• Science and Longevity
    Books in this section explore problems associated with the biological mechanisms of ageing and scientific efforts to promote longevity and forestall (or prevent) ageing. This section includes books that emphasize the science, methods and technical problems associated with the extensive prolongation of life without senescence.

    • Friedman, Howard S., and Leslie R. Martin. The Longevity Project. New York, New York: Hudson Street Press, 2011.
      Read Abstract
      Friedman and Martin followed the subjects of Terman’s famous longitudinal study of gifted children (begun in 1921) in an attempt to determine which psychic, physical, and social factors best predict longevity. Many of the factors that the authors hypothesized would lead to longevity in fact did not (e.g., children evaluated as optimistic or happy-go-lucky were less likely to live to old age than serious or shy children, and that children enrolled in 1st grade early tended to have shorter lives than those who enrolled at the typical age). Indeed they found that conscientiousness, persistence, prudence, and hard work, along with close involvement with friends and community were the best predictors of longevity. The authors conclude that the prevalence of pharmacological and health regimes (e.g., diets, exercise) in our present culture are not as effective at producing longevity as is a healthy, balanced psyche.
    • Hall, Stephen S. Merchants of Immortality: Chasing the Dream of Human Life Extension. New York, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.
      Read Abstract
      In this book Hall examines the commercialization of human life extension science. He looks at the development and history of two companies in particular, Geron and Advanced Cell Technologies. Especially interesting are the financial, ethical, and political aspects of such companies.
    • Kurzweil, Ray. The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2005.
      Read Abstract
      In this book Kurzweil argues that the exponential rate of technological innovation which is occurring is such that, in the near future, computer technology will allow for the building of (computer) minds superior to that of human beings. He believes that humans will be able to interface with such technology, greatly augmenting our own intelligence. Kurzweil thinks that this interface is the key to human immortality.
    • Post, Stephen G. and Robert H. Binstock, eds. The Fountain of Youth: Cultural, Scientific, and Ethical Perspectives on a Biomedical Goal. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
      Read Abstract
      This collection of essays is divided into three sections. The first gives a historical background and analysis of the human pursuit of immortality. The second provides an overview of the scientific approach to the extensive prolongation of life and includes papers which explore three scientific models for longevity. The last section considers the social, political, and ethical implications of scientifically aided longevity.
    • Weiner, Jonathan. Long for this World: The Strange Science of Immortality. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.
      Read Abstract
      Weiner surveys the different approaches biologists take when explaining how and why we age. He pays close attention to the debate between evolutionary and molecular biologists about whether ageing is best understood as a side effect of evolutionary selection or as a gradual failure of cellular mechanisms to provide effective upkeep of our cells. Weiner also explores various informed positions on what might be done to significantly lengthen our lives without senescence.
  • Religion and Afterlife
    Books in this section either consider or provide information about immortality from a religious point of view. You will find discussion of the differences in the afterlife beliefs held by various faiths, and even within a particular faith. Books included here also examine the psychological and sociological importance of religious views of immortality for persons of faith and communities.

    • Coward, Harold (ed.). Life and Death in World Religions. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997.
      Read Abstract
      This collection includes selections written by scholars on central elements of the afterlife beliefs and imagery of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and certain Chinese religions.
    • Ginzburg, Louis. Legends of the Bible. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1956.
      Read Abstract
      Using midrashic sources (exegetical literature) arising out of haggadah (oral tradition) Ginzburg gives an account of Jewish legends about the death and resurrection of some of the most notable figures in the Hebrew bible. Especially interesting is the imagery of heaven and the discussion of the deaths of Adam, Abraham, and David.
    • MacGregor, Geddes. Images of Afterlife: Belief from Antiquity to Modern Times. New York, New York: Paragon House, 1992.
      Read Abstract
      MacGregor surveys the development of views about life-after-death across cultures throughout the course of recorded history. This book explores the evolution of beliefs about direct connections between living persons and the afterlife (e.g. spiritualism and parapsychology), a religion’s tenets about God and its picture of the afterlife, as well as the psychic impact belief in the afterlife has had on the living.
    • Obayashi, Hiroshi (ed.). Death and Afterlife: Perspectives of World Religions. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992.
      Read Abstract
      Obayashi’s compendium of afterlife beliefs covers not only eastern and western religions, but also discusses death and the afterlife in African religions. In addition Obayashi’s book includes chapters on the afterlife beliefs held by ancient Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Greek cultures.
  • Literature and Immortality
    Literature brings a unique –and often personal- perspective to thinking about immortality. Books in this section raise questions about immortality, its possibility, promise, and problems from a fictional, narrative, or personal point of view.

    • Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths. New York, New York: New Directions Books, 1964.
      Read Abstract
      This collection contains several short stories that are relevant to the phenomenology of longevity and immortality (and so relevant to how we ought to pursue them for our own purposes). Two stories in particular stand out. “Funes the Memorious” tells the story of a young man unable to forget even the most minute detail of experience and as a result loses a large portion of his humanity. The story says something interesting about the constraints on memory and mind enhancement that might be necessary (given the possibility of mind uploading or direct enhancement of the mind through machine interface) in order to preserve our human nature. Also of interest is “The Immortal”, which challenges the notion that immortality is desirable.
    • Egan, Greg, “Learning to Be Me.” In Axiomatic by Greg Egan. London: Orion Publishing Group, 1995.
      Read Abstract
      In this short story Egan tells the story of a society in which members have ‘jewels’ implanted in their heads which record and learn to copy the experience and action of their biological brains. In this way they believe they can continue to exist after the death of the biological brain. The story is an intriguing exploration of the notion of the degree and nature of mental differences which constitute a different identity.
    • George, Andrew, trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 2003.
      Read Abstract
      This epic poem, which was probably first recorded in its present form around 1000-1300 BCE by a Babylonian poet recounts the tale of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian king. The poem follows the adventures of Gilgamesh who, having thought himself immortal because of his great strength, begins a journey to discover the secret of immortality after the death of a friend equal to him in strength. In the end Gilgamesh finds that death is unavoidable and he must come to terms with it.
    • Stapledon, Olaf. Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future. New York, New York: Dover Publications, 1968.
      Read Abstract
      This work of science fiction is a history of human evolution written from the perspective of the distant future. Stapledon images a long line of evolutionary changes in man, both naturally and artificially produced, which move us toward species success and longevity. However, Stapledon’s story shows that flaws in nature and disposition can defeat even the most successful scientific advances made toward immortality.
  • Near-Death Experience (NDE) and the Psychology of Immortality
    Near death experiences (NDE) have a physical explanation according to some and give convincing proof of an afterlife to others. Whatever the correct account of NDE, it appears to be a genuine phenomenon that impacts lives and world views. Books in this section explore reasons for the various interpretations of NDE and its psychological impact.

    • Corazza, Ornella. Near Death Experiences: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection. New York, NY: Routledge, 2008.
      Read Abstract
      Ornella reviews varying accounts of NDE and examines the prevailing and opposing interpretations of such experiences: that they reflect mind-body dualism or they are merely physical processes of the dying brain. She also introduces, and prefers, a third non-western interpretation of NDE: that it is reflective of a non-reductionist (i.e. NDE is not merely the result of brain processes) and non-dualist view of embodiment.
    • D’Aquili, Eugene, and Andrew B. Newberg. The Mystical Mind: Probing the Biology of Religious Experience. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999.
      Read Abstract
      D’Aquili and Newberg propose to discover a metatheology -or an overarching approach that can explain the essential features of any theology- using a technique they call neurotheology, which is the study of the functions of the mind/brain as they relate to God and other mystical experience. By carefully studying the brain they believe they have identified the basic neurobiological functions (cognitive operators, imperatives and arousal/quiescent states) that account for the components of metatheology: the existence of creation and salvation myths, the elaboration of these myths into complex theologies, and the consequent behavior of ceremonial ritual. However, the authors are not dismissive of mystical experience. They point out that the claim that such states are simply creations of the mind is on the same epistemological footing as is the claim that the concrete world is merely a creation of the mind.
    • Lommel, Pim Van, M.D. Conciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
      Read Abstract
      Lommel makes the case for the possibility of nonlocal consciousness (i.e. consciousness that is not dependent on the existence of the brain, and does not occur in at a particular time or place). He criticizes many recent studies of NDE, as well as standard medical and psychiatric approaches taken to those who have had an NDE, are comatose, or are considered brain dead. Lommel believes that the pervasive implicit assumption in the scientific community that NDEs merely reflect local events occurring in the dying brain inhibits better and more thorough investigation of NDE and consciousness.
    • Long, Jeffrey, and Paul Perry. Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near-Death Experience. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.
      Read Abstract
      Long and Perry argue that on a weight of the evidence view we should conclude that there is life after death. The reasons they give are taken from the Near Death Experience Research Foundation which was begun by Dr. Long. The NDERF acts as a clearinghouse for the qualitative experiences associated with NDEs (given by voluntary participants). Long and Perry do make nine interesting observations based on data collected through the project. Some examples include the finding that the NDE is remarkably similar across cultures, and that elements of the NDE are generally accurate with respect with what was occurring to the person at the time of their clinical death. Perhaps most intriguing is their claim that several of those who had NDEs reported highly visual experiences despite being blind from birth.
    • Valarino, Evelyn E. On the Other Side of Life: Exploring the Phenomenon of the Near-Death Experience. New York, New York: Plenum Press, 1997.
      Read Abstract
      This book is comprised of a collection of interviews Valrino carried out with scholars in the areas of literature, psychology, biophysics, and neurophysiology. She also includes interviews with those who have had a NDE. The interviews with the scholars expose the reader to different approaches –ranging from classically physical to theoretical and transcendental- to explaining the phenomena associated with NDE. The strong psychological influence of the NDE, for those who have experienced it, is also examined.
  • Philosophy and Immortality
    Books included in this section address philosophical issues related to the ethical and metaphysical problems of Immortality. Some examples of metaphysical issues one might find discussed include conceptual issues about physical immortality and personal identity, the possibility of non-physical existence, and the nature of the relationship between a person, their death, and events which occur after their death.The philosophical issues related to the ethics of immortality center on its impact on our lives and the lives of others. Books in this section will include discussions about the desirability of immortality, the impact of one’s own immortality on others, as well as death and meaningfulness of life.

    • Cave, Stephen. Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization. New York: Random House, Inc., 2012.
      Read Abstract
      This book is largely a philosophy of the psychology of mortality and our fear of death. It starts with the mortality paradox – the objective recognition that we will die coupled with a subjective inability to conceive of our own death. From the second element of this paradox arise 4 distinct (and exhaustive) approaches to explaining immortality: physical persistence, resurrection, immortality of the soul and legacy. Cave believes that each of these answers will fail to deliver on its promise. Ultimately Cave wants to argue that concern with immortality is not merely a benign matter of personal belief, but a strong and pervasive influence on all human civilization.
    • Fischer, John Martin (ed.). The Metaphysics of Death. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993.
      Read Abstract
      This collection includes essays which examine the desirability of immortality, the possibility that death gives our lives meaning, and why death is (or is not) a bad thing.
    • Hocking, William E. The Meaning of Immortality in Human Experience (Including “Thoughts on Death and Life”). New York, New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., 1973.
      Read Abstract
      Hocking considers the idea that mortality gives our lives meaning by giving us a sense of purpose and control. He also explores the claim that immortality is desirable as a rational interest in the continuation of what is beautiful and loved. In addition, he examines the question of the possibility of immortality by integrating philosophical history (e.g. Plato, Descartes, and Kant) with broader empirical and metaphysical perspectives.
    • Kagan, Shelly. Death, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.
      Read Abstract
      Kagan covers a broad spectrum of topics about death. In the book Kagan argues for physicalism and takes the position that our desire to survive death is not grounded in the continuation and continuity of body or soul, but of personality. Kagan also takes up the puzzle of how death can be considered bad if it is the utter destruction of us. He argues that death can be bad because it deprives us of certain goods we might otherwise have attained. Interestingly, he thinks that immortality is probably not desirable. Finally, Kagan goes on to support the claim that under certain conditions suicide can be both rational and moral.
    • Meilaender, Gilbert. Should we Live Forever? The Ethical Ambiguities of Aging. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013.
      Read Abstract
      In this book Meilaender questions the desirability of earthy immortality (or extreme longevity) without senescence. His principal claim is not that immortality per se is undesirable, but that immortality without a connection to God runs a great risk of causing our lives to become meaninglessness or a loss of our humanity. He makes several interesting arguments in this respect. One is that immortality (or extreme longevity) would endanger a coherent life narrative and so our lives would begin to seem meaningless. He also thinks that immortality could bring about a loss of some (perhaps many) of our virtues, such as selflessness and gratitude.
    • Moreira-Almeida, Alexander and Franklin S. Santos (eds.). Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship. New York, New York: Springer, 2012.
      Read Abstract
      In this anthology 16 different authors offer challenges to the position of reductive materialism. The book divides these challenges along 4 major lines: Philosophy, Physics, Functional Neuroimaging, and Phenomenology. The main focus is on quantum, neurobiological, and phenomenological evidence against a reductive materialist consciousness and in favor of property dualism (there is an interesting defense of Cartesian Dualism included in the first section of the book). Ultimately, the editors think that the claim of reductive materialism with respect to the mind is being held dogmatically by many in the scientific community and that strong evidence suggests it may be false.
    • Perry, John. A Dialogue on Personal Identity and Immortality. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 1978.
      Read Abstract
      In Socratic dialectic Perry examines the possibility of and significant challenges to the survival of personal identity after death. In particular he questions whether the existence of an immortal soul is relevant to personal identity.
    • Schumacher, Bernard N. Death and Morality in Contemporary Philosophy. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
      Read Abstract
      Schumacher considers three important theoretical aspects of death. First, he argues that contemporary medical and philosophical definitions of death are inadequate because they distinguish personhood from humanity. He believes that death occurs not just when one or another part of the human organism fails to function, but when it ceases to function as a whole. In the next section Schumacher argues that philosophy should take a more integrated approach to our knowledge about and comportment toward death by integrating the analytic and continental philosophical traditions. Finally, he takes seriously, but distances himself from, Epicurean claims that death is nothing to the living. Schumacher believes that death can be understood as an evil of privation.
    • Vinge, Verner. “The Coming Technological Singularity” Whole Earth Review 81 (1993): 88-95.
      Read Abstract
      In this article Vinge argues that the pace of computer enhancement and the interest of the scientific community is such that if super-intelligent computers (computers more intelligent than humans) are possible, then it is a near certainty that they will come to exist (i.e., this is the singularity). One naturally wonders about the relationship between humans and super-intelligent computers. Vinge believes that there are several alternatives
      for how artificial super-intelligence will relate to humanity. He thinks one path is AI (artificial intelligence) which keeps the artificial intelligence separate from humanity, and in which case we will need to build in certain meta-rules governing the behavior of such systems. Another path to the singularity, one Vinge seems to think is an easier and more natural path to superhuman intelligence is IA (Intelligence Amplification). In this case there will be a fusion of human and computer intelligences that will extend our own human intelligence well beyond its present boundaries.
The Science, Philosophy, and Theology of Immortality

Supported by a grant from the

Recent Press

  • The Press-Enterprise
  • Wired
  • Coachella Valley Weekly
  • BYU Radio
  • Slate Magazine