I visited your website, and while the cases are intriguing (much like the cases of individuals claiming to have visited heaven and hell), you seem to be a little presumptuous in your views. For example, if reincarnation actually exists (we can only speculate), why do you assert humans do not (in general) reincarnate as a dog, duck, beetle, etc.? Isn't that dogmatic? I personally lack a belief in reincarnation (as I lack a belief in all concepts of life after death), but I would certainly accept life after death if it was proven to be true. I have spent years studying biopsychology and researching cases of life after death; it's fine to contemplate what happens hereafter, but to claim reincarnation exists (because of evidence you believe to be absolute) is intellectually dishonest.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Any chance I can quote you publicly? Reason being, your views are so representative, that it would be instructive. I wouldn't do so, however, without your permission.
The evidence for reincarnation is much, much stronger than you're giving it credit for. What you say would be correct if I was merely speculating. Your statement, however, that "we can only speculate" is incorrect. It is not biopsychology which tells us that reincarnation doesn't exist; it is actually the unspoken, unexamined materialistic assumptions underlying it which do so. When those assumptions are brought into the light of day and challenged, they do not hold. In short, the assumptions supporting materialistic psychology are a belief system, a kind of religion of materialism, and they are in error. You will find, if you study the history, that the rise of this kind of materialistic interpretation of science is actually quite recent, within the last 150 years or so. Science did not always require a philosophy of materialism in order to be considered legitimate. The purging of all non-materialistic elements from psychology was not, actually, a sign of enlightened progress, as it is generally taken to be. It was a degradation of the pure idea of science as the objective pursuit of truth.
So, no, what I am saying is not presumptuous, nor is it dishonest. As for this matter of dishonesty, I have been practicing strict honesty since I was about 19 years old, or about 37 years. For this reason, I am able to examine my own belief system in ways that most people would find very threatening. I am as rigorous about my study of reincarnation as I am in my personal life.
You have made one point that bears addressing, and that is, how do I know that people do not reincarnate as bugs or animals? This, of course, is the distorted belief which helps materialists continue to dismiss reincarnation out of hand, and hence, paradoxically, it is dear to them. They want reincarnationists to hold to this view, because if they do, they are so much easier to ridicule.
There is no way to empirically disprove the belief. The only evidence we have is that some portion of people in past-life regression do report past lives as animals; but we do not know, first of all, whether they are imagining it (because some percentage of people--not all--in regression sessions are simply imagining); nor do we know whether these past lives as animals all came before human incarnations (even if these were real memories, it would not necessarily indicate retrograde reincarnation into animal bodies).
This belief can, however, be shown to be entirely inconsistent with all our intellectual understanding of reincarnation. Moreover, there are people, spiritual teachers, who can see these things directly, and none of them teach reincarnation backwards into animal forms. In short, this is a popular myth developed by ignorant people around the teaching of reincarnation. All serious students of the subject will tell you that the idea is mistaken. Put simply, the thing makes no sense, and we reincarnationists really are not so daft as to accept it uncritically.
Perhaps you are not open-minded enough for me to be answering at such length; however, if you will permit me to post on my website both your inquiry, and this response, I would be most grateful.
I am indeed open-minded, and I find it interesting that you are questioning my open-mindedness, when you are the one representing your belief as fact. Whether you want to admit it or not, you are being intellectually dishonest.
And I never said biopsychology tells us reincarnation does not exist; but it does help us understand why we are the way we are, and how remarkably similar we are to other animals; thus if reincarnation exists, it would seem to make perfect sense for beings to reincarnate from a human to, for example, a duck.
And yes, I do know history. Rationalistic materialism has been with us for nearly 3,000 years. It was one of the keystones of the Scientific Revolution nearly 500 years ago. It certainly wasn't thought up "within the last 150 years or so."
Lastly, I would appreciate if our conversation remains between us.
I didn't say that rationalistic materialism hasn't been with us for longer--only that it was not so predominant until the last 150 years. Other views, like philosophical dualism, were respected, and scientists could hold such views while still being admitted into the ranks. It is not so today. At least, that is my strong impression from my study of the history.
And how do you conclude that I am being intellectually dishonest? Have you studied the extensive evidence for reincarnation with a truly open mind? Have you read it thoroughly, first-hand? Please point out the specific flaws in my logic on which you are founding such a serious accusation.
I am disappointed that you want to keep our conversation private. You did, after all, contact me on a public website. It is rather like writing to the editor of a newspaper, but then refusing to allow him to publish it as a letter to the editor. If I am being intellectually dishonest and you are being intellectually honest, and our conversation was made public, then I would be the one looking foolish, and you would have nothing to fear from the exposure. Of course, I would keep it anonymous. Please reconsider. I think the dialogue would be very instructive for my website visitors, and they could draw their own conclusions from it.
If your views are sound, then it would be an opportunity for you to educate my website visitors by presenting your viewpoint!
Yes, I have spent the last nine years researching cases of people claiming to have past lives. Since all of the cases are anecdotal, the concept of reincarnation remains a belief, not a fact. It is your privilege to believe whatever you want, but when you represent your beliefs as facts, you are being intellectually dishonest. Furthermore, it seems that you consider someone open-minded only if they agree with you. I find that not only close-minded, but arrogant.
And I know I have nothing to fear if our conversation went public, but I still wish for our conversation to stay just between us. However, I cannot prevent you from publishing our conversation, and if you decide not to respect my wish, please inform me.
I don't follow the logic of anecdotal evidence being insufficient to move one from belief to fact. The relationship between belief and fact is very subtle. Every bit of scientific evidence in the world can be construed as belief rather than fact, if you want to "go there" with it. There is no proof in science. It is, actually, more of a continuum. What you are implying, which is not logical, is that because the evidence for reincarnation is anecdotal, therefore it should automatically be assigned a position very low on the belief-fact continuum.
I disagree. I think that the evidence places it at a point very high on the belief-fact continuum. Philosophy professor Robert Almeder, when I interviewed him, addressed this issue by comparing reincarnation research to paleontology. All the evidence, he said, for the existence of dinosaurs is likewise anecdotal. Not a single dinosaur can be produced (a la "Jurassic Park") in the laboratory, nor has a single living one ever been found. Yet, we do not have people accusing paleontology of not being a valid science, nor of all its findings being strictly a matter of belief. We do not have paleontologists accused of being "intellectually dishonest" because they claim dinosaurs once roamed the earth.
I have studied cases of people claiming to have past lives longer than you (about 13 years), and I've studied reincarnation as taught in Eastern philosophy about 37 years. Again, I would conclude that it is your materialistic preconceptions, or philosophical assumptions, which have led you to a skeptical conclusion after nine years of study, rather than any inherent weakness in the evidence itself. I have seen some skeptical studies of reincarnation reported in various documentaries, and was not impressed by their internal logic. I have discussed some of them via e-mail with Jim Tucker of the Univ. of Va., who has much more experience than I do, and he wasn't impressed by them, either.
So we can agree to disagree. I am neither intellectually dishonest, nor am I unethical, and so there is no question of my publishing your letters without permission. On what basis do you ask me not to publish them? Science thrives on open debate, does it not? Is it true science if public debate is suppressed? I think not.
One thing I can clarify for you. On my website, I sometimes find it necessary to state things in somewhat entertaining terms, specifically to counteract the prevailing notion that reincarnation is nonsense and fodder for jokes and ridicule. At the same time, I am quite aware of the relationship between belief and proof. What I mean to convey is that the evidence is so overwhelming, that if one must question the evidence for reincarnation, one had better be prepared to question just about everything else we take to be a fact. An analogy I sometimes use playfully is that while you are seated on your chair, writing these e-mails, you actually cannot see your behind. If you stand up and try to confirm visually that it is there, still, you cannot see it. And yet, you know, through what one might call "anecdotal evidence" (for the sake of the analogy), that your behind most certainly is there. You can feel it, other people confirm that you have one, you can see it in the mirror, you can see that other people have one, and so-on. And yet, you cannot see your own fully and directly with your own eyes.
To therefore assert that belief in having a behind is tenuous--and that anyone who categorically asserts that they do, definitely, have a behind, is intellectually dishonest--is nonsense.
I assert that while I cannot actually watch anyone reincarnate in real time, the evidence is so overwhelming that it exists, that I am more certain of reincarnation being real than I am of having a behind. There are, however, people who, I am convinced, can and do watch people reincarnate in real time (the Eastern philosophy side of my training). A philosophy student once wrote to me, protesting that I was violating the rules of logic by resorting to "authority". I told him, maybe your rules of logic don't permit resorting to authority, but mine do. (He was, of course, resorting to his own authorities all-along, authorities which told him that it was illogical to resort to authorities. Do you think he came up with the idea by himself?)
I urge you again--let's make this dialogue public, in the tradition of science. In fact, I dare you.
You are making up your own rules of logic, and that violates the basis of logic in the first place; however, the fact remains--anecdotes cannot be used to establish the truth of claims without more supporting evidence.
Furthermore, your analogies (dinosaurs to reincarnation, and buttocks to reincarnation) fail, because there is actual evidence we have buttocks, and there is actual evidence dinosaurs once existed. There is no actual evidence for reincarnation.
Lastly, I have reconsidered. You may post our conversation on your site. And, if I may, I would like to post our conversation on a site I help moderate (rationalskepticism.org). Of course, I would not do so without your consent.
Lovely! This is what it's all about, the free exchange of ideas and an agreement to disagree. It wasn't my analogy, it was Prof. Almeder's. And there is actual evidence for reincarnation.
I note that scientists* have "buttocks," while lay reincarnation advocates have "behinds" ;-).
Thanks for reconsidering. Feel free to post this exchange on the site you help moderate. You have my permission if you don't edit it (since a presentation can easily be skewed, as you know, by omitting a line or two). I recently ran across a case in which the entire meaning of a sentence was reversed by omitting one letter. So I will present the exchange in its entirety (but anonymously, unless I hear otherwise from you), and I trust you to do the same, although you may post my name. I'll provide you a URL when I'm done. It will be linked (as I'm thinking now) from the "News and Announcements" section of my website, and that link will take the reader to the entire exchange in chronological order.
*At the time of writing, I had assumed that "L" was a scientist, but he tells me he's a student majoring in biopsychology, and not having graduated, he does not consider himself a scientist yet.