The purpose of this research is to compare the scientific theory of the afterlife with the Christian belief of the afterlife. The plan of the research will be to set forth an account of contemporary, science-based analyses of immortality and then to discuss how notions of immortality that have been identified with Christianity differ from them, with a view toward giving an account of the afterlife that on one hand does not rely on the leap of faith of Christian belief but that on the other does not necessarily require rejection of faith in order to be consistent with scientific theory.
Two strands of contemporary scientific thought touch on the notion of an afterlife. One is associated with the physiochemical properties of the cosmos, and the other, not unrelated to it, is associated with the emerging field of neuroscience, which is itself associated with philosophical materialism. The more rigid physiochemical conceptualization can be discerned in Sagan's discussion of the properties of life in terms of organic chemistry:
I am a collection of water, calcium and organic molecules . . . Some people find this idea somehow demeaning to human dignity. For myself, I find it elevating that our universe permits the evolution of molecular machines as intricate and subtle as we (Sagan 127).
Sagan's formulation points in the direction of wonderment that the complex human organism is a self-conscious being capable of individual as well as collective experience and memory of other self-conscious beings. The potentialities of such experience survive the life cycle of the individual organism. From the point of view of organic chemistry, it can also be argued that the molecules and chemicals that comprise human life survive it even as the lifeless human body decays, in a version of atomistic recycling. This whole scheme can be attached to the name immortality.
A second strand of scientific thought with regard to the afterlife can be disc...