Friday, December 19, 2008

The Will to Disbelieve

The Los Angeles Times carried an article recently by Chris Woolston, entitled "Holiday Hokum? The lowdown on 5 supposedly healthy gifts." One of those gifts was Intentional Chocolate, which readers of this blog know that I was involved in testing. That experiment employed a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind protocol, which is the gold-standard in medical testing, to see whether chocolate exposed to the good intentions of advanced meditators would make a difference in the mood of people who ate that chocolate, as compared to the same chocolate not exposed to such intentions. The study, a pilot test involving 62 participants, showed that it did indeed make a statistically significant difference.

I admit that I was surprised at the outcome of this test, but data are what they are. The whole purpose of conducting an experiment is to ask questions about how the world works, regardless of our prejudices. And the strength of empiricism is that data always trumps preconceived ideas. If this weren't so, then we'd all still be living in damp caves eating grubs for dinner.

I published the results of this experiment in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, a peer-reviewed medical journal from Elsevier, one of the world's top publishers of scientific journals. Explore focuses on complementary and alternative medicine, therapy, practices and theories.

The LATimes journalist apparently didn't know or care about any of this. Instead he took the cynical party line:

"It would take far more than a small study in an obscure journal to convince Richard P. Sloan, a professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. 'There's nothing in the way that we understand the universe that would explain how a group of people could influence the well-being of others by blessing their chocolate,' he says. 'Besides, he adds, if chocolate could be blessed, it could also be cursed.' Think about that before you bite into your chocolate Santa."

Sloan is well known for his negative opinions about alternative medicine. The problem is that Sloan's opinion on this matter displays a tendency unfortunately common among some scientists -- he can only believe something if he already knows how to explain it. This attitude is unfortunate because cognitive and perceptual psychology has clearly shown that the old saying, "I'll believe it when it see it," is actually backwards. The saying should be, "I'll see it when I believe it," because we are all biased not to see if we don't believe, or at least have a reason to believe based on theory or prior experience.

Scientists have to continually strive to counter this kneejerk tendency to disbelieve, otherwise existing knowledge quickly collapses into dogma. Unfortunately, existing knowledge almost always congeals into comfortable habits, which is what led physicist Max Planck to lament that despite the scientific ideal, in reality knowledge advances by funerals, and not by the appearance of new evidence or theories.

But besides dismissing results of an empirical test, Sloan's remark (assuming he is quoted correctly) might betray an underlying reason why he'd rather avoid the whole topic. It is quite true that if intention can influence something positively, then it undoubtedly can also influence something negatively. And that is indeed a scary thought. But does that mean it isn't true? Do some scientists strongly resist these ideas because they don't like the implications?

To be fair, this was a pilot test, and long-held beliefs probably shouldn't change based on a pilot test. But this is not the only such experiment indicating that intention influences the physical world; there are many others (I refer readers to my books for details). There are two ways to respond to surprising outcomes of pilot tests. One way is to say, hmmm, that's curious, let's try it again. The other way is to say, that can't possibly be true because the universe doesn't allow for such things.

In another article reporting an experiment studying mental influence of a distant person's nervous system, I responded to Sloan's failure of imagination as follows:

Sloan and Ramakrishnan have asserted that “Nothing in our contemporary scientific views of the universe or consciousness can account for how the ‘healing intentions’ or prayers of distant intercessors could possibly influence the [physiology] of patients even nearby let alone at a great distance.” Is it really true that nothing in science suggests the presence of connections between apparently isolated objects? Quantum entanglement, a far from common sense effect predicted by quantum theory and later demonstrated as fact in the laboratory, shows that under certain conditions, elementary particles that were once connected appear to remain connected after they separate, regardless of distance in space or time. If this property is truly as fundamental as it appears to be, then in principle everything in the universe might be entangled.

And from that arises the concept of entangled minds and matter, which I need not go into here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

How skeptics work

This is a wonderful talk by Rupert Sheldrake on the tactics, rhetoric, and in many cases, the hypocrisy, of prominent skeptics.

Download the mp3 audio file here. Or a higher quality version here. Both are on Rupert Sheldrake's website.

Neuropsychology of Paranormal Experiences and Beliefs

Here is a special online issue of the journal Cortex (Volume 44, Issue 10, Pages 1291-1396, November-December 2008), on the neuropsychology of paranormal experiences and beliefs.

The issue addresses the problem of why do apparently normal people, with normally functioning brains, persist in accepting paranormal (and thus, according to conventional neuroscience, delusional) beliefs.

I think this line of research is interesting in that it is useful to understand the origins of cognitive biases and mistakes of attribution, including the neuropsychology of such origins. But the mechanistic worldview of classical physics and the brain-as-computer metaphor assumed by many neuroscientists makes it too easy to dismiss the possibility that some of those beliefs are based on experiences which are not mistaken or delusional, but rather, quite real.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Explore journal issue on the PEAR Lab

An issue of the Elsevier journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, published in May 2007, was devoted to the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory's work. That entire issue is freely accessible and the articles therein can be downloaded from here.

New insights into the links between ESP and geomagnetic activity

By Adrian Ryan, in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, Fall 2008

A database of 343 free-response ESP trials conducted at centers in the U.K. was constructed in order to test the hypothesis that the relatively fast varying components of geomagnetic activity, geomagnetic pulsations, might be driving the reported associations between ESP, geomagnetic activity and local sidereal time. Local geomagnetic field-strength measurements taken at 1-second intervals during 99 trials, and at 5-second intervals during 244 trials, were converted by fast Fourier transform into power within five frequency bands. Two patterns were observed: ESP was found to succeed only during periods of enhanced pulsation activity within the 0.2-0.5 Hz band, but ESP effect was absent during the most disturbed periods of activity in the 0.025-0.1 Hz band.

The pattern of ESP effect by local sidereal time was similar to that found by Spottiswoode (1997b), and this shape was found to be attributable to the pattern of ESP results by pulsation activity in the 0.2-0.5 Hz band.

The observed patterns were demonstrated to have excellent explanatory power in terms of accounting for findings previously reported in the literature.

Go here for the full paper

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Alumni Leader

I was selected as one of two "alumni leaders" in the Fall 2008 issue of Resonance, an alumni magazine published by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. I've posted that page here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Telepathy on the brain

A new experiment looking for telepathy (or psi in general) in the brain, using an fMRI scanner, has been published in the International Journal of Yoga, by a group at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, in Bangalore, India. I've posted a pdf copy of their study here.

The article is entitled "Investigating paranormal phenomena: Functional brain imaging of telepathy," by Ganesan Venkatasubramanian and others. With this new study, there are now four published psi studies using fMRI technology. Three of the four found significant areas of brain specialization correlated with psi performance.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Brain

I was interviewed for a program about the brain on The History Channel. It was shown last Monday and will be shown again Sunday, November 16 at 5:00 PM (Eastern Time Zone), Tuesday, November 25, 8:00 AM and Tuesday, November 25, 2:00 PM.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Esalen photo

This is a funny shot of me and actor John Cleese, at a research seminar on survival of consciousness held at Esalen Institute a few years ago. John is as funny in person as in the movies.

Friday, October 03, 2008

StarGate presentation

Here's a video presentation of a piece of the history of the psi research program funded by the US government, code named StarGate, as told by the first director of that effort. Of particular interest is how that program dealt with incessant skepticism within the classified community, even in the face of repeatable, demonstrable successes.

I have a certain compassion for staunch skeptics today who find it impossible to believe that psi is real. I suspect that if I hadn't witnessed a portion of StarGate's history first hand, and if I hadn't worked with or known many of the individuals involved in that program, I'd be skeptical too.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Presentiment demos

I do an interview for a documentary film or TV show typically once or twice a month. Occasionally the director wants to film a demonstration of a test in the lab, and one of the options I offer is a presentiment experiment using a skin conductance level (SCL) measurement. About half the time the director or producer decides to do the test him or herself.

I noticed some years ago when I started doing these demo experiments that they often resulted in pretty good results, which I found surprising because the set and setting of interviews are not nearly as well controlled as actual experiments. But starting this year, out of curiosity, I decided to keep a closer eye on the outcomes of those demos.

The image here shows the composite results after running four presentiment demos this year, so far. This is not based on a selection of results -- this is all the data from the four demos. There was one demo per interview, and each demo consisted of 40 randomly selected images out of a pool of about 700 images, for a total of 160 targets of widely varying emotionality. The trials were partitioned based on a median split of the emotionality ratings of the 160 trials, so the 80 targets rated as being most arousing (based on the international standard rating per image) were defined as emotional, and the bottom 80 target were defined as calm.

Each trial was normalized to allow the emotional and calm trials to be easily pooled across all four sessions, so the y axis is in terms of z scores (standard normal deviates). The difference in the two curves prior to the stimulus (i.e., the moment the target is selected and shown, at second 0) is not quite statistically significant, mainly because with 160 trials there is insufficient statistical power. But the differential effect is in alignment with the results that I and others have obtained in previous experiments.

What it shows is that about 3 seconds before the stimulus is randomly selected, the SCL measurement begins to differentiate according to the future target selection. A few people have misinterpreted what's going on here. What presentiment predicts is that prior to a randomly selected emotional target SCL should become more aroused than prior to a randomly selected calm target. This only means that the ensemble emotional curve is predicted to be higher than the ensemble calm curve, and not that the emotional curve will necessarily go into positive territory.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An encouraging trend

The National Science Foundation publishes a biannual report called Science and Engineering Indicators. It's a comprehensive review (588 pages in the 2008 report) of developments in the US relevant to science and engineering, including a section on the public understanding of science. I've been tracking this report for years to see how the NSF views what it regards as "pseudoscience." That word first appeared in its 2000 report.

Exemplars of pseudoscience in that year's report included "yogic flying, therapeutic touch, astrology, fire walking, voodoo magical thinking, Uri Geller, placebo, alternative medicine, channeling, Carlos hoax, psychic hotlines and detectives, near death experiences, UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, homeopathy, faith healing, and reincarnation." For a section of an NSF report supposedly concerned with the lack of critical thinking skills, this is one of the most peculiar, and as such inadvertently ironic, lists I can imagine. Surely it should have also included Santa Claus and Batman.

References in this section clearly cite as their source the rabidly skeptical society formerly known as CSICOP. Not surprisingly, the wording makes it appear that belief in such pseudosciences indicates that the US educational system is devolving dangerously into a hellish middle ages. A footnote in the 2000 report cites as evidence of this mental decline the "'most frightening” results of a poll of students in Columbia’s graduate school of journalism: 57 percent of the student journalists believed in ESP."

Three pages of this report are devoted to such arguments. The author's disdain for the woefully ignorant masses (apparently including grad students at Columbia) is palpable.

The 2002 report also devotes about three pages to a discussion of pseudoscience, and again, you can practically feel the author's veins throbbing as you read through this section. Fortunately (for the sake of the NSF's credibility), the word "placebo" is no longer provided as an example of pseudoscience, nor is "Uri Geller." In the 2004 report this section shrinks to about one page and is not quite as strident. In the 2006 report the pseudoscience list again shrinks, now to less than a page, and it cites as examples of pseudoscience only "astrology, lucky numbers, the existence of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), extrasensory perception (ESP), and magnetic therapy."

The 2008 report shrinks to two paragraphs and only gives astrology as an example.

This trend is the right direction, and the hysterically skeptical tone in earlier reports seems to be calming down. I take this as a favorable sign. I'm completely in favor of improved science education, which should include not just critical thinking, but also how to tell the difference between skepticism and pseudoskepticism. A few lessons on humility might not hurt either.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What is a measurement?

Nick Herbert, who wrote the classic book on interpreting quantum reality (appropriately titled, Quantum Reality), blogged an interesting commentary on the nature of quantum measurement, and why it remains as mysterious as ever.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Job - Clinical (Transpersonal) Psychology

Posted on behalf of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology

The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology invites applicants for full-time and half-time core faculty Clinical Psychology positions. We are seeking applicants with a broad range of research and clinical experience. A candidate with research and dissertation advising skills may also serve as half-time Associate Dissertation Director. The positions are open until filled.

Applicants should have a PhD in Clinical Psychology, be licensed or license eligible in California, be qualified to teach clinical psychology and to supervise students, and serve on dissertation committees in the residential (on-campus) Clinical PhD Program. Experience with APA accreditation is a plus. We invite applications from persons early in careers as well as those with more academic experience.

Candidates with one or more of the following are particularly encouraged to apply: knowledge of qualitative and quantitative research methods, whole person and experiential learning, the integration of mind, body, and spirit, and experience or interest in field such as Transpersonal, Integral, Positive, or Cross-Cultural Psychology.

Interests in teaching, research and publications can include but are not limited to such topics as:

• Spiritually-oriented clinical approaches to psychotherapy and healthcare
• Transpersonal psychotherapy
• States of consciousness
• Meditation
• Wisdom psychologies
• Peak human abilities
• Exceptional human experience
• Human development
• Positive Psychology

Founded in 1975, ITP is a regionally accredited (WASC), non-sectarian private graduate institute with award winning students and outstanding faculty in teaching, research activities, publications, and leadership in the transpersonal field. ITP offers MAs and PhDs in Clinical Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology, as well as master’s degree programs. On-campus and distance learning programs enroll more than 400 students. Our culture includes active involvement among the faculty, students, board, and administrative staff.

ITP is an equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer and welcomes applications from diverse candidates including members of historically under-represented U.S. ethnic groups and persons with disabilities. ITP does not grant tenure but hires on a two-year renewable contract basis. Most of the faculty members have been in residence for 7-10 years or more. There is also an uncommonly supportive atmosphere of collegiality and a positive work environment.

Please send your CV, a statement describing your teaching philosophy, research experience and interests, experience working with students and clients from diverse backgrounds, and your transpersonal psychology or mind/body/spirit interest and involvement. We recommend that you visit the ITP website to learn more about the institute and transpersonal psychology (

Mail, fax, or email your materials to:
Holly Tran, Director of Human Resources
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
1069 E. Meadow Circle
Palo, Alto, CA 94303
Fax 650-493-6835

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Magic mushrooms

Click here for a video of a "One Step Beyond" TV program from 1961 in which the host eats a magic mushroom and then conducts an ESP test.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Larry King Live show

I taped a Larry King Live show last November with J.Z. Knight, Candace Pert, Fred Alan Wolf, Will Arntz (producer of the What the Bleep movie) and Edgar Mitchell.

I'm told it will air on CNN Saturday, August 2 at 6pm PT, 9pm PT & Midnight PT.

My main recollection of the show is that the hair and makeup artists were amazing. Because of the high resolution of HD TV, some makeup artists are now using airbrushes. I guess if you use traditional pancake, the makeup is too obvious in hi-def. I also saw the singer Wayne Newton in the green room after the show. Other than that, it all went by in a blur and I have no idea what I said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

newsclip: Global Consciousness Project

Note that the comment that they're "just looking for patterns in random data" is absolutely not true. See the website for more details on the hypothesis-testing nature of this experiment.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another elephant in the room

IONS' founder, Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, was recently in the news because he stated on a British radio show what he's been saying for years: That UFOs are real. For some reason, this time his comments caught the attention of the news media, including a New York Times blog.

The Times comment was notable because it reflected the mainstream (in this context meaning something like "serious and sober") media's stance on this topic: UFOs are fodder for news of the weird, which includes anything outside a very thin slice of acceptable topics.

There is plenty of evidence to support Mitchell's opinion that UFOs should be taken seriously. As with any complex topic, it takes some dedicated homework to find and digest the relevant literature. But once that is done, it is difficult to go away without the opinion that something interesting is going on. Whether "it" is ET I still find to be debatable, but that there is a genuine mystery afoot, is clear.

Unfortunately, as long as topics like UFOs and psi are associated with high giggle factors, no mainstream reporter is going to jeopardize his/her career by sounding too sympathetic when discussing these topics publicly. So the status quo is likely to persist.

But I often hear the private opinions of scientists and reporters, including those from august universities like Harvard and newspapers like the New York Times, so I know that there are far more people in prominent positions who privately are keenly interested in these topics. Far more than is suggested by how these topics are reported in public. But it takes courage to expose the elephant in the room, and few have been willing to exercise that courage, especially when the price to pay could be one's career.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Compassionate Intention paper published

In EXPLORE July/August 2008, Vol. 4, No. 4 235


Dean Radin, Jerome Stone, Ellen Levine, Shahram Eskandarnejad, Marilyn Schlitz, Leila Kozak, Dorothy Mandel and Gail Hayssen

Objective: This double-blind study investigated the effects of intention on the autonomic nervous system of a human “sender” and distant “receiver” of those intentions, and it explored the roles that motivation and training might have in modulating these effects.

Design: Skin conductance level was measured in each member of a couple, both of whom were asked to feel the presence of the other. While the receiving person relaxed in a distant shielded room for 30 minutes, the sending person directed intention toward the receiver during repeated 10-second epochs separated by random interepoch periods. Thirty-six couples participated in 38 test sessions. In 22 couples, one of the pair was a cancer patient. In 12 of those couples, the healthy person was trained to direct intention toward the patient and asked to practice that intention daily for three months prior to the experiment (trained group). In the other 10 couples, the pair was tested before the partner was trained (wait group). Fourteen healthy couples received no training (control group).

Outcome measures: Using nonparametric bootstrap procedures, normalized skin conductance means recorded during the intention epochs were compared with the same measures recorded during randomly selected interepoch periods, used as controls. The preplanned difference examined the intention versus control means at the end of the intention epoch.

Results: Overall, receivers’ skin conductance increased during the intention epochs (z = 3.9; p < 0.00009, two-tailed). Planned differences in skin conductance among the three groups were not significant, but a post hoc analysis showed that peak deviations were largest and most sustained in the trained group, followed by more moderate effects in the wait group, and still smaller effects in the control group.

Conclusions: Directing intention toward a distant person is correlated with activation of that person’s autonomic nervous system. Strong motivation to heal and to be healed, and training on how to cultivate and direct compassionate intention, may further enhance this effect.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Post Modern Times

I was interviewed by Daniel Pinchbeck for Post Modern Times, a "series of short animated films presenting new ideas about global consciousness and techniques for social and ecological transformation."

You can watch part of that interview in two videos at this link.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Two conferences

Last week I was in Boulder, attending first the annual ISSSEEM conference, and then the annual SSE conference. The former meeting was focused on subtle energies and energy medicine, the latter on scientific anomalies.

There is some overlap in the interests of these two societies because no one knows exactly what subtle energies are, except that they are associated with living systems in some important way, they underlie concepts like chi, prana, and kundalini, and they're used in therapies like acupuncture, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, and Johrei. Some people claim to feel these "energies" quite strongly, and as such they are anomalous since most instruments conventionally used to measure energies (like electromagnetic and electrostatic fields) don't detect anything.

I suppose like many scientists, before I experienced a flow of subtle energies (for want of a better term) during a couple of bodywork sessions, I was skeptical that such reports were anything more than hallucination or wishful thinking. Afterwards, I had no doubt that whatever it is, it is not hallucinatory and nor is it subtle.

One highlight of the ISSSEEM meeting for me was physicist Brian Greene's talk on quantum mechanics and string theory. Nothing he said was new, but he is an entertaining speaker and presented some basic concepts with clever animations. I was hoping he would talk about the spookier aspects of quantum theory, but he skillfully avoided any hint that consciousness is inextricably wound into quantum mechanics. When a questioner from the audience asked about the possible role of intention in quantum theory, to my surprise he denied any role at all. When I gave a presentation the next day at the same conference, I gently corrected his mistake.

I thought the highlight of the SSE meeting was a presentation by Paul Hellyer, former Canadian Minister of Defence. He stated in no uncertain terms that not only are UFOs real, physical craft, but that there are aliens among us. Other speakers, including Col. John Alexander, agreed that the preponderence of the evidence for UFOs is now overwhelming, but he questioned Hellyer's assertion about aliens.

Over the years I've read a fair bit about UFOs, and I've listened to credible people saying incredible things. I've been most influenced by speaking to Edgar Mitchell, Jacques Vallee, and John Alexander, and reading Richard Dolan's works. While I haven't seen a UFO myself, I am persuaded by these researchers that UFOs are physical things in the sky (and sometimes in the ocean), they respond to radar like real physical objects, they have been observed close-up by experienced pilots, sometimes by hundreds to thousands of witnesses on the ground, and they occasionally leave physical traces on the ground. And yet, they seem to be associated with consciousness in some ill-defined way, and at times their behavior suggests that they are not entirely physical.

All this presents a significant challenge to the everyday world portrayed by the nightly TV news, which rarely mentions UFOs, and when it does it's usually just ridiculed. As a result, the topic is very rarely discussed in scientific forums, which is a pity. Just as psi offers a challenge to prevailing theories about the mind-matter and mind-brain relationships, UFOs challenge our idea about what sort of reality we think we're living in.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Discovery Science program, June 15

On the Discovery Science TV channel on Sunday June 15 , at 9 PM eastern, 6 PM pacific in the US, a show with the peculiar title "Foolproof Equations for a Perfect Life" will be aired. This was originally aired as a BBC Horizon program on decision-making. It included a segment describing the presentiment experiment. I don't know whether that bit survived the editing for the US version, but if it does you'll see yours truly run a demo of a presentiment experiment.

Friday, June 06, 2008


This week I attended a symposium on "The Supernormal and the Superpower," sponsored by the Esalen Institute's Center for Theory and Research. The group of about 20 religious scholars, comic book artists, writers, and historians, and scientists, discussed overlaps among mythology, religious lore, comic book superheroes, and experimental evidence that some of the superpowers (primarily psychic abilities) are real.

Here's a link to a picture of the participants, from Christopher Knowles' (one of the participants) blog: The Secret Sun: Super-Normal Seminar Class Picture

I'm interested in the ontological implications of real superpowers. Obviously the powers of comic superheroes are embellished for the sake of art, but I suspect that some of the powers (known as siddhis in yogi lore, charisms in Catholic lore, and attainments in Sufi lore) are based on genuine abilities not just in superheroes, but potentially in all of us.

These photos show the Esalen grounds just outside of our meeting room.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Latest translation of Entangled Minds

Entangled Minds in Portuguese.

Behind and Beyond the Brain

Here are a few pictures from the Bial Foundation conference, Behind and Beyond the Brain, which took place during the last few days of March in Porto, Portugal. This picture is during a panel discussion held after the second day's main session, on the theme of emotions and psi. From the left it's me, Roger Nelson, Dick Bierman, Daryl Bem and Stefan Schmidt.

Here I am on the final panel discussion at the end of the conference, with moderator Fernando Lopes da Silva, Ralph Adolphs and Paul Ekman.

One thing that struck me during this conference, which was about two-thirds on the cognitive and social neurosciences and one-third on psi, was how similar the practice of today's neurosciences are to what I used to do when I was an electrical engineer (EE): reverse engineer black boxes. As an EE I would figure out how electronic devices worked by tracing circuits, injecting signals, studying the operation of components both in and out of the circuit, and in general see how changes in the circuit affected the behavior of the black box. This is what the neurosciences are doing with animal and human brains, and much of the internal circuitry is slowly and surely being worked out. The undeniable explanatory power of this approach is seductive, and much of it is probably correct.

However, the seduction also tends to blind us to annoying anomalies that don't fit a mechanistic, physicalist model (like psi, NDEs, evidence suggestive of reincarnation, etc.). That said, I am not a fan of so-called non-materialistic, non-physical, or dualistic models of psi. My guess is that as today's concept of "physical" continues to evolve (which includes our understanding of basic ideas like space, time, matter and energy), we will find the neurosciences and psi converging towards a model of consciousness which is partially localized (brain-based) and partially nonlocalized (an inherent property of the fabric of reality, as in panpsychism).

Another thought I had while listening to the neuroscience talks was that most neuroscientists assume that classical physical explanations are sufficient to account for brain-based behavior and experience. Deeper explanations of physical processes, such as quantum models, are not viewed as being either necessary or relevant. The problem with this assumption is that classical descriptions are not simply approximations of the microworld, which is where most of the action occurs in the brain, such descriptions are fundamentally wrong.

If an EE was tasked with understanding an unknown, complex electrical circuit, but only knew about classical principles, he or she would probably figure out some simple aspects of the circuit, but the details would remain exceedingly mysterious. By comparison, I suspect that what might be called "classical neuroscience" will continue to make some progress in understanding relatively simple aspects of the brain, but many details (and especially the anomalies) are likely to remain mysterious.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Report from Portugal

I just spent a week in Porto, Portugal, at the 7th biannual symposium of the Bial Foundation. This unique Foundation is supporting perhaps 80% of the world's experimental psi research, and it also supports mainstream studies in psychophysiology and the neurosciences. The symposium brings together researchers from all these domains, and the three-day conference is unusually eclectic and interesting. This one was no different -- the theme was emotion, and there were some very interesting presentations about the neuroscience, cognitive and social science of emotions, as well as a half day of talks on psi and emotion.

I discovered at the meeting that the Portuguese translation of Entangled Minds was published last year, so I bought a copy. I'll post more about this meeting, perhaps including some pictures and videos I took in Portugal, when I return home. (I'm writing this from Dulles airport near Washington DC, waiting for a flight.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Money for nothing (sort of)

I meditate about an hour a day. Sometimes during a meditation I get a flash of information, seemingly out of the blue. Last Friday morning I got a flash that a large sum of money was going to appear in my bank account. This money would appear unexpectedly, anonymously, and it would be large enough to make me do a double-take. I figured this money for nothing scenario was a nice fantasy, but I didn't make much of it otherwise.

Friday evening I checked my bank account (online), not expecting to see anything unusual, but I was still curious given my morning information flash. When I saw the amount in my checking account I practically fell off my chair. The modest amount I keep in the account had increased very substantially. Funds had been wired into my account a few minutes before I checked it, and because it was still a pending transaction there wasn't any information on who had sent it.

So I did indeed anonymously and unexpectedly receive a very large sum of money. As it turns out, I later discovered that this was a payment on a grant I had received last year. But it showed up this past Friday without any advance warning, and since I had received the first payment over a year ago, I had long forgotten that I was supposed to get a second payment.

Where did this information come from? It might have been sparked by an unconscious memory or concern, wondering if or when the next grant payment would arrive. That's possible, but in all past instances I've received an email or letter or phone call announcing that the payment was on its way. I've never had money just mysteriously show up. So perhaps I was responding to a precognitive hit on my startled future reaction, upon checking my account.

Whatever the explanation may be, I find it's worth paying attention to flashes of insight, because regardless of how surprising or bizarre the information may be, they often contain a kernal of truth.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Flat line memories

I haven't read Dr. Allan Hamilton's new book, The Scalpel and the Soul, yet, but based on hearing him in a radio interview, I am intrigued. For example, this short video clip describes a striking NDE case in one of his patients. If this clip doesn't work (it seems Firefox doesn't know what to do with this), try this page and scroll down to the link on this line: "To watch a Video Interview..."

I find it refreshing that Hamilton admits that all sorts of miraculous events (meaning extraordinary experiences) occur in hospitals all the time. But as with scientists' psi experiences, most physicians are afraid to talk about them.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Subvert the dominant paradigm

While surfing I ran across dedroidify and its associated blog. Such sites remind me of the exploratory spirit of Harvard psychiatrist John Mack.

These two sites are good repositories of conspiracy and consciousness-related links, videos, and commentary. I am not a big fan of most conspiracy theories, in the sense that I don't actively worry about what the Illuminati or aliens or Opus Dei may be up to. But I do think it's important to question authority.

However, I am not in favor of mindlessly overthrowing anything until the consequences of the new (paradigm, government, etc.) is better understood. Anarchy might be fun for 20 minutes, but after Shiva's passion subsides and you'd like to call out for pizza delivery, you better hope that you haven't accidentally torched the telephone system.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Birthday thoughts

I received lots of nice e-cards and notes today for my 14th birthday, some from friends I haven't seen in nearly 40 years, some from people I've only met on the Internet, and some from colleagues, local friends and family. Thank you all for your kind thoughts.

To celebrate this rare day, my wife and I saw the movie Jumper. The plot revolved around the question, What if some people could teleport where ever they wished, and other people really hated them because they believed only God should be able to do that? The special effects and scenery were good, but the plot was disappointing because it didn't develop beyond adolescent power fantasies. The only thing the protagonist jumper could imagine doing with his miraculous powers was to rob banks and live like a playboy. And the only thing the people chasing the jumpers could imagine was to kill them. I kept hoping that one of the characters would mature and provide a deeper story line. That didn't happen, but I still thought it was mildly entertaining.

After the movie we had a BBQ chicken and ribs dinner, followed by chocolate cake. It's been a fine day.

Monday, February 25, 2008

SF Chronicle interview

I was interviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle last week. Here’s a link to the article.

The comments after the article are entirely predictable.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Paranormal and the Politics of Truth

To gain a better understanding of the psi controversy (and topics labeled paranormal in general) from a sociological point of view, I recommend this 2007 book by Jeremy Northcote. Until I became involved in psi research, I didn't pay much attention to the sociology, politics, philosophy or history of science. I just assumed that science was as we were taught: a rational, logical enterprise, independent of all those troubling human frailties so evident in sociopolitics. But of course the way science is actually practiced is nowhere near as pristine as we were led to believe. As I encountered the irrational side of science, this led me to wonder what in the world had gone wrong with the way that science is taught. And that led me to study the human factors involved in science as a social effort towards "truth-making." As a sociological study this is fascinating, so I'm grateful to Northcote for publishing this book (and likewise to Chris Carter for his book, Parapsychology and the Skeptics), because if he hadn't done so, I would have been motivated to write a similar book myself.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dialog with Lynne McTaggart

Click here to access a recent conversation I had with Lynne McTaggart, author of the bestselling book, The Field, and the recent followup, The Intention Experiment. This dialog is hosted by the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Three videos

This is a good video of a remote viewing trial, conducted some years ago by folks at the American Society for Psychical Research in New York City. Click here

This is an interesting video of skeptic Michael Shermer testing Vedic astrologer Jeffrey Armstrong. Click here

And here is one I recently participated in. Click here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

BBC Horizon program

Last year I was interviewed about presentiment for a BBC Horizon program on decision-making. You can see a brief clip of the show here.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Testing nonlocal observation as a source of intuitive knowledge

This paper has been published. You can find the abstract at by searching for "dean radin intuition." If you want a copy of the full paper send me an email (dean at noetic dot org).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Two recent talks

On January 16 I gave a talk at Google headquarters in Silicon Valley, which you can view here. The title was Science and the Psi Taboo.

Abstract: Do telepathy, clairvoyance and other "psi" abilities exist? The majority of the general population believes that they do, and yet fewer than one percent of mainstream academic institutions have any faculty known for their interest in these frequently reported experiences. Why is a topic of enduring and widespread interest met with such resounding silence in academia? The answer is not due to a lack of scientific evidence, or even to a lack of scientific interest, but rather involves a taboo. I will discuss the nature of this taboo, some of the empirical evidence and critical responses, and speculate on the implications.

On January 19 I gave a talk at a conference entitled "Investigations of Consciousness and the Unseen World: Proof of an Afterlife?" I talked about the implications of psi, specifically telepathy, for the possibility of survival of bodily death. Other speakers included Loyd Auerbach on hauntings, Jim Tucker on reincarnation, Bruce Greyson on NDEs, Fred Alan Wolf on a possible relationship between survival of consciousness and the quantum field, Dianne Arcangel on afterlife encounters, Arthur Hastings on the psychomanteum, and Gary Schwartz and mediumship research. There were also demonstration readings by two well known mediums.

My impression of this conference was that the preponderance of the best available evidence suggests that something does persist after death. While the search for survival, as beautifully documented in Deborah Blum's book Ghost Hunters, has been muddied by fraudulent opportunists claiming to speak to the dead, after sifting through the good, bad and ugly evidence an evidential residue has remained that the best minds could not explain away. The same is true today. Much of today's evidence can probably be explained by one or more ordinary reasons. But not all of it. And the remaining bits, the best evidence, provide very interesting clues suggestive of survival.

It might be a disembodied "soul," or perhaps persistence of memory embedded in the environment in some unknown way, or an aspect of psi, etc. Exactly what it may be is not known, but in my opinion the likelihood of explaining the best evidence away as coincidence, or wishful thinking, or one or more cognitive biases, is exceedingly small.

Given the import of the mere possibility that something survives death, one might think that this would be a hot area of research. But as with research on psi in the living, there are perhaps 5 to 10 scientists in the world who are actively studying this topic. The limiting issue is funding, not interest.

One might think that purely out of curiosity the DoD might allocate say, 0.1% of their annual budget to study what happens after death, vs. the hundreds of billions a year spent each year on technologies designed to produce death: 99.9% devoted to the death machine, 0.1% to the follow-up question, then what? Seems reasonable to me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The levitating pillow

I often receive stories of psychic experiences. Occasionally I ask the poster if I may repost the story here. (I change names and identifying places upon request, as I did in this post.)

I enjoyed reading Entangled Minds, and I've been perusing older posts on your blog. I just read the "Entangled Artists" entry from May 22, 2006 - the coincidental similarity of Teka Luttrell's art and the Shift cover, and I want to share a similar story with you.

When I was around 18 (many years ago!), I discovered the music and lyrics of an artist who became a mentor of sorts to me, in that his music opened my mind to expanded consciousness and spirituality - and the beginning of psi experiences for me, which I'm certain is no coincidence! This person was then (still is) very spiritual, very creative, and living on the West Coast at the time. While I was in college, one night before I went to bed, I'd been focusing very intently on this mentor, meditating to his music with headphones, which put me into a much higher/altered state of consciousness. I was fairly "buzzing" to put it mildly, vibrating at a high frequency. That night I had a lucid dream that I sat up on the bed, held my hand over my pillow and made it levitate. It was so vivid, so real that after I (my body) woke up I wondered if I'd truly just levitated the pillow in my sleep (as in sleepwalking)! I'd never had any such levitation experience - I certainly had never tried levitation in waking life or had any interest in the concept - and I've never had any such experience since then. So I forgot about it.

About 15 years later, I was having dinner with a mutual friend/colleague of my mentor. This dinner partner brought up my mentor, and seemingly out of nowhere, he recalled how years ago this guy (my mentor) "was into levitating pillows." My face went positively ashen and I was trembling; my friend saw this and asked what was wrong. I asked him, "When was this?" He said it was in the late 1970s, around 78-79 - exactly the year in college I'd had my levitating pillow lucid dream! Back then (in college) I never knew my mentor had practiced/concentrated on levitating pillows as a hobby (also, being a very private, somewhat shy person, it's not something he would have broadcast or made public) and at that point I did not know anyone who knew him. I had never, ever in 15 years associated the "dream" of levitating the pillow with my mentor - but now it makes perfect sense. I'd been very "tuned in" to him prior to going to sleep; I have no way to prove it, but perhaps that very night while I was sleeping in my dorm room, my mentor was attempting to levitate a pillow (maybe he succeeded!).... It's just too bizarre, too specific to be a mere coincidence. I can see no other explanation for it - a case of entangled minds, some sort of quantum entanglement occurring. One thing's for certain, upon hearing this story, this dinner partner had no doubt at all that my mentor and I had some strange psychic connection.

Anyway, it took 15 years to connect the bizarre levitating pillow experience to my mentor, and another 10 years to understand the possible cause - it was worth the wait! I thought this story might be of interest to you and had to share.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why I'm not a skeptic

No, not why I'm not skeptical, or critical-minded, because those traits are essential in science. Rather, I don't consider myself a "skeptic," as in a card-carrying member of a skeptical society, because most (not all) of the people I know who belong to such societies are loud, arrogant, angry, and cynical. I prefer to spend time with people who are quiet, humble, calm and hopeful.

This came to mind after reading one of Steven Novella's blogs. In it he parrots skeptical mantras that are known to be wrong. I won't bother to address them here because they are addressed in detail in Entangled Minds. But I will respond to two comments. First:
"There is no proposed mechanism for ESP that amounts to a reductionist model based upon established physics or biology."

This is a peculiar complaint, because if we can only accept things in terms of what we already understand, then science is no longer an open system. It collapses into the worst sort of mindless dogma, and no genuinely new discoveries are possible. If you have any inclination to agree with Novella's comment, please read the history of science.

The second comment was:

"The lack of a possible or even hypothetical mechanism for ESP also means that ESP research is limited to anomaly hunting. All studies that propose to look for ESP (for example the research of Dean Radin or Rupert Sheldrake) are not looking for ESP (because no one knows what ESP is) but rather are looking for anomalies. In fact some researchers more honestly label what they are looking for as “anomalous cognition.”

I sometimes use the term anomalous cognition as a euphemism, mainly when I want to avoid freaking out academics. But psi research is absolutely not a "hunt for anomalies." Psi experiments are conducted to test, under rigorously controlled conditions, whether the experiences labeled telepathy, clairvoyance, etc., are what they appear to be (i.e. genuine ESP), or whether they are better understood as coincidence, delusion, or one or more cognitive biases. The anomaly label is valid only in the sense that verifiable effects are unexpected with respect to existing theories. But as I've mentioned above, to assume that nothing exists outside of what we already understand, especially when the effect is empirically and repeatable demonstrable (as some psi effects are), is exceedingly bad science.