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.