It has been asked, profoundly reflected upon and debated for eons. Is this it? Or is there more? Is our consciousness awareness, otherwise known as the soul, immortal? The afterlife has been the great question of human existence, something almost everyone contemplates. Can it be proven either way?
Well, maybe. The John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization supporting research on the big questions of life, has awarded a three-year $5 million grant to John M. Fischer, a humanities professor and philosopher at the University of California, Riverside, to study the question—a seemingly monumental task— perhaps even futile in any hope of arriving at a definitive answer.
Called the Immortality Project, Professor Fischer will conduct research on near-death experiences and immortality, and will solicit research proposals from scientists, philosophers and theologians, reviewed, and then published in academic and popular journals. Fischer says, “People have been thinking about immortality throughout history. We have a deep human need to figure out what happens to us after death.” The promise of immortality is one of the major tenets of religion that makes it so alluring to its followers.
Being a skeptic about the afterlife, Fischer states that the project is not aimed at proving anything. “We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences [of which the Near Death Experience Research Foundation suggests at least 15 million adults have experienced], and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions. Our approach will be uncompromising scientifically rigorous.”
Actually, there has been ongoing research in this field for many decades by many renowned people, and surprisingly their overwhelming consensus is that the spiritual is a real phenomenon. One of them, professor of physics at the Royal College in Dublin, Sir William Barrett stated, “I am personally convinced that evidence we have published decidedly demonstrates (1) the existence of a spiritual world, (2) survival after death, and (3) of occasional communication from those who have passed over.”
Also, pioneer astronomer Camille Flammarion relates, “I do not hesitate to affirm my conviction, based on personal examination of the subject, that any man who declares the phenomena to be impossible is one who speaks without knowing what he is talking about; and, also that any man accustomed to scientific observation—provided that his mind is not biased by preconceived opinions—may acquire a radical and absolute certainty of the reality of the facts alluded to.” Other dedicated researchers who concluded the same were:
- Dr. Richard Hodgson, taught philosophy at Cambridge
- Dr. James H. Hyslop, professor of logic and ethics, Columbia University
- Alfred Russel Wallace, co-originator with Charles Darwin of the natural selection theory of evolution
- Sir Oliver Lodge, professor of physics, a pioneer in electricity and radio
- Sir William Crookies, world renowned chemist, pioneer in radiology
- Cesare Lombroso, psychiatrist, founder of the science of criminology
- Dr. Charles Richet, professor of physiology, and the 1913 Nobel Prize winner in medicine
- Robert Crookall, British botanist and geologist
- Enrico Morselli, Director of the Clinic of Nervous and Mental Disease at the University of Genoa
Despite they being researchers from an earlier time, as people of science, they were cognizant of, and considered other explanations of what they observed, still all were convinced of a spiritual reality. For more contemporary research, although I haven’t read the actual studies, Duke University of Parapsychology Laboratory, according to the book, The Science of Life After Death by Stephen Hawley Martin, has demonstrated the non-locality of consciousness in numerous experiments, which strongly implies that the mind and the brain are separate entities where the mind can survive the death of the brain.
We know so very little about existence. If the age of the universe were represented by one mile, man’s time in it would be represented by less than one inch, barely fetuses trying to understand this new enchanting and frightening world in which we’ve been thrust into. Dr. Thomas Campbell, Ph.D., theoretical physicist and author of My Big TOE (Theory of Everything) states it eloquently,
“To the bacteria in the intestine, the source of digested food descending from the stomach would seem mystical. The economic, social, and physical circumstances and processes that indirectly result in a particular food being deposited in the stomach would be beyond mystical. The causal mechanisms that drive and order these apparently mystical events and processes are necessarily invisible to even the most brilliant intestinal bacteria. The forces and relationships that govern the growing of wheat as well as the making and marketing of bread falls beyond a bacterium’s theoretical ability to imagine, and therefore forever lies beyond the largest reality it can possibly comprehend. Do not be too surprised to find Homo sapiens in a similar situation.
This is a difficult pill for many, especially scientists, to swallow. The concept that there may be a natural practical limit to the extent of our knowledge—a limit beyond which our perception cannot penetrate—is based upon the notion that we are only a very small part of a much greater reality.”
Posing the question of spirituality in more scientific terms, is there an immaterial reality? Is there anything in the world of science that strongly suggests the physical world isn’t the only game in town? It seems to me science has found at least two—Consciousness awarness affecting the behavior of particles, and quantum entanglement. Although I’m not sure if any scientists look at it from that perspective…I would think some would.
At the end of The Immortality Project, Fischer will analyze and compile the findings and write a book titled, Immortality and the Meaning of Death, to be published by Oxford University. What will their findings be? Will they be able to arrive at a definitive conclusion? If so, can it meet some of the rigors of science protocol as most of the past researchers have professed? It will be interesting.