Thinking about telepathy

I wrote an article a few years ago for a journal published by the Royal Institute of Philosophy called Think. Someone reposted that article here.

From the description of this journal: "Think is edited by Stephen Law and published three times each year. The central aim of Think is to provide to a very wide audience – including schools, colleges and the general public – highly accessible and engaging writing by philosophers pre-eminent in their fields."

(I'm not a philosopher, but the publisher was kind enough to invite me to write an article, so I did.)


butterfly said…
A very enjoyable article, Dean!

My husband is one of those scientists who will probably never believe in things like ESP. I love him dearly, but he is one of those dreaded disbelievers. Except when it comes to hockey cards.

He loves collecting those silly cards, and being as fond of math as he is, he knows exactly what the odds are of pulling out any particular card from a pack. When it comes to choosing packs, well, for some reason he would much rather Mom or I pick which packs to buy.

Why should this matter? Shouldn’t he be just as likely to make as lucky a choice as Mom or I would?

Apparently not! My husband grudgingly admits that Mom and I seem to pick packs of hockey cards that significantly beat the odds of getting valuable cards and special inserts. So much so that he is happy to let us do that task whenever possible.

(But he won’t admit such things in public.)
Dean Radin said…
It's unfortunate that the social fabric within science disallows public expressions of interest in certain topics. But while unfortunate, it is nothing new.

Despite aspirations of academic freedom espoused by most universities, there are topics that for all practical purposes remain forbidden. Given this social reality, a case can be made that it is irresponsible for a scientist to endanger his or her career just for the sake of investigating unorthodox ideas. Of course, if you follow this line of thinking to its limit, you find the same sort of group-think in the sciences as you do in politics and business. Adhering to group-think is usually safe, but it also leads to unfortunate events like the meltdown of the global financial system and endless wars (to name just two recent disasters).
Unknown said…
Hello, Dean!

I saw on the Coast to Coast AM website fairly recently that you were going to be on the show. I was excited! In fact, about six months ago I emailed George Noory to ask that he have you on again.

Much to my dismay, it appears you didn't end up on the show. If you were, I can't find the show on streamlink.

Was is rescheduled? I'd love to hear you on there again!

Keep up your amazing work, and thanks for having the courage to publicly study things other scientists are too afraid to touch. You are a valuable person on the cutting edge of science.

Thank you.
Anonymous said…
In terms of defusing the time-bomb of groupthink, there is another field -- the social criticism of science -- which I think will be helpful.

Of course Lakotos and Kuhn are helpful -- there is also a researcher in Australia who is great, but he has such a nondescript, normal-sounding Anglo-Saxon name I am having trouble recalling his name. He writes on many things, such as the corporate use of pseudo-skepticism.
anonymous said…
Sometimes superstitious behavior has nothing to do with belief or disbelief. It can be a neurological or neurochemical phenomena. Obsessive compulsive behavior is a good example of this. People who are frightened of something as a child may develop phobias as adults. If you experience an unlikely coincidence it may affect your behavior even if you know it was a coincidence.

Sandy's husband might not be asking Sandy to chose packs of cards because he secretly believes in psi. He may just believe she picks cards better because she has done it in the past. No cognitive concept of a mechanism or theory is needed for a "conditioned response" to work. It is not logical it is neurological.

People like to convince themselves that they are rational but there are lots of situation in which we are not consciously rational at all.
first-castle said…
Dear Dr. Radin:

I was quite impressed with your “Think” article and had not been exposed to its content before today. Your analysis of the conflict that exists in our scientific realm due to a portion of society’s rejection of paranormal activity was thorough and well documented.

I feel the three key ingredients that continue to feed the disbelieving sectors of society with skepticism toward psychic ability are A.) the fact that it’s unexplainable from a MEST reality perspective (MEST refers to Mass, Energy, Space and Time), B.) There are alternative neurological theories that limit the mind to no more than electrochemical activity, and such theories would negate the possibility of psychic phenomena. And the third and most pertinent factor is C.) the creative ability of the mind itself.

If I had never witnessed or experienced psychic phenomena, I too might be skeptical of it, and my belief can have a powerful influence over the events that occur in my proximity. But having met Uri Geller during my high school years in Palo Alto and witnessed his unexplainable talents, I have always been more accepting of psychic phenomena, and as a result have experienced it frequently in my life.

There are a series of theories that explain psychic phenomena, clairvoyance, mind over matter, levitation, and even the true essence of gravity itself. The basis of these theories resides in the fact that there are two realities; physical reality and spiritual reality. In order to discover the spiritual reality one must recognize that thought is not Self. The mind is what we know, not who we are. The Self, or Spirit, exists in spiritual reality, and it has no mass, takes up no space, exerts no discernable energy, and exists both in the now moment and eternally. It is not limited by space and time.

If you would like to discuss this further, please send a message to
Zetetic_chick said…
I'm not a philosopher, but the publisher was kind enough to invite me to write an article, so I did.

In a sense,, all we're philosophers (even thought not professional or trained ones) when we thought in things like metaphysics or the sense of life. And I think psi research imposes on us the need to pose philosophical questions.

Your chapter on "metaphysics" in your "The Conscious Universe" book is pretty good and useful.

Dean, given you wrote that article for a philosophy journal, did you receive some negative replies, letters or comments from the readers or contributors of that journal? Did you expect them?

Apparently not! My husband grudgingly admits that Mom and I seem to pick packs of hockey cards that significantly beat the odds of getting valuable cards and special inserts

That's give us a reason to support technologies based on psi. If people (even skeptics) can check psi modes of operation in his practical everyday life, then for all the practical purposes they'll accept psi as a fact.

It's unfortunate that the social fabric within science disallows public expressions of interest in certain topics. But while unfortunate, it is nothing new

Is there some way to change that? I've thought in two things:

1)Writing college textbooks for standard courses (like introduction to psychology, philosophy, physics, etc.) with chapters dedicated to explain the best evidence for psi and the current status of research and how scientific suppression of new ideas works.

For example, Dean's discussion of replication of psi in chapter 3 of "The Concious Universe" would be very convincing for students of natural sciences (and scientists). It makes them inmune to the skeptical propaganda about psi as a "non-replicable" phenomenon.

Chris Carter's discussion of the philosophical preconcepts against psi (based on classical physics, not in contemporary quantum mechanics) would be useful too.

As far I know, most current standard colleges textbooks makes no reference for psi research, or if it's made, often it's a negative or biased review of the field.

2)Giving courses on psi at Universities (specially, in departaments where indoctrination into pseudo-skepticism is more probable, like biology, psychology and philosophy departaments)

I think the first strategy is easier, because giving courses on a college level psi could meet with resistances from the head of the Universities.

In any case, they could be attempted as a first step to change the mainstream conservative view agasint psi.
Zetetic_chick said…
Dean and all of you,

The videos of the last year Mind-Body Symposium (with Mario Beauregard, Jeffrey Schwartz, Henry Stapp and other scientists) is now available in youtube:

Blue Mystic said…
Thank you very much ZC! I look forward to watching those videos.
butterfly said…
I agree that there definitely needs to be some exposure to non-materialist concepts in university.

Less than a year ago, I was a materialist. I didn’t even know what that was, or that there were other ways of viewing the world. I was just another happy grad student playing with my toys in the lab.

When I first started trying to deal with having anomalous experiences, I really thought that science would come to my rescue. If it couldn’t fix me, at least it could explain why this was happening to me. Maybe I was ill or just sensitive to something in the environment that could be addressed or avoided, like allergens. As it turned out, the science that I had put so much faith in really let me down. I still believe in scientific methodology, but it really needs to be applied within a different context somehow.

I think if I had known a bit about philosophy and the various views on such things, this last year would have been perhaps a little bit easier. My resolution for 2009 is to be more open to the possibilities and more accepting of others. Maybe even more accepting of myself.
Dean Radin said…
I agree. Courses on the history and assumptions underlying modern science should be required of all fledgling scientists. While not every scientist in training can afford the time, or has the interest or inclination, to dive deep into philosophy, taking a few courses on the sociology, history and philosophy of science would be an extremely valuable addition to any science education.

I used to think that philosophy was extraneous to science. That it was something only of interest to the ancient Greeks, probably because they didn't have telescopes and microscopes to play around with. I was wrong. I had to discover on my own that epistemology and ontology are deeply wrapped into the scientific enterprise, and the earlier a student knows this, the better.
Dean Radin said…
Texx -- I was scheduled to appear on the Coast to Coast radio show recently, but it was postponed. I'll probably be on the show again later this year some time. No specific date has been set yet.
Dean Radin said…
Zetetic_chick asked "Dean, given you wrote that article for a philosophy journal, did you receive some negative replies, letters or comments from the readers or contributors of that journal? Did you expect them?"

Perhaps some comments were sent to the journal, but I don't recall receiving any feedback at all about that article. It's not unusual. I rarely get feedback about my articles, positive or negative. (I don't count rants on online forums. Those are mostly meaningless babble.)
Enfant Terrible said…
Mr. Radin,

look this:

DNA has been found to have a bizarre ability to put itself together, even at a distance, when according to known science it shouldn't be able to. Explanation: None, at least not yet.
Scientists are reporting evidence that contrary to our current beliefs about what is possible, intact double-stranded DNA has the "amazing" ability to recognize similarities in other DNA strands from a distance. Somehow they are able to identify one another, and the tiny bits of genetic material tend to congregate with similar DNA. The recognition of similar sequences in DNA's chemical subunits, occurs in a way unrecognized by science. There is no known reason why the DNA is able to combine the way it does, and from a current theoretical standpoint this feat should be chemically impossible.
Even so, the research published in ACS' Journal of Physical Chemistry B, shows very clearly that homology recognition between sequences of several hundred nucleotides occurs without physical contact or presence of proteins. Double helixes of DNA can recognize matching molecules from a distance and then gather together, all seemingly without help from any other molecules or chemical signals.
In the study, scientists observed the behavior of fluorescently tagged DNA strands placed in water that contained no proteins or other material that could interfere with the experiment. Strands with identical nucleotide sequences were about twice as likely to gather together as DNA strands with different sequences. No one knows how individual DNA strands could possibly be communicating in this way, yet somehow they do. The "telepathic" effect is a source of wonder and amazement for scientists.
"Amazingly, the forces responsible for the sequence recognition can reach across more than one nanometer of water separating the surfaces of the nearest neighbor DNA," said the authors Geoff S. Baldwin, Sergey Leikin, John M. Seddon, and Alexei A. Kornyshev and colleagues.
This recognition effect may help increase the accuracy and efficiency of the homologous recombination of genes, which is a process responsible for DNA repair, evolution, and genetic diversity. The new findings may also shed light on ways to avoid recombination errors, which are factors in cancer, aging, and other health issues.

The article is here:
Dean Radin said…
This is "telepathy" between DNA strands over one nanometer. You can imagine then why scientists have been even more amazed by telepathy between people at thousands of miles. In the case of the DNA there may be a more prosaic explanation than psi. Perhaps an electromagnetic resonance that hadn't been noticed before.
Anonymous said…
Postscript: I found the philosopher of science who inspired my earlier comment. His name is Brian Martin and I highly recommend him to anyone interested in taboos of science.

Sorry that took so long -- I was studying for exams.
Seeker said…
This is great stuff Dr Radin, keep it up!
Always a pleasure to read.
BobH said…
It seems the subject matter of Psi has its own mythology which dictates the conditions under which experiments take place. For example, telepathy is often portrayed within the media to take place between people at a great distance and a popular notion is that telepathy is not affected by distance. But in reality we actually know nothing at all about telepathy and 'transmitting' over such a distance may not be possible. It may not work that way. There may be signal interference from other people, animals, or the environment. After my own personal experience of telepathy I'm a believer, but I can't help feeling that we have some enormous pre-conceptions about this thing that we are trying to decypher. When we know nothing at all about the subject being studied, shouldn't the method of investigation have a wider field of experimentation?
Dean Radin said…
> ... and 'transmitting' over such a distance may not be possible.

Many of the anecdotes about telepathy involve great distances, and there have been enough psi experiments over long distances to strongly suggest that separation in space, and possibly through time, do not present strict barriers to this phenomenon.

> When we know nothing at all about the subject being studied, shouldn't the method of investigation have a wider field of experimentation?

I think we know quite a bit more than nothing. But we're always open to new suggestions. What do you suggest?
BobH said…
I'm sure your team knows a lot more about Psi than you did before you started experimenting, and I didn't mean to suggest that your experiments have no worth - you are the expert and I'm just making an observation. I think what you're doing is brilliant, and I'm just pleased that someone is going to the trouble of investigating this phenomenon. What I meant was that no substantiated conclusions have been drawn about the nature of psi, whether it is mental (a function of the unconcious mind), spiritual (dead people/angels/demons/spirits/ancestors passing messages), physical (electromagnetic waves), the Akashic records, aliens, people from the future, or possibly a combination of more than one effect. I also appreciate that when studying a 'black box' faster results are sometimes achieved by guessing the contents and then seeing if the results of the probing around in the dark fit our guess. I'm suggesting that maybe we've spent enough time at the guessing game and now it's time to start back at basic principles and try everything we can to pin this thing down. Yes, there are stories or anecdotes from people that indicate space/time does not present barriers. But those examples happened at one point in space/time and cannot be repeated with exactly the same conditions. Sharing a Psi experience over a large distance one day doesn't mean that this can be done every day, in a laboratory with wireless networks and mobile transmitters nearby. Perhaps we should open up the study a bit.
Thanks for asking for my suggestions.
A few examples: make the sample as varied as possible; people 'in love', people who hate each other (best put some distance between these participants), artists,people with Aspergers Syndrome, children, people who have recently lost a close relative, target people while they are asleep and ask about their dreams. Attempt to see if there's a genetic link by examining different races and family members. See if there astronomical links by testing at different times of the year, different times of the day/night, moon phases, sunspot phases, Venus phases, when Mars is closer to Earth or further away. Have you smirked to yourself yet? Some of these suggestions do have the giggle factor - but I am absolutely sure that the reason Psi has eluded us for so long is that we have too many preconceptions about what it is which distract from studying what it really is.
Dean Radin said…
> people 'in love'
> artists
> children
> while asleep
> recently lost a close relative
> genetic link
> astronomical links

all of the above have been examined

> people who hate each other

this would be difficult to arrange

> people with Aspergers Syndrome

good idea

The only limit to what has been accomplished, and what could be explored in the future, is funding. This field has never been short of creative ideas or people willing to tackle these issues.
BobH said…
Thanks for that Dean.
I just bet that the next time I see another telepathy experiment on TV there will be a sender in a lab room staring intently at a photograph or Zener cards and a receiver in another room, blindfold, with headphones on trying to 'see' the picture and reporting afterwards an impression they got. And the results will be inconclusive (again).
But that probably says more about the media than about real Psi studies. Keep up the good work!
Dean Radin said…
> staring intently at a photograph or Zener cards ...

You may be right, but this is the way the media portrays contemporary research, and not what actually goes on. E.g., I haven't heard of anyone seriously engaged in zener card experiments in the last 20 to 30 years, except maybe in high school science fair projects.

Incidentally, most of the more recent studies I've seen demoed on TV programs (including telepathy, presentiment, and remote viewing) have resulted in successful outcomes.
BobH said…
I know you said you’re not in short supply of creative ideas but if you haven't got bored with me yet I’ve got a few more thoughts and queries …
In your book Entangled Minds, when discussing meta-analysis you mention that it’s possible to mix the results of different studies (apples and oranges) if you want to investigate what is common between them all. For us, this is the “psi effect”.
The problem is that we still don’t know what the ‘psi effect’ is.
A good example is the mixing results from experiments where people are choosing pictures, and where computers are randomly selecting pictures as targets for remote viewing. The former (because two people are involved) could be a study of telepathy , the latter is something completely different (unless you think that today’s computers have ‘minds’ that can communicate with ours).

Another experimental confusion is time related. You mentioned that the anecdotes seem to show that space and time present no barriers to psi. I know that dream studies go together with pre-cognition, but I wonder how many telepathy experiments take time into account ? The sender and receiver are sat in different rooms because it makes for a healthy experiment (by reducing the interfering variables) and because “space doesn’t matter” to psi. If time is also no barrier, then why does the sender do the sending at the same time as the receiver tries to receive? Why not get the receiver to receive something ‘sent’ earlier – or, more radically, something that will be sent in the future? If time doesn’t matter, how do we know that ‘failed results’ are not actually successful results, but for something sent at a different time? Does any cross-matching of results happen so that this sort of thing can be spotted?

If I know anything about psi it’s that it can’t easily be consciously controlled by most people, who pick up odd bits here and there; the occasional voice or vision. Whilst the receiver is often masked and wearing headphones with white noise, I believe (and I may be wrong here) sending is usually done under bright lights and full conscious control. Conscious brute force, willing the receiver to pick up your thoughts doesn’t seem to work very well. Perhaps the sender should also be relaxed and sleepy?

The message content itself is often and not important in any way to the receiver.
The most powerful examples of real-world psi are when a loved one is in danger. Knowing this, why do experiments involve pictures of windmills, boats and scenes of tranquillity?
I’m not suggesting that we should actually imperil the life of the receiver’s family members, but that the messages should contain something more ‘urgent’ and attention grabbing. Pictures of the receivers family at gunpoint, their house on fire, something that would actually have some import to the receiver. I’m sure something like that could be covertly done with Photoshop without causing too much inconvenience and stress to the participants ? Would this be unethical if the participants were warned that they may suffer some stress? (Obviously ‘clues’ given to the participants would also have to be controlled with a control group who were given the same warnings but where the non-stressful pictures were used).
Dean Radin said…
>if you haven't got bored with me yet I’ve got a few more thoughts and queries …

Don't get me wrong. I'm all in favor of more creative ideas!

> The problem is that we still don’t know what the ‘psi effect’ is.

From an operational point of view, psi is what the particular experiment defines it to be. A means by which information can be gained from a distance is one way to think of psi in generic terms.

> I wonder how many telepathy experiments take time into account?

Not many, but telepathy through time (from you to you, but at different times) has been studied.

> then why does the sender do the sending at the same time as the receiver tries to receive?

Because of face validity. This is how most telepathic episodes appear to happen in real life.

> Perhaps the sender should also be relaxed and sleepy?

Good idea, although again when real world experiences are examined the telepathic sender is often in a crisis, or highly emotional state, and not relaxed.

>I’m not suggesting that we should actually imperil the life of the receiver’s family members, but that the messages should contain something more ‘urgent’ and attention grabbing.

This idea is used in presentiment experiments. Yes, you can subject people to emotional stimuli provided they consent to it. Such pictures could be used in telepathy experiments too, but it would be very difficult for the sender. It's not easy sending strong emotions for any length of time. Also, there's some data suggesting that receivers in such experiments will repress emotionally sensitive information. So you'll end up with strong missing rather than strong hitting.
jean said…
A. Einstein was right once again when he said: 'From physisits point of view', we have no right
to rule out a priori the possibility of telepathy...
with quantum physics, methematics tools, we can explain theoric part
of telepathy.
Our thoughts are a type of energy,
Information can goes from mind1
to mind2, we don't know the wave type, certainly not an electro magnetic wave( limited in distance)I think about an electro chemical radiation .Of course that need a comon frequency between both brains, For the sender and recipient.
A. Gurwitch experiment and theory can be a convergence of proove. If living cells, bacteries able to transmit a radiation with an information 'cell with disease' to another similar cells at distance. The brain is more complicated and able even to transmit information like images !
jean said…
some one heard about Alexander Gurwitch ?
jean said…
Dean, Did you notice a blood volume change during telepathy sending information ?
Because our brain's energy consumption is 15 percent of our body's energy so it might increase to produce an high speed wave.
jean said…
Our thoughts are a type of energy,
We don't know much how that energy is dispersed, why not our mind
able to control it ?
Energy/ information come from mind1to mind2. I don't know about this wave type, certainly not an electro
magnetic wave (very limited in distance )
I think about an electro chemical invisible radiation.
Einstein was right once again when he said: From 'physicists point of view' we have no right to rule out a priori the possibility of telepathy
jean said…
Hello Dean !
Refering to non locally information transfer. I think about The mathematical solution to the General Relativity. A space time curvature,A wormHole,Zero Point Energy might be involved.
Of course an hypothesis of a field not included in the clasical physic. A Theorical Quantum Field
(or an other name )
A speed faster than the speed light, near infinite.
The Quantum Field Hypothesis should explain EPR Experiment, Psychic Phenomena and maybe more but it's not the purpose...

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