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Originally published on Boing Boing, 26 October 2020

James Randi
James Randi Sgerbic [CC BY-SA]

Several years ago I was preparing a talk on the life of occult journeyer Madame H.P. Blavatsky (1831–1891) for the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. Someone on Facebook asked sardonically: "Will James Randi be there?" My interlocutor was referencing the man known worldwide as a debunker of psychical and paranormal claims. (That my online critic was outspoken about his own religious beliefs posed no apparent irony for him.)

Last week marked the death at age 92 of James "The Amazing" Randi, a stage magician who became internationally famous as a skeptic — indeed Randi rebooted the term "skepticism" as a response to the boom in psychical claims and research in the post-Woodstock era. Today, thousands of journalists, bloggers and the occasional scientist call themselves skeptics in the mold set by Randi. Over the past decade, the investigator himself was heroized in documentaries, profiles, and, now, obituaries. A Guardian columnist eulogized him as the "prince of reason."

In this interview for KOSMOS magazine, Dr Pim van Lommel shares insights from his work on near-death experiences, the findings from his renowned 2001 Dutch study, and how these findings relate to consciousness and the brain. Finally, Pim reflects that after 30 years of investigation into near-death experiences, not only has his own perspective on life changed, but his views on science have evolved too.

The future of science is that we need to change the definition of science because nowadays there is no subjective experience included so the first person recount is just called an anecdote. The essence of who we are is what we feel and what we think, and we cannot prove or objectify or measure or reproduce or falsify the content of our consciousness.
- Dr Pim van Lommel

Bernard Carr, PhD, is emeritus professor of mathematics and astronomy at Queen Mary University of London. He is coauthor of the book Quantum Black Holes and he is also editor of the anthology Universe or Multiverse? He is a past-president of the Society for Psychical Research and is also currently president of the Scientific and Medical Network.

Here he maintains that science is continually evolving. He draws upon examples from cosmology and black holes to make this point. He also reflects on his relationship with Stephen Hawking who was his faculty advisor and mentor. He suggests that science will not be complete until it can incorporate both mind and spirit.

New Thinking Allowed host, Jeffrey Mishlove, PhD, is author of The Roots of Consciousness, Psi Development Systems, and The PK Man. Between 1986 and 2002 he hosted and co-produced the original Thinking Allowed public television series. He is the recipient of the only doctoral diploma in parapsychology ever awarded by an accredited university (University of California, Berkeley, 1980).

In the philosophy of science, reductionism is commonly equated with the idea that all sciences are reducible to physics, in other words that all phenomena can be explained in terms of physical matter and forces. Human experience can be reduced to the activation of neurons in the brain. Life can be reduced to the chemical reactions of molecules.

To some it is "an attractive theory that is getting ever closer to reality". To those of us in the post-materialist movement, reductionism is the ugly stepchild of materialism. But why? What's wrong with simplifying nature to its lowest common denominators?

To answer that question, The Kurt Gödel Circle of Friends in Berlin, with the support of the University of Wuppertal, created the Kurt Gödel Prize, with a cash purse of 15,000 Euros for the best three essays. And the winners are...

... by restricting our attention to just the physical level, we lose sight of the very phenomenon we were studying. It disintegrates under our very eyes.

– Jesse Mulder

The Kurt Gödel Prize University of Wuppertal

The dominant explanations for the origins of language are inadequate for the very reason that they are essentially utilitarian and materialistic. It would be better to assume what language itself tells us. It is innately meaningful because its poetry enables us to perceive deeper structures of reality.

Do words "emerge from the cosmos, expressing its soul" or is language merely a utilitarian evolution from the grunts and hoots of our primate forebears? In The say of the land   Dr Mark Vernon argues for the Romantic theory of the origin of language, with support from Tolkien's fellow Inkling Owen Barfield, poet Simon Armitage and English palaeobiologist Simon Conway Morris.

In a world flooded with biased science, fake news, social engineering, predatory marketing, manipulative facebook memes and the like, our ability to make sense of things is increasingly overwhelmed. Words do as much harm as good, in the search for truth. If, however, words have soul as Mark Vernon suggests, perhaps a closer alignment between our material perceptions of reality and their implicit meanings will help us find the signal of truth within the fog of lies and manipulations.

Dr Mark Vernon is a practicing psychotherapist with a PhD in ancient Greek philosophy, and other degrees in physics and in theology. A former Anglican priest, his latest book is A Secret History of Christianity: Jesus, the Last Inkling and the Evolution of Consciousness. He writes for radio, newspapers and magazines and is co-host of the long-running podcast the Sheldrake – Vernon Dialogues.

The say of the land Mark's Website

If you've published a breakthrough in the field of biomedicine sometime in the last 9 years, you could win a whopping €300,000 from the BIAL Foundation. In addition to their regular grants for research, every two years the foundation selects one lucky team of scientists for this special recognition. For details go to Bial.com.

The Award will focus on one work published from 1 January 2010 onward that can be identified as representing a breakthrough. The Award is presented for the first time in 2019 and proposals must be submitted by 30 June 2019.

Only works nominated by the Voting members of the Jury, the members of the Scientific Board of the BIAL Foundation, previous BIAL award winners and Scientific Societies may be considered candidates for this Award.

Since 1994 the BIAL Foundation has supported 694 projects involving some 1500 researchers from 25 countries, resulting in the publication of 1260 articles and abstracts in indexed journals. The current repository of scientific activity supported by the BIAL Foundation is fully searchable through their database of project documents.

Find Out More on Bial.com Proposal Form and Regulations

PSI Encyclopedia logo

The fledgling Psi Encyclopedia, edited by Robert McLuhan, is quick becoming the must-have alternative to the skewed and backwards notions so often encountered on Wikipedia. Created by the Society for Psychical Research in London, largely thanks to the generosity of the late Nigel Buckmaster, the site already covers many relevant subjects with articles crafted by top scientists in parapsychology, university professors, and professional authors.

As more of the shenanigans at play on Wikipedia have come to light, many in our community have keenly felt the need for a more rational and honest treatment of the subjects we care about. Whether it's whole topics like telepathy or near death experience, or researchers like Dean Radin or Rupert Sheldrake, pages on the popular wiki are routinely befouled with dismissive, denigrating language, misleading half-truths and outright falsehoods – on purpose and with malice – by determined and organized skeptics, some of whom have openly proclaimed their aims to control the narrative. With Google practically shoving Wikipedia in our faces, one can only guess the extent to which such articles have damaged public perception.

That is why, out of the gate, Psi Encyclopedia is a welcome endeavor. As more articles are added, and more people find the site, we can hope that Google's algorithm will shift, even if only a little, to reveal this invaluable resource to the world at large. Against the wicked Goliath such hopes may seem naive, but who knows, with courage and skill this David may yet prevail. With 300 articles, 50 expert authors and over a million words, the sling is definitely loaded. Anyone who cares about opening science to the joys of psi are encouraged to hit those pages hard and spread the news.

About Topics Contributors

AAPS logo

Open Sciences was created due to the response of the “Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science” published in the journal Explore in 2014 1 . The second manifestation of that response, as chronicled in the 2018, March/April Explore article 2 is the newly established Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences. The AAPS is a 501(c) 3 non-profit membership and education organization whose mission is to promote open minded, rigorous and evidence-based enquiry into postmaterialist consciousness research.

As President of the Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences, and with the enthusiastic support of our Board of Directors, I would like to invite you to become a member of our newly founded organization, the AAPS. Our vision is to inspire scientists to investigate mind and consciousness as core elements of reality.

In Expanding Reality we discover the new science of consciousness and the emergence of a postmaterialist paradigm. This paradigm is leading us to the next great scientific revolution. Visionary scientists from a variety of fields (physics, neuroscience, biology, medicine, psychiatry, psychology, psi research) gathered in Tucson, Arizona, to create the Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences. Their interviews play a central role within the film.

But this is no ordinary documentary film. Indeed, the combination of conversations, colors and music produces a very uplifting experience. The fact that nature is watching us, instead of us watching nature, also contributes to create such an experience. By the end we feel an expansion of consciousness, our perception of life, and our sense of reality. We also realize that we are connected with the Universe as a whole.

CAST

Dr. Gary Schwartz, Ph.D. Research psychologist, University of Arizona
Dr. Mario Beauregard, Ph.D. Neuroscientist, University of Arizona
Dr. Dean Radin, Ph.D. Psi researcher, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Dr. Lisa Miller, Ph.D. Research psychologist, Columbia University
Dr. Diane Hennacy Powell, M.D. Neuropsychiatrist
Dr. Menas Kafatos, Ph.D Physicist, Chapman University
Stephan A. Schwartz Futurist, Scientist, Author
Dr. Julia Mossbridge, Ph.D. Neuroscientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Dr. Marjorie Woollacott, Ph.D Neuroscientist, University of Oregon
Michel Pascal Director, Singer, Meditation Teacher
Gabriella Wright Actress, Humanitarian
Leigh McCloskey Artist, Author, Visual Philosopher

Watch on expandingrealitythemovie.com

Karen Jaenke, PhD
Chair, Consciousness & Transformative Studies
John F. Kennedy University

Consciousness Studies in Context

With seeds in the Human Potential Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Consciousness Studies is a pioneering field within academia. Still today, Consciousness Studies is a cutting edge, alternative course of study existing in only a handful of universities throughout the nation and world.

The Consciousness and Transformative Studies program at John F. Kennedy University, located in the San Francisco Bay area and established in the late 1970s as the first accredited Masters in Consciousness Studies, stands as a leader in this field.

In his new act The Brain Show British comedian Robert Newman targets the failings of neuroscience in assuming that brain equals mind, saying “the idea that the brain is a wet computer is a philosophical assumption, not a scientific idea”.

After volunteering for a brain-imaging experiment meant to locate the part of the brain that lights up when you're in love, Rob emerges with more questions than answers. Can brain scans read our minds? Are we our brains? If each brain has more connections than there are atoms in the universe, then how big will a map of the brain have to be?

“Maybe what we’ve discovered is the bit of the brain that lights up when we spot an elementary conceptual blunder in experimental design.”

Starting on April 15, 2016 the Institute for Venture Science (IVS) will be accepting pre-proposals for the funding of unconventional scientific investigations that challenge mainstream paradigms. Early submittal is key as they may need to limit the number of submissions; the deadline is June 25.

IVS is interested in a wide range of subjects, from gravity, magnetism, relativity and the physics of water to consciousness, NDEs and remote viewing to cancer and global warming. They hope to foster breakthroughs that will enrich the world and create solutions for otherwise intractable problems.

"The Institute for Venture Science (IVS) will fund high-risk, non-traditional scientific inquiries that may produce fundamental breakthroughs. We identify the most promising challenges to prevailing paradigms. We then simultaneously fund multiple research groups worldwide for each selected challenge."

"The IVS will fund the idea, not just the person advancing that idea. That is, it will seek out and fund multiple groups using diverse approaches to pursue the same unconventional idea. A dozen – even a half dozen - groups cannot be ignored. Challenger and orthodoxy will therefore compete on equal footing, and the better of the two approaches will soon prevail."

IVS Pre-proposal Instructions

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