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University Receives $5 Million Grant To Study Immortality 532

Hugh Pickens writes "Humans have pondered their mortality for millennia. Now the University of California at Riverside reports that it has received a $5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation that will fund research on aspects of immortality, including near-death experiences and the impact of belief in an afterlife on human behavior. 'People have been thinking about immortality throughout history. We have a deep human need to figure out what happens to us after death,' says John Martin Fischer, the principal investigator of The Immortality Project. 'No one has taken a comprehensive and sustained look at immortality that brings together the science, theology and philosophy.' Fischer says he going to investigate two different kinds of immortality. One is the possibility of living forever without dying. The main questions there are whether it's technologically plausible or feasible for us, either by biological enhancement such as those described by Ray Kurzweil, or by some combination of biological enhancement and uploading our minds onto computers in the future. Second would be to investigate the full range of questions about Judeo, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other Asian religions' conceptions of the afterlife to see if they're theologically and philosophically consistent. 'We'll look at near death experiences both in western cultures and throughout the world and really look at what they're all about and ask the question — do they indicate something about an afterlife or are they kind of just illusions that we're hardwired into?'"
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University Receives $5 Million Grant To Study Immortality

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  • by twocows ( 1216842 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @08:49PM (#40881887)
    I agree. I was really sad when I opened this thread. I was expecting it was something related to the sciences, research into how to give people immortality. That would have been really neat. Instead, this. I groaned out loud when I read the summary.
  • by Penurious Penguin ( 2687307 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @09:31PM (#40882157) Journal
    Well, maybe not; but for those with a moderately open mind, you really should -- before concluding -- examine the works of two people. Dr. Lawrence LeShan [] and Dr. Daryl J. Bem [] have done some tremendous work on the subject of ESP. LeShan, in his early years went further, working with some extraordinary people, under genuinely scientific conditions. I simply can't imagine someone reading LeShan's The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist and having anything negative to say.

    If ESP ever does prove itself an authentic protocol, then its tendency to allow the mind to accurately observe remote locations could suggest a breach in the presumed dependency of consciousness on the form. I also recommend visiting the CIA's CREST [] database and searching amongst the many thousands of Remote Viewing documents that have been released. Despite rational assumption, there's more than redaction lines to look at.

    This is a fascinating subject and I am not telling anyone to make any assumptions either way, but please look at quality research that's available before making conclusions.
  • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @09:55PM (#40882325)
    No, there is experimental data as well. Lobotomies are a result of "change the brain, change the intelligence/personality" experiments. There is direct experimental data, not just external observation.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:29PM (#40882541)

    Mentally and physically the person in my baby picture is already dead. But somehow most people would insist that that baby is me!

    Philosophically, you exhibit "perdurance" []. If you were unchanging for a while, you would be exhibiting "endurance". Even if you can't understand it, you sure can label it.

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @10:46PM (#40882637)

    Actually, the other way round. I am just saying we do not know either way at this time. You are claiming we do. That places the burden of proof on you.

  • by SoftwareArtist ( 1472499 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:08AM (#40883607)

    That's not an answer. And I think you know it as well as I do.

    First, I'm quite familiar with computability and Godel's incompleteness theorems, and they have nothing at all to do with the question. There is absolutely nothing in them that implies AI is a fundamentally unsolvable problem. In fact, most AI researchers probably understand those subjects far better than you do - and they still consider AI to be a worthwhile problem to study.

    Second, the current state of the art in AI is irrelevant. You didn't just say there were things computers can't currently do. You said there are things no computer can ever do, no matter how powerful. That claim needs to be justified.

    Third, AI has actually been making dramatic progress in recent years. After decades of following paths that didn't lead anywhere, researchers have finally found some techniques that enabled major breakthroughs. If you want to see practical applications of that, just look at Watson or Siri or the like. A mere five years ago, both of those would have been science fiction. Today they're real.

  • by narcc ( 412956 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:57AM (#40884077) Journal

    Philosophy is like math but without rigor, or even an equal sign.

    Jesus Christ! It's like you're purposefully ignorant! Philosophy is ridiculously rigorous. Maybe you should try reading the literature. Hell, read wikipedia. Anything is better than ignorance.

    This is why I don't bother trying to offer corrections -- idiotic posts like this can only come from someone so unfamiliar with the subject that I'd need to write a fucking textbook one post at a time before I could even begin to explain how moronic the post was!

    If you don't know anything about the subject, just shut the fuck up. Spreading bullshit like this isn't helping anyone. You know what it's like? It's like listening to a creationist talk about evolution -- pure, unadulterated, willful ignorance.

    Now go find an undergrad textbook and start learning. You've got a long way to go.

  • by Johann Lau ( 1040920 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @07:52AM (#40885303) Homepage Journal

    What hostility, what unasked question? I've been pondering this stuff since I'm a teenager, I'm just not easy to surprise.

    If you however question if the conscious is something beyond the brain or still resident in the brain, and seek to find if it is limited to the brain, then it doesn't.

    As I said, everything is everything... the "problem" with that is, it doesn't make much sense to speak of individuality then, either.

    As for free will, even if it is an illusion, it is sufficient as you get to ask and answer you own question of meaning.

    My point was, even though everything that can be learned about neurology seems to utterly destroy most notions we have about ourselves and our decisions, we still have them. We go further and further away from just being, and coming up with objecties and properties to "possess", and "narratives" and all that nonsense. So yeah, let's ponder our mortality. I have great trust we won't fatfinger it. We already applied our rational brain to economics and politics, let's do this now.

    From the summary:

    "including near-death experiences and the impact of belief in an afterlife on human behavior."

    Notice what they have in common? Both are about living people. The latter is actually a joke. Why not include "the history of folkore about immortality?" That's also "studying an aspect of immortality". I'm not opposed to questions, I'm opposed to shallowness :P

    from the article:

    "If you believe in reincarnation, how can the very same person exist if you start over with no memories?"

    You see, even comedians are more insightful than that.

    "I suppose it would be nice if reincarnation were a reality, but I have problems with the math. At some point, originally, there must have been a time when there were only two human beings. They both died, and presumably their souls were reincarnated into two other bodies. But that still leaves us with only two souls. We now have nearly six billion people on the planet. Where are all the extra souls coming from? Is someone printing up souls? Wouldn't that tend to lower their value?" - George Carlin

    There. Done. Tomorrow we'll talk about Noah's Ark.

    Everything is everything, and there is no hostility in that. The notions we have, what we call humans and how we consider ourselves - that won't disappear, because it never existed in the first place. A needle isn't hostile to a bubble, the tension in the bubble is hostile to reality.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller