Friday, December 11, 2015

Investigating the unknown

Kuldip Dhiman

Review of Chris Carter's 'Science and Afterlife Experience', published in The Tribune's Spectrum magazine section on 6 December 2015

Will I come to an end when I die or will I continue to survive in some way?” This is a question that occurs to most of us at some point of time or the other. There is a very long tradition in almost all cultures which believes that we do continue to survive after physical death, and we
come back in a new body. Not just in the East, even in the West, the belief has a long history. Socrates, Plato, and early Christians do talk about an afterlife. Most aboriginal cultures all over the world also have their theories about life after death. The general contemporary scientific view, however, is that it is absurd to think that life continues after the body perishes.
Chris Carter’s book Science and The Afterlife Experience deals with such questions and shows that life does not end with bodily death, and that there are several phenomena that material science is just not equipped to answer. Over the past three decades, several books and papers challenging the present scientific paradigm have been written by serious investigators such as Ian Stevenson, Erlendur Haraldsson, Pim van Lommel, Larry Dossey, Tom Shroder, Antonia Mills, etc. With this book, Chris Carter fires yet another salvo at the well-guarded fortress of established science.  
Carter recounts scores of well-documented cases of reincarnation, near-death experience, extra-sensory perception (ESP), psychokinesis, apparitions, and after-death communication from all over the world. 
Let us take the case of Rakesh Gaur who was born on March 15, 1969. When he was five, he began to tell his parents that in his previous birth he belonged to a family of carpenters that lived in Chhippa, a city 225 kilometres from his present home in Kankroli. He gave details of his past life, home and relations. What he said was later found to be accurate. 
Initially, reincarnation cases were largely reported from India, but later researchers found such cases all over the world, even in countries where people do not even have the concept of reincarnation. For instance, there is a case of Victor Vincent, a fisherman from Alaska who shortly before his death in the 1940s predicted to his niece that he would be reborn as her son. Later a son was indeed born to her. He was christened Corliss Chotkin Jr. When Corliss was 13-month old, his mother was teaching him how to pronounce his name. To her shock, the boy said, ‘Don’t you know me? I’m Kahkody.’ Kahkody was the dead Victor Vincent’s tribal name. 
Then there is a bizarre case of a chess game played between a living chess grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi and a dead grandmaster Geza Maroczy. In another case from 1957, two sisters, Joanna and Jacqueline Pollock, were killed in a road accident in Hexham, England. When Pollock became pregnant again after the death of her two daughters, the doctors were sure that a single child would be born but two girls were born instead. One of them had birth marks corresponding to one of the dead twins. Their behaviour was also in some respect similar to the dead girls. Carter laments that in spite of mounting evidence, the cases are being dismissed by scientists without even bothering to investigate these.
The author says that several physicists accept that psi (psychic phenomena) exists, but their views are ignored by the mainstream. Leading physicists such as Henry Margenau, David Bohm, Brian Josephson and Olivier Costa de Beauregard have argued that paranormal phenomena are not incompatible with modern physics. One survey found that only three per cent natural scientists considered ESP as an impossibility compared with 34 per cent of psychologists. It is not the top physicists, but uninformed scientists, science writers, philosophers and psychologists who are still clinging to ideas that are a century old. Carter argues that scepticism is fine, but most of the so-called sceptics of psi are not true sceptics at all. They are deniers. 
Why does science deny? In science, even one exception to the accepted law has to be explained. If it cannot be explained, then either the law has to be modified or abandoned. When scientists are unable to explain cases of paranormal, they dismiss them as fraud. Nobody likes to see their work of a lifetime collapse.   
Carter’s book is important as it addresses uncomfortable questions: Can consciousness exist without a body and can the consciousness alter matter. The current established science would say ‘no’ to these questions. Common sense also says it is not possible. When we die, we just die. Secondly, how can the mind influence matter? If that were the case, we should be able to move things by thought alone. 
With the long list of documented cases, Carter says the answer is ‘Yes’. 

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