Thursday, June 10, 2010

Woo in Buddhism: Reincarnation and the "paranormal???"

C4chaos twittered about this plug for this bit on "the evidence for reincarnation."  It demands a reply.  One Charles T. Tart said:

I have to comment that, as a scientist who has spent more than 50 years studying the paranormal, as well as a (not very good) student of Buddhism and other spiritual development systems, belief, even if it fits with mainstream materialist scientistic dogma, is not very important if you’re trying to argue for or against the reality of reincarnation: evidence is what is important. 

The details of why I think it is reasonable to be both scientific and spiritually oriented, in spite of scientistic (not scientific, scientistic – a psychological set of dismissive materialism masquerading as science) are available in my recent book “The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together.” Way too briefly, what I show there is that we have firm scientific evidence for five phenomena that are the sort of things we would expect spiritual (let’s let “spiritual” here mean more than conventional material) beings to have – telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis, and psychic healing), as well as good evidence for phenomena I call the Many Maybes. By this I mean the evidence does not strike me as strong and coherent enough to say these other phenomena are definitely real, but it is strong enough that it would be foolish to disregard this evidence. 

One of those Many Maybes is reincarnation. 

The primary evidence I cite is the approximately 4,000 cases in the files at the Division of Personality Studies of the University of Virginia Medical School. These are investigated cases of young children who spontaneously recalled memories of past lives, in sufficient detail that a match could be strongly made with a recently deceased person. Besides my book, an excellent feel for these kind of cases can be gotten from psychiatrist Jim Tucker’s recent book, “Life Before Life.”

This begs a response from me.  It's just asking for one.  I may come back to it later, but it reminds me of this article from Malcom Gladwell on "cold readers," and their miserable track record.

But, having perused Tart's book on-line, via Amazon, I can say that the phrase "confidence interval" does not appear in its Amazon search; scanning through what Amazon showed illustrated that in no way is the book intended to convince people who might be scientifically inclined.   If  Dr. Tart had the evidence he's claimed exists for "the paranormal," then he could easily pick up a cool $1 million from James Randi

On edit: I do realize I should prepare a post on rebirth and reincarnation, as well as go deeper on science versus woo and why Buddhism should as much as possible free itself  from woo.  That will take some preparation from me.


Unknown said...

A bunch of us decided to infuse a public place with the energy of peace, so we walked into a downtown Washington, DC bookstore and this is what happened. Hope you like it!

Mumon K said...

Ah, just like Improv Anywhere!

Sabio Lantz said...

The more free from woo the better, I think.

Brikoleur said...

Count me in too. Just say no to woo.