I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even know that Princeton had an ESP lab. And now, after three decades of research, it is closing its doors, according to a New York Times Article from Saturday.
At the end of the month, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research laboratory, or PEAR, will pack up its equipment and put them in storage. Since 1979, this small lab has studied extrasensory perception and telekinesis using random-motion machines, from a pendulum to a giant, wall-mounted machine harboring a cascade of bouncing balls.
“For 28 years, we’ve done what we wanted to do,” the laboratory’s founder, Robert G. Jahn, told the New York Times. “If people don’t believe us after all the results we’ve produced, then they never will.”
Apparently, data from PEAR’s experiments indicate that people can alter the behavior of machines very slightly, changing about 2 or 3 flips out of 10,000. But their research was ignored by mainstream science. They could not get their work published in scientific journals.
“We submitted our data for review to very good journals,” Brenda Dunne, a developmental psychologist who has managed the laboratory since it opened told the New York Times, “but no one would review it. We have been very open with our data. But how do you get peer review when you don’t have peers?”
In addition to the snub, several times expert panels have examined PEAR’s research methods in an effort to find flaws or irregularities. The were unable to find sufficient reason to stop the work.
An underpinning belief in science is the freedom to explore ideas, regardless of how far-fetched they may seem. Without this, we’d still believe the Earth revolved around the sun and that it was flat.
But, PEAR’s equipment is aging and “It’s time for a new era,” Dr. Jahn said. It is time to move beyond proving the human mind can change the world around it and “figure out what the implications of our results are for human culture, for future study, and Ã¢â‚¬â€ if the findings are correct Ã¢â‚¬â€ what they say about our basic scientific attitude.”
I tell you this little story, because I think there are analogies for the science fiction, fantasy and horror community. We are a microcosm of the greater human experience. Whether or not you believe ESP exists, I’m betting you still think it would cool (or frightening) if it did. So, what do you have to say?