X-Message-Number: 12141
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 11:27:08 EDT
Subject: Psi book

THE CONSCIOUS UNIVERSE; The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, by Dean 
Radin, HarperSanFrancisco 1997.

A longer review of this book will appear in The Immortalist. Today I just 
want to give preliminary impressions.

Radin's Ph.D. may be in psychology; the book jacket doesn't say. He is 
described as Director of the Consciousness Research Laboratory at University 
of Nevada, Las Vegas. 

The main claim of the book is that the familiar Psi phenomena--telepathy 
or/and clairvoyance, precognition, and telekinesis or psychokinesis, as well 
as a couple of others less familiar--have been proven to exist. The evidence 
is primarily from meta-analysis, i.e. the analysis of whole groups of 
studies, which can give more reliable information than any single study. The 
author claims that none of the putative sources of error, nor all 
collectively, suffice to explain away the evidence, so that the odds very 
strongly favor his positive interpretation.

Regretfully, so far I find the argument unpersuasive. In part, perhaps, this 
is because I find the author slightly sleazy in some respects. For example, 
he reviews very clearly the case against the strength of anecdotal evidence, 
but uses anecdotes just the same. He also drags in a certain amount of 
innocence-by-association, using authoritative names and questionable 
analogies to bolster his case--for example, the conjectures of some eminent 
physicists, such as Eugen Wigner, that a conscious mind must be the 
"observer" in order to cause collapse of the wave function in quantum 

But perhaps my strongest negative reaction arises from the fact that he 
claims ALL the Psi phenomena are proven, including psychokinesis. Let's look 
at the stretch this would require.

The evidence for psychokinesis is mostly in experiments tossing dice (or more 
recently in influencing electronic random number generators) by thinking at 
them. The subject just "wills" the die (or dice, sometimes several at a time) 
to fall in the desired way. Now just  stop and think what is demanded for 

It is not only a question of somehow applying physical force, in the 
necessary manner, at a distance by an act of will. It is a question of 
CONTROL. Suppose you were allowed to use a physical object to do the job--say 
hold a pencil and poke the dice as they are thrown. Would anyone have the 
quickness and coordination to make dice fall as desired, even if allowed to 
poke them as they fall--especially if there are several dice falling at once? 
I think not. 

Besides control, there is the question of OBEDIENCE. In actuality, the 
subject does not even try to exert controlled forces; he merely wishes for or 
hopes for or commands a favorable outcome. Therefore the dice themselves, or 
some gremlin or agency (within or outside the brain), must understand and 
obey the wish or command. Too far-fetched for me. 

In spite of all that, as Radin says, the implications of real Psi are so 
enormous that even a slight chance of validity would justify further 
investigation. Those who want to conduct such investigations should be 

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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