Thursday, October 25, 2007

And When I Die

Is this a ghost? Matt says the figure appeared after the negatives were developed. Photo by:Matt from Springfield, Illinois
Now troubles are many,
they’re as deep as a well.
I can swear there ain’t no heaven
but I pray there ain’t no hell.
—Laura Nero

I came across an interesting article (Roach, 2006) this week. It lists several failed attempts to scientifically prove that something of ourselves survives death.

Most of these attempts were funny. One was tragic. That “researcher” set up a means to verify that any postmortem communication was from him. Then he locked up his apartment and turned on the gas, literally giving his life for science.

The question that the article fails to address is this: Why do we feel the need to “scientifically” prove an afterlife? We are a long, long way from having the instrumentation required to measure the presence of the soul, and it is impossible to measure its absence.

The afterlife falls into the realm of religion and belief. That is a completely different system of understanding the universe than science, and the two realms do not seem to overlap. True—brain researchers have now identified a structure in the brain that is responsible for religious experience. But they are unable to say whether that structure evolved (or was designed) to experience real spiritual phenomena or as a mechanism for social control that encourages us to work together for our common survival, occasionally at the cost of our own individual survival.

I do not believe that science and religion are incompatible, merely two different approaches that may yield inconsistent results. I know several Christian scientists (note the small s; I don’t personally know anyone who claims a capital S.) who have fairly strong religious beliefs. All of them manage to compartmentalize the two belief systems.

So I guess the point of this ramble is: Believe what you choose, but don’t think your religious beliefs are fact—we neither prove nor disprove them. And don’t try to force them down anyone else’s throat.

When it comes to the afterlife, my father’s saying applies. “We’ll see.” Or maybe we won’t. If not, it won’t matter to us then.

1 Roach, M. (2006, November 18). “The Big Questions: What happens after you die?” Retrieved October 25, 2007, from New Scientist:

No comments:

Post a Comment