Impossible Realities: The Science Behind Energy Healing, Telepathy, Reincarnation, Precognition, and Other Black Swan Phenomena
By Maureen CaudillGenre: Non-Fiction/New Age/Paranormal Publisher: Hampton Roads Publishing, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC Number of pages: 256 Word Count: 66,377 Cover Artist: Jim Warner
Impossible Realities is the first book to examine the science behind psychic and paranormal activity. A former Defense Department expert on artificial intelligence, Maureen Caudhill provides evidence for a wide range of paranormal phenomena.
Impossible Realities presents a wealth of anecdotal and empirical evidence to prove the existence (and power) of:
- psychokinesis (most famously spoon bending
- remote viewing
- energy healing
- telepathy, animal telepathy
- survival after death
Caudill presents the strongest case yet for bringing paranormal phenomena from the margins into the realm of the normal and credible. This is a book both for true believers and skeptics alike.
About the Author:
Maureen Caudill spent more than twenty years as a computer scientist, fifteen of those as a researcher in artificial intelligence and neural networks. She was a program manager and Artificial Intelligence researcher working on such advanced projects as DARPA (“High Performance Knowledge Base” program) and ARDA (“Advanced Question Answering for Intelligence” program).
Excerpt:Chapter 1 The First Black Swan: Psychokinesis
I have a bowl in my house that is filled with the remains of various pieces of cutlery that are not exactly usable. These are forks and spoons and an occasional knife that used to be good-quality stainless steel cutlery, but which now are just . . . strange. Every so often I give a workshop for people who want to learn how to access their psychic selves. The format varies some, depending on the time available. Yet, no matter how long the workshop—a day, a weekend, or a week—the one skill people always want me to teach them is spoon-bending.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure why spoon-bending is so popular. It’s really a bit of a party trick rather than anything profound. But maybe it’s just that a warped fork is tangible evidence that they have done something unusual. When you go home with a fork that is bent and twisted into strange shapes, you have absolute proof that you did something extraordinary.
Spoon-bending is definitely a skill that has fallen on hard times. It had been extremely popular in the 1970s as celebrated psychic Uri Geller rose to fame as a spoon-bender extraordinaire, until in 1973, he was caught cheating on national television, on the Tonight Show. He was declared a fraud. He was pilloried by all and virtually drummed out of the United States.
Now to be fair, Geller did cheat. Everyone agrees on that, even him. What is often not heard is why he cheated. According to his side of the story, he was blindsided by that request, not expecting to be forced into demonstrating his skills in that particular venue. Furthermore (again from his perspective) he was exhausted, stressed, and simply not in the right frame of mind to be doing anything psychic, yet he felt hounded to perform on television. Still young and desperate not to look bad by refusing, he resorted to cheating.
Do I believe this story? Well . . . perhaps. Knowing what I know about doing any psychic function, Geller’s story is credible, at least in the basics. Psychic functions, like all other human talents, are not perfect all the time. No one—no one—can perform at their peak at any hour, day or night, or continuously, or on demand under stressful circumstances. That applies just as much to a top athlete, an exceptional musician, or a terrific student. Human beings simply aren’t perfect. And the public pressure to be perfect—particularly in any psychic field where people are simply waiting for you to fail—is overwhelming. A young man (he was only twenty-seven at the time of that infamous Tonight Show debacle) who had grown accustomed to acclaim might easily be tempted to mix stage magic with psychic skills. So . . . I think the verdict is “unproven” in this case, no matter whether you’re trying to prove Geller’s abilities or his lack of them.
It is also true that after that episode, a number of scientific studies conducted in Europe under extremely rigorous conditions validated his innate ability to manipulate matter with his mind. Here in the United States, however, his reputation seems forever tainted by that Unfortunate Incident.
A decade ago, however, I would have laughed to scorn anyone who defended the “fraud” Geller. Why my change of heart? Because I can spoon-bend. And I’ve taught close to a thousand other people to do it, too. I now understand that not only is spoon-bending possible, but also most anyone can learn to do it—and pretty easily, too. I’ve taught people to do it in small workshops, and in huge ones with hundreds of people. And in one memorable interview on Coast to Coast AM with George Noory, he asked if I was willing to try to teach people to spoonbend over the radio. I said I’d never tried that before, but I’d give it a shot. As it turned out, it was hugely successful, with one listener even calling in to say he had no cutlery handy, so he’d bent a large screwdriver instead!
A few years ago I was attending a workshop given by my good friend Robert Bruce. He is a renowned Australian mystic, whose work in energy and out-of-body experiences is some of the most effective in the world—and he’s an incredibly charming and funny man in person. At any event, on the second or third day of this five-day program, I asked him if he ever used his energy exercises to teach people to spoon-bend. He told me he’d never done it himself, so he didn’t teach it. Was I willing to show the group how to do that?
That night I went to the local KMart and bought enough good-quality cutlery for the smallish group to learn spoonbending. When the time came the next day, I handed out forks (I strongly prefer to teach people using forks rather than spoons for reasons I’ll explain later), and proceeded to use Robert’s energy exercises to get people to bend their forks. As I have come to expect, everyone in the class succeeded brilliantly, and within fifteen or twenty minutes, we had a whole menagerie of twisted cutlery sculptures.
The next morning, one of the women in the workshop came in and said she had to tell us what happened the night before. It turns out that this lady was dining with friends at quite a nice local restaurant. During the dinner, the talk turned to politics, a subject she was passionate about. She got a little, um, enthusiastic while talking with one of her friends. She was making her point rather forcefully and wagging her fork at the person she was speaking to, as you might wag your finger at someone. And
. . . the fork drooped and melted in her hands.
She was so embarrassed!
She hurriedly pulled the fork out of sight onto her lap and, hiding her actions with the tablecloth, tried to put it back into its original form. She never did get it quite right, of course . . . the specific curves and angles of cutlery are difficult to replicate by hand, particularly under cover of a tablecloth when you’re upset!
So the lesson from this is: If you must spoon-bend when you’re dining out, spoon-bend responsibly.5
The bottom-line conclusion I have drawn about spoon-bending is that it is one of the absolute easiest psychic skills to learn, at least at the elementary level I teach it. (Far from television worthy,
I might add!) And why do I prefer to teach people to bend forks rather than spoons? Because forks are a little bit harder. With a spoon, about the only thing a beginner can do is to twist the spoon at the neck, where the bowl meets the handle.6 That’s far too easy to do, even in fairly sturdy cutlery. But if you’ve ever taken a good-quality stainless steel fork and tried to bend just one tine with your fingertips, you know that it’s all but impossible to do. I ask people to try to bend their forks with their fingers before we start the spoon-bending process, just to make sure they’re convinced they can’t do it. Only then do I start guiding them in how to spoon-bend.
The basic process is one of running energy through the fork to soften it. I teach people some simple exercises on manipulating chi energy; then I get them to run that energy through the fork for a few minutes, concentrating on setting their intentions that the fork soften and bend.7 As they do that for a while—as little as a minute or two, or as much as five or six minutes, depending on how good they are at running energy and holding their concentration on what they’re doing—the fork really does soften. At that point, they can bend, twist, warp, and distort it however they like—including twisting individual tines. When they have it twisted it into the configuration they like, they put the fork down and don’t touch it for three or four minutes. When they pick it up after that break, the fork has “set” in that new shape and is as hard and stiff as it was before. If they want to change the shape again, they have to start the process from scratch.
It’s true that my success rate is not quite 100 percent. I find that two kinds of people have trouble learning to spoon-bend. One set is people who are themselves quite low in chi, or life energy. This is usually people who are elderly or who have a serious illness. They barely have enough chi to keep themselves going, let alone some left over for softening stainless steel.
The other type is someone who is convinced that it cannot work. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve taught a lot of skeptics to spoon-bend, to their astonishment. The very first time I tried to teach spoon-bending, the group included a PhD physicist and a PhD anthropologist, each of whom individually assured me that spoon-bending was a total fake, all because of the flap over Uri Geller’s Tonight Show debacle. Yet, they were willing to humor me and give it a try. They took less than five minutes to become amazing successes. The physicist in particular had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), so he had very poor strength in his hands, yet he succeeded at bending his fork.
I also remember one workshop in which there was a participant who was a professional magician. At the break before we started the spoon-bending exercise, he came up to me and assured me that it was all a fake8 and that he knew at least a dozen different ways to fake spoon-bending. I listened to him as he listed them all; then I assured him he wouldn’t have to use any of those fakes in the workshop—he could do it for real. He was skeptical but had an open mind and was willing to give it a try. Twenty minutes later, he came up to me, showing a wildly twisted fork and jubilantly said, “I did it! I don’t have to fake it anymore! I can really do it!”
The type of skeptical person who fails is the one who is so convinced that it can’t be done that she refuses to actually try— or subconsciously refuses to allow herself to try. I ran into one of those in a workshop with a number of scientists. While claiming to have an open mind, when it came to the spoon-bending part, one in particular simply could not get her fork to bend. I tried everything I could think of to help her, short of bending it myself: running extra energy through it with her, helping her focus and concentrate, and so on. Nothing worked. I could see she appeared to be trying to bend it but . . . nothing. Finally, I actually touched her fork . . . and it was so soft it was practically like squishy butter! Clearly, she’d made it so soft and malleable that a small child should have been able to bend it—yet when I again encouraged her to try to bend it, she still claimed she couldn’t, that it was too stiff. It seemed to me that her fingers were working against each other, something like doing an isometric exercise, where a lot of effort is expended yet nothing actually moves. My guess is that she has never been able to bend a spoon and likely never will.
As with any psychic (or physical) skill, you can convince yourself you are incapable of doing it. Yet, the truth is, as best I can tell from my totally unscientific observations of hundreds and hundreds of people, most people, possibly almost all people, can do spoon-bending. It’s easy to learn, easy to do, and when you do it yourself—as opposed to watching someone do it on the stage— you know for a fact that it’s not a fake.
And that’s exactly why I teach this particular little party trick so often in workshops. When I teach people about chi energy, it all sounds airy-fairy and nonsensical to anyone with a scientific mindset—it certainly did to me when I first heard about it. Even when I show people that they can literally feel the energy moving around their bodies, they often have the same reaction I initially had, that it’s all imagination and none of it is anything more than self-delusion. Yet, when I teach people to take that same “imaginary” energy, run it through a fork for a few minutes, and then feel solid stainless steel soften enough to become soft and malleable in their hands, suddenly what was nonsensical and imaginary becomes very, very real.
So perhaps that’s the real reason for the popularity of spoonbending. If you learn to do even one thing that conventional science deems wildly impossible, you begin to believe that other things are possible, too.
Spoon-bending is of course only one of many manifestations of psychokinesis. People have been known to have a wide variety of psychokinetic skills, including
- lighting light bulbs in their hands,
- sprouting seeds by holding them in the palm of the hand,
- moving objects without touching them,
- changing how dice roll or roulette wheels spin to force a specific result,9 and
- influencing random events (such as with a random number generator) to force a specific trend in results over many, many trials.
Again, these are only examples of skills that have been studied. While my experience has been primarily spoon-bending, I did once try sprouting seeds in the palm of my hand. It was, well, not exactly either a success or a failure. Here’s what happened.
I was preparing for a new workshop I planned, and I wondered if I could manage to teach people how to sprout seeds in their palms—in spite of the fact I’d never done it myself, nor even seen anyone else attempt to do it. Someone had mentioned to me that it was possible to do it, so I figured I’d give it a try. If I could manage the trick, I’d think about adding it to the workshop.
I got some vegetable seeds from my local nursery and gave them a little soak in water for about an hour. This particular type of seed was supposed to have a seven- to ten-day sprouting time once planted. After that brief soak, I sat down in my favorite meditation chair, put about three seeds in the palm of my hand, and started doing the same energy process that I use for spoonbending. (I have no idea if this is how people who know how to sprout seeds do this—it’s simply the process that I tried.) I was very careful to hold my hand steady by propping it on a pillow so I wouldn’t accidentally tip it. I cupped my other hand over the one holding the seeds and started running energy between my palms. After a few moments, I felt something very odd—a flash of heat and light combined with a shock, a bit like an electric shock. Startled, I uncovered my palm holding the seeds to see if they had sprouted. They hadn’t.
Instead, they’d disappeared.
So much for my seed-sprouting abilities. I never did add seedsprouting to my workshops. Probably that’s just as well, don’t you think?
A couple of points about this aborted seed-sprouting effort are important. One thing is that when you’re working with these energies, you sometimes get results that are not what you intend. Was I trying to make the seeds disappear? Not at all. It never occurred to me to even try to do that. Nonetheless, that’s what I accomplished. Particularly in a case like this where I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, never even having seen someone else do it, it was likely a little foolhardy on my part to attempt seedsprouting. Maybe someday I’ll get someone to show me how to do it correctly.
Another key point to remember is that the energies you work with when doing psychic work are significant. These are not toys or games. I cannot emphasize that enough. Working with life energy and altered states of consciousness is serious business. These energies are powerful and they can do things to you and to other people that are not so pleasant. Fooling around with psychic skills is highly risky unless you learn how to do it under the guidance of a competent, caring, and highly ethical instructor. It is especially risky when you lack the discipline and maturity to use these skills wisely instead of arrogantly. While not quite as dangerous as handing a four-year-old a loaded pistol to play with, the impact of careless, irresponsible “play” in these arenas can have serious consequences.
On second thought, maybe playing around irresponsibly with psychic skills is more dangerous than handing a four-year old a loaded pistol.10
If psychokinesis is impossible, what are we to make of other reports by researchers in which some amazing effects are noted? For example, Dong Shen reports on a Chinese experiment in which solid matter (a piece of paper) apparently passed through other solid matter (a capped plastic canister)—and did so instantaneously— or at least so quickly that no one observing the scene saw it happen.
Shen described a program in which Chinese volunteers are trained to see a “third eye” screen behind their foreheads by entering a trained state of “second consciousness.” When in this state, they can visualize an object being other than where it is— and the object relocates to a new location. Here’s how it works.
A capped black plastic canister, such as that holding 35mm film, is used to hold a piece of paper. The paper, prepared in secret, has something written on it, unknown to everyone except the preparer. The preparer also folds it in a personally unique way and places it in the plastic canister where the cap seals the paper inside. An independent observer monitors the preparation of the paper and the canister but cannot see what is written on the paper.
In the experiment Shen witnessed, the main participant was a seventeen-year-old with only a middle-school education but who had received approximately six months of training in accessing this second consciousness state. Once the canister was ready, the participant sat in a chair one meter (a little over three feet) away from a table. The canister was placed on the table. The two researchers plus five observing guests sat also between one and three meters (between three and ten feet) away from the table. No words were spoken during the experiment.
For about forty minutes, the participant focused his attention on the plastic canister. Neither he nor anyone else moved from their chairs. No one was close enough to the container to reach it. Other than staring at the container and occasionally looking up at the ceiling, the participant did not move.
After forty minutes, the participant announced that the paper was no longer in the container. It instead had moved about six meters away (nearly twenty feet) to the far wall of the room. The participant also announced that what was written on it was “830,” in blue ink.
An observer checked that location and retrieved the paper. The person who prepared the paper verified his own handwriting, the content of the message, and that the paper was still folded in the idiosyncratic way he had folded it at the beginning of the experiment.
There it was, just as the participant had announced: 8-3-0, in blue ink.
There are many curious features about this experiment. First, the participant had no demonstrable psychic skills until undergoing the Chinese training program. Thus, whatever skills he possessed at the time of the experiment were learned skills. Second, although there were at least seven witnesses, all watching attentively, no one saw the paper move out of the cylinder and across the room. Furthermore, the paper, even folded as it was, was far too small and light to be able to be thrown for that distance (nearly twenty feet).
Shen describes the subject’s efforts:
During the experiment he concentrated on the black cartridge container and got it deep in his consciousness while entering into the SCS [second consciousness state]. Then an image of the container appeared on the third-eye screen located in front of his forehead. He saw the image of the paper in the same way. At the very beginning, the paper image was not stable and not clear. After he focused on the image for a while, it became stable and clear on the screen. The number on the paper could then be easily read, that is 830 written in blue, even though the paper was folded inside the capped container. When the image of the paper was clear on the screen, he started to use his mind to move the paper out of the container. At a certain point he “saw” in his mind that the container was empty and saw in the room that the paper was on the floor near the wall.12
It’s easy to dismiss reports like this. They’re clearly idiosyncratic to this subject. The researchers make no claims that everyone can achieve effects like this. And yet, cultural biases should not lead us to ignore reputable reports, even if they’re not conducted in western European or American institutions. The Shen report discusses the prime candidates for training in psychic skills as being children between the ages of eight and twelve (prepubescent) or young adults between fifteen and twenty-two years who have limited education—in other words, people who don’t know that they’re doing something that isn’t supposed to be possible.
Is it the case that we educate our children out of a whole range of abilities by informing them that they can’t do them? Does the Western mindset force psychic phenomena underground?
What Is a Meta-Analysis?
Often, a single study doesn’t generate convincing results, particularly
when the size of the study is small. Generally, the most trusted form of
evidence for or against an effect is not a single study but an analysis of
all studies that have been done on that effect. Doing a meta-analysis
is tricky, however, because studies are typically done by different
researchers, using different protocols, with different degrees of care
in study design.
The primary reasons researchers do meta-analyses are because
they are more general than any one specific study. In addition, metastudies
can determine if any type of publication bias is occurring.
They also tend to demonstrate if an effect is specific to one particular
researcher or one specific study protocol or if it extends to
multiple researchers and protocols. This process also increases the
total number of participants or trials—and in statistics, more data
means more significant data. If you flip a coin five times, it’s not all
that unusual to get five heads in a row—it happens about 3 percent
of the time. But if you flip a coin fifty times, the odds of getting
fifty consecutive heads (or fifty consecutive tails) are about 1 in 1
quadrillion (specifically, 1 chance out of 1,125,899,906,842,620). In
other words, if you flipped fifty coins every second, it would take you
well over thirty-five million years before you flipped fifty consecutive
heads or fifty consecutive tails.
There are many ways that meta-analyses can go wrong. First, the
analysis is only valid if it includes all studies published on a particular
subject (or at least all studies in which necessary analysis information
is included in the study report). How individual studies are encoded
and selected for inclusion in a meta-analysis is a subjective process. A
meta-analysis can be considered trustworthy only if it explicitly defines
the criteria for selection and the methodology of encoding the studies in
advance and explicates those criteria and methodologies in its report.
All this is well and good, but what is the scientific evidence that these are not just amusing and interesting anecdotes? Does science in any way support the reality of these experiences?
As it happens, it does.
Several types of psychokinetic effects have been put under rigorous scientific scrutiny. These typically are experiments in rolling dice to see if it is possible to influence the outcome or in attempting to influence random-number generators to output nonrandom-number sequences.
The short answer to this type of experiment is that across about fifty years of studies, the effect is small but highly statistically significant. For example, a 1989 meta-analysis of a half century of controlled dice-rolling experiments showed highly significant influence of participants on selecting the roll of a standard die. The results were so significant that the chance that they’re merely statistical flukes is more than a billion to one.13
In 2006, a controversial meta-analysis of psychokinetic effects was published by Dr. Holger Bosch, Dr. Fiona Steinkamp, and Dr. Emil Boller, from various European organizations. This study, which for convenience I’ll refer to as the BSB study, performed a meta-analysis of human interaction with random number generators. It is one of the more frequently cited studies by skeptics as disproving psychokinesis.
Basically the BSB study searched hard to find a reason to discount the possibility of psychokinesis. While noting that there are strong statistical data supporting psychokinesis, and that this evidence is generally of quite high quality in terms of the methodology used to collect the data, the authors came down firmly on the negative side of the question of whether psychokinesis is real. They concluded,
the statistical significance of the overall database [of studies of human interaction with random-number generators] provides no directive as to whether the phenomenon is genuine . . . Publication bias appears to be the easiest and most encompassing explanation for the primary findings of the meta-analysis.14
In part, their claim that publication bias was responsible for the supposed psychokinetic effects was as a result of their use of a funnel plot to identify such bias. (See “What Is a Funnel Plot?”) The resulting chart clearly showed an asymmetric funnel, which is commonly interpreted as meaning that larger effects come from smaller-scale studies. When this happens, these smallscale studies are possibly statistical flukes, like tossing only five heads in a row instead of fifty heads in a row.
What Does Publication Bias Mean?
Not all research studies ever see the light of day in peer-reviewed journals.
The reasons studies may never be published include two critical
ones—and these reasons undermine how science should be conducted.
The first such problem is that a study in which the results are
inconclusive, or oppose the researcher’s expected results or (worst
of all) pet theory of the world, very often are stuck into a file drawer
somewhere and never written up. This is horrific for science since it
generates a tremendous bias in favor of currently popular theories
while suppressing data that tend to undermine those theories.
The second problem is that a study may be written up and submitted
to appropriate journals, but those journals may decide that the
study outcomes are either results they choose not to present (often
because they undermine existing accepted theories or belief structures)
or are simply “uninteresting” because they merely confirm
existing theories. The problem with that is that having more data that
supports a theory means that confidence in that theory is more secure.
What Is a Funnel Plot?
A funnel plot is used in meta-analyses to determine if publication
bias exists in the reported studies. Basically, it plots the magnitude
of the effect against the sample size in each study. Ideally, it might
look something like the plot shown for a meta-analysis with each data
point representing an individual study included in the meta-analysis.
If the funnel plot is not symmetric, it implies that there is some type of
publication bias, either for or against the effect as a result of the sizes
of the studies. In other words, small-scale studies might show favorable
results, while large-scale studies do not (or even might show
The dark lines on the chart reflect the 95 percent confidence level
for the studies, that is, that there is 95 percent confidence that the
studies’ correct results are between those lines based on a statistical
analysis of the studies and the data..
Usually, the study size is represented by the statistical standard
error of the measured effect. Most commonly, the study size is on the
vertical axis, and the effect size is on the horizontal axis. This type of
plot is convenient because a quick glance at the distribution of the
studies can demonstrate whether they’re approximately symmetrically
located within that 95 percent triangle, as are the dots in the
example diagram. If they are approximately symmetrical around the
center line of the triangle—the vertical that runs through the peak of
the triangle—there is no obvious publication bias; if they’re not evenly
distributed, if they lean more to one side or the other of the center of
the triangle, it means there is a possibility of publication bias. Or there
might be some other reason for such a distribution.
Problems can arise with using funnel charts, including the possibility
that there really is a difference between large-scale and smallscale
studies. Also, depending on how study size and effect size are
defined, the shape of the chart can change quite dramatically.
The BSB study, as noted in the concluding statement quoted earlier, also ascribes the positive results shown by psychokinetic studies to the “file drawer” effect in which negative or inconclusive studies are simply buried in file drawers and never written up for publication. (See “What Does Publication Bias Mean?”)
Doesn’t look too good for psychokinesis being a genuine effect, does it? Well, not so fast. As it turns out, there are some serious issues with this highly publicized meta-analysis that show up only when the actual process used in the BSB study are examined in detail.
Dean Radin, Roger Nelson, York Dobyns, and Joop Houtkooper responded to this meta-analysis with an assessment of the quality of the BSB study itself.15 They note a number of serious problems with how that study was done. One problem is that the BSB study was itself quite selective in how it chose to include or exclude previous research reports in its meta-analysis. One specific research report sort of included in the BSB study reported results from a total of seven individual experiments, yet only one of these was included in the BSB study analysis. Furthermore, the four largest studies included in the BSB report all had their data seriously underreported—and those four studies contained more than three hundred times as much data as all the other small-scale studies included in the BSB report combined. These four studies by themselves are so large that Radin et al. claim that “the overwhelming preponderance of data in these large experiments should be taken as definitive . . . [because] the remainder of the meta-analytic database [in the BSB study] comprises less than half a percent of the total available data.”16 In other words, the BSB report threw out the vast majority of the data available for its meta-analysis, giving excessive weight to the small-scale studies while ignoring the statistically more important large-scale studies. That’s definitely not how a metaanalysis of anything should be conducted.
Radin et al. also noted that in addition to throwing away nearly all the relevant data, the BSB study also literally threw away two-thirds of the potential studies that could have been used in the meta-analysis. As noted in “What Is a Meta-Analysis,” one of the huge mistakes made in a meta-analysis of anything is arbitrarily ignoring previous research papers and including only a selection of them—the selection that matches the bias of those doing the meta-analysis. All data and all previous research needs to be included to construct a competent meta-analysis, not just data or research that supports the biases of those doing the meta-analysis. This is not the case in the BSB study.
Radin et al. reported yet another key problem with the BSB study that is far too common in modern-day science. This error is called “experimenter’s regress.” Specifically, the BSB report concludes,
this unique experimental approach will gain scientific recognition
only when researchers know with certainty what
an unbiased funnel plot (i.e., a funnel plot that includes
all studies that have been undertaken) look like. If the
time comes when the funnel indicates a systematic effect,
a model to explain the effect will be more than crucial.
Until that time, Girden’s (1962b) verdict of “not proven” .
. . with respect to dice experiments also holds for human
intentionality on RNGs [random number generators].17
As Radin et al. note, specifying this kind of criteria is setting up a Catch-22 requirement for psychokinesis. Here’s why. When an accepted theory predicts outcomes of an experiment, the theory is tested merely by comparing experimental results with those theoretical predictions. If they match within the limits of experimental error, everyone rejoices and says the experimental protocol and measurement methodology was “obviously” correct. Unfortunately, if experimental data and accepted theory don’t match, the presumption is that it must be the experimenter’s fault. The design of the experiment or the protocol or the methodology must be wrong. Or the experimenter must have been perpetrating a fraud. Or the participants in the experiment must be hoaxing the experimenter. Or something. It can’t possibly be that the theory is wrong because, well, simply everyone believes the theory, right?
Certainly it’s true that not all studies of psychic effects are well designed. Yet, at the same time, as the BSB study demonstrates equally clearly, many of the studies that “disprove” psychic effects are very poorly done and display a shocking amount of researcher bias, poor protocols, and other mistakes that invalidate the conclusions drawn by the skeptical authors. In other words, if it’s important to demand scientific care in paranormal scientific reports—and it is—it is equally important to demand the same type of scientific care on those reports that attempt to debunk those studies.
Because no coherent theory exists for psychokinesis (or any other psychic phenomenon), and because mainstream thought— the “accepted theory” in today’s science—is is that psychic phenomena simply don’t exist, any experiment that demonstrates a statistically significant psychic effect must be wrong. In other words, rather than letting actual, measured, real-world data control the theory, theory overtakes observation. We’re not allowed to measure the effect until we have a theory of how psychokinesis (or any other psychic phenomenon) works, but without data, it is impossible to construct a coherent theory of how it works.
Before leaving this topic, I need to point out one other little detail that virtually proves our ability to impact physical matter solely with the mind. In the 1980s, Jack Houck became seriously interested in spoon-bending. As it happens, he had access to metallurgical analysis equipment. As reported by Paul Smith, Houck investigated the crystalline structure of metal that had been psychically deformed (which Houck referred to as “warm forming” the metal to avoid sensationalizing his reports), compared to metal that had been mechanically deformed (as happens in all magician’s tricks, such as when the spoon is surreptitiously pressed against the edge of a table, or previously deformed with a vise and a pair of pliers). He also compared those with the
The First Black Swan: Psychokinesis 21 structure of metal that had been subjected to extreme heat (such as a torch). Houck took cross-sections of the three types of deformed metal and compared their microstructures to determine what types of cracks, if any, each type of deformed metal had at that microscopic level. Here’s what he found:
Metal deformed mechanically, as a stage magician does it, showed cracks in the structure. Metal deformed by extreme heat showed a set of crystals that had been fused and melted. But metal deformed using “warm forming” (that is, the psychically bent spoons bent at ordinary room temperature, or at least skin temperature), however, showed neither the fused and melted crystals of being subject to high heat nor the cracks of mechanical deformation. Instead, at a microscopic level, they had an intact crystal structure, as if they had been manufactured in that physical shape. In other words, the psychically bent spoons had the same microscopic structure as if they were melted and cast in the deformed shape. As can be seen in the photos of some of the psychically bent cutlery from my workshops, such a set of silverware would be very interesting, if not too functional.
The melting point of stainless steel is approximately 2750°F (1510° C). I don’t know about you, but my hands simply don’t get that hot. (Ow!) While skeptics may claim that it’s possible to fake spoon-bending (and it is, in lots of different ways), I know of no way to fake it that preserves the microscopic structure of the bent spoon or fork as found by this research.
What’s even more interesting is that science has known for more than thirty years that psychokinesis works. Isn’t it interesting that it is still dismissed as a party trick? All I can say to that is:
Some party trick, huh?