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Is There a Life Beyond the Grave?

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Author Topic: Is There a Life Beyond the Grave?  (Read 255 times)
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« on: February 10, 2009, 10:53:35 pm »

Further quoting from "The Creed of Science," by Professor Graham. I showed that science taught that immortality is not and cannot be proved, that the chief function of the brain is that which is known by the term "mental activity" that nothing is known, and nothing can be known of a life beyond the grave, In support of my contention I produced the evidence of several scientific men concluding with the testimony of the late Professor Tyndell, who said: "But to return to the hypothesis of a human soul, offered as an explanation or a simplification of a series of obscure phenomena. Adequate reflection shows that, instead of introducing light into our minds, it increases our darkness. You do not, in this case, explain the unknown in terms of the known, which is the method of science, but you explain the unknown in terms of the more unknown." Now, upon all this Dr. Westbrook was silent in his reply, and he coolly asserted that I produced no "logical argument" against the theory of a future life. If what I did produce were illogical, why did not the doctor endeavor to prove this was so?

I am further charged with denying a future life, whereas in my lecture I distinctly stated in answer to the question, "If a man die shall he live again?" that by its very nature, and by the very nature of our mentality, it is utterly impossible to give a definite opinion pro or con. Referring to Spiritualism, I said that I had studied it for five years, and had found nothing in it; not that I wished to deny that there might be something but -- depending on my own reason and judgment, by which I stand or fall -- I had found nothing. But, says Dr. Westbrook, "What does this prove? Why, that Mr, Watts did not find anything in Spiritualism! But does his failure show that nobody else ever succeeded? Does he know every thing?" Of course my failure to discover anything in Spiritualism only proves what I stated, that I found nothing in it. It is not my custom to dogmatize as to what others have seen, or thought they have seen. I am reminded that I don't "know everything" That is so, and in this particular the doctor and myself are on equal terms. I am asked if I can "mention one thing which man actually desires, which has not a palpable existence." Certainly I can. Men desire universal happiness, justice for all, and a fair distribution of wealth, but these conditions have no "palpable existence."

I repeat that it is impossible to long for that of which nothing is known. The doctor takes exception to this, but he gives no instance to prove that I am wrong. If, as he says, -- "Life beyond the grave is this: a continuation of the present life, nothing more, nothing less," then the future is not another life, and the doctor has to show how the "continuation of the present life" can go on in the absence of the conditions that we know are necessary to its manifestations now. We have positive proof that the body, including the brain, the heart and the lungs, are indispensable to what we term life; let it, therefore, be shown how this life can continue when the body and its organs have disappeared. The doctor, however, refutes himself, for he says that in the next world we shall be "as the angels," and not subject to the conditions that govern us here. If this will be so, it will be another life after all, inasmuch as existence here is not regulated on the "angelic" principle, therefore, continuity ceases.

Apart from such "flimsy arguments" as the above, the doctor bases his belief in "a life beyond the grave" upon the opinions of great men, the alleged universality of the belief and the general desire that is supposed to exist for such a life. As these objections to the Agnostic position involve probably the strongest arguments that can be urged in favor of a future life, I shall examine, them one by one.

Dr. Westbrook, in his reply, does not content himself by modestly asking, "Is there a life beyond the grave?" but he positively asserts that there is such an existence, This is a bold allegation, to prove the truth of which will require more knowledge than the doctor has hitherto given evidence that he possesses. What is meant by the term "life"? Our answer is, that we only know of it as "functional activity" in organized existence, such as we behold in the animal and vegetal kingdoms. The question, however, of a future life concerns chiefly man, who possesses an organism and functions of various kinds. Before we can accept as true, the statement "there is a life beyond the grave," we must have some knowledge of the conditions of that supposed existence, and whether or not they are suitable to man as we now know him. But up to the present we have not met any one who possesses the required knowledge and, therefore, no information is forthcoming as to the nature of a future life. We certainly decline to accept the proposition as being self-evident. If, as the doctor alleges, there is presumptive in favor of a future life, the most that can be reasonably argued is that there may be such a life. Of course we do not contend that a visit to the planet Mars would be necessary before we could believe that life existed there, but we do assert that some kind of communication with the inhabitants would be necessary before we could positively allege that life was there. It is not unreasonable to demand at least reliable testimony in matters beyond our experience. It is one thing to have a mind open to conviction, and quite another to meet the man who can convince us. When similar evidence is presented in favor of future existence to that which obtains for the operation of natural law throughout the universe, and when such evidence can be tested by the ordinary rules of observation and experiment, the question of a life beyond the grave will deserve serious consideration.

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