BIAL Conference 2022

May 6, 2022
Arnaud Delorme, PhD

IONS Scientist Arnaud Delorme reported on his intervention at the BIAL conference in Portugal in April 2022. BIAL is a successful pharmaceutical company that has been supporting the field of psi research for the past 25 years. Luis Portela is the current chairman, and BIAL started as a family business founded in 1924 by his father. Luis has long had an interest in psi research and created a foundation, the BIAL Foundation, to support the field, offering grants every two years. The foundation has offered dozens of millions of dollars in support of the field.

Every 2 years, the BIAL conference is organized in Portugal to report on grantees’ findings. After two years of absence because of COVID, the conference was back and IONS’ scientists were invited to participate. The theme of the BIAL conference was “The mystery of time”. It gathered groups of scientists from all horizons, physics, neuroscience, anthropology, medicine, and psychology. BIAL conferences are one of the only conferences where both psi and non-psi scientists are participating – and their viewpoints often clash.

This conference was no exception. During a question, a scientist claimed that psi was not worth studying because it had been proven false. Etzel Cardeña, a psi proponent and researcher at Lund University in Sweden, responded by pointing to an influential review article he published in 2020, but the tension was palpable. Later during the conference, Chris Roe, a professor at Northampton University presented a comprehensive analysis of mostly positive psi results on retroactive priming, a type of psi effect where the future can influence the present. IONS who run the largest such experiment on the topic was mentioned. IONS scientist Arnaud Delorme, and former IONS scientist Julia Mossbridge also spoke at the conference on the results of BIAL-funded experiments. Arnaud Delorme mentioned the published  mediumship, channeling and experimenter effect studies conducted at IONS. IONS Director of Research, Helané Wahbeh, attended the conference remotely.

Prominent scientists were present, in particular, neuroscience legend Wolf Singer, one of the most well-known neuroscientists in the world for his work on the perceptual binding problem. Anil Seth, professor at the University of Sussex, author of one of the ten most viewed TED talks by a scientist, and featured in a recent NETFLIX series, also gave a presentation. 

An interesting topic at the conference was the meaning of time in physics and also whether time was reversible. No part of the equation of physics implies a direction for time. For example, based on current theories, we would be incapable of distinguishing a universe going forward in time from a universe made of antimatter going backward in time. It would look identical to us. Daniel Sheehan, a professor at the University of San Diego, and friend of IONS, argued that accepting time-reversal simplifies the math of quantum mechanics and that all that physics has shown are correlations, not causations. Bernard Carr, a British professor of mathematics and astronomy at the Queen Mary University of London agreed, although other physics researchers disagreed. Dr. Sheehan and Carr are part of a minority of physicists who are convinced by psi evidence and attempt to reconcile it with modern physics theory.

Importantly, what came out of this discussion, was that none of the physicists present believed that the world could be simulated and made of pure information. Physicalists (materialists) and idealists agreed that the experience of the world was real. This is interesting because for the world to be real, even in a materialist paradigm, there needs to be an observer. If there is no observer, then who is to conclude whether the world is real or not? A take-home message from the BIAL conference is that even though scientists come from different angles, we have moved from the paradigm where consciousness could be considered a pure illusion and a product of matter. The world exists, and so does consciousness.

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