Dean Radin, PhD, has written an article entitled: What Gorilla?: Why Some Can’t See Psychic Phenomena. Because I fall into the category of people who apparently cannot see “psychic phenomena”, I read the article to see if he had me pegged, because I am quite confident I know the reason why I can’t see “psychic phenomena”.
To summarize his main point, Radin suggests that people only perceive a very small fraction of reality (“by some estimates a trillionth of what is actually out there”, according to Radin.) The rest of what people perceive to be true is built by “filling in the blanks” with their mind. As a result, human beings have a tendency to “overlook the obvious”, or to put it another way, humans have “blind spots” to certain aspects of reality, such as “psychic phenomena”. Apparently, folks that are steeped in a “Western scientific worldview” are blinded to realities that do not conform to their parochial scope. And according to Radin, skeptics fall squarely into that category.
“Exclusion of (psychic) phenomena creates a Catch 22: Human experiences credibly reported throughout history, across all cultures, and at all educational levels, repeatedly tell us that psychic phenomena exist. But Big Science — especially as portrayed in prominent newspapers and popular magazines like Scientific American — says it doesn’t.”
I would retort that what transcends the collective history of humans is that humans have an innate lack of understanding of the laws that govern the physical universe. Sometimes, these misinterpretations become interpreted, as Radin terms, “psychic phenomena”, largely based on cultural influences. Further, the idea of “Big Science” telling people that psychic phenomena does not exist is a very lame scare tactic, much the same the way people liberally wield terms like “Big Pharma” or “Big Oil”. “Big Anything” is pure cliché with no substance, and a red flag for personal or non-scientific biases. Radin continues:
“This form of investigation (scientific inquiry to paranormal claims) has been going on for over a century, and despite official denials, the jury is in: Some psychic phenomena do exist. But like blindingly obvious gorillas, not everyone can see them. (Actually, like the majority of the general public, many scientists do have these experiences, but as in the parable of the Emperor’s New Clothes, fledgling science students quickly learn in college that it is not politically expedient to talk about it.)”
Just what “jury” is Radin referring to? I am unaware of any generally accepted scientific evidence that any “psychic phenomena” has been shown to ever exist. This is about as vacuous a statement as a true-believer can muster. No wait, I take that back, his next sentence perhaps qualifies for being more devoid of fact. Fledgling science students in college are being silenced? I guess that’s one way of putting it. Perhaps a more accurate way of stating it is that science professors are not giving a platform to purely anti-scientific notions such as “psychic phenomena”, much the same way that history professors would not devote class time to discuss the notion that, perhaps, it was Germany that attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. More from Radin:
“Researchers who have closely studied the psi literature, the vast majority have little doubt that something interesting is going on, something not easily attributable to chance or to any known conventional artifacts. These effects are in principle no more difficult to demonstrate than the efficacy of new pharmaceutical drugs or medical procedures. Such effects tend to be small in magnitude, they are highly reactive to the psychosocial context and other environmental factors, and they take substantial amounts of careful data collection to overcome the statistical noise generated by dozens of poorly understood interactive factors. But they are real, and they are repeatable in the laboratory.”
I would wager that the vast majority of psi researchers have a predisposition to their belief that “psi” actually exists. On the other hand, scientists such as Ray Hyman and Amir Raz, who have no disposition or vested interest in the existence of “psi”, correctly identify the “small effects” of psi experiments as noise or chance. “Psi” is an extraordinary claim, and it requires extraordinary evidence to be accepted as probably existing. Anything else falls short. Radin would have the measuring stick of science lowered down to levels that “psi” could possibly touch. And more:
“These (psi) effects are in principle no more difficult to demonstrate than the efficacy of new pharmaceutical drugs or medical procedures.”
Right. And guess what? Science identifies the drugs and procedures that work and the ones that do not. The same measuring stick goes for “psi”, and under the rigid discipline of proper double-blinded science experiments, “psi” comes up empty. Radin claims that there are several “psi” experiments and tests that have met this criteria, but perhaps he’s not familiar with the fact that when you tighten the controls (such as properly double-blinding the experiments), any positive “psi” effects disappear.
A good remaining rest of Radin’s article is an attack on Ray Hyman to reinforce his notion that scientists and skeptics are too immersed in a “Western worldview” to see all the wonderful “psi” going on around us. But here is one more bit of the article I found interesting:
“Unfortunately, there are countless other tales of ignoring other invisible gorillas at the frontiers of knowledge. They include serious scientific arguments that global warming is not being caused by human activities, analyses suggesting that HIV does not cause AIDS, repeatable electrochemical-nuclear reactions once known as “cold-fusion,” credible reports of UFOs, and so on. All of these ideas encounter strong sociopolitical resistance in academia, so credible counter-arguments are difficult to locate and even more difficult to discuss in scientific forums unless you have a phalanx of beefy bodyguards watching your back. “Will mainstream science ever be prepared to admit that psychic phenomena warrants serious investigation? I believe the answer is yes. Acceptance someday is inevitable. We are dealing with human experiences reported since the dawn of human history, experiences that do not go away in tightly controlled laboratory tests using the most sophisticated experimental tools and designs. So some of these phenomena will eventually become integrated into the mainstream. Exactly when I cannot say. Perhaps one to five decades.”
Actually, “Psychic phenomena” has been seriously investigated for decades by lots of different people all over the world. The highest quality data is derived from studies and tests that were well designed, properly randomized and blinded, and critically reviewed for the purpose of eliminating human biases and interferences. The sum of data from the high quality scientific studies suggest there is no positive data to support the existence of “psi”. Despite this, Radin suggests that scientists should continue to dedicate precious limited resources to chase “gorillas” that only exist to those that believe they exist in the first place. Oh, yes, just incase you didn’t catch the undertones of Radin’s article, you must BELIEVE that there is a gorilla to be found, otherwise you will never be able to find it. That’s all well and good, if you’re doing anything other than science.
And that is the real crux of Radin’s article, and the answer as to why I can’t see “psychic phenomena”, which Radin failed to peg. I can not see it because there is nothing to be seen. Radin would have me believe that his analogy of the reader being a basketball fan, watching the game, and not noticing a person in a gorilla suit walking across the middle of the court is a good example of psychological science experiment that supports the reality of “psi.” It might make sense to the 95% of the world population that is scientifically illiterate, but fortunately in my case, I’m in the vast minority of people who can often distinguish science from non-science.
Perhaps Doctor Radin should come over to my house and have a look at Carl Sagan’s invisible dragon that now lives in my garage. Sagan’s invisible dragon and Radin’s gorilla could possibly get along very well together.