Saturday, March 03, 2007

Extraordinary Knowing

This is a new book by U Cal Berkeley clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, the late Lisby (as she was known by her friends) Mayer. I highly recommend it. It describes her journey of discovery, from a skeptic who held the common academic opinion that psychic phenomena are delusional fantasies, to a reluctant but solidly reasoned acceptance that these phenomena are both genuine and important.

Lisby was the best kind of skeptic - she was solidly rational and well grounded, and as a clinician she specialized in discerning the many ways that we fool ourselves and each other. She was very skeptical of claims of "extraordinary" experiences, and yet driven by her own, undeniable experiences, and those of other people she trusted, she became determined to find out what was going on. Lisby systematically surveyed the literature, personally interviewed many of the principal researchers, and eventually concluded that while we still do not have solid explanations for these things, the phenomena are indeed real.

She was then forced to consider why these phenomena remain marginalized within science, especially given that substantial scientific evidence is available for anyone who cares to look for it. I found her conclusions most interesting because she tackled this puzzle from the eye of a trained psychoanalyst.

45 comments:

Mark Szlazak said...

Dean would you be kind enough to briefly present her conclusions as to why there is all this so-called skepticism to psi given all the good evidence.

Tor said...

I'm currently reading "The PK man" by Jeffrey Mishlove, maybe I'll have to buy this one too.

It is funny how hard it is, when one is trained as an academic, to take the final step and really consider the scientific reality of paranormal phenomena. I have always considered myself an open minded person, but it still took med more than 6 months to decide if I was to buy "The Conscious Universe".
Not that I was churning this around in my mind every day, but I didn't know the field then. I didn't know which authors to trust, and the internet, the only tool I had, was not the best place to look for author descriptions (as we all know it is infested with pseudo skeptical propaganda, that are quite hostile to frontier scientists). When I read "The Conscious Universe" I was suprised (and exited) to find good science.
Having used a fair ammount of time on the subject since then, I now know that the field is filled with respectable scientists.

It's frustrating know that the information is there, but still hard to uncover. One really has to be more than mildly interested to discover it, to dig deep enough that is. I just hope that the media will become more interested in this soon. I believe (if done right) they can change views in a relatively short time.

Dean Radin said...

Mark Szlazak asked...
Dean would you be kind enough to briefly present her conclusions ...

One was that scientists are not merely annoyed by ideas that challenge previously accepted views of reality, but rather they are deeply frightened of them. Our sense of what is real, that unconscious worldview we create from our experiences, training and temperament, must remain stable at all costs. Otherwise we become like a deer in the headlights and can teeter on the edge of insanity. This fear drives both religious and areligious types into believing that psi is the work of the devil.

As I've commented before on this blog, even some supposedly rational atheists go berserk when they encounter scientific evidence that psi might be real.

A second reason offered by Lisby is that we tend to perceive reality as foreground only (objects), and we forget that the foreground is always "held" in, or within the context of, a background. She uses ambiguous figures, like the famous image showing a pair of vases or a silhouette of two faces, depending on how you look at it. Ordinary knowing is looking at only one aspect of the image, while other forms of knowing, like psi, requires shifting into the other aspect. For those who cannot see the other image, they will consider you crazy for telling them to shift their perspective.

Another good analogy is the "magic eye" images, in which if you look in just the right way, you'll see a 3D image pop out of the otherwise flat surface. Some people find it very difficult to see these 3D images, so all this talk about other ways of seeing is sheer nonsense to them. They will secretly regard anyone who says that they see the 3D images as crazy, until one day when they see it for themselves.

There is more, but this will do for now.

Dean Radin said...

Tor said...
It is funny how hard it is, when one is trained as an academic, to take the final step and really consider the scientific reality of paranormal phenomena.

That's why I like Lisby's book. It traces her struggle with the same issue, but from the perspective of someone who was more in touch with our unconscious urges and filters than most people are.

I'm often asked by people how to become better trained in psychic awareness, and I usually respond that for most people this wouldn't be a very good goal. It really can be destablizing to seriously consider the holistic medium that we swim in, even for people who are well grounded. Direct experience of this holism pushes hard against what evolution has shaped us into becoming: sentient objects who are adept at sustaining the fantasy that we are separate from the rest of the universe. All scientists (who've bothered to think about it) know that the universe is one unified "object," and that everything interacts with everything else. But we can't think about it in this way for long otherwise bills aren't paid, bodies are not fed, etc.

Difficulty in dealing with this persistent tension -- separate objects or unifed whole -- has driven some formerly absolute believers I know into absolute naysayers and deniers. And vice versa. I prefer to dance in the middle, without collapsing into one or the other viewpoint. This dynamic balancing act is the price one pays if one wishes to do science on the razor's edge.

Tor said...

Dean Radin said:
Difficulty in dealing with this persistent tension -- separate objects or unifed whole -- has driven some formerly absolute believers I know into absolute naysayers and deniers. And vice versa. I prefer to dance in the middle, without collapsing into one or the other viewpoint.

Yes, I have to admit I find this painful at times, but I've chosen to do the dance too. I tried to unify it all, but eventually decided that the intellectual part of my mind (the part that must have the "right" answer) only makes things worse. I must always remind myself that the most basic scientific concepts that I know are postulates, creations of human imagination.
I've come to the conclusion that there are but one truth, but many perspectives, and that it's wise to get some distance to get an overall view.

Btw, I just listend to your most recent C2C podcast/interview. I find your recent experiments involving intention imprinting facinating. I've also heard of many of the concepts before through my practice of qigong.

Through my own ongoing experience I have become convinced of some kind of subtle energy field effect, at least as it relates to my particular school of qigong (what I've come to know as a qi-field).

I guess there is no substitute for direct experience, but to know that science is actually being done on this and similar phenomenon, and positive results are being produced, just confirms the reality of what I've felt myself. And that is always a nice thing.

Book Surgeon said...

Tor, are you familiar with this work:

http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~sai/DrYan_qi.htm

Mark Szlazak said...

Isn't Lisby exaggerating things quite a bit. Scientists are deeply frightened of challenges to previously accepted views! Well that can't be all scientists since some of them make these challenges. Examples like Galileo, Newton, Wigner(sp? continental drift) and Einstein come to mind.

Her second reason about scientists forgetting that the background holds the foreground is also nonsense. They take background very seriously otherwise we would have German physics, American physics, Japanese chemistry, Chinese chemistry, Creationist evolution, Darwinian evolution, etc. Science tries to be as general and least contingent as possible and it can only accomplish this by being very aware of background and how backgrounds can bias things. In fact, it is science that exposes and studies these things.

It really can be destablizing to seriously consider the holistic medium that we swim in, even for people who are well grounded...

All scientists (who've bothered to think about it) know that the universe is one unified "object," and that everything interacts with everything else. But we can't think about it in this way for long otherwise bills aren't paid, bodies are not fed, etc.


Dean, I don't see way this is the case??

Something seems to have gone wrong with her analysis.

Dean Radin said...

Mark Szlazak said...
Scientists are deeply frightened of challenges to previously accepted views!... Galileo, Newton, Wigner(sp? continental drift) and Einstein come to mind.

The people you mention were all considered heretics for challenging the status quo. Fortunately, not all scientists shy away from radically new ideas, otherwise we'd never see any progress. But most science is involved in minor tweaks to the already known. Only a tiny proportion of scientists will ever challenge the status quo.

Her second reason about scientists forgetting that the background holds the foreground is also nonsense. They take background very seriously otherwise we would have German physics, American physics, Japanese chemistry, Chinese chemistry ...

Perhaps I didn't explain this well enough. She wasn't talking about background as in history, but rather foreground/background as in how we perceive reality. If e.g. one focuses only on factor X in context Y, after a while the existence of Y will be forgotten, even though X wouldn't even exist as such without Y. In the case of psi, Lisby was pointing out that science's exclusive focus on rational, causal, and mechanistic explanations first obscures, and then denies, that there are other ways of perceiving the world.

All scientists ... know that the universe is one unified "object," and that everything interacts with everything else. But we can't think about it in this way ...

Dean, I don't see way this is the case??


Science and society has taken for granted that the fabric of reality is composed of separate objects. In human affairs this has led to an emphasis on, for example, individual responsibility. To behave as though everything really is interconnected, including minds and intentions, and that responsibility too is distributed, is regarded as ridiculous (or illegal in some cases). And yet, the notion of interconnection does not arise as a reflection of political or religious ideologies. It is fact as best as we can tell (from ecology to QM).

The bottom line is that in modern society we are compelled to live our lives according to rules that are fundamentally different from the rules that hold together the fabric of reality. Perhaps this schitzophrenic split doesn't matter and society can live perfectly well by "classical" rules. But I don't think so.

To see why, I recommend viewing a documentary entitled "The Corporation." It does a good job explaining why many multinational corporations, which are regarded as "persons" according to the law, are sociopaths. We don't often think of Coke, MacDonalds, or Walmart as belong to the same class as serial killers, but when some corporate decisions are viewed from the perspective of what an individual might do, that's how they behave.

Disclaimer: Obviously not all decisions made by all corporations are pathological. A growing number of corporations are at least giving lip service to e.g. environmentalism (because that's what consumers want, not because it's the right thing to do). But a distressingly large proportion of the world's resources are controlled -- beyond the regulatory control of any government -- by a relatively small number of companies run by an even smaller number of individuals.

Tor said...

Book Surgeon said:
Tor, are you familiar with this work:
http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~sai/DrYan_qi.htm


Yes, I have read about Dr. Yan and the research done on/by him, but I’m no expert on it.
I'm not quite sure what to think though. It may be that he is for real, but he seems to be the first author of many of the recent publications on his skills. When someone is listed as the first author, it means he/she is the main author. I would be less skeptical if he wasn’t the first author.
There is also an article published in the Journal of Scientific exploration (Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 381–411, 2002). There are many authors, but he is listed first here to. It is well written though. It may be that the chinese have another way of assigning authors in articles? Maybe Dean Radin has a comment on this?

I feel the review article, by Kevin Chen on qigong research in China, gives a better overview (For those interested, it can be found as: "An Analytic Review of Studies on Measuring Effects of External Qi in Chi", Alternative Therapies. July/Aug 2004, VOL. 10. No.4.).

Tor said...

After listening to the recent C2C podcast you did Dr. Radin, I've been thinking a bit about quantum mechanics.

We now know that intention and attention are important factors in psi performance. We also know that precognition exists (even when the future is decided by single quantum events, as done in some RV experiments).

To my mind, this should weed out some of the interpretations of QM and favour others. The most extreme version of Many Worlds would have to go down the drain, along with other interpretations where the universe is perceived as totally mindless and random (in the versions of MW I have heard of, precognition should be impossible, especially when single quantum events are involved. MW also seems to be constructed as a way to avoid involving consciousness). We should end up with an interpretation that is compatible with psi data. But I’m not sure there exists any (apart maybe from something along the lines of Amit Goswami’s ideas). Any thoughts?

joki said...

Dr. Radin have you ever listen to Susan Blackmore on sceptico.com. She is convinced that there are no paranormal phenomena and that there is no life after death. She thinks that consciousness is purely based on the brain.

Mark Szlazak said...

Dean, I'm not talking about history in the sense of who discovered something first. I'm talking about the theory-laden-observation. There is no culturally-laden French physics currently competing with an English physics. There is just physics. Thomas Kuhn made us all aware that challenges to the status quo are tough in science and there is a theory-laden aspect to observation.

What kind of evidence does she give to support her idea that science focuses on the X (foreground) and forgets X's supporting Y (background). I don't believe science does this in general but if she means just for psi phenomena then I don't agree. I believe the background is exactly what's missing in psi, there is no theory to explain psi, it's all foreground data. Also, what kind of "explanations" does she want if not rational or causal explanations? Isn't explanation suppose to be rational or causal otherwise it's not an explanation?

Finally, should an interconnected reality be disturbing? I guess that depends on the nature of the connections. Say some are weak and for all practical purposes can be ignored. This then lets us treat their objects as being separate. Say they are strong then we maybe able to think through their consequences. It's defeatist to think we can't for whatever reason.

Dean Radin said...

Mark said ... I believe the background is exactly what's missing in psi, there is no theory to explain psi, it's all foreground data.

Background (as I interpret what Lisby meant) is related to theory-laden perception. What we focus on determines the questions we ask, the explanations we seek, and forms of those explanations.

Also, what kind of "explanations" does she want if not rational or causal explanations? Isn't explanation suppose to be rational or causal otherwise it's not an explanation?

That's a reasonable assumption, but it presumes that everything can be understood in rational and causal terms. What about purely correlation relationships where there are no clear causes (which includes practically everything in medicine, economy, psychology, etc.), or about emotional or intuitive ways of knowing? Some might claim that even these epistemologies can ultimately be explained in objective, causal ways. This is an underlying assumption in the neurosciences. I am far less enthusiastic about how far we'll be able to progress in understanding consciousness with that as the only assumption. In particular, based on the evidence for psi, I disagree with Susan Blackmore and others who have adopted the strong neuroscience assumption "that consciousness is purely based on the brain."

Finally, should an interconnected reality be disturbing?

It doesn't bother me. But we're talking about emotional responses to a perceived loss of privacy, and to the prospect of having to change long-held beliefs about the nature of reality. For many people, contemplating such fundamental worldview revisions are regarded as serious threats. The anger often expressed in, e.g., online skeptics forums, reflects what happens emotionally when one is presented with claims that conflict with what one believes to be true.

Book Surgeon said...

Dean, we seem to come back to this question of brain as generator versus brain as receiver, obviously because it's a fascinating and important subject. But can you enlighten us as to any evidence that exists to support the idea of brain as receiver or transceiver? I know of F.W.H. Myers' theory, but is there any demonstrated evidence other than the inferential evidence of things like psi and distant healing? Thanks.

Mark Szlazak said...

That's a reasonable assumption, but it presumes that everything can be understood in rational and causal terms.

I don't see it as a reasonable assumption but more as a requirement of explanation. Otherwise, things become to us irrational and unknowable

What about purely correlation relationships where there are no clear causes (which includes practically everything in medicine, economy, psychology, etc.), or about emotional or intuitive ways of knowing?

I don't see the point. Because we haven't yet found clear causes doesn't mean there aren't any to be found.

Tor said...

Dean Radin said:
I am far less enthusiastic about how far we'll be able to progress in understanding consciousness with that as the only assumption. In particular, based on the evidence for psi, I disagree with Susan Blackmore and others who have adopted the strong neuroscience assumption "that consciousness is purely based on the brain."


It's funny (and a bit weird) that some uses their mind to argue that their own mind and consciousness don't exist. Then they go around trying to convince everyone else that their minds are illusions too.

I don't think I'll ever understand the logic behind that. Anyway, for someone that don't exist, they are awfully persistent.

Tor said...

Mark Szlazak said:
I don't see the point. Because we haven't yet found clear causes doesn't mean there aren't any to be found.

If you keep on thinking along those lines you will eventually end up with the final bottom questions:

What is the ultimate cause?
Why does anything exist at all?

From a purely scientific perspective, nobody knows, and probably never will. But as Dr. Radin said, there are other ways of knowing. In fact, much of our finest science have come from just those other ways of knowing. This is often left out when people reflect on scientific discoveries.

Phronk said...

should an interconnected reality be disturbing?

Personally, I find the idea very disturbing. Practically, there is the loss of privacy, the possibility of misuse of psi, etc. On a scientific level, the existence of psi casts doubt on many past findings. I'm in psychology, and if psi exists, even as only the small but real effect that parapsychologists have studied, I have to wonder how many research findings in psychology have been the result of psi-fueled experimenter effects.

These are just a few examples. But the thing is, a true scientist should not confuse "ought" with "is". The emotional feelings that accompany a finding should have no bearing on whether it is taken seriously or not. However, it's clear that many people are unable to disentangle what is true from what they want to be true.

I hope I can do that...but I can also understand why some people do find the idea of an interconnected reality frightening.

Dean Radin said...

Mark Szlazak said...
I don't see it as a reasonable assumption but more as a requirement of explanation. Otherwise, things become to us irrational and unknowable.

This is a debatable epistemological assumption. It is difficult to imagine non-rational, acausal events, and yet such things do apparently "happen." Jung called them synchronicities, and they may be related to psi. For example, intuitive insights are not rational in the sense that they are not "figured out" through rational means. Mozart didn't use reason to create his musical compositions. Even the very notion of cause is more complex than we usually imagine because we only observe correlations; we infer causes. These and many other reasons lead me to suspect that the world cannot be fully explained solely through rational, causal means. What else is there? That's left to be discovered.

I don't see the point. Because we haven't yet found clear causes doesn't mean there aren't any to be found.

True, but in richly interconnected open systems (e.g., the human body, the world, the universe?) everything is to some extent the cause of everything else. We can make causal models that attempt to describe the behavior of these systems, but such models are highly simplistic. Consider global weather forecasting, which applies the fastest supercomputers and most sophisticated models with thousands of variables. And yet we still can't predict if it will rain next week.

I can imagine a future where causal models are based on millions of interacting variables and involve recursive causal loops.
Then we may be able to accurately predict say, the weather, as far in the future as we wish. But by then I think the mechanistic idea of causes acting like gears in a clock will no longer be a useful metaphor.

Dean Radin said...

Book Surgeon said...
Dean, we seem to come back to this question of brain as generator versus brain as receiver ... is there any demonstrated evidence other than the inferential evidence of things like psi and distant healing?

The book Irreducible Mind goes into this in some detail.

From the book description:
"Current mainstream opinion in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of mind holds that all aspects of human mind and consciousness are generated by physical processes occurring in brains. Views of this sort have dominated recent scholarly publication. The present volume, however, demonstrates--empirically--that this reductive materialism is not only incomplete but false. The authors systematically marshal evidence for a variety of psychological phenomena that are extremely difficult, and in some cases clearly impossible, to account for in conventional physicalist terms. Topics addressed include phenomena of extreme psychophysical influence, memory, psychological automatisms and secondary personality, near-death experiences and allied phenomena, genius-level creativity, and 'mystical' states of consciousness both spontaneous and drug-induced. The authors further show that these rogue phenomena are more readily accommodated by an alternative 'transmission' or 'filter' theory of mind/brain relations advanced over a century ago by a largely forgotten genius, F. W. H. Myers, and developed further by his friend and colleague William James. This theory, moreover, ratifies the commonsense conception of human beings as causally effective conscious agents, and is fully compatible with leading-edge physics and neuroscience. The book should command the attention of all open-minded persons concerned with the still-unsolved mysteries of the mind."

Book Surgeon said...

Thank you, and I'm currently working my way through "Irreducible Mind," which at 800 pages for a non-psychologist is a climb. But it's fascinating. I guess I was looking for insight into theories into how the mind-as-transceiver fight function, but I do know that the "Irreducible Mind" authors have said their next book is about just that, so I'll be patient.

I'm also partway through "Extraordinary Knowing," and it's a fantastic read. I did not have an idea that so many thousands of trained, supposedly skepical scientists had had such anomalous experiences. It's a terrific book and a real eye-opener, a wonderful legacy for Dr. Mayer.

Mark Szlazak said...

This is a debatable epistemological assumption. It is difficult to imagine non-rational, acausal events, and yet such things do apparently "happen." Jung called them synchronicities, and they may be related to psi. For example, intuitive insights are not rational in the sense that they are not "figured out" through rational means. Mozart didn't use reason to create his musical compositions. Even the very notion of cause is more complex than we usually imagine because we only observe correlations; we infer causes. These and many other reasons lead me to suspect that the world cannot be fully explained solely through rational, causal means. What else is there? That's left to be discovered.

Debatable by who?! I'm sorry Dean but if these non-rational, acausal things really exist then we can say nothing about them. They are beyond thought, there is no knowing, so there is no explanation by definition and there is no debate. If you don't like the way I'm using knowing then replace that word with explanation.

True, but in richly interconnected open systems (e.g., the human body, the world, the universe?) everything is to some extent the cause of everything else. We can make causal models that attempt to describe the behavior of these systems, but such models are highly simplistic. Consider global weather forecasting, which applies the fastest supercomputers and most sophisticated models with thousands of variables. And yet we still can't predict if it will rain next week.


OK but so what?

Mary said...

My strange story may interest you

I used to be extra rational (actually maybe I am even more rational now; what I mean by rational is “being dogmatic in rational paradigms”).
It was not that I did not get to think about God, religion, psi etc: I thought about them a lot but given the information sources I had, what I saw as naïve faith in old beliefs and the big proposition of fraud and corruption I was repelled not only by religion but also all-not rationally explained things.

But something happened to me…something so strange…And What it did to me was not creating a belief about God or religion or thing like that but mostly the wrongness (incompleteness) of our science.

To be very brief about my experience:
I started meditating and thinking a lot, I was not following any specific philosophy for doing this. It was rather to enhance my concentration on my work. But also I was thinking about moral and ethical questions. I wanted to understand the rationale behind my feelings and find a way to reduce my internal conflicts…
Anyway, I slowly noticed that I was seeing quite differently. What I mean by seeing is not “understanding” but literally the vision: I was seeing three dimensions in a very precise way and up to the end of horizon, then I also started hearing differently for example when I was outside and I had my headphones to listen to music I started hearing the cars as well but it was not the case before and it is still not the case when I was inside. As if my brain was enhanced and when I needed to hear cars it would manage to get and process the information.

At first the change was progressive but as an exponential function it increased very fast and after a month seemed like a jump.

I also had episodes of high anxiety and episodes of very low mood. I also started feeling that I think in a much original way and my research started getting to results my faster and much easier that what I expected. I started having strange dreams as well, now I can qualify them as “archetypal” dreams and also I had information about daily events from my dreams.

The process continued after a month I believe it was the pick of it: I could not sleep the night at all, around 4 a.m. I fell asleep but I woke up at 6. a.m. When I opened my eyes I could not believe what I was seeing: The pictures I had on the wall seemed to me so strange; the color differentiation was so high that I could not believe it. As if what I was seeing so far was by an old TV from 1970s and now I had a plasma-high resolution TV.
Out of excitement I went out to a park near my house: my vision was as I said incredible from the color differentiation point of view as well as 3 dimensions. But that was not the end of it: people were walking their dogs...as usual. But things went differently for me: all dogs were running to me showing a lot of affection and as if I am their forever master. I was frightened to death as you can imagine: all my belief system was destroyed…I could not believe my eyes.


This event was a year ago since then things quite similar: I see and hear very differently. I have a very high intuition about not only daily events (who will call etc) but also in my research and writings. Animals are also very friendly to me. I am still surprised how I survived the shock caused by the destruction of all my belief system. I learnt not to feel anybody about it since it does not help: nobody understands.

Well as you can imagine I was very frightened since I did not expect that and also I did not believe in that. It was only afterward that I started reading Jung, parapsychology, neuroscience etc.

Since then my fundamental principle became the following: open your mind. So I refused to accept any “existent” interpretation for the event. Because I want to have an open mind and that implies not to choose from multiple choice of already created paradigms. I want to see it as it is without prejudice and preferred prior.

I do not want to fall from rationality paradigm into another. But a number of things are proved to me: the scientific picture we have from the universe is very partial but also the spiritual-type interpretations are also not general and objective enough: I say this because given my experience and the deep thinking I put into it I do not think that there is an automatic relationship between “mental enhancement” and morality, though they can be correlated given some other factor.
It may be interesting to see that a month before the start of the process I wrote the following poem:


I know you just remember my silken hair
Because I left early, I couldn’t stay there

I had to go, it was the time to say goodbye,
A long road, from trivial worms to the truth of butterfly

And I had to run, to the limits of vineyard
I had to make it to the sweet little wizard

Then I climbed to the castle of forgotten bride
It was well contrived, with its doors all locked

But I pricked a little hole in the wall
And I saw it all.

I cannot recall how long I stayed
My memory is lost in that eternal shade

“You didn’t recognize me, when I came back
Although I tinted my hair again, all black.”


When I wrote it I was as much into psi as Richard Dawkins!
You can contact me a : esdilmary@gmail.com

Dave said...

Apologies for philosophical digression.

mark said:

"...if these non-rational, acausal things really exist then we can say nothing about them. They are beyond thought, there is no knowing, so there is no explanation by definition and there is no debate."

I wouldn't be too sure Mark!

Your assertion that we can say nothing about an existence that is acausal, non-pysical or non-relational is a common argument against such an existence, but I see it as an argument that may be dependent on an incomplete understanding of causal, physical or relational concepts.

This may be subtly off topic to what Dean was talking about, but I think the main assumption that your comment addresses is whether any physically defined process refers to an ontological reality that is purely relational.

I am uneducated in philosophy, but I think the clue is here: physical definitions consist of relationships. But, relationships between what single entities or things? It doesn't seem to matter! All that matters to a physical definition is the relationships. But surely there must be "something" there that the relationships are between? Perhaps this is where non-physical, non-relational, acausal reality has its place.

My main point is that your assumption that acausal reality is beyond thought is debatable. Indeed, we apparently can talk about non-relational aspects of reality such as the redness of red, so this indicates to me that debate on these assuptions is necessary.

I would recommend reading some David Chalmers for more qualified views. Perhaps you already have.

Dean Radin said...

Mark Szlazak said...
Isn't Lisby exaggerating things quite a bit. Scientists are deeply frightened of challenges to previously accepted views!

Another take on this isue is this: Of the approximately 17,500 institutions of higher learning worldwide, fewer than 0.3% house faculty who are publicly known for their interest in psi (positive or negative). By contrast, surveys worldwide reveal that the majority of the population, including most university professors when asked anonymously, believe in the possibility or certainty of various forms of psi. For many decades the entertainment industry has successfully exploited themes associated with psychic phenomena, and it seems likely that nearly everyone is interested in these phenomena to some degree, whether they believe in them or not. The question is, Why is a topic of such enduring interest actively ignored by 99.7% of academia?

One answer is that it's probably true that 80% of things people consider to be psychic are explanable by ordinary psychological factors or statistical oddities. So it is assumed that all such experiences are illusions or delusions. But the reality is that perhaps 20% of these experiences are not so easily dismissable when considered in detail.

The other answer is that it's important for the stability of one's career to not stray from accepted norms. In the academic world, especially at the junior faculty level, conducting research on a persistently interesting but taboo topic like psi will reduce to the vanishing point one's likelihood of getting tenure or promotions. By contrast, concentrating on acceptable (and often boring) topics will not rock the social boat and one's chances for remaining in academia increase.

So what sustains the taboo against psi? This deserves a long answer, but in brief it's due to a combination of epistemological and ontological assumptions sutained by simple mechanistic (and inadequate) models of the universe that we've inherited from the 17th century.

Mark Szlazak said...

Dave, I didn't mean to say that there is no eternal, uncaused, incorruptible, and indestructible entities. In other words, a necessarily existent Being. I think the universe is such an entity or a part of such an entity.

I was referring to non-rational, acausal events. This means events happening without a cause, uncaused out of nothing, and I think this is scientifically and metaphysically absurd. If taken seriously, it is in head-on collision with the most successful ontological commitment that was a guiding line of research since Epicurus and Lucretius, namely, out of nothing nothing comes. A metaphysical hypothesis which has proven so fruitful in every corner of science and metaphysics. "Out of nothing nothing comes" is a first principle of metaphysics as well as science.

Dean, I think a big reason psi has problems is that it lacks a good theory. I bet it wouldn't take long for a lot of scientists, tenured or not, to openly jump on the psi bandwagon if a good theory was around. Those maverick scientists I mentioned earlier all had fruitful theories that won the minds of their fellow scientists.

Dave said...

Dean said:

"The other answer is that it's important for the stability of one's career to not stray from accepted norms. In the academic world, especially at the junior faculty level, conducting research on a persistently interesting but taboo topic like psi will reduce to the vanishing point one's likelihood of getting tenure or promotions. By contrast, concentrating on acceptable (and often boring) topics will not rock the social boat and one's chances for remaining in academia increase."


That rings true. I have always had a strong interest in psi from a young age and have always secretly aspired to one day get a job in psi research. But I chose to take degrees in conventional biological science fields with the hope that there would be opportunity to study aspects of the brain and cognition that are "fringe" but never-the-less considered acceptable by the mainstream. I soon discovered that even those opportunities are few and far between.

The interesting thing is, I never chose to mention my interest in psi to any fellow students or to any members of the academic community, except in an anonymous capacity usually over the internet. So in my case, I have a private interest in psi but I would hesitate to openly discuss it within acedemia. Having said that, I would not publicly deny an interest in it, if asked.

Dean Radin said...

Mark said:
I was referring to non-rational, acausal events. This means events happening without a cause, uncaused out of nothing, and I think this is scientifically and metaphysically absurd.

But isn't this the essence of the leading theory in cosmology? I don't hear many scientists complaining about the metaphysical absurdity of the Big Bang. One of the reasons that "spooky actions at a distance" were (and still are) so difficult to accept is because a pair of entangled particles were thought to absolutely require an intervening causal connection to display the correlations predicted and subsequently observed. But there are no such causal signals.

Dean, I think a big reason psi has problems is that it lacks a good theory.

This I completely agree with. I don't think existing QM provides that theory, but I do think it's a step in the right ontological direction.

Dean Radin said...

Dave said: So in my case, I have a private interest in psi but I would hesitate to openly discuss it within acedemia.

I've heard similar statements so often that I can't shake the feeling that we're all trapped inside the parable of the Emperor's New Clothes.

Mark Szlazak said...

But isn't this the essence of the leading theory in cosmology? I don't hear many scientists complaining about the metaphysical absurdity of the Big Bang.

If so then this is absurd but I don't think that is what cosmologists are thinking. Lee Smolin is one that comes to mind. He and others are thinking about going prior the singularity. I wouldn't take any talk about the Big Bang coming out of absolute nothing very seriously and I don't think many cosmologists do either.

One of the reasons that "spooky actions at a distance" were (and still are) so difficult to accept is because a pair of entangled particles were thought to absolutely require an intervening causal connection to display the correlations predicted and subsequently observed. But there are no such causal signals.

Causal connection and signaling aren't the necessarily same thing. With "spooky-action-at-a-distance" causal connections are not prohibited. Ask Henry Stapp or see the book "Quantum Non-Locality & Relativity" by Tim Maudlin.

Tor said...

Dean Radin and Dave said:
Dave said: So in my case, I have a private interest in psi but I would hesitate to openly discuss it within academia.

I've heard similar statements so often that I can't shake the feeling that we're all trapped inside the parable of the Emperor's New Clothes.


As a student I openly discussed off the mainstream topics, but only amongst those that I noticed shared a similar interest.

Today I'm no longer in academia.
I don't talk about my interest amongst colleagues at work, but once in a while I meet someone that share a similar scientific background and interest. When that happens, you can actually feel a kind of relief in the air. Both are thinking that finally there is someone to openly discuss this with. I don't know if everyone is thinking this (I suspect I'm more interested in this topic than most people), but if they are, it's really really sad.

Dean Radin said...

Mark said: Causal connection and signaling aren't the necessarily same thing. With "spooky-action-at-a-distance" causal connections are not prohibited.

Surely you're not suggesting that entanglement-type correlations are due to causal connections? And if signaling isn't a prime example of causal linkages, then what is it?

Mark Szlazak said...

Surely you're not suggesting that entanglement-type correlations are due to causal connections? And if signaling isn't a prime example of causal linkages, then what is it?

Simply because signalling is more than just causal connections. Superluminal causal processes could exist which, due to their uncontrollability, could not be used to send signals.

Looking at this further, here are some non-equivalent prohibitions that Tim Maudlin's book goes into.

* Matter or energy cannot be transported faster than light.

* Signals cannot be sent faster than light.

* Causal processes cannot propagate faster than light.

* Information cannot be transmitted faster than light.

Many physicists and philosophers disagree over what exactly that something is that Relativity prohibits from going faster than light.

Dean Radin said...

Mark said: Simply because signalling is more than just causal connections. Superluminal causal processes could exist which, due to their uncontrollability, could not be used to send signals.

These are interesting claims. I'll have to do some homework to see whether I agree with them. I wonder how presentiment and other retrocausal effects jive with Maudlin's prohibitions. Empirical data trumps theory in my book.

Tor said...

Hmm.. I find it hard to imagine how remote viewing should work if it was based on some superluminal causal effects. How it is possible, from a pair of coordinates, to correctly describe the target location beats me. But I feel there is some connection to the concept of non-locality. Anyway, I think the diverse amount of speculative theoretical physics that is going on today, is a result of some deep misunderstanding (or wrong assumptions) about the nature of reality. When looking at some of the popular theories/views in physics today (some totally without experimental evidence), I start to think about epicycles. That didn't go well, and the view that came afterwards was impossible to believe at the time.

Mark Szlazak said...

These are interesting claims. I'll have to do some homework to see whether I agree with them.

Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6 of Maudlin's book examine the four prohibitions I listed, tracing their connection with Special Relativity on the one hand and their compatibility with quantum non-locality on the other.

Another interpretation holds that Relativity requires only that

* Theories must be Lorentz invariant.

This requirement is compatible with the violation of all four of the previously mentioned prohibitions. Chapter 7 looks into the technical requirement of Lorentz invariance and its implications.

Dave said...

Mark Said:

I was referring to non-rational, acausal events. This means events happening without a cause, uncaused out of nothing, and I think this is scientifically and metaphysically absurd.


I understand. But I was kind of suggesting that any defined "event" refers, ontologically, to a physical relationship that is bootstrapped from non-physical, qualitative aspects of reality. I think this would require a re-working of what we mean by causality and would be a step towards some kind of mental monism, whereby physical reality is derived from consciousness. Under such a view I don't see how acauality is a metaphysical absurdity. It would depend on the principles by which "events" are bootstrapped from the qualitative aspects of consciousness. Indeed, causality and acausality might be two sides of the same coin.

David Bailey said...

I think "non-rational acaussal events" may be unfortunate terminology.

I think a useful analogy might be with a dream or a play. A dream follows a kind of logic, but events from the greater reality outside can intervene - say if a clock chimes. Likewise, the actors in a play obey a form of logic, but if something from the greater reality interrupts things - such as a prop breaking - that logic is briefly suspended.

If I understand quantum entanglement (and I am no expert!) the link operates instantaneously, but no signal can be transferred, and therefore ESP cannot work this way. However, successive physical theories have a habit of exposing a more complex reality which reduces to the previous theory in some limit. Thus quantum theory reduces to classical physics if the masses involved are large enough. I wonder if QM represents a low-complexity limit (i.e. where the number of particles is small) of some much more complex theory that might include consciousness. In other words, conventional QM should be thought of as a hint - not as a final theory that can be used for rigorous deductions.

Book Surgeon said...

See the article in the latest New Scientist: "The Illusion of Reality in a Quantum World." It argues rather persuasively, based on ongoing research and new theories, that all levels of existence are fundamentally quantum. It's just that larger objects--including us--either can't be isolated from other particles and immediately decohere, or our measuring tools are so weak that we can't perceive the quantum nature of our reality. Basically, there is no dividing line between the micro world of QM and the macro world of classical. It's all QM.

Mark Szlazak said...

Dave:
... physical reality is derived from consciousness.
I don't know what you mean by "consciousness" and this is pure speculation for which I know of no evidence.

... causality and acausality might be two sides of the same coin. That's a contradiction so I don't know what you mean.

David
If I understand quantum entanglement (and I am no expert!) the link operates instantaneously, but no signal can be transferred, and therefore ESP cannot work this way.

In Maudlin's book, of the four initial constraints these results are unequivocal:

* Violation of Bell's inequality does NOT require superluminal matter or energy transport.

* Violation of Bell's inequality does NOT entail the possibility of superluminal signaling.

* Violation of Bell's inequality does require superluminal causal connections.

* Violation of Bell's inequality can be accomplished only if there is superluminal information transmission.

Consideration of Lorentz invariance yields a tangle of more unexpected proposals.

One question that I have is if there is "mental causation" or a "mental force" then can it get some control over these so far uncontrollable Quantum states.

I wonder if QM represents a low-complexity limit (i.e. where the number of particles is small) of some much more complex theory that might include consciousness

Henry Stapp is working on the beginnings of something like this within a Whitehead-James-Quantum Theory type frame work: http://www-physics.lbl.gov/~stapp/stappfiles.html

David Bailey said...

Mark,

My point is that we can't say anything "unequivocal" if QM is only an approximation to a deeper theory. We can only use QM as a hint.

I must admit, I thought Stapp thought he could explain consciousness within normal QM - but maybe he has moved on.

Dean - It would be great if we had a blog devoted to the potential science of PSI - as it is, all these discussions are liable to get lost as your blog moves on.

Dave said...

Mark Said:

I don't know what you mean by "consciousness" and this is pure speculation for which I know of no evidence.


By "consciousness", here, I mean qualitative aspects of reality.

Perhaps there is no evidence that concepts of physical reality can be derived from consciousness, but I think this is because "evidence" can only operate within the boundaries of what we call the physical world. In other words, a step towards mental monism would have to be a philosophical argument that does not rely on "evidence". That may offend some, but it would neatly do away with one of the most perplexing questions of modern neuroscience of how qualia can be explained by physical processes in the brain, a question that I know of no theory or evidence for!

When I said causality and acausality might be two sides of the same coin, I meant that a single concept that bootstraps a relational, physically defined reality from qualitative consciousness might account for both of them. I don't know what that principle might be though!

Mark Szlazak said...

My point is that we can't say anything "unequivocal" if QM is only an approximation to a deeper theory. We can only use QM as a hint.

Not necessarily true. It does not follow that all things "unequivocal" in theory T1 become "equivocal" in theory T2. If they did then T2 would not be able to account for all the unequivocal findings of T1. So T2 couldn't even be called a successor to T1 because it wouldn't encompass these findings of T1. This then leads one to wonder why anyone would propose T2 as a successor to T1 since T2 could not even talk about the things T1 talks about. Things do remain unequivocal with theory change by logical necessity. We will have to wait and see whether the things I mentioned remain unequivocal. I already gave one that may not and that was the prohibition which does not allow signaling and overcoming this prohibition maybe quite relevant to psi.

I must admit, I thought Stapp thought he could explain consciousness within normal QM - but maybe he has moved on.

At least since the late 90's, Stapp only wrote about mental causation in QFT (not QM) and he did not thing that he could explain everything about consciousness with QFT (Quantum Field Theory). Furthermore, he does speculate on a larger framework consistent with QFT and consciousness based on aspects of Whitehead and James work.

David Bailey said...

Mark,

To use your terminology, if T1 is newton's laws of motion and T2 is special relativity, then mass and energy are separately conserved in T1 but only jointly in its successor T2. I do not see why a successor to QM need necessarily prohibit the passage of a signal via entanglement.

N said...

I just finished the extraordinary book “Extraordinary Knowing” and was very intrigued by this thread. Thank you! Even though I am coming on a bit late, here are some thoughts:

Mark had said, “Dean, I think a big reason psi has problems is that it lacks a good theory.”

Indeed, Mayer agrees, saying: “Models help us think. Without a conceptual home, observations that don’t fit our existing models may be intriguing and entertaining, but they have the ultimate impact of writing on water. Without a model to contain them, we have no place to put new and unfamiliar things while we try to figure them out.”

In other words, what use does psi have for us? And my response is, maybe psi is not like physics and the rest of science – it’s not something we use. Maybe it’s something that uses us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving it powers or a putting a personality behind it. I’m just saying, it could be a phenomenon that by its nature is categorically different than science.

Dean, I like your observation: “This fear drives both religious and areligious types into believing that psi is the work of the devil.” As I read this book, I was wondering, what are we so afraid of? Ahh, of our comfortable version of reality being wrong, and with being smacked with the realization that we’re not even CLOSE to having it all figured out. Think back to human knowledge 1000 years ago; then imagine 1000 years from now. We may very well be living in our own dark age. Also, who knows, maybe that fear serves a function; maybe it helps keeps us focused on what is real and important: relationships with others.

Finally, Dean, you talk about “this persistent tension -- separate objects or unifed whole” and that “This dynamic balancing act is the price one pays if one wishes to do science on the razor's edge.” My current project is exploring that edge, which I call “the edge of spirituality” -- where skepticism meets belief, where science meets spirituality, where the present meets the future, where the objective meets the subjective, where one's body meets the force that animates it, and (whew!) where the sacred meets the mundane. I explore this edge at my website: www.StoriesAboutWhyWeAreHere.com. I have also done some recent blog posts about Mayer’s book . . . And must now check out Dean’s books!

Cheers!
nk