The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death

The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death, by John Gray ($17.52)

Amazon:  Man™s dream of immortality is a foolish, sinister nightmare, argues this gloomy, tendentious meditation on scientific hubris. Gray (Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern), a professor of European thought at the London School of Economics, examines two oddly paired movements of deluded immortalists: the Victorian Society for Psychical Research sought scientific evidence of an afterlife in the œautomatic writing of mediums, and the œGod-builders, an elite circle of Bolsheviks (such as Maxim Gorky) who believed socialism could re-engineer humanity to abolish death. From these studies, Gray distills intriguing insights into Darwinism™s impact on philosophy and the similarities between religion and the scientific worldview; he finishes with a nakedly scornful, fatalistic attack on human efforts to avoid extinction, both individual (cryonic preservation) and collective (anti–global warming initiatives). The historical underpinnings of Gray™s argument are rickety, especially the confused God-builder section, which swirls pointlessly around the story of H.G. Wells and a beautiful Russian spy. His argument that Soviet atrocities flowed from a mad longing to transcend death is free-associated rather than reasoned, and his implicit yoking of dotty British psychics with Stalin™s executioners reveals little. (Apr.)
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Review

“Beautifully conceived and executed . . . Deftly blending philosophy and history, [The Immortalization Commission] rips along with the narrative drive of the most vivid fiction.” —Malcolm Jones, The Daily Beast
“A chilling reflection on the post-Darwinian world. ”—Jill Lepore, The New Yorker
“The British philosopher and freewheeling intellectual John Gray is in serious danger of making philosophy exciting and fun to read . . . Gray captures the hilarious audacity and absurdity of the search for immortality, one that could be conceived only by such charmingly quixotic creatures as human beings . . . A fascinating piece of intellectual history.”—Clancy Martin, The New York Times

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