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Immortality Project Gets $5 Million

Yesterday we posted a link to a paper calling for serious, open-minded research into the near-death experience. Happily, today we’re posting news that this looks very likely to happen.

The Templeton Foundation – set up by Wall Street pioneer John Templeton “as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality” – has awarded a 3-year, $5 million-grant to Professor John Martin Fischer at the University of California to study the concept of immortality, from both a religious and scientific viewpoint (ie. ‘heaven’ vs physical immortality):

UC Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer will receive $1 million of that to host conferences on campus about the afterlife, to support post-doctoral students and to run a website for research on the topic. Then Fischer will administer competitions to dole out the remaining $4 million to researchers worldwide in the sciences, social sciences, philosophy and theology, he said.

“It doesn’t mean we are trying to prove anything or the other. We will be trying to be very scientific and rigorous and be very open-minded,” he said. Fischer described himself as skeptical about an afterlife but said he believed that “endless life without death could be a good thing.”

Titled “The Immortality Project“, the grant recognizes “the present time as an auspicious one” in which to launch a unified, organized, and open-minded research project into questions such as:

  • Whether and in what form(s) persons survive or could survive bodily death.
  • Whether and to what extent persons’ beliefs about immortality influence their behavior, attitudes, and character
  • Why and how persons are (at least pre-reflectively) disposed to believe in post-mortem survival
  • Whether it is in some sense irrational to desire immortality

The aims of the project appear to show a real desire to approach this much-neglected topic from a number of angles, from researching the possibility of an afterlife, through to discussing whether belief in immortality of some kind might be irrational.

On the topic of future research into NDEs, Fischer noted that…

We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions. Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. We’re not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports. We will look at near-death experiences and try to find out what’s going on there — what is promising, what is nonsense, and what is scientifically debunked. We may find something important about our lives and our values, even if not glimpses into an afterlife.

  1. There is a fundamental
    There is a fundamental problem with this project, and it is typical of the well meaning researchers. They have preloaded the exercise with the word “immortality.” It should be possible to understand the phenomena without imposing the semantically problematic concept of “immortality.” There is nothing inherent to the NDE that suggests the soul is immortal. It merely suggests that the soul can continue on beyond the earth plane, but no one is usually claiming to be immortal. You can embark on a journey of many “legs,” but that doesn’t mean the journey will go on forever, or that you won’t eventually be transformed into something that cannot even remember the former selves. It might be immortal only in the sense that say water is immortal. The constituents of water may always be around as a liquid, vapor or gas, but anything that is made up of water does not necessarily carry on its identity forever. It is continually being broken apart and reconstituted.

    1. Food For Thought Of The Parlor Banter Variety!

      What if death as we understand it is an evolution into a different state of being where we aquire a new identity?

      {For example, in native Japanese Religions, collectively known as Shinto, people aquire a new identy when they die. For example, Minamoto Masako, the wife of Minamoto Yoritomo who was known as Taira Masako in her life time, became Hojo Masako when she died.}

  2. Nicely said Emlong. Though I
    Nicely said Emlong. Though I do hope we retain our identity through our “soul” on an eternal journey of co-creation beyond our current physical dimension and incarnation. Your analysis is perfectly logical and right on IMO.

    If I understood and remember correctly, The Holographic Universe posited that the interference patterns of vibrating quantum waves stores all information giving rise to a the illusion of 3 dimensionality. This could be equated to the Akashic Records described by Edgar Cayce that store a permanant record of our soul’s eternal journey since the time of its original creation by “God,” whatever God is.

    Hopefully, our self-awareness is an extension of God’s self-awareness as we are an extension of God (presumably) and presuming God is eternal/immortal, then so are we. Quantum mechanics and the holographic universe theory both imply time is illusory, as does the research of Pim Von Lommel in his studies of NDE’s and the life review in which past present and even future are experienced simultaneously from all perspectives – that of the individual and that of all participants, supporting the idea of universal connectedness/consciousness. My conclusion being that once we exist our physical bodies we are no longer constricted by our linear perception of time, presumably in a higher dimension of consciousness, meaning immortality is the reality and not the illusion since past, present and future are one. Death or the end is an illusion of a linear timeline. At least these are my present thoughts on the subject…

    1. I haven’t experienced an NDE,
      I haven’t experienced an NDE, but I know two people who had zingers. Both of them report that you do not retain much of your earthly ego identity when passing over, and that this can be a problem for some beings and may explain why some of them hang around here as ghosts.
      The main problem I see with using the word “immortality” here is that it automatically starts sucking in various religious definitions and biases that don’t need to be hanging around the project.

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