Dean Radin, PhD, is Chief Scientist at the INSTITUTE OF NOETIC SCIENCES (IONS) and Volunteer Faculty in the Department of Psychology at Sonoma State University. His original career track as a concert violinist shifted into science after earning a BSEE degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude with honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then an MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For a decade he worked on advanced telecommunications R&D at AT&T Bell Laboratories and GTE Laboratories. For over two decades he has been engaged in frontiers research on the nature of consciousness. Before joining the research staff at IONS in 2001, he held appointments at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, Interval Research Corporation, and SRI International.
He is author or coauthor of over 250 peer-reviewed scientific and popular articles, three dozen book chapters, and three popular books including the award-winning and bestselling The Conscious Universe (HarperOne, 1997), Entangled Minds(Simon & Schuster, 2006), and a 2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award, SUPERNORMAL (Random House, 2013). These books have been translated into a dozen foreign languages. His technical articles have appeared in journals ranging fromFoundations of Physics and Physics Essays to Psychological Bulletin and Journal of Consciousness Studies; he was featured in a New York Times Magazine ARTICLE; and he has appeared on dozens of television shows ranging from the BBC’sHorizon and PBS’s Closer to Truth to Oprah and Larry King Live. He has given over 350 interviews and talks, including invited presentations at Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, and the Sorbonne, for industries including GOOGLE and Johnson & Johnson, and for US government organizations including the US Navy and DARPA.
In 2010, he spent a month lecturing in India as the National Visiting Professor of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, a program within the Indian government’s Ministry of Human Resource Development. In 2013 and 2014, he gave invited lectures in Kuala Lumpur at the INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE, an organization supported by the Central Bank of Malaysia. In 2015 he spoke at the AUSTRALIAN LEADERSHIP RETREAT, a confidential program of briefings and discussions for Australian government, business, education, and military leaders.
In this episode we spoke to Dr. Dean Radin about his life, career and work.
From Dr. Radin’s website:
“Extended Bio: I was born on February 29th. For my 13th birthday celebration I rented a roller skating rink for an evening, invited all my friends, and we ate hot dogs, cup cakes, and shared a Spiderman-themed birthday cake. I am looking forward to my 21st birthday in 2036, when I can finally buy a beer.
My first career interest, at chronological age 4, was to be “jet propelled.” It took many years before I could better articulate what I meant by that, but that’s how I responded when adults asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. My next career interest was the classical violin, which I started at age 5 and continued to play for the next 20 years, the last five as a professional. Then I switched to fiddle and 5-string banjo and played in bluegrass bands for a number of years. Between gigs, I pursued other interests and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude with senior honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), a masters in electrical engineering focusing on cybernetics and control systems from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and then a PhD in psychology, also from UIUC. For my dissertation I developed and tested what may have been the first computer-based, artificial-intelligence enhanced, touch typing training system.
For a decade after my PhD I worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories and later at GTE Laboratories on advanced telecommunications R&D. Projects included designing the human interfaces to network operations centers in the US and Japan, developing a rapid prototyping system for complex human-computer interfaces (before there were personal computers), and studying ways of enhancing brainstorming and creativity in industry. While at Bell Labs, for fun I wrote a series of humorous articles for the science spoof magazine, JOURNAL OF IRREPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. One of those ARTICLES later almost accidentally started World War III in a way that would have appealed to Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.
Throughout my formative years and first jobs, I never forgot my original interest in being jet propelled. Ultimately I understood that what I was trying to express as a child was an overriding fascination about the outer limits of inner space — the depths and capacities of the human mind. As a pre-teen I read everything I could find on mythology, fairy tales, folklore, eastern philosophy, western psychology, and lots of science fiction. Around age 12, as my interests in science and engineering grew, I started to conduct experiments on hypnosis and psychic (or “psi”) phenomena. In hindsight, I think these interests were probably encouraged by growing up in an artistic family and bolstered by practicing the violin one to two hours a day for many years.
While at Bell Labs I started to publish some of my psi experiments. Then I discovered the PARAPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION and the SOCIETY FOR SCIENTIFIC EXPLORATION and I began to present my work at their annual meetings. I was delighted to find groups of scientists who were as interested in these phenomena as I was, and the contacts I made eventually led to my gaining appointments to conduct psi research at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, Interval Research Corporation, and SRI International. In 2000 I cofounded the Boundary Institute and in 2001 became Senior Scientist at the INSTITUTE OF NOETIC SCIENCES (IONS). I have also held a volunteer faculty position in the Psychology Department at Sonoma State University starting in 2002 and have served as a member of the Distinguished Consulting Faculty at Saybrook Graduate School.
I am now Chief Scientist at IONS, and I’ve spent the majority of my professional career doing what the 4 year old Dean expressed as being jet propelled — probing the far reaches of human consciousness, principally psi phenomena, using the tools and techniques of science. Very few scientists are actively engaged in research on this perennially interesting topic. This is not because of a lack of interest. Most scientists I’ve spoken to are very interested in psi, but science, like any social enterprise, has strictly enforced rules of acceptable beliefs, so it is not safe for one’s scientific career to publicly pursue controversial topics of any type. The controversy is reflected in the way that Wikipedia covers psi and the biographical entries of scientists who study it. These pages have been hijacked by anonymous vandals who apparently have nothing better to do. (SeeWIKIPEDIOCRACY for a website devoted to exposing the rising tide of nonsense contained in this popular but critically flawed encyclopedia.) Perhaps because of my unusual choice of profession, and the risk that that choice entails, I was featured in a New York Times Magazine ARTICLE in 1996, and I am regularly invited to give interviews and talks for popular, scientific, business and government organizations around the world. Some of those activities are listed on this website.
My interest in psi was originally motivated out of a child’s intuitive sense that the mind is far more mysterious and powerful than we know. Through education and experience I’ve also come to appreciate that these experiences are also responsible for most of the greatest inventions, artistic and scientific achievements, creative insights, and religious epiphanies throughout history. Understanding this realm of human experience thus offers more than mere academic interest — it touches upon the very best that the human intellect and spirit have had to offer. I discovered while working on these topics that I enjoy the challenge of exploring the frontiers of science, and that I am comfortable tolerating the ambiguity of not knowing the “right answer,” which is a constant companion at the frontier.
After studying these phenomena through the lens of science for about 30 years, I’ve concluded that some psychic abilities are genuine, and as such, there are important aspects of the prevailing scientific worldview that are seriously incomplete. I’ve also learned that many people who claim to have unfailingly reliable psychic abilities are delusional or mentally ill, and that there will always be reprehensible con artists who claim to be psychic and charge huge sums for their services. These two classes of so-called psychics are the targets of celebrated prizes offered for demonstrations of psychic abilities. Those prizes are safe because the claimed abilities of the people who apply either do not exist or because the abilities are insufficiently robust to meet challenges that are actually impossible-to-win publicity stunts. There is of course a huge anecdotal literature about psychic abilities, but the evidence that convinced me is the accumulated laboratory performance by qualified scientists who do not claim to possess special abilities, collected under well-controlled conditions, and published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
There is ample room for scholarly debate about these topics, and I know a number of informed scientists whom I respect who have different opinions. But I’ve also learned that those who loudly assert with great confidence that there isn’t any scientifically valid evidence for psychic abilities don’t know what they’re talking about. In addition, the hysterical rants one finds in various online skeptical forums appear to be motivated solely by fundamentalist beliefs of the scientistic or religious kind. Regarding religion, I was raised in a family with a Jewish heritage but religious beliefs have played no part in my life and I remain agnostic. I maintain a daily meditation practice, primarily because the evidence in favor of meditation’s health benefits are so strong now that it would be foolish to not meditate.