the great rebirth debate

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Re: Some thoughts about rebirth

Postby Dhammanando » Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:35 am

Penguin,

DuskMoonPenguin wrote:What exactly defines the human realm?


There are quite a few definitions of the human realm. My favourite is found in a Vinaya sub-commentary: that realm of beings for whom the brahmacariyā is a possibility.

Is it just based on the appearance of four-limbed bipedal intelligent primates,


In the Mahānidāna Sutta's teaching on the seven stations of consciousness humans are classed among those beings who are "variegated in body and variegated in perception." But nothing is stated about precisely how variegated human bodies can be. Nor about how much a being might differ from apes like you or me while still counting as a human.

"Four-limbed bipedal intelligent primates" won't really do as a definition. A primate is a mammal and a mammal is an animal that suckles its young. But in the Mahāsīhanāda Sutta (MN. 12) although conception in a womb is the typical way of generation for humans, there are said to be certain humans who are "spontaneously-generated" (opapātika). That is to say, they just spring up fully-grown and presumably would need no suckling. What spontaneously-generated humans might look like, and in what biological class, order and genus they might fit, is anyone's guess.

My own guess is that they probably look rather like ourselves but without belly-buttons.

Or if they do have belly-buttons they will be of the non-functional sort like the Brahmā gods' non-functional noses and tongues (materiality that looks to all purposes like a nose or a tongue, but is not able to serve as the physical basis of olfactory or gustatory consciousness).

or more so on our sapience and sentience, and the balance of both suffering and happiness in the realm.


The texts sometimes hint at something along these lines. For example, a common commentarial definition of humans is the pun, manaso ussannattā 'manussā' ti ("They are called 'humans' because of their superiority of mind" MA. ii. 37). But strictly speaking this is not a definition of humans but only a nirukti of the word "human".

would a species of intelligent reptilian hominids constitute a portion of the "human realm"?


I don't see why not, especially as we seem already to have an instantiation of this in the person of the current U.S. Secretary of State.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando
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Re: Some thoughts about rebirth

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:25 am

Dhammanando wrote:I don't see why not, especially as we seem already to have an instantiation of this in the person of the current U.S. Secretary of State.


:rofl:

Hi Bhante,

Great to see you here again! Are you back for regular posting?
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Re: Some thoughts about rebirth

Postby Dhammanando » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:59 am

Hi David,

David N. Snyder wrote:Hi Bhante,

Great to see you here again! Are you back for regular posting?


Thanks for the welcome. I'm afraid I won't be back for regular posting just yet, as I'm going back up the mountain in a few days. I came down down because a whole bunch of friends from different places all decided to visit me at the same time, and I couldn't have accomodated them in my usual abode.

All the best for the coming year!

Dhammanando
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Nibbida » Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:22 am

Good to see you here Bhante, even if only for a bit.

Much Metta. :anjali:
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Re: Some thoughts about rebirth

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 28, 2011 4:21 am

Deletd by poster.
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Re: Some thoughts about rebirth

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:33 pm

kirk5a wrote:Except "living in the present moment" has to include an understanding of causality.


Yes, it certainly helps to understand how the present moment has arisen.

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Re: Some thoughts about rebirth

Postby kirk5a » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:41 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
kirk5a wrote:Except "living in the present moment" has to include an understanding of causality.


Yes, it certainly helps to understand how the present moment has arisen.

Spiny

I meant becoming aware of the causality of craving/clinging in creating suffering. What do you mean?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Rebirth

Postby Ludwig » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:58 am

Thanks for your responses, I also viewed a clear answer from a series of Retro's comments on another thread (after my original post).

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Re: Some thoughts about rebirth

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Thu Dec 29, 2011 9:27 am

kirk5a wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
kirk5a wrote:Except "living in the present moment" has to include an understanding of causality.


Yes, it certainly helps to understand how the present moment has arisen.

Spiny

I meant becoming aware of the causality of craving/clinging in creating suffering. What do you mean?


Yes, certainly that, but also more generally - for example how our current mind-state ( which is dependently originated ) determines the way we experience the present.

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Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby hermitwin » Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:19 pm

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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby Moggalana » Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:28 pm

As far as I know, his work is based on anecdotal evidence and that's not really a scientific proof. And then there is this:

Stevenson never claimed that he had proved the existence of reincarnation, and cautiously referred to his cases as being "of the reincarnation type" or "suggestive of reincarnation".[13] He concluded that "reincarnation is the best — even though not the only — explanation for the stronger cases we have investigated".[14]

Stevenson's work has received a mixed response. In 1977, the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease devoted most of one issue to Stevenson's work and the journal's editor described Stevenson as "a methodical, careful, even cautious investigator."[8] His methodology was criticized for providing no conclusive evidence for the existence of past lives.[15] In a book review criticizing one of Stevensons' books, the reviewer raised the concern that many of Stevenson's examples were gathered in cultures with pre-existing belief in reincarnation.[16] In order to address this type of concern, Stevenson wrote European Cases of the Reincarnation Type (2003) which presented 40 cases he examined in Europe.[17] Stevenson's obituary in the New York Times stated: "Spurned by most academic scientists, Dr. Stevenson was to his supporters a misunderstood genius, bravely pushing the boundaries of science. To his detractors, he was earnest, dogged but ultimately misguided, led astray by gullibility, wishful thinking and a tendency to see science where others saw superstition".[12]

Deducing from this research the conclusion that reincarnation is a proven fact has been listed as an example of pseudoscience by skeptics.[18] Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke felt that Stevenson's work fell short of providing proof of reincarnation (which they both viewed as unlikely). Nevertheless, they felt that further research was warranted. In The Demon-Haunted World (1996), Sagan wrote that claims about reincarnation may have some experimental support, however dubious and inconclusive. He said "at the time of writing, there are three claims in the ESP field that deserve serious study", the third being "young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation."[19][20] Sagan further stated he picked the three examples not because he thought them valid, but as examples of contentions that might be true.[21] Clarke observed that Stevenson had produced a number of studies that were "hard to explain" conventionally, then noted that accepting reincarnation raised the question of the means for personality transfer.[22] To date no physical process by which a personality could survive death and travel to another body has been identified,[23] which researchers such as Stevenson and Tucker recognize as a limitation.[8] Skeptic Sam Harris said of Stevenson "either he is a victim of truly elaborate fraud, or something interesting is going on."[24]

Stevenson's research was the subject of Tom Shroder's Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Past Lives (1999) and Jim B. Tucker's Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children's Memories of Previous Lives (2005). Psychiatrist Jim Tucker took over Stevenson's work on his retirement in 2002.

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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby perkele » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:52 pm

Moggalana wrote:As far as I know, his work is based on anecdotal evidence and that's not really a scientific proof.

However, the anecdotes were scrutinized and verified as scientifically as possible I think and often quite compelling evidence was found in that way. For example facts about the previous family of the supposedly reborn child which the child couldn't have known without memory, etc.
I think it's as scientific as it can get, although of course there isn't a proof, in quite a similar way as the theory of general relativity is not "proven". It's just a compelling explanation.
I do think the method is scientifically valid. There's a hypothesis (this child has memories from the life of that deceased person) and methods for falsification (dependent on the circumstances of the case), although they are not as clear and "mechanical" as for example in physics.
And I find reservations like this one (quoted from your quote) slightly ridiculous:
Wikipedia wrote:To date no physical process by which a personality could survive death and travel to another body has been identified,[23] which researchers such as Stevenson and Tucker recognize as a limitation.

In which sense is this considered a limitation?

Anyhow, the most important point I found in whole article (haven't read the whole thing) was this one:
Ian Stevenson wrote:I'm not much of a missionary. Most of that was drained out of me on my first trip to India. I did have a certain zeal when I first went there. When I talked to Ramakrishna Swami in Chandigarh, he asked me what I was doing, and I replied with a certain enthusiasm. After a long silence he finally said, "We know that reincarnation is true, but it doesn't make any difference because here in India we have just as many rogues and villains as you have in the West"
End of interview.
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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby daverupa » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:02 pm

perkele wrote:
Wikipedia wrote:To date no physical process by which a personality could survive death and travel to another body has been identified,[23] which researchers such as Stevenson and Tucker recognize as a limitation.

In which sense is this considered a limitation?


In the sense that a scientific theory offers hypotheses to account for such processes, testable hypotheses which are then examined, and either refined or discarded; and then this process is repeated until successful predictions are able to be made on the basis of the developed model(s). Without offering a hypothesis about how such a mechanism might operate in the case of reincarnation, the research amounts to anecdotal correlation with no variable control. Making hard and fast conclusions on this sort of foundation is unwarranted.
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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby Justsit » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:09 pm

Every time a discussion of "proof of reincarnation" appears, Dr. Stevenson's work is dragged out again.

As the article states, "Stevenson never claimed that he had proved the existence of reincarnation..."

In addition, science requires reproducible results to prove a theory; one set of results proves nothing. No reproducible results = no proof.

Full stop.
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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:30 pm

Stevenson's work has been discussed here several times - see, e.g.
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9900&start=20
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=41&start=920
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1970&start=0
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=1636&start=0

Not saying it's right or wrong, just saving people reinventing wheels.

:namaste:
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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby Aloka » Thu Feb 16, 2012 9:56 pm

Here is a review that I found some time ago of Stevenson's book ''Children who remember previous lives''

http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=482


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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby Alex123 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:27 pm

Aloka wrote:Here is a review that I found some time ago of Stevenson's book ''Children who remember previous lives''
http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=482
.


I disagree with some things that is said there.

ex:
    So we are expected to believe that he cannot remember a prior life, but he can remember the one prior to the prior life. Not very convincing.

if previous life was as a worm (for example) and the life prior to that was as a human, then no problem. The last life was too vague, blurry, monotonous, and had less sense impressions than human life. So one remembers the closest vivid memories. A life as a worm could contain too little "memorable" moments to remember, and the child could dismiss it as a fantasy.

    In 13 of the 14 cases the previous lives were in the same community as the current one.

Attachment to the community where you live can make you reborn there. I don't find this problematic.

    Both occur in communities that believe in reincarnation, and where critical thinking is (shall we say), not thought of as a primary skill.

If the memories were in skeptical communities or those holding other beliefs, the child could be told to stop fantasizing and the memories would be ridiculed and criticized so that child would disown them - thus we would never know about them.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:03 pm

alex123 wrote:If the memories were in skeptical communities or those holding other beliefs, the child could be told to stop fantasizing and the memories would be ridiculed and criticized so that child would disown them - thus we would never know about them.


Sure we would know about them, if rebirth is truly the heritage of all sentient beings; for as many as have lived and died there would be a consistent sampling to be found throughout humanity, across all cultures. True, a culture where rebirth is not a belief would censor some accounts or not be as keen to the matter as those that hold rebirth as fact, but even still there would be those, random and not specialized, who would still listen to accounts and find what comparisons to evidence may be found. Yet what we actually find instead in cultures without rebirth belief is that the only voice for it's evidence (aside from immigrant cultures) is with the theosophists, the spiritualists or other dubious thinkers like Mr. Stevenson.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:17 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:Sure we would know about them, if rebirth is truly the heritage of all sentient beings; for as many as have lived and died there would be a consistent sampling to be found throughout humanity, across all cultures.


Belief in rebirth apparently was in early Christianity and in ancient Greece, not to mention India.

ancientbuddhism wrote: True, a culture where rebirth is not a belief would censor some accounts


They may be dismissed as child's fantasies, and who gives much credibility to "child's fantasies"? Furthermore the parents could dissuade the child so that the child himself will believe that these are fantasizes. A parent might not be able to check the facts, and wouldn't want to expose his/her child to possible ridicule.

Also since according to Buddhist belief, human -> human rebirths are very rare and memory of past lives is not inherent for human beings- no wonder there are not many reported cases. I am also sure that most parents would not want other people to view their children as "strange", so no wonder why in secular or other religious groups this issue is not publicly raised.

If vast majority of previous lives are in non-human form, then it would be very hard (if possible for most) to separate fantasy from real life. It certainly might not be provable using current science, so such cases would automatically be rejected due to limitation of science.
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Re: Scientific Proof of Reincarnation?

Postby perkele » Thu Feb 16, 2012 11:18 pm

Justsit wrote:In addition, science requires reproducible results to prove a theory; one set of results proves nothing. No reproducible results = no proof.

Full stop.
daverupa wrote:
perkele wrote:
Wikipedia wrote:To date no physical process by which a personality could survive death and travel to another body has been identified,[23] which researchers such as Stevenson and Tucker recognize as a limitation.

In which sense is this considered a limitation?


In the sense that a scientific theory offers hypotheses to account for such processes, testable hypotheses which are then examined, and either refined or discarded; and then this process is repeated until successful predictions are able to be made on the basis of the developed model(s). Without offering a hypothesis about how such a mechanism might operate in the case of reincarnation, the research amounts to anecdotal correlation with no variable control. Making hard and fast conclusions on this sort of foundation is unwarranted.

Okay. In physics and related sciences models are developed to explain certain phenomena which have been observed. These models then predict some phenomena to occur and it can be tested if they indeed do occur.
In this case, the observed phenoenon (case by case) is a child claiming to remember a previous life. There are basically three possible explanations, or "models" I can think of: delusion, lying, or actual memory. If the fist two are ruled out then the third is the most reasonable explanation. In this case there is no need for any kind of complicated mathematical model. It's more like forensic science. Its purpose is not to predict what will happen but just to explain something that happened. There is not and there cannot be any "variable control".
The argument that there is no "model" behind it is quite vain. We don't need a model of memory to know what memory is. Stevenson's research is not concerned with what memory is but if memory was actually observed here. And that is not a limitation. The call for a physical model is totally besides the point.

Justsit wrote:In addition, science requires reproducible results to prove a theory; one set of results proves nothing. No reproducible results = no proof.

Full stop.

I never said there was a "proof" in the strict sense. My point was rather to show that it is moot to insist on unapplicable standards. That was my point when I asked this:
perkele wrote:
Wikipedia wrote:To date no physical process by which a personality could survive death and travel to another body has been identified,[23] which researchers such as Stevenson and Tucker recognize as a limitation.

In which sense is this considered a limitation?

Anyway I'd call Stevenson's work scientific in the sense of "earnest, conscientious and rigorous investigation".

But I don't think it's worth to argue any more about this, so I'll leave it with that. Probably it has been discussed enough and everyone can consider for himself if this research has any validity, and most importantly, how and if at all this knowledge (or maybe not knowledge) helps with practical matters in life and on the way to liberation from suffering.
With that in mind I quote this again:
Ian Stevenson wrote:When I talked to Ramakrishna Swami in Chandigarh, he asked me what I was doing, and I replied with a certain enthusiasm. After a long silence he finally said, "We know that reincarnation is true, but it doesn't make any difference because here in India we have just as many rogues and villains as you have in the West"
End of interview.

:anjali:
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