Mind Matters: A New Scientific Era

Roger D. Nelson
2019 Journal of parapsychology  
Global Consciousness Project I am an optimist, the sort we call incorrigible. So for those who know me, there should be no surprise at my title and theme. There is no question in my mind that what we do in our sometimes beleaguered bailiwick is research that provides insight into what we humans are. It is a difficult domain, so we don't have complete answers, but because of the difficulty, we are led to generate really good questions. They touch on the edges and frontiers of science (and we
more » ... pt with good humor that some of our friends in academia prefer the term "fringe"). What is important is that as these challenging questions are answered, even tentatively, they will expand and extend scientific understanding far beyond the effect of mere filling in the blanks and refining details of the current picture. There are big open spaces in standard models, which are amazingly difficult for ordinary scientists to see. Where is consciousness and the mental realm we all experience? Mind has, surprisingly, been an unwanted stepchild in science over extended periods and has never been accorded a proper place in psychology or any other of the sciences, even the queen of sciences, physics. Why not? I think it is, simply put, too complicated, too difficult. We have not known how to place consciousness or mind in a sound theoretical model and so have tended to ignore the very experiences that allow us to do physics and explore psychology. Obviously the construction of a model of the world helps us to think about it more cogently, but somehow the construction and the thinking escape us-they are too basic, perhaps, too much like the water the fish never sees. But there is the experience, and when we focus on it and try to stay with it, we generally agree that there is a problem, perhaps even a hard problem, as David Chalmers says (1995). During the Winchester convention, we had an opportunity to listen to Max Velmans, who also sees how much we are missing. He is one of the few adventurous souls in mainstream psychology who wants to build bridges and foundations, and eventually to create an architecture for mind, linking philosophy and psychology and physics, and, yes, parapsychology in some measure (Velmans, 2000). And we will hear committed people who are career parapsychologists discuss their contributions to an ever growing and increasingly sophisticated corpus of excellent research on the subtle but important extended qualities of human consciousness. Perhaps it is not after all too optimistic to expect a new era in science, 1 [Originally published in JP, 2008, 72, 3-17.] 2 This article is a revised version of the presidential address for the 51st Annual
doi:10.30891/jopar.2018.03.11 fatcat:px74vr755jh4thty6c42hkoa3e