Dean Radin, Ph.D. and Chief Scientist of IONS, the Institute for Noetic Sciences, recently introduced the results of a series of experiments that may provide the missing link between consciousness and matter, turning the tables on materialism and asserting consciousness as a fundamental component of reality itself. Using a variation of the famous double-slit experiment, he and his team hypothesized that the conscious intent of a human mind might be able to collapse a quantum wave function without direct interaction. Simply by concentrating they postulated, meditation might be able to affect and influence quantum particles – the smallest components of matter that form our physical universe..
Initial experiments used participants 2 meters away from the device. Alternating between asking participants to concentrate on the apparatus, then removing their attention showed astounding results. Fearing that temperature differences or other variables might have influenced the test, they offered the experiment to participants online. Using several thousand robotic control sessions to ensure that a determination could be made for the factor of human consciousness, the results were likewise astounding, with initial trial results of greater than 5 sigma.
Dr. Radin’s video from the April 2016 conference introducing the results from this experiment is available online through the IONS channel. I highly recommend watching the video in its entirety to get a full understanding of the experiment results, research protocols, variables, controls and the results from other labs and researchers who have replicated these results.
If you are new to quantum mechanics, the double-slit experiment and how consciousness has been at the center of controversy in quantum mechanics since Einstein’s heyday, please keep reading and watch the video embedded at the end instead. I promise that the full weight of these experiments will have a more profound impact if you have a true understanding of the implications.
Why is the study of consciousness important for the question of life after death?
Consciousness is at the center of the life or death question. The survival hypothesis, which is the scientific name for the belief that consciousness can survive death, is predicated on the belief that the mind – the self-aware part of us – is not dependent on the physical biology of the brain for its functioning. Although the evidence for life after death is overwhelming, scientific proof of life after death must be testable, repeatable and somewhat cogent with our current scientific thinking.
Current science is overrun with a reductionist materialistic reasoning. In this paradigm, consciousness is a quirk of our biology, contained safely within our brains and completely separate from the objective physical world outside. The arrogantly named ‘pure sciences’ such as physics, chemistry and biology regard consciousness as some philosophical backwater, completely irrelevant to the job of understanding the ‘real universe’ which, according to them, can and would function just as well without consciousness at all.
Neuroscience, for their part, have attempted to take a stab at consciousness. Armed with materialist thinking, neuroscientists have spent decades sawing into human brains to try to determine what part of our biology creates this highly unusual conscious awareness and the feeling of having the personal free-will to direct our own actions. In fact, most scientists – following the materialism regime – must admit that any assumption of free-will is an illusion. If the entire universe is based on the immovable laws of physics and chemistry, then our minds – and thus our idea of free will and personal agency – must be directed first by biology. This means that every action you take wasn’t decided on by an independent mind making decisions, but by a collection of neurons destined to follow a pre-determined set of instructions based on an innumerable set of chemical and electromagnetic variables. Blinded by reductionism, neuroscience persists in attempting to reduce the action of consciousness to the physical laws that govern matter.
In his book Science Set Free Dr. Rupert Sheldrake admonishes the use of studying the components of a system in order to understand how a system works.
“Attempting to explain organisms in terms of their chemical constituents is rather like trying to understand a computer by grinding it up and analyzing its component elements, such as copper, germanium and silicon…In this process of reduction, the structure and the programmed activity of the computer vanishes, and chemical analysis will never reveal the circuit diagrams; no amount of mathematical modelling of interactions between its atomic constituents will reveal the computer’s programs or the purposes they fulfilled”
Conversely, dualists are proponents of the theory that mind does not equal brain but instead is a separate, non-physical component of reality. Dualists often put forward the idea that the brain is instead like a radio or television; a receiver and interface for information. In this way, consciousness is like a field that is ‘picked up’ by our brain, and translated into physical action. The components of a radio don’t originate the broadcast, it simply transmits the pre-existing radio waves in a way that humans can hear and understand. In response, materialists will use the famous Phineas Gage incident as an example that personality is affected by damage to the physical brain. While certainly damage to the brain does seem to affect consciousness, a broken radio will similarly affect transmission of a radio signal, while leaving the original electromagnetic wave undamaged.
What both dualists and materialists have in common, however, is their lack of scientific proof in either case. We simply don’t have any real understanding – beyond suppositions and hypotheses – that can give us clue about how consciousness arises and its relationship to the brain. Without a testable and repeatable hypothesis, scientific proof of life after death is remote at best.
What is the double-slit experiment, and why is it important?
In order to understand why Dr. Radin’s research and experimental results are so important to both science and metaphysics, one must understand a little bit about quantum mechanics and the history of the double-slit experiment. Before you groan and roll your eyes, consider how Einstein and his cohorts felt when a rather simple experiment undermined centuries of Newtonian thinking and instead cast our previously comfortable and predictive reality into a paradigm that Einstein himself called ‘spooky’.
In 1905, Albert Einstein discovered that light acts as both a particle and a wave. This duality was highly mysterious to the emerging breed of quantum physicists because our world was anticipated to be concrete, definite and predictable. Matter was solid, reacting according to Newtonian physics. Sound and light were known to act like waves, just as waves on the ocean do – with peaks and troughs. Until Einstein’s discovery, matter and light had separate and distinct properties and were expected to behave in certain ways.
Waves, for example, follow a very specific pattern of peaks and troughs. Peaks can combine together to make even bigger peaks, and troughs can combine with other troughs to make even lower troughs. This feature of waves occurs wherever waves happen – in the ocean, in the ripples of a pond, and in light waves.
If you were to record where these peaks and troughs hit on a detector board, the pattern of lines that would appear would be a series of stripes called ‘an interference pattern’. When a scientist sees this pattern, they know that they are looking at the property of a wave.
This is exactly what Thomas Young thought when he created the double-slit experiment in the early 1800’s. The design of Young’s experiment was simple: a beam of light is directed at a board with two vertical slits, and a detector board on the other side records the pattern of the wave as it hits the board. The wave pattern that resulted erroneously confirmed the idea that light was a wave until experimentalists rebooted the experiment in the 1920’s to study this new particle-wave duality.
What happened next divided the physics word and turned science on its head, overturning centuries of classical Newtonian thought and putting the venerable Albert Einstein squarely on the wrong side of scientific progress. The stunning result of the double-slit experiment irrevocably altered our understanding of reality in ways that we are still coming to terms with.
Want to see a video about it? Watch an except from Nova’s Fabric of the Universe with Brian Green explaining the double slit experiment.
Here’s what happened:
The experimentalists already knew that light through the double-slit experiment would appear in a light-wave pattern. When they decided to measure the particles to see which of the two vertical slits they went through, the outcome of the experiment changed radically. As soon as they ‘looked’ to measure the location and speed, the particles started acting like, well.. little balls of matter.
Although particles such as protons or electrons are not really ‘little balls of matter’, for our purposes, we can think of them this way to make visualizing this easier. When the photons were being measured, they went through one slit or the other as expected but instead of making the wave-like interference pattern, they made a pattern like two vertical lines. This is similar to what you’d expect if you were throwing baseballs through two vertical slits in a wall.
Okay, so what?
Well, further testing showed that this peculiarity wasn’t just limited to photons. The same thing happened when using electrons, protons, even atoms as large as buckyballs, which is a gigantic collection of 60 carbon atoms.
Now scientists are a tough bunch. They don’t like the unknown, and it seemed like every time they tried to measure the location of a particle in this wave-like feature, the particle would collapse into the pattern of going through only one slit at a time and making the particle-like pattern as in the image above.
Thinking that the result was due to a mass of electrons trying to go through the slits, experimentalists tried the experiment again by shooting one electron at a time through the double-slits. We might expect that it would choose to go through either one slit or the other, or simply bounce back. After all, electrons are matter and should behave just like baseballs would.
Shockingly, even single electrons displayed this wave-like behavior. How could a single electron – which is a particle – display a wave-like pattern? More over, how could one electron appear in areas such as directly behind the middle of the two slits or way off to the side? Shouldn’t single electrons being shot through two vertical slits only make two vertical lines on the detector wall behind it?
German physicist Werner Heisenberg realized that we aren’t simply looking at a physical result, but a probabilistic one. The electron has a certain chance of hitting the detector in one of many places but it doesn’t ‘choose’ it’s final resting place until it is forced to by measurement.
This strange quantum behavior is described by Heisnberg’s uncertainty principle. Each individual particle exists in a superposition – a probabilistic state of being everywhere and nowhere at once. As with the earlier experiment, the act of measurement – the act of pinning down the exact location and speed of the particle seemed to ‘force’ it to pick a spot and lose that probabilistic wave-like behavior.
The fabric of reality is fuzzy. We can only calculate the odds of a particle being in a particular place at one time. If we don’t persist in trying to measure the particle’s location or speed, it will resume its wave-like behavior and appear in places that would be impossible if the particle was truly going through one slit at a time, for example behind the center of the two slits.
Undeterred, later scientists designed “Delayed Choice” experiments that they hoped would solve this mystery once and for all. Since any amount of measuring, interacting with, or watching the particles caused them to lose their wave-like pattern, they decided to put a detector after the vertical slits in order to see which slit the particle ‘decided’ to go through. They only measured after the particle had ‘made its choice’. The single electron is expected to reach the double-slits as a probabilistic wave, but when the measurement device is turned on directly after exiting the slits, the experimenters should have been able to detect the change to the particle state and discover which slit it must have gone through.
The result was even more mind-blowing. Even though the particle wasn’t being measured or observed as it was going through the slits, the action of measuring the particle afterwards cause the particle to seemingly go back in time and enter the slits as with particle-like behavior.
Frustrated scientists notwithstanding, quantum physicists had to admit that at the smallest levels of known reality, our universe is not objective or predictable. Reality is a big question mark until something or someone interacts with it. Matter, which is made up of quantum particles, can’t exist in a definite state unless the wave function is collapsed, thus prompting Albert Einstein’s sardonic statement: “I like to think the moon is there even if I am not looking at it.”
Although some early physicists claimed that consciousness itself was affecting this freaky quantum behavior, others including Einstein wrote it off as metaphysical nonsense. It was claimed that somehow the act of measurement itself with a detector or apparatus was destructive to the wave-function, like knocking billiard balls off a pool table with a sharp poke from the cue.
By now, this issue was called ‘The Measurement Problem” and spoiler: it still hasn’t been solved. Scientists have gone to great lengths to avoid implicating consciousness in particle-wave collapse. One of the more bombastic theories is called the many-worlds interpretation. This suggests that there is no wave-collapse, simply a brand-new nearly identical universe is created every time the particle settles into a position. All other positions are likewise a reality in a different universe. Of course, this means that an infinite number of universes are willed into being as soon as any particle moves from a probabilistic position to a definite state but the lack of any way to test this theory means that many scientists regard this as more science fiction than science. Conversely, string theory, the new kid on the quantum physics circuit, attempts to solve this mystery with added dimensions; 11 to be precise. Although I find both the many worlds and string theories to be fascinating, it becomes an exercise in frustration when any theory involving consciousness is quickly relegated to the status of ‘woo’, and yet perfectly intelligent scientists can speak of 11 unobservable and untestable dimensions with a straight face.
Dr. Robert Lanza sums up this point perfectly in his book Biocentrism:
“When science tries to resolve a theory’s conflicts by adding and subtracting dimensions to the universe like houses on a Monopoly board, dimensions unknown to our senses and for which not a shred of evidence exists, we need to take a time-out and examine our dogmas.”
Science will agree that any interaction with quantum particles will collapse the wave function but it has been thus difficult to remove the act of conscious observation from the measurement problem. Even if scientists believe that consciousness has nothing to do with the destructive interaction with quantum particles, it still takes a conscious person to observe the data. Even if using remote detectors to view the results hours later, we can’t be sure the particles didn’t wait to collapse at the moment a conscious person observed the results.
Before we analyze Dr. Radin’s results and why it is so groundbreaking, its important to understand the implications. Why are scientists so reticent to implicate consciousness? Material science is based on objective forces in our universe that obey strict laws of behavior. Were consciousness proven to exist, it would imply a force unknown to science and it has shades of religiosity that scientists recoil from like vampires from the sun. Similarly, if consciousness were proven to affect matter at the most basic level all of materialist science would collapse. Everything that we’ve surmised about the material universe would need to be revamped starting with consciousness as the base of reality, not simply as a quirky epiphenomenon secured in the brain and safely disposed of at death.
Furthermore, even the ability for a conscious human being to objectively observe the universe would be called into question. If the consciousness of a scientist can not only collapse a wave-function, but influence it to collapse in a particular way then we would never claim an objective measurement again. Consciousness would be the one variable we could never control for.
Dr. Dean Radin’s Experiment and Results
If you have read this far, you should now be able to follow Dr. Dean Radin’s IONS conference presentation and understand the full impact of his results. The video is embedded below, or linked here.
Dr. Radin’s experiment begins with the classic double-slit setup. Using a laser, detector, double-slit board and camera, his research team was able to capture the probabilistic wave-interference pattern of undisturbed protons. A computer recorded the interference pattern being created moment by moment.
Dr. Radin then added a series of conscious observers. Without interacting with the system at all (no destructive measurement), he asked the participants to imagine affecting the test. Radin used a feedback tone and imagery to give the observers something to concentrate on. If the tone got louder, they were having a larger anomalous effect on test. The observation period was interchanged with rest periods. Interestingly, Radin made a distinction between people who regularly meditated and those who didn’t.
In the initial trials, the meditators produced significant results with the non-meditators falling slightly around chance. When combined, however, the results were still striking.
Suspicious of his results, Radin expanded the experiment online, carefully controlling for several dozen variables, such as vibration, temperature, time, cycles, etc. The results of 5,000 human and 7,000 robotic trials showed similar and statistically significant results. Although the effect is small, it is consistent and repeatable.
The results insinuate that human consciousness can affect the very fabric of reality with no proximity limitation. From anywhere in the world, a person’s intentions can collapse a particle wave function into a definite state. More even than simply affecting the wave-function, Radin’s research shows something like a quantum zeno effect; it ‘steers’ the quantum collapse.
So maybe the moon really isn’t there until we look at it?
Radin is the consummate scientist. Although his methods and protocol has been independently verified, he is unwilling to draw any definite conclusions until more labs have replicated his study. At the time of this writing, another lab is in process of replicating the experiment. Although the scientist didn’t want to reveal his name (likely due to the academic shaming associated with research of this sort), his initial results showed something on the range of “oh my God!”, as Radin explains in the video. As expected, materialist science continues to ignore research such as Radin’s and others. Aside from the fear of academic suicide, there is a very real insecurity of losing the objective reality afforded by material science.
Although Radin’s research is one of the most direct applications of the interpretation that consciousness affects matter, the idea is not new. The aforementioned Dr. Robert Lanza is scientist famous for stem-cell research. Called one of the world’s top three living scientists, he took the unusual and courageous step of publishing his ‘theory of everything’ called Biocentrism in 2009. In it, he posits that the basis of the universe is consciousness.
“The animal observer creates reality and not the other way around”
Dr. Lanza uses the measurement problem as a basis of this theory and illustrates is with this mind-bending analogy:
“Take the seemingly undeniable logic that your kitchen is always there, its contents assuming all their familiar forms, shapes and colors, whether you or not your are in it. At night, you click off the light, walk through the door, and leave for the bed-room. Of course it’s there, unseen, all through the night. Right? But consider: the refrigerator, stove, and everything else are composed of a shimmering swarm of matter/energy. Quantum theory..tells us that not a single one of those subatomic particles actually exists in a definite place. Rather, they merely exist as a range of possibilities that are manifest. In the presence of an observer – that is, when you go back into get a drink of water – each one’s wave function collapses and it assumes an actual position, a physical reality. Until then, it’s merely a swarm of possibilities…So while you may think that the kitchen as you remember it was ‘there’ in your absence, the reality is that nothing remotely resembling what you can imagine could be present when a consciousness is not interacting”
What Dr. Lanza is suggesting based on 85 years of quantum mechanical research is, entirely, that the moon does not exist when we are not looking at it. Dr. Radin’s research contributes to this notion by showing a definite statistical anomaly when consciousness is directed to influence quantum states.
It’s hardly needed to be said that most of science recoils at the notion that we do not exist in a separate objective reality. To put consciousness at the center of reality with any sort of causal connection means that the universe only exists because we perceive it. They complain of solipsism, and the many unanswered questions that would then arise. ‘What consciousness was around to will the big bang into existence?’, they cry. The only logical answer for many is God, and that’s where the conversation screeches to a dead halt.
Certainly more time will be needed to the scientific community to agree on a testable and repeatable basis for this theory. Bleeding-edge experiments from Dr. Radin and others are only just beginning to cut the binds of the reductionist and materialistic attitude that is still pervasive in academia. A hopeful future including an expanded role of consciousness would make life after death studies less repugnant to science and certainly less imbued with religious overtones.
For afterlife researchers, any research that supports the idea that consciousness can affect the material world shows that consciousness is mind apart from brain, possibly interacting with but not dependent on biology. Although it doesn’t directly prove that life after death exists, it does suggest that our consciousness may not be an illusory product of the brain. Quantum consciousness studies such as Radin’s and other quantum mind proponents such as Henry Stapp, David Bohm, Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose could be a crucial step closer to understanding phenomena like near-death experiences, death-bed visions and past-life recall.
Until then, we can still put this theory into practice in our every day lives. From Phineas Quimby’s Law of Attraction to Jane Robert/Seth’s ‘You create your own reality’, to popularized versions of the idea such as ‘The Secret’ and ‘The Vortex’, philosophy, spirituality and the new-age genre has long accepted this notion with open arms. We may not have the ability to teleport or spontaneously upgrade our cars with the power of collapsing the wave-function of particles, but we can use our intentions to make good in our lives.
Remember always that your thoughts have power; they can set up circumstances for our success or our demise, hurt or help others and lead us into journeys of enlightenment or toil. One day we may have the scientific proof that our consciousness literally creates the universe around us. Until then all we can do is concentrate on making our little corner of the world just a little better.
Sheldrake, Rupert, Ph.D.. 2013. Science Set Free(US)/The Science Delusion(UK): Ten Paths to New Discovery. ISBN 13: 978-0770436728.
Lanza, Robert, Ph.D. 2009. Biocentrism: How life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe. ISBN 13: 978-1935251743
Radin, Dean, Ph.D. 2009. Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality. ISBN 13: 978-1416516774