I was pleasantly surprised when I was contacted by CBS News recently and asked to be interviewed for a Sunday Morning segment on extraordinary aspects of the mind and brain, including ESP. Having spent decades studying these phenomena as a scientist, I’m always willing to talk about the state of the research, and the CBS Sunday Morning program offered the unusual opportunity to speak to millions. However, I also knew that TV segments specialize in sound-bites and there’s never enough time to go into any one topic in depth.
With that said, I welcomed news correspondent Erin Moriarty and the CBS crew and participated in an interview that lasted about an hour. Then we spent another 45 minutes or so in the lab demonstrating some of our experiments. As I had anticipated, what the show actually aired was just three or four minutes of the interview. Fortunately, one of the things that they showed was running Erin Moriarty through our eye-tracking presentiment test. This test measures changes in the pupils of the eyes prior to seeing randomly selected emotionally disturbing or calm photos. To our delight the test resulted in a significant outcome, suggesting that her intuition was working quite well. She was skeptical about the experiment, and thus really surprised at the outcome.
Two other items caught my attention when the program aired. One was a statement by Caltech physicist Sean Carroll, who insisted that ESP was impossible. It’s clear from his statement that Dr. Carroll isn’t aware of the massive experimental data that contradicts his claim. The other was a statement by journalist Annie Jacobsen, author of a book on the US government’s 20-year secret Star Gate program that used remote viewing for espionage. She claimed that the research has so far failed to pass scientific muster, which was a strange thing to say given the many positive things she said on the program. That statement also contradicted what she wrote about ESP extensively in her recent book on the topic. In any case, remote viewing and other psychic abilities have indeed been repeatedly and rigorously demonstrated for many decades.
In fact, most researchers who are seriously interested in these phenomena today are no longer focused on proof-oriented studies. We’ve gone way past the “does it exist” stage and we’re now much more interested in understanding the underlying mechanisms of how these phenomena work. Gaining that kind of knowledge is the next frontier, and that’s what we’re pursuing at IONS.