Saturday, February 14, 2009

The science behind psychic phenomena


A surprisingly neutral article about psi in Time magazine. Surprising because Time has traditionally felt it necessary to psi-bash whenever possible. It cites Diane Powell's new book, The ESP Enigma, which I think is pretty good.

13 comments:

sonic said...

Perhaps the Time editors have changed policy.
I am surpised at this possibility.
I am hopeful I'm right.

Dave Smith said...

I wish journalists would stop using the word 'supernatural' to describe these things.

billy said...

The review of miss powell new book at Amazon was quite harsh:


"In science it is axiomatic that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Powell, a neuropsychiatrist who has taught at Harvard Medical School, certainly makes extraordinary claims about the four basic psychic abilities: telepathy, psychokinesis, clairvoyance and precognition. But her evidence is consistently below par. She relies on self-reported claims by psychics, hundred-year-old newspaper accounts and the results of studies published by organizations like the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research rather than in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals (and sometimes she cites no source at all). Powell is woefully short on mechanisms to explain the phenomena she claims are so common, although she does turn to quantum physics to assert that molecular resonance and the space-time continuum are likely responsible, and she finds evolutionary explanations for the existence of psychic phenomena. She claims, for instance, that psychic events are related to dreaming, which may have evolved so babies, who mostly sleep, can detect threats and communicate them psychically to their parents. Undaunted by the weak evidence, Powell asserts that she is on the forefront of a Copernican revolution of the mind. (Jan.)"

Has anyone here read it?

Dean Radin said...

I've read The ESP Engima. In my opinion the Amazon review noted here is nonsense. Powell's aim is not to argue for the existence of psi, but rather to accept the existing scientific evidence and forge ahead to try to understand it. In contrast, my work has been criticized by some for spending too much time addressing skeptical issues like the existence question. You can't please everyone.

anonymous said...

"A surprisingly neutral article about psi in Time magazine. Surprising because Time has traditionally felt it necessary to psi-bash whenever possible."

Is the article in the print edition too or just the web site? Could there be different editors for the internet edition?

Jim Clark said...

Well Dean, I for one thank you for spending your time on the existence question. I didn't think much of the article though to be honest, it didn't even begin to introduce the topic, far too brief.
Take care

David Bailey said...

Jim Clark wrote

>Well Dean, I for one thank you for spending your time on the existence question.

Clearly you need both. It seems to me that one effect of the extreme skepticism of psi, is that people may feel they have to constantly justify the existence of an effect, even after vast numbers of successful experiments have been performed. The resulting bogging down in technical details means that very few people read and think about the real meaning of the work.

This can result in a dearth of articles - such as this one - that actually put the subject into context - such as the relationship between psi and other questions about consciousness. Specialists in other subjects are encouraged to write high level articles of this sort, and I think it is good to read a discussion like this in such a prominent magazine.

littlebug said...

Dean, what do you think of the idea that there's a gene for psychic ability because it has been observed to run in families? Couldn't this observation also be at least partially caused by social factors? For example, a family in which psi is accepted as fact is much more likely to encourage sharing such experiences, which in turn could strengthen the ability. But in families where such "nonsense" is not tolerated, any experiences would be rationalized and suppressed.

Jim Clark said...

"Dean, what do you think of the idea that there's a gene for psychic ability because it has been observed to run in families? Couldn't this observation also be at least partially caused by social factors? For example, a family in which psi is accepted as fact is much more likely to encourage sharing such experiences, which in turn could strengthen the ability. But in families where such "nonsense" is not tolerated, any experiences would be rationalized and suppressed."

Hi, I know this comment wasn't addressed to me, but yes, personal experience has shown me that Psychic Abilities do tend to pass through families. With genetics, could it be that they carry psychological tendencies as well as physical traits? This seems quite likely to me, but yes environment/exposure probably has a bit part to play in it as well.

Take care

anonymous said...

Physical mediumship is very likely to have a genetic basis because ectoplasm is derived from the body of the medium.

If you don't believe in physical mediumship and ectoplasm, look at "Thirty Years of Psychical Research" by Charles Richet who was a Nobel prize winner in phisiology and medicine:

http://survivalebooks.org/#Thirty%20Years%20of%20Psychical%20Research

Regarding other types of psi ... In those cases where psi is found to run in families, the other family memebers are not always parents but often grandparents or aunts or uncles. This also suggests a genetic basis. If it wasn't a genetic effect but was 100% psychological it should always involve parents and children as occurs with abusive behavior. Abusive people are usually raised and victimized by an abusive parent.

anonymous said...

"This also suggests a genetic basis."

Another suggestion that psi has a physical and therefore genetic basis is that increases in psi have been reported to occur after brain injury.

NDE's are also said to increase psi and that also might be due to a physical change in the brain, but I think one could also hypothesise that an NDE might cause psychological change also.

I should also say that evidence for a genetic basis of psi doesn't exclude a role for psychological/environmental factors as well.

littlebug said...

I didn't mean to suggest that I reject the idea that psi has a genetic and/or physical basis, or that it runs in families. My question was whether the observation that it runs in families could be "at least partially caused by social factors." In other words, the relative role of nature vs. nurture. It seems to me that inherited psychic abilities could be enhanced or suppressed according to social circumstances, just as is the case with any other ability that is encouraged or discouraged.

hwimberly said...

That was an interesting article.

I have a theory about psychic ability. I think it might be tied to the firing of synapses.

I first look at synapses in the human brain. The human brain contains a huge number of chemical synapses, with young children having about 10/16 synapses (10,000 trillion.). This number declines with age, stabilizing by adulthood. Estimates for an adult vary from 10/15 to 5 × 10/15 synapses (1,000 to 5,000 trillion).

So a child is more aware and and adult becomes more self aware as synapses decline.

Children and psychics are both sensative and aware to the true nature of reality and they see and sense things that most adults can't.

I think this could be directly related to the firing of synapses and a percentage of adults who are psychic do not have a full decline in synapses as they become adults.

This could actually be tested by comparing the synpsis of an adult who doesn't have psychic ability with an adult who has demonstrated psychic ability and you can also test the firing of synapses as they are doing a reading.

What does everyone think about this theory? Is it plausable?

I think the evidence is overwhelming for things like psychic ability and psi research. I think we now need to look for ways that these things correlate to the world that we live in.

I think psychic ability occurs naturally and things like life after death occur naturally we just don't fully understand the natural mechanism that corresponds with these things.

I also enjoyed Entangled Minds.