Notis 63, 16-04-2009, Professor Erlendur Haraldsson kommenterar de föreslagna ideala riktlinjerna för reinkarnationsforskning – han menar att de är just ideala, några av deras förslag ser besvärliga, opraktiska och orealistiska ut. Ingen av männen bakom förslagen har någonsin själv följt upp något påstått reinkarnationsfall. /GB
Edelmann and Bernet’s ideal criteria for reincarnation research
By Erlendur Haraldsson
It is much to be greeted when the authors outside the field come forward with ideas of how studies of cases of children claiming past-life memories can be advanced. That is what these authors do. They suggest that ideally cases should be investigated in four distinct phases and by different groups of investigators for each phase. It is obvious from reading this paper that neither of the authors have investigated any “reincarnation” case and hence some of their suggestions look cumbersome, impractical and unrealistic. In phase 1 interviewer A should make a videorecorded interview with the child using non-suggestive interview techniques (which is what all trained investigators do). Many interviews have in fact be tape-recorded. Videorecording would require more cooperation of the child´s family and might be felt as more intrusive. Often the child is shy of a strange foreign person interviewing them with an interpreter. Adding a videorecording to the procedure might be too stressful to the child. After this initial interview a group B of trained professionals should make a critical evaluation of the interview and all other information that can be gathered about the child.
It seems that the authors are not aware of how cases are usually investigated. Sure, the child’s testimony is crucial but that alone is never sufficient. Testimony of parents, interviewed separately, about what the child has been saying about its alleged previous life is very important, as well as the testimony of playmates, brothers and sisters, grandparents etc. It is only after supportive testimony from other witnessing persons, that live with the child or often communicate with the child, that a case is considered worthy of investigation. It must also have been acertained that the child´s and others testimony remains constant over some time, such as half a year or a year after he initial trestimony. This is in my view much more important than letting another group of experts review the initial interview with the child (phase 2).
In the authors procedure group B now draws up a list of “20 descriptors illicited by the interview with the child and “will prepare definitions of what will be constitute “a hit” when the next group of investigators C visit the supposed previous home or village to collect the data to validate the claim of reincarnation”. This new group C is sent by the project directors (one further new group!) to the location where the child may have lived in the previous life. Group C is not supposed to know what statements the child has made but only in what general area they are. Such as if the child has made some specific comment of its mother’s physical appearance then the group will be asked to describe her physical features. Group C should also visit a neighbouring household that has been determined by group B as a control household. And, of course, whenever possible the interviews should be videorecorded and objects photographed (taking photographs is common practice by actual investigators).
Now we come to phase 4 the final phase. In this phase the project directors, group D, collect and assess the findings of group A, B and C. They write up a report describing each phase to determine their overall quality, and assess the strength and weakness for paranormal activity and make a statistical assessment of the case comparing it with the control household. This group D ensure that all the documentation is securely kept and available for any researcher who in the future may want to review a case.
All fine and good so far, overseeing how cumbersome some of these precedures will inevitably be. And they will certainly need to be refined. In the past few decades it has been hard enough to obtain funding for investigation of cases studied by one or two investigators. The possibility of getting funding for four groups of investigators (how many persons in total is not revealed!) studying the same case – and many need to be investigated – look astronomically remote.
It is hard to find anything in this paper by Edelmann and Bernet that at present would in practice improve upon the methods used by investigators of “cases of the reincarnation type” as Ian Stevenson often referred to them. The authors are describing an Uthopia. However, they should be congratulated for their contribution.