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The Psi Taboo in Action

by Dean Radin

I have lectured and written about the scientific taboo that prohibits scientists from openly studying psi. One way this prejudice manifests is by being invited to give a lecture at a scientific conference, and then finding yourself disinvited after someone on the conference committee discovers that the invitee has an interest in parapsychology. The idea of psi is so troubling to this person that he or she (mostly he) insists that the committee cancel the invitation. One can imagine the hysterics that must accompany this request.

This invite-disinvite sequence happened to me a few years ago, for a talk I was invited to give at the United Nations on the frontiers of consciousness. Someone chickened out when they discovered that I actually study this topic rather than think about it, and so I found myself disinvited. I discovered this only after asking the organizers several times for more details about the venue, conference dates, and speaking schedule. Apparently no one thought it necessary to inform me.

Giving the snub is probably considered easy when the individual’s academic affiliation or perceived status are low. When I was at Princeton I found it easy to get almost anyone’s rapid attention by simply mentioning where I worked. Assessing credibility by one’s affiliation is common, and unfortunate, for the same reason that stereotyping is so popular: It’s a convenient way to make a snap decision if one doesn’t have time, inclination, or interest in doing one’s homework.

But what happens when both academic affiliation and status are extremely high? Does the snub still happen? It sure does. I give you Brian Josephson. Josephson is a full professor at Cambridge University, and he won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1973 “for his theoretical predictions of the properties of a supercurrent through a tunnel barrier, in particular those phenomena which are generally known as the Josephson effects.” Full professor at a major university with a Nobel Prize is the pinnacle of status within the rarefied world of high-powered academia.

But Josephson is also one of a few Nobel Laureates who is publicly known for having an interest in psi. There are others like him, of course, but they prefer to keep quiet because the taboo is both powerful and unkind. This is the story of a perfectly outrageous case of prejudice.

April 27, 2010: See the above link at Prof. Josephson’s site for updates to this case.

April 29, 2010 (London time): Another new update, from the (London) Times Higher Education

Reported by Matthew Reisz

An extraordinary spat has broken out after a Nobel prizewinning physicist was “uninvited” from a forthcoming conference because of his interest in the paranormal.

Details of the conference in August for experts in quantum mechanics sounded idyllic. Participants were due to discuss “de Broglie-Bohm theory and beyond” in the Towler Institute, which is housed in a 16th-century monastery in the Tuscan Alps owned by Mike Towler, Royal Society research fellow at Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory.

Last week, any veneer of serenity was shattered. Conference organiser Antony Valentini, research associate in the Theoretical Physics Group at Imperial College London, wrote to three participants to say their invitations had been withdrawn.

The physicist and science writer David Peat, biographer of David Bohm (co-founder of de Broglie-Bohm theory), was considered tainted because of his books on “Jungian synchronicity” and “connections between Native American thought and modern physics.”

Brian Josephson, head of the Mind-Matter Unification Project at Cambridge, was rejected on the grounds that “one of his principal research interests is the paranormal.”

Professor Josephson, who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on superconductivity, has long been one of the discipline’s more colourful figures.

In 2001, he attracted derision from some of his peers when he discussed telepathy in his contribution to a booklet issued to celebrate the centenary of the Nobel prizes.

Recent developments in quantum theory, theories of information and computation “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,” he wrote.

Speaking this week, Professor Josephson said: “I was keen to attend the conference and would have concentrated on the theoretical ideas and touched on the paranormal as only one aspect. I thought it would be an interesting opportunity for cross-fertilisation.”

News of the exclusions led to what Dr. Towler described as a “great email storm.”

Even spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller joined in, and on 24 April Dr. Towler “renewed the invitation” to Dr. Peat and Professor Josephson but not to the third rejected participant, American theoretical physicist Jack Sarfatti. Dr. Towler claimed Dr. Sarfatti had “written something like 100 emails” since his invitation was withdrawn, “many ... suggesting that we are in the pay of the CIA”.

Dr. Peat agreed to participate while Professor Josephson was considering his position.

  • Anonymous Icon

    yvane2 Sep 11, 2010

    First saw you and heard you speak on What the Bleep/Rabbit hole DVD. You made sense to me then, you still make sense. At my age if it does not "ring true", I have little use for it. Your work rings true.
    I hope your million dollar check from the challenge is in the Monday mail.
    Carol Ann

  • Harvey Austin Sep 13, 2010

    Wonderful article, Dean, demonstrating so vividly the power of our human preconceptions. While some of these are conscious, as your article demonstrated, the more pernicious are those that are unconscious. These can be so powerful as to be conidered 'just the way things really are'... but not so. What do we now 'know' that will be shown to be quite invalid in the future

    Well, perhaps this. While we quite comfortable, from the point of view of the 'enlightened' 21st century that the danger of a black cat, a view prevalent in the 17th century, was merely a superstition, what then will be considered to have been the 'superstitions of our present age'.

    Werner Erhard suggested that the superstitions of our day will, say from the point of view of the 23rd century, be - "I", "Why" and "is"....

    To quote him , "A superstition is not a superstition until it is no longer a superstition."

    Harvey W. Austin, MD

  • Anonymous Icon

    yusheng Sep 15, 2010

    Dr. Radin ,
    I support you.
    Why not practise yourself and get some PSI, then they will believe you, though the way is hard.

  • Anonymous Icon

    alphasigma10 Sep 17, 2010

    Your work is wonderful.
    Your courage to break the ice of ignorance and false professional pride is remarkable.
    Clearly, you are not a follower but an exceptional original, a true leader who does not walk the beaten path of convenience but rather the covered path that so many see but most don't dare exploring.
    Stay this way.
    I am very proud of you!

    Elizabeth Sewall

  • Anonymous Icon

    niceast Sep 22, 2010

    Arthur C. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indestinguishable from magic." That can be paraphrased by substituting the word "thinking" or "idea" for "technology". We invent the future.
    Nic East

  • Anonymous Icon

    gregorylent Nov 28, 2010

    having spent much of the last years in the company of saints, gurus, and psychic/intuitive people there is nothing "para" about it ... it is all totally normal. best not to define oneself by what is obviously (now) "ab"normal. (also not so cool to feature dan brown books on the ions home page)

  • Janet1111 Dec 02, 2010

    It's truly hard to believe that there is anyone in this world who has not personally experienced psi in some form or another, yet the societal conditioning we endure, laced with fear and denial, imprisons so many in the dark. For those with open eyes, minds, and hearts the depth of this world is beyond our imagination and that's what makes it so beautiful.

  • Anonymous Icon

    steffiedoc Jun 06, 2012

    So much silly waste of time.
    Kudos to your life work, Dr. Dean Radin - you absolutely "rock" this age of ours..."What -the Bleep", et cetera... can't wait for denial to disappear...the Living Matrix, exotic light and the normal of the para...a critical mass of calm and aware is fast approaching. We will "entrain" the rest....Blessings to you always and we will see you soon, as we need to hear you and be in your presence.

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