Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why Science Has a Problem with the Afterlife

The Bill Nye Problem 

It's unsettling. I love science. It bothers me to hear respected scientists take the most unscientific approach to considering what is generally called "the afterlife," although the idea covers a much broader ground than the old religious belief in life after death.

This morning, I was listening to a really enjoyable book about evolution, Undeniable by Bill Nye, the "science guy" from television. The kick start for this generally delicious book was a debate Nye had with a proselytizer of "creation science," which he explains has little relationship to science, but a lot to do with "the book."

Nye has an engaging style that comes off well in an audiobook, like it does on television. He has fun wondering who Noah, his wife and children mated with to repopulate the world after the flood since, being the only humans still living, their choices were extremely limited.

He also wonders how that pair of kangaroos who survived the flood on Noah's arc, along with only 14,000 other animals and 6 caretakers, hopped all the way from Mount Ararat in Turkey down either Africa or the Arabian Peninsula or across Asia before bouncing over the vast, empty ocean to Australia. How did they do it without leaving a single trace of themselves along the way, no bones, no colonies, nothing?

Most of what he has to say is more scientific, of course, and he finds his way to a bottom line about science. That is, scientific discoveries in evolution may be exciting, but the real proof of evolutionary discovery is in how it leads us to predict the future. Creation science is not science because it can't be used to predict anything, but real science shows us how evolution brought us and the world around us to its current state of development. More important, it points out where we are heading with bracing accuracy.

Scientist Hangup: If I Can't See It, It Ain't There


Bill Nye, Science Guy - Wikipedia
Like I wrote above, I love science. But most scientists have a problem with nonphysical realities. This may be natural because only physical realities that can be observed are in their realm. What's unnatural is how readily so many abandon the scientific approach when it comes to matters outside their areas of concern, but touching or integrating with them.

I was dismayed to hear Bill Nye fall into that trap.

The first claim that made my critical faculties light up was Nye's denial of the validity of personal experiences that don't match his notions.

For me, the most salient feature of science is a commitment to keeping an open mind to the evidence, whether we like what it tells us or not. That's how a brilliant young man named Charles Darwin came upon evolution, after all, and how Einstein found gravity waves. If you keep your mind open to the best evidence, it leads to the truth.

So it was that I was startled to hear Nye's response to people who tell him they are not afraid of death.

If It Doesn't Fit, I Don't Buy It


"I just don't buy it," he says.

Why? Because fear of death is a cornerstone of his ideas about evolution. He thinks that fear drives people to live longer than their natural breeding cycles, unlike a salmon, and further into delusions about eternal life.

So, Bill Nye decided that his belief trumped reported experience. Those claiming they don't fear death must be wrong. Bill Nye, the science guy, says so.

Well, think again, Bill. I'm one of them. I have no fear of death, but faced with some of the circumstances he postulates as proof that we all fear death, I totally dread the idea of pain and injury from being smashed into by a car. Of dying, not so much. I figure I'll be gone, one way or another, and fearing it wastes time and good will.

Although there have been times in my life when I dreaded death, as in - I hate the idea that the world will go on and I'll miss all the good stuff that's coming. I'd dearly miss the first green leaves of spring and the warm hug of someone I love. That's not fear. That's life loving regret because I know that time will come.

Taking it further, Nye reports on his aunt and a respected colleague who experienced dementia as they neared death as proof that death itself can easily be explained as a winding down of the machine, its functions failing. He misses two important points.

Many people, my father included, remain mentally clear until entering the final days of the death process, and others whose minds deteriorate remain physically sound. So, if the machine fails, it does so unevenly. But I do think the cop out to aging as a long, slow deterioration is narrow and too simple.

People rebound. Cancers clear up. Minds clear. It's not the primary narrative, but it happens.

A Flaw In Their Thinking, A Big One


The other point is, I believe, a more dangerous and poisonous thread within science that, unable to deal at all with nonphysical realities, declares certainly that they don't exist. In other words, dead is dead because there aren't any nonphysical components because... well, because science can't see them.

On the other hand, and this is the troubling part, mainstream science simply refuses to observe the evidence. But as the prosecuting attorneys like to say, there are mountains of it.

In Spirit on the WaterBob Dylan wrote, "You ever seen a ghost? No. But you have heard of them."

Haven't we all?

Does any serious person with an open mind - okay, there aren't that many - does anyone fitting that description doubt that the thousands upon thousands of ghost stories and sightings over the centuries have some basis in reality? Having seen a ghost myself, verified by a second person independently, I know they are there. So do millions of other people.

But mainstream science, and specifically Bill Nye, says, "No."

Thousands of documented near death experiences, statistically shown to be consistent across time and continents by Dr. Jeffrey Long? All hallucinations.

Why? Because they can't be proven by investigation or observation, which needs a kind of Catch 22 working for it. Since these experiences are nonphysical with spirits leaving the bodies they've shared, they aren't observable as physical events. Ergo, they never happen.

Is this science or closed-mindedness?

Probably the biggest Mount Everest of evidence that science has refused to observe - the intriguing, voluminous histories of life between lives collected by Dr. Michael Newton and his followers. In three engaging books, Newton and others report in digested form what they have learned from hypnotic regressions, not just into past lives but into the crucial interstices between them.

There's a lot more to learn, but over 10,000 recorded sessions, we are supposed to believe, from a scientific point of view, don't amount to a hill of beans. The beans, of course, are always physical.

Conclusion

I singled out Bill Nye only because reading his book got me thinking. Nye is one of the most readable and entertaining science writers I've ever read. I will buy and read more of his books. But it continues to strike me as so odd the he joins the lockstep march as if it is terribly important to science to go into denial about the evidence supporting the idea of an afterlife and other related nonphysical conditions.

The closed-mindedness keeps capable thinkers and researchers on the sidelines. It's a waste I think, as is all deliberate abandonment of learning.

Do you have an opinion on this topic?

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page

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