The Science Afterlife Problem… What’s It Really All About?

The Science Afterlife Problem… What’s It Really All About?

I love science. So it bothers me when respected scientists take unscientific positions concerning “the afterlife.” A much broader ground of experience must be looked at from old, superstitious religious beliefs about life after death.

The Science Afterlife Problem is a Bill Nye Problem 

Opinion by David Stone

Assorted Ideas, Large & Small

Laying Out the Science Afterlife Problem

This morning, I was listening to a great book about evolution, Undeniable by Bill Nye, the “science guy” from public television.

This lively book starts with a debate between Nye and a believer in “creation science.”

Creation science, Nye argues, has little relationship with real science, but a lot to do with “the book.” That is, belief over observable face.

Nye’s engaging style that comes over well in an audiobook. He wonders, for example, who Noah, his wife and children mated with, repopulating the world after the flood. Everyone else died.

He also wonders how the pair of kangaroos that survived the flood on Noah’s Arc hopped all the way from Mount Ararat in Turkey down either Africa or the Arabian Peninsula or across Asia before bouncing over the vast, empty ocean to Australia. How did they do it without leaving a single trace of themselves along the way, no bones, no colonies, nothing?

close up shot of a person holding a lighted candle
Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

Most of what he says is more scientific, of course, and he finds his way to a bottom line about science. Scientific discoveries in evolution may be exciting, he concludes, but the real proof of evolution is in how it predicts the future.

Creation science is not science, he says, because it can’t predict anything.

Real science shows us how evolution brought us and the world around us to its current state. More important, it points out where we’re heading with bracing accuracy.

Nye trots out the standard conservative denials, claiming there’s no evidence, choosing to ignore mountains of it that prove him wrong.

Science’s Afterlife Problem Is Familiar: If I Can’t See It, “I Just Don’t Buy It”

A I wrote at the beginning of this article, I love science.

But scientists have a problem with non-physical realities. This may be natural because only physical realities that can be observed fit in their realm.

Without resorting to ghosts or ESP, it should be obvious to anyone that non-physical realities, like emotions, thoughts and dreams, form a major part of our human experience.

But what’s unnatural is how readily so many abandon the scientific approach when it comes to matters outside their areas of interest, especially when their authority is threatened.

Bill Nye falls into that trap.

The first claim that made my critical faculties light up was Nye’s denying the validity of personal experiences that don’t match his beliefs.

For me, the most salient feature of science is a commitment to keeping an open mind to evidence, whether we like what it tells us or not.

That’s how a brilliant young man named Charles Darwin came upon the theory of evolution, after all, and how Einstein found gravity waves.

And what about quantum physics? A theory proved correct, one so radical it virtually overthrew contemporary science. The basic elements in the quantum physical universe are not always visible. Or invisible, for that matter. So, you’d think this hundred year old discipline would have opened more mainstream minds.

If you keep your mind open to the best evidence, it leads to the truth, but you must stay loose. More evidence will undercut the most advanced truth.

So I was startled, hearing Nye’s response to people who tell him they are not afraid of death.

If It Doesn’t Fit…

“I just don’t buy it,” he says.

That’s a belief. It has nothing to do with scientific fact. George Bush said he didn’t like broccoli, but that didn’t prove broccoli didn’t exist.

Why? Because fear of death is a cornerstone of Nye’s ideas about evolution. He thinks that fear drives people to live longer than their natural breeding cycles, unlike a salmon, and further into delusions about eternal life.

So, Bill Nye decided that his belief trumped reported experience. Those claiming they don’t fear death must be wrong.

Bill Nye, the science guy, says so.

Well, think again, Bill. I’m one of them.

I have no fear of death, but faced with some of the circumstances he postulates as proof that we all fear death, I totally dread the idea of pain and injury from being smashed into by a car. Of dying, not so much.

I’ll be gone, one way or another, and fearing it wastes time and good will.

Science’s afterlife problem doesn’t disappear with blind dismissal…

Although there have been times in my life when I dreaded death, as in “I hate the idea that the world will go on and I’ll miss all the good stuff that’s coming.”

I’d dearly miss the first green leaves of spring and the warm hug of someone I love. That’s not fear. That’s regret because I know that time will come.

Taking it further, Nye reports on his aunt and a respected colleague who experienced dementia as they neared death as proof that death itself can easily be explained as a winding down of the machine, its functions failing.

He misses two important points.

Many people, my father included, remain mentally clear until entering the final days of the death process, and others whose minds deteriorate remain physically sound. So, if the machine fails, it does so inconsistently, weakening Nye’s belief.

But I think the cop out to aging as a long, slow deterioration is narrow and too simple.

People rebound. Cancers clear up. Minds clear. It’s not the only narrative, but it happens.

A Flaw In Their Thinking, A Big One

The other point is, I believe, a more dangerous and poisonous thread within science that, unable to deal at all with nonphysical realities, declares certainly that they don’t exist.

In other words, dead is dead because there aren’t any nonphysical components because… well, because science can’t see them.

On the other hand, and this is the troubling part, mainstream science simply refuses to observe the evidence. But as prosecuting attorneys like to say, there are mountains of it.

In Spirit on the WaterBob Dylan wrote, “You ever seen a ghost? No. But you have heard of them.”

Haven’t we all?

Does any serious person with an open mind – okay, there aren’t that many – does anyone fitting that description doubt that the thousands upon thousands of ghost stories and sightings over the centuries have some basis in reality?

Having seen a ghost myself, verified by a second person independently, I know they are there. So do millions of others.

But mainstream science has an afterlife problem because they default into denial and, specifically, Bill Nye, says, “No.”

Thousands of documented near death experiences, statistically shown to be consistent across time and continents by Dr. Jeffrey Long?

All hallucinations.

Why? Because they can’t be proven by investigation or observation, which needs a kind of Catch 22 working for it.

Since these experiences are nonphysical with spirits leaving the bodies they’ve shared, they aren’t observable as physical events.

Ergo, according to contemporary science, they never happen.

Is this science or closed-mindedness?

Probably the biggest Mount Everest of evidence that science has refused to observe are the intriguing, voluminous histories of life between lives collected by Dr. Michael Newton and his followers.

In three engaging books, Newton and others report in digested form what they learned from hypnotic regressions, not just into past lives but into the crucial interstices between them.

There’s a lot more to learn, but we are supposed to believe that over 10,000 recorded sessions don’t amount to a hill of beans. No evidence, says Nye, and beans, of course, are always physical.

Science’s Problem with the Afterlife: Conclusion

I singled out Bill Nye only because reading his book got me thinking.

Nye is one of the most readable and entertaining science writers.

I will buy and read more of his books. But it continues to strike me as so odd that he joins the lockstep march as if it is terribly important to science to go into denial about evidence supporting an afterlife.

The closed-mindedness keeps capable thinkers and researchers on the sidelines. It’s a waste I think, as is all deliberate abandonment of discovery.

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