The Sideshow

University professor to study life after death

The Sideshow

Pop quiz: Does life exist after death?

A University of California, Riverside philosophy professor, John Martin Fischer, has been awarded a three-year, $5 million grant by the John Templeton Foundation to study just this topic—and yes, students can take his class.

Fischer noted in an email to Yahoo News, "Both I and my post-doc, Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin, will teach related classes over the next three years. I have frequently taught classes on death, immortality, and the meaning of life both at Yale University and UC Riverside."

So what's the meaning of life? More on that in a moment.

Fischer noted, "We'll be open both to studying religious and non-religious views about immortality. One thing that we'll study is whether human beings would want to live forever: would it be boring? Would it lose its meaning and beauty and urgency? Does death give meaning to life?"

According to the university's website announcing the grant award, many anecdotal reports of the afterlife abound, but there has been "no comprehensive and rigorous, scientific study of global reports about near-death and other experiences, or of how belief in immortality influences human behavior." The research will look at a range of phenomena, including heaven, hell, purgatory, and karma.  The grant is the largest ever awarded to a humanities professor at UC Riverside, and one of the largest given to an individual at the university.

Fischer said in a statement, "We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions," Fischer said. "Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. We're not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports."

The grant will also fund two conferences to discuss the findings. Said UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White, Fischer's research "takes a universal concern and subjects it to rigorous examination to sift fact from fiction."

The Immortality Project, as it is called, will solicit research proposals from eminent scientists, philosophers and theologians whose work "will be reviewed by respected leaders in their fields and published in academic and popular journals."

The research will also delve into cultural aspects of the afterlife. For example, there are reports of millions of Americans seeing a tunnel with a bright light at the end. In Japan, reports often find the individual tending a garden.

The professor added that the academic research could include a range of issues, like "heaven and hell: If we are material beings, how can we exist in heaven, where we would not have physical bodies (or not of the sort we have here)?

"There is a lot of interest in near-death experiences. We can carefully catalog them and look into whether there are patterns. There has already been a lot of work on this. Perhaps some cross-cultural studies would be helpful.

"We'll also be open to studying the relationship between beliefs in afterlife and behavior--moral behavior and crime rates."

Sounds like the kind of research topics that many college students have already spent hours pondering. As for the meaning of life? The professor says check back in three years.

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Trump slapped with federal lawsuit in New York

      A group of American lawyers on Monday filed a federal lawsuit in New York against Donald Trump, accusing the US president of violating a constitutional ban on accepting payments from foreign governments. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is pursuing Trump over his vast business holdings, from which the billionaire has refused to divest fully, saying that as president he can have no conflict of interest. CREW says Trump's business properties abroad operate based partly on goodwill from foreign governments and regulators, but that under the US Constitution no federal official can receive a gift or "emolument" from a foreign government.

      AFP
    • Man convicted of 3 murders as teen kills himself in prison

      CAMP HILL, Pa. (AP) — A man who broke into a classmate's home in 2007 and stabbed the teenager and his parents to death has killed himself in prison, authorities said Monday.

      Associated Press
    • China says will protect South China Sea sovereignty

      By Ben Blanchard and David Brunnstrom BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China said on Tuesday it had "irrefutable" sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea after the White House vowed to defend "international territories" in the strategic waterway. White House spokesman Sean Spicer in his comments on Monday signaled a sharp departure from years of cautious U.S. handling of China's assertive pursuit of territorial claims in Asia. "The U.S. is going to make sure that we protect our interests there," Spicer said when asked if Trump agreed with comments by his secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson.

      Reuters 58 min ago
    • A Plea to Trump Fans: This Man is Dangerous

      The president is not just lying to you and me—now he’s lying to himself.

      GQ
    • Minnesota Gov. Dayton, 69, collapses during speech

      ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Gov. Mark Dayton collapsed while delivering his State of the State speech on Monday, striking his head on a lectern. The 69-year-old Democrat appeared to be conscious as he was helped into a back room several minutes later, and a top staffer said he walked out of the Capitol under his own power.

      Associated Press
    • What's in the Box? Social Media Goes Wild Over Tiffany's Gift Melania Trump Gave Michelle Obama

      It led to an awkward exchange after Michelle Obama was unsure what to do with the gift.

      Inside Edition
    • Royals' Ventura killed in car crash in Dominican Republic

      KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Yordano Ventura quit school as a teenager so he could begin working a construction job to help his family make ends meet, laboring day after day in the hot sun of the Dominican Republic.

      Associated Press
    • The Sig P320 is the U.S. Army's New Sidearm

      The new pistol replaces the 80s vintage M9 handgun.

      Popular Mechanics
    • 12 bodies found in Mexican tourist town: officials

      A dozen bodies -- including seven that were headless and mutilated -- were discovered over the weekend in western Mexico's seaside resort of Manzanillo, apparent victims of the country's epidemic of drug violence, local officials said. It was a shocking turn of events for an area popular with American and other foreign tourists, which until now had largely been spared from the bloody drug wars wracking other parts of Mexico. Seven bodies were found early Saturday in an abandoned taxi on the road from Manzanillo to the town of Cihuatlan.

      AFP
    • Chelsea Clinton shuts down trolls who targeted Barron Trump

      Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton has spoken out in defence of Barron Trump, the US president's youngest son, after trolls targeted him with cruel memes online during the inauguration.  In a Facebook post Chelsea, who spent much of her teenage years in the spotlight while her dad Bill Clinton was president, said the 10-year-old "deserves the chance every child does-to be a kid".  But she also turned political: "Standing up for every kid also means opposing POTUS policies that hurt kids". Criticism of Barron's facial expressions and posture during the inauguration was widespread on social media, with people mocking him and calling him out for looking bored.  A Saturday Night Live writer even tweeted: "Barron will be this country's first homeschool shooter". The tweet was later deleted.  People on Facebook praised Chelsea for defending Barron while also expressing her political ideas:  BONUS: Donald Trump's inauguration address included a Bane quote ›

      Mashable
    • Hugo Barra leaves Xiaomi, says China has ‘taken a huge toll on my life’

      Smartphone startup Xiaomi began life as a peculiar beast. From within the safety of China, the company did all it could to copy every last detail of Apple's devices and marketing strategy, knowing there was precious little Apple could do to stop it. When Apple's portfolio was exhausted, Xiaomi moved on to Samsung, copying a large portion of its device lineup as well. But then, the company realized that it could only go so far selling phones in China and a handful of other markets. As growth was on track to slow substantially, Xiaomi knew that it had to work its way into other top-tier markets around the world. And so Xiaomi Global was born. The Xiaomi subsidiary has hit a few rough patches over the course of the past three-plus years, but today may be its roughest to date. On Monday, Xiaomi Global VP Hugo Barra announced that he is leaving the company. In a post on Facebook, Barra confirmed that he is leaving the company and moving back to Silicon Valley. "When Lei Jun and Bin Lin came to me nearly four years ago with the opportunity to help turn a young rockstar startup into a global player, I embarked on what has been the greatest and most challenging adventure of my life," Barra wrote . "I moved to Beijing, 6,500 miles out of my comfort zone in Silicon Valley, to build from scratch a startup team within a bigger startup. This journey has been nothing short of spectacular in every way, and I can proudly say that Xiaomi Global is the first baby I helped bring into the world." Then, his post took a curious turn. "But what I've realized is that the last few years of living in such a singular environment have taken a huge toll on my life and started affecting my health," Barra said. "My friends, what I consider to be my home, and my life are back in Silicon Valley, which is also much closer to my family. Seeing how much I've left behind these past few years, it is clear to me that the time has come to return." It's unclear exactly what Barra means when he says that working at Xiaomi in Beijing has "taken a huge toll" on his life and affected his health, but he goes on to run down some of the things Xiaomi Global has accomplished since he joined the company. Most notably, the company has expanded sales into Russia, Mexico, Malaysia and more than 20 additional markets. Of note, Barra will still play a role at Xiaomi moving forward. Mi president and cofounder Bin Lin confirmed in a post on Facebook that Barra will be an advisor to the company following his departure. "When Hugo joined us 3.5 years ago, we started an amazing adventure to turn Xiaomi into a global player," Lin wrote . "We have come a long way since, and I couldn’t thank him enough for contributing so much to Xiaomi’s journey. As much as we would love to have Hugo stay with us in Beijing for a much longer time, we understand his personal challenges and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. I’m also looking forward to working closely with him in his new role as advisor to Xiaomi."

      BGR News
    • China urges Trump administration to grasp importance of 'one China'

      The new U.S. administration must fully understand the importance of the "one China" policy and appreciate that the issue of Taiwan is highly sensitive for the Beijing government, China said on Monday. U.S. President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated on Friday, said in December the United States did not necessarily have to stick to its long-standing position that Taiwan is part of "one China". Earlier, Trump broke with decades of precedent by taking a telephone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen.

      Reuters
    • 2018 BMW M4: Light Updates

      This year's evolution of the M4.

      Car and Driver
    • Protesters take control of Mexican border crossing with US

      TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — Protesters took control of vehicle lanes at one of the busiest crossings on the U.S. border Sunday to oppose Mexican gasoline price hikes, waving through motorists into Mexico after Mexican authorities abandoned their posts.

      Associated Press
    • Discarded protest signs from the Women’s March in NYC (28 photos)

      Following the march in New York City, protesters left behind thousands of signs around Fifth Avenue near Trump Tower. Many signs left near a construction site were taken home by admirers as souvenirs. One group of placards was made into an art installation on East 57th Street, while many of these great signs were discarded near receptacles along Fifth Avenue waiting for sanitation. (Yahoo News) Photography by Gordon Donovan /Yahoo News _____ Related slideshows: Slideshow: Signs of the Women's March around the world >>> Slideshow: Women's March on Washington, D.C. >>> Slideshow: Women’s March around the world >>> Slideshow: How newspapers covered President's Trump inauguration >>> Slideshow: Anti-Trump inauguration protests break out in U.S. >>> Slideshow: Protests worldwide against the inauguration of Donald Trump >>> Slideshow: Obama's Washington >>> Slideshow: Donald Trump’s Inauguration Day >>> Slideshow: 66 hands on 66 Bibles >>> See more news-related photo galleries , and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.  

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Dwarf galaxies shed light on dark matter

      The first sighting of clustered dwarf galaxies bolsters a leading theory about how big galaxies such as our Milky Way are formed, and how dark matter binds them, researchers said Monday. Seven clusters of three-to-five galaxies are each 10 to 1,000 times smaller than the Milky Way. "We suspect these groups are gravitationally bound and thus will eventually merge to form one larger, intermediate-mass galaxy," said lead author Sabrina Stierwalt, an astrophysicist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlotteville, Virginia.

      AFP
    • How to Work With a Boss You Hate

      Love your job but can't stand your boss? You've got plenty of company, according to Gallup research that shows half of workers in the U.S. have quit a job at some point because they didn't like their supervisor.

      U.S.News & World Report
    • Good Samaritan Shot Dead While Trying to Stop Mall Robbery

      The suspect has been charged with capital murder.

      Inside Edition
    • Trump makes early move on restricting abortions around the world

      By Ellen Wulfhorst NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday reinstated a global gag rule that bans U.S.-funded groups around the world from discussing abortion, a move that was widely expected but nonetheless dismayed women's rights advocates. The rule, which affects American non-governmental organizations working abroad, is one that incoming presidents have used to signal their positions on abortion rights. It was created under U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984.

      Reuters
    • Fans outraged with lack of support from Taylor Swift

      The internet doesn't seem too happy with the fact that Taylor Swift chose not to participate in last weekend´s Women´s March on Washington movement.

      Zoomin TV