Friday, March 21, 2008

"Is There An Afterlife?"

Last year, I read the book "The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death", by Gary Schwartz, Ph.D., with William L. Simon, published by Simon & Schuster, Inc./Atria Books (02/01/2002).

This book approached the question of "survival of death" by attempting to apply scientific methods & tests, and achieve a conclusion supported by evidence.

Estate & trust professionals deal with the effects of death, as an occurrence, on property interests, including taxation & transfers. Those effects may be complicated, but -- man-made -- are quantifiable.

Because of our choice of careers, I suspect that most of us also ask more profound questions about death, including "Is there an Afterlife?" These other-worldly questions appear beyond response by reason or even most personal experience, and so usually become answered by religious faith or personal belief.

But some scientists attempt to apply experimentation to the subject.
The author of The Afterlife Experiments conducted experiments, and then reached a conclusion: Under controlled laboratory conditions, leading mediums could contact dead friends & relatives and bring back detailed information, which could only have been gained if they were indeed in contact with the dead.

This is a description of that book, as offered by EReader:

This riveting narrative, with its electrifying transcripts, puts the reader on the scene of a breakthrough scientific achievement: contact with the beyond under controlled laboratory conditions.

In stringently monitored experiments, leading mediums attempted to contact dead friends and relatives of "sitters" who were masked from view and never spoke, depriving the mediums of any cues.

The messages that came through stunned sitters and researchers alike. Here, as they unfolded in the laboratory setting, are uncanny revelations about a son's suicide, what a deceased father wanted to say about his last days in a coma, the transformation of a man's lifelong doubts about the afterlife, and, most amazing of all, a forecast of a beloved spouse's death.

Dr. Schwartz was forced by the overwhelmingly positive data to abandon his skepticism, reaching some startling conclusions. * * *
The book was reviewed upon its publication by organizations pleased by his conclusions. See, for example:
What if you could have a scientific reason to believe what you already in your heart know is true? The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life after Death (Pocket Books) by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., offers such a gift for those who know that life is eternal, that the soul survives death of the physical body. A professor at the University of Arizona, Dr. Schwartz and his groundbreaking, double-blind experi­ments have attracted a lot of attention. His methodology removes all the skeptics' objec­tions to survival research except one - that he does such research in the first place. * * *
The Afterlife Experiments is a lucid, well-written, thought–provoking book. The book starts out with a quote from the works of William James, the founding father of American Psychology, a man who actually accepted evolution and believed that our minds had evolved to help us survive! The words quoted state “In order to disprove the law that all crows are black, it is enough to find one white crow.” Presumably, the author has found not one, but five such crows! * * *
IF THE evidence offered by Dr. Gary Schwartz in this book that consciousness survives bodily death does not sway the skeptic, it is likely that the skeptic has closed his mind to truth and is only a pseudo-skeptic, merely a cynic who can't get past his intellectual arrogance or the fear that his structured material world will be shattered. Schwartz offers evidence that goes well beyond the "preponderance of evidence" standard required to prove civil law suits and, in this writer's opinion, easily meets the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard required for criminal cases. * * *

But the author's methodology (and certainly his conclusion) was criticized publicly by at least one scientist, and critiqued by many self-described "skeptical" groups.

The author,
Professor Gary E. Schwartz, was the Director of the VERITAS Research Program at the University of Arizona, which, as of January, 2008, "expanded into a broader, more comprehensive, spiritual communication project named the SOPHIA Research Program", now also directed by him.

Since 2002, Professor Schwartz has written books on other challenging topics such as The G.O.D. Experiments: How Science Is Discovering God in Everything, Including Us, and The Energy Healing Experiments: Science Reveals Our Natural Power to Heal. These books are described on his website.

The question "
Is there an Afterlife" was addressed in a more recent book, written by Deepak Chopra, M.D., entitled Life After Death: The Burden of Proof (Harmony Books, October 17, 2005). Dr. Chopra had written the foreword to Dr. Schwartz' 2002 book. I noted the book in my posting, "Physicians on Mortality & Dying: Part II" (01/30/07).

Another recent book on the subject, Is There An Afterlife?: A Comprehensive Overview of the Evidence, by David Fontana, was published in February, 2005:
Is death the end of this existence, as some scientists seem to assume?

Fontana, a British psychologist and fellow at Cardiff University, thinks not.

In this manual, he marshals studies and other evidence to demonstrate the persistence of unexplained phenomena that point to the likelihood of life after death. * * *
If you are intrigued by the scientific approach to the question "Is there an Afterlife?", consider these other online resources:
Is the end of life really The End? Though conventional scientific wisdom says so, that hasn't stopped researchers around the world from trying to quantify the soul, explore near-death experiences, and other research into what might come next. Mary Roach, author of the book Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife talks about her findings.

Dr. Ken Ring published a paper in the Journal of Near-Death Studies (Summer, 1993) concerning near-death experiencers who, while out of their bodies, witness real events that occur far away from their dead body. The important aspect to this phenomenon is that these events seen far away are later verified to be true. * * *

A scientifically controlled NDE that can be repeated which provides such evidence would be the scientific discovery of all time. However, science does not yet have the exact tools to accomplish this. But, science is coming very, very close. This kind of evidence and others provide very strong circumstantial evidence for the survival of consciousness. * * *
Spring began yesterday. Easter will occur on Sunday. Consideration of death and an afterlife, by each of us, could not be undertaken at a better time.