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Margins of Reality: The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World Paperback – April 6, 2009
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About the Author
ROBERT G. JAHN is Professor of Aerospace Sciences and Dean, Emeritus of Princeton University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, founder of the PEAR laboratory, and Chairman of International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL).
BRENDA J. DUNNE holds degrees in psychology and the humanities, was the manager of the PEAR laboratory from its inception in 1979, and is currently President of ICRL.
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Top Customer Reviews
Section I of the book deals with a review of many paranormal topics and inquiry (scientific and otherwise) into their origins. The best thing I took from this section is that the authors were acutely aware of the criticism that has been made of such research, and were determined to exercise caution in designing their experiments.
The PK research --- that demonstrating the ability of human intent to influence a probable outcome --- seems to have been designed very carefully to address anticipated criticism. It's difficult to read through this section of the book and not come away believing that something has been proven. And whatever that "something" might be, it is distinctively weird: it's one thing to obtain operator-specific profiles of statistical influence over some random process, but downright bizarre that they were able to obtain similar results using a *pseudorandom* source. This research, detailed in section II of the book, is what makes this work really shine --- it's the strength of this section that really earned the four stars I gave it. This section is *worth* it, and does much to convince a skeptic (like me).
Section III deals with remote perception, and a system the authors devised to quantify the results of such experiments. The sample sizes and the data here are necessarily more sparse, but are still quite engaging. The anecdotal evidence at the end of the section made for some enjoyable reading, though stories of experiments where the subject completely missed the target seem conspicuously absent.
Sections IV proposes a theoretical framework for the anomolies demonstrated by the experiments, and comes off as quite silly. Sweeping metaphors are taken from the realm of quantum mechanics, to a level of detail that isn't remotely supported by the research. One does need to theorize *something* after such experimentation, but attempting to build a rich framework from a few targeted experiments is more than is necessary, and certainly more than is warranted. Furthermore, the authors' model attributes conciousness even to simple devices such as the "Random Event Generator" or a bunch of foam balls bouncing off pegs --- a truly embarrassing stretch, in my opinion. (For some much better theoretical ideas, I'd suggest a book called "The Physics of Consciousness" by Evan Harris Walker.)
Section V rambles in the authors' usual heavy prose about implications and applicability, and, unfortunately, builds upon section IV. If there was anything interesting in this section, I'm afraid it slipped past me.
My rating of 4 stars is for some genuine, solid research in section II and, to a lesser extent, section III. As a skeptic, the results of these experiments will compel me to dig deeper; barring outright fraud, the results cannot be dismissed as mere chance. It's too startling to rate it any lower, even if the closing sections of the book are rather goofy.
If you're already convinced that such paranormal effects are real, however, I doubt that this book has much to offer. Buy it for a skeptical friend, but give them a disclaimer about the stretch made on the theoretical side.
authors present evidence for the existence of ESP and PK
(psychokinesis), all of it generated by their own research.
They also work toward a new paradigm for understanding how
these parapsychological effects might be part of the natural
order, since the classical scientific world-view does not
offer space for such. In my mind, they put too much stress
on the role of consciousness in the world, and even cross over
into the suggestion that the world is observer-created. To
their credit, however, they work toward a more nuanced view
of what is entailed by consciousness (what happens as mind
interacts with matter) than most advocates of this position.
Still, in trying to bring mind and matter into a state of
solution, they seem to turn the world into "a great thought
thinking itself" (to borrow from James Jeans, one of many
scientists whom they quote). This seems to veer too closely
to Berkeley's idealism, and I wonder if in correcting the
materialistic emphasis of traditional science, they
overcorrected in the opposite direction. Is there a "middle
way" yet to be discovered? These comments notwithstanding, this
is a book very much worth reading, and it is obvious that much
rigorous thought and expansive feeling went into it.
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