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Is there life after death?
Question Date: 2004-09-23
Answer 1:

From a strictly scientific point of view, the only correct answer to this question is that we don't know. Science is completely limited to concepts that can be either supported by evidence or that can be disproved. There is no solid evidence for life after death, and the existence of life after death cannot be disproved. So real, objective science has no answer to this question. If there is life after death, it involves a soul of some kind. (We know exactly what happens to our bodies when we die.) Similarly, there is no evidence for the existence of a soul, and the existence of a soul has also never been disproved. Until someone figures out a way to gather evidence to support the idea of life after death, or until someone figures out a way to prove that there is no such thing, this question is best answered by people whose specialty is spirituality. It's a great question to learn about the limits of scientific exploration, though! Thanks for asking it.

Answer 2:

Well, there are genes, and genes can be passed on from one individual to another, so there is life for the genes. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever for the existence of souls. Applying the scientific method, which includes the assumption that the world is simple (within the limits of explaining what we observe), we must assume that there is no such thing scientifically.

Since there is no proof, however, and many scientists believe in religions that do believe in life after death, many scientists still do believe in souls despite the lack of physical evidence. It is just that from a scientific standpoint, they do not seem to exist.

Answer 3:

My own, personal definition of life is: something with one or more cells that are busy generating chemical energy and creating new cells. If something is dead, it can never generate chemical energy or create new cells again.

In fact, the cells will start to break down and deteriorate almost immediately after death. So there cannot be life after death in a strict sense. But if you view life as one giant cycle, with dead cells decomposing and becoming building blocks for new cells, then yes, I guess there is life after death. So it all depends on how you define life.

I think what you are really asking is "Is there consciousness after death?" This is not a question science can answer. Scientists can give you their opinions about whether there is consciousness or self-awareness after death, but our answers would come from our own personal viewpoints, and would depend on whether we were religious or believed in a soul. Science is one way of discovering knowledge. It the main way that Western society tries to answer questions right now. But science is limited in the questions it can answer. It cannot answer moral questions ("Is genetic cloning bad?"), nor can it answer spiritual questions ("What is the meaning of life?"). These are questions that every person must decide for themselves, based on their own experiences. Our answers may even change as we get older.

Answer 4:

In the culture of science, there are two major rules that largely govern or limit the scientific process, and the scientific point of view. The first is that scientific knowledge must be founded upon empirical evidence. This means that only facts that are demonstrated through direct observation and experimental testing may be accepted as fact. The second rule necessarily derives from the first, and suggests that all phenomena must be explained through natural, rather than supernatural, means.

The first rule actually defines science and separates it from other types of knowledge and philosophies. Science (or the scientific method) is really a method of investigation and learning, one that has proven to be particularly effective. If any information is obtained in a way that violates this first rule, and violates the scientific method, then by definition it is not in the realm of science. In contrast the second rule is more of a bias or leaning that comes as a consequence of the scientific method. If supernatural phenomena exist, they cannot be explained by science (as supernatural events are not a part of the natural world that science seeks to understand). If any supernatural phenomena do exist, they are not subject to experimental observation, and therefore science is not equipped to explain them, or really even to accept that they exist.

From a scientific point of view, there is no direct evidence that there is life after death. Actually, from a scientific point of view, life (or more accurately sentience) is itself difficult to explain. From a strictly scientific point of view "life" is defined as a series of biochemical reactions that result in biological functions. Although science has in this way very nicely defined what it means for an organism to be "living", for most people this does not adequately describe what it means to be "alive".

As humans we experience consciousness, and sentience, and reason, and thought, and choice, and love, and hate. From a strictly scientific point of view, these things must be explained as a result of nothing more than the chemical reactions which occur in our brains, which would mean that once the chemical reactions in our brains stop, so does our consciousness, and our life.

However, most scientists will agree that this is a question that should not be strictly put to science, as the question is largely out of the realm of science and its methods. Certainly when a person makes a specific claim regarding the activity of the supernatural here in the natural world, that claim can very reasonably be tested by science. For example, when psychics make claims to supernatural knowledge on TV, those claims can be scientifically tested for accuracy here in the natural world (usually with the result that the psychic turns out to be a fraud). But as for the larger questions, they are not really a matter of science.

Science to date has no real evidence that there is life after death. However, it has no real evidence that there is not life after death, either.

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