Interview with Dean Radin of the Consciousness Research Laboratory

June 15th, 1996

Dean Radin is currently the director of the Consciousness Research Lab at the Harry Reid Center for Environmental Studies, University of Nevada.

RPKP: How did you find your way into psi research? What were your attitudes towards such things before you were involved? How did you "assimilate" your early experiences of psi?

Radin: I was always interested in psychology and the mind, even in elementary school, and perhaps related to this interest I had read all of the books in our community library on fairy tales, mythology and science fiction long before high school. I specifically became interested in psi research in high school, after reading one or two books by Rhine and another by Hansel. Before conducting psi experiments in college, I did not know if what I had read about might be true or not, because neither I nor anyone in my immediate or extended family had ever claimed to experience any of the commonly reported forms of psi. My most dramatic experiences of psi have been in the lab, in experimental tests as a subject, or as the experimenter.

RPKP: The 1981 paper "Mental influence on machine generated events" - was this documenting experiments carried out at Bell Labs? How was it received by colleagues?

Radin: My first publications on psi research originated at Bell Labs, although I started conducting experiments in graduate school. Many of my colleagues at Bell Labs were interested in this research; some were skeptical, of course, but I had established enough credibility in other areas of research that I always enjoyed the support of my colleagues. Publication of some of this research under the imprimatur of Bell Labs established a precedence within AT& T for conducting parapsychology in-house. None of it was officially directed by the company, of course, rather it simply reflected an "anything goes" climate within the Labs at that time which allowed researchers creative expression in almost any direction.

I justified my research on the basis that AT& T needed to be interested in anything which might influence or disrupt the human-computer or human-machine interface, and since so much of the Bell System was (and is) controlled by computers and machines, this was an easy justification for my management to accept. Unfortunately, this degree of freedom to select research topics is extremely rare to find today in any industrial research lab.

RPKP: When did you leave Bell Labs, and since when have you been concentrating exclusively on psi research?

Radin: I took a leave of absence from Bell Labs in 1985, and spent that entire year at SRI International, working with Hal Puthoff and Ed May. Since then I spent about half my time in academia (Princeton, Edinburgh, UNLV) and half in industry (Contel Technology Center, GTE Labs). My academic research was exclusively on psi phenomena, and my industrial research included about 20% on psi.

RPKP: It seems from that paper that you have (or at least had) some noticeable PK ability. Schmidt has also displayed considerable PK ability. Charles Tart reminded us that some experimenters get results and others don't and there's no obvious reason why. To what extent do you think the experimenter is psychically involved in PK and retroPK experiments? How would this apply to a global Web-based project like ours?

Radin: The reason why some experimenters get results and others don't is probably related to the reason why some heart surgeons have very good reputations and others don't, and why some people can play the violin extremely well and others who practice the same amount of time can't, and why something like 5% of fighter pilots account for something like 40% of the "kills." Performance of any sort, especially in experiments in the medical, biological and behavioral realms, involves a great deal of skill and possibly unteachable talent. In psi experiments, the experimenter is so intimately involved in the experiment that it doesn't make sense to assume that are, or even can be, truly isolated from the experiment. How this might make a difference in a global Web-based project is uncertain, but I could predict that "psi-facilitative" analysts of your data will get better results than "psi-non-facilitative" analysts. This prediction is not related to the idea that "believers" are more generous in their interpretation of data that supports their beliefs, or that "disbelievers" are overly critical. It goes beyond this into issues like skill, enthusiasm, and tacit elements that we are only vaguely aware of.

RPKP: What's been your involvement in Decision Augmentation Theory?

Radin: I was at SRI when Ed May and others were first discussing this, and I was the second author on the original theory paper when it was called Intuitive Data Sorting (IDS). IDS was later simplified by Ed and others after I had returned to Bell Labs, and it was subsequently renamed DAT.

RPKP: Can you see how it might explain retroPK - in the case where subjects had no decisions to make (obviously their involvement will be the consequence of the decision to volunteer, etc. but from that point on...)? People seem to have trouble grasping this.

Radin: Any form of psi involving random systems can be explained by DAT. The theory suggests that the random system is not being perturbed to do anything it wouldn't otherwise do on its own. This can work for pre-recorded data just as well as live data. Of course, DAT says nothing about how this is actually accomplished, other than some hand-waving about our having a precognitive ability.

RPKP: You've stated that you think it doesn't necessarily apply to "bioPK" or the direct mental influence on living systems - could you briefly explain why?

Radin: Living systems are much more sensitive -- as bioamplifiers and as information processing systems -- than any sort of inanimate random system we can build. If there is any form of non-DAT perturbation going on, perhaps as some sort of information exchange, then I think we have a better chance of detecting this with living systems than with inanimate systems. Some of the bioPK-type data, including our recent studies on "field consciousness" effects, start to stretch the bounds of what DAT can accommodate.

RPKP: How would you then describe the mechanism which is producing events that aren't "decision augmented"?

Radin: I have no idea what the mechanism is, but I wouldn't be surprised if we eventually discover that it involves exchange of information at very low energy levels. You don't need much energy to create gigantic effects if you send the right kind of information. Also, "send" may not be the right word here; it may be that at base everything is already deeply interconnected, so nothing need be passed from one place to another. It's already there. This is hardly a theory, but we have to start somewhere.

RPKP: How do you feel about the use of psi for military or intelligence purposes?

Radin: I'm not in favor of developing or using psi for any military purposes, but unfortunately there are those in the world who would use psi as a weapon if they could. Thus, I reluctantly suppose that R& D on psi for intelligence and possibly military purposes can be justified for defensive reasons. It would be naive to think that someone, somewhere is not working on this right now.

RPKP There are some fascinating quotes in your 1993 presidential address to the Parapsychologcal Association "Psi Hits and Myths", which you might want to comment further on.

"I suspect that the fire of psi is much more powerful than atomic energy"
(this refers to Prometheus' theft of fire from the Gods)

Radin: Knowledge about aspects of the psychological and physical world can be extremely powerful, especially if the status quo ignores or dismisses those aspects of the world. With psi we seem to be dealing with how ephemeral stuff like meaning and information interact with hard stuff like energy and matter, and how both interact with an even more mysterious thing: time. A better understanding of these things would be powerful indeed.

"[This] has made the scientific worldview completely disconnected from our inner experience, and this collision, this separation, has resulted in a form of mass schizophrenia...The western world has the highest standard of living and comfort in history, yet we spend billions every year on tranquilizers and antidepressants. The scientific double-bind has created a world which is narcissistic, exploited, paranoid, anxious, victimized, self-destructive, and delusional."

RPKP: Sheldrake said something very similar in his interview with Jannine Rebman. His latest book Seven Experiments That Could Change the World suggests a new direction for scientific exploration. Do you think there's much hope for this?

Radin: Yes.

RPKP: Some of your quotes regarding the exponential growth of information, the possibility of a global consciousness (with psi abilities) emerging, the "internal" origins of apparitions & "aliens" are very similar to those of Terence McKenna - are you familiar with his writings?

Radin: Yes, I'm a fan of McKenna's works, and I feel that the implications of modern psi research resonates strongly with his ideas, and with those of Keith Thompson and Rupert Sheldrake and several others who are trying to bridge the gap between the modern scientific worldview and the experience of being human.

RPKP: In a personal communication regarding DAT and multiple viewing of prerecorded RNG data, you suggested that "reality might be more malleable than we'd like to think" or something to that effect. This is obviously quite an unconventional view. Where do you think the concept of a "shared objective reality" arises from, and to what extent do you believe that it's "really there"? One could easily lapse into a sort of solipsism, as it's hard to account for a multiplicity of consciousnesses with any "shared" experience on e you get away from the standard materialist/mechanist views of reality.

Radin: I'm not suggesting that reality doesn't exist in some "hard" sense, but I do suggest, based not only on psi but on more conventional psychological and perceptual theories, that it is more like a fluid process than like a clockwork mechanism. That fluid process seems to be susceptible to intention, as shown in the lab, so it suggests that collectively we are participating in the creation of the nature of reality. One metaphor I use here is that our collective intention is rain falling on a mountain, which over a long time carves the rock into all sorts of fantastic twists and turns, but all that carving takes a great deal of water and time.

RPKP: What do you see as the major obstacles for a project like this one - online prerecorded PK experiments (hopefully involving independent observers, confidentially observing remotely via their PCs if we start getting results)?

RPKP: The main obstacle is a lack of experienced participants with successful track records at the specific tasks you will ask people to try, but perhaps a screening phase may overcome this limitation. You'll need lots of data, engaging tasks, and patience. Also, there's something about personal instruction, encouragement, and enthusiasm that is very hard to convey over the Web, and may be very important elements for creating the mind-set required to be successful in these tasks. Imagine trying to teach a surgeon how to do a heart operation using just the Web in its present state. But perhaps that's the level of care, attention and skill that is necessary.

RPKP: Are you familiar with the family of theories (Josephson, Nanopoulos, Stapp, Sarfatti) which seem to be suggesting extensions of quantum mechanics which could accomodate psi phenomena?

Radin: Yes.

RPKP: Do you concern yourself with such theorising, or have anything to say about the latest ideas which are circulating?

Radin: I am primarily an empiricist. I pay attention to the theories, because theory is inextricably wound into the design and interpretation of experiments, but basically my main skills are in testing claims and in trying to push the empirical envelopes rather than in thinking deep thoughts. I do have proto-theories that drive how and what I decide to investigate, but I don't often commit them to formal publication because they are still evolving rapidly.

RPKP: Were you at the Tucson II conference? Any comments?

Radin: Yes. I thought it was great that parapsychology was represented on the plenary program, and in the contributed paper and poster sessions. Marilyn Schlitz deserves a great deal of credit for making this happen, as do Daryl Bem, Roger Nelson, Dick Bierman and Sue Blackmore for their plenary talks. I was primarily impressed with the fact that psi research was included in the conference on the same level as say, cognitive neuroscience.

RPKP: Do you think, as some parapsychologists have expressed, that psi has an intelligence of its own, and will never reveal itself? i.e. that reliable, repeatable results will never be obtained?

Radin: If I thought this, I wouldn't be spending precious time and resources conducting research in this realm. In any case, repeatable results have been achieved, as clearly demonstrated in meta-analyses of several different categories of psi experiments, so I believe we are well beyond the question of whether psi is amenable to scientific methods. We are limited in this realm, as in any other, only by our imagination.

RPKP: If such results were obtained...what, do you think, would be the consequences, socially and economically. Do you think large numbers of people would react, or things would carry on as usual?

Radin: Things will remain essentially the same for a long time because societal inertia is pretty strong. Eventually, as the implications of psi are clarified, and especially if widespread applications arise, I think some aspects of society will invariably change. Look at how atomic power, television, and other major inventions and discoveries changed the world, but then also look how at the majority of peoples in the world today still live as they did in the middle ages. For the whole world to change will require something truly catastrophic, which will probably also wipe out a significant proportion of the world's population. I don't think we are dealing with anything like that. If anything, a major discovery in this realm will be the hot topic on CNN World News for a week, and then it will re-absorbed fairly quickly into the mainstream. Big discoveries take many decades to shift society, and trying to predict how they play out is like predicting the impact of computers and the Internet back in the 1940s. No one had any clue.

RPKP: Finally, how has your involvement in psi research influenced the way you think about life in general, consciousness, reality, etc.

Radin: This is difficult to answer because I've spent much of my professional life involved in this research in one way or another, so I don't have anything significantly different to compare it to. I can say that I've never found any topic more interesting than psi, even when I was surrounded by lots of fascinating colleagues and research projects at Princeton and Bell Labs. Of course, this is exactly what you'd expect any scientist to say about their chosen discipline.

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