The Implications for Ethics, Theology and Philosophy
As we commence the twenty-first century, one of the most interesting observable changes in science has been the widening of its boundaries to encompass a number of traditionally philosophical questions. These questions have largely been thrust upon science as a direct result of its own progress. Recent discoveries and the consequent improvements in medical care have revealed a maze of ethical issues which were formerly reserved for philosophical debate. Many now feel that the progress of science, although undoubtedly bringing benefits, has itself begun to threaten the sanctity of human life.
Some scientists believe that ultimately everything, including issues that may be considered theological or philosophical, are amenable to the objective study of science. Many scientists however, feel uncomfortable to study the human mind and brain during clincal death. This is partly due to the potential implications of such a study. One possibility that would need to be considered, is how science would tackle the potential discovery that mind or consciousness may continue to exist at the end of life and independently of the brain. To many, this would of course support the theological and philosophical concept of an 'afterlife' and would suggest that the age-old concept of the 'soul' is the same as what scientists now call 'consciousness'. Of course it is also possible that science will prove that nothing exists at the end of life. For now we simply do not know, but what would science do if the former is discovered and would this be a problem for science?
If somehow it were proven that the human mind and consciousness (in other words the self) is a separate undiscovered scientific entity, perhaps an entity similar to electromagnetic waves, as suggested by Professor Bahram Elahi an emeritus professor of surgery and anatomy and author who has widely lectured on human consciousnsess and the self, this would imply that the study of consciousness or the 'soul' would become a scientific field in its own right. Just as electromagnetism is a field of science, the study of consciousness would also be a field with its own axioms, laws and theorems. This would lead to the objective study by science of what has traditionally been considered a religious and philosophical subject, thus potentially ending many disagreements and leading to a far more tolerant society.
In the same way that science has revolutionized our understanding of the external world around us, it could also revolutionize our understanding of the subjective world inside us. Before the institutionalization of science, which started with pioneering scientists such as Galileo and Newton, anybody could claim to be correct on any issue. All the progress that we have made in discovering both the world around us and the intricate inner world that exists inside us owes its existence to the objective method of study that was started around 500 years ago. Perhaps we now need to apply the same objectivity as our forefathers, put aside personal and philosophical bias and start by conducting the experiments that would potentially allow us to discover the nature of human consciousness and what happens when we die.