In "Life Before Life," Dr. Jim Tucker, successor to Dr. Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia Division of Personality Studies, presents their work in a way that is rigorous enough for the scientific community, and yet readable by the lay audience. Dr. Tucker's approach is disarmingly straightforward, as he rationally examines all sides of the issue. In a non-threatening manner, he presents evidence which, if taken seriously, is inherently radical. Where I would characterize the stance of mainstream science with red flags like "in denial," Dr. Tucker calmly acknowledges that mainstream science is by nature conservative; where I would say something like "reincarnation has been proven, already, let's get on the stick," Dr. Tucker carefully explains what the alternative interpretations are, the extent to which they are plausible, and the extent to which they probably are not.
If it were possible to convince mainstream science with a calm, rational, non-threatening explanation, this book would do it. To borrow from something philosophy professor Dr. Robert Almeder told me when I interviewed him for "In Another Life," if it were possible to calmly and rationally explain to a man that his brother is a murderer, without his going into denial and ridiculing you, then Dr. Tucker is the man who could do it.
In short, the information is here. The work has been done, and the results are in. To use one of Dr. Stevenson's own analogies, the tennis player has hit the winning shot, and it was in-bounds. Now it is up to the scientific community, and the society at large, to come to grips with it. In order to do that, they will have to admit that much of our currently-accepted philosophy is wrong, psychology is wrong, genetics is wrong, and much more. It's like the 75-cent accounting error that leads to the international hackers--if the materialistic view of the world is correct, this research simply shouldn't be there. But it is, and Dr. Tucker is just sitting down with you on a fine Sunday afternoon with a glass of tea, and telling you. (If you don't cup your hands over your ears and say "yah, yah, yah," though, you may spill your tea.)
One of the subtle points that Dr. Tucker makes several times in this book, addresses the various objections to the work that have been put forth by skeptics. He points out that these alternative explanations, what he terms the "normal" explanations, may (if stretching) fit the facts of a particular class of cases, but not all. Another such explanation may fit another class of cases, but again, not all. If the cases are taken as a whole, however, then these explanations aren't adequate. In other words, one has to isolate out a group of cases while deliberately ignoring others, in order to infer that these explanations are reasonable, because the cases one is ignoring would invalidate the explanation. Similarly, Dr. Tucker points out that if there exists an adequate number of extremely strong cases, then by inference, most likely the cases that couldn't be proven so conclusively still have similar characteristics. As an example, if we have quite a few cases in which notes were taken of the child's statements about his past life, showing conclusively that it was not a matter of the two families mis-remembering or exaggerating what the child had remembered; then by inference, the other cases, in which we don't have that conclusive evidence, probably were also not a result of the two families mis-remembering or exaggerating. If your grandfather mysteriously goes outside twice a day, and on three occasions you have hidden behind a bush and have seen him smoking a cigar when he's gone outside, the most logical explanation is that twice a day he sneaks out to smoke a cigar. Dr. Stevenson and colleagues have "caught grandpa" outside smoking the cigar on several occasions, as it were, by obtaining notes taken of the child's statements before the two families had the chance to share information. Therefore the most likely interpretation is that this kind of sharing is not behind most of the reports, even when notes had not been taken beforehand. What the skeptics are doing, is to deliberately set aside the incidents where Grandpa was observed smoking, and then state that the rest is mere speculation. Well, the rest may be speculation to one degree or another--but it most definitely is not mere speculation. And therein lies the logical flaw.
This book contains the gist of over 40 years of work by Dr. Stevenson and colleagues, which is ongoing. They have 2,500 cases, and this book presents some of their strongest, as well as drawing briefly on statistics from large numbers of cases which can be grouped into various categories. It is not a substitute for reading Dr. Stevenson's reports directly, but it is an excellent introduction and a must-read for anyone interested in the field of reincarnation studies, afterlife studies, the mind-body relationship or any aspect of the Dualism vs. Materialism controversy.