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No. 114: Nov-Dec 1997

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Redefining Science

The rules of today's science are rigorously objective, with no place for subjective or consciousness-related factors. These are eliminated by requiring that all experimental results be reproducible by all normal people. Otherwise, every UFO sighting by any individual and each claim of telepathy would be legitimate scientific evidence. Such stringent requirements have made it difficult for parapsychologists to get their experimental results, no matter how carefully acquired, to be taken seriously by mainstream science.

How, then, can parapsychology be "legitimized" in the eyes of all scientists? Easy! By redefining science. This is what R.G. Jahn and B.J. Dunne have proposed in a long, philosophical article in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. They define a "neo-subjective" science, which retains the "logical rigor, empirical/theoretical dialogue, and cultural purpose" of present-day "rigorously objective" science, but would:

  1. Allow a proactive role for consciousness
  2. Be more explicit and profound in the use of interdisciplinary metaphors
  3. Permit more generous interpretations of measurability, replicability, and resonance (4) Reduce onotological aspirations
  4. Permit an "overarching teleological causality.

R.J. Jahn heads the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Laboratory, which over the years has conducted some 50 million experimental trials, mostly in the search for psychokinetic effects on the behavior of a wide variety of mechanical, electrical, and other types of machines. Jahn and Dunne assert that the results of those experiments clearly show the effects of the pre-stated intentions of the machine operators. In other words, mind can affect matter -- as in the distribution of spheres cascading down a peg board.

We now list some of the other salient features of the immense corpus of PEAR experimental results:

  1. The scale and character of the results are rather insensitive to the type of random devices (machines) employed.
  2. Operator learning and experience have no effect on performance.
  3. Operators may exert their "intentions" on the machine hours or days before the machine is run and still produce results similar to "on-time" machine operation.
  4. The distance between operator and machine has no effect on the results.

(Jahn, Robert G., and Dunne, Brenda J.; "Science of the Subjective," Journal of Scientific Exploration, 11:201, 1997.)

Comment. That PEAR results are unaffected by by the timing and distance of the operator attempting to affect the behavior of the machine is somewhat troublesome to many scientists, but not inconsistent with some predictions of quantum mechanics. Much more serious to objective science is the implication that a scientist performing an experiment can subjectively (consciously or unconsciously) affect his results, as in the psychokinetic control of a meter reading or an electronic data processor. If such things can happen, one scientist could not replicate the experiment of another scientist.

From Science Frontiers #114, NOV-DEC 1997. 1997-2000 William R. Corliss