Month: July 2013

216. Dr. Dean Radin Urges Science to Examine the Supernormal

Interview examines the connection between ancient yoga practices and the science of extended human consciousness. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Dean Radin author of, A Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities.  During the interview Radin explains how he science can approach such topics: Alex Tsakiris: I wonder if we’re nibbling around at the edges of something that we have to swallow whole. As you mention in your book, Supernormal, and have mentioned previously in this interview, these yogic traditions don’t point to supernormal powers. In fact they go to great lengths to say, “Hey, it’s not about these supernormal powers. Don’t worry about them. It’s about changing your connection and how you relate to—for lack of a better word—God.” If we’re not willing to tackle the Divine then we’re playing a different game but are we playing the game? Dr. Dean Radin:   That’s a very good point. It’s true that the yogic path and many of these other mystical paths are basically pointing to enlightenment. Enlightenment is so far away from where science is that it’s probably too far a reach for now. And it’s also true that these traditions say you’re going to bump into these psychic things and don’t pay attention to them because they’re just yardsticks on the way to something more interesting. I would say that from the ancient traditions that advice was probably sound. Well, we’re in the modern age now and what science is able to do is study not the depths of enlightenment but we certainly can study the very place where mind and matter meet. It’s where the deep subjective and deep objective meet, and that is psychic phenomena. So the reason why the book is an entrée into that, it says you know what, science? We don’t know yet as scientists how to go all the way down to or all the way up to the enlightenment but we can begin to go much, much deeper than we have before. And in the process of studying the very area, that very boundary that the ancients would say not to pay attention to, well, we have to pay attention to that. (continued below) Dr. Radin's Webpage Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Play It  Listen Now: Download MP3 (37 min.) Read It: Today we welcome Dr. Dean Radin to Skeptiko. He’s here to talk about his new book, Supernormal: Science, Yoga, and the Evidence for Extraordinary Psychic Abilities. Dr. Radin, of course, is Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences where he’s become one of the world’s best-known researchers on extended human consciousness. His two previous books, The Conscious Universe, and Entangled Minds, were truly ground-breaking and provide the scientific foundation for much of the current interest there is in this field. Dr. Radin, welcome to Skeptiko. Thanks so much for joining me. Dr. Dean Radin:  Thanks, Alex. It’s a pleasure to be here. Alex Tsakiris:   A lot of people are very excited about this new book of yours, Supernormal. Can you start just by telling us briefly what it’s about? Dr. Dean Radin:   Well, one way of getting into the topic is that you may know that the Dali Lama for years now has been having dialogues with scientists on the relationship between Buddhist ideas and practice and science. Primarily physics and the neurosciences. One of the things that you see when you read the transcripts of what goes on in these meetings, and have spawned a number of popular books as well, is that the Dali Lama is very interested in science and the practice of science and what science has discovered. He has said many times that if science demonstrates that something about Buddhist practice or beliefs is  incorrect that they’ll change their beliefs and practices. They’re after the truth. So that’s laudable. You would hope then that the same would be true on the scientific side, that if some scientific assumptions turn out not to be completely correct that scientists will correct them, as well. But after reading the transcripts you see that what we’re dealing with is an asymmetry. There’s a lot of interest on the part of the Buddhists on what science has to say but there’s so far very little interest on the part of science on what Buddhism has to say. You see this in stark contrast when the Dali Lama repeatedly tries to bring up issues about reincarnation and about the use of the Oracle and other things that we might consider to be psychic phenomena or related to that. The scientists present usually know nothing about these topics and they dismiss them. They dismiss them in a kind and gentle way so they don’t piss off the Dali Lama but nevertheless they say there’s no evidence so we can go on to other topics. I was just struck with this because for one thing, it really shows that the people that are talking to the Dali Lama are very straightforward, mainstream, very good at what they do, but they don’t actually know what they’re talking about when they dismiss these topics. And in almost every meeting there’s the Dali Lama or somebody else at the meeting who will try to raise well, what about telepathy? What about these issues? And it doesn’t go anywhere. So I was becoming annoyed at watching this year after year and I decided to write a book that looked in more detail at the origins of why the Dali Lama and other people say these things and what’s wrong with science.


214. Dr. Suzanne Gordon Looks Deeply Into Near Death Experience Cases

Interview brings ethnographic perspective to discover the meaning of near-death experiences to those who have had them. Join Skeptiko host Alex Tsakiris for an interview with Dr. Suzanne Gordon author of, Field Notes From the Light: An Ethnographic Study of the Meaning and Significance of Near-Death Experiences.  During the interview Gordon talks about bringing Ethnography to near-death experience research: Dr. Suzanne Gordon:   The interesting thing about ethnography is that it’s very time intensive. I spent a decade on the dissertation but there were two two-year periods of full-time field work.  I was spending more time with people who had had near-death experiences than I was with my own family. Alex Tsakiris:   Give us a sense for some of these cases. They’re just amazing. Maybe start with the Atheist. I love that one. Dr. Suzanne Gordon:   Let’s start with Eric. I had everybody choose their own pseudonyms because that’s very informative. This guy chose Eric because he was a guitar player and he really liked Eric Clapton. The interesting thing to me about his account was I think it points to why it’s important for experiencers to become visible. Alex Tsakiris:   Tell us about his case. Dr. Suzanne Gordon:   Well, he was on the sailboat of a friend of his who was a cardiologist, conveniently enough. There was some accident and he ended up falling overboard.  It was a cold day. He was burdened by clothing. He died. Then, left his body and watched the resuscitation efforts on the boat below him as he was floating away. He didn’t see God. He said, “I was very happy wherever I was going. I’m not sure where I was going but I was floating away and I was very happy to do that. I wasn’t struggling to live. I was very happy to keep going and see what happened.” They kept working on him and they’d give up periodically and then they’d work on him some more. Finally they did bring him back. He didn’t become a religious guy or anything.  The only reason he even knew it was a near-death experience is because his wife had read Ray Moody’s book and pointed it out to him. He kept apologizing throughout the process. “I’m sorry. I’m just really not very interested.” I’d keep reassuring him, “I don’t care, it’s fine.” Alex Tsakiris:   That’s fascinating. On the other hand, there’s a  different way to read that account --  it’s the ultimate attachment to a worldview. So I’m an Atheist, I have this transformative experience, and now I know that life goes on, right? Because he does say that at the end. He goes, “Okay, I know that…” Dr. Suzanne Gordon:   We go on and I didn’t know that before. Alex Tsakiris:   …and I didn’t know that before, right? So that really blows apart your worldview. But I see somebody who’s not willing to go very far with that. I mean, he’s the ultimate Agnostic like I encounter so often. It’s like, well, can’t know for sure. Don’t really know. We’re kind of in the middle, versus if you look at how our culture defines life. This experience should have completely… Dr. Suzanne Gordon:   Blown his mind. Alex Tsakiris:   …blown his mind, and it didn’t. I wonder what thoughts you have on that in general and on this topic of personal transformation and how that’s different for different people depending on where they’re coming from. Dr. Suzanne Gordon: I think your previous experiences in life and your cultural beliefs and values are really important. I did talk about this in my dissertation but Eric had a really awful, awful childhood. Had a lot of issues. I think there are probably many, many, many more people like Eric out there that are not going to turn up to near-death studies. (continued below) Dr. Gordon's Webpage Click here for YouTube version Click here for forum discussion Link to the 2013 ACISTE conference Play It  Listen Now: Download MP3 (52 min.) Read It: Today we welcome Dr. Suzanne Gordon to Skeptiko. Dr. Gordon is on the faculty at the University of Maryland and is here to talk about, among other things, her rather amazing dissertation titled, Field Notes From the Light: An Ethnographic Study of the Meaning and Significance of Near-Death Experiences. Dr. Gordon, it’s a great pleasure to welcome you to Skeptiko. Thanks so much for joining me. Dr. Suzanne Gordon:   Well, I’m glad to be here, Alex. Thanks for inviting me.