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Is there an afterlife?

Is there an afterlife?
Anna Butler from Somerset (Age 5-14)


5 Responses

  1. Anna,

    Science is based on observation and attempts to describe the universe and how it works based on these. I haven’t seen the afterlife or the absense of it (if I had, I wouldn’t be here answering your question). Neither has anyone else.

    Furthermore, we’ve not seen concrete evidnece of any effects of it. Hence, as a scientist, it would be impropper of me to cast judgement either way and I would be very suspicious of anyone who claimed they could.

  2. This is a question that science cannot answer. Scientists perform experiments and then report their results to other people. To find out if there is an afterlife the scientist would have to die, and then wouldn’t be able to tell anyone else the result of the experiment.

  3. Hallo Anna,

    Erwin Schroedinger would have been glad to see your question. All the branches of human knowledge taken together have but one aim, he said. It is to answer the question of the Greek philosopher Plotinus: ‘And we, who are we anyhow?’

    And he went on to explain (in a lecture given in Dublin in 1950, and published by Canto as ‘Science and Humanism’ along with ‘Nature and the Greeks’):

    ‘I am born into an environment – I know not whence I came nor whither I go nor who I am. This is my situation as yours, every single one of you. The fact that everyone always was in this same situation, and always will be, tells me nothing. Our burning question as to the whence and whither – all we can ourselves observe about it is the present environment. That is why we are eager to find out as much about it as we can. That is science, learning, knowledge, that is the true source of every spiritual endeavour of man. We try to find out as much as we can about the spatial and temporal surrounding of the place in which we find ourselves put by birth. And as we try, we delight in it, we find it extremely interesting.’

    Now not everybody would agree with Schrodinger. There are various religious dogmatists who would tell us that there is no need to investigate this unknown territory, as they themselves know all about it, and there is no need for us to take the question any further. And there are various scientific dogmatists who would also tell us that there is no need to investigate as they too know all about it, and that there isn’t in fact anything to bother about.

    I think that Schroedinger, if he ever bothered to take much notice of either of these groups of extremes, would ask each of them what systematic course of investigation they had personally taken to come to the their conclusions.

    So the challenge for science, now that we have built up a great knowledge of the material world, is to return to Schroedinger’s question and see if we can make a start in answering it.

    That will be quite challenging, because the waters have been considerably muddied by the various dogmatists at both extremes, but the scientific method is extremely powerful, and there is no reason why it cannot enable us to begin to probe the unknown territory that Schroedinger highlights. It’s about time we made a start.

    So the answer to your question is. First, nobody knows the answer. Secondly, the scientific approach is to probe and to question in a systematic and disciplined way and to form hypotheses and test them, and it thrives on new challenges like this. Thirdly, our current knowledge regarding this question is, to say the least, minimal.

    And one further point. Some people with other backgrounds have interesting things to say. Schroedinger had some examples to note in his 1956 Cambridge lectures on ‘Mind and Matter’ (also published by Canto, along with ‘What is Life?’, the lectures which laid the foundations for some of the investigations into genetics and DNA). There he quoted from a 13th-century Persian mystic, Aziz Nasafi:

    ‘On the death of any living creature the spirit returns to the spiritual world, the body to the bodily world. In this however only the bodies are subject to change. The spiritual world is one single spirit who stands like a light behind the bodily world and who, when any single creature comes into being, shines through it as through a window. According to the kind and size of the window less or more light enters the world. The light itself however remains unchanged.’

    That of course would not have been intended by the author or taken by Schroedinger to be a scientific explanation of anything, but instead a beautiful image that might help us to begin to try to formulate some preliminary questions, or to find some kind of initial language in which to try to express them. And it shows the extent to which one of the greatest scientists who has ever lived would have regarded your question!

  4. Of course there is an afterlife. Whether we are burned or buried our remails go back into the earth (apart from ashes kept in urns) and get recycled giving us a new life.

  5. i think there is though it is impossible (for now) to prove it. I have studied NDEs in depth and other related phenomona and found an unlikely correlation: NDEs and exactly like black holes and i dont think this is a coincidence. When you take this approach, many of the relgious theories of the afterlife suddenly come into play without contradicting science inc reincarnation, creation (god was originally a star that formed a black hole to create our universe), morality and even the meaning of life (that one is to spend his life prepearing to be god for when he dies and that it is important that we behave since we will one day form our own universe just as god formed ours) Read carefully and you find this in most relgious books albeit heavily disguised since they didnt want most people to know.

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