Death and Afterlife
The unknown path. Image credit: Pexels
What happens after we die?
A question that has puzzled human beings ever since we gained consciousness about death.
The nature of this question has sparked heated debate across time and space.
Confident religions have offered their respective resolution. The Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, assert that a person goes to heaven or hell depending on faith and action while living. Other religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism contend reincarnation, the soul embarks on a new adventure after it leaves the body.
Before diving into the tough question, let’s take a step back and define death.
Death: A Process
The general belief that death is the stoppage of heart and breathing are ruled out by a recent discovery.
A study conducted by Dr. Sam Parnia at the University of Southampton draws eye-popping result. Several patients who had been rescued from cardiac arrest retained the memory of being in the emergency room. They managed to recall senses, such as smell, lightings in the emergency room. A few even managed to clearly describe the dialogues of the doctors.
The findings suggest consciousness and awareness are able to survive without heartbeats for a longer time than expected.
If the heartbeat of these patients were not restored, the lack of oxygen would continue to damage the brain and other organs. Ultimately the damages would lead to brain death, a stage when consciousness ceased as the electrical activity in the brain stops.
To quote Richard Senelick, a neurologist, “no one who has met the criteria for brain death has ever survived — no one.”
What about the soul?
More than 200 years ago, Duncan MacDougall attempted to measure the weight of the soul. He tested the weight of 6 patients before and immediately after they died. One of the patients was found to be 21 grams lighter, which he attributed to the weight of the soul.
This finding was quickly dismissed as weight loss could be attributed to physiologic factors, for instance, evaporation. Moreover, subsequent experiments fail to find any weight loss.
Perhaps a soul is merely an elegant term for the mind. A word or an idea that was developed during a time when science was lacking.
Finding it might just be as tricky as to finding the traits of unicorns and elves.
So if there’s no soul, does that mean there’s no afterlife? Does any science tell us where we go after death?
A Revolutionary Perspective: Biocentrism. Image credit: Jeremy Thomas
Building biology upon quantum physics, he suggests that when a person is dead, he/she merely changes reference point. Imagine a role-playing game, in which you play as Peter Parker in Spiderman, and when you are done destroying Venom, you will switch to being Lord Vader in Star Wars.
That being said, this new theory has received a fair amount of criticisms suggesting it is a pseudoscience. Critics claim this theory is merely making false claims. Essentially, biocentrism is a decorated version of solipsism, a philosophical idea that claims only the mind is sure to exist.
Nonetheless, the general belief in the scientific field is that the body and mind are linked, thus consciousness perishes after the brain dies.
No soul? No consciousness? Do we just end up in an everlasting sleep?
Could we end up in heaven or hell?
The bottom line is, “where do we go afterlife?’” is a question which (at least at current state) cannot be answered by science. Just like how we can’t do any scientific experiment to prove or disprove the existence of Zeus and Thor, we can’t prove or disprove whether afterlife exists.
Life: A Beautiful Journey. Image credit: Claudio Trigueros
To me, regardless of what happens after life, we are very lucky to be given the chance to embark on this glorious adventure.
Against astronomical odds, we were born into this adventure we called life.
To be able to cherish the joy and love; the triumph when achieving dreams that many would never be able to experience, is an utmost privilege.
To me, death instills a sense of urgency to love and care; it underscores our obligation to treat other kindly and respectfully; to appreciate and harbour this journey, the only life we have ever known.
What do you think?