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Jun 28

Deathnauts: Strange Scientific Journeys Into the Afterlife

01-Consciousness-585x306by Brent Swancer

One of the great frontiers of human experience and the unknown is that of what happens to us when we inevitably die. It is perhaps the final frontier we face, and certainly the most mysterious. What happens to us when we pass on? Do we simply blink out of existence? Are we reborn into new bodies? Does our soul transfer to another plane of existence? Do we even have a “soul” as we like to think of it at all? These are some of the many questions concerning the afterlife which mankind has pondered since time unremembered. The realm of death is a complete cipher to us, a place into which we can only make a one way journey and which lies in an obscured, unexplored territory more inaccessible than the highest mountain or deepest undersea abyss, indeed more remote than the furthest edges of the solar system and even the edge of the universe as we know it. What becomes of us after death remains a complete mystery to us which we have long been frustratingly unable to explore to any appreciable degree without making that one way journey for ourselves.

Yet, with the advent of science and technology, and our increasing abilities to explore the outer fringes of our understanding, there has arisen a new question: can we scientifically prove and verify what happens to us after death? Can we use our advanced knowledge and technology to settle the age old debate of scientists, philosophers, and lay men alike once and for all? In this era of discovery, where we are ever relentlessly unlocking the secrets to our planet and the universe, pushing out into the boundaries past all that was known before, there have indeed been attempts to scientifically study what lies beyond our demise. These are the efforts of those who would penetrate that last frontier and come back with the answers we seek.

Image2Those who would scientifically attempt to delve into the afterlife have long been plagued by dogma, ridicule, and misunderstanding. In one 1982 poll, it was found that a mere 16% of top scientists from various fields questioned believed that there was an afterlife at all, and only 4% thought we would ever be able to conclusively prove it. This general dismissive attitude and air of disinterest by the scientific community has hampered efforts for those who would seriously try to study the afterlife, as funding is rarely granted for such projects and those who pursue this avenue of research risk ridicule and derisive scorn from their peers. Interestingly, the rate of belief in an afterlife among medical doctors is significantly higher, with a 2005 poll showing that 59% of American medical doctors believed in an afterlife, which is a dramatically higher percentage than any other scientific profession.

Perhaps this stronger belief in something going on beyond the domain of life has to do with medical doctors’ experiences dealing with those who have experienced what are called near death experiences, or NDEs. These are reports by people who have claimed that after clinical death they have retained some form of awareness, no matter how tenuous, and have often reported similar phenomena in this state, regardless of religion or whether they believe in any kind of afterlife or not. These experiences are reported by a staggering number of people, around an estimated 200,000 people per year in the United States alone and untold millions worldwide. Commonly reported NDE experiences include leaving one’s body to observe the room and their own form, seeing a bright light, a feeling of peace or love, or even meeting long dead friends or relatives.

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