Dr. Dean Radin, chief scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, earned a masters degree in Electrical Engineering (magna cum laude) and a PhD in psychology, spent a decade working on advanced projects for Bell Labs and GTE Labs, is the author or co-author of more than 250 scientific, technical, and popular articles, several best selling books and more than 100 articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. He is considered one of the world’s premier scientific investigators of psychic abilities. For more information on Radin and his work, see his website.
First of 4 Parts. Click to see the entire series
FOR MORE, SEE:
Scientists believe – but not publicly – in the power of the mind
Movie exaggerations of paranormal abilities make scientific studies a hard sell
The future: Can science find new explanations of paranormal phenomena
George Knapp: Well describe what we got working here.
Dean Radin: Okay. I’ll start this up here. Basically, what we’re looking at is when you’re doing tests in the laboratory of mind-matter interaction, the hypothesis is that the mind can cause matter to do something directly without any intervention. And so most of the experiments involve looking at something on a computer screen. And it’s a valid experiment, but it’s not very interesting. So what I did is I created feedback for a mind-matter interaction experiment that uses this robot. And what the person is asked to do in here is to simply look at the robot and will the robot to reach over pick up the candy and drop it in the dish. And when it drops in the dish, then you can use it — you can have the candy if you wish. So what’s happening underneath this is that the robot knows about 30 different positions that it can be in, and if you’re successful in influencing the physical matter — the target in this case, although usually a subject doesn’t know about the target — if they’re successful, the robot will continually move in the direction towards getting the candy, then picking it up and then moving over and dropping it. If you’re not successful, it will start backing up. And so if you look at the total … well, see now it’s doing very well. Oop … here we go. In that case, when it backed up, back up again, back up. When it backs up, it means that I’m not being successful in the task. So you know, you’re successful when you get the candy as fast as possible.
Knapp: And how often are your students or subjects successful with it?
Radin: Well, we ran 105 people through this over the course of about a year. And the idea was when the robot is just by itself and there’s somebody here, it takes about 30 seconds to randomly just go over, pick it up and drop it. And after looking at 100 people, in general, we have about one second left. Now that doesn’t mean we’re going to create psychically controlled robots. But it does mean that there is some evidence that the will impressed into the system makes a robot do what you wished it to do faster?
Knapp: And what’s the physics of that? How does that work? Or do you know?
Radin: Well, we don’t really have … we don’t have good explanations yet as to how something like that can occur. But the best guess at this point comes from quantum mechanics. Because one of the central mysteries in quantum mechanics coming directly from the theory is that the nature of observation changes a physical system. And so us, as observers, and looking at a system like this, theoretically would be affecting the system. And what we’re doing here is empirically testing that hypothesis. And the hypothesis seems to be upheld — that our will does affect the system.
Knapp: I’m reading your chapter right now on skeptics and skepticism, and I think you really do a great job at dismantling those guys. But is this a case where the public, which seems to have an appreciation and a general understanding that there are abilities that all of us seem to have some sort of ability, is way ahead of the scientific community, which is steadfast in it’s a refusal to accept the research?
Radin: Well, the paradox — you’re talking about the paradox. The paradox is: very wide belief in these phenomena. And by the way, that goes for scientists as well, although they’re not ready to admit it yet. It’s the belief against the theories in science. And so, in a sense, you can say that the empirical data that people get, which is our own experience, says that these phenomena are real. It’s not diminishing over time, it’s about the same it has always been. The question is, how come our scientific theories aren’t good enough yet to be able to describe these in scientific terms? And the answer to that is very simple. It’s the same reason why we don’t have a very good explanation for consciousness, or until recently for things like why anesthesia works. There are lots of mysteries that science just hasn’t caught up to yet. And so eventually, since science is quite good at figuring out these sorts of things, I believe that the body of scientific theory will expand. It must expand, otherwise, the whole system is dead. It will eventually expand and be able to explain things that currently are unexplainable.
Knapp: And the reason that science is not capable of explaining it thus far has to do with scientists themselves. I mean, that they don’t want to, or …
Radin: No, I think, you know, that there’s just as though there are topics which are politically incorrect, there are topics which are scientifically incorrect. That doesn’t mean that things like prejudice don’t exist. It’s just that through political correctness, we don’t talk about it. And in science, the same thing happens. There are some topics which are so hot, because they’re controversial, that scientists have learned that it is damaging to your career if you do talk about it.
Knapp: And this is one, right?
Radin: Well, yeah, this is one because we don’t know what the connection is. We have glimmerings of a theoretical connection, but we don’t know. And for some bizarre reason — actually, it’s not so bizarre — for an understandable reason, scientists, as well as everyone are driven by theory. If we understand something theoretically, then it’s okay. But in my view that’s really backwards. And it reflects two different kinds of approaches in science. One approach says if I have a good theoretical understanding of something, well, then it’s okay. And I can study it. And I can have a career in this, and so on. But science only advances primarily through empiricism, which is the basis of skepticism. It says, somebody comes in with a claim that they can influence this thing. I don’t believe it. Well, let’s try it. And you don’t try it on a single basis. You try it with lots of people over a long period of time. And as I talk about in my book, this kind of thing has been going on for over 40 years, and we know very well that it happens.
Knapp: It’s real.
Radin: It’s real. It doesn’t mean that we’re able to levitate this. We don’t see that in the laboratory. But we do see evidence suggesting that the nature of the whole system itself has actually changed in a way that would suggest that the mind is somehow interacting with it.
Knapp: Show us … what’s your slot machine over here?
Radin: Well, the slot machine actually was a gift. It’s not plugged in at the moment, but …
Knapp: Was that used in an experiment?
Radin: Yeah, we did use this in an experiment. This was a gift by the assistant general manager of the Continental Hotel and Casino. And the idea was that we wanted to test the claim that some people had that they knew which machine to use. Now you’d wander around and pick a machine, and either through precognition or who knows what would use a particular machine. So we brought in a couple of people, students from around here, and they played the machine in the laboratory to see how lucky they were. And we have of course, we have the key so we’re able to get in there and see what’s happening. Then we took the same people to a real casino, to the Continental in fact, and they played there and we wanted to see whether or not their performance in the lab under controlled conditions with known number of quarters being played would translate into a real world environment. And as often happens in scientific experiments, we got a very, very good result completely backwards. So the people who performed really well in laboratory were the ones who performed really badly in the actual casino.
Knapp: And what’s the conclusion for that?
Radin: Well, of course, we don’t know, because it was a single test. But it suggests, at minimum, that there may be something interesting going on. because after all, the environment here is very different than the casino. Somebody who can perform well under these quiet conditions under high control, maybe that’s exactly the wrong person that should go into a casino because they’re distracted and they can’t perform well.