Scientifically speaking, what's the most persuasive evidence for reincarnation?
The work that Ian Stevenson and other researchers have done involving these cases of young children with spontaneous memories is by far the most persuasive. In Dr. Stevenson's books, he has documented in meticulous detail the evidence that exists that could support a conclusion that the statements do represent actual memories from previous lives. Which cases seem most remarkable to you, or hardest to refute? The most convincing cases tend to involve young children, around the age of two to four, who begin making these statements, and they usually stop by the time they are six or seven. In the strongest cases, the children describe the lives of strangers who lived in another location, and those statements have then been verified to be accurate. Inmany cases, the children have birthmarks that match wounds on the bodiesof the deceased, and these represent objective evidence of a link withthe previous life. The cases of memories evoked through past-life regression are much less persuasive because hypnosis is such an unreliable tool for any type of memories. It can produce spectacular results at times, but at other times, the mind simply fills in the blanks with fantasy material. Also, many subjects undergoing past-life regression describe ancient lives, and finding documentation to verify the memories is often not possible. Would you briefly summarize Dr. Stevenson's methods? Dr. Stevenson's methods involve talking with the child and its parents to learn as much as possible about statements that the child has made. He also talks to other firsthand witnesses about the child's statements. He then interviews the family of the previous personality, if he or she has been identified, to verify whether the child's statements were accurate or not. He also attempts to obtain police reports or autopsy reports when they are relevant. The goal is to find out how much of a case can be verified, and nothing is assumed until it has been verified.
Those interested in learning the details of particular cases may want to read Dr. Stevenson's Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnationor the books on birthmark cases described below. Stevenson's work focuses primarily on children. What does the scientific community think of past-life regression work done with adults? The scientific community as a whole probably thinks little of any of this work. In general, the past-life regression work has lacked the scientific rigor of Dr. Stevenson's work. A subject may describe a life in ancient times with great emotion, and may get symptomatically better after doing so, but since the statements cannot be verified as accurate for a particular individual who actually lived, the evidentiary value of such a case is very limited at best. Dr. Stevenson has a statement about past-life regression on our website that goes into more detail about the problems with it. What's the most thought-provoking case you personally have worked on? Particularly a case after 1990, in a country where reincarnation is not widely accepted. I can't really pinpoint the single most thought-provoking case I've studied, but I am working on a book that will include a number of recent American cases.
As far as evidence since 1990, the big event has been the publication in 1997 of Dr. Stevenson's Reincarnation and Biology, a 2,000-page two-volume set that documents over 200 cases in which a child had a birthmark or birth defect that matched a wound on the person whose life he or she was thought to remember. The synopsis of this book is entitled "Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect." How do you rule out other explanations for some of the phenomena that have been described--explanations like clairvoyance or, more prosaically, unreported prior knowledge of the deceased person's life? In some cases, other explanations cannot be ruled out. In others, a child talks about a deceased individual who lived a great distance away, and there seems to be no way that the child could have learned the information through normal means. As for clairvoyance, these children generally show no other paranormal abilities, and the knowledge of past events all comes from the vantage point of one deceased individual. In addition, the birthmarks, as well as the great emotion that the children often show about the previous life and the behaviors, such as phobias, that seem consistent with the previous life, cannot easily be explained by clairvoyance. What made you decide to "carry the torch" and continue Stevenson's work?
What could be more interesting than exploring the question of survival after bodily death?