Does life exist after death? That is the question John Martin Fischer, Riverside philosophy professor at the University of California, hopes to answer over the next three years. And the John Templeton Foundation has given him a five million dollar grant to do it. Fischer said, “I have frequently taught classes on death, immortality, and the meaning of life both at Yale University and UC Riverside.” If his research manages to answer these questions conclusively, he stands to make a lot more than five million dollars.
According to the university “no comprehensive and rigorous, scientific study of global reports about near-death and other experiences” has been done. Fischer hopes to rectify this. “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” he said in a statement. Fischer promised their study would be “uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous.” Really?
Modern science has for the most part ignored spiritual matters claiming nothing can be proven that we cannot engage with our five senses. Fischer is now in essence saying he is going to use the scientific method to prove or disprove something modern science says is beyond its scope of inquiry. It would not surprise me if after three years of “uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous” investigation, Fischer discovers our perceptions of the afterlife are “biologically induced illusions.” But he has five million reasons to try and prove otherwise.
Another aspect addressed by this study is “how belief in immortality influences human behavior.” I think this is something Fischer’s research may be able to actually quantify and maybe even qualify. But ultimately his data gathering will be predicated on the viewpoints and beliefs of the various individual accounts and/or interviews. Since the information studied will be so subjective, the best he can hope for is to draw some very general conclusions that will be heavily influenced by cultural considerations and various belief systems. The only true objective truth derived from such a study will be that belief definitely affects behavior. This is something that every sociologist worth his salt already knows, and what the bible already declares (Proverbs 23:7).
The John Templeton Foundation “serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.” I am sure the trustees of the foundation are trying to fulfill the wishes of Sir John Templeton when they consider the awarding of grants. But it would seem to me that any organization that considers itself truly philanthropic should be more concerned with the practical everyday needs of mankind, than to waste its resources on a supposed scientific study that can in the end prove nothing, at least nothing that is not already known.
A third facet of this study is aimed at solving one of the mysteries that has stumped learned men throughout the ages. What is the meaning of life? Scientists and philosophers have wrestled with this question from the beginning of human history. Our observation of natural phenomena seems to imply purpose, a reason for being. This is not a purely religious consideration. Philosophers have pondered the answer for millennia. Fischer’s search into the meaning of life, and the John Templeton Foundation’s funding of it, is proof they do not think an answer has been found. They believe we are still in the dark, and if they are still searching, I know they are.
I agree with what Rick Warren says in his best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. He writes, “you won’t discover your life’s meaning by looking within yourself.” He makes the point that we did not create ourselves so we cannot within ourselves find our purpose for existing. Only our Creator, Father God, has the answer. If we cannot find the meaning of life within ourselves, we will not find it by studying others either.
Rick moves quickly to his point, “You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life will never make sense.” This is the simple truth about why we exist; we exist for God and the complete answer can only be found in His manufacturer’s guide, the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 King Solomon wrote, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”
You are no longer in the dark and you now have the answer to the five million dollar question, and you did not have to wait three years to learn the meaning of life.