on 1 October 2011
In his book "Reincarnation--A Critical Examination (1996/2002)," the late Paul Edwards quoted Charles Darwin, together with other three well-known scholars, saying "To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact." Hence, Edwards tried to kill his supposed an error, i.e., the idea of reincarnation, in particular, the scientific lifework on "Reincarnation" by the late Professor Ian Stevenson. In the last pages he quoted Stevenson's testimony in a BBC program (in 1976); let me quote the part:
Professors Cohen and Taylor regarded the notion of extra-cerebral memories as totally absurd. Professor Stevenson vehemently disagreed. "Memories may exist in the brain," he said, "and exist elsewhere also." The best evidence that they may exist elsewhere, Stevenson continued, comes from his own reincarnation research. On the question of the "storage" of memories he remarked that there "might be a nonphysical process of storage." The memories "might be in some dimension...which cannot be understood in terms of current physical concepts."
In the last chapter of his book Stevenson wrote "In saying this I declare myself an adherent of interactionist dualism." And Cartesian dualism is a notorious idea from the viewpoint of mainstream science as well as mainstream philosophy because the idea supposes the mind exists in a nonphysical dimension (probably, as well as in physical dimension during life, if not detectable physically). The nonphysical dimension for the mind is the problem because it "cannot be understood in terms of current physical concepts," as Stevenson stated. The supposed interaction between the mind and body may violate the cherished "empirical" physical law of conservation of energy. This violation is one of the bases of Daniel Dennett's rejection of Cartesian dualism. Why hasn't any dualist tried to demonstrate the violation to justify his/her being a dualist?? Even the late parapsychologist John Beloff tried to explain a PK (psychokinesis), the table-levitation performed by the medium D.D. Home, without violating the law of conservation of energy! This weak attitude of researches of paranormal phenomena has been one of the reasons to keep skeptics saying what they want to say against any paranormal phenomena claimed by parapsychologists.
And, in my opinion, the cherished law was violated a long time ago in 1907 in the weighing the soul experiment conducted by Dr. Duncan MacDougall. One may say: the 21 g of the soul MacDougall reported in his paper is a result of his wishful thinking, as the physics professor Robert L. Park criticized in his book "Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science (2008)." As a matter of fact no scientists, including Stevenson or any parapsychologists, have ever referred to MacDougall's paper in their relevant research papers or books (though if I should be more precise, there are a few).
It is true that MacDougall's paper has been ignored for the past 100 years in scientific community. But this does not mean that his experiment is wrong; it simply means that no other scientist has conducted an independent experiment to verify or refute MacDougall's result, and this simply shows the negligence of scientists' obligation! If they believe MacDougall being wrong, they should show it by conducting an independent experiment. An irritated author, Dan Brown, fictionalizes in his recent book, "Lost Symbol," a noetic experiment of weighing the soul, though his writing in the book (in chap. 107) is scientifically completely wrong.
Hence, I would like to refer to a scientific paper recently published in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in the 2010 Spring Issue, Vol.24/No.1/pp.5-39: "Rebuttal to Claimed Refutations of Duncan MacDougall's Experiment on Human Weight Change at the Moment of Death." (This Vol.24/No.1 is available from amazon.com.) This paper's conclusion is that (1) MacDougall's experimental results (of the four cases) are scientifically very much sound (this is confirmed based on theoretical computational simulations of the experiment to rebut existing scientific criticisms), (2) however, his result must be confirmed by some independent experiments by other scientists to eliminate any possible systematic errors, (3) if confirmed, this means that the cherished law of physics, the conservation of energy, is violated in human's Life-to-Death transitions if we confine ourselves in physical dimension and Stevenson's claim of "nonphysical process of memory storage" shall be justified, and (4) this type of the law's violation will not be rare but rather common in some psychological transition events (such as in OBE, dreams, trance channeling, alternating of personalities in MPD/DID patients), which most physicists are reluctant to consider seriously because of the involvement of human beings, who sometimes cannot be trusted in scientific experiments as a participant.
Finally I would like to say because of my being a non-materialist that I do not subscribe to Cartesian dualism, because modern dualism presupposes the Big Bang theory & the Darwinian theory of evolution in the physical dimension, even if it accepts the mind in the nonphysical dimension. I rather subscribe to the mental monism: Consciousness comes first, not the last as current science supposes!