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I read this blog post which presented the story of Shanti Devi as evidence of reincarnation:

According to these accounts, when she was about four years old, she told her parents that her real home was in Mathura where her husband lived, about 145 km from her home in Delhi. Discouraged by her parents, she ran away from home at age six, trying to reach Mathura. Back home, she stated in school that she was married and had died ten days after having given birth to a child. Interviewed by her teacher and headmaster, she used words from the Mathura dialect and divulged the name of her merchant husband, "Kedar Nath". The headmaster located a merchant by that name in Mathura who had lost his wife, Lugdi Devi, nine years earlier, ten days after having given birth to a son.

Is there reliable evidence that Santi Devi could remember a "past life"?

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    Reincarnation isn't a falsifiable hypothesis. It's untestable. It makes no predictions, and is therefore essentially meaningless. Maybe if you had some variation on reincarnation that was falsifiable that you wanted to ask about, but reincarnation itself isn't. – Publius Sep 11 '13 at 20:36
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    I would think that if your claim includes memories of past lives, those might be verifiable. Hasn't happened, but it strikes me as more testable than a lot of mysticism. – Larry OBrien Sep 11 '13 at 20:55
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    @Avi I'd argue that it is falsifiable, but it depends upon the definition. If the claim is that you remember false lives then theoretically it is falsifiable, although it might be extremely difficult. If the claim is that you do not remember past lives then it is unlikely to be falsifiable. – rjzii Sep 11 '13 at 20:59
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    @rob A hypothesis can't be "falsifiable, depending on the definition". Some hypotheses are falsifiable, and some hypotheses are not falsifiable. Something that "depends on the definition" isn't a hypothesis yet. – user5582 Sep 11 '13 at 21:02
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    @Sancho I think that he's saying that, depending on your defintion of reincarnation, the hypothesis you're testing changes. – Publius Sep 11 '13 at 21:29
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The claims about Shanti Devi (from http://beforeitsnews.com/beyond-science/2012/02/reincarnation-fact-the-amazing-case-of-shanti-devi-from-india-1791397.html):

  • Shanti Devi was born on December 11, 1926
  • When she was 4 years old, she said: "This is not my real home! I have a husband and a son in Mathura! I must return to them!"
  • Shanti said that her husband was in Mathura where he owned a cloth shop and they had a son.
  • Shanti said, "In my house in Mathura, I ate different kinds of sweets."
  • Shanti talked about what type of dresses she used to wear.
  • Shanti described her husband as fair, having a big wart on his left cheek, and wearing reading glasses.
  • Shanti said that her husband's shop was located in front of Dwarkadhish temple.
  • Shanti even gave a detailed account of her dying following childbirth in her previous life.
  • One of her teachers told Shanti that if she told him her husband's name, he would take her to Mathura; she said his name was "Kedarnath Chaube."
  • The teacher wrote a letter to Kedarnath Chaube, detailing all that Shanti had said, and invited him to visit Delhi.
  • Kedarnath said that his young wife, Lugdi, had recently passed away and that all the details Shanti had described about her old house and members of her previous family were all true.
  • Upon arriving at Mathura, Shanti lead a small crowd to her previous home.
  • She had correctly described what it had looked like years earlier — before its recent refurbishing.
  • As a test, Kedarnath was falsely introduced as being an elder brother of Kedarath's. Shanti said, "No, he is not my husband's brother. He is my husband himself. Didn't I tell you that he is fair and he has a wart on the left side cheek near his ear?"
  • Shanti then said several things that Kedarnath said could only have been known by his previous wife.

Reincarnation is not the only explanation for this story.

We need to be skeptical about testimony, especially testimony that has passed through many sources before arriving in its current form. In its current form, this is all hearsay. We have no proof that any of this happened as described.

There are several things that could explain the existence of this story (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/forums/viewthread/12714/):

  • Shanti may have had a very active imagination as a child
  • Shanti could have guessed the name of a person that lived in Mathura, or her teacher could have just found the closest sounding name in a directory
  • Her parents could have been lying or exaggerating about the accuracy with which Shanti predicted the appearance of Mathura or Kedarnath, or the details of her previous life (they were getting publicity)
  • Kedarnath could have lied about Shanti being correct in the details that she provided as proof (this was a young girl that was claiming to be his wife... why not say she's correct?)
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    This doesn't answer the OP's (unanswerable) question about reincarnation. – Publius Sep 11 '13 at 22:43
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    Yeah, but that's not what he was asking. I'm thinking the question should probably be closed. It's not your fault you didn't answer him. – Publius Sep 11 '13 at 22:56
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    I'd support a close vote. – user5582 Sep 11 '13 at 22:58
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    Perhaps certain ideas of reincarnation might be testable, but the question is "Has reincarnation been scientifically refuted?", which isn't really answerable except to say "no because so much of reincarnation is unfalsifiable." – Publius Sep 11 '13 at 23:49
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    I've focussed the question to try to address the issues in the comments above. @ChrisW: Reincarnation is not taboo. Untestable supernatural claims are. Find a testable claim about (a specific variant of) reincarnation, and ask away. – Oddthinking Sep 12 '13 at 2:13

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