3 out of 4 stars
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A Hole in Science: An Opening for an Alternative Understanding of Life, by Ted Christopher, is a book that seeks to challenge the ‘materialist’ understanding of life which argues that human actions are a direct cause of either genetic factors (DNA) or environmental factors.
The book is a collection of challenges to a materialist notion of life and offers transcendental explanations (involving a soul) for the same. The discussions are far reaching and range from the issue of heritability of intelligence to remembrances of past lives by children to the domestication of foxes. The chapters all follow a similar pattern wherein the author first identifies and explains gaps within the materialist view and then suggests alternative explanations for the same. The author is specifically arguing for the existence of a soul and not in favour of any specific religion, although there is a chapter devoted to a discussion of Buddhism. The book is complete with references to numerous studies, books and articles and is extremely well-researched.
The book is a fantastic attempt to identify some of the existing weaknesses in the explanation of life. Specifically, the section on savants and prodigies poses a significant challenge to an explanation based simply on DNA or the environment. The anecdotes about the same were extremely interesting and the number of such case studies was surprising to me. Even though the conversation is wide-ranging, the author manages to weave it all into a coherent narrative. Finally, the book is extremely well edited and contained no errors that I could identify.
However, the book suffers from some significant setbacks as well. The first and most crucial one is the lack of evidence offered for any of the transcendental explanations. While the book manages to challenge existing explanations, gaps in our current understanding are not an adequate justification for the author's explanation. The author’s explanations thus read more as assertions which are out of place in such a well-researched book. Second, the author belabours the issue with the materialistic viewpoint to the point of boredom. The same issue is brought up again and again with the same challenge being posed to it. This repetition also detracted from my experience of the book.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I learnt a lot about a variety of interesting subjects and the subject matter was easily accessible to a layman like me, but the negatives I listed prevent me from giving it a perfect rating. I would recommend this book to people who enjoy thinking and reading about the basis for life and have an open mind about such issues.
A Hole in Science: An Opening for an Alternative Understanding of Life
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