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(03) Dean Radin - Thinking About Telepathy

(03) Dean Radin - Thinking About Telepathy

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Published by: Angel Kayn on Apr 22, 2008
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12/19/2011

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THINKING ABOUT TELEPATHYDean Radin
Dean Radin, laboratory director at The Institute of Noetic Sciences (California, USA), argues that te- lepathy is real, and suggests that quantum mechan- ics may ultimately provide an explanation of how it works.
I am more cheerful than the average existentialist, but I doagree with Nietzsche on one point: ‘There is no better sopo-rific and sedative than skepticism.’ It isn’t skepticism per sethat makes me feign narcolepsy, for critical thinking is un-questionably the core of the scientific method. Nor am Itroubled by the skeptic’s passion to educate the public aboutthe dangers of pseudoscience. I agree that an extensiveand vigorous education is essential in sustaining a rationalcivilization.However, I do have a problem with those who fail to appre-ciate that skepticism is a double-edged sword. That is,skepticism is valuable for slicing through excessive gullibil-ity, but it must also be used to cut through excessive doubt.On this basis, I question the wisdom of skeptical organiza-tions devoted solely to the promotion of cynicism, incredu-lity and suspicion. We are also in dire need of optimism,openness and acceptance.To demonstrate the unbalanced nature of extreme skeptic-ism, let’s consider the case of telepathy. Cynics wring theirhands, lamenting that the apocalypse is near because thegeneral public believes in extrasensory perception (ESP). Theyassume that this widespread belief is a sign of mass mentaldeterioration because science has declared ESP to be impos-sible. Why is it impossible? Because psychic phenomena vio-late unspecified Laws of Science, and therefore all claims aboutsuch events must be hopelessly flawed or fraudulent.I am not impressed by this argument because the historyof science is replete with confident proclamations about allsorts of impossible things, and most of those proclama-
 
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tions have proven to be hilariously or poignantly wrong. Un-fortunately, the authorities’ declarations do not merely pro-vide historical entertainment, they have also significantly im-peded scientific progress as very few scientists are willingto risk the wrath of the mainstream. As a result, in the edu-cated Western world we find ourselves in the bizarre stateof affairs where the mere study of certain common experi-ences is essentially forbidden. Of the approximately onethousand departments of mainstream academic psychol-ogy around the world, fewer than twenty have one or morefaculty members engaged in the serious study of psychicphenomena. In other words, less than 2% of mainstreampsychology departments have any interest in experiencesthat perpetually fascinate a solid majority of the general public.Of course, there are plenty of academic psychologistsinterested in
beliefs 
about psychic phenomena, becausethey assume that such beliefs are based upon scientificignorance. But is this assumption supported by actual data?In 2001, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) con-ducted a survey on the public understanding of science andtechnology. Among many questions, the NSF poll asked:‘Some people possess psychic powers or ESP. Do youstrongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree?’ Thesurveyors were shaken to discover that 60% of adults agreedwith the statement. This figure was used to demonstratethe deplorable state of science education, except that animportant qualification was ignored: When the respondentswere split by educational level, 46% with less than a highschool education agreed, but 62% with high school or greatereducation agreed. And of the “attentive public,” defined asthose indicating that they were “very interested” in the is-sue, ‘very well informed’ about it, and regularly read a dailynewspaper or relevant national magazine, 59% agreed.These percentages were confirmed by a recent Gallup poll,which also revealed that the high level of belief in psychicphenomena has been stable for many decades.
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Thus, incontrast to the skeptic’s ‘ignorance hypothesis’, those who
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are better educated and more informed about psychic phe-nomena believe in it more than those who are not.So there’s a paradox: On the one hand, we have persist-ent, cross-cultural reports of mystifying human experiences,and on the other, a scientific mainstream that actively ig-nores or dismisses such experiences. This paradox is im-portant because it raises serious questions about the solid-ity of our ontological house of cards.Let’s say Joe Public claims one day that he found himselfthinking about an old friend he hadn’t seen in 20 years. Afew hours later he literally bumps into that same friend andlearns, to his astonishment, that his friend was thinking abouthim at the same time. Sam Skeptic would dismiss Joe’sstory as the ranting of a crackpot. Even if a dozen appar-ently credible people made similar claims, Sam would writethem off as a wacky cult. But what must Sam think giventhat the majority of the world’s population presents similarclaims, including scientists who are well aware of the math-ematics of coincidences and the frailties of human judgmentand memory?At this point many skeptics object that a large number ofpeople also believe in angels, so should we accept angelsas real? The answer is no. Majority beliefs may indicate thatsomething is worth studying, but it does not provide the samedegree of ontological authenticity as well-established scien-tific theories or experimental evidence. This is why psychicexperiences, and telepathy in particular, are more interest-ing to me than beliefs about angels.I have little doubt that the scientific worldview will eventu-ally expand to comfortably accommodate those experienceswe now call psychic. We’ll need a view of nature that pro-vides a solid theoretical basis for why some things, some-times, are more interconnected through space and time thanare accounted for by classical models of the world. We’llneed a science in which the most recalcitrant curmudgeonsagree that such ‘nonlocal’ correlations are a well-establishedingredient of established physics.

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