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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shifting Minds

Recently I wrote a post where I referred to some striking examples of the psi taboo. I specifically wrote about how certain futurists writing in John Brockman's volume This Will Change Everything, had failed to adequately account for the possibility that Integrated Intelligence, the extended mind and entanglement might change human futures.

Today, let's be a little more positive, and acknowledge some thinking that is taking us forward! As with that prior post, the following is taken from a recent paper I wrote for Foresight journal. 

The references are included at the end of the original paper.

The possible connection between entanglement and mind has not been lost on everyone. There are now numerous theorists positing a connection between quantum physics and consciousness. Khrennikov (2010) outlines several recent quantum-like models in a wide range of fields including cognitive science, psychology, genetics, and biology. Conte (2010) posits a mathematical model, arguing that quantum physics mediates all of consciousness, matter, and energy; and suggesting that conceptions of human cognition need to be expanded to incorporate qualities which mirror the postulates of quantum physics.

Perhaps the most accessible summation of recent thinking of proponents in this domain can be found in a paper by Tressoldi, Storm, and Radin (2010), entitled “Extrasensory Perception and Quantum Models of Cognition.” (the entire paper can be found here). These theorists argue that six independent meta-analyses of experimental findings taken from ganzfeld telepathy experiments provide undeniable evidence for the existence of extrasensory human perception. The writers state that the existence of such data is shifting the nature of the debate from arguments about whether ESP is possible (because it violates the postulates of conventional physics), to arguments involving “increasingly minor technical details” (Tressoldi, et al, 2010, p. 585).

One of the theorists involved in the writing of that paper, parapsychologist Dean Radin, has recently boldly claimed that the idea of entanglement will soon become taken for granted in biology, perhaps the most mechanistic of all the sciences. In one of his blog posts entitled “Quantum Biology Now. Quantum Psychology Next?”, Radin (2010) suggests that accumulating evidence for quantum physical processes at a cellular level will leave biologists no choice but to discard their mechanistic predicates. He further argues that psychology will quickly follow suit, taking on entanglement as a founding principle of mind.

Radin (2006) has long held the belief that entanglement will eventually be embraced in science, but his confidence received a boost at the beginning of 2010 because of a paper published in the prestigious Science journal, Nature, by Elisabetta Collini and colleagues (Collini, Wong, Wilk, Curmi, Brumer, and Scholes, 2010). That paper provides evidence which contradicts the view that long-range quantum coherence between molecules cannot occur in living systems, even at low temperatures.

Radin writes:

… the evidence for quantum coherence in living systems continues to mount. This latest advancement… demonstrates that coherence not only exists in living systems, but it persists at room temperature. This contradicts long-held dogma that it is not possible to have quantum effects in living bodies. That dogma was based on assumptions about entanglement as observed in simple physics experiments, ignoring what happens when elementary things combine into new emergent properties (Radin, 2010, accessed 20.10.10).

Radin believes that if quantum entanglement is extant in living systems, then “the subjective experience of that entanglement may well be what we call psi, mystical experience, or noetic experience in general” (Radin, 2010, accessed 20.10.10). Clearly Radin believes that quantum entanglement provides a mechanism for the extended mind to operate.

Perhaps Radin is a little overly optimistic, but it is likely true that if entanglement is taken as a given in biology, psychology will jump onboard. As Sigmund Freud lamented well over half a century ago, psychology has become a handmaiden to neuroscience (Bettelheim, 2001). And neuroscience in turn has become a handmaiden to molecular and mechanistic biology (Anthony, 2008). This is indicated in Figure 1 above. Thus, once biology is stripped of its mechanistic givens, neuroscience and psychology must inevitably follow, as their foundations will have morphed into something entirely new. The ricochet effect will be inevitable. The precise timing is what remains uncertain.

In something of an irony, Freud himself strongly believed in the existence of patient therapist telepathy, challenging the common misconception that Freud was a critic of all mystical experience. Freud wrote at least six papers which commented either in detail or in passing reference to his belief in the reality of telepathy (Lloyd Mayer, 2008). In fact, letters written in 1909 by Freud to his colleague Ferenczi showed that he requested that the idea of telepathy be kept quiet within psychoanalytical discourse, as the concept of the unconscious was already challenging enough to mainstream science and academia. He feared that such a concept would result in the discrediting of the entire field and his many years of hard work (Lloyd Mayer, 2008). The psi taboo wielded great power even in Freud’s day.

In the past decade perhaps the most obvious case in which a scientist has attracted the scorn of peers by mixing the ideas of entanglement and telepathy occurred in 2001 when Nobel Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson penned a short piece as part of the UK Royal Mail’s launching of a set of stamps to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the Nobel Prize. Josephson’s contribution was made in reference to physics (Clegg, 2006). He decided to write about entanglement, and the following sentences represent his conclusion.

Quantum theory is now being fruitfully combined with theories of information and computation. These developments may lead to an explanation of processes still not understood within conventional science such as telepathy, an area where Britain is at the forefront of research (quoted in Clegg, 2006, p. 226).

The backlash to Josephson’s piece was immediate, including highly critical responses written in Nature; and Oxford University’s David Deutsch was quoted in The Observer as saying Josephson’s piece was “utter rubbish” and “complete nonsense…” (Clegg, 2006, p. 227). Notably, the debates which ensued got bogged down not in querying whether quantum theory might provide a mechanism for telepathy, but in arguments about whether it actually exists. Clegg describes the position taken by Josephson’s foes as being, “Telepathy doesn’t exist, so there is no need to explain it” (Clegg, 2006 p. 227).

To quote Brian Clegg, the result of his seeming heresy is that Josephson “has become a pariah in the world of science” (Clegg, 2006, p. 254). His openness to new and volatile concepts “has led to an unfortunate tendency for the scientific community to dismiss anything he says” (Clegg, 2006, p. 255). Clegg describes this attitude towards Josephson as “appalling.”

Given such a priori dismissals of all argument on the existence of telepathy, it is not surprising that contemporary scientists, including those in This Changes Everything, are unwilling to seriously discuss the possible connections between entanglement and mind.

There is, nonetheless, a context for the suspicion directed at those who attempt to explore such domains. There are numerous New Age and alternative philosophies and practices which attempt to connect quantum physics to their particular fields. These are often done on an ad hoc basis with little understanding of the actual science involved. Understandably, established and up and coming scientists do not want their reputations tarnished by association with “alternative” practices and philosophies.

Yet the prime consideration for many scientists is not whether such practices have any legitimacy or actually “work,” but the fact that they are considered “alternative” in the first place. The term “alternative” immediately relegates such practices to the status of “other,” thus establishing a self-regulating delimitation within modern science. Even if such practices work—possibly via some mechanism that is holistic or features non-local connections—they cannot be incorporated within the scientific discourse as they have been designated as “outside.”

Khrennikov AY (2010). Ubiquitous Quantum Structure from Psychology to Finance. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.


  1. PS our apologies for not getting your book cover onto our blog earlier! Things have been hectic, lots of stuff sliding around!

  2. Your post is fascinating. There are some visionaries, as you point out. Radin, certainly, and Robert Lanza (Biocentrism) and a handful of others. But are there enough right now for a true tipping point to occur in paradigms?

  3. Thanks for putting my cover on your blog "Trish Rob", but no need to apologise, as you don't owe me anything ;-). As for a tipping point, it is hard to say. Much of my own understanding comes not from reading scientific papers, but from years of exploring the human psyche directly through meditation, inner child work, dreams, trance states etc. Very few mainstream scientists and philosophers have ever stuck a toe in the waters of the psyche, let alone gone for a swim! If I was in the same boat (to mix metaphors) I wouldn't know any better either. Also, I have seen that Biocentrism book on Amazon. Maybe I'll buy it for my new Kindle. Stuff arrives in one minute, not one month, as via post to Hong Kong!

  4. Incredible post. Interesting facts from many areas of interest. It amazes me how closed minded so many scientists can be. How can anyone deny the entanglement of our mind (subconcious) and the actual events that take place in connection to it?? I myself have had many many occurences where basically my "thoughts became things"!
    It all fascinates me but I keep a very open mind (like a child)! Nice to find you here ~ I will follow :) ~ to learn!


    Google Translate would do fine with this article. As far as I can tell (I've known this man for a few years), he is the real deal. Some synchronicities from my past seem to be pointing to my future acquaintance with that man predicted in the article. If he exists, of course (and it seems he does exist).

  6. Sorry for late responses. It's very busy back here in Hong Kong! Did a public talk and a workshop these past few days, as well as my regular job as a humble school teacher.

    Jenni, welcome! Good to "see" positive people coming here.

    Aleksandar Malečić, thanks for the link. I'll have to brush up on my Serbian!