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The Experimentalist?

Dr Dean Radin has uploaded the full text (PDF) of a new scientific paper to his website, which employs an fMRI scanner to map the brain areas being used during a possible instance of telepathy:

In summary, this study’s findings are suggestive of an association between telepathy and the right parahippocampal gyrus. The methodological rigor, isolated and robust brain activation with telepathy, and established theoretical relevance of this brain region with reference to paranormal phenomena highlight the need for further studies using advanced fusion imaging techniques (simultaneous fMRI, EEG, and magnetoencephalography) to examine telepathy.

Dean Radin points out the impressive fact that “there are now six published fMRI psi studies, five of which report significant findings.” Certainly an interesting field of study, and well worth keeping an eye on.

On the skeptical side, however, I find it hard to give too much weight to this study, given that the subject they chose with “extraordinary capabilities” was Gerard Senehi – and most especially, that they describe him as “well known for his abilities to perform various paranormal tasks such as telekinesis, mind reading, and telepathy”. Let’s be clear: Gerard Senehi is a professional magician/mentalist. Now, I know that – contrary to the skeptical archetype – mentalists do sometimes start wondering/believing that they have some psychic powers. So perhaps Senehi is a bit of both – psi powers, augmented by traditional sleights/mentalism and showmanship. But to describe him in a scientific paper as being able to perform “various paranormal tasks such as telekinesis” is a huge step to make. His performance (Quicktime video) on the Ellen Degeneres show was stock-in-trade magick tricks. His ‘levitating cigarette’ trick is a well-known one, and he didn’t really even perform it very well – one of the clumsier efforts I’ve seen actually – while his cutlery tricks were much more impressive (the fun thing to do is to advance the video frame by frame…), but still sleights. No telekinesis involved.

On the side of the researchers is the fact that in the telepathy task, “adequate precautions were taken to avoid sensory leakages by following the guidelines of Hyman and Honorton.” All the same, I can’t really attach too much importance to this paper without more information about Senehi’s claims to have any sort of genuine psychic power, and details about the “adequate precautions” that were taken by the investigators. Uri Geller, the sequel…

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