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A little short of a proof
on October 2, 2013
Like any of these books, you should at least attempt to determine if the facts
are accurate, complete and credible. Much of this cannot be done but in a few
cases I was able to make some headway.
The author begins with the topic of remote viewing. He offers persuasive evidence
that something inexplicable is going on based on experiments funded by the CIA
and Army. Pictures are given that are very impressive. When you look up remote
viewing on wikipedia, you get a different opinion. For one thing, it states that
the program was terminated in 1995 "after it failed to produce any useful intelligence."
However, when you click on a link connected to this statement it actually says that
it didn't produce any "actionable" intelligence. Having worked in the intelligence
community for most of my career, I can say that these are two very different things.
Most useful intelligence is not actionable. For instance, it was highly debated
(according to public sources) whether the intelligence gathered about the whereabouts
of Bin Laden were actionable or not. The final decision was made by the President.
Actionable means we are willing to drop a bomb on a foreign country, e.g., Pakistan,
because we are so sure of the intelligence. I doubt any psychic intelligence will
ever fit into this category because of its very nature. That doesn't mean it isn't useful.
I have seen other research on using remote viewing in archaeology that is also impressive.
Many of the results, however, are junk. The author himself implies a success rate of
no more than 65%. Still, the point is that something inexplicable may be happening.
See, for example, the pictures on pp. 119 and 120.
On pp. 127-128, the author indicates his belief that the 9/11 flights had unusually
low occupancy in an effort to show that some people may have had precognitive
recognition of the tragic events that followed. He quotes that for flights 11
and 77 the occupancy rates were just 51% and 29%, respectively, and claims that
this was low. I have roughly verified these occupancy numbers from a published
FBI report. There they state that the occupancy rate was 53% and 38% for the
two flights. However, they also averaged the occupancy rates for AA flights
11 and 77 from January 9, 2001 through September 4, 2001 and found that the average
occupancy rates for the two flights was 38% and 26%, respectively. So, contrary
to what the author states, both of the flights had "higher" occupancy on 9/11
than the average over the previous part of the year. The report does not mention if there
were more or less cancellations (a different thing) for these particular flights.
The occupancy evidence does not seem to indicate, by itself, any precognitive abilities
on the part of the passengers.
On pp. 143-147, the author discusses a paper by Darryl Bem, from Columbia University,
entitled "Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences
on Cognition and Affect". I remember when this paper came out in 2011 and
the media attention it garnered. It was very exciting. However, almost immediately,
other papers came out claiming that the statistics were wrong, e.g. "Why Psychologists
Must Change the Way they Analyze their Data", by Wagenmakers, et al. Several other
papers came out either defending the statistics or refuting it. In the refutations,
the evidence for psi seems to disappear. So what are we to make of all of this? There
seems to be a battle going on in the research community over the statistical analysis of the
data and also of the methodology of the experiments. In the case of the Bem experiment,
there are at least two other researchers who have attempted to replicate the results
and found nothing. Most of the research published so far does not look good for Bem.
The author gives a brief discussion of spoon bending and SRI's work with Uri Geller.
Targ states that he himself had an episode where a metal rod bent in his hand. The
SRI videos of Geller for forced choice ESP experiments are available on the internet
and seem hard to explain if they are not fraudulent. Geller's inability to bend a
spoon on the Carson show is also interesting.
He then goes on to provide specific examples which may indicate survival after bodily
death. Among these are the reincarnation cases studied by Stevenson which are well
documented and hard to explain, at least for some of the cases, except by paranormal
means. Other examples include a "ghost" girl and an interesting chess game played
between two grand masters, one living and one dead. What is not mentioned is that the
game took something like a decade to complete (apparently because of the schedule of
the living grand master). There is an analysis of the game which is consistent with
the style of play used by the dead chess master. If it weren't for the long time
frame of the game, I would have considered this to be good evidence. Because of the
long breaks between moves, I cannot help but think that there may have been some
opportunity for fraud, however unlikely.
The book ends with various theories on how psi might work and how to do remote viewing.
Overall, I found the book to provide "some" evidence for ESP but I wouldn't call it
proof. On the other hand, if I had experienced as many things first hand as
Russell Targ has, I might change my mind. One really solid, personal experience
might really make me a believer.