In an earlier blog I discussed the importance of carefully discerning the elements of "parapsychological" events so they can more clearly be understood and studied. I have recently been using evolutionary psychology to take a new (for me anyway) perspective on parapsychological events, and it has been helpful in teasing out aspects of certain phenomena that could be accounted for as brain mechanics, so that the anomalous cognition parts can be more clearly described. I do not see this new viewpoint as clearing up the mystery, nor is it necessarily superior to other perspectives, but to the extent Charles Darwin has some contribution to make to science, I think it can find some place in the study of parapsychology.
One of the many wonderful things about evolutionary parapsychology is that you are bound by the rules inherent in natural selection. That means I cannot make up brain processes that make perfect sense and would work great, but aren't part of the available range of variables present in the current structure. For example, wheels are great mechanical devices for locomotion but you just don't see any animals with them. This is why we can run into such trouble when trying to develop a model for understanding PSI processes. Like in other areas of reasoning, we are helped when we create a model that has some explaining power for our present mystery. Parapsychology has tried to explain what is going on by saying it is like radio, or electromagnetism, or atomic rays, or quantum mechanics, and today we encouraged that we will soon discover that the brain is like a computer. This comparison bothers people, and should to the extent the model overtakes the facts. A computer is not a mind and a mind is not a computer.
But... (and you knew there was going to be a "but") when it comes to information processing, in that regard both computers and minds are constrained by the rules of natural selection. The act of "recognizing a thing" requires a process that is trying to achieve the same thing in the same environment, so you can expect convergent evolution with the animal brain and the computer brain. This is wonderfully explored in the book I am currently reading, "How to Create a Mind" by Ray Kurzweil. In this book he is describing how AI in machines and the human brain can be better understood by noting how they both go about their functions. This book is talking about how information is processed, and along with Dr. Carpenter's recent book "First Sight" and an older book by Dr. Christine Hardy "Networks of Meaning", you start to get a pretty solid picture of how PSI data is processed.
Stir into that mix the ideas presented in earlier blogs here, that natural selection demands PSI not be consciously controlled, then you can start to see that the PSI dampening structures are probably built into the neural networks, and evolved by necessity as perception and memory was evolving in animals, long before homo sapiens came along. The brain is processing PSI data, as Dr. Carpenter's book describes, though unconsciously. It is probably the case that PSI data is processed at the level that basic sensory input would be, but the input is by design shut off as soon as that data is moved to the next level of perceptual and functional processing (as Kurzweil describes so well). We see this phenomenon in Remote Viewing, where the act of "naming" or "recognizing" breaks the flow of PSI data. The basic sensory level of the data provided by PSI is well described by the telepathy drawing experiments done by Ingo Swann, Mary Craig Sinclair and Rene Warcollier. It looks like PSI is feeding data into the perceptual process but at a level not accessible directly by consciousness.
Again, the laws of natural selection require that the PSI data, or any sensory data, is not too successful, it is only to give a slight advantage to the organism in the current environmental situation. If the natural neural process is to shut off PSI data once a slight survival advantage is given, what would happen the little bit of PSI data does NOT fix the problem? Along with PSI, the human mind has lots of processes to keep us safe. These include memory, sensory data, reflexes, social mores, emotional attachments and others. We are complex. All those things work together, and evolved in our species, to keep us alive and reproduce our DNA. We know in other processes, that when one survival mechanism breaks down, others usually on the back burner are by necessity pushed to the fore. So we would expect to see PSI phenomenon such as poltergeist activity in households where the social and interpersonal processes that are supposed create security are not working. Likewise we see more PSI in folks who had rough family situations as kids, and we see more reports of PSI events in individuals who have dissociative episodes, again, the normal processes are not working, so PSI data keeps coming until the required result is reached. And in cases where DNA survival seems unlikely, brain processes would throw out all the stops and PSI data would likewise be unchained, and this is what you see in a near death experience so well cataloged in the literature.
Again, trends in parapsychology research are toward unconscious behaviors, and this makes sense when seen through the eyes of evolutionary parapsychology. I am looking forward to seeing how research results reflect on the natural processes of which PSI data access is an evolved part. I am finding as I read book after book on current research on the mind and other biological processes, how PSI events fit right in.
The content of these blog entries I have been posting is not necessarily the view of the RRC, but instead that of a humble board member. I am emphasizing the the important and impressive work done by the Rhine Research Center scientists and staff by noting where it fits into more widely publicized and less "controversial" science going on out there (as described by Kurzweil) or foundational as in the case of Darwin's ideas. The website www.rhinecenter.org is chocked full of great information on the research they are doing, and I hope these few blog entries show how the phenomena studied by parapsychology are an integrated part of our evolving understanding of the human experience.
-Benton R. Bogle