Tucker's research on reincarnation.

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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:07 pm

Will wrote:They can refrain, but many do not. Look at the reaction of many scientists to Plasma Cosmology or Intelligent Design - contempt, ridicule & abuse is the basic approach.

Isn't the contempt, ridicule & abuse directed at the poor science behind these claims?
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby Will » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:20 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Will wrote:They can refrain, but many do not. Look at the reaction of many scientists to Plasma Cosmology or Intelligent Design - contempt, ridicule & abuse is the basic approach.

Isn't the contempt, ridicule & abuse directed at the poor science behind these claims?


No, most of the time the evidence is never even looked at.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:23 pm

Will wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:Isn't the contempt, ridicule & abuse directed at the poor science behind these claims?

No, most of the time the evidence is never even looked at.

There are methods to be considered too.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby jeeprs » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:29 pm

Isn't the contempt, ridicule & abuse directed at the poor science behind these claims?


No. Ian Stevenson's empirical methodology was acknowledged to be good, and is the same that is used by many researchers in less controversial subjects. But many of the critics of past life research will say that the very notion is so ridiculous, that even to try and study such a thing is pseudo-science. The same is said about research into paranormal psychology. Paul Edwards said that Stevenson's ideas represented 'a crucifixion of our understanding' ('our' being 'Western, scientific' understanding. A pretty good summary of the issue from a philosophical perspective is here.)

That is why I think much of the criticism is ideological, not scientific. Science is a method, not an ideology, and ought to be agnostic about such questions. It's 'the scientific worldview' that is the issue here. That is ideological and historical, rather than scientific as such.

By the way, here is an interesting article on relation of science and Buddhism by one of the academic staff at Dharma Realm University - Buddhism and Science: Probing the Boundaries of Faith and Reason, Dr. Martin J. Verhoeven.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby dharmagoat » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:52 pm

jeeprs wrote:That is why I think much of the criticism is ideological, not scientific. Science is a method, not an ideology, and ought to be agnostic about such questions. It's 'the scientific worldview' that is the issue here. That is ideological and historical, rather than scientific as such.

A good point.

Those that regularly criticise 'science' would do well to recognise the distinction between science and the 'scientific world view'. The latter is philosophically based and is optional.

There are many scientifically-minded people that do not entirely subscribe to this world view.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby jeeprs » Sat Nov 23, 2013 12:42 am

Of course. I have the utmost respect and indeed fascination for science, I read New Scientist every week and try to keep up to date with what is happening.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby Alfredo » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:34 am

I can't comment on Plasma Cosmology, which I don't understand, but Intelligence Design deserves our contempt. It is basically warmed-over Creation Science (i.e., a bunch of fundamentalist Protestants who dishonestly present idea inspired by the Creation story from Genesis as an alternative scientific theory worthy of being studied alongside mainstream scientific accounts of the origin of the universe, earth, life, and humanity), tweaked in vain hopes that it wouldn't be thrown out of public schools like Creation Science was. Plus a few hangers-on who believe in ancient astronauts instead of God. Now for all I know, God and/or ancient astronauts may have been involved--I can't prove that they weren't, only point out that there are no good reasons for believing so (that would pass muster with the scientific community).

Skeptics like to say that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." (The phrase was apparently coined by Carl Sagan, channeling Hume and LaPlace.) The thing is, who gets to decide what claims are considered extraordinary? Hume assumes that miracles would be extraordinary, since they are by definition impossible, or at any rate less likely that almost any other, non-miraculous explanation, but many people believe in miracles, and would place the burden of proof on the skeptics to disprove them. The popular debate over Stevenson (and notice how much of it takes place in the popular press, such as journalistic publications and New Age books) seems to suffer from the same rift. Edwards thinks that almost any other explanation (e.g., fraud) would be more believable than reincarnation, which for him is the extraordinary claim.

Notice however that reincarnation is only one of several rival afterlife theories for which similar evidence has been offered. Others would include research into haunted houses, or NDE's involving heaven and/or hell. While a good Buddhist might say that they are all correct, after a fashion, this does serve to show why religious views cannot be privileged in this way. For Buddhists to claim that their religion is more "scientific" than other religions is, in my opinion, misguided and possibly dishonest. We are just another religion, with the usual mix of rational and irrational elements.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby dharmagoat » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:59 am

Alfredo wrote:For Buddhists to claim that their religion is more "scientific" than other religions is, in my opinion, misguided and possibly dishonest. We are just another religion, with the usual mix of rational and irrational elements.

Buddhist practice can be scientific pursuit (albeit a subjective one) for those that require that approach, if the nonrational elements are de-emphasised.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Nov 23, 2013 4:17 am

Alfredo wrote:I can't comment on Plasma Cosmology, which I don't understand, but Intelligence Design deserves our contempt.


I imagine Intelligent Design might have proven popular amongst many 19th century scientists in Europe.

At the moment the academy is intellectually and emotionally committed to an atheist universe, so such ideas are simply heretical and dismissed while their proponents are painted as stupid religious pseudo-intellectuals clinging to past thoroughly refuted ideologies. If you read Intelligent Design ideas through the lens of a panpsychist, some of it might be agreeable, but panpsychism is another fringe heresy.

Intelligent Design, I've been told, is rather popular amongst scientists in the Middle East.

It really just goes to show certain ideologies are deemed acceptable and unacceptable based on prevailing sentiments in a given culture.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Nov 23, 2013 4:23 am

Just looking around, http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/ states the following:

    The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion that can be adequately explained by only natural causes.


Vasubandhu states the following in the Abhidharmakośa Bhāsya:

Who created the variety of the world of living beings and the receptacle-world which we have described in the preceding chapter?

It was not a god who intelligently created it.


    The variety of the world arises from action.


The variety of the world arises from the actions of living beings.

But in this hypothesis, how does it happen that actions produce at one and the same time, pleasing things, - saffron, sandalwood, etc. - on the one hand, and bodies of opposite qualities on the other?

The actions of beings whose conduct is a mixture of good and bad actions produce bodies resembling abscesses whose impurities flow out through the nine gates, and, in order to serve as a remedy to these bodies, they also produce objects of pleasing enjoyment, colors and shapes, odors, tastes and tangibles. But the gods have accomplished only good actions: their bodies and their objects of enjoyment are equally pleasing.


Now, the "variety of the world arises from the actions of living beings" is similar to saying "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection". Beings in Buddhist philosophy generate karma as a result of willed action in varying degrees and types, which is saying that their variety is a result of intelligent causes, not strictly natural selection and mutations.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby sukhamanveti » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:03 am

Alfredo wrote:Skeptics like to say that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." (The phrase was apparently coined by Carl Sagan, channeling Hume and LaPlace.) The thing is, who gets to decide what claims are considered extraordinary?


The principle appears to have been first explicitly formulated by philosopher Michael Scriven in his Primary Philosophy (1966). The idea is that a claim that strongly contradicts previous human experience is to be doubted until exceptionally strong evidence is provided. I don't yet own Primary Philosophy, but I do own a book that summarizes Scriven's argument. It is God and the Burden of Proof by Keith Parsons. This is how Parsons explains Scriven's idea:

"When a claim asserts the existence of something that is greatly at odds with our previous experience, we rightly regard the claim as very probably false until we are given truly strong evidence in its favor. Thus, we are not too skeptical when, in reading the newspaper, we find that the world high-jump record has been exceeded by a centimeter or two. However, we would indeed be very skeptical, and rightly so, if we read...that someone had leapt a tall building in a single bound..."

"...All of God's alleged powers and attributes are of a very extraordinary sort. As defined by orthodox theists, God is not constituted by energy or matter, he does not exist in space and time (though he can act in space and time), and he created the universe though he himself is uncreated. Further, God is said to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good...God is entirely different from the finite,...material sorts of beings that we encounter in the natural world. Therefore, if we are to judge how likely something is to exist on the basis of what we have previously known to be the case, we must rate the likelihood of God's existence very low indeed. Further, since extraordinary claims must be supported with extraordinary evidence, we must insist on very solid evidence indeed before we affirm the existence of God."

This is a fair point, as I see it, and not necessarily threatening to "religious" beliefs. The sophisticated religionist can embrace this as a purely epistemological principle and still justify his or her religious beliefs in any number of ways. For example, a thinking Christian mystic might argue from spiritual pragmatism: He or she might say, "Yes, the existence of a divine creator seems unlikely right now, given what we currently know. However, whether this God is real or not, the idea of him works within the context of the spiritual path I follow, as a model of moral perfection, as a source of hope, inspiration, and perseverance, as a powerful means of spiritual transformation, etc. This God is real enough to me and of great value to me, whether or not he actually exists."

A Buddhist still has a wealth of evidence with which to argue for the survival of the consciousness stream, even though rebirth isn't part of common (ordinarily remembered) human experience. He (or she) might begin by pointing out some of the weaknesses in physicalism in order to clear the way for consideration of other possibilities: we lack any good explanation as to how a physical system can produce subjective experience or awareness or even an experimental means to rule out alternative models of consciousness. As skeptical neuroscientist Sam Harris surprisingly puts it, "The idea that brains produce consciousness is little more than an article of faith among [some] scientists at present." Then he might point to the case made by physicists such as Eugene Wigner, Max Planck, and many others, on the basis of the evidence of quantum mechanics, that consciousness is a fundamental force of the universe, evidence that led physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin to declare that "materialism is dead" (e.g., the laws of quantum mechanics can't be formulated without reference to consciousness, indeterminate quantum phenomena actually "exist" as a range of possibilities and "choose" a specific option, such as a location, only after they are observed, attacks on the Copenhagen Interpretation that is the source of this perspective have consistently strengthened the evidence for it, etc.). Moreover, he might observe that neuroscientists have located numerous aspects of the mind, both simple and complex, in the brain. These tend to be clearly brain-dependent, in that they can be created by stimulation of the corresponding part of the brain and destroyed by damage to the brain. Yet consciousness itself seems to be the one thing that has yet to be located therein (although transitions between levels of consciousness do produce changes in the frequencies of brain waves). To borrow and repurpose an atheist argument of N.R. Hanson, scientists can look and evidently find the rest of the elements of the mind at all degrees of complexity in the human brain (from visual perception processing to intelligence to language processing to emotion to imagination to creativity and so forth), but continually looking in this particular place throughout the decades and not finding a physical basis of consciousness itself would seem to place it in a category similar to that of Big Foot and the Loch Ness monster. It gives us a good reason to begin to doubt that a physical basis is there. And so on...

Ed
Last edited by sukhamanveti on Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby Alfredo » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:09 am

I don't have a problem with their believing in God, or believing that God created the universe. My problem is that they dishonestly claim to have scientific evidence of this, such that would warrant its discussion alongside mainstream scientific theories. I would be equally skeptical of claims to the effect that atheism, or Buddhism, can be scientifically proven. Unless the situation changes very radically, such things lie beyond the capabilities of science to evaluate.

It's not the 19th century anymore, so we can't go by what would have passed muster then. Nor am I willing to be guided by Vasubandhu's opinion, any more than Aristotle's, however much respect they both deserve as philosophers.

The suggestion that Buddhist practice can be a scientific pursuit (Sam Francis, who is influenced by Theravada-style Vipassana, seems to support this) seems to boil down to the notion that "watching the mind" is similar to empirical observation. Unfortunately, most of those who engage in this practice do not do so as complete outsiders, but as members of religious groups with preconceived views about what they should experience. (Why believe Budddhist monks, but not Hindu yogis?) Double-blind experiments might conceivably be organized using first-year psychology students as guinea pigs, if we can think of any question this line of research could address.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby jeeprs » Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:46 am

I don't agree about 'intelligent design'. I am not a supporter of it, and I don't read much about it, but they are emphatically not the same as 'young earth creationists' who argue that the earth is 6,000 years old and people co-existed with dinosaurs and so on. Those people do not deserve any attention in my view, let them talk to themselves until they die out. But intelligent design theorists are completely different to that. Many of them are qualified scientists who understand molecular biology and evolutionary theory perfectly well, but who use it to argue that the reductionist materialism of the 'ultra-darwinists' is flawed both scientifically and philosophically. And I think they have a perfectly good point, and an equal right to make that point to their materialist opponents.

It is of note that the so-called 'Freedom from Religion Foundation', which is basically an evangelical atheist group, recently sued an American University for teaching 'creationism' on grounds that it violated the separation of church and state. In fact the course in question was a 'philosophy of science' course which considered objections to Darwinian theory from a religious perspective, in the context of intellectual history. I personally think that such objections are quite worthy of being ventilated. They might prove themselves completely wrong. But the fact that they are being threatened with legal action for even providing such a course, is very sinister in my view. In a free society, people should be able to express ideas freely, and let Darwinian principles sort out which ones are going to survive.

Thomas Nagel, a professed atheist and leading American secular academic, likewise agrees that at least some of the hostility to ID theory, even though he doesn't agree with it himself, is ideological in nature.

As regards 'Buddhist science of mind' - I think that is a perfectly sound idea, but it does require a way of formalizing the 'first person perspective'. If you really think about that, Buddhism has been methodological in that regard for millenia. What is abhidharma and vipasyana, if not a first-person science of mind? Of course some scientists will say 'well you religious folk can exercise your freedom to believe that, but we know better', but I think Buddhism is a long way ahead of Western science in that regard.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby jeeprs » Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:28 am

Indrajala wrote:Now, the "variety of the world arises from the actions of living beings" is similar to saying "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection". Beings in Buddhist philosophy generate karma as a result of willed action in varying degrees and types, which is saying that their variety is a result of intelligent causes, not strictly natural selection and mutations.


I was puzzled by the section in the the Brahamjala Sutta which states that one of the 'wrong views' is that 'self and world arise fortuitously', about which Bikkhu Bodhi commented that it 'has become the dominant outlook of the present-day materialist, which he takes to be the dictum conclusively proven by modern science’. So that way of explaining it solves the conundrum for me - it is neither 'fortuitous origin' nor 'intentional action by a creator'. Thanks!

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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby futerko » Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:34 am

jeeprs wrote:As regards 'Buddhist science of mind' - I think that is a perfectly sound idea, but it does require a way of formalizing the 'first person perspective'. If you really think about that, Buddhism has been methodological in that regard for millenia. What is abhidharma and vipasyana, if not a first-person science of mind?


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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby Arjan Dirkse » Sun Dec 01, 2013 9:57 pm

I'm open to anything - but hey - kids have a lot of imagination. My nephew thinks he is a dinosaur sometimes.

Stuff like this is easy to falsify - just get a large list of deatils about the life of the previously deceased who is reincarnated that should normally be unknown to anyone but the deceased and that cannot be guessed or found out by parents with a quick google search, like their bank code, social security number, blood type etc., and let the kids guess. The fact that wikipedia doesn't treat reincarnation as scientific fact yet tells me pretty much how this type of research usually ends.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby AJungianIdeal » Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:22 am

jeeprs wrote:
Isn't the contempt, ridicule & abuse directed at the poor science behind these claims?


No. Ian Stevenson's empirical methodology was acknowledged to be good, and is the same that is used by many researchers in less controversial subjects. But many of the critics of past life research will say that the very notion is so ridiculous, that even to try and study such a thing is pseudo-science. The same is said about research into paranormal psychology. Paul Edwards said that Stevenson's ideas represented 'a crucifixion of our understanding' ('our' being 'Western, scientific' understanding. A pretty good summary of the issue from a philosophical perspective is here.)

That is why I think much of the criticism is ideological, not scientific. Science is a method, not an ideology, and ought to be agnostic about such questions. It's 'the scientific worldview' that is the issue here. That is ideological and historical, rather than scientific as such.

By the way, here is an interesting article on relation of science and Buddhism by one of the academic staff at Dharma Realm University - Buddhism and Science: Probing the Boundaries of Faith and Reason, Dr. Martin J. Verhoeven.


Indeed, Carl Sagan even accepted that his empirical method was inscrutable but that reincarnation is a parsimonious conclusion.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby jeeprs » Tue Dec 03, 2013 10:50 am

Speaking of 'inscrutable', what a splendidly inscrutable first post! And welcome to Dharma Wheel.
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby AJungianIdeal » Wed Dec 04, 2013 6:54 am

jeeprs wrote:Speaking of 'inscrutable', what a splendidly inscrutable first post! And welcome to Dharma Wheel.

Should I've introduced myself somewhere? Sorry :oops:
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Re: Tucker's research on reincarnation.

Postby jeeprs » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:04 am

well, that's OK, there's no obligation to do that.

But perhaps you might explain what Carl Sagan said about Ian Stevenson, if in fact he did say something?
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