Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Lost Symbol, found

Dan Brown's (author of The DaVinci Code) new book, The Lost Symbol, was published yesterday. It immediately leapt to the top of the bestselling charts and will undoubtedly stay there a while.

Unbeknownst to us, or to practically anyone else because of the tight embargo on the plot, the heroine Katherine Solomon in the book is a "noetic scientist," and the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) is cited along with a fair bit of that character's view of noetic science. The fictional Katherine appears to be a composite of several real-life noetic scientists.

I am Senior Scientist at the actual Institute of Noetic Sciences. We've added a few pages to the IONS web site to provide more information about what noetic science actually is, along with our current research portfolio, some of our journal publications, and audio and video interviews. You can find that information by going to our homepage and clicking on the "In the spotlight" image.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Skeptic agrees that remote viewing is proven

Excerpt from a January 2008 item in the UK's The Daily Mail newspaper:

In 1995, the US Congress asked two independent scientists to assess whether the $20 million that the government had spent on psychic research had produced anything of value. And the conclusions proved to be somewhat unexpected.

Professor Jessica Utts, a statistician from the University of California, discovered that remote viewers were correct 34 per cent of the time, a figure way beyond what chance guessing would allow.

She says: "Using the standards applied to any other area of science, you have to conclude that certain psychic phenomena, such as remote viewing, have been well established.

"The results are not due to chance or flaws in the experiments."

Of course, this doesn't wash with sceptical scientists.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, refuses to believe in remote viewing.

He says: "I agree that by the standards of any other area of science that remote viewing is proven, but begs the question: do we need higher standards of evidence when we study the paranormal? I think we do.

"If I said that there is a red car outside my house, you would probably believe me.

"But if I said that a UFO had just landed, you'd probably want a lot more evidence.

"Because remote viewing is such an outlandish claim that will revolutionise the world, we need overwhelming evidence before we draw any conclusions. Right now we don't have that evidence."

Thus, a prominent skeptic agrees that (1) the study of remote viewing is an area of science, which should thoroughly obviate the skeptical epithet of "pseudoscience" once and for all. And (2) that when judged against prevailing scientific standards for evaluating evidence, he agrees that remote viewing is proven. The follow-on argument that this phenomenon is so unusual that it requires more evidence refers not to evidence per se, or even to scientific methods or practice, but to assumptions about the fabric of reality.

I agree that remote viewing would be difficult to explain using 17th century ontology, which from today's perspective would be a naive, classical physics view of reality. But I suspect it will be explained through 21st century expansions of those assumptions.