The Institute for Spirituality and Health
Exploring the connections between spirituality and health.
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Spirited Words

See below for a collection of reflections, writings, essays, poems, and other contributions that the ISH community has submitted over the years. We hope you enjoy.

If you are interested in submitting a piece to our blog, please contact Anyang Anyang <anyanganyang@ish-tmc.org>. We publish writing that relates to our mission of enhancing well-being by exploring the relationship between spirituality and health.

 

Four Immortality Narratives

By John Graham

March 23rd, 2012

Micahel Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine has an interesting and challenging column every month in Scientific Americanmagazine.  In the April, 2012 issue, he has an article entitled “Climbing Mount Immortality” and it is thought provoking as always.  He summarizes Stephen Cave’s book, Immortality:  The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization” which identifies four immortality narratives: (1) Staying alive, (2) Resurrection, (3) Soul, and (4) Legacy.  Faithful to their skepticism, Cave and Shermer both dismiss the first three narratives.  Shermer then says, “No brain, no mind,; no body, no soul.”  Okay, but this assumes you buy into his believe that it is truly possible to reduce the mind to the brain.  Perhaps he should read The Irreducible Mind, Ed. by Edward and Emily Kelly.  Except, that wouldn’t convince him because he has already made up his mind “not to mind,” so to speak.  And, he can readily dismiss all the religions of human history as mere delusions to avoid the reality that we are alone on this tiny planet and that is it.  Okay, what are Cave and Shermer left with?  Of course, The Legacy Narrative — to create a legacy can give us immortality through the literature, art, music, culture, architecture we leave behind when we die — a form of “Terror Management” that we use to keep our fear of death abay.  This is fine for those who are willing to accept science’s own delusion that the only thing that exists is matter which we can measure.   Yet, more and more scientists with courage are beginning to affirm all of reality is not measurable.  Human beings are not merely a collection of a hundred Trillion cells each methodically manufacting 2,000 proteins a second as dictated by their DNA.  Human beings are that, but we also have consciousness greater than our brain can contain.  Human beings have spirit which cannot be measured but which can be experienced and touch a more profound reality than science can possibly measure.  The study of Quantum Mechanics alone ought to cause a humbler approach.  Shermer is wrong, I believe, in his reductionist approach to immortality.   Mental, psychological, emotional, and spiritual maturity implies we can embrace paradox, ambiguity, uncertainty, mystery, and awe.  The opposite is to be polarized in one camp, express absolute certainty, and a rigidity, that is akin to fundamentalism.   The findings of science and religion do not conflict; they are different sources of knowledge.  To me, Shermer is too rigid, too narrow to see that reality is much larger than that which can be measured.     

Sara Moore