Review:

Return to Life
by
Jim B. Tucker, M.D.

Dr. Ian Stevenson, foremost scientific researcher into reincarnation and past-life memory, studied children who seemingly remembered their previous lives. He chose to study children, because unlike adults, who might be mixing up their memories with information they had gained from watching films, or reading books, young children do not have this knowledge base to drawn upon. While Dr. Stevenson studied children around the world, he primarily focused on those areas where cases most commonly surfaced, such as India and Southeast Asia. This prompted the criticism that perhaps the cases appeared more often there, because those people believed in reincarnation, to begin with.

Dr. Stevenson's successor, Dr. Jim Tucker, is answering that objection by studying Western children who seem to remember past lives, and thus the cases in his new book, "Return to Life," are found in Scotland and America. He has, however, applied the classical Stevenson method, which carefully and methodically eliminates stray variables and normal explanations. Dr. Tucker is supremely objective in both his research approach, and in his reporting. All possible alternative explanations are fairly considered, and he does not jump to the conclusion that a case is solved where there are still questions. He has chosen to present only a handful of powerful cases, going into the full details of each, rather than attempting to overwhelm the reader with a larger number of examples. The reader is left trying in vain to come up with some normal way to explain them--and if his beliefs are materialistic, some way to salvage his world view! Still, Dr. Tucker does not claim the prize. He will only say that coincidence, as an explanation, is highly unlikely, and that it appears that something is happening here beyond what science currently understands. As was his mentor, he is quite understated in this regard, and perhaps it is for the best. It is for interpreters and educators like myself to say that reincarnation has been proven--the scientist must leave that conclusion to others.

In the final chapters, Dr. Tucker leaves his field observations and muses upon the implications, entertaining theories inspired by quantum physics. Since he is by training a psychiatrist, rather than a physicist, I think these remarks should be given a different weight. He is certainly entitled to theorize, including theorizing out of his field, but I am concerned lest both supporters and critics erupt into a chorus of "Dr. Tucker says." I'm sure Dr. Tucker was clear about this issue in his own mind--I only hope everyone else will be, as well.

Whatever philosophical conclusions one might draw from these cases and their meticulous presentation, if one is not retreating into denial, one must admit they are compelling. They pose a clear challenge to the scientific status quo. Clearly, demonstrated past-life memory is not the sole property of Eastern cultures, where reincarnation is generally accepted. It occurs in the materialistic West, as well. One more objection is thus effectively dispelled with the publishing of this book. How much evidence must be presented before mainstream science admits there is a real phenomenon, is a matter for sociologists. The data is there.

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