Discussions of telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition tend to be dismissed as so much New Age crystal-gazing. As it turns out, though, the scientific evidence for these phenomena is overwhelming. The only people who doubt that such things really happen either are ignorant (probably because they’ve been misled by self-appointed debunkers) or have a strong vested interest in a hard-headed “scientific” world view that not even physicists believe in any more.
This week I’ve been reading a couple of very interesting books — The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin and Morphic Resonance by Rupert Sheldrake. I recommend them both. Together, they unveil some very provocative possibilities.
Radin provides an overview of decades of meticulous experiments designed to verify (or disprove) the idea that telepathy, precognition, and similar phenomena are real. Be prepared for a crash course in statistics — this is not a book of impossible-to-reproduce anecdotes about Aunt Greta’s dream that her dog had died. There are graphs.
What Radin doesn’t do is provide a theory that might have the power to explain the phenomena. He dips his toe in quantum physics to the extent of talking about non-locality (which is an interesting and highly suggestive topic), and also examines the psychology of skeptics in considerable detail, but he pretty much leaves it up to you to draw your own conclusions.
Sheldrake has a theory. His book is mainly concerned with biological phenomena such as embryo development and instinctive behavior; telepathy isn’t even listed in his book’s index. Nonetheless, his theory of morphic resonance provides a framework within which psi phenomena fit rather neatly.
Sheldrake’s goal is to pry apart the consensus that evolution is all about natural selection operating on the random mutations in DNA. Along the way, he documents the now proven fact that acquired characteristics can be inherited. (Yes, Virginia, Lamarck was right. So was Darwin, who thought the same thing.) Sheldrake then goes further to suggest that learned behaviors can be imparted not only to the descendants of the animals that learned the behaviors but also to other genetically similar animals whose ancestors didn’t learn those behaviors. That is, ideas can propagate from one animal to another across space and time, and without any physically detectable form of causation.
And yes, he has scientific evidence. It’s not as strong as the evidence for telepathy, but this is a newer theory. His theory is that, in addition to matter/energy, the universe exhibits a non-energy-based phenomenon in which patterns that have occurred tend to recur. They tend to resonate through similar physical systems.
The human brain being a physical system, if Sheldrake is right we shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that ideas and images in one brain can appear in another brain through the action of morphic resonance.
Radin’s book is mainly about traditional tests for telepathy designed and conducted in universities. What I find odd is that such tests are typically conducted (a) between senders and recipients who are only casual acquaintances and (b) using test images that are of no special emotional significance to the participants. Or perhaps it’s not odd; that’s how university psychology departments generally do their tests. But if Sheldrake’s ideas are correct, one would expect telepathic resonance to occur much more frequently between people who are closely bonded (married couples and identical twins, for example). And based on the enormous wealth of anecdotal evidence for telepathy, one would expect that emotionally significant ideas would be transmitted from sender to receiver more reliably. It would be interesting to study statistically, using standard double-blind procedures, whether telepathy is stronger when these factors are aligned.
It also occurs to me that if telekinesis is real (and it is — test subjects can control the outcome of rolling dice in a small but statistically significant way), evolution may have more tricks up its sleeve than we imagine. Choosing the roll of dice is not very significant emotionally. Producing babies is much more significant. At a moment when millions of sperm are swimming toward an egg, dare we assume that it’s entirely a random affair which sperm wins the race?
It would be difficult to design an experiment that would test this, but I think it’s clear that even a small non-random influence on the selection of sperm, when it operates in thousands of matings per year across thousands of years, could have an enormous impact on the evolution of a species. If a bunch of antelope can see those tasty leaves dangling just out of reach on the trees, might they want to produce baby antelope that had longer necks? Might their desire cause sperm with genes for long necks to have a bit of an edge? Again, this doesn’t have to be a large, obvious effect. Even a small non-random bias, over the course of thousands of years, would produce the giraffe.