Having summarised a number of commentators’ initial mixed reactions to the Immortality Project – see previous Blog – I felt their concerns could be summed up in the following question, to be put to Professor John Martin Fischer, project leader: “Since so much scientific effort has gone into the study of NDEs, after-death communications and reincarnation, over many decades, why do you expect the Immortality Project to make a difference?”
I emailed him with this query and I’m delighted to report that he kindly responded very quickly with two brief answers.
“I am grateful for your interest,” the professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, wrote. “Also, I have read with great interest your two blog posts on the grant. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis and, again, for your interest.
“Frankly, I do not think it would be productive for me to get too involved in discussions about the prospects for the grant at this point. I think we’ll want to be judged by our results, and that is what I ask.
“Briefly, how do I expect the Immortality Project to make a difference?
“Please remember that I will be seeking applications from anyone in the world who wishes to apply for grants in the empirical/scientific component, the philosophical component, and the theological component of the grant. I will invite leading academics in all of these fields to be the judges of the grant competitions.
“I cannot, in advance, speculate on what projects will emerge as worthy of support. But I remind you that the study of NDEs (and related phenomena) may, or may not, be funded. This grant is broad in its scope, and we will avoid reinventing the wheel.”
Prof Fischer followed that up with a second email, shortly afterwards, saying:
“Please remember that the announcements of a grant such as this are for the general public and are intended to give a sense of what kind of things we will be interested in (potentially, at least). But, again, the specific projects that will be funded will be the result of rigorous competitions judged by leading academics in the relevant fields.”
Clearly a man with a sense of humour, Prof Fischer lastly referred to a quote I had included about Chris Jensen Romer’s explosive reaction to reading a general statement about the Project (you’ll need to read my previous Blog to understand it):
“Please allow me also to express the hope that the cat of the researcher/author you quote has fully recovered (as well as its owner).”
So, we will have to wait to see how the Immortality Project develops and how deeply it probes those areas which parapsychologists with an interest in survival research regard as essential for establishing the existence of an after-life. The good news is that Prof Fischer has already demonstrated his awareness of these concerns and, hopefully, will tackle them head-on.