IONS Science Position Statement

Our working hypothesis is that consciousness (awareness) is fundamental. From this perspective, consciousness is regarded as the most basic component of reality, more basic than physical concepts like matter, energy, space, and time. We investigate this hypothesis to better understand noetic experiences, like intuitive, psychic, and mystical states. A key commonality among the variety of reported noetic experiences is that they are “non-local,” i.e., they appear to transcend the conventional boundaries of space and time or appear to directly affect energy and matter.

Today, the prevailing scientific worldview, known as materialism, assumes that matter and energy are the most fundamental components of the universe. Materialism considers all properties of the mind to be wholly generated by the physical brain and consciousness as an epiphenomenon (i.e., a meaningless side effect of brain function). Given that your brain is located inside your skull, the only way to access information is locally with the ordinary senses, and the only way to influence energy or matter is with your body.

From this perspective then, the “non-local” effects that characterize noetic experiences are exceptionally difficult to understand. So difficult that even though these experiences are commonly reported, and controlled experiments provide high confidence that these experiences do exist, some scientists assert that they are literally impossible.

If instead of the materialistic worldview, we assume a worldview where consciousness is fundamental and non-local, then awareness is not constrained by physical “laws.” In this model, the idea that our consciousness can perceive and influence non-locally and that noetic experiences transcend the conventional notions of time and space become easier to understand.

Scientific studies by our group and others provide growing evidence that most people likely have the capacity to experience non-local consciousness experiences to some degree. Meditation and belief in psychic abilities appear to be ways of enhancing these experiences.

Our mission is to study these phenomena using the tools and techniques of science, including subjective measures such as questionnaires and objective methods spanning the disciplines of psychology, cell biology, genomics, optical and quantum physics, neuroscience, and psychophysiology.

Even though our topic of interest is considered by mainstream science to be a fringe discipline unworthy of funding or attention, we stand upon the shoulders of many prominent scientists and scholars, including one of the founders of quantum physics, Nobel Laureate Max Planck, who wrote:

I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.Planck, Max. “The observer.” London, January 25 (1931): 1931.

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