Some Christians hope that the Rapture will take them away from all the bad folks on Earth someday soon. Moslem fundamentalists gladly kill themselves for the promise of a better sex life in heaven. For the rest of us, the idea of surviving death in some form is something we dearly hope is true or else doubt very much. But amidst the cacophony of clashing belief systems, news has quietly come along that has gone largely unnoticed: science now has evidence of life after death.
It started with Einstein, who proved that matter is not created or destroyed, but only changes form. We could use that to prove that the soul can't die, except we first need evidence that the soul exists.
That brings us to quantum physics. One of the main principles of quantum theory is this: nothing exists unless it is observed. When not observed by someone or something, all matter exists in a state of indeterminacy, meaning it's not really "there." There is even evidence that we actually create reality when we observe it.
This is proof that God exists, because the universe could not have come into existence without some sort of observer. God had to be there first. This doesn't mean that God cares about (or even knows about) what happens to us or that prayer works (although there is circumstantial evidence that it does).
However, the existence of God doesn't mean we have souls that live on after death, even though these two things have been linked together by some, but not all, religions.
While scientists don't yet have proof that we live on after we die, they have lots of evidence, and that's the first step. After evidence is gathered, it?s tested and then retested by other scientists, and eventually a theory is formulated. Next scientists will refine their theory until they've either proved or disproved it. When it comes to life after death, they're still at the evidence-gathering step.
But don't be disappointed: the very fact that they have evidence is a big breakthrough. Up until a few years ago, scientists either wanted nothing to do with this question or simply assumed there was no evidence. Now reputable scientists like Gary Schwartz are doing controlled experiments under laboratory conditions.
Dr. Schwartz decided that, if there is life after death, the best place to look for evidence is among people who claim to be in contact with dead souls: in other words, mediums. He tested both famous and little-known mediums under conditions that made it impossible for them to cheat and found that most of them provided clear evidence of communication with the dead.
Dr. Amit Goswami started from another direction. He compared quantum physics to the beliefs about death from ancient religions and found that our oldest religious traditions agreed perfectly with scientists? views of the quantum world. Again, this isn't proof, but it is evidence.
If the soul does persist, does it go to some kind of heaven or reincarnate and start a new life? Researchers all over the world are beginning to go out and interview children who claim to remember their previous lives. There have always been children like this, but science never paid attention to them before. Now they're doing research to find out if these memories could be real.
It's a long road from anecdotal and circumstantial evidence to proof, but scientists studying this subject will eventually get there. Darwin did it. He saw evidence of evolution in the animal species all around him. Everyone else saw the same animals, but no one before him had ever formulated a theory about the diversity of life and how it got that way.
Scientists are still refining the theory of evolution and may never be able to produce a theory they all agree on. It's not like proving that hydrogen and oxygen can combine to produce water. We can see a chemical reaction but we can't see something as slow as evolution and the people who know the truth about death don?t usually come back to tell us about it (or do they?)
I've always wondered why we are blind about what happens to us after death. What if this was no longer a mystery to us: How would our lives be changed? The entire evolution of human science and culture might never have occurred without this question. If we knew where we went after death, would we have worked so hard to keep our bodies healthy and comfortable on this Earth? Medicine, electricity, agriculture, architecture: The list of our discoveries is endless, and they're all based on the premise that we'd better postpone death as long as possible because we don't know what happens afterwards.
What if we discovered there were aliens from another planet where no veil was drawn between life and death? They would live very different lives from ours. Some people have seen "visitors" remove and put on bodies. This is the kind of technology a race with that knowledge would concentrate on.
Our culture has also been inspired by this eternal question. The uncertainly of human life underlies so much of our art, music and literature. Soon after we come into this world, we realize we will someday leave it for an unknown destination that may not even exist. This is the underlying motivation behind all art.
Religion would not be as big a factor in human history if we really knew whether or not we have souls. But religion can only take us so far, because it always ends in belief, which isn't the same thing as proof. Belief occurs when you can prove something to yourself, but not to others. For that, you need evidence, and that's the job of science.
NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.