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Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  428 ratings  ·  65 reviews
A scientific exploration into humanity's obsession with the afterlife and quest for immortality from the bestselling author and skeptic Michael Shermer

In his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans' belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality along with utopian attempts to create heaven on earth
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 9th 2018 by Henry Holt & Company
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Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heaven, Stairs To Heaven, Sky, Faith, Stairway, Path

The good news? You're alive (well, I HOPE that's a good thing for you). The bad news? You're going to die. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. For millennia, humans have been trying to evade death by creating afterlives. Sure, we can't stop our physical bodies from dying but we certainly can imagine that they'll either be resurrected or we have some immortal soul that will live on outside of our bodies. We know that religions promise some sort of immortality, but what does science tell us?

Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia by Michael Shermer

“Heavens on Earth” is an intellectually provocative yet accessible book that explores the afterlife. Dr. Michael Shermer is a well-known skeptic, professor and accomplished author of many books. This enlightening 303-page book includes twelve chapters broken out into the following four parts: I. Varieties of Mortal Experiences and Immortal Quests, II. The Scientific Search for Immortality, III.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
When I got my $30 book home and began to read I had to wonder if the supplier had slipped the wrong book into the jacket. But, indeed this was the correct book: “Heavens on Earth, The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia”; accolades including: “brilliant, filled with profundity, startling facts, and mind-expanding ideas.”
In chapter one on page one, within seven words, something does not meet with the authors’ deductive standards. His words are, “Come again?”. For the read
2.5 stars

The book starts out strong with Shermer deconstructing the delusions of religious, philosophical and scientific "heavens" but then becomes too much a paean to a technophilic, libertarian vision of society.

Of course, that's a complaint from my own point of view & may not bother other readers so much.
Dan Graser
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Michael Shermer is simply an indispensable writer and his latest volume is one of his very best. This is a complete survey and analysis of the various notions of the afterlife and immortality divided mainly between:
1) How these claims have been scientifically tested and evaluated
2) How such notions have been depicted throughout humanity's history in works of art, philosophy, and literature.
3) How we have attempted to transcend our mortal limitations
4) What we can reasonably expect in this area

Ryan Boissonneault
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Humanity has been incapable of accepting the finality of death for a long time. Ancient burial sites up to 100,000 years old contain items for “use” in the next life, and visions of heaven and reincarnation have been thought up by countless world religions and philosophies.

Unfortunately, the actual evidence in support of our ability to survive death is weak or nonexistent. Michael Shermer, in his typical skeptical fashion, spends much of the book debunking this supposed evidence for the afterlif
Andrei Khrapavitski
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finished reading Michael Shermer’s new book Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia. I found it a timely read, given my interest in future-related topics. I have had my fair share of arguments with both religious zealots and pseudo-scientific transhumanist believers, but even I needed a dose of high quality skepticism not to get too excited after reading authors like Kevin Kelly or listening to another podcast about the promise of CRISPR and life extens ...more
The Laughing Man
Objective and Well Meaning Critiques

I am glad he took the time to address transhumanism and objectively criticize it, we needed this in order not to turn into cult thinking, over all the book increased my hopes in transhumanist thought.
Leonard Singer
Feb 07, 2018 rated it liked it
First two parts ugh; last two parts worth the read.
Jerry James
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you're already a skeptic there is not much in this book that's surprising, but Shermer is always enjoyable. The end of the book was the most fun for me as he outlined all the things that provide meaning for life without the use of religion. ...more
Shermer is a great skeptic and it's always fun to read what he has to say. This book surveys the different versions of an afterlife found in the major religions of the world and how they're all totally incomparable with our modern understanding of neurology, etc. It talks about utopia and how people have tried and failed to achieve it, often with disastrous results. He also talks about current and future programs to achieve immortality, and evaluates their plausibility with some basic philosophi ...more
Russell Atkinson
May 21, 2019 rated it liked it
My rating is meaningless because I did not read the book, at least not after the first two or three chapters; I clicked three stars in order to be able to post a review because I think it's important people know what this book is and is not. I totally misunderstood what it was about. I thought it was literally about what is indicated by the title: people trying to find heaven on earth, i.e. a utopia here, the best place to live, a society where virtually everyone is happy, healthy, satisfied wit ...more
Tim Gorichanaz
Feb 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
We're obsessed with what happens after we die. We can't seem to help it. This is an engaging synthesis of different views on the matter, with a New Atheist tilt. It finishes with a "what's the point of life?" section much along the lines of Sean Carroll's The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself. ...more
Jack Hicks
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Heavens on Earth, the Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality and Utopia
By Michael Shermer, 2018
When I started reading this book, I didn’t think I would end up recommending it but when I finished, I realized that there’s an interesting and important message contained. We all realize we are mortal beings and as we age that realization becomes more and more apparent as that last moment approaches. As put by Jorge Luis Borges “ To be immortal is commonplace; except for man, all creatures a
Nick Mclean
Nov 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, science
Michael Shermer offers readers a brief tour of the evolutionary roots of our belief in an afterlife, various spiritual and religious concepts of heaven, concepts of utopia and dystopia attempts to achieve immortality in the modern world and what we can learn about the finite nature of life. I honestly was not that impressed with the book. I enjoy Shermer's work in books like the Moral Arc and was a reader of his Sceptic magazine, but there is not much heft to this book. Most of his observations ...more
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Solid overall but nothing spectacular.

As a secularist, I of course knew the arguments against religious-based afterlives, whether heavens as a one-time thing, or heavens via a process of reincarnation or something else.

The better part of the book comes after that.

Shermer shows that atheists’ hope for a secular afterlife, whether through mind downloading, Kurzweil’s singularity, or cryogenics, are all hogwash at this time. (The mind-downloading angle also applies to reincarnation in its tradition
Evan Kostelka
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
A full discussion of the ideas of immortality both in religion and secular settings. He spends the first two parts of the book giving brief overviews of the monotheistic religions and their views on an afterlife. He then pokes holes in the 'evidence' that near death experiences provide to an afterlife. He isn't saying these religions and experiences don't mean anything to those involved, but that they are not proof of an afterlife.

The third part of the book are an interesting look at the bias i
Kevin Rhodes
Apr 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
For me, Michael Shermer is an acquired taste. I enjoy his TED talks and read his books, I subscribe to his email newsletter… but he’s one of those guys who absolutely and endlessly loves to debate , and I’m quite sure he’s never lost an argument in his life. For me, that approach to life gets old, and even though I could never win an argument with him, I really don’t want to. For me, reason has its limits, and when he pursues his arguments out to the max and minutiae, I find myself rolling my ey ...more
Denise Junker
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Denise by: seth macfarlane
I selected this book because Seth MacFarlane mentioned it twice on his Twitter/Instagram feeds. I ended up needing to check it out twice from two different libraries. The first checkout: the introduction intrigued me as I have a BS in Computer Science and an MDiv - I am highly intellectual and enjoy data while also looking at all topics from multiple perspectives. But, the format for that checkout was not easy for highlighting or note taking. I waited for a hold and was able to get a Kindle vers ...more
Malathi Mrinal
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: atheism
Approximately 100 billion humans have come and gone since the beginning of time, he notes, and not a single one has returned to confirm the existence of an afterlife, “at least not to the high evidentiary standards of science.”
“Heavens on Earth” does just that, bringing the high evidentiary standards of science to bear on heavenly claims. Shermer examines the claims of spiritual seekers, who see consciousness as primary, an essence from which all human experience is derived. He tries to take the
Anup Sinha
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another Thought-Provoker by Shermer.

An excellent discussion book by the Skeptic himself, Michael Shermer, on a topic we all find mysterious and perhaps most important; death.

He goes from almost every angle and has a lot of scientific research and evidence to explain his conclusions.

One thing I found missing was a discussion of ghosts and other supernatural phenomena. There are so many ghost sightings that I find it difficult to ignore in a book that is designed to explore every aspect of life a
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
M. Shermer deals with religious concepts of an afterlife in cultures all over the world, historical attempts to create utopia by various political regimes, but most importantly with scientific attempts to create "heaven on Earth". Radical life extension, cryogenetics, transhumanism, uploading conciousness into the cloud, you named it...
I loved the usuall scepticism from Michael as he gives all these wild ideas more critical serious outlook and emphazis about how we need to be careful and humble
D.C. Lozar
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In his book, “Heavens on Earth,” Michael Shermer does a wonderful job of addressing and debunking many of the anti-aging theories. Additionally, he provides rational arguments as to why humans cling to these theories despite the discouraging evidence. He addresses the ethereal aspects of new-aged religions, the cultish draw of technologic immortality, the way we think as we approach death, and how people are fooled into thinking they've experienced life-after-death or that a child could be the r ...more
Mar 13, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
I expected from "Heavens on Earth" something underlying facts about death, but it left me in disappointment towards some of the information about book.

However, I would characterize this book as not so boring and not so interesting, there are some redundant information which author tries to use in order to prolong pages of his work. Nevertheless, book discusses skeptically the idea of afterlife and long life. Therefore, he collected relating articles and made his own way to explain that there is
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This is not Shermer's best book. Of course, his best overall project is Skeptic magazine, but he also has an extensive bibliography of interesting books, lectures, etc.. It is not that I disagree with anything he discusses in this work, it is more that I found it a bit clumsy and weakly organized - he can do better. With that complaint out of the way, I still recommend this book to those who are just starting their exploration of the topics mentioned in the subtitle. For myself, I found H.O.E. a ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was a little disappointed in that it had more on current attempts to achieve immortality through cryogenics and increasing life expectancies than I cared for (since I won't be around long enough to take advantage of any such advances in science), but I should have been forewarned by the subtitle, "The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia." But I agree with the author's conclusion: "Facing death--and life--with courage, awareness, and honesty can bring out the best in us ...more
Nov 01, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting set of premises surrounding very interesting subjects, but is deemed superficial due to the materialistic dogmatic mindset of the author. Shermer gives a very one dimensional view on different views about the afterlife & is too quick to dismiss the different parts responsible for different beliefs about the afterlife. He does provide some insight into meaning but this is something we experience in everyday life & doesn't provide any arguments on the subjective-objective meaning di ...more
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Although well written and organized, I can't walk away awestruck. Most of the book presented ideas and facts we mostly know and just organized them for the reader. Concepts of human belief over the years was presented and ways to prolong life or resort to cryonics was touched on. Since no one has come back from death other than Jesus, which I believe, the words of Jesus are the best we have to satisfy our questions. ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
We are all going to die, most likely around age 70-80. There is no soul separate from the body that can survive the death of the body. Although this is obviously true, many people refuse to accept it and claim to believe the comforting falsehood of afterlife. These simple ideas don't need a whole book to express them, so Shermer fills this book with irrelevant anecdotes and discussion of charlatans. ...more
Bon Tom
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bookmarked to oblivion. It's almost ridiculous. I don't even agree with most of it, or at best, I'm not sure about it. I do, maybe, strongly agree with some of it.

But what a ride this book is. What a stimulus for lazy synapses. Really got me thinking, laughing in places, and wanting to cry at brutality of some parts of human condition and self deception we indulge in.

This is a gem of a book. Gem like in a punch in the face with a fistful of stones.
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Michael Brant Shermer (born September 8, 1954 in Glendale, California) is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating and debunking pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. The Skeptics Society currently has over 55,000 members.

Shermer is also the producer and co-host of t

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