-- The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena
by Dean Radin.
Psychic Phenomena: Unquestionably Real
Dean Radin's The Conscious Universe
lays to rest any question as to the experimentally demonstrated
of at least some psychic (or "psi") phenomena. Using the statistical
of meta-analysis, Radin methodically and forcefully examines the
from nearly a century of increasingly sophisticated experiments.
the possibility of thousands of researchers committing fraud in a
decades-long conspiracy, or a complete misapplication and
of meta-analysis, the existence of telepathy (mind-to-mind
clairvoyance (perception at distance), precognition (perception through
time), psychokenesis (mind-matter interaction), and perhaps other psi
(e.g., mental interactions with living organisms) is incontrovertible.
Now, a statement such as "forever lays to
rest any question"
may, to a careful audience, seem extreme. But that's just the point. If
carefully read, Radin's thorough, relentless, and pointed volume will
or should -- win over even the crustiest and most skeptical (but
mainstream scientist. The hows and whys of psychic phenomena remain
but whether they occur is now settled. Post-Radin,
a refusal to accept the reality of psychic phenomena is itself prima
facie unscientific and untenable.
New Ideas are Accepted in Stages
In the Introduction, Radin describes how the
of a new idea occurs in four stages.
First, skeptics "confidently
the idea is impossible because it violates the Laws of Science";
reluctantly concede that the idea is possible but that it is not very
its effects are extremely weak;
third, the mainstream realizes the
of the idea and "that its effects are much stronger and more
than previously imagined"; and
fourth, those who were originally
"proclaim that they thought of it first."
With psi, we are currently in the most
important and the
most difficult of the four transitions -- from Stage 1 into Stage 2.
the idea itself is ancient, it has taken more that a century to
it conclusively in accordance with rigorous, scientific standards. This
demonstration has accelerated Stage 2 acceptance, and Stage 3 can
be glimpsed on the horizon.
The book has 4 main parts:
Motivation, which discusses
(or reproducibility), and meta-analysis; Evidence, where
is applied to the various types of psi research, and the leveraging of
skeptics' objections into continually improving experimental designs is
described; Understanding, which presents a field guide to
and skeptics, a discussion of why scientists can't "see" psi, and a
between "Orthodox 'Separateness' Science" and psi-friendly "Proposed
Science"); and finally, Implications, a short discussion of psi
theory and what it might all mean.
Motivation and Evidence
heart of the book. From the beginning, Radin is clear that "persuasive scientific
evidence for psi requires independently replicated, controlled
If psi is real, the skeptics ask, then why can't it just be repeatedly,
reliably demonstrated? The answer is two-fold: (1) although a "simple,"
large-effect, repeatable psi demonstration may not be possible on
the same thing is true of most truly interesting problems in science,
(2) with the application of meta-analysis,
it becomes clear that various types of replicated psi effects have
been unambiguously demonstrated. In fact, "when psi research is
by the same standards as any other scientific discipline, then the
are as consistent as those observed in the hardest of the hard
Meta-Analysis: The Analysis of
Meta-analysis, the analysis of analyses,
can be thought of
as an integrative review or a "structured technique for exhaustively
a complete body of experiments." Radin states that:
Meta-analysis has been
described as 'a method
of statistical analysis wherein the units of analysis are the results
independent studies, rather than the responses of individual subjects.'
In a single experiment, the raw data points are typically the
individual responses. In meta-analysis, the raw data points are the
of separate experiments.
Thus, "by combining thousands of people's
hundreds of experiments, we can obtain very high levels of confidence
the existence of psi." Put another way, "when we combine results of
similar studies to form the equivalent of a single, grand experiment
by many experimenters, from many locations, over many years, we also
increase our confidence in the outcome.
Meta-analysis has exploded in popularity
social, and medical sciences needed a "method of formally determining
the highly variable effects measured in their experiments were
Since data from similar but not identical experiments are combined,
reevaluation of the original data is needed. This leads to criticisms
mixing apples and oranges (which is fine if what you're after is facts
about fruit), and the "file drawer problem," which insinuates
many unsuccessful experiments go unpublished, siting in file drawers
A comparison to aspirin studies is useful.
studies on aspirin reducing heart attacks were not very persuasive, but
when many studies were combined, the aspirin effect was declared to be
real. This, says Radin, is exactly what meta-analysis has done for psi
experiments. Considered individually, some psi experiments have
successful but the effects did not appear to be easily repeatable. This
uncertainty has fueled the skeptics' doubt for over a century. But when
studies are combined, there is no doubt that the psi effects are real.
Meta-Analysis Applied To Psychokinesis
As one of the clearest examples of psi
random number generator (RNG) experiments, sometimes called
where subjects attempt to "will" the generation of more "1s" than "0s"
(chance predicts equal numbers). Radin sets the stage:
Today, most RNG experiments are
including the presentation of instructions, the provision of feedback
a trial-by-trial basis, and data storage and analysis Most RNGs are
highly sophisticated, employing features such as electromagnetic
environmental fail-safe alarms, and fully automated data recording.
The results? A 1987 meta-analysis looking
at 832 studies
(597 experimental and 235 controls) showed overall odds against chance
beyond a trillion to one. When skeptics rated the various experiments,
observed hit rates were unrelated to experimental quality. As for the
drawer" problem, "the number of unreported or unretreived RNG studies
to reduce the RNG psi effect to a non-significant level was 54,000 --
ninety times the number of studies actually reported."
The Bottom Line
The meta-analyses presented for the
other types of psi
research are similarly impressive. As a consequence, "Informed opinion
even among skeptics, shows that virtually all the past skeptical
against psi have dissolved in the face of overwhelming positive
and "informed skeptics today agree that chance is no longer a viable
for the result obtained in psi experiments." Only time will tell,
if the scientific establishment's
of psi will really be this simple and inevitable.
The Conscious Universe is not
without its problems.
The book could have stood more editing: at times it rambles, is overly
repetitious, or seems insufficiently integrated. Moreover, when Radin
into subject matters that are not his expertise -- he says some things
about physics and mysticism that Ken Wilber, in Quantum Questions :
Mystical Writings of the World's Great Physicists (1984), shows are
patently not so -- he occasionally falters. Nonetheless, this
important, watershed volume should be read by every serious student of
the human mind, and put into the hands of anyone who insists that
isn't a shred of evidence for psychic phenomena." That's just not true
Jordan S. Gruber Enlightenment.Com.