Evidence of reincarnation

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Dinsdale
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Dinsdale » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:14 am

Zom wrote:
In effect your consciousness becomes an ACTIVE OBSERVER changing the reality itself.

Observe here wave/particle duality. The observer changes light into particles.
No consciousness needed -) This works with "observing mechanism" as well .)
That's right. I think one needs to be very cautious when talking about consciousness in relation to quantum mechanics. ;)
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lionking
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by lionking » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:53 am

Zom wrote:
In effect your consciousness becomes an ACTIVE OBSERVER changing the reality itself.

Observe here wave/particle duality. The observer changes light into particles.
No consciousness needed -) This works with "observing mechanism" as well .)
It is in fact a chain of observers. The end observer is always a consciousness. For example.

consciousness <- universe
consciousness <- observing_mechanism1 <- universe
consciousness <- observing_mechanism1 <- observing_mechanism2 <- universe

The observing_mechanism itself is not real if its made out of material do not forget. The observing_mechanism itself only comes into existence because consciousness is observing the observing_mechanism.

A consciousness must always be at the end of the loop. Its the consciousness that drives the whole operation.
grr ..

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Zom
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Zom » Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:16 pm

A consciousness must always be at the end of the loop. Its the consciousness that drives the whole operation.
Not at all. No matter if a consciousness observes or not - the result of "reality" will be different if there is a mechanical observer (a device) involved / not involved in the experiment 8-)

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kirk5a
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by kirk5a » Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:57 pm

Can those who insist there is "no evidence" of rebirth provide a hypothetical example of something they would consider "evidence"?
"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: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:08 pm

samseva wrote:However, that isn't a reason to completely discredit the existence of rebirth altogether.
I agree. But I also don't see that anyone in the thread has set out to do that. Has any poster here indicated that they reject rebirth and consider it to be untrue?

The argument is over what does and doesn't constitute scientific evidence.

It may be worth considering that Buddhism and science have different epistemlogical frameworks -- that is, they differ in terms of what are considered valid bases for knowledge.

In science, valid knowledge depends on making testable predictions, gathering data that can be used to test the predictions, ruling out alternative explanations, and being able to repeat the test. NDEs and past-life anecdotal evidence both fail to meet the standard because alternative explanations have not been ruled out. NDEs could have a material explanation related to the brain. Past-life memories could have plausible explanations other than an actual past life.

In Buddhism, perception and inference are considered valid bases for knowledge:
K N Jayatilleke wrote:Inferences are made on the data of perception, normal and paranormal. What is considered to constitute knowledge are direct inferecnes made on the basis of the data of such perceptions. All the knowledge that the Buddha and his disciples claim to have in 'knowing and seeing,' except for the knowledge of Nirvana, appears to be of this nature.
See here.

Because of the epistemological differences, threads like the current one almost inevitably devolve into pointless squabbling.

My view is that no one is obligated to bring science into Dhamma discussions, but if we decide to do so, we should represent science accurately and demonstrate an understanding of what constitutes good science vs. junk science. Let me use an analogy. From time to time, posters show up on Buddhist discussion boards who clearly have a very superficial understanding of Buddhism (even more superficial than mine!). They post some fake Buddha quotes taken from the internet, or some nonsense they've read somewhere, and they try to pass this off as "Buddhism."

Normally,when that happens, the more experienced posters here try to demonstrate where and how they have misconstrued what the Buddha taught.

It is likewise with science.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Mon Nov 02, 2015 4:09 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Lazy_eye
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Nov 02, 2015 3:33 pm

kirk5a wrote:Can those who insist there is "no evidence" of rebirth provide a hypothetical example of something they would consider "evidence"?
To me, this is an interesting question, and one which I would like to see explored more often.

My hunch is that it is very hard if not impossible to devise an experiment to test rebirth. For one thing, according to the suttas only a tiny percentage of humans get reborn as humans during their subsequent lives. It can take eons to return to the human realm.
Imagine that the whole earth was covered with water, and that a man were to throw a yoke with a hole in it into the water. Blown by the wind, that yoke would drift north, south, east and west. Now suppose that once in a hundred years a blind turtle were to rise to the surface. What would be the chances of that turtle putting his head through the hole in the yoke as he rose to the surface once in a hundred years?"

"It would be very unlikely, Lord."

"Well, it is just as unlikely that one will be born as a human being. It is just as unlikely that a Tathagata, a Noble One, a fully enlightened Buddha should appear in the world. And it is just as unlikely that the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathagata should be proclaimed. But now you have been born as a human being, a Tathagata has appeared and the Dhamma has been proclaimed. Therefore, strive to realize the Four Noble Truths."
Based on this famous passage, we would have to say that the number of people on earth who had a previous human life on earth within the span of recorded history is relatively small. And the number likely to reborn on earth within the next several millenia is likewise small. How could one then obtain a scientifically valid sample?

The only other approach I can think of would be to establish a scientifically plausible mechanism for rebirth. David Chalmers has suggested that consciousness follows as-yet-undiscovered "psychophysical laws". If such laws could in fact be identified, and they were consistent with Buddhist rebirth, we might be getting somewhere.

An added complication is that Buddhists don't seem to agree among themselves as to how rebirth takes place (i.e. the mechanism). Some posit a sort of disembodied mindstream (complete with an "appropriating consciousness"), which hinges on consciousness being separable from matter. Science might be able to establish whether or not that view of consciousness is correct.

Others insist the process is simply the result of kammic law. in which case establishing the material or non-material nature of consciousness may not settle the issue. Some related discussion here.

It might help if we were able to nail down exactly what it is that we want science to test. How exactly does a paṭiccasamuppāda cycle (or, if you want to go Abhidhamma, a citta chain) transfer from one physical location (life A) to another (life B)?

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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by JiWe » Mon Nov 02, 2015 4:14 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:My hunch is that it is very hard if not impossible to devise an experiment to test rebirth. For one thing, according to the suttas only a tiny percentage of humans get reborn as humans during their subsequent lives. It can take eons to return to the human realm.
Imagine that the whole earth was covered with water, and that a man were to throw a yoke with a hole in it into the water. Blown by the wind, that yoke would drift north, south, east and west. Now suppose that once in a hundred years a blind turtle were to rise to the surface. What would be the chances of that turtle putting his head through the hole in the yoke as he rose to the surface once in a hundred years?"

"It would be very unlikely, Lord."

"Well, it is just as unlikely that one will be born as a human being. It is just as unlikely that a Tathagata, a Noble One, a fully enlightened Buddha should appear in the world. And it is just as unlikely that the Dhamma and discipline of the Tathagata should be proclaimed. But now you have been born as a human being, a Tathagata has appeared and the Dhamma has been proclaimed. Therefore, strive to realize the Four Noble Truths."
Based on this famous passage, we would have to say that the number of people on earth who had a previous human life on earth within the span of recorded history is relatively small. And the number likely to reborn on earth within the next several millenia is likewise small. How could one then obtain a scientifically valid sample?
What's the pali for "it is just as unlikely that one will be born as a human being" in that sutta quote? "One" as "one who is currently human being --> again a human being" or "a being --> a human being"?

Most human beings behave like human beings most of the time, so wouldn't a rebirth in the human sphere be the most suitable place for them?

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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Nov 02, 2015 5:03 pm

kirk5a wrote:Can those who insist there is "no evidence" of rebirth provide a hypothetical example of something they would consider "evidence"?
Sir A. J. Ayer, the logical positivist guy, had a pretty good one. He argued that it would be sufficient for the truth of the belief that the man standing beside you is Julius Caesar reincarnated if that man had all the memories that one would ordinarily expect of Julius Caesar, and if he had some verified memories that appealed to facts that were not in any way items of public information. (See The Problem of Knowledge, ch. 5. Penguin Books 1962)

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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Nov 02, 2015 5:12 pm

JiWe wrote:What's the pali for "it is just as unlikely that one will be born as a human being" in that sutta quote? "One" as "one who is currently human being --> again a human being" or "a being --> a human being"?
The cited sutta has to do with the chances of a human rebirth among beings who've fallen into the lower realms, and so is not particularly relevant to Lazy Eye's point. The relevant sutta (or rather a whole vagga of suttas), is in the Aṅguttara Nikāya's Ekanipāta (A. i. 35-8). In these it is stated that exceedingly few devas and humans get reborn as devas or humans: the overwhelming majority get reborn in the lower realms.

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samseva
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by samseva » Mon Nov 02, 2015 5:21 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:But I also don't see that anyone in the thread has set out to do that. Has any poster here indicated that they reject rebirth and consider it to be untrue?
Some have, but my point is more about a general and prevalent way of thinking among some people—mostly not on this forum. I am not pointing out anyone in particular.
Lazy_eye wrote:It may be worth considering that Buddhism and science have different epistemlogical frameworks -- that is, they differ in terms of what are considered valid bases for knowledge.

In science, valid knowledge depends on making testable predictions, gathering data that can be used to test the predictions, ruling out alternative explanations, and being able to repeat the test. NDEs and past-life anecdotal evidence both fail to meet the standard because alternative explanations have not been ruled out. NDEs could have a material explanation related to the brain. Past-life memories could have plausible explanations other than an actual past life.
That is the exact reason why trying to scientifically prove that rebirth exists is such a difficult task. When a framework for studying a particular subject doesn't work, which is at fault, the framework or the subject?

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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Anagarika » Mon Nov 02, 2015 5:49 pm

My bias when looking at evidence comes from my lay training in law. In general, evidence is some thing or statement that meets certain tests of initial reliability (or, admissibility). Even if the fact cannot be proven to a certainty, the evidence can be accepted by the fact finder, who then determines what weight and probative value to give such evidence. I find this helpful with rebirth, as I cannot prove it to a scientific certainty, but the evidence of it tends to be more reasonably true than not true. As the Buddha taught the truth of rebirth, I then have confidence that rebirth is real.

Even in science, what is stated as true and what meets scientific tests for certainly sometimes ends up discarded. Take the "Big Bang" for example...new models suggest that the current expansion of the universe is not due to a bang (and its necessary singularity), but to the universe being in an expansion mode, later to be in a contraction mode, the way lungs expand and contract when we breathe. How quickly science accepts as true aspects of life that are later proven doubtful or untrue.

We likely will never prove/disprove the existence of rebirth from a scientific approach. However, using evidence the way that a court might, or as is done in other reasoned circles, we can weigh the evidence, determine its probative value, and then decide whether rebirth is more likely to be true than not true. To accept it on blind faith is folly, and in my view to reject it absolutely is folly as well. Each us us can weigh the evidence and determine its value in our own lives...giving a huge measure of authoritative weight to the Court's appointed expert...the Buddha.

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daverupa
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by daverupa » Mon Nov 02, 2015 6:25 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:In Buddhism, perception and inference are considered valid bases for knowledge:
K N Jayatilleke wrote:Inferences are made on the data of perception, normal and paranormal. What is considered to constitute knowledge are direct inferecnes made on the basis of the data of such perceptions. All the knowledge that the Buddha and his disciples claim to have in 'knowing and seeing,' except for the knowledge of Nirvana, appears to be of this nature.
See here.
Well... the Brahamajala Sutta points out how even meditative experiences can provide misleading or incomplete data; and unbroken Tradition as well as Reasoning are both things that can turn out in one of two ways... and consider AN 3.66... the Kalamas were also advised against following inference...

So Buddhist epistemology isn't quite so simple... "when you yourselves know" is the destination, not "only this is true, anything else is worthless" sorts of standpoints.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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samseva
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by samseva » Mon Nov 02, 2015 7:27 pm

Anagarika wrote:[…] then decide whether rebirth is more likely to be true than not true. To accept it on blind faith is folly, and in my view to reject it absolutely is folly as well. Each us us can weigh the evidence and determine its value in our own lives...giving a huge measure of authoritative weight to the Court's appointed expert...the Buddha.
Well said.

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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by Lazy_eye » Mon Nov 02, 2015 7:32 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
JiWe wrote:What's the pali for "it is just as unlikely that one will be born as a human being" in that sutta quote? "One" as "one who is currently human being --> again a human being" or "a being --> a human being"?
The cited sutta has to do with the chances of a human rebirth among beings who've fallen into the lower realms, and so is not particularly relevant to Lazy Eye's point. The relevant sutta (or rather a whole vagga of suttas), is in the Aṅguttara Nikāya's Ekanipāta (A. i. 35-8). In these it is stated that exceedingly few devas and humans get reborn as devas or humans: the overwhelming majority get reborn in the lower realms.
Bhante, thank you for that clarification. I wasn't aware of the specific context for the sutta passage I cited, and it's interesting to have that context illuminated. I'm also grateful for the Ekanipāta references.
daverupa wrote: Well... the Brahamajala Sutta points out how even meditative experiences can provide misleading or incomplete data; and unbroken Tradition as well as Reasoning are both things that can turn out in one of two ways... and consider AN 3.66... the Kalamas were also advised against following inference...

So Buddhist epistemology isn't quite so simple... "when you yourselves know" is the destination, not "only this is true, anything else is worthless" sorts of standpoints.
Fair point; I probably shouldn't have suggested there is a single, clear-cut "Buddhist" epistemology. The one I put forward seems to represent a fairly prevalent approach, one which I gather is more or less codified as we move into later eras -- but that doesn't invalidate your objections.

What I would like to stress is the importance of recognizing the epistemological framework one is using, and that framework's relationship to the scientific framework. It seems to me that failure to do this is one of the main causes for the rancor that characterizes these sorts of threads.

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kirk5a
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Re: Evidence of reincarnation

Post by kirk5a » Mon Nov 02, 2015 8:50 pm

Dhammanando wrote:
kirk5a wrote:Can those who insist there is "no evidence" of rebirth provide a hypothetical example of something they would consider "evidence"?
Sir A. J. Ayer, the logical positivist guy, had a pretty good one. He argued that it would be sufficient for the truth of the belief that the man standing beside you is Julius Caesar reincarnated if that man had all the memories that one would ordinarily expect of Julius Caesar, and if he had some verified memories that appealed to facts that were not in any way items of public information. (See The Problem of Knowledge, ch. 5. Penguin Books 1962)
Sounds workable to me. Which is what Stevenson tried to find, and succeeded, as far as I can tell, at least for the strongest cases. I don't see what the fatal flaw in his cases supposedly is.
"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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