Tuesday, July 19, 2005

From Wired News: Mind May Affect Machines

Well, it sure is nice to see coverage of parapsychology (psi) research showing up in a fairly mainstream source like Wired News!

This article reports on research at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program (Pear) purporting to show that our state of mind can have subtle but significant effects on machines. Longtime readers (over two months!) will recall that early on I posted a back and forth debate on the merits of parapsychology research (see here, and then, if you're still interested, here, here, here, here, and here). The gist of the argument against psi research seems to be that 1. it does not follow the standard rule of being replicable in a variety of settings and conditions, and 2. the results make no sense according to current scientific knowledge and therefore must be wrong.

The Wired article pretty much avoids addressing the second point, but it does a good job illustrating the controversy at the heart of the first, quoting skeptics who tried and failed to replicate the experiments as well as discussing meta-analyses done over the years that have found the effects to be real, significant, and replicable. And they quote Dean Radin, who I cited in my previous posts:

Radin, who is not affiliated with Pear, dismisses critics who say the group isn't practicing solid science.

"This field has received far more scrutiny and criticism than many other ordinary fields," Radin said. "The people who do this kind of research are well aware that their research has to be done better. The Pear lab has taken the best principles of rigorous science and applied it to extremely difficult questions and come up with some pretty interesting answers."

No new ground is covered here, but it's nice to see a balanced view showing up someplace where intelligent, informed people can actually have a chance to consider both sides of the issue and draw their own conclusions. Even if your own conclusion is that there's not enough information to draw a definitive conclusion, this is a big improvement over the credulous paranormal coverage found in tabloid television or the biased anti-psi slant that generally permeates the mainstream media.

I predict that a revolution in how we perceive the interaction of consciousness and the "material world" will happen within our lifetimes. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

American Daughter said...

As a physicist, I am a long-time follower of anomalous phenomena, because I think para-whatever (psychology or physics) is really physics that hasn't been "discovered" yet.

The PEAR work was reported circa 1989 in the IEEE journal. Long and credible article by Jahne and Dunne.

My political positions are quite different from yours. I am a political conservative because I remember first hand the lessons of WWII, which have been altered somewhat for today's history books. But I enjoy you weblog because you are a very thoughtful journalist.