I’m about to head out to a group to talk about whether there’s an afterlife.
On the meetup page, someone posted two links about reincarnation. Here’s the one, and here’s the other. My goal, of course, is to bring skepticism to the group (there are a couple other skeptics as well, but it was started by a believer and contains mainly believers).
Luckily, I was able to find a good refutation of Stevenson’s research. I intend to also bring up, if I can, the odds mentioned in his article, and how he misinterprets them. He says the odds of two birthmarks being in the right places to match up to wounds are 1 in 25,600. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt, and round that way up to 1 in 50,000. With 7 billion people on the planet, 140,000 of them having the right birthmarks would still be in the realm of chance. It could just be coincidence. Odds are tricky this way, and very easy to misinterpret, especially without specific probability training.
I also found a short article that shows how quickly one widely acclaimed case of reincarnation falls apart upon examination. Essentially, Bridey Murphy was made up out of early childhood memories.
As for there being an afterlife at all, given that brain damage changes personalities, not just sometimes but almost predictably, I have little hope that it can ever be demonstrated. I doubt it is even possible. It would be like running a computer program without a computer – you just can’t do it.
For further reading on the topic, I recommend this book review, which I am trying to finish before I get on the road. Here’s hoping I can make even half the points of these skeptical articles half as well as they do!