Scouring the Sikh forums, discussion boards and apologetic websites, one will almost invariably find juxtaposed to the subject of reincarnation,  scientific research on past-life regression therapy, near death experiences (NDE), out-of-body experiences (OBE), etc. as evidence for its validity.
More often than not, Sikhs make recourse to the same evidence trumpeted by those who likewise believe in and propagate the theory of reincarnation-transmigration.
Initially, the large number of references cited from so-called experts, and pawned off as scientific proof, may, at first, seem convincing to the unmindful or biased mindset. However, when one begins to dig a little deeper and compares these to real scientific evidence to the contrary, it quickly becomes apparent to the critically minded that this alleged evidence is highly suspect with critics and debunkers aplenty. As for those who attempt to peddle these highly dubious results, then they constitute a fringe group that are, and have been, all but ignored by the scientific community.
[P]eople who believe they had previous lives are committing a source-monitoring error…. This is important because source-monitoring mistakes are the first in a sequence of events that psychologists believe lead to false memories.
Of course, this has not deterred the many Sikhs and their co-sympathisers from unashamedly magnifying and hyperbolising any and all pseudo-scientific research in their desperate attempt to validate the patently unjust theory of reincarnation.
Hence, what this article intends to do, God-willing, is to take some of these so-called proofs, and show why mainstream science, on the back of a the huge bulk of empirical research and data accumulated over the past few decades, has chosen to reject these.
Evidence Against Reincarnation
The “scientific research” of the late Dr Ian Stevenson is usually the primary reference cited by many past-life protagonists. However, what they fail to realise is that after spending half his career investigating alleged reincarnation cases, Dr Stevenson had to grudgingly accept his miserable failure in convincing the mainstream of science:
This is unsurprising considering that the doctor had been investigating this “paranormal” subject for the past 40 years, and yet “to date, the only researchers who have verified Stevenson’s findings about children who remember past lives are people he has funded himself via the Department of Personality Studies”. Hardly what one would call disinterested and unbiased verifiers!
Perhaps this failure was down to the fact that “the majority of cases documented by Stevenson were no longer ‘active’ at the time of their investigation. That is, the subject of the case had ceased to have recollections of the supposed previous existence and thus the evidence consists mainly of retrospective accounts by other people (e.g., parents) of the experient’s statement about that existence” [sic]. 
Little wonder, then, that in regards to his reputation within the psychiatric community, he was forced to admit that “[n]ot a few psychiatrists suspected that I had become unhinged”! 
In light of what follows, however, one will come to understand why it was that Dr Stevenson failed to convince his peers.
Maarten Peters and his colleagues at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Maastricht University, Netherlands, conducted research on patients of reincarnation therapists who were hypnotised to help them remember their alleged past lives. The results found that “people who believe they had previous lives are committing a source-monitoring error, or an error in judgment about the original source of a memory…. This is important because source-monitoring mistakes are the first in a sequence of events that psychologists believe lead to false memories“. (bold, underline ours)
False memory, or confabulation, is the confusion of imagination with memory, and/or the confusion of true memories with false memories in order “to fill in gaps in one’s memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts”. 
Peters goes on to say:
Moreover, “in many cases of false memories, it is very difficult to determine whether or not the perceived events actually occurred – that is, the ‘ground truth’ can not be established.” 
Distinguished Professor of psychology at the University of California, Elizabeth F. Loftus, has conducted extensive research into the area of memory. She states:
The development of false memories for implausible events has been suggested as follows:
Second, individuals must acquire the autobiographical belief that it is likely to have happened to them.
Third, individuals must interpret their thoughts and fantasies about the event as memories. 
There have also been studies done that have “demonstrated that our personal beliefs are susceptible to the influences of imagination… Research also suggests that behaviour, as well as beliefs, can be modified through imagination”. 
In this respect, a research paper titled How Self-Relevant Imagination Affects Memory for Behaviour, which looked into the shaping of people’s beliefs and behaviour through imagination, concluded:
In fact, so powerful are the “tricks of memory” that people can even convince themselves of absurd events, such as, having been abducted by aliens! Harvard experimental-psychopathologist, Professor Richard McNally, who ran studies on alien abductees, put the experiences down to “a form of sleep paralysis known in the profession as hypnopompic episodes – essentially a state, experienced by up to 30 percent of the population at some point in their lives, when the body is physically asleep, part of the mind is still dreaming, but another part of the mind is conscious of being awake”.
He said, however, that many of these people, convinced of their abduction experience, “did have a strong tendency toward beliefs outside of the mainstream” (bold, underline ours). He added:
Several studies have demonstrated that our personal beliefs are susceptible to the influences of imagination. Research has demonstrated that people who imagine hypothetical events are more likely to endorse future occurrence of those events than are people who performed other cognitive tasks related to event occurrence.
He went on to say that most of these so-called abductees “did not actually remember, at the time of awakening from their hypnopompic episode, that they had been abducted. What they did feel was intense discomfort; many then sought the help of therapists or counselors [sic]-under whose tutelage they began to ‘remember’ that they had been abducted and experimented upon while in this strange state. In a different cultural context, the same individuals would likely have recalled being visited by witches, ghosts or Satan”.
He further states that under the suggestive questioning of clinicians: “These individuals’ minds are generating very powerful explanatory frameworks-under the guise of memory-for their sleep paralysis. They’re very resistant to reinterpretation.” Once this takes place, these memories “become an integral part of the individual’s self-identity” to the extent that they even display physiological responses under certain suggestive conditions. For example, “when asked to relive their experiences, respond in much the same way (sweaty palms, racing heartbeat, facial muscle tensions) as do traumatized war veterans”. 
While Costandi comments:
The Pseudoscience of ‘Past Life Regression Therapy’
There also exists the pseudoscience known as “past life regression therapy“, which is based on the premise that traumas, which are said to have occurred in previous lives, contribute to current psychological and physical symptoms.
In 1988, psychiatrist Brian Weiss published a series of cases focusing on patients who were hypnotised and age-regressed to “go back to” the origin of a present-day problem. When patients were regressed, they reported events that Weiss interpreted as having their source in previous lives.
However, given the plasticity of memories, more scientifically rigorous and credible research has actually found that the “perceived expectations of the therapist/ experimenter can affect the production of reports associated with FMS [False Memory Syndrome], and also the consequent belief that the false memory is in fact true”.
As for the techniques and results used in an attempt to prove past-life experiences, then psychologist Donald A. Eisner observed, after citing the research of Spanos et alia, that:
There are no controlled research studies that demonstrate the viability of the underlying concept of reincarnation. None of the field studies to date has confirmed that people who are age-regressed  to an alleged prior lifetime have veridical recollection. The use of suggestive techniques tends to taint the examination process and may produce artifactual responses.  (bold, underline ours)
There are no controlled research studies that demonstrate the viability of the underlying concept of reincarnation. None of the field studies to date has confirmed that people who are age-regressed to an alleged prior lifetime have veridical recollection.
Other research conducted by Spanos et al. of Carleton University, Ontario, Canada, found that highly hypnotised subjects, who were thus extremely susceptible to suggestion, had what is known as a “hidden self”. These “hidden self experiments indicate that contextual cuing can lead motivated, nonsimulating subjects to define themselves as having a secondary identity and to respond in a manner consistent with that self-definition” to the extent that “hypnotic past-life identities are viewed as socially constructed fantasies that are cued by the demands of the hypnotic past-life suggestions. This conceptualization suggests that the intensity with which subjects experience past-life identities may be related to a general propensity for becoming absorbed in fantasy activity and imaginative role playing”. In detail, they stated:
Kampman and Hirvenoja (1978) obtained findings consistent with this hypothesis by hypnotizing their past-life reporters again and asking them for the sources of their past-life reports. These subjects reported that stories heard as children, books, and events in their own lives were the sources of information used to build their past-life identities. …
Subjects with a propensity for engaging in fantasy and imaginative role playing in everyday life were particularly adept at becoming so absorbed in their past-life fantasies that their awareness of their primary identity tended to fade into the background. These highly imaginative subjects also tended to experience particularly intense past-life experiences. These findings are consistent with a substantial body of theory and evidence (Sheehan & McConkey, 1982; Shor, 1970; Spanos, 1971; Spanos & Barber, 1974) indicating that absorption in the construction of suggestion-related imaginings is associated with a partial fading of current reality concerns and with experiencing the behavioral and subjective events called for by suggestions.  (bold, underline ours)
And they concluded:
These fantasies can also be induced and encouraged by and during the actual process of hypnosis itself, as Dr Robert Baker puts it:
However, when the veridicality of such memories was examined, it was found that many of the memories were not only false, but they were even outright fabrications. Confabulations, i.e. making up stories to fill in memory gaps, seemed to be the norm rather than the exception. It seems, literally, that using “hypnosis” to revive or awaken a person’s past history somehow or other not only stimulates the person’s desire to recall and his memory processes, but it also opens the flood gates of his or her imagination. 
A classic example of these shortcomings was demonstrated by the infamous ‘Bloxham tapes’. The Cardiff-based hypnotherapist, Arnall Bloxham, who was the subject of a BBC documentary, and who subsequently featured in a book by Iverson (1976/77), forwarded one particular case, among others, of Welsh housewife Jane Evans. Evans apparently provided details of six previous incarnations, which included Allison; a maid who lived in the house of a wealthy French merchant named Jacques Couer in the 15th century.
In the case of Jane Evans and many other similar claims, it is generally believed that no deliberate hoax was involved. Instead, these are seen as being cases of CRYPTOMNESIA (literally, ‘hidden memories‘; see Baker, 1992). It is argued that an individual can store away information from a variety of sources during his or her life, such as from novels, films, history books, or wherever, without later being aware of the source of the information. When the information is later recalled under hypnosis, perhaps elaborated upon by the individual’s own fantasies, the memories can be taken to be veridical.  (bold, underline, capitalisation ours)
Work by other research groups shows that memories of highly implausible events, and even impossible events, such as alien abduction and reincarnation, can be planted just as easily.
Steven Jay Lynn and Judith W. Rhue, Professors of Psychology at Ohio University, found similarities between past-life regression subjects and patients suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD – also known as (DID) Dissociative Identity Disorder). After categorically rebutting the notion that “although some believers in reincarnation hold that people can be hypnotically regressed back past their birth to previous lives (e.g. Wambaugh, 1979), the available evidence provides no support whatsoever for this notion. Instead, the available data suggest that past-life experiences and enactments are fantasy constructions (Baker, 1992; Spanos, Menary, Gabora, DuBreuil, & Dewhirst, 1991)”, (bold ours)  they state:
But, what is MPD/ DID diagnosed as? According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, MPD/DID, though controversial, is considered a mental illness/ disorder.
There is so much more evidence that could be presented. However, for the sake of brevity, this should be sufficient for the unbiased and critical minded to realise that past-life experiences, connected to reincarnation or otherwise, are nothing more than fantasy-driven claims created by those who may just be suffering a mental illness.
Where then does this bulk of evidence presented by mainstream science leave those Sikhs desperate enough to prove the validity of reincarnation hook or by crook?
We believe they are in a catch-22 situation, for we have shown that:
- The so-called evidence of past lives is rejected by the mainstream scientific community due to the presence of an overwhelming volume of empirical proof accumulated over the past couple of decades.
- No amount of proof can vindicate Sikhism from the charge that the karmic theory and the concept of reincarnation portrays God as inherently unjust and cruel.
 We have covered this topic in detail showing how untenable this concept is and how it theologically renders the Creator as inherently unjust. See: Absurdities of Reincarnation-Transmigration, Project Naad Defends the Theory of Karma.
 T. Shroder (2007), Ian Stevenson; Sought To Document Memories Of Past Lives in Children, (The Washington Post, 11 Feb).
 H.J. Irwin, C. Watt (2007), An Introduction to Parapsychology, (McFarland & Company, Inc.), p. 210.
 J. Arehart-Treichel (2004), Psychiatrist Explores World Beyond ‘Normal’, (Psychiatric News, Vol. 39 No. 23, American Psychiatric Association, 3 Dec), p. 21.
 C. Mims (2007), Remember a Previous Life? Maybe You Have a Bad Memory, (Scientific American, 30 Mar).
 M. Costandi (2007), Alien Abduction, Reincarnation and Memory Errors, (Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, 11 Apr).
 E.F. Loftus (2003), Make-Believe Memories, (American Psychologist, Nov), p. 868.
 G.A.L. Mazzoni, E.F. Loftus, I. Kirsch (2001), Changing Beliefs About Implausible Autobiographical Events A Little Plausibility Goes a Long Way, (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Vol. 7 No. 1, 51-59, by the American Psychological Association).
 A.K. Thomas, D. E. Hannula, E. F. Loftus (2007), How Self-Relevant Imagination Affects Memory for Behaviour, (Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21:69-86; published online 10 July 2006 in Wiley InterScience), p. 70.
 Ibid., pp. 83-4.
 S. Abramsky (2004), Memory & Manipulation, (OCWeekly, 9 Sept), pp. 5–6.
 M. Costandi, op. cit.
 K. Gow (1998), The Complex Issues in Researching “False memory Syndrome”, (The Australasian Journal of Disaster and Trauma Studies Vol. 1998-3).
 Age regression is a controversial aspect of hypnotherapy in which the patient returns to an earlier stage of life in order to explore a memory or to get in touch with some difficult-to-access aspect of their personality.
 D.A. Eisner (2000), The Death of Psychotherapy: From Freud to Alien Abductions, (Greenwood Publishing Group), pp. 166.
 N.P. Spanos, E. Menary, N.J. Gabora, S.C. DuBreuil, B. Dewhirst (1991), Secondary Identity Enactments During Hypnotic Past-Life Regression: A Sociocognitive Perspective, (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol.61 No.2), pp. 311-12.
 Ibid., p. 313.
 Ibid., p. 318.
 R. Baker (1992), Hidden Memories: Voices and Visions from Within, (Prometheus Books, Buffalo, N.Y.), p. 152.
 C.C. French (2003), Fantastic Memories – The Relevance of Research into Eyewitness Testimony and False Memories for Reports of Anomalous Experiences, (Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol.10, No. 6-7), p. 164.
 S.J. Lynn, J.W. Rhue (1994), Dissociation: Clinical and Theoretical Perspectives, (Guilford Press, NY), p. 140.