Who hasn’t asked the following question: “Which way do I go? Is it straight? Left? Right?” Way back when, in the ancient days before the GPS, if you were travelling in an unknown area without a map, and you became lost, you had to question what to do next. Nowadays, if I am not sure where I am I ask the GPS. But what happens on our life’s journey when we feel lost? How do we know where to go? Is there a GPS to lead us? And what happens when the journey (life) ends? Or does it end?
The answers to these questions will differ between people of faith in a higher being (for me it is God) and people of faith in mere humanity or in themselves. For me, corny as this will sound, but no apologies, God and my faith are my GPS in life (as well as my wife and children, can’t forget them). And for me, in faith, my journey will never end; it will change, but not end. But what will that end look like? Of course I don’t have the answer, but researchers at the University of California Riverside hope to find out. Philosopher John Fischer of UC Riverside will conduct a $5 million dollar research project studying immortality. In an interview Fischer is quoted as saying:
“…that while philosophers and theologians have pondered questions of immortality and life after death for millennia, scientific research into immortality and longevity are very recent. The Immortality Project will promote collaborative research between scientists, philosophers and theologians. A major goal will be to encourage interdisciplinary inquiry into the family of issues relating to immortality — and how these bear on the way we conceptualize our own (finite) lives. Many people and religions hold there is an afterlife, and that often gives people consolation when faced with death. Philosophy and theology are slightly different ways to bring reason to beliefs about religion to evaluate their rationality. If you believe we exist as immortal beings, you could ask how we could survive death as the very same person in an afterlife. If you believe in reincarnation, how can the very same person exist if you start over with no memories? We hope to bring to the general public a greater awareness of some of the complexities involved in simple beliefs about heaven, hell and reincarnation, and encourage people to better understand and evaluate their own beliefs about an afterlife and the role of those beliefs in their lives.”
As a person of faith who has studied both philosophy and theology, I understand what Fischer is hoping to accomplish. My question, though, is to what end? How can we really know? Will this help or confuse people?
My GPS has not always guided me on the best route, and asking a real person for directions has not always resulted in me reaching my destination, but my faith in God has never steered me wrong. I look forward to following Fischer’s research.