on 31 August 2000
Radin's book was a surprise to me. I have been often interested in the paranormal, but have always felt it completely lacked any scientific truth, and was worth little more than entertainment. Eventually, I became very sceptical to any issues that could not be easily accepted by science. This book has made me think twice by finally providing some meta-analysis that convinced me to at least stop to wonder.
To keep it short, Radin basically claims that the paranormal is real and has proof of it. He starts by defining the concept of Psi, and dedicates many pages trying to explain you the mathematical and statistical background you will need to understand the studies and the meta-analysis of the results. Radin then proceeds to expose all the evidence that has been gathered for the past years, for Telepathy, Perception at a distance and through time, Mind-Matter interaction, Mental interaction with living organisms and field consciousness. His next theme dedicates 50 pages to explain the why scepticism has been limiting the knowledge of Psi phenomena, and even approaches some metaphysics.
The book is very well organized, there is some redundancy, but no more than normal and it is often necessary. Subjects are well separated and the index is very good. What impressed me most was perhaps the way Radin provides the reader with external sources that back up his claims. The text is full of marks to references. You have about 40 pages with notes and references, which you will be able to check for yourself. If Radin claims something you might want to confirm, it most likely tells you where to go find the original document. This aspect alone would be enough to separate this work from many of the pseudocience junk on the market.
You will be left under the impression that the experiences known as "psychic phenomena" are real. Radin never refuses the possibility that these phenomena might be fully understood by science in the future, losing its "paranormal" label, but dedicates his energy in trying to prove that they are no longer based solely upon faith or absorbing anecdotes, or even in few experiments - It shows that these phenomena exist because they have been evaluated in massive amounts of scientific evidence.
Carl Sagan said extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence, and Radin does provide most of the evidence. As younger scientists become aware of these matters and innovative corporations pour resources into psi investigation, there is no doubt that the scientific community is getting very, very curious about something that is going on but cannot be explained.
Radin is very persuasive, many people might not be impressed with his writing on sociology and metaphysics, but his technical expertise on the rest of the book is obvious.
This is a very dense book to review in a short space, so I'll end up by warning those who are expecting a lot of hocus-pocus, ghost stories and x-files scripts. This book has almost nothing of that, Radin only gives a few short "reports" as the intro, but he obviously gives them no value at all and instantly proceeds to crunching the numbers. The studies are sometimes a bit dry for those who are expecting Uri Geller moments (Uri isn't even mentioned) and it might appear as if you're reading something your college forced you to, but once you get interested, it will be a delicious read. Even if you feel you might be challenged by the studies, but you don't need to be a statistician to understand it, Radin will give you the basics. So be warned, it gets zero on the Ghostbusters scale. (In fact, in many parts I could almost see Radin shrugging and saying "well uh, we have no idea on why this happens, but we are completely sure that it does happen for no known reason". Lacking some impact for Hollywood perhaps, but still engaging. :-)
Radin has convinced me that psi phenomena have indeed considerable scientific evidence behind, but that unlike what many pseudo-science fans think, those effects are extremely subtle and hard to control for any good use, at least, at present time. They cannot, however, be ignored as non-existing, or the product of ignorant minds. Nobel Laureate in Physics Brian Josephson for instance said "Radin shows the evidence in favour of paranormal existence is overwhelming".
I highly recommend it. A powerful case for the reality of parapsychological phenomena. Very professional work in a subject that has been plagued by many pseudoscience titles that do nothing but add more noise. What it sometimes likes in fun, it provides in painstaking research.
If you are a sceptic, read it, no matter if you are religious or not, with a scientific background or not. If you buy anything you hear as true, read it too. Most of all, it will challenge you to weigh the facts and think for yourself. But one view is never enough. Be sure to read several of the best sceptical works (many of which Radin mentions in the text and References) and any other you find interesting (Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan is a good title to start with) and you will understand everything better. Well worth the time. I look forward to Radin's next work.
on 23 March 2010
Dean radin the conscious universe
The fundamental point of this book is to argue that the existence of psi - psychic phenomena of various kinds like telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and so on - is now impossible to deny. It's a long story: 130 pages are devoted to the evidence. And ultimately, it is extremely difficult to say that Radin is wrong. I have an open mind about psi, but I do not have an open mind about the `supernatural', or miracles, that transgress the laws of physics and which are said to be necessarily beyond explanation. These are nonsense.
But I feel Radin would agree with that. Psi, he would say, is utterly different to the claim that miracles occur. In any event, he has persuaded me in these pages that it is absurd to claim that everything about psi is nonsense. Whatever it is, something odd is happening. The evidence for this is simply far too strong to be denied. The real question, of course, is what is happening? Why are there these strange anomalies, that show up time and again, with statistics proving they are way beyond chance?
There is a simple reason why psi is so fiercely denied by so many scientists: because it appears to claim that events occur which contradict - or at least seem to be incompatible with - the findings of science. Psi events apparently don't fit in with the nature of reality as science has uncovered it over the last few hundred years. Take telepathy: how does it work? We don't know, and it seems certain that if it does exist, something extremely unusual is happening, something totally new that would radically alter, even extend, our view of reality. For conventional scientists, such claims are huge. Centuries of work have failed to uncover possible mechanisms for these phenomena, while they have explained so much else. So naturally enough, they are extremely sceptical - hugely significant claims require hugely impressive evidence and theories. And there is no doubt that at the moment, psi advocates simply don't have them.
But if we could find an explanation for these events, this resistance should disappear. This is surely a crucial difference between legitimate advocates of psi like Radin and people who believe in miracles: Radin and his ilk believe there are potential, natural explanations of psi - even if they will lead to radical extensions of our view of reality. Believers in miracles claim they are events beyond explanation (presumably because God willed them, for example).
So, the crucial part of the book is where Radin tries to show that several features of the current scientific world view hold out the prospect that ultimately there will be explanations for psi. For example, it looks to some intelligent, reasonable observers that conventional science simply will not explain how consciousness emerged. (For the best exposition of this view, see David Chalmers' The Conscious Mind). And in quantum theory - the best theory science has ever produced - we have features like non-locality. These and some other features of the current philosophical/scientific landscape suggest that a truly radical extension of our view of reality is far from impossible - and in this extended view will be the potential to understand and explain psi.
At the beginning of Chapter 16, page 277 (Harper Collins hardback edition), Radin says this:
"One of the most shocking events in twentieth-century science - an event so outrageous that its repercussions are still barely under-stood - was quantum theory's prediction and subsequent verifica-tion of nonlocality.` This idea challenged long-held classical assumptions that objects separated in space are strictly isolated. Instead, nonlocality shows that physical objects that appear to be separate are really connected in ways that transcend the limitations of space and time. This may seem like a stark violation of common sense, but that is what the theory predicts and the experiments show.
"Even more shocking than the demonstration of nonlocality was the fact that overturning centuries of commonsense assumptions took only a hand-ful of experiments. The experimental coup de grace was a study in 1982 showing results that were "five standard deviations larger than the prediction of [hidden variables theory]," the countertheory to the quantum prediction.
"An experimental result of "five standard deviations" greater than some alternative hypothesis is equivalent to odds against chance of about 3.5 million to 1. As we've seen, some individual psi experiments have produced re-sults with odds against chance greater than a billion to one. And the odds after combining thousands of psi experiments are astronomically beyond that. So why was nonlocality accepted on the basis of a few studies, but psi is not? The answer is that quantum theory had predicted nonlocality, and so far, hardly anything predicts psi.
"This is not to say that there are no theories of psi, for actually there are many. They range from serious speculations in physics about the possibility of "advanced" electromagnetic waves carrying precognitive information, to how enhancements to quantum mechanics would allow an observer to mentally alter the physical probabilities of events. There are psychological speculations about how some aspects of the world may be driven by mental concepts like goals and purpose. There are theories based on Eastern philo-sophical concepts in which the world is primarily composed of Mind, which gives rise to matter.
"A comprehensive survey of existing theories, none of which is completely satisfactory, is beyond the scope of this book. But we can consider what an adequate theory must look like.
"What would a good theory of psi look like? First, the theory must be compatible with what is already known with high confidence in physics, psychology, and neuroscience. To ignore well-established principles in these disciplines would guarantee that no one need take the theory of psi seriously."
This makes it clear: he is not looking for miracles, as per my comments above!
"An adequate theory of psi, however, will almost certainly have to expand upon and synthesize aspects of certain puzzles in existing physical, psychological, and neurological theories. This means that the existing theo-ries in these disciplines will eventually be seen as special cases, applicable only to certain, limited conditions rather than explaining all conditions. Cross-disciplinary theories are exceptionally difficult to develop, but that's probably what psi will require. Systems theorist Irvin Laszlo has made a good beginning.4
"The theory will have to explain how information can be obtained at great distances, unbound by the usual limitations of space or time. Here we must point out that the existing laboratory data certainly suggest that psi effects are completely independent of space and time, but there is not enough evi-dence yet to state this with certainty."
He goes into considerable detail as to how quantum theory may be linked to explanations of psi. Finally, he summarises as follows (page 287):
"The Future Theory
As some of the stranger aspects of quantum mechanics are clarified and tested, we're finding that our understanding of the physical world is becom-ing more compatible with psi. An adequate theory of psi, however, will al-most certainly not be quantum theory as it is presently understood. Instead, existing quantum theory will ultimately be seen as a special case of how nonliving matter behaves under certain circumstances. Living systems may require an altogether new theory. Quantum theory says nothing about higher-level concepts such as meaning and purpose, yet real-world, "raw" psi phenomena seem to be intimately related to these concepts.
"Quantum interconnectedness does tell us that perfectly ordinary "dead matter" operates in remarkable ways that violate our commonsense notions of how the world works. Given that we have only recently glimpsed the strange properties of dead matter, we have every reason to believe that even more remarkable properties of "conscious matter" remain to be discovered. As physicist Nick Herbert said, "I think that Bell's theorem [of nonlocality] is remarkable. I hope I am alive when the first real theory of mind begins to surface. I think it will make Bell's theorem look like 5-finger arithmetic."',
"In considering the possibility that psi may be one of the major discover-ies of the twenty-first century, Halcomb Noble of the New York Times wrote:
"No one understands quantum mechanics," says Nobel Laureate Richard P. Feynman. Its effects are "impossible, absolutely impossible" to explain based on human experience. It may be equally true of ESP. It may exist. It may be important to human and physical behavior. Yet it may not be explainable until long after its discovery."
"In other words, if something is real, it can be put to use even if we don't understand it very well. If this were not so, virtually none of the technolo-gies and medical remedies we now take for granted would exist. We've seen that government agencies, business, and medicine are already applying psi, and that it is being explored by high-technology companies. But where is it going? What are the future implications of psi?"
And my summary? A book well worth reading, although to get the most out of it perhaps requires a degree of familiarity with studies of topics like consciousness and quantum theory. But Radin does provide an excellent bibliography. What this book proves beyond any debate at all, however, is that if you are someone who thinks psi is all complete nonsense, not worthy of any consideration by an intelligent person - you are quite simply wrong. And the future will prove it.
on 15 February 2013
What a marvellous and very erudite, comprehensive book Dean Radin has written in language that the layman can fully understand
He picks apart all the results of the many, many studies carried out by researchers (good and bad) over the past one hundred odd years and he has concluded that there is definite evidence for psi, no matter what most scientists categorically believe or state that they do!.
This book is so informative and Radin, although he concludes that many scientists are downright adamant over the non-existence of psi, in no way insults them but writes in such an subtle way that you immediately understand his thoughts.
I, personally, am a great believer in psi, having had many experiences of such and have a most definite feeling that, eventually, it will be found that this is what underpins the whole of the universe; in fact, some scientists in the field of quantum pyhsics are coming round to the idea that there may be something here that is not fully understood and does have a bearing on the whole psi subject.
In any event, this book is most definitely worth the read and I highly recommend it.