True science should accept rebirth

Even among scientists we tend to listen more to the celebrities (Einstein, Hawking, Nobel Prize winners etc.). I guess we have to have some bias to help us sort through all the available information. But I do agree that things on our planet might change in a radical way if we ever got to the point that rebirth was taught in science class to kids at school.

On the other hand, I think it’s safe to say that it’s much easier to prove rebirth than kamma. So might there also be a danger of people jumping to conclusions like “so what if they get killed/I kill them, they’ll get reborn” or “since I’m immortal, I’ll just rest in this life and do something useful in the next”? I think what we really want is for science to accept the whole Dhamma, not just rebirth. :stuck_out_tongue:


I’m certainly not saying that totalitarian systems are better than democracies. All I was getting at, is that the inherent uncertainty and suffering of life was more visible in peoples lives. But of course people at the time saw capitalism and democracy as the ultimate solution to their suffering. I guess we have to experience freedom of choice to know that it really isn’t THE solution but A solution with it’s own set of additional problems. Then we can start to search for a real solution and hopefully stumble upon the Dhamma.

With metta.


There’s definitely something to this. In developed countries serious meditation practice is much more popular among the middle class than the working class.

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What do you mean by scientific method? Getting few examples of people having their early memory(Though not sure how validated in a very transparent way) is nothing but a statistics. A scientist should not call it as rebirth. Can it be considered another scenario, where in spite of soul(from body A)'s insertion to another body B, B can’t remember memory of A. How one can argue that body should remember last memory, if soul from other body enters in it? It can happen that soul has entered, but with memory loss. 11 and 10- soul with memory, soul without memory. So, if one remembers last memory, calling it as rebirth is too much. If anything found logical(which is science), how one is keeping last memory- that method to find is called scientific method. As there is plenty of unanswered questions like- how does soul travel, with how much speed and in what direction, what is the expiry time,so rebirth can not be justified on the basis of gaining previous memory except it can be considered as missing link.

I’ve experienced this first hand. It’s like there’s this uncanny valley of meditative practice for the working class. When the insights you’ve had have changed you enough to where you see how pointless the way you’re living your life is; and yet not enough to really offer any real relief from it or the motivation to leave it completely, along with the fact that you’re still apart of it, and losing the ability to survive without constantly worrying about it, isn’t really an option.


See the working demo entitled “Hack Your Way To Scientific Glory”.
Different selections of data to attend to results in a variety of contradictory “findings”.

It seems to me that the cases presented for rebirth that I’ve read invite a variety of interpretations.
Data almost never “speaks for itself” – it has to evaluated and analyzed.
See also the box entitled “Same Data, Different Conclusions”.

I am a big believer in the scientific method. I’m also a big believer in our capability to fool ourselves. The Buddha seemed to understand that well.

What do you mean by “proven”?
One popular strain in the philosophy of science says that there is no clear proof, only disproof or more or less likely.

The issue is more, how much evidence do you need before you accept it? We are more willing to accept say…gravitational waves, with far less evidence!

with metta


Any clear evidence at all. Tantalizing hints which may or may not pan out are very bad foundations for making strong assertions.

Clear evidence is present in the case of gravitational waves. Rebirth is a speculation based on, at best, mental images which may or may not be veridical; gravitational waves were predicted on the basis of established maths, and have now been directly observed.

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Maths should be applied to subjects which are suitable for mathematical prediction. They are not suitable for qualitative subjects like this. In any case they have observed 3 gravitational waves vs nearly 2000 cases of rebirth memory. Who’s biased now? :grinning:

with metta

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…just, wow.

You don’t understand how science is conducted; a physics dilettante who’s convinced by cherry-picked anecdotes does not generate confidence, in my case.

NDE interpretations appear to be informed by socio-cultural expectations; a scientific approach needs to assess whether or not human biology is sufficient to explain the baseline experience, and from this point it would proceed by controlling for human bias, etc.

In terms of gravitational waves, one gravitational wave was enough to disprove the null hypothesis. In case of rebirth memories, due to its qualitative nature, and that fact that we are exploring an area that biology cannot prove, the burden of ‘proof’ should be increased by …1000%, perhaps? Qualitative research is conducted by thorough interviews, like the ones done by Dr. Ian Stevenson and others. These are the norm in this field of research- something unknown to people who have no expertise in research. So when not 1000 instances, but 2000 is provided, ‘…just, wow’ is the only emotional reaction anyone can provide, as a ‘scientific’ response cannot be given to that. People are welcome believe what they want, of course. Much respect of Dr. Ian Stephenson for leaving his conclusion open, as we would not have seen even the bit that he did published, otherwise.

with metta


Another wave of the magic Stevenson wand.


One could interpret the phrases

  1. “how much evidence do you need before you accept it?” and
  2. “not clear proof but more or less likely”

as different ways of expressing the same idea.

Once again it’s fruitful to attend to different meanings and understandings of the key words proof and accept.

I tend to hear “accept” in this context as meaning:

  • accepting provisionally and for the time being that something is most likely true.

True science simply cannot accept rebirth because there’s no good definition of rebirth:

  • What gets reborn?
  • Is what gets reborn single entity or collection of “energy”?
  • Can it be destroyed? Dissolved or mixed?
  • Can you detect it with device?

I’ve read Return to Life and it seems there is evidence of something beyond ordinary. But even that you can’t say it’s rebirth because it’s just evidence of people experiencing memories of people in the past.

I’d say:

True science should accept the possibilities of something beyond life without dismissing it outright

If you think about it, it’s actually not bad compared to what Buddha had in mind:

Yes, there’s rebirth because I’ve “seen” it, but there’s no permanent soul gets reborn, and by the way I can’t tell you how it works

He basically rebranded “rebirth of souls” into something more of “something happens after death but not transmigration”.

Personally I find this idea liberating and closer to reality. Since I haven’t experienced ultimate reality (yet), this is good enough for me now, maybe for you too.

Without going into your entire post, I just wanted to say that the ability to see past lives, karma, etc isn’t seeing ultimate reality. They are ‘merely’ abilities arising from jhana- and it doesn’t (on its own) lead to nibbana, unlike seeing ultimate reality.

with metta

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I haven’t seen the past lives research papers but from discussions and summaries the research appears to vulnerable to certain traps. It’s easy to fool ourselves in science. I am aware of critiques of other psychic research and what happens in medical and social science research all too often.

Think about flipping a coin while mentally wishing the coin to come up heads.
With coins it’s usually clear if something is heads or tails. But what if it wasn’t and you had to make a judgement call on many tosses. With something like past life recall a lot of judgement is required.

Or maybe you start a trial and then decide your not doing something right so you don’t count the results of that trial – which was 50/50 heads and tails.

What’s fascinating to me is how often and easy it is for serious researchers to fall into these traps. Professional statisticians and scientists who focus on experimental methodology are aware of these traps but these experts are frequently not brought in early to advise. So the real of world of science is often surprisingly sloppy. Most people do it that way and there are professional pressures to get results published so stuff happens.

I’m quoting freely from the first on line search result I found and mixing in my ‘translations’.
The Extent and Consequences of P-Hacking in Science

There are two widely recognized types of researcher-driven publication bias: selection (also known as the “file drawer effect”, where studies with nonsignificant results have lower publication rates [7]) and inflation [12].
Inflation bias, also known as “p-hacking” or “selective reporting,” is the misreporting of true effect sizes in published studies (Box 1). It occurs when researchers try out several statistical analyses and/or data eligibility specifications and then selectively report those that produce significant results [12–15].

Common practices that lead to p-hacking include:

  • conducting analyses midway through experiments to decide whether to continue collecting data
    Comment: This is a way of ignoring contradictory results which of course skews the final statistics.

  • recording many response variables and deciding which to report postanalysis

  • deciding whether to include or drop outliers postanalyses ,

  • excluding, combining, or splitting … groups postanalysis,

Comment: All these methods seems to make sense to the researchers at the time but they allow the researcher to decide and/or re-interprete what counts as a interesting result.

  • including or excluding covariates postanalysis ,

Comment: excluding other things which might offer another explanation about what is going on.

  • and stopping data exploration if an analysis yields a significant p-value (statistically significant result)

Comment: A classic way of fooling yourself with statistics. The don’t-fool-yourself procedure is to do the whole test you originally planned to do.

Unless I knew that the past life research was free from these errors I would put little reliance on the result. And it seems that some of the researchers are somewhat aware of this and try to communicate this.

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I thought I’ve made the post short, anyway I didn’t read the whole thread too :stuck_out_tongue: I mean the idea that rebirth can be either be accepted or not accepted by science but the practice still make sense kind of liberation. Yup, you’re right, nibbana is like knowing the taste of food while reading the menu is like seeing past lives (or whatever it is).

Of course, science is not without its bias, because science is done by people! But I do feel that science will eventually get to somewhere interesting on this subject although not anywhere near nibbana because science is about developing the world, not letting go of the world.

But really, since when we need the assurance from science to do good and meditate? We know it’s good and leading to lessening of suffering and who knows, ending of suffering. In fact, rebirth could be proven as people experiencing memories of deceased, we shouldn’t care, we’d still practice because end of of suffering is the key.