Until about 200 years ago, most human beings believed that some kind of life continued after death. In fact, most people usually lived with a lively sense of the presence of the dead in their own lives.
Then a change took place in the thinking of many scientists. Until then, scientists took the position that we could prove something scientifically only through empirical observations – in other words, in terms of what we can observe or analyze as a result of what we perceive through our senses.
What they didn’t say was that everything that was true, everything that existed, everything that happened, could be understood through the scientific method. But now, many scientists argue that what is not subject to scientific understanding is not real. Or at least, cannot be known, and since we can’t know it, it is, at best, irrelevant if not actually dangerously false.
Not all scientists today take this position, but many do.
Attitudes toward near-death experiences illustrate this difference. Near death experiences (NDE’s) are those experiences reported by people who get close to dying, perhaps through a heart attack, an accident, or some proximate danger, but who survive.
The reports of NDE’s are often quite amazing and life-changing. They are often out-of-body experiences, and people feel that they have been in contact with another world. They may “float” around the room or building, and have sometimes learned things that they could not have known if they had remained trapped in their body.
So is this evidence that there is life after death? that we can continue to be alive even when we are no longer inhabiting our bodies?
We don’t know. But can we ever know? For now, most NDE’s are anecdotal, and have not been subject to rigorous analysis. Sceptics says NDE’s are simply the hallucinations of a dying brain.
But other scientists are not so fast to dismiss NDE’s. Science, they say, has brought us face to face with mysteries, conundrums, and unsolved problems of the most profound kind. In fact, some would say that science has made the world far more mysterious than before.
The findings of quantum physics is a prime example. On the quantum level where things are almost infinitesimally small, particles do not obey the same laws as they do at the level in which we exist. Particles can affect each other even when they are millions of miles apart, they move in and out of existence, and before and after, or inside and outside, or up and down, don’t operate in the quantum world as we expect them to.
Nobody can explain this at this point, although no scientists deny the evidence that this is so.
So if you think science has created a neat pat world full of facts and indisputably right answers, think again. Actually, religion just as often argues that it is in possession of indisputably right answers, not science.
Science, true science, reveals a universe as mysterious as you can get. My own suspicion is that is why it frightens some people.
For what it’s worth, my own guess is that science is never going to produce “evidence” that convinces most people that there is life after death. But I am positive that it will never produce evidence that there isn’t either.