Ace Sustained

So Ace, apparently the UVA Medical School has a department devoted to reincarnation studies?—Sam Sarrah

 
For the record, Ace is skeptical about reincarnation. It’s not that he’s never had mystical experiences of a past life; it’s just that his seem to indicate that, once upon a time, he was either Sam Spade or Chubby Checker.
 
But even Ace will admit that Dr. Ian Stevenson’s research through UVA’s Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) lends some credence to the idea. Since 1961, DOPS has investigated cases of young children, typically between ages 2 and 5, who claim to remember previous lives. 
 
Dr. Stevenson, who died of pneumonia in 2007 at the auspicious age of 88, spent decades traveling the world collecting anecdotal reports of past lives, using an investigative method that tried to rule out alternative explanations. Since Stevenson’s retirement in 2002, DOPS has operated with UVA psychiatry professor Bruce Greyson as director and child psychiatrist Jim Tucker continuing Stevenson’s reincarnation research. 
 
Stevenson’s obituary in The Washington Post cites—as a typical example—the case of a young Lebanese boy, who referred to a previous incarnation as a 25-year-old mechanic. The boy remembered being “thrown to his death from a speeding car on a beach road,” telling witnesses the name of the driver, the location of the crash, the names of the mechanic’s extended family, and of his hunting pals. Sure enough, these details matched the life of a man who had died years before the boy was born. Dr. Stevenson was unable to determine any prior link between the dead man and the boy’s family.
 
During his lifetime, Stevenson acknowledged that his subjects’ claims were unverifiable, lacking any evidence of a physical process through which the personality might survive death. Yet his research has left a few notable skeptics scratching their heads. Carl Sagan, shortly before his untimely death of myelodysplasia-related pneumonia in 1996, expressed cautious interest in Stevenson’s research. And Sam Harris, recently a vocal representative of the New Atheist camp, has said of Stevenson that “either he is a victim of a truly elaborate fraud, or something interesting is going on.”  
 
You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 21 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.

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