As per the scientific method one single proven case of rebirth is enough to disprove that rebirth does not exist.
Among the thousand of cases investigated (using scientific methodology) by Pr Stevenson and Pr Jim Tucker there are many many cases that can only be explained by using rebirth as cause.
What else do you need in order to say that rebirth is scientifically proven?
hi alaber, well I think it’s more complex than that. I can’t reply in detail as I am at work (I am lecturing on a science subject in ten minutes ) but if you look at this video, by someone working in Stevensons and Tucker lab, in the Q and A session you will see that he himself does not think that rebirth can explain the observed phenomena… YouTube Best, Stef
Yeah, to me too the evidence seems very strong. However, the idea of rebirth goes strongly against the scientific zeitgeist. Those who work in this field will tend to be on the back foot, since there is no end to having to defend their findings. But it’s great that there are people who are willing to research these phenomena, and we would have a much poorer world without them. The reality of rebirth (or the lack thereof) is of such enormous existential importance that it should be a massive priority in research. But unfortunately, that’s not what we see. However, what is fringe today may be mainstream tomorrow!
Dear Alaber and Ajahn Brahmali,
I have a little more time today to elaborate on what I quickly wrote yesterday. Yes, I completely agree that the question of the truth of rebirth has an enormous impact on how we live our lives, and should be thoroughly investigated.
I also think that scientific materialism, which unfortunately is very widespread, is quite problematic. Many scientists consider it obvious that consciousness is just an epiphenomenon of the brain, since they believe that matter is the only ultimate reality. To me this idea never made sense, both because I cannot understand what it can mean to say that matter ‘causes’ consciousness (as they are realities of completely different orders), and because the first thing of which we have immediate experience is our consciousness, not matter (which we experience only because we are conscious). So starting from matter (ie brain activity) and then going on to try to work out how that ‘produces’ consciousness seems to me to be a wrong headed approach.
Therefore I find the work done at Virginia which was quoted above (and more generally their work on the relationship on mind and brain, which I am beginning to seriously study) very important and fascinating. Having said this I believe that we should also be careful not to be ‘plus royalistes que le roi’ as it were: in the video I quoted in my previous post, Prof Greyson from that University says himself that many observed phenomena cannot be explained by the rebirthhypothesis (eg children who remember as their previous life that of someone who was still alive when they were born). Other cases I read elsewhere and which I found a bit puzzling were for example stories of rebirth of people in Canada who used to live as fishermen, whereas according to some Suttas killing living beings and wrong livelihood are not expected to lead to rebirth amongst humans (though I know that karma is extremely complex and that I am oversimplifying).
So I think it’s fair to say that more work is needed in the field. Perhaps the bottom line is that, whereas being a trusting person is probably in general a mark of a good character, when it comes to science matters it seems to me that thorough skepticism and refraining from coming too quickly to conclusions is instead a basic prerequisite for scientific integrity.
This is not to say that when taking decisions we should always question everything and subject it to scientific investigation, otherwise we would all too often end up doing nothing… But I think that it’s important to honestly recognize that accepting rebirth is, today, still mainly a matter of trust.
Well, we only have to look at the way things are with climate change. It doesn’t matter that more than 99% of the scientists agree that it’s happening and that human activities contribute to it considerably. It only takes a handful of well funded individuals for people to start thinking it’s all a hoax.
Greed, hatred and delusion are such powerful forces and we will grasp at straws if that means we don’t have to change anything about our lives. Also, cigarette companies are currently having the best time of their lives thanks to developing countries that can be bullied by their lawyers.
Sorry to be such a downer, but I think if Jesus ever did come back in human form and if he were to have the good luck to visit the US, he’d either be shot on the street or thrown in Guantanamo for threatening their “christian way of life”.
We’ll be looking at some such cases in the 4th w/shop. I haven’t studied this area in detail, but we are aware of it. Of course it is often the case that a hypothesis can’t explain all data perfectly; the criterion should be that it explains more data better than any alternative. And I still think there is no real competition for rebirth to explain the bulk of the Stevenson/Tucker research.
This is something else we will be talking about: there seems to be little or no support in the research for a link between kamma and rebirth. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there is no link. There might be any number of reasons why this is so, starting with an obvious confirmation bias in the research: we can only speak to those in the human realm! We also have the Mahakammavibhanga Sutta, which discusses precisely these kinds of cases and warns against overly rash conclusions from insufficient evidence. We talked about such problems with Jim Tucker.
My thought at the moment is that the Stevenson/Tucker research provides fairly strong evidence for the reality of rebirth, but little for the role of kamma in rebirth. There are, of course, other kinds of evidence to be considered (like NDEs, for example.)
I reiterate this very essential point “one proven single case is enough to disprove that rebirth does not occur”.
So let’s search within Stevenson/Tucker database and extract case(s) that definitely cannot be explained by something else than rebirth. Then we challenge the scientific community to disprove this(ese) case(s).
Then we can mount a world campain to inform the world about the reality of the universe we live in.
Actually, I should nuance up my former rather flippant answer. Generally speaking, scientists these days prefer to think in terms of falsifiability rather than provability. There is always some chance that a hypothesis is wrong; the question is whether there is any other hypothesis that is better (more simple, more powerful, more useful…)
I suspect that the real question is not, in fact, the evidence, but the usefulness. If someone can think up a practical application for the research, it will be taken seriously. Of course we think it’s practical, but I mean from a scientific point of view.
Did someone say “conspiracy”?
And what would Buddhists do to the Buddha, I wonder?
I guess there’s really no way to know what Jesus actually taught (there are some wild theories ranging from the one that he actually never existed at all to the one that he was actually a buddhist monk) but if we rely on the most commonly accepted version, I think what the Buddha was much wiser at, was not rocking the boat (not actively protesting against the established social order).
So he might do better with the rich and powerful laypeople…perhaps some entrenched buddhist religous hierarchies would have a bigger problem with him.
Anyway, to get back to the topic, I think now more than ever, people are living inside their own little impenetrable bubbles and even if the scientific community managed to prove rebirth to their own satisfaction, people would sooner loose faith in science than accept their findings.
And those bubbles seem to break only when faced with imminent catastrophy. So concerning rebirth, the Buddhas description of the dead man questioned by Yama is pretty apt, unfortunately.
Looking at the news nowadays, perhaps a wiser (and easier) strategy would be to convince top atheletes, popstars and other celebrities…then people would believe.
i for one wouldn’t believe the rich and famous, unless they renounce and live the homeless life. usually, when i hear the rich and famous give their support to something, the bulge in their pockets are usually growing. sorry for being honest and cheeky
Yes, that would be indeed great. I wouldn’t deny the benefits.
As a lay Buddhist who reads the suttas, the problem I see is other Buddhists completely denying or outright discarding rebirth when it is in teachings. How can one say that s/he is a Buddhist when they can’t develop even the minute confidence in the words of the Buddha? But no judging, it is as it is.
Although, to play Mara’s advocate here, the Buddha was not living under the oppressive rule of a foreign invader…
Yes and no. I don’t think there’s any persuading the fundamentalists; but many people are sitting on the fence, or perhaps haven’t even thought about it all that much. I do think that science makes difference.
yes Morrisey. I often think of his lyric ‘It’s so easy to love, it’s so easy to hate/ It takes strength to be gentle and kind’.
Bhante, your reply got me thinking that the Buddha actually was a very dangerous boat-rocking rebel…to Mara
Talking about oppressive rule of a foreign invader, living in Eastern Europe, I’ve had the good chance to experience both a totalitarian and a democratic system of gevernance and also a pretty wild period of transition from one to the other. Externally, there’s of course a big difference, but internally, I’m not sure if there’s such a big difference in the level of freedom. Sometimes I even think that the subtle slavery of “endless choice and easy credit” is the bigger evil. Especially if we look at things in the bigger context of rebirth.
But I guess you have to have a certain level of external freedom to even have the time and opportunity to think about internal freedom.
How was Dhamma practice under totalitarian rule…?
For all their faults, liberal democracies do let people get on with their spiritual practices. And that is no small thing.