Life after life
Psychologists and medical doctors associated with the TechnischeUniversität of Berlin have announced that they had proven by clinical experimentation the existence of some form of life after death. This is based on the conclusions of a study using a new type of medically supervised near-death experiences that allow patients to be clinically dead for almost 20 minutes before being brought back to life.
The process is designed to allow the body to undergo the state of clinical death and the reanimation process without damage. Most common memories include a feeling of detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, and the presence of an overwhelming light.
Paleontologists have found the remains of pollen in the burial sites of Neanderthals who lived more than 80,000 years ago. This showed that beings who cannot even speak like us already placed flowers in the graves of their loved ones, just like the droves of Filipinos who have trooped to cemeteries and memorial parks to honor and remember their loved ones.
What is striking about their coming together is the joy, with food and drinks. Some even bring karaoke machines. They do not need scientific experiments to convince them that there is life after death. Many of them have stories to tell about loved ones coming back to ask for prayers and a multitude of ghosts who frighten the little ones.
Are the experiments from Berlin proof that there is life after death? I have deep misgiving about scientists venturing into realms outside of their ontological assumptions. I have doubts about the “scientific method” being really objective and ideologically unbiased. It is “scientific” and “objective” only for those who are committed to use its terminology, which is often mechanistic and reductionist in character.
Foolishness to the wise of the world
When St. Paul talked about the resurrection of the dead with the philosophers at Athens, many laughed and mocked him (Acts 17:32). The Gospel, he would later write, is “foolishness” to the wise of this world (1 Cor. 1:18).
Filipinos who venerate heroic believers as saints and who believe that their loved ones live on after death are fools eternally, according to atheist Richard Dawkins. He has written that the universe exhibits “precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
Francis Collins, in The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief maintains that faith in God will always require a leap of faith because no logical argument can prove whether God is real or non-existent. Faith can neither be affirmed nor denied by using scientific methods. The truth of faith, according to Collins, can be tested only “by the spiritual logic of the heart, the mind, the soul,” when it asks questions which science cannot answer: “How did the universe come into being? What is the meaning of human existence? What happens after we die?”
Stephen Hawking wrote earlier that, “The odds against a universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications.” He also wrote that, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron…. The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.”
However, in The Grand Design, Hawking claims that it is the laws of physics and not the creative power of God that provide the explanation about the coming to be of the universe: “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”
John Lennox argues that when Hawking claims the universe will create itself from nothing due to quantum fluctuations, it is not the non-being that theologians mean when they say creatio ex nihilo. According to Lucretius in De RerumNatura, ex nihilo, nihil fit – Nothing can come out of nothing. If there were already physical laws like the law of gravity before the Big Bang, Hawking is presupposing the existence of the universe to account for its own existence.
We will live forever
The idea of the universe creating itself is the key argument in Hawking’s The Grand Design. It is not only this universe that created itself. Hawking continues: “M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law.”
The universe is now explained by positing multiverses that are in principle undetectable, unobservable, and ultimately unknowable. Stuart Kauffman,who is an atheist, counters, “If we are to postulate multiple universes yet have no access to them and cannot confirm their existence, have we actually explained anything at all?”
Peter Atkins follows Hawking in claiming that “space-time generates its own dust in the process of its own self-assembly,” which is blatantly self-contradictory. If the origin of the universe came from a quantum fluctuation of zero total energy, there was still a quantum field in which the fluctuation can occur, and there would still be the laws of physics governing it. In the nothing preceding the Big Bang, however, there would not even be space-time at all and no physical laws, according to St. Augustine who reflected on these things 1,600 years ago.
In this cosmic context, believers claim that the universe is contingent, it has no intrinsic ground for coming to be, no reason within itself to exist at all. And what they mean by “nothing” is that before the Big Bang, there was no time, no space, no gravity, no quantum fluctuations, no singularity, no nothing.
To one who has faith, there is very little that atheism can say about misery, moral failure, pain, suffering and death, especially about the darkness and consuming fire in which alone the living God can be found, since for unbelievers, the entire universe has no iota of meaning and purpose at all.
And so Filipinos continue to believe in life in the world to come to satisfy the deepest yearnings of their brain and heart.
They believe that if we die in the Crucified Christ, we will follow Him into life. He will refresh our souls in the waters of Baptism, anoint our heads with the oil of Confirmation, and set before us the table of the Eucharist.
In communion with the Risen Jesus, our cups will be filled to overflowing. And by these mysteries of His kindness and goodness, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord” in this life and in the life to come forever and ever.