Nobel Prize winning scientist on psi

Brian JosephsonWhy, despite what many regard as an abundance of evidence, does Science – and most scientists – refuse to acknowledge the existence of psychic phenomena (psi)?

The simple answer seems to be that, so far, no one has produced a theory that encompasses the complex phenomena that are usually bundled under the “psi” label. Without a satisfactory unifying theory and faced with paranormal claims that appear to throw existing scientific principles out of the window, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that psi does not have more supporters within the scientific community.

Today’s Society for Psychical Research Study Day in London invited a handful of the exceptions – some of the best scientific brains within the Society – to give us their take on this challenge and to discuss models and theories that could eventually change the perceptions of the sceptics.

The impressive line-up included Prof Brian Josephson, Nobel Prize winning physicist and director of the Mind-Matter Unification Project (pictured); Prof Bernard Carr, professor of mathematics and astronomy at Queen Mary University of London; Prof John Poynton, Professor Emeritus of Biology at the University of Natal, South Africa; David Rousseau, who is currently doing research at the University of Wales into new mind-body models in the light of near-death experiences (NDEs); and Dr Paul Marshall, an independent scholar and author.

The Study Day’s title, “Making sense of psi”, neatly summed up the challenge that each faced.

It is impossible to do justice to their arguments in a Blog of this nature, but it was clear that Science’s understanding of space and time will need to be refined further, possibly to embrace the mind (or consciousness), if it is to accommodate macro and micro psi phenomena in the grand scheme of things.

During his review of the different models that have been proposed, Prof Carr posed a question which, essentially, underlined the potential importance of psychic research, asking: “Is psi a glimpse of the holistic fabric of the Universe?” Some scientists, including Dean Radin in the United States, believe that to be the case.

Prof Carr’s own view was that “we need a grand unified theory of matter and mind” and, despite their different approaches, the other speakers largely concurred.

Prof Josephson went further, arguing that “physics has things back to front” and that, in his view, an “agent” is required in any theory that explains where mind fits into physics.

“What I am proposing is that before the Big Bang something was done to create the Universe,” Prof Josephson said, adding that even theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking had indicated the same proposition. “It’s similar to ‘intelligent design’,” he continued, “but my position goes beyond that.”

UPDATE: Since posting the above, last night, I have received the following communication from Prof Josephson, regarding his theory on agents and ID. He writes: “To clarify my position, the manner in which it goes beyond ID as currently practised is that I don’t want just to say ‘X had to be caused by intelligence’ and stop there, but to include an understanding of that intelligence: one that will try to establish the mechanisms of its functioning and emergence in the same way that we study the way the minds of human beings develop over time.  At present, physicists and cognitive scientists more or less go their separate ways, but I believe the two disciplines can be fruitfully integrated so that we will then get the true story of the relationships between mind and the natural world.

No doubt more detailed accounts of all the contributions to this fascinating Study Day will appear – in the fullness of time and the availability of space! – in one or more of the SPR’s publications. [Check out the SPR website.]

Comments are closed.