Evidence for Rebirth

I always hesitate to chime in on Physics, as I don’t find most speculations about connections between Physics and Dhamma particularly convincing. However, if we are going to bring in Physics into this conversation, it is important to understand that in Special Relativity, the order of causality is not dependent on the frame of reference. If someone shoots someone else, the “event” of the bullet hitting the victim comes after the “event” of the pulling of the trigger in every frame of reference (though the specific times and positions will vary).

Technical note: This is only true if causes cannot propagate faster than the speed of light. However, so far, no cases of causality propagating faster than light have been observed.
Causality (physics) - Wikipedia.


I would like to go further and point out that Special Relativity is about a very restricted set of circumstances. What it says in general terms is that if you were to make measurements in two frames of references moving at constant velocity with respect to each other, the results would be indistinguishable once you accounted for the difference in velocities. So in essence, one would arrive at the same physical laws in both frames of references. The other additional stuff it says is because of finite speed of light, which is also the theoretical maximum possible speed for an object with mass. In practice, any object with finite mass can never reach the speed of light because it would take infinite force. Special relativity is inadequate for all other situations, even those involving acceleration or gravity.

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Namo Buddhaya!

My point was that a particular sequence of perceived events is not random thing and in as far as i can tell can only be a continuation of an “inherited” world line of another observer.

I’m sorry, this is a misunderstanding. Introductory courses on relativity often stick to non-accelerating particles but special relativity is what one uses to do the calculations required to design particle accelerators, such as those developed at Berkeley in the 30s and 40s, and more modern versions at CERN, Fermilab, and SLAC.


Yes, that’s what I said. I may have misunderstood what you said earlier, but it seemed to contradict that:


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I don’t think that SR and GR are relevant to the question of rebirth at all. Inanimate objects—for instance, a asteroids moving through space—have frames of reference.

You can get relativistic effects without consciousness being involved at all—a sample of a radioactive isotope taken to the top of a mountain and back down again will decay more than one which stayed at sea level the whole time.

“Frames of reference” have nothing to do with consciousness.


Whether one talks about an asteroid or an observer, these words are used only in as far as there is cognizance of these things.

And so to say that consciousness is not involved is kind of like saying that the atmosphere of planet earth is divorced from percipitation that there is.

It’s how i understood it and i have no problem with what you are saying in that consciousness & rebirth have no immediate relevance to designing accelerators & modelling cascades. And so i don’t think an experiment can be set up to prove this either way and therefore this is in the realm of philosophy more so than physics as i understand it.

Rebirth and evolution go perfectly well together, and I see evolution as proof of rebirth. Sentient life on earth changed according to their choices, and with enough choices, fueled by craving, the entire species changes into a new one. A common phrase in biology, the struggle for life, is approximately that very clinging which has been there since before the beginning of sentient life on earth. I posted a video about this before Evolution was perpetuated by our decisions and the struggle for life, and barely natural random selection.

Before sentience, before the split of animals, fungi, and plants (which some could be sentient arguably), there was life, but I don’t think there were choices nor clinging, but just the frame for beings to go into out of desire for earth food.

The relationship between us and other primates, you asked? Eventually, a group of these animals wanted to use tools, so they tried their hands, so they developed strong motor skills. They wanted to communicate, so they tried to make sounds, creating language. They wanted to figure out the world to survive instead of just hunt non stop, so they became relatively very intelligent. Then comes culture, kingdoms, and philosophy, and figured out rebirth themselves, and even an end to that.


Do you know that the mind-brain relationship problem is a philosophical problem that is yet to be resolved? (For example, see article below. ) Considering this, we cannot make assumptions about the mind based on the observation of simple neural correlations.

First of all, everything we know about how the universe works is based on an assumption: the very foundations of science are assumptions, and as a result science itself is really nothing more than a set of beliefs. The only thing you can know for a fact about yourself and the universe is that what is here and now is present as an experience, and even more, that experience is solely and exclusively not public. Even the idea of stepping outside that experience to make any observations about it’s origin and nature is incomprehensible.

Secondly, rebirth is not a life after death, it’s a completely new life of a new born being. What continues here is not a being, but a being’s assumptions about the continuity of itself, about own personality - ignorance. Rebirth is no different from waking up or even from any present moment of your life: on the same ground you assume the continuity of you right now or after waking up from the oblivion of the dream on the same ground there is the continuity of rebirth. Is the you reading this word now the same you reading the word you now? And how do you know this? What does this knowledge consist of? What are the facts and what are just assumptions and beliefs? And, most importantly, are you in control of that continuity, are you in control of that of which the experience you take as yours and of yourself is composed? Are you in control of the presence and continuity of you and what is yours?

The ultimate happiness is freedom. For without absolute mastery and control over that which is you and yours, unhappiness is still possible and would happen.

Noble means free. Ignoble means not free, shackled, subjected, fettered, not the master of one’s own happiness.


Philosophers who say that there is a “mind-brain relationship problem” (usually referred to in contemporary philosophy as “the hard problem of consciousness”), generally don’t doubt that science will be capable of giving a complete account of the causes human behaviour in terms of physical phenomena. David Chalmers calls the project of giving such an account the “the easy problem of consciousness”.

It seems to me that the theory of rebirth does entail that we can’t give a complete account of the causes of human behaviour in physical terms. If a past life has some effect upon my behaviour now, this would seem to entail that there is some non-physical cause of my neurons firing. Since my neurons are merely composed of ordinary matter, this would seem to imply that the laws of physics could not in principle predict the firing of my neurons—the matter in my brain does not behave in the way that the laws of physics would say that it would.

I don’t think many atheistic philosophers—even non-physicalists such as David Chalmers —would accept this, even if they do think that there’s a hard problem of consciousness.

Why? According to chaos theory every single action we take in any life has uncalculable further consequences for the light cone traveling outward into the universe from the moment the action was taken. Then you have QM and entanglement and the influence of subatomic particles entangled with other subatomic particles no matter the distance. And that’s even assuming we actually know the physical laws; which we manifestly don’t. QG hasn’t even been figured out yet.

Another way of saying it, maybe kamma causes collapse of the wave function :slight_smile:


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If you think of it this way: seeing an object (let’s say a dog) would manifest a particular type of feeling in you and a different feeling in another person based on each person’s experiences with dogs in the past. Interestingly, the rebirth cases that have been carefully investigated by scientists (like Dr. Jim Tucker, Dr. Ian Stevenson, etc.) also indicate that past life experiences play a critical role in their present life encounters. For example, various phobias, food preferences and unusual play habits etc., which the children (that have been investigated) display, appear to correspond to activities, habits and experiences (i.e., representing different types of inclinations) of the previously deceased person (see the article below). Considering all this – the mind does appear to be immaterial.

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IMO this is a classic problem with the western scientific model (one where I work in medicine btw!). Two things can be true at the same time:

  1. Physics and the associated sciences understand matter *
  2. Physics and the associated sciences dont understand consciousness

*(so everything about all the different particles we have found, and even those that we havent found but have theorised about exist as per physics and theoretical physics)

If you think physics and associated sciences explain everything, tell me how any particle explains anger…or greed…or delusion itself?

Can you rotate a Higgs particle the other way and go from a happy mind to an unhappy one?

As a Buddhist who publishes in the medical literature and use statistics etc etc…I dont question physics and associated sciences in what they are saying about THAT domain. I just look there for things about matter…and I look to Buddhism to explain the other domain in this universe…consciousness (or whatever term you use for the mental objects that have no physical essence).

An example. Look at a red bowl. You can see it is red right? Actually, you are not seeing anything. Red doesn’t exist. All there are, according to science, is a series of waves of different lengths. There is no red anywhere in the universe. The wave has no colour. What happens is the neuron you refer to is firing, electrical info is transmitted, through something called the optic radiation, to another neuron (in the occipital part of the brain, right at the back of the head). That region takes all the electrical (NOT colour) data it is provided and it creates a visual image that “you” see. It creates a movie. There is no movie. There is no red. Its all a creation. Tell me if a single word of the above is wrong.

There is no red in the universe at all. The red we “see” is all from us, its not from the universe. Interestingly the red in the red bowl you see might well be what I see as green in my head…absolutely no way of knowing. As I “perceive” that wave length with a particular colour in my head each time I see it and you “perceive” that wave length with a particular colour in your head each time you see it so we can converse about it and design traffic lights and give the colours common names we all use…however, what you “see” as red in your head might be what I see as “green” (that may not make sense because its hard to explain, but its nevertheless true!)

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…so to explain how that post fits with rebirth… if there are two domains (matter and mind) there might be things with matter (rocks), mind and matter (us) and even things with mind only (arupa realms described in Buddhism). So the physical and mental can interact and be interdependent (ie living things) and physical things can thus influence mental (ie alcohol) but mental “things” can also influence physical (ie psychosocial illnesses).

  • Oxytocin provides a lovely warm loving feeling when it surges after a mother gives bith
  • Oxytocin poured over a rock aint gonna do nothin folks! No matter the dose :slight_smile:

But we are starting to understand the importance of this inter-relationship now with quantum physics where light particles (photons) behave differently depending on whether there is a consciousness observing them. One entangled particle can be rotating clockwise or anticlockwise…right up to the point that a conscious being observes it! At that instant, the associated entangled other particle instantly rotates the other way…no matter how far away it is, even if it is in another metaverse. Yes, that “information” travels faster than light as it is instant no matter what distance.

Explain any of that without the existence of some not particulate consciousness concept!

So rebirth is happening in the mental domain, the body deteriorating and going back to its elemental parts is happening in the physical domain.

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Why? According to chaos theory every single action we take in any life has uncalculable further consequences for the light cone traveling outward into the universe from the moment the action was taken.

Chaotic systems in nature aren’t actually non-deterministic. Their behaviour is still entirely determined by their initial conditions, which are physical. Their evolution is just highly sensitive to differences in initial conditions. That the weather is chaotic doesn’t mean that the weather has non-physical causes or effects.

It seems pretty clear that the proximate cause of my behaviour is neurons firing. For example, neurons fire and cause my muscles to contract. Neurons are merely composed of matter, therefore their behaviour is described by the laws of physics (eg, the Standard Model of particle physics). Neurons fire when physics says that they will fire.

If karmic traces are going to have some influence on my physically observable behaviour, then it seems like there’s going to have to be some cause of my neurons firing which isn’t some cause found within physics. They will have to fire when physics says that they will not fire.

If I have a memory of juggling, and say “I can remember juggling”, my neurons fire so as to cause me to vocalise in this manner. The cause of these neurons firing is just other neurons firing, and, further back, a chain of various biological phenomena going back to my conception.

As far as I can see, there is no reason to suppose that this causal chain is not the one which would be predicted by our current theories of physics. If there are to be past life memories, then it seems like we’d have to have some sort of causal chain going back from my saying “I remember doing X in a past life” which includes some element which would not be predicted by our current theories of physics.

Perhaps the firing of the neurons which cause me to vocalise a past life memory cannot be accounted for by physics (maybe memories aren’t in the brain at all). Or perhaps the neural structures which constitute my memories arise from causes which are not contained in our current physical theories (eg, some sort of immaterial spirit which moves from body to body).

I’m inclined not to believe in rebirth because I don’t really see any evidence which suggests that either of these things are the case.

I don’t really think that any of this is outside the bounds of empirically observable phenomena, so I don’t really think that one can insulate the theory of rebirth from empirical refutation. The theory seems, at least implicitly, to make claims about the behaviour of publicly observable phenomena. It seems to suggest either that memories aren’t in the brain at all, or that, if they are, then the structure of a person’s brain isn’t solely determined by what has happened to them in this life.

Then you have QM and entanglement and the influence of subatomic particles entangled with other subatomic particles no matter the distance.

I’m not sure of the significance of this to rebirth. It’s astronomically unlikely that a significant amount of the particles composing my parent’s gametes would be entangled with those composing some other being which was about to die so as to affect my early development. It’s not even clear how, even if they were entangled, such entanglement could have the effects which seem to be required for the theory of rebirth.

And that’s even assuming we actually know the physical laws; which we manifestly don’t. QG hasn’t even been figured out yet.

It seems like we have a pretty good grasp of the behaviour of objects that are about the size of human brains. Human brains are well within the domain of applicability of QFT.

Is there any reason to think that this is the case? Even if you are going to posit non-physical causes for the collapse of the wave function, why posit kamma? Maybe it’s ghosts, immaterial souls or god.

I’m not actually a materialist/physicalist. I don’t think that science will be able to explain why it is that certain physical phenomena give rise to conscious experience. I think that this is just a brute fact which nobody will ever be able to explain. I don’t think that this is particularly mysterious or troublesome. It’s inescapable that our theory of the world is going to have some brute facts which cannot be further explained.

But it does seem to me that the sciences can give an account of publicly observable phenomena like human behaviour. The “hard problem of consciousness” isn’t really about whether we will be able to explain publicly observable human behaviour in terms of physics. Most non-religious philosophers—even non-physicalists—do not doubt this.

If I have a past life memory, and speak about it, then my speaking those words—a publicly observable phenomenon—will have some cause which is temporally prior to my birth. The question of why it is that there is subjective experience doesn’t really seem relevant to this.

But we are starting to understand the importance of this inter-relationship now with quantum physics where light particles (photons) behave differently depending on whether there is a consciousness observing them.

I think a small minority of physicists who are actually engaged in foundations of quantum mechanics (which itself is a pretty small minority of theoretical physicists) would say that consciousness has some effect on the behaviour of subatomic particles. As far as I can tell, the most popular theories are Bohmian mechanics, GRW’s theory or the many worlds interpretation.

In any case, I think the idea that it’s “consciousness” in the sense of subjective experience that causes the collapse of the wave function on the Copenhagen interpretation is sort of a misconception. The Copenhagen interpretation is consistent with a physicalist account of consciousness.

One entangled particle can be rotating clockwise or anticlockwise…right up to the point that a conscious being observes it! At that instant, the associated entangled other particle instantly rotates the other way…no matter how far away it is, even if it is in another metaverse. Yes, that “information” travels faster than light as it is instant no matter what distance.

Entanglement does not allow the transmission of information faster than the speed of light: What Is Quantum Entanglement? Quantum Entanglement Explained in Simple Terms - Caltech Science Exchange.

On the many worlds interpretation, different universes don’t actually causally interact. That’s why they’re called different universes. Phenomena like entanglement occur before the wave function branches into different universes.

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It’s how i understood it, the collapse is intentional and mind can be developed in disinterestedness to the point of it’s not coming into play.

Also i can add that I think the proposition of rebirth asserts infinite past causal development and making an absolute determined prediction is in a sense as magical as teleportation because one would be predicting exactly how the cookie will crumble beyond the uncertainty that there is before measurement.

Until they come out with clear equations akin to GR, QM, or Newtonian dynamics on exactly how atoms interacts to produce cells to produce the exact firing of neutrons to produce thoughts, I think it’s an assumption that the brain and therefore mind is dependent on physics alone, or the higher level derivation of biochemistry, neutroscience etc.

You already provided the mechanism of how one can voice a past life memory, through mind-body interaction which is taken as an empirical observation.

The notion that only physical things can affect physical things is actually an unstated assumption and it’s is not proven by science, but is disproved by rebirth evidences, as your logic goes, past life memories can affect present life without clear physical chains in between other than the mind.

So inherently, it goes to philosophical adherence. Science does not prove phsyicalism philosophy, it’s an assumption. One which is widely shared and therefore it soaks into the teachings of science by science popularizers who are atheists.

Since physicalism inherently cannot admit any mechanism for rebirth, leading those who adhere to it to reject rebirth, even with evidences of rebirth right in their face, then it’s actually like the notion of the Catholic church to adhere to earth centered solar system due to belief in certain principles rather than to follow the evidences.

I think it’s safest to be on philosophical grounds when discussing science and Buddhism rather than to venture into quantum entanglement, consciousness causes collapse, etc. (it is it’s own interpretation, Bohm, many worlds and GRW doesn’t use consciousness to cause collapse, some of them have no notion of collapse of wavefunction). If one doesn’t actually have a degree in physics or read enough in physics.

One can read more about quantum interpretation at r/quantuminterpretation. On reddit.

Another example of the deficiencies of western scientific thought if I can say that with respect and no ill will intended. Just because science cant explain it doesn’t mean that nobody can or ever will. The Buddha had a perfectly good thesis about the non-physical domain. It could be wrong, it could be right, but that will never be proven in the physical domain, it can only be proven or disproven in the mental domain as thats its domain…ie meditate and we may eventually “prove” it there.

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