The Conscious Universe by Dean Radin is one of
the most comprehensive surveys of the study of psychic phenomena
in print. It was a path-breaking book when it was originally published,
and it remains relevant to the current scientific debates.
The Conscious Universe is Dean Radin's first major book
publication on the subject of psychic phenomena (or simply, "psi").
It is a breathtaking survey of a broad scientific literature that
is current up to its publication date. Radin has a Ph.D. in psychology
from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and this book
clearly reflects his training as an empirically-based scientist.
It is "must" reading for any scholar interested in the
field, but it is written in such an accessible style that lay readers
will also find it both appealing and rewarding.
Radin begins his discussion with an explanation of psi, and he
explains why the phenomenon is appropriate for scientific inquiry.
He then discusses the scientific issue of replication both in terms
of the need for it and possibility of doing it. There are essentially
two dominant approaches to the study of psi. The first is to analyze
data involved in an experiment. The second is to analyze the data
and results of many published scientific studies, the so-called
"analysis of analyses." The first approach is the one
with which most people are familiar. The second approach is called
"meta-analysis," and it is sometimes used in order to
draw conclusions that are less tied to a specific experiment and
more tied to the overall phenomenon. Meta-analysis can involve an
analysis of hundreds of studies, so issues of statistical significance
gain greater traction. Radin explains this entire subject with unusual
Radin then moves into various themes that often appear in the scientific
study of psi. This includes telepathy, remote viewing, perception
across time, psychic interactions with both inanimate matter and
living organisms, and even the application of psi with respect to
gambling. He also discusses the idea that groups of humans may be
able to form a field of consciousness, sometimes called a "collective
consciousness." It is essential to note that Radin does not
discuss these ideas metaphorically, or even loosely. Rather, he
constantly connects these topics to concrete analyses of hard data
that originate from respected laboratories spanning a variety of
countries. He explains scientific results that are obtained by a
diverse colletion of primary researchers using accessible language,
and then outlines the significance of these results. A lot of statistics
are involved in this type of research, and some of the statistics
are quite advanced and occasionally intimidating. But Radin makes
it all understandable to both scholars and lay readers alike.
Radin does not shy away from the arguments of skeptics. Rather,
he devotes more than a few pages explaining the commonly voiced
opposition to the reality of psi. Without dismissing any negativist
arguments out-of-hand, Radin carefully outlines the critical weaknesses
of the debunking themes. It is difficult to read Radin's discussion
of the scientific skepticism with respect to psi without wondering
why the debunking myths have lasted so long. Yet disbelief in the
reality of psi remains so widespread among the majority of the scientific
community despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary that one
is left wondering if there is something deeply wrong in the approach
that Western society takes to training its scientists. For many
skeptics, credible scientific investigations into psi become ventures
into forbidden thought. But should any thought be forbidden if science
is to remain truly scientific? The skeptic's universe is complex,
and it helps to have Radin's solid background in psychology to sort
it all out.
Radin concludes his book with a wide-angle lens with which he discusses
both the theory and scientific implications of psi. While his overview
of theory is appropriate for a survey book of this sort, it does
not match the depth that he achieves in his second book on psi,
Entangled Minds: Extrasensory
Experiences in a Quantum Reality. Nonetheless, his discussion
in The Conscious Universe of a scientific theory capable
of establishing a physical mechanism for psychic functioning is
the appropriate first step along this road, and readers are encouraged
to absorb it.
In sum, Dean Radin's book is a solid review of the science of psychic
phenomena. It should be read by anyone interested in the field,
be they academics with a background in empirical science or lay
people with a more casual interest in the subject. This book is
much more than just an entry point to a sophisticated literature.
It organizes a diverse literature into a coherent field with a clarity
that is rare in any science. College students in particular will
want to read this volume with care.