Sunday, 26 June 2011

Psychic astronaut's missing psi

Apollo 14's lunar module pilot, Edgar Mitchell is well known for his interest in the paranormal.  He set up the Institute for Noetic Sciences (mentioned in one of Dan Brown's rambling and predictable novels - which I regret reading last year).  That sounds interesting but on further investigation seems to be a good example of scientism and of course it is a non-profit organisation which is . . . er hmm . . . tax exempt.

Mitchell's wikipedia page includes a reference to his trip to the moon:

On his way back to earth during the Apollo 14 flight he had a powerful Savikalpa samadhi experience, and also claimed to have conducted private ESP experiments with his friends on Earth.

The first of these statements refers to a state of mind where 'the human consciousness is dissolved and lost for a short period of time'.  After being the sixth man to walk on the moon I think I would expect dreams like that.

The second refers to an experiment described by James Randi in his famous 1980 book Flim Flam.  Olle Jonsson was one of three friends who attempted to receive Mitchell's brain waves from outer space, and Mitchell later claimed that the results were more than 3000 to 1 against chance.

What Mitchell neglected to mention was that Jonsson had failed so poorly that the chances were 3000 to 1 against.  This is a phenomenon known in the trade as 'psi-missing'.  In order to get such an unlikely event, surely the paranormal must have been at work.

So next time you hear stories about astronauts claiming that they are specially selected as the most rational people, highly trained to carry out their mission, perhaps you should just ask a skeptical question. 

Was their remarkable claim directly related to the mission?  

If not, then their special skills might be no more relevant to a full understanding of the nature of the universe than your's and mine.

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