What...Alleged Reincarnation...can Teach us about Myths of Scientific Practice

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What Research on Alleged Reincarnation Cases can Teach us about Myths of Scientific Practice

Andreas Sommer

Quote:Together with Stevenson’s records, well-documented cases published by these and other authors display features that dramatically exceed those suggested by Parfit as acceptable evidence for reincarnation. Phenomenologically, they comprise the following variable but quite robust characteristics:
  • talk about alleged past-life memories begins at the age of 2-5 and ceases at the age of 5-8;
  • alleged memories are narrated repeatedly and with strong emphasis;
  • social roles and professional occupations of the alleged previous personality (PP) are acted out in play;
  • mention of the cause of (usually violent) death;
  • emotional conflicts due to ambiguity of family or sex membership;
  • display of unlearned skills (including basic foreign language skills) as well as propositional knowledge (of names, places, persons, etc.) not plausibly acquired in the present life;
  • unusual behaviour and idiosyncratic traits corresponding to the PP, such as phobias, aversions, obsessions, and penchants;
  • occasionally, alcohol or drug addictions that were manifest in the PP;
  • sexual precocity and gender dysphoria (where the PP belonged to a different sex);
  • birthmarks, differing in etiological features such as size, shape and colour from conventional birthmarks and other relevant birth anomalies, significantly corresponding to wounds involved in the death of the PP;

A more recent finding is that children relating a violent death in the PP occasionally display symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which do not seem to correlate with any biographical events, but to circumstances of the allegedly remembered mode of death (cf. Haraldsson, 2003).

Quote:If you did hear about the work of Stevenson and colleagues, chances are that your informants weren’t trained scientists who personally scrutinized the data with an open mind, and published their critiques in peer-reviewed science journals or discussed them at academic conferences. Instead, the public discourse – including entries on all sorts of unorthodox matters on Wikipedia – is dominated by self-appointed guardians of ‘Science and Reason’ organised worldwide in so-called Skeptics associations. As previously observed by my colleague Rebekah Higgitt, some of the most active and visible representatives of the Skeptics movement profess to impartially stick to evidence, but ultimately give science a bad name by relying on aggressive polemics and derision of opponents.



Quote:And given my historical research on the links between science and the ‘occult’, I cannot but note a striking consistency in the academic reception of elite unorthodox science over time. Presently, I’m working on a reconstruction of experiments by William James, the ‘father’ of modern American psychology, with the trance medium Leonora Piper. In one of his articles on psychical research, James problematized certain “social prejudices which scientific men themselves obey”, and briefly described his futile attempts to motivate colleagues to independently test Mrs. Piper as an example
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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I'm pretty sure I read that article a while back - I thought before 2015 though but it is dated 2015. Anyhow, I particularly remember that clever little cartoon because I remember posting it somewhere or sending it to someone (probably posted on Facebook back when I still used Facebook).

Still relevant today though so thanks for the reminder.
I do not make any clear distinction between mind and God. God is what mind becomes when it has passed beyond the scale of our comprehension.
Freeman Dyson
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(2021-03-08, 01:46 AM)Kamarling Wrote: I'm pretty sure I read that article a while back - I thought before 2015 though but it is dated 2015. Anyhow, I particularly remember that clever little cartoon because I remember posting it somewhere or sending it to someone (probably posted on Facebook back when I still used Facebook).

Still relevant today though so thanks for the reminder.

It might have been posted on Skeptiko?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(2021-03-08, 01:46 AM)Kamarling Wrote: I particularly remember that clever little cartoon because I remember posting it somewhere or sending it to someone

I'd also seen it before but hadn't read the article - I don't think it's original to that article, or if it is, then it's been reused elsewhere since.
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Interesting article - thanks for sharing!
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