Boyd Haycock, author of "Mortal Coil "and "A Crisis of Brilliance"
"I loved this.Cave has set himself an enormous task and accomplished it--inspades. Establishing a four-level subject matter, he has stuck to his guns and never let up. As he left one level and went to the next, I was always a little worried: Would he be able to pull it off? This was especially true as he approached the end. There is a sense in which each level, as he left it smoking in the road, looked easy as he started the next. In fact, the last level, while it is the most difficult, is the best, the most satisfying. I am happy to live in the world Cave describes."
-- Charles Van Doren, author of "A History of Knowledge "
"Cave is smart, lucid, elegant and original. "Immortality" is an engaging read about our oldest obsession, and how that obsession propels some of our greatest accomplishments."
--Greg Critser, author of "Eternity Soup "
" "
"In "Immortality" St

"A must-read exploration of what spurs human ingenuity. Every once in a while a book comes along that catches me by surprise and provides me with an entirely new lens through which to view the world...Such is the case with Stephen Cave's book "Immortality."..Cave presents an extremely compelling case - one that has changed my view of the driving force of civilization as much as Jared Diamond did years ago with his brilliant book "Guns, Germs and Steel.""
--S. Jay Olshanksy, New Scientist magazine
"Cave explains how the seeking of immortality is the foundation of human achievement, the wellspring of art, religion and civilization...The author is rangy and recondite, searching the byways of elixirs, the surprises of alchemy, the faith in engineering and all the wonder to be found in discussions of life and death...Luminous."
--Kirkus Reviews
"A dramatic and frequently surprising story of the pursuit of immortality and its effects on human history."
--Booklist
"A beautifully clear and entertaining look at life after death. Cave does not shrink from the hard questions. Bold and thought-provoking."
--Eric Olson, author of "The Human Animal "and "What Are We? "
" "
""Immortality "plumbs the depths of the human mind and ties the quest for the infinite prolongation of life into the very nature of civilization itself. Cave reveals remarkable depth and breadth of learning, yet is always a breeze to read. I thoroughly enjoyed his book--it's a really intriguing study."
--David Boyd Haycock, author of "Mortal Coil "and "A Crisis of Brilliance"
"I loved this.Cave has set himself an enormous task and accomplished it--inspades. Establishing a four-level subject matter, he has stuck to his guns and never let up. As he left one level and went to the next, I was always a little worried: Would he be able to pull it off? This was especially true as he approached the end. There is a sense in which each level, as he left it smoking in th

"In his survey of the subject, Stephen Cave, a British philosopher, argues that man's various tales of immortality can be boiled down into four basic "narratives..". For the aspiring undying, Mr Cave unfortunately concludes that immortality is a mirage. But his demolition project is fascinating in its own right...If anything, readers might want more of Mr. Cave's crisp conversational prose."
--The Economist
"A must-read exploration of what spurs human ingenuity. Every once in a while a book comes along that catches me by surprise and provides me with an entirely new lens through which to view the world...Such is the case with Stephen Cave's book "Immortality."..Cave presents an extremely compelling case - one that has changed my view of the driving force of civilization as much as Jared Diamond did years ago with his brilliant book "Guns, Germs and Steel.""
--S. Jay Olshanksy, New Scientist magazine
"Cave explains how the seeking of immortality is the foundation of human achievement, the wellspring of art, religion and civilization...The author is rangy and recondite, searching the byways of elixirs, the surprises of alchemy, the faith in engineering and all the wonder to be found in discussions of life and death...Luminous."
--Kirkus Reviews
"A dramatic and frequently surprising story of the pursuit of immortality and its effects on human history."
--Booklist
"A beautifully clear and entertaining look at life after death. Cave does not shrink from the hard questions. Bold and thought-provoking."
--Eric Olson, author of "The Human Animal "and "What Are We? "
" "
""Immortality "plumbs the depths of the human mind and ties the quest for the infinite prolongation of life into the very nature of civilization itself. Cave reveals remarkable depth and breadth of learning, yet is always a breeze to read. I thoroughly enjoyed his book--it's a really intriguing study."
--David Boyd Haycock, author of "Mortal Coil "and "AB

"Informed and metaphysically nuanced...Cave presents his arguments in a brisk, engaging style, and draws effectively upon a wide-ranging stock of religious, philosophical, and scientific sources, both ancient and contemporary."
--Weekly Standard
"In his survey of the subject, Stephen Cave, a British philosopher, argues that man's various tales of immortality can be boiled down into four basic "narratives..". For the aspiring undying, Mr Cave unfortunately concludes that immortality is a mirage. But his demolition project is fascinating in its own right...If anything, readers might want more of Mr. Cave's crisp conversational prose."
--The Economist
"A must-read exploration of what spurs human ingenuity. Every once in a while a book comes along that catches me by surprise and provides me with an entirely new lens through which to view the world...Such is the case with Stephen Cave's book "Immortality."..Cave presents an extremely compelling case - one that has changed my view of the driving force of civilization as much as Jared Diamond did years ago with his brilliant book "Guns, Germs and Steel.""
--S. Jay Olshanksy, New Scientist magazine
"Cave explains how the seeking of immortality is the foundation of human achievement, the wellspring of art, religion and civilization...The author is rangy and recondite, searching the byways of elixirs, the surprises of alchemy, the faith in engineering and all the wonder to be found in discussions of life and death...Luminous."
--Kirkus Reviews
"A dramatic and frequently surprising story of the pursuit of immortality and its effects on human history."
--Booklist
"A beautifully clear and entertaining look at life after death. Cave does not shrink from the hard questions. Bold and thought-provoking."
--Eric Olson, author of "The Human Animal "and "What Are We? "
" "
""Immortality "plumbs the depths of the human mind and ties the quest for the infinite prolongation of life into the very nature of civilization itself. Cave reveals remarkable depth and breadth of learning, yet is always a breeze to read. I thoroughly enjoyed his book--it's a really intriguing study."
--David Boyd Haycock, author of "Mortal Coil "and "A Crisis of Brilliance"
"I loved this.Cave has set himself an enormous task and accomplished it--inspades. Establishing a four-level subject matter, he has stuck to his guns and never let up. As he left one level and went to the next, I was always a little worried: Would he be able to pull it off? This was especially true as he approached the end. There is a sense in which each level, as he left it smoking in the road, looked easy as he started the next. In fact, the last level, while it is the most difficult, is the best, the most satisfying. I am happy to live in the world Cave describes."
-- Charles Van Doren, author of "A History of Knowledge "
"Cave is smart, lucid, elegant and original. "Immortality" is an engaging read about our oldest obsession, and how that obsession propels some of our greatest accomplishments."
--Greg Critser, author of "Eternity Soup "
" "
"In "Immortality" Stephen Cave tells wonderful stories about one of humanity's oldest desires and comes to a wise conclusion."
-- Stefan Klein, author of "The Science of Happiness "and "The Secret Pulse of Time "
"Cave has produced a strikingly original and compelling exploration of the age-old conundrum: Can we live forever, and do we really want to?"
--John Horgan, science journalist and author of "The End of War"

Informed and metaphysically nuanced Cave presents his arguments in a brisk, engaging style, and draws effectively upon a wide-ranging stock of religious, philosophical, and scientific sources, both ancient and contemporary.
--Weekly Standard
In his survey of the subject, Stephen Cave, a British philosopher, argues that man s various tales of immortality can be boiled down into four basic narratives For the aspiring undying, Mr Cave unfortunately concludes that immortality is a mirage. But his demolition project is fascinating in its own right If anything, readers might want more of Mr. Cave s crisp conversational prose.
--The Economist
A must-read exploration of what spurs human ingenuity. Every once in a while a book comes along that catches me by surprise and provides me with an entirely new lens through which to view the world Such is the case with Stephen Cave s book "Immortality" Cave presents an extremely compelling case one that has changed my view of the driving force of civilization as much as Jared Diamond did years ago with his brilliant book "Guns, Germs and Steel. "
--S. Jay Olshanksy, New Scientist magazine
"Cave explains how the seeking of immortality is the foundation of human achievement, the wellspring of art, religion and civilization...The author is rangy and recondite, searching the byways of elixirs, the surprises of alchemy, the faith in engineering and all the wonder to be found in discussions of life and death...Luminous."
--Kirkus Reviews
Adramatic and frequently surprising story of the pursuit of immortality and its effects on human history.
--Booklist
A beautifully clear and entertaining look at life after death. Cave does not shrink from the hard questions. Bold and thought-provoking.
Eric Olson, author of "The Human Animal "and "What Are We? "
""
"Immortality "plumbs the depths of the human mind and ties the quest for the infinite prolongation of life into the very nature of civilization itself. Cave reveals remarkable depth and breadth of learning, yet is always a breeze to read. I thoroughly enjoyed his book it s a really intriguing study.
David Boyd Haycock, author of "Mortal Coil "and "A Crisis of Brilliance"
I loved this. Cave has set himself an enormous task and accomplished it in spades. Establishing a four-level subject matter, he has stuck to his guns and never let up. As he left one level and went to the next, I was always a little worried: Would he be able to pull it off? This was especially true as he approached the end. There is a sense in which each level, as he left it smoking in the road, looked easy as he started the next. In fact, the last level, while it is the most difficult, is the best, the most satisfying. I am happy to live in the world Cave describes.
Charles Van Doren, author of "A History of Knowledge "
Cave is smart, lucid, elegant and original. "Immortality" is an engaging read about our oldest obsession, and how that obsession propels some of our greatest accomplishments.
Greg Critser, author of "Eternity Soup "
""
In "Immortality" Stephen Cave tells wonderful stories about one of humanity s oldest desires and comes to a wise conclusion.
Stefan Klein, author of "The Science of Happiness "and "The Secret Pulse of Time "
Cave has produced a strikingly original and compelling exploration of the age-old conundrum: Can we live forever, and do we really want to?
John Horgan, science journalist and author of "The End of War""

About the Author

Stephen Cave holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Cambridge University and, before turning to full-time writing, worked as a diplomat. He writes regularly for the "Financial Times "and also contributes to the "New York Times.""

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Format: Hardcover
This is a remarkably poor book considering it is written by a contemporary 'philosopher- journalist' with a PhD in Metaphysics. Admittedly it has to perhaps be accepted more an exercise in journalism than anything else, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that approach, but the subject he is covering is more complex and worthy of deeper thought and consideration than he gives it in the 300-odd pages here, and if you are looking for a considered, intellectual analysis of the concept of Immortality within the human psyche and it's culture, you won't find it here.

He approaches the subject from a firmly secular, materialistically rooted position which again is fair enough if that is the base of his ideological worldview, but as so often with writers wedded to the metaphysical ideology of materialism he promotes that ideology with sweeping statements and a dismissal of alternative views with amateur blandishments- or when the going gets particularly tough- ignoring outright the scientific evidence that counters his position. To be generous this may be ignorance on the author's part, but I suspect it is more to do with a need to support his own materialist agenda than anything else. Nor can the book be excused as an exercise in journalistic polemic- Cave doesn't even seriously challenge views [and evidence] opposing his own, he just ignores it.

It has to be said the worst section in the book- and the most central one to his argument so that's the one I'll address specifically- has to be the 'Soul,' because of course if there is such a state of being, the basic tenet of this book that the concept of Immortality is a cultural invention, doesn't hold up.
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Format: Hardcover
Stephen Cave does not take enough time to build up the background to make the sweeping assumptions that he does. This may have been helped if there is been Footnotes all along saying here somebody else to says this or some other thing that shows this.

He flippantly assumes that all societies, people are built on the thought of four types of immortality. That would be okay in itself except very seems to be a snot when it comes to who is immortality can trump whose immortality as if it was all a game.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 94 reviews
84 of 94 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Immortality from the secular view. 21 Mar. 2012
By Miles D. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Stephen Cave's "Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization" is a well-organized, meticulously argued, elegantly written book. Cave's thesis is to descirbe what he calls the world's four "Immortality Narratives"--"Staying Alive" (prolonging physical life via medical and technological means), "Resurrection" (the traditional Christian teaching that we are reborn in the same body), "Soul" (the idea that our individual consciousness survives bodily death), and "Legacy" (gaining immortality through great deeds or our descendants). Using the stories of Nefertiti, St. Paul, Dante and Beatrice, the Dalai Lama, Alexander the Great and Gilgamesh to organize his book and argue his points, Cave demonstrates in a clear, intelligent style how each of these narratives informed society and led to great advances in art, literature, law and politics.

However, Cave--a philosopher, and thus a logician, by training--also uses scientific evidence to assess the chances of any of the Immortality Narratives being true. He concludes that all of them are almost certainly false. He is particularly scathing toward the idea of the soul, the Immortality Narrative most of the world's residents accept: "(E)verything the soul was supposed to explain--thoughts, consciousness, life itself--has been shown to be dependent on the body. We therefore have every reason to believe that all these faculties--from memory to emotion to the most basic form of awareness--cease when the body ceases. There is simply nothing left over for the soul. As a hypothesis, it is redundant."

In place of the soul, Cave offers this as consolation: "We do not linger like uninvited guests at our own funeral, nor are we plunged into the lonely void. We stop. The conscious experiences we have had are the totality of our lives; death, like birth, is just a term that defines the bounds of those experiences...The second step along the path of wisdom is therefore this realization that we can never be dead, that fearing being dead is therefore a nonsense." An elegantly phrased, neatly thought-out idea. And one that was effectively refuted more than a hundred years ago by Ambrose Bierce in his story, "Parker Adderson, Philosopher," as well as more recently by Philip Larkin in his poem, "Aubade."

Cave is correct in praising the wisdom of the "Carpe Diem" philosophy of life, and everyone--no matter their spiritual or philosophical leanings--can find much to admire in the Epicureans and Stoics. They constitute a wonderful defense against the pain and arbitrariness of life. But, for non-secularists, they aren't enough.

I also could have done without Cave's condescension. "No doubt some people are muddling along just fine with, for example, their reassuring belief in an immortal soul," he says toward the end. "Muddling along"? Even worse is his bald assertion that "most immortality narratives foster a profound selfishness," as if only atheists could care about others besides themselves. It is precisely because I care about my family, friends, neighbors, and about those who perish in wars, genocides, natural disasters, that I find the idea of a godless universe unbearable.

Of course no one truly knows what comes after death, and Cave's guess is as good as mine. We will see--or not--when the time comes. Cave is a fine, thoughtful writer despite his flaws, and millions of people will find his book totally satisfactory. Those who are wedded completely to one narrative or another will reject his book in anger, or--more likely--never read it. Those of us who try to follow a middle way--accepting the evidence of science while seeing the Universe as divinely created--find much to infuriate and frustrate us in this book. But it also forces us to think about what we believe, and why, and that is never a bad thing.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Everlasting Book! Fantastic! 9 April 2012
By Book Shark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization by Stephen Cave

" Immortality" is the fascinating and thought-provoking book about life, death and civilization. It's about humankind's quest by one or a combination of four paths that promise immortality and whether any of these paths can deliver on that promise. Finally, with the newfound wisdom it's about following a philosophy of life that provides us with a meaningful existence. Stephen Cave holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Cambridge University and a writer who skillfully provides the reader with a gem of a book that is enlightening and a joy to read. This 338-page book is broken out into four parts that correspond to the four narratives of immortality and a conclusion: Part I. Staying Alive, Part II. Resurrection, Part II. Soul, and Part IV. Legacy.

Positives:
1. A well written, accessible book for the masses.
2. A mesmerizing topic: immortality. The author treats the topic with utmost care and respect.
3. A fantastic format that follows logically with the author's overall thesis.
4. The four immortality narratives: Staying Alive, Resurrection, Soul, and Legacy. The entire book revolves around these four main paths.
5. The author clearly presents three main goals upfront and thoroughly succeeds in achieving them.
6. Each chapter begins with an interesting historical vignette in which the author highlights the main topic of the chapter.
7. In the first path of immortality the author goes through a number of examples that clearly show how the determination to stay alive and reproduce is one thing that all life forms have in common.
8. The Morality Paradox. The immortality narratives were created to resolve the paradox.
9. Great use of secular, religious and scientific viewpoints to go through all the arguments. Great stuff!
10. Thought-provoking quotes and ideas: "These psychologists were testing the hypothesis that we have developed our cultural worldviews in order to protect ourselves from the fear of death". Interesting.
11. The author goes through various and diverse civilizations to explain his thesis. Thus keeping the book fresh and interesting. "Civilization is built on the promise of immortality".
12. Attempts to engineer immortality. The Engineering Approach to immortality. Transhumanists...
13. The significance of resurrection and the three major problems with it.
14. The impact of Paul to Christianity.
15. The importance of rituals, "This is the function of religion at its grandest: enabling mere mortals to attain cosmic significance, to become one with their gods and so to attain immortality."
16. Cryonics, interesting stuff.
17. My favorite section of the book, the thorough debunking of the soul.
18. The idea of the soul, its claims and the implications.
19. The history and evolution of the concept of the soul. From soul to self...
20. The argument from neuroscience against the existence of the soul.
21. The concepts of heaven.
22. Scientific and religious looks at the soul. Eastern and Western religions.
23. Legacy what it means and how it is achieved. Great examples.
24. Great quotes, "Jean Rostand wrote in 1939, "Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god."
25. Fascinating facts, " By spring 2011, Facebook, had over 600 million active users and counting."
26. The "bundle theory" of the self and the problems associated with it.
27. Nation's myth of common ancestry.
28. Planet Earth, the biggest superorganism, Gaia. Global consciousness.
29. The author does a wonderful job of summarizing his finding into a satisfying conclusion.
30. A positive, secular outlook to death. The Wisdom Narrative.
31. Some great closing thoughts that will stick with me, " This is no doubt why medieval European rulers found Christianity so useful--it taught their exploited subjects to avert their eyes from the horror of their daily lives and dream instead of a future paradise."
32. How these narratives contribute to what our civilizations are.
33. A look at the impact of infinity. Enlightening.
34. The three virtues on our view of life and death.
35. A page turner of a book.

Negatives:
1. No formal bibliography.
2. A notes section was provided but it was not linked to the body of the book.
3. The author overstays his welcome a tad with the last chapter. That is, it was too long and started becoming preachy but if that's the worst thing I can find about this book well you know you got yourself a gem.
4. Charts and illustrations would have added value. For example, a chart illustrating the worldview on immortality would have been welcomed.

In summary, I really enjoyed this book. First of all, this is philosophy at its best. It asks the big questions and it follows a path that is logical and reasonable. It tackles fascinating topics surrounding immortality and it ends with a satisfying conclusion. My favorite part of this book was Part III. The Soul; finally, an author who spends some time addressing the soul in a comprehensive manner. This book was a real treat for me, treat yourself and get it! I highly recommend it.

Further suggestions: "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100" by Michio Kaku, "Paranormality: Why we see what isn't there" by Richard Wiseman, "Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries" by Benjamin Radford, "The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark" by Carl Sagan, "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths" and "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time" by Michael Shermer, "The Problem Of The Soul: Two Visions Of Mind And How To Reconcile Them" by Owen Flanagan, "God Soul Mind Brain: A Neuroscientist's Reflections on the Spirit World (LeapSci)" by Michael S. A. Graziano, "The Brain and the Meaning of Life" by Paul Thagard, and "The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life" by Jesse Bering.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Like any other unprovable assumption 1 Sept. 2014
By T. Fort, PhD - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Stephen Cave's book on Immortality deserves to be read and digested by anyone who sincerely wonders about the possibility of a post-death existence. According to Cave, that would be nearly all of us. Those who have already drawn a conclusion based on whatever belief system they have should stay away, given that they want to preserve their belief system. Cave methodically picks apart then discards each of the four major immortality narratives one by one.

However, he may be wrong. His scientific biases show up throughout the book and his materialism assumption is ever-present. I would have preferred an upfront admission of his underlying premise that scientific materialism is the only valid source of knowledge. Like any other unprovable assumption, regardless of how rational it may feel, it requires a large measure of faith in it to move forward with whatever argument one is weaving.

While Cave does a nice job of presenting each immortality narrative, at the end it seems that he set up four strawmen in order to knock them down and to present his fifth narrative, the Wisdom Narrative, as the champion. He may not be entirely wrong but it's a bit transparent.

That said, it is easy to agree with Cave that the Resurrection Narrative has exhausted any currency it may have once had in our collective cultures. Likewise, it is not difficult to accept the Legacy Narrative as a poor proxy for immortality. However, it is a bit surprising that he so easily dismisses the Staying Alive narrative, since it is fundamentally based on scientific materialism and perhaps offers the greatest hope for the possibility of immortality, if not at least a sufficient extension of life to make it feel like one could be immortal and perhaps even have the ultimate freedom - the choice to decide when to die.

This seems to be the Achilles Heel of the book, as the inconsistency is apparent. On one hand, he acknowledges the progress that science has made to extend life and as noted earlier, much of his positioning is based on scientific materialism. And he encourages the researchers to continue trying to "buy us a few more years." Yet, he also states that while science is allowing humans to live longer, they then only suffer from the diseases associated with old age. Does science have nothing to say or do regarding the eradication of these diseases much like other diseases that have been eradicated? Does science have nothing to say or do about increasing our understanding of the aging process?

It seems somewhat arrogant to assert that the "longevity escape velocity" (living long enough to be able to live forever once science has it figured out) is rubbish, given today's science. Who knows what we will discover in another 200 years regarding life extension, eradication of diseases, and reversing the aging process. Technology advances apace.

Finally, the Soul Narrative is quickly dismissed perhaps because it simply does not fit with a scientific materialism assumption. There is good rationale to assert that brain equals mind from the neuroscience literature. It seems correct that mind (and thus, personality) cannot live on because it is dependent on brain for functionality. But the claim that there can be no more, does not logically follow.

The idea of a life force, or energy source, or Qi, has been around for millennia. The first law of thermodynamics is the Law of Conservation of Energy, which clearly states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change form. At death where does that life energy go? Does it change form? The animus that energizes each life must transform into something else if the Law of Conservation of Energy is correct.

The acquisition of knowledge is not single-threaded. Science is not the only source of knowledge; experience produces knowledge for each of us each day. Experience is the most immediate source of knowledge and is as valid to the scientist as the data he receives and interprets from research. For those who have experienced the sight of a dead person (e.g., at a wake or open-casket funeral), it is abundantly clear that the energy that gave life to that same living person is now gone. Wherefore did it go? Who knows? But if the Law of Conservation of Energy is correct, it was not simply destroyed at death. This side of the Soul Narrative argument is missing from Dr. Cave's analysis but that may be because it did not serve his larger purpose.

That purpose is to put forward a Wisdom Narrative in which he admonishes us to quit worrying about death and immortality and instead start cultivating gratitude, mindfulness, and collectivism as life principles. These ideas are not new and philosophers have been telling us how to live the good life since Socrates. It is hard to deny that living life more gratefully, in the present moment, and in greater connection with others is a good thing.

I recommend Cave's book because it creates an interesting dialogue and makes one contemplate what the future holds for each of us. Will science allow me to live long enough to have more choices about my health and ultimately my death? What really does happen at that moment when the me that I have always known extinguishes? Personal answers to these existential questions will depend on the unprovable assumptions we hold and the degree of faith we have in those assumptions.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars intro look into humankind's obsession with immortality 30 May 2013
By Raychel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This book reminded me my Intro to Philosophy course in college where we were immediately hit with "everything you know is wrong, life is meaningless, and we are all going to die and that is it". Okay, it wasn't quite as grim as my Intro to Philosophy course but at times came close. The author did include enough thought provoking points that it kept me turning the page but this book didn't end up being much of what I expected at all. I really thought it would use more historical accounts of humankind's quest for immortality and how it shaped civilization instead of calling upon a few stories of a few individuals.

For the most part, I think that the author argued his points well. I guess what makes philosophy books frustrating is I cannot argue back lol The author's opinion is set in stone so you have to take what he is saying and leave it in order to get through this book.

If you are open to the idea that this life may indeed be all we have then this book does a fairly good job at convincing you that this might very well be the case. I liked that the author took the time to explain why this is not the most horrible thing that could happen to us. It allows somebody, like myself who is constantly questioning the meaning of existence, to explore the option comfortably.

I do feel like the author somewhat missed the point completely though of humankind's immortality quests. The author tries to convince us that there is absolutely no point to any of it and even if you make enough history to be mentioned 2000 years later guess what? Eventually the sun is going to go out anyway so it doesn't matter anyway. The immortality projects of humankind have shaped this planet for better and for worse and that was what I was hoping the author would explore further in depth. I really wanted this book to be than a long drawn out story on why it is all pointless and unfortunately that seems to be what most of it boils down to.
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fun, thought-provoking book 1 Mar. 2012
By DDC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Immortality is an enjoyable and fun book that asks the reader to consider the question of how much the quest for immortality motivates society (whether the quest is to: (1) stay alive, (2) be resurrected, (3) continue through the soul, and/or (4) legacy). The writing style is light, combining various quotes and points of view with direct and readable prose. The book summarizes philosophical arguments that are easy to follow.

As a person of faith, I found the arguments in sections 2 (resurrection) and 3 (the soul) to be a little unconvincing in light of some of the apologetics that I've read (particularly Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith). But, in the interest of fairness to the author, he specifically states Immortality is meant to be an overview, and I'm sure that he could mount a more scholarly defense of his arguments. And, in any event, I'm not going to lower my rating because you might not be a person of faith, so you might not care OR you might be a person of faith, and this will get you thinking about apologetics, which good too.

Section 4 (legacy) picks back up and is tremendously interesting. I particularly enjoyed the dissection of the personality bundle theory.

This is a fun and interesting read. It sets out to present the issue from an intelligent, but non-scholarly, viewpoint and it succeeds. Even though I disagreed with parts of it, I found that it got me thinking critically about the issues. Finally, it presents an easy and enjoyable historical perspective on events that you probably don't consider often. I recommend it to anyone that enjoys history, philosophy, and sociology.
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