Response to a critique on Amazon reviews

A reviewer named "Short Dog" provides a two-star review of Entangled Minds. I'll intersperse my responses in blue; the review is in black:

"I hate to rain on the party of previous reviewers who gave positive comments but I do not recommend this book. For starters, the book falls under the same spell that trapped a long list of other, prior books that attempted (unsuccesfully, mind you) to make a connection between quantum mechanics and parapsychology. Talk about moth to the flame. There's nothing really new here. The mistake they make is to use one mystery, quantum mechanics, to explain another, ie, psi."

I address this in the book's Introduction: "Some may object that linking the elegance of quantum theory to the spookiness of psychic phenomena is illegitimate, that it’s a mistake to claim a connection exists simply because these two domains are permeated with uncanny effects. This objection is certainly understandable. Quantum theory is a mathematically precise and exquisitely well-tested description of the observable world. Psychic phenomena are slippery, subjective events with a checkered past. But as it turns out, the fabric of reality suggested by quantum theory and the observations associated with psychic phenomena bear striking resemblances. They are eerily weird in precisely the right way to suggest a meaningful relationship."

Later I add: "... the connection proposed here is not trivial. As physicist Henry Stapp explains, 'Quantum approaches to consciousness are sometimes said to be motivated simply by the idea that quantum theory is a mystery and consciousness is a mystery, so perhaps the two are related. That opinion betrays a profound misunderstanding of the nature of quantum mechanics, which consists fundamentally of a pragmatic scientific solution to the problem of the connection between mind and matter.' "

Why isn't this fallacy obvious? No one has been able to account for QM in nearly 100 years other than to offer various interpretations and say "It works." Well, it does. And thank heavens. But how does the unexplained explain psi? Throw me a lifeline. Between 1932 and 1958 Jung and Pauli went down this path and if anybody could do it, they were the ones. But nothing productive came from such a collaboration.

That's not entirely true. Jung's concept of synchronicity came out of their collaboration. In addition, it's useful to keep in mind that when Pauli and Jung were discussing this topic, the concept of nonlocality was an abstract mathematical curiosity. No one even knew if the idea was testable. Today we know that nonlocal effects like entanglement are indeed real, which leads to a radically new ontological view of reality. That new ontology is the lifeline, as I discuss in the "New Reality" chapter. This isn't a concept that is easily graspable. It takes time to seriously ponder what it means to live in a holistic reality.

Secondly, Entangled Minds does not say how to go from micro-scale QM to psi which operates, seemingly, on the macro-scale. This objection is so well known and has been repeated so often, it hardly barely mentioning. Koestler pointed out this problem 34 years ago in his little book, The Roots of Conicidence. In fact, many of the same points in Extangled Minds are covered by Koestler except the latter said what he had to say in 150 pages instead of 350 pages.

This is a common mistake. Entanglement is not limited to the microscale. Photons 50 km apart can show nonlocal connections, clearly demonstrating macroscale effects. I discuss others examples of macroscopic entanglement in the Introduction chapter. Also, how big is human experience? As I discuss in the Theory chapter, there are several proposals being floated about the mind-QM link. Most of these proposals assume that quantum-level tweaks in the brain are sufficient to influence cascades of neural activity that correspond to subjective experience. Thus elementary QM effects might be sufficient to account for psi experiments. Such ideas were purely speculative in Koestler's day. Today there are theoretical descriptions that are fleshing out models that make past speculations physically plausible.

Which brings up another problem: the middle third of Entangled Minds throws in all these data and charts and statistics and whatnot. Who is the audience? What are we trying to prove? Koestler noted this is the main challenge for the entire field of parapsychology: it keeps trying to convince us that psi is real, or rather the study of it is legitimate. Yet the data clearly shows the public at large is with psi. We accept it. Even mainstream science has grudgingly admitted there's something there. See Broughton's Parapsychology: The Controversial Science.

I wish it were true that psi is accepted by the scientific mainstream. It isn't. If it were, there'd be more than a few handfuls of doctorate-level researchers working in this field. Yes, many scientists who are aware of the data have become favorably inclined to accept that the effects are what they appear to be, and this trend is likely to continue because of books like Entangled Minds. I expect that the audience is also non-scientists interested in learning that their experiences have been verified in scientific experiments, and that rational ways of explaining them are slowly evolving.

Finally, the last section of Entangled Minds, the section I was most interested in, doesn't really say clearly what is an "entangled mind." It doesn't give predictions or testable claims. All he offers are a lot of speculations that leave me feeling, well, entangled.

All I can say is that the reviewer should read Chapter 13 again, more slowly. That chapter goes into detail about the meaning of "entangled minds," and it does provide both predictions and testable claims. Anticipating such generic complaints, I wrote: "The implications of all this for understanding psi are sufficiently remote from engrained ways of thinking that the first reaction will be confidence that it’s wrong. The second will be horror that it might be right. The third will be boredom because it’s obvious." This reader has apparently not advanced to stage two yet.


Anonymous said…

Allthough I mostly agree with what you say Dean, I also understand som of Short Dogs' objections. Maybe he just don't want to get reduced to some quantum mechanical phenomena? The way I was taught QM when studing physics was the purely mathematical approach(the more common held view, also known as "shut up an calculate"). This approach doesn't care much for the philosophical consequences. And it surely doesn't take into account intention and attention (as you pointed out in your first book). If you view QM from that side, you might not think that QM can contribute to the basic experience of being human. If you on the other hand know about views like the ones from Brian Josephson, Amit Goswami, and others along the same line, you might start to see things differently.

Dean Radin said…
True. Most scientists-in-training are not exposed to the history, sociology and philosophy of science, so their perspective on what they think they're studying tends to be both narrow and naive.
Dean Radin said…
I haven't seen the article mentioned by Mark, but generally I don't find it worth my time to respond to anything that appears in the Skeptical Inquirer, which I regard as roughly equivalent in content to the National Enquirer.

I do pay attention to articles published in peer reviewed professional journals, and I've coauthored responses to two such critiques of the RNG studies in the past six months.
M.C. said…
The problem is, anyone can read articles in the Skeptical Inquirer, while only a few people are able to read most academic journals. The subscriptions are cost-prohibitive for anyone without an academic or industry sponsor.

In the battle to establish the credibility of psi phenomena, a study that is only published in the Journal of Parapsychology is going to be far less effective than an article that anyone can link to and read on the internet. Kudos to the JSE for opening up some of their past issues on the web. I think all parapsychology research (and scientific research generally) ought to be made available on that basis.

Ultimately research funding, job prospects and the like all depend on the informed public's recognition that psi research is professionally conducted, addresses legitimate skeptical objections, and clearly indicates that the phenomena is real. Books like the Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds clearly help advance that goal a great deal, but having the research generally available would be an added benefit here.

P.S. Looking forward to my copy of Entangled Minds arriving soon from Amazon. . .
Dean Radin said…
The articles I referred to will appear in upcoming issues of the Journal of Scientific Exploration and Psychological Bulletin. I'm not sure how long it might take before copies of these articles are available for free. JSE generally makes articles available eventually, but not Psychological Bulletin. While in an ideal world all scientific work would be freely and immediately available to all, in the real world this is just not possible.
Dean Radin said…
I've found that many who proudly identify with the label "skeptic," who believe that CSICOP is a scientific organization, and who believe SI is a scholarly journal, have no interest in genuine debate. Because of the confirmation bias, barring something undeniably dramatic like UFOs landing on the White House lawn, nothing can penetrate that level of congealed prejudice. It is a waste of time to try.
Dean Radin said…
... persuasion, marketing, advertising and propaganda ...

It boils down to how much time and energy one is willing to devote to such activities. I've learned that those who are genuinely interested in this topic, like you, do their homework. And once done, they learn that the world is far more complex and interesting than SI would have you believe.

For those who don't care to do their homework, well, they get an F in critical thinking and are justifiably called pseudoskeptics.

I believe I've done my part by writing articles and books. People are free to read or ignore them as they will.
M.C. said…
Just started to read it. Opened up and looked at some of the presentiment studies. Very cool!
Dean Radin said…
Don writes: Entangled Minds, for example, relies on quantum theory for its application to certain psi phenomena. It therefore relies on physical operations in the brain to produce psi.

No. I maintain that psi is not literally produced by brain activity, but rather psi experiences, which are correlated with brain activity, reflect the entangled medium in which we live. That medium includes the brain, but the mind extends beyond the brain. The reason I discuss quantum brain/mind in the book is because this helps fill in the explanatory gap from physics to psychology. But the essence of Entangled Minds goes far beyond psi as mere brain-stuff.

However, the notion of entanglement does not explain (or describe)the psi prehensions experienced by mediums in communicating with discarnate individuals. Since discarnates lack physical brains, this is a significant failure of the "entangled minds" proposition.

This assumes that discarnates exist and have minds that mediums can "read." The problem with this assumption, which I assume is based on the evidence from mediumship (some of which is quite good), is that it can be interpretated in other ways. And in my view the "discarnate mind" hypothesis is not the most plausible interpretation. The history of mediumship recognized from the very beginning that what mediums do can be described either as a form of telepathy among the living, or as clairvoyance, or a combination of the two. "Ordinary" clairvoyance, of which there is substantial evidence, means we (the living) have access to information located anywhere in space or time. Thus a medium need not gain information from discarnates to provide verifable information that a client isn't aware of at the time of the sitting.

But even if there were discarnate minds, because the entangled minds idea is not brain-centric, there is no reason why one extended (incarnate) mind could not meaningfully interact with another (discarnate) mind. The proposed span of entanglement is not just between brains, but with the universe at large.
Dean Radin said…
Hi Don,
You write, More significantly, it predicts what no other scientific theory does: Life itself. Briefly, TES’s prediction of life and consciousness centers on the SELF–acronymed from Singular, Enformed, Living Field....

I have many other comments about TES, but to begin with, the statement that a "living field" predicts life sounds tautological to me.

If mind is a process, and entanglement modifies physical entities, then entangled is debased. That is, processes are not like photons.

I'm not sure what you mean by "debased" here. From the quantum viewpoint, a photon actually can be considered a relational or informational process, rather than a "thing" in the particulate sense. Wheeler's "it from bit" concept is based on this idea.
Anonymous said…

Please respond to Don Watson's last posting. I am interested to hear your thoughts.
Adri said…
I am new to the idea of entanglement. Maybe you can help me better understand the core concept and message of the book. What I gathered from it all is that everything is connected and what we easily dismiss as coincidence has a deeper meaning and connection to us than what we thought. Our daily experiences are intertwined with the universe and everything in it. This is just what I gathered if there is more please tell me. I really enjoyed the book and now I am trying to relate the concepts to my life.
Dean Radin said…
What I gathered from it all is that everything is connected and what we easily dismiss as coincidence has a deeper meaning and connection to us than what we thought. Our daily experiences are intertwined with the universe and everything in it.

That's essentially it, but rather than taking the concept of interconnectedness on faith, or as a mere story, or as a hand-waving metaphor, science (mainly physics) has revealed that this basic idea, fundamental to the description of mystical experiences throughout history, is real, it's compatible with our theoretical understanding of the deep fabric of reality, and it has been strongly confirmed in the laboratory.

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