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Science
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
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The controversial study of 'past lives'.
Wednesday 15 December 2004 9.00-9.30pm

A number of scientists have made detailed investigations of 'children who seem to remember past lives'. Between them they have collected data from around the world... thousands of stories of ordinary people, the majority of them children, who have memories of another existence. Linda Pressley reports.

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Some of the details of these cases are quite astonishing:  the Lebanese girl who was able to name 23 members of her 'previous' family; the Turkish child who remembered the life of a nightclub owner, and whose favourite game was pretending to run a bar.  And there are cases from cultures where there's no societal belief in reincarnation, for example, the American child born with birthmarks that matched the wounds of his deceased older brother, and who talks incessantly of the house the family lived in before he was born.

This is a field of endeavour where hard science, anthropology and belief systems collide.  But is it a field where empirical study is valid, and even possible?

In 'Many Happy Returns', Linda Pressly examines the claims and methodology of scientists engaged in this controversial area of research, and travels to Canada where past-life data is being collected from Native Americans.  She also hears from the critics - those who claim this kind of research is 'sloppy and unscientific', and who say that a belief in being 'born again' is completely inconsistent with what we know of how the brain works.
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