The John Templeton Foundation grant to UC Riverside philosopher John Fischer will fund research on aspects of immortality, including near-death experiences and the impact of belief in an afterlife on human behavior

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — For millennia, humans have pondered their mortality and whether death is the end of existence or a gateway to an afterlife. Millions of Americans have reported near-death or out-of-body experiences. And adherents of the world’s major religions believe in an afterlife, from reincarnation to resurrection and immortality.

Anecdotal reports of glimpses of an 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. That will change with the award of a three-year, $5 million grant by the John Templeton Foundation to John Martin Fischer, distinguished professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, to undertake a rigorous examination of a wide range of issues related to immortality. It is the largest grant ever awarded to a humanities professor at UC Riverside, and one of the largest given to an individual at the university.

“People have been thinking about immortality throughout history. We have a deep human need to figure out what happens to us after death,” said Fischer, the principal investigator of The Immortality Project. “Much of the discussion has been in literature, especially in fantasy and science fiction, and in theology in the context of an afterlife, heaven, hell, purgatory and karma. No one has taken a comprehensive and sustained look at immortality that brings together the science, theology and philosophy.”

The John Templeton Foundation, located near Philadelphia, supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will.

Half of the $5 million grant will be awarded for research projects. The grant will also fund two conferences, the first of which will be held at the end of the project’s second year and the second at the end of the grant period. A website will include a variety of resources, from glossaries and bibliographies to announcements of research conferences and links to published research. Some recent work in Anglo-American philosophy will be translated for German philosophers who, in the last 30 years, have been increasingly studying the work of American philosophers.

UC Riverside Chancellor Timothy P. White said Fischer’s research “takes a universal concern and subjects it to rigorous examination to sift fact from fiction. His work will provide guidance for discussion of immortality and the human experience for generations to come.  We are extremely proud that he is leading the investigation of this critical area of knowledge.”

Noting Fischer’s renown as a scholar of free will and moral responsibility, Stephen Cullenberg, dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, said, “There is perhaps no one better suited to lead a multidisciplinary research project on the question of immortality and its social implications. The Templeton Foundation’s generous support will enable scholars from across the world to come to UCR to investigate how the question of immortality affects all cultures, albeit in different ways.”

Anecdotal reports of near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences and past lives are plentiful, but it is important to subject these reports to careful analysis, Fischer said. The Immortality Project 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.

“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. We will look at near-death experiences and try to find out what’s going on there — what is promising, what is nonsense, and what is scientifically debunked. We may find something important about our lives and our values, even if not glimpses into an afterlife.”

Fischer noted 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.

One of the questions he hopes researchers will address is cultural variations in reports of near-death experiences. For example, the millions of Americans who have experienced the phenomenon consistently report a tunnel with a bright light at the end. In Japan, reports often find the individual tending a garden.

“Is there something in our culture that leads people to see tunnels while the Japanese see gardens?” he asked. “Are there variations in other cultures?” What can we learn about our own values and the meanings of our finite lives by studying near-death experiences cross-culturally (as well as within our own culture)?

Other questions philosophers may consider are: Is immortality potentially worthwhile or not? Would existence in an afterlife be repetitive or boring? Does death give meaning to life? Could we still have virtues like courage if we knew we couldn’t die? What can we learn about the meaning of our lives by thinking about immortality?

Theologians and philosophers who examine various concepts of an afterlife may delve into the relationship between belief in life after death and individual behavior, and how individuals could survive death as the same person.

“Many people and religions hold there is an afterlife, and that often gives people consolation when faced with death,” Fischer said. “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.”

For example, “We think that free will is very important to us theologically and philosophically. And heaven in the Judeo-Christian tradition is supposed to be the best place. Yet we arguably wouldn’t have free will in heaven. How do you fit these ideas together?”

At the end of the project Fischer will analyze findings from the Immortality Project and write a book with the working title “Immortality and the Meaning of Death,” slated for publication by Oxford University Press.

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers and theologians, and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. The foundation’s vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 09:47

Are you interested in survival?

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Many ghost hunters and paranormal investigators are interested in ghosts and hauntings for various reasons. One of them is to gain evidence to prove the existence of life after death. However, there are other areas that one can study in order to determine if there is life after death. So, let’s briefly look at some of these other subjects in the realm of survival related phenomenon.

Mediums and Channeling

The first area that deserves mention includes mediums. Now, one could argue that this should be included under the ESP section since that would explain more about how they receive their information. Still, mediums claim to be able to communicate with the spirits of people who have died so they make a good way to study the survival phenomena.

Mediums can be differentiated into three different types. The first include the physical mediums, which are able to receive verbal messages from the dead and produce physical disturbances during their sessions. The physical disturbances can be levitation, object movement, and knocking or rapping. The second category of mediums are the mental mediums. These mediums speak with the dead mainly by going into a trance and becoming ‘possessed by the dead person’s spirit and a control entity. The third and final class of mediums are the psychic mediums. These are similar to but slightly different than the mental mediums in that they do not go into a trance and remain fully conscious during their communications with the spirits. Well known psychic mediums include John Edwards, James Van Praagh, and Sylvia Browne.

Another more vague and encompassing term that includes mediums is channeling. Mediums are said to channel the spirit of the deceased. However, channeling also entails contacting and communicating with non-human entities such as aliens and other dimensional beings.

Another survival related phenomenon that involves mediums is automatic writing. This is when the medium’s hand writes a message without the conscious control of the medium. It is thought that the medium’s hand and/or mind are being guided by the spirit of the deceased.

Out-of-Body Experiences (OBE)

OBEs are very similar to clairvoyance and remote viewing except that the person having the experience feels as if they leave their body. This enables them to view their physical body as well as the rest of the world around them. In the metaphysical world this has been called astral projection and the reports are very similar except those describing astral projection report being tethered to their body by a silvery cord.

Reincarnation

Reincarnation involves the soul or disembodied consciousness of someone who has died being reborn in another person or even an animal. Reincarnation is a strongly held belief in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. The strongest evidence for this is when very young children remember a past life of which they should know nothing, and have not been exposed to the information. This phenomenon is studied by collecting information from the people who claim to have been reincarnated and then trying to verify the facts of the case.

Near-Death Experience (NDE)

People who are clinically dead for a short period of time experience this phenomena. They report a similar sequence of events in the majority of the cases reported. This includes the following: hearing a buzzing noise; having a sense of peacefulness; leaving one’s body; traveling through a tunnel towards a bright light; meeting dead relatives, friends, and/or religious figures; seeing one’s life pass quickly before their eyes; and a feeling that this is a truly wonderful experience which they don’t want to end. The interesting thing is the main aspects of the experience seem to be similar across different cultures. There are slight differences that mainly concern the type of religious figures present in the experience.

It is possible to attribute the NDE to brain states triggered by cardiac arrest and anesthesia. Also, the patients may not have been truly dead since there was still electrical activity in the brain. Other arguments against the paranormal nature of a NDE are that NDE type experiences have been triggered in living people by the following: severe psychosis; drug usage such as LSD and DMT; electrical stimulation of the temporal lobes and thus the hippocampus; and decreased cerebral perfusion which results in cerebral hypoxia. This is a common condition for jet pilots that experience incredible forces when going extremely fast and vertical.

However, it can be argued that if the experience is truly due to neurochemistry of the brain, then why are the experiences all not exactly the same? Why are the experiences very specific to the individual? These are questions that can only be answered with future research.

Induced After Death Communication (IDAC)

A new therapy discovered by Dr. Allan Botkin, which is used by psychologists as a therapy to reduce trauma, stress and grief, could be a new area for survival-related research. It involves using eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Dr. Botkin revised the EMDR and called it ‘core-focused EMDR.’ Dr. Botkin discovered that during the core-focused EMDR that patients could be induced to have an IDAC by following a specific sequence of events. The IDAC allows people to deal with their grief by enabling them to communicate and reconnect with their dead loved ones. Dr. Botkin has pointed out that IDACs have much in common with NDEs and spontaneous after death communications (ADCs). Even though the paranormal nature of IDACs is uncertain, it does provide yet another avenue for exploring the possibility of life after death.

Many people ask what books they should read and what websites should they visit in order to get information about parapsychology, paranormal investigating, ghosts and hauntings, etc… Below is a list of books and websites that provide excellent information on these things.

 

Books

Parapsychology and Psychology Related

  • Houran, J.  & Lange, R. (Eds.). (2001). Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Jefferson, NY: McFarland & Company.
  • Irwin, H.J. & Watt, C.A. (2007). An Introduction to Parapsychology (5th Ed.). Jefferson, NC: McFarland Company.
  • Wolman, B.B. (Ed.). (1977). Handbook of Parapsychology. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.
  • Henry, J. (Ed.). (2006). Parapsychology: Research on Exceptional Experiences. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Broughton, R.S. (1991). Parapsychology: The Controversial Science. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.
  • Cardena, E., Lynn, S.J. & Krippner, S. (Eds.). (2007). Varieties of Anomalous Experiences: Examining the Scientific Evidence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Zusne, L. & Jones, W.H. (1989). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking (2nd Ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.
  • Irwin, H.J. (2009). The Psychology of Paranormal Belief: A Researcher’s Handbook. Hatfield, Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire Press.
  • Finucane, R.C. (1996). Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • Radin, D. (1997). The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. New York, NY: Harper Colling Publishers.
  • Radin, D. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. New York, NY: Pocket Books.
  • Auerbach, L. (1996). Mind Over Matter. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corporation.
  • Ullman, M., Krippner, S. & Vaughan, A. (2002). Dream Telepathy: Experiments in Nocturnal Extrasensory Perception. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.

 

Paranormal Investigation Related

  • Lauer, J. & Schumacher, D. (2007). Investigating the Haunted: Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. Xlibris Company.
  • Auerbach, L. (1986). ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologists Handbook. New York, NY: Warner Books.
  • Wiseman, R. & Morris, R.L. (1995). Guidelines for Testing Psychic Claimants. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • Baker, R.A. & Nickell, J. (1992). Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, & Other Mysteries. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

 

Websites

 

Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena

http://www.assap.ac.uk/

 

Paranormal Site Investigators

http://www.p-s-i.org.uk/upload/

 

Society for Scientific Exploration

http://www.scientificexploration.org/

 

Public Parapsychology

http://www.publicparapsychology.org/

 

American Society for Psychical Research

http://www.aspr.com/

 

Society for Psychical Research

http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/

 

Division of Perceptual Studies, University of Virginia, School of Medicine

http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/clinical/departments/psychiatry/sections/cspp/dops/home-page

 

Loyd Auerbach’s Website

http://mindreader.com/

 

Afterlife Research Center

http://afterliferesearch.weebly.com/index.html

 

Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London

http://www.gold.ac.uk/apru/

 

Library of Exploratory Science

http://www.lexscien.org/lexscien/index.jsp

 

Windbridge Institute

http://www.windbridge.org/index.htm

 

Rhine Research Center

http://www.rhine.org/

 

Global Consciousness Project

http://noosphere.princeton.edu/

Paranormal Research Group

http://www.ParanormalResearchGroup.com

 

 

 

any people ask what books they should read and what websites should they visit in order to get information about parapsychology, paranormal investigating, ghosts and hauntings, etc… Below is a list of books and websites that provide excellent information on these things.

 

Books

 

Parapsychology and Psychology Related

Houran, J.  & Lange, R. (Eds.). (2001). Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Jefferson, NY: McFarland & Company.

 

Irwin, H.J. & Watt, C.A. (2007). An Introduction to Parapsychology (5th Ed.). Jefferson, NC: McFarland Company.

 

Wolman, B.B. (Ed.). (1977). Handbook of Parapsychology. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

 

Henry, J. (Ed.). (2006). Parapsychology: Research on Exceptional Experiences. New York, NY: Routledge.

 

Broughton, R.S. (1991). Parapsychology: The Controversial Science. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

 

Cardena, E., Lynn, S.J. & Krippner, S. (Eds.). (2007). Varieties of Anomalous Experiences: Examining the Scientific Evidence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

 

Zusne, L. & Jones, W.H. (1989). Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking (2nd Ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, Inc.

 

Irwin, H.J. (2009). The Psychology of Paranormal Belief: A Researcher’s Handbook. Hatfield, Hertfordshire: University of Hertfordshire Press.

 

Finucane, R.C. (1996). Ghosts: Appearances of the Dead and Cultural Transformation. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

 

Radin, D. (1997). The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena. New York, NY: Harper Colling Publishers.

 

Radin, D. (2006). Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

 

Auerbach, L. (1996). Mind Over Matter. New York, NY: Kensington Publishing Corporation.

 

Ullman, M., Krippner, S. & Vaughan, A. (2002). Dream Telepathy: Experiments in Nocturnal Extrasensory Perception. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing.

 

 

Paranormal Investigation Related

Lauer, J. & Schumacher, D. (2007). Investigating the Haunted: Ghost Hunting Taken to the Next Level. Xlibris Company.

 

Auerbach, L. (1986). ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologists Handbook. New York, NY: Warner Books.

 

Wiseman, R. & Morris, R.L. (1995). Guidelines for Testing Psychic Claimants. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.

 

Baker, R.A. & Nickell, J. (1992). Missing Pieces: How to Investigate Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, & Other Mysteries. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.

 

 

 

Websites

 

Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena

http://www.assap.ac.uk/

 

Paranormal Site Investigators

http://www.p-s-i.org.uk/upload/

 

Society for Scientific Exploration

http://www.scientificexploration.org/

 

Public Parapsychology

http://www.publicparapsychology.org/

 

American Society for Psychical Research

http://www.aspr.com/

 

Society for Psychical Research

http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/

 

Division of Perceptual Studies, University of Virginia, School of Medicine

http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/clinical/departments/psychiatry/sections/cspp/dops/home-page

 

Loyd Auerbach’s Website

http://mindreader.com/

 

Afterlife Research Center

http://afterliferesearch.weebly.com/index.html

 

Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London

http://www.gold.ac.uk/apru/

 

Library of Exploratory Science

http://www.lexscien.org/lexscien/index.jsp

 

Windbridge Institute

http://www.windbridge.org/index.htm

 

Rhine Research Center

http://www.rhine.org/

 

Global Consciousness Project

http://noosphere.princeton.edu/

55th Annual Convention
of the Parapsychological Association

Millennium Hotel
Durham, North Carolina
USA

August 9-12, 2012

http://www.parapsych.org/articles/37/119/announcing_the_2012_pa_convention.aspx

This meeting is a must for serious paranormal investigators or ghost hunters. Especially those who claim to be science based.

Why?

Let’s start out with what parapsychology is and what it involves.

Parapsychology is the study of “apparent anomalies of behavior and experience that exist apart from currently known explanatory mechanisms that account for organism-environment and organism-organism information and influence flow.”

-Parapsychological Association, 1989, pp.394-395

Parapsychologists attempt to explain the phenomena within mainstream science. If the phenomena can’t be explained within the context of mainstream science, then new hypotheses and theories are proposed that are an extension of known science. Some of those ideas may seem well outside of mainstream science but new data, experiments, and information will continue to support or not support those hypotheses. For example, new information gained in the study of quantum physics gives new possibilities for explaining paranormal phenomena with the context of science.

The variety of different areas and experiences within the field are collectively termed ‘psi’.  Psi is synonymous with psychic and psychical. The three aspects of psi are:

  • Extrasensory Perception (ESP) or what some term Extended Sensory Perception. This area of psi is considered informational or receptive psi.
  • Psychokinesis (PK). This is psi as an interaction. It is when the mind has a direct affect on an animate or inanimate object. Telekinesis is the older term used to describe these phenomena of moving distant objects with one’s mind but most parapsychologists just refer to it as PK. To make it simple, let’s just say it is mind over matter.
  • Survival. This is the life after death area that all ghost hunters and paranormal investigators have come to know and love. However, it includes much more than just ghosts and hauntings as you will see in the following paragraphs.

Why is it important for paranormal investigators or ghost hunters to know about parapsychology?

Knowledge of parapsychology is essential for the paranormal investigator. The major reasons it plays such an important role are:

  • Parapsychology used to be known in the early days as psychical research of which started out investigating mediums, psychics, and spiritualists. There was also considerable time spent collecting, investigating and analyzing cases of ghosts and hauntings (or what most parapsychologists would term ‘spontaneous cases’).
  • The majority of research in parapsychology is now done in the formal psychology lab setting. Unfortunately, ghosts have yet to make themselves available for a controlled laboratory study. Therefore, most of the investigations into ghosts and hauntings cases into the arms of amateur paranormal investigators and ghost hunters.
  • The information gained during research by parapsychologists can be used when investigating ghosts and hauntings. This also works the opposite way in that good quality information collected during field investigations can be a starting point for parapsychologists to set up and do certain laboratory experiments.
  • Amateur paranormal investigators and ghost hunters are NOT parapsychologists. Parapsychologists have advanced college degrees and usually hold faculty positions at universities and/or at other formal research laboratories. Also, the majority of parapsychologists would not be considered to be ghost hunters or paranormal investigators. Some do investigate spontaneous cases but usually do it as a somewhat controlled field experiment in an attempt to collect data that can be used to support a hypothesis they are testing.

Finally, if you do believe in the possibility of ghosts then the field of parapsychology can provide some possible mechanisms by which these entities are able to manifest, communicate with, and influence things in our physical world.

Sunday, 15 January 2012 16:03

Welcome to the Paranormal Research Group’s Blog! Featured

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Welcome to the new Paranormal Research (PRG) group blog! This is our newest tool to provide those in the paranormal investigation and research community with the latest and greatest information about the PRG and the field. Each week we will cover what’s new with the PRG, current events, research updates, parapsychology, paranormal investigation equipment, trips, conferences, new publications and much much more. We ask everyone to join our blog and participate in the discussion by posting your thoughts and comments.

Below is some information about the current state of the PRG.

The Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group has expanded!!! It now incorporates the great states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Due to this expansion, the organization has changed its business name to reflect this. "Paranormal Research Group" is now the new umbrella organization that encompasses both paranormal research organizations in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It's the same organization, run by the same people, but with a larger, expanded membership! The Paranormal Research Group is a team of Paranormal Investigators and Researchers who investigate paranormal activity as it relates to Ghosts & Hauntings. Jennifer Lauer founded this organization in 1999, which is today considered to be one of the most respected, knowledgeable, and credible paranormal research organizations in the country.

Our Paranormal Investigation Team members are trained to use scientific methods and information to conduct serious paranormal investigations, which consists of conducting research, developing and testing theories, producing data & analysis-oriented results, providing resolution information, and encouraging public understanding & awareness.

The team has investigated public and private locations all over the United States, from huge abandoned prisons and hospitals to private residences.

The PRG also has a research branch. The Anomalous Research Department (ARD) is comprised of a small group of SWPRG members that do the following: conduct research, review and develop new equipment for use by the group, keep current on recent articles within the paranormal field, seek out and apply for grants, publish papers, address specific scientific issues raised by the PRG and collaborate with other paranormal research groups and organizations on certain research topics.

As well as investigating the paranormal, the PRG gives lectures on the paranormal for including Historical Societies, Public Libraries, Universities and Public Schools.

In closing I would like to thank you for reading our blog and we look forward to your comments!

Sunday, 15 January 2012 14:04

Parapsychologist, Dr. William G. Roll, Dies at 85 Featured

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DrRoll-2William G. Roll (July 3, 1926 – January 9, 2012) was a noted psychologist and parapsychologist on the faculty of the Psychology Department of the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia, in the United States. He held various positions there, including Professor of Psychology and Psychical Research, assistant professor, and instructor. Sometimes credited as William Roll, or informally, Bill Roll, he was a parapsychologist since the 1950s and authored or coauthored many investigation research papers, articles, and four books: The Poltergeist (1972), Theory and Experiment in Psychical Research (1975), Psychic Connections (1995, with co-author Lois Duncan), and Unleashed: Of Poltergeists and Murder: The Curious Story of Tina Resch (2004, with co-author Valerie Storey). He is also notable for making several appearances in the television show Unsolved Mysteries, among them an episode discussing disturbances on the RMS Queen Mary.

READ HIS OBITUARY FROM THE PARAPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION

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