Friday, December 18, 2009

Science and "the afterlife"

From Mark Galli's interview with Dinesh D'Souza in CT-- on his new book, Life After Death: The Evidence...

Why do we need a book on life after death when it appears that most people believe in it?

This book is different in that it doesn't attempt to present what the Bible says about life after death. Rather, it's an attempt to provide secular corroboration through reason and science for what believers have affirmed by faith. There's a lot of powerful evidence, and new evidence, that shows that not only the afterlife but also the Christian conception of the afterlife can be affirmed by modern science.

What to you is the strongest argument against life after death?

There are two strong arguments. One was made most famous by Sigmund Freud. It essentially says that belief in the afterlife can be safely dismissed because it is a case of wish fulfillment...

So how would you refute Freud's argument?

Heaven is...But what about hell? Hell is actually a lot worse than what we endure in life...dubious for a group of people who are trying to make up a better life to compensate for the difficulties of this one by inventing the idea of hell. In other words, when you look at what religions actually believe about the afterlife, the wish fulfillment thesis doesn't hold up very well.

This seems weak to me. In most cases, the believers see themselves as bound for Heaven-- whereas "the other" (often "the bad") are going to Hell. The exception to this is the difficulty of believing in loved ones choosing Hell-- when Heaven is viewed as having a relatively narrow gate (and thus, Hell seems to have a large population, including many of those I like/love).

What is the second strong argument against life after death?

The argument that insists that science has searched for the soul, some ghostly immaterial part of us, and has found nothing....

So how would you answer that?

The materialist agenda can be reduced to the idea that the mind is simply a manifestation of the brain. But there are actually a number of things that are true of the mind that are not true of the brain....Second, the brain has innumerable physical attributes, but the mind has no weight, no dimensions. Finally, you can't be wrong about your mind....Just because mental events and brain events are correlated doesn't mean that the brain is the cause of mental events.

You say that there is new evidence for life after death.

...if the Christian view of the afterlife is viable, there must be other matter and other realms.

If we lived 200 years ago in Newton's time, all of this would seem impossible because space and time stretch indefinitely backward and forward, so what it meant to be outside of time was very hard to articulate. Also, it was hard to posit any other kind of matter.

But revolutionary discoveries in the past 25 years suggest that there is dark matter and dark energy that make up 95 percent of all the matter in the universe. All materialist generalizations about matter are immediately rendered partial, because how can you claim to know something if you've seen only 5 percent of it?

How might science explain heaven and hell as places that could exist?

Scientists now posit through string theory the presence of multiple realms, multiple dimensions. One of the implications of the big bang is that space and time had a beginning, and that space and time are properties of our universe. If that's true, then outside our universe or beyond our universe, there would be different laws of space and time, or no space and no time.

The idea that our universe may not be the only one and that there may be other universes operating according to different laws is now coming into the mainstream of modern physics. So the Christian concept of eternity, which is God outside of space and time, is rendered completely intelligible....

What is the role of this kind of apologetics in convincing someone to become a Christian?

Apologetics is a very powerful tool, but it's ultimately janitorial...Apologetics can come in and help to make important distinctions and clarify some of the difficulties. You are doing no more than clearing away debris that blocks the door to faith, and ultimately it is God's love that has to work its way into a heart. Conversion ultimately comes from that; apologetics only clears the driveway.


At December 19, 2009 at 11:47 AM , Blogger PianoMom said...

Josh McDowell, well-known apologist of our time, says the same thing of the "janitorial" role of apologetics. It is important but ultimately God's love is what changes a person's heart and leads to relationship with Him.

Romans 2:4
"...God's kindness leads you to repentance."


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