Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



TIME Fails to Fly PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

In this December 24, 2008 interview for the book The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena, TIME magazine offers the following summary:

In her new book The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena, former Harvard professor Diane Hennacy combines philosophy, physics, and empirical data to examine supernatural traits like telepathy (the ability to access someone else's consciousness), psychokinesis (the ability to use one's consciousness to affect external objects), clairvoyance (the ability to broaden one's consciousness to remote time and space) and precognition (the ability to see into the future).

So far, so good. Yes.. let's examine these things in a scientific fashion. The author, Diane Hennacy Powell is an MD and is associated with Harvard University. To be clear, I have not read the book, but if this interview is any indication, it will not be going on the shelf next to Flim Flam or Demon Haunted World.

Let's examine just one question from the interview which was conducted by MJ Stephey (in bold):

In your book you mention Abraham Lincoln as one of the more famous examples of precognitive dreaming.

Lincoln had a very vivid dream of walking around the White House and hearing all these people mourning and asking, "What's going on?" and then having someone tell him, "The president's dead." Then he saw his own corpse. He had this dream literally ten days before he was assassinated. He didn't tell anybody about it at first, but a few days before [his assassination], he told his wife and some friends. Of course, that's not true of all dreams. Some dreams actually are tapping into some other time and place, and there's real information in them. Others are just imagination. I think that's one of the reasons why psychics don't have 100% accuracy, sometimes it's just their imagination. What I'm interesting in is trying to discern what it is that makes those experiences so different.

Umm.. wow. So, evidence presented here for the veracity of this dream being pre-cognitive includes:

  • It was "very vivid"
  • It was 10 days before his assassination
  • He didn't tell anyone about it, except "his wife and some friends."

Compelled? I'm not, and yet the interviewer and the author both accept this as proof positive of precognitive dreaming. Hennacy then says "that's not true of all dreams," apparently referring to the concept that not all dreams are precognitive. Isn't that astonishing? The dream I had last night of driving my old 1980 Datsun 510 to the beach may not have been precognitive! Whew, I'm rather glad, because I folded that car in half in an accident in 1987. She goes on to say that "sometimes it's just (psychics') imagination." Ya think? And most damning of all is her final statement. If you're trying to discern what makes precognition different from imagination, why not apply some actual science? If there's any in the book, it is not clear from this interview.

I could tear apart this article line by line, but fortunately I don't have to: you can do it for yourself. Again, I have not read the book, it could be that it actually presents solid evidence for these phenomena, but if so, I should be expecting the author to apply for the Million Dollar Challenge any day now.

What are the reviewers saying? From Dr. Hennacy's own site:

The ESP Enigma is an unflinching examination of the puzzle of consciousness—how it's able to do things that, according to our textbooks, don't make sense. Refreshingly clear, scientifically accurate, up to date, and comprehensive, this book shatters conventional beliefs about the nature of the mind and reality itself.

—Dean Radin, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences, and author of The Conscious Universe and Entangled Minds

Oh, that Dean Radin. The one who supports the concept of global consciousness. And "replicated" Emoto's studies of water memory.

"Finally, scientists and laymen alike have a clear and compelling introduction to the controversial world of contemporary psychic and consciousness research. Dr. Powell's The ESP Enigma is destined to become a classic in the field."

-Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., Director, Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health at the University of Arizona, and author, The Energy Healing Experiments

Gary Schwartz???

"The ESP Enigma will help open people's minds not only to accept what they can't explain but also to learn about what is already known about ESP. If we spent more time and money exploring our inner world, we would better understand the mysteries of life."

-Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine & Miracles and 365 Prescriptions For The Soul

This "new age" guru sure isn't someone I'd want endorsing my popular science book.

Am I being too harsh? Should I just shut up until I've actually read the book? You decide, but honestly, even though I know that TIME is a popular news magazine and not a science journal, I'd expect a modicum more questioning than was presented here. This book appears to start from the premise that psychic powers exist, and despite the title, that is anything but science.

 

Trackback(0)
Comments (15)Add Comment
...
written by Kuroyume, December 26, 2008
As far as we have experienced, psychic or paranormal powers do not exist. End of story. There is not one compelling (i.e.: significant) bit of evidence that supports such powers. And to go further, there is no known physical mechanism which allows these powers. So, it seems rather compelling to say that humans have more imagination to which they apply to reality than they ought. In other words, wishing or believing that you can do something doesn't make it possible. I can't fly unaided - except in my dreams (maybe that's precognitive?) smilies/wink.gif - and that agrees with reality and known physical mechanisms.

Gary Schwartz needs psychotherapy. He is a self-deluded, self-righteous person who thinks that having a Ph.D. lets him dictate reality to the lesser minions.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +19
...
written by JimC, December 26, 2008
Lincoln had a very vivid dream of walking around the White House and hearing all these people mourning and asking, "What's going on?" and then having someone tell him, "The president's dead." Then he saw his own corpse.
She even gets the story wrong. He did not see the face of the dead man. link
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
Kuroyume's comment above...
written by Human Person Jr, December 27, 2008
Excellent thinking and writing.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Peer-reviewed
written by rosie, December 27, 2008
TIME magazine's article makes very clear just what these woo-woo artists understand by "peer-reviewed". And the reviewer is quite prescient at one point: "destined to become a classic in the field" equals "qualified to be included in Randi's library of content-free woo-woo".
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +5
More fodder for the "woo economy"
written by Michieux, December 27, 2008
Those "reviews" say it all. Woo is Big Business. They all support each other. I'll review your BS if you'll review mine.

Bloody idiots.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +7
...
written by Kuroyume, December 27, 2008
I think the term is 'reinforced delusion'. smilies/cool.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by Resume, December 27, 2008
I predict Dr. Hennacy will receive much attention for her book. I further predict not all that attention will be to her liking.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by BillyJoe, December 27, 2008
JimC,

She even gets the story wrong. He did not see the face of the dead man. link

All I can see is about 15 references with an invitation to view even more references.
Could you provide a link to the actual article?

BTW, she did not say that he saw his own face, she says he "saw his own corpse". I think it is possible to recognise a corpse without seeing its face.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by BillyJoe, December 27, 2008
It's okay.
Here is a reference:

http://home.att.net/~rjnorton/Lincoln46.html

First of all, according to this source, Abraham Lincoln gave an account of his dream to his wife and a few friends 10 days after the actual dream. Secondly, the above account of that dream is actually second hand. It was given by one of the "friends" mentioned above.

Here is the relevant excerpt:

Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. 'Who is dead in the White House?' I demanded of one of the soldiers, 'The President,' was his answer; 'he was killed by an assassin.'

Okay, so the author was correct, according to this reference. Abraham Lincoln saw a corpse "wrapped in funeral vestments" and "whose face was covered". He, therefore, could not have recognised it as his own corpse. Rather, he was informed of this fact by one of the soldiers standing guard over the corpse who replied to his questioning: "The President, he was killed by an assassin".

Pretty neat, if true.

I say "if true", because Lincoln's account was given 10 days after his dream and it was related second-hand by one of his friends, Ward Lamon, who was present when Lincoln gave his account. There is also the question of how long after the event Ward Lamon gave his account of what Lincoln told them about his dream. For a start, it was probably after the actual assassination.

BJ
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by BillyJoe, December 27, 2008
Here is an interesting article about that friend, Ward Lamon:

http://www.mrlincolnswhitehous...ubjectID=2

For this discussion, the interesting part is that Ward Lamon was a very close friend of Lincoln. His buddy in fact. He also appointed himself Lincoln's body guard and was obsessed with the idea, probably well justified, that Lincoln was in grave danger of being assassinated. He would admonish Lincoln for going out without protection continually impressing upon him that his life was in constant danger:

you know, or ought to know, that your life is sought after, and will be taken unless you and your friends are cautious for you have many enemies within our lines.


So, we have a president whose life was constantly in danger, whose close friend and body-guard continually warned him about the very real possibility of assassination, and who then has dream about being assassinated! Amazing!

Okay, the dream was 13 days before the actual assassination, but still, considering the points raised in the previous post....

BJ
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
...
written by BillyJoe, December 27, 2008
Sorry for extending this discussion for those who may see this as a side issue to the main point of this article but...

Here is another interesting reference regarding Lincoln:

http://www.csicop.org/si/9905/i-files.html

that Lincoln should have dreamed of assassination-even his own-can scarcely be termed remarkable. Prior to his first inauguration in 1861, Pinkerton detectives had smuggled Lincoln into Washington at night to avoid a change of trains in Baltimore where an assassination plot had been uncovered. Lincoln had subsequently "received untold number of death threats", and on one occasion had a hole shot through his top hat by a would-be assassin

However, here is a quote that IS relevant to the main point of this article:

Lamon insisted that Lincoln "was no dabbler in divination-astrology, horoscopy, prophecy, ghostly lore, or witcheries of any sort." Yet soon after his death spiritualists sought to use Lincoln to give respectability to their practices

Hmmm...
And, according to this reference, it was Mrs Lincoln who was interested in spiritualism:

Actually, it was Mrs. Lincoln who was involved with spiritualists. She turned to them in her bereavement over the death of...the Lincolns' beloved eleven-year-old son...In these dark hocus-pocuses, Mrs. Lincoln found comfort, and Lincoln let them go on for a time, careless of whether the intellectuals of the capital thought him addle-pated or no...


BJ
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +4
...
written by Resume, December 28, 2008
I also think that seeking out the endorsement of Gary Schwartz is evidence of this woman's naivete.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by Trish, December 30, 2008
How do we know the president in Lincoln's dream was Lincoln, and not, say JFK? smilies/wink.gif

(It's this kind of retrofitting that keeps Nostradamus in business)
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
Precognitive, my foot.
written by Aquaria, January 01, 2009
When I was younger and much more naive, I had a few precognitive dreams,. I've never thought of them as being indicators of "psychic" phenomenon, but more as parts of my mind receiving information I didn't want to look at too closely, but that I desperately needed to examine.

One of the best examples was that dream about going to lunch with my coworkers, and I'm shot several times in a holdup. In real life, the company I worked for was about to lay off a bunch of employees, and I was the latest hire in my section. It made sense that I would go first, but I hadn't wanted to think about it--I really liked that job and didn't want to go. However, that nightmare made me realize I needed to think about what was coming, and prepare for it.

Since that particular dream, I've avoided avoiding the unpleasant or the uncomfortable, and the precognitive dreams have disappeared.

Methinks that, if Mr. Lincoln had a dream about his death, then it could well have been like my situation, of knowing that something troubling was afoot and being either too scared, or too busy, to address it with necessary care.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by sfdyoung, January 10, 2009
It is so annoying to me when people throw in the word "literally" in an attempt to - well, I don't know what they're attempting. Doesn't "He had this dream literally ten days before he was assassinated" have exactly he same meaning as "He had this dream ten days before he was assassinated"?

And it's possible that psychics don't have 100% accuracy not because of their imagination, but because they're not psychic.

However, anybody endorsed by Gary Schwartz and some dude at the Institute of Noetic Sciences must be someone to be taken seriously, so perhaps I should just keep quiet. smilies/wink.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy