Friday, March 15, 2013

The Academic Study Of Immortality; John Martin Fischer Has Received A $5-million Templeton Grant

Life After Death

The idea of immortality will be studied in a academic institution, now that University of California–Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer has received a large $5-million Templeton Grant, says an article, by Larry Gordon, in The Los Angeles Times.

Gordon writes about The Immortality Project:
Under his direction, scientists and theologians will be digging into such mysteries as whether humans should even aspire to eternal life in this world or another — and whether everlasting might just prove to be ever-boring. Plenty of non-academics think they have at least a glimmer of the truth. One man emailed Fischer to describe how his late feline seemed to move on to "another plane of existence." One man recalled how, near death after a motorcycle accident, he felt he "could walk forward to warmth and eternal comfort." Someone else contended that reincarnation can be "based on the laws of physics."
Fischer, an internationally recognized expert on such heady issues as free will and death's meaning, said he and his Immortality Project researchers won't be chasing the most kooky tips, hunting ghosts or attending seances to chat with the dead. But Fischer emphasized the need to keep an open mind, respect religious traditions and apply strict scientific standards to research on near-death experiences, possible forms of eternal life and how belief in heaven affects earthbound behavior.
"These questions have been great traditional questions in human literature, religion and philosophy for millennia," he said. "We do not think we are going make revolutionary advances that completely solve these problems. What we hope to do is to make progress toward understanding these issues better even if we can't completely answer them."
It might seem a peculiar project for an atheist who considers the afterlife unlikely (although he won't rule it out, and is particularly interested in the Buddhist concept of rebirth). Fischer, 60, grew up in a Jewish family in San Jose and struggled as a teenager to comprehend his grandfather's murder by the Nazis during the Holocaust. "How could God allow so much suffering in the universe?" he recalls asking.
Such is a valid yet unanswerable question, at least finding an answer that will completely satisfy a questioning individual .I sense that a good part of the project's goal is to determine the effects on individuals, here on earth, who hold a strong belief in the after-life. Thoughts focused on heaven and a "perfect world," or Paradise, might make individuals carry greater concern about a future life than to build a better one here.

That is, their interest in the earthly life, and improving humanity's lot, becomes secondary to what they believe is their ultimate purpose. And, then, there's the suicide bombers, who believe in other ways to achieve immortality. Destructive inhumane ways.

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You can find out more about the Immortality Project here; and read the rest of the article at [LA Times]