Home Authors Books Subjects Events Software Features Links Newsletter Gifts Blog Write Review What's New

Review - Dying to Live - Susan Blackmore

Visit bookshop

There are certain topics in science that can be career suicide if you dare to explore them - so all credit to Susan Blackmore for venturing into the dangerous ground of life after death from a scientific viewpoint.

We are used to those with strongly held beliefs being prepared to hold onto those beliefs whatever the evidence - what we sometimes forget is that scientists and those who are strong supporters of science also have strongly held beliefs, and as soon as anyone dares to take a rational, balanced view to certain topics - be it life after death, homeopathy or telepathy - the scientific thought police tend to step in and say "this isn't worth considering".

They totally miss the point. Even if such concerns have no scientific basis, the fact remains that a large percentage of the population support them, and it's important to examine the evidence and act in proper, rational scientific fashion, if science is to get the message across properly. This is exactly what Blackmore does here with great delicacy, as opposed to storming in with hand waving expressions of ridicule (in classic Richard Dawkins style) without any thought for other people's dearly held beliefs.

In Dying to Live, Susan Blackmore explores the evidence for life after death presented by "near death experiences" - the shared experiences of a number of individuals who have temporarily died or come very close to death, but returned to tell the tale. These often have similar components - the consciousness floating out of the body, entering a long dark tunnel with a bright light at the end, a feeling of peace and so on, each of which Blackmore examines in some detail.

Although some will argue with her conclusions, and ask whether or not she considered all the right questions (or for that matter all the evidence), this remains the best book we have seen to take on one aspect that might indicate the existence of life after death - the near death experience - and give it a proper scientific analysis. It probably isn't going to give too much away to say that Blackmore comes down in favour of physiological causes for all the aspects of near death experience, but only after careful consideration of the alternatives.

In the end, though this is a fascinating topic, well handled, we can only award the book three stars, because it could do with a bit more narrative flow - Blackmore has a tendency to slip into classic academic "these researchers found this, while these researchers found that" for page after page. This doesn't stop this being a book that is well worth reading, though.

Also in paperback: Visit bookshop

Reviewed by Martin O'Brien


This site has no connection with Popular Science magazine or other sites and publications with a similar name.

Much of the content of this site is written by popular science writers or friends of popular science writers. Inevitably many of the reviews in such a small community are written by or about someone we know. We always aim to be impartial in our reviews, but there is a connection which we need make clear, as there is no intention to deceive. The content of any review or article is solely the opinion of the author and should not be read or understood on any other basis. The site exists to promote popular science writing and popular science authors and for this reason should be considered promotional material, just as the editorial reviews in an online bookshop or the blurb on the back of a book should be considered promotional.

The website should not be eaten or used where it can come into contact with water.

Disagree with our review? Want to comment on a feature? Contact us at info@ popularscience.co.uk - have your say!

Part of the Popular Science  site

Copyright Creativity Unleashed Limited 2005
Last update 05 June 2007