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Reincarnation: Stevenson's work

  1. Mar 15, 2009 #1

    While I was reading some pointless articles on Wikipedia, I read about reincarnation. I always felt that due to us still not knowing fully what consciousness is, I thought it might be a valid question.

    I came across Ian Stevenson's work. I couldn't believe it because he was a psychiatrist, and apparently he published some articles in some peer-reviewed journals. More I read about it I felt that he wanted to find rational explanation for children's memory of their past lives. He also criticised some unscientific things that were related to reincarnation, such as regression therapy. My impression is that after he documented these phenomena he really couldn't come up with another expression?

    I have few questions. First, will we be able to formulate a decent argument for or against this explanation? If not, what will be the stumbling block? Is anyone familiar with his work? What is your opinion? Does this fall into the realm of scientific thinking, or at least, rational thinking? If not, why?

    I quote Carl Sagan
    "At the time of writing there are three claims in the ESP field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study: (1) that by thought alone humans can (barely) affect random number generators in computers; (2) that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images "projected" at them; and (3) that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any way other than reincarnation. I pick these claims not because I think they're likely to be valid (I don't), but as examples of contentions that might be true."
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  3. Mar 15, 2009 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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  4. Mar 15, 2009 #3
    [edit by Ivan] Speculation and fringe theory deleted. Even if you aren't promoting these ideas, they have no place in this discussion. We are only interested in determining what if any evidence for the claim exists. [end edit]

    I have no clue how accurate and genuine these stories are and if it's really like that, but if it is, then this can "explain" why some children recall past lives.

    I'm overly skeptical about such stories, but who knows. You may want to check out some stories from suicide people

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2009
  5. Mar 16, 2009 #4


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    That's only a partial quote. Please also be sure to cite your source.

    (Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World, Random House, 1995, p. 302).
  6. Mar 20, 2009 #5
    This is a bad way to put what you mean. Conscious is what we define it to be. (Simply by using the word you assume a definition that anyone opening this thread will agree to. And, indeed, anyone reading it assumes they know what you mean.) What it is isn't the issue, rather how it works is the issue. Specifically: does it operate on principles that would allow it to be transferred from one body to another?

    Without knowing exactly how it gives rise to consciousness neurologists long ago linked consciousness to a specific part of the brain called the thalamus. Interrupt the functioning of the thalamus, or it's connections to the cortex, and you interrupt consciousness. This happens, for example, in "absense" seizures, generalized seizures, and when a person is "knocked out" by a blow to the head.


    If interrupting brain activity interrupts consciousness then the most logical place to look for the cause of consciousness is brain activity. The notion that there is an entity "consciousness" that might be transferred from one body to another becomes far-fetched and requires the invention of unprovable mechanisms to support. People interested in looking into an explanation for these very unusual anecdotes should rule out even considering reincarnation till more of the 'known quantities' are exhausted.
  7. Mar 26, 2009 #6


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    I'm concerned with the energy aspect of preserving 'conciousness'. If energy is carried off when the physical body expires, some unaccountable mass loss should occur at the moment of death. As I recall, such an experiment was conducted in the 70's and no detectable mass loss was detected. It could, however, be argued that detection methods were too insensitive.
  8. Jun 12, 2009 #7
    Interesting experiment. So if you accept reincarnation, "mass loss" would tend to confirm Materialism, "no mass loss" would tend to confirm Dualism. But what would be the mass threshold at which the experiment would become meaningful?

    Cheers, Skippy
  9. Jun 12, 2009 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    Please note that here we only seek evidence for exotic claims, not theories.
  10. Jun 12, 2009 #9
    If you are referring to my post, I am afraid I don't understand your objection. In fact, if you are referring to any post in this thread, I still don't understand.

  11. Jun 12, 2009 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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  12. Jun 22, 2009 #11
  13. Sep 16, 2009 #12

    If anyone is interested to understand past lives more please read experiences from
    If the forum, there are many real life stories.

    For those who would like technical stuff, please google up
    "Abhidhamma" it is the the study of human mind.
    Particularly in the section "Dependent Origination".
    It explains the cycle of rebirth according to Buddhism.

    In Burma, these teachings are being taught to high school students.
    With exams and charts and tables.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
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