How do you convincingly dismiss most of civilization’s beliefs in the hereafter and still arrive at fresh optimism about the meaning of our all-too-human existence? Bestselling author and Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer does a fine job of it—and much more—in his absorbing 15th book, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia.
As the subtitle promises, statistics and studies abound in this thoroughly researched book. Believers, philosophers, scholars and physicians all have their theories and “proofs” for life after death, methodically examined and just as respectfully refuted by Shermer.
But wait—don’t we already know there is little credible evidence of life after death? Who, after all, has died and returned to tell us about it? And if there is no life after death, how does one find purpose in life? Allow Shermer to introduce you to the singularitarians, Omega Point Theorists, transhumanists, extropians, cryonicists and mind-uploaders. The quest for utopia here on earth has inspired communities as diverse as Jim Jones’ deadly cult and the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.
If the pursuit of immortality in an afterlife or utopia proves elusive, Shermer concludes by offering a cogent argument for seeking answers in a purposeful life. “Heaven and hell are within us, not above and below us,” he insists. “We create our own purpose.” Find meaning in love, family, work and involvement both socially and politically. Ultimately, Shermer is a believer in the power of our unique souls. He suggests, compellingly, that we seek heaven here on earth.