| ||Interviews with People Who Make a Difference: Frontier Science ||
Interview with Beverly Rubik PhD
as interviewed by Daniel Redwood DC
Beverly Rubik is a leading spokesperson for research in consciousness
studies, subtle energies, and alternative and complementary medicine, frontier
areas that challenge the dominant biomedical paradigm.
Trained as a biophysicist at the University of California at Berkeley (Ph.D.,
1979), she conducted postdoctoral research and supervised graduate student
research at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory while also serving as a faculty member
at San Francisco State University from 1979 to 1988. In l988 Dr. Rubik relocated
to Philadelphia to become founding director of the Center for Frontier Sciences
at Temple University. The Center facilitated global information exchange,
networking, and education on frontier issues of science and medicine. Two
important foci of the Center were alternative/complementary medicine and the
matter-mind-spirit interrelationship. The Center was the first of its kind in the
world linked to a major university and spawned sister centers at the University
of Guadalajara, Mexico and the University of Milano, Italy. A journal, Frontier
Perspectives, was founded in 1990 by Rubik and was published and distributed
semi-annually to over 3,500 affiliates of the Center in 58 countries.
From 1992 to 1994, Dr. Rubik served as a member of the Advisory Panel to the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Alternative Medicine and was Panel
Chair on Bioelectromagnetics. She presently serves on the editorial board of
several journals, including the Alternative Health Practitioner; Alternative
Therapies in Health and Medicine; and the Journal of Complementary Therapies in
Medicine (UK). She is a member of the advisory board of the Journal of Subtle
Energies and the European Journal of Classical Homeopathy. She also serves as an
advisory board member to the John Templeton Foundation and the Society for
Scientific Exploration, and has served the MacArthur Foundation as a nominator of
In late 1995 Dr. Rubik left Temple University to continue her work as
an independent scholar and consultant and founded the Institute for
Frontier Science, a nonprofit corporation. She is presently writing a
book on the frontiers of science and medicine. An anthology of her
writings, Life at the Edge of Science, was published in 1996.
Rubik is also an advisor for HealthWorld Online, a consultant for
corporations involved in the nutrition and bioelectromagnetic
industries, lectures widely at universities and conferences in the
United States and abroad, and has a new appointment as Visiting
Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona at
Tucson, in the integrative medicine program under Dr. Andrew Weil, and
is an adjunct faculty member at Union Institute, California Institute
for Human Science, and the University of Creation Spirituality.
In this interview with Dr. Daniel Redwood, Dr. Rubik discusses the limitations of
the mechanistic worldview underlying conventional medicine and the emerging
research that may constitute the basis of a more inclusive paradigm. In
particular, she feels it essential that health researchers and practitioners
consider the role of energy flows in living systems rather than limiting their
purview to molecular biochemistry. Moreover, she believes the new paradigm must
take into account recent research on the role of the mind in healing (including
healing at a distance).
For further information:
Institute for Frontier Science
6114 LaSalle Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
DANIEL REDWOOD: You are trained as a biophysicist, but are best known as a
proponent of "frontier science." What is frontier science, and what led you in
BEVERLY RUBIK: It's a term used to differentiate it from mainstream
science, which is most academic science, and also to differentiate it from
fringe science, which is very unconventional stuff. Frontier science is
science that is outside of the mainstream but has a significant number of
scholars asking questions within its domain. Topics such as consciousness
studies and the science underlying alternative medicine are examples of
what I call frontier science.
REDWOOD: What do you see as the primary features of the dominant scientific
paradigm, and how does frontier science challenge it?
RUBIK: The dominant biomedical or biological paradigm is where life is viewed
mainly as a bag of biomolecules, and a human being is a collection of organs,
tissues, and other things that it can be reduced to. In that paradigm, the whole
is considered the sum of its parts. It's also a mechanistic or materialistic
worldview. For example, in the dominant paradigm consciousness is nothing but
brain processes or the results of brain processes. Some of its chief features are
materialism, reductionism, and fragmentation.
REDWOOD: What are the problems with that paradigm?
RUBIK: I don't think that a molecular view of life is sufficient for
understanding holistic medicine or the whole human being.
REDWOOD: What other factors need to be included to create a larger or more
RUBIK: We need to consider energy flows in biology, the subtle energies that
can't really be reduced to molecules. A good example is acupuncture. I'm aware
that some features of acupuncture have been reduced to molecules, such as the
analgesic effects that have purportedly been explained in terms of endorphin
release. But the nonlocality of acupuncture, and why stimulating at the crown of
the head might cure hemorrhoids, is beyond anybody's comprehension from a
molecular view. The specificity of that point for hemorrhoids and other points on
the body for other internal organs certainly challenge it.
REDWOOD: Why do you think conventional medicine became so focused on the
biochemical, molecular level as opposed to the other possibilities?
RUBIK: I think it's pretty obvious. We have a pharmaceutical industry that has
grown up in the last 50 years that has been highly profitable and somewhat
successful in dealing with acute diseases. So the approach has been to look for
magic bullets in medicine. That approach works well with acute diseases, but it
does not work for chronic degenerative disease. So we see the failure of that
approach. Also, conventional medicine has failed to treat the whole person. It
tends to reduce the person to their diagnosis, to the disease. In hospitals,
people are even referred to as their disease [i.e. the pancreatic cancer in room
205]. Increasingly, people are upset at this. Patients want to be treated as
whole persons, whose minds and spirits have something to do with their healing.
There's a body of evidence from frontier science that leads us to believe that
mind is more than brain function, because conscious intention and prayer
operating over even long distances can have beneficial effects on people. There
have been experiments on distant healing and prayer, showing that people can have
effects on other people as well as on microorganisms. I myself have conducted
some of these experiments.
REDWOOD: What are some of the important studies in the field?
RUBIK: There was a recent study that came out of California Pacific Medical
Center, published in December 1998 in the Western Medical Journal. It was a study
on AIDS patients who were treated over long distances by various types of
spiritual healers with different religious orientations. The healers were not
acquainted with the patients. They simply had the name of the patient. The
outcome of that study, which went on for some weeks, was that those patients who
were prayed for, unlike the control group, had fewer infections and better
prognoses. I don't think there were any deaths in the prayed-for group as opposed
to the control group. These were pretty advanced AIDS patients, so deaths would
have been expected in both groups. This study is just one example. There are
experiments on microbes that I began doing 20 years ago, which showed that
consciousness can have beneficial effects on the growth and motility of simple
cells, which probably don't have consciousness as we do. So there's something
more going on beyond the placebo effect, which might result from believing that
you're being prayed for.
REDWOOD: How do you think that works? How does that connection, that effect,
RUBIK: For local healing, where people hold their hands near test tubes of cells,
or around patients, there may be a different mechanism than in distant-healing
experiments. Let me first talk about local healing, with which I've had the most
experience. It's possible that there may be an energy emission (even if it's a
very low level energy that the human body emits). That information may be
extremely coherent and meaningful to the receiver, able to alter their energetics
and promote healing. In the distant-healing experiments, we can't invoke energy
as an explanation because the weak energy field around the body would dissipate
greatly over distance. So we have to consider other possibilities.
REDWOOD: Such as?
RUBIK: We talk about mind in frontier physics as if it were a nonlocal
phenomenon, a la Bell's Theorem. In other words, in the quantum world everything
is fundamentally interconnected. And mind has this property that when intention
is applied it can be highly specific toward another person, even on the other
side of the planet, and effects can be seen. We really don't fundamentally
understand consciousness, but we can make an analogy to the world of quantum
mechanics since we see evidence of this nonlocality in the realm of particles. In
other words, if particles were once connected and later become separated from
each other, they remain correlated even if they're on opposite ends of the
universe. Humans apparently have the same kind of holistic interconnectedness
that remains. We don't understand consciousness, but we can invoke the
possibility of nonlocality from quantum physics. Perhaps it is how prayer and
intention to heal work successfully over long distance. Again, these phenomena
are not fully explained by science as we know it. I would say the experimental
evidence is certainly strong, but our theories are weak.
REDWOOD: Does the lack of a well-developed theory to explain these measured
effects cause difficulty in allowing the data to be broadly accepted? That is, if
you've got the clinical data showing that the effect is there but you don't yet
have an acceptable theory to explain it, does this cause political problems in
allowing people who might otherwise accept the clinical data to accept it?
RUBIK: Yes, but it's even worse in this case, because it's not just observations
lacking a theory, but something deeply challenging a whole paradigm, and even the
foundations of science. If consciousness can interact with physical or material
reality, that challenges one of the premises of science itself -- that mind is
passive and can only observe nature. So it's much deeper than the lack of a
theory. Certainly the lack of an appropriate theory is part of the fear and
loathing that some people feel about this topic, but the deeper problem is that
it seriously challenges the foundations of science.
REDWOOD: What kinds of experiments do you think could move this process forward,
to catalyze a paradigm shift?
RUBIK: First of all, no single study can catalyze a paradigm shift. According to
the history and sociology of science, there is a growing body of data that
challenges the paradigm that's swept under the rug, and when the heap of data
gets so big that you can't hide it under the rug, it gives birth to a new
The types of experiments that I've been involved in are key in promoting this
shift. There's only one conscious entity involved, the researcher, or in some
cases also a healer. But the recipients of the healing are cells, which are not
conscious like people are. They don't know about the nature of the experiment. If
cells respond in such an experiment where healers are laying hands on them, or
talking to them, or communicating with them across distances, then there is a
pretty strong bet that consciousness is interacting with a physical reality.
Whereas if people are involved, such as in the AIDS experiment I mentioned, and
they are told that they might be in the prayed-for group, or that they might not
be, they may have high expectations, such as, "Gee, someone's praying for me, I
feel better already." So there's the placebo effect at work, and not necessarily
direct physical intervention by another conscious being.
REDWOOD: Is the electromagnetic field of the body involved in human health? Can
there be external influences that impact upon it negatively and thereby cause
RUBIK: I think that both are true. We have some epidemiological evidence that
humans, especially children, placed in schools or homes around power lines, have
higher incidences of leukemia, lymphoma, and brain tumors. There were also
reports about ten years ago that pregnant women sleeping under electric blankets
(at least the older ones) had higher rates of miscarriages and birth defects in
their offspring. It's not so clear for adults, however. The electropollution from
our environment poses yet another stressor on our lives. The way stressors act
upon us is that one plus one plus one may equal nine, and then you snap and get
So it's very hard to point the finger to say bioelectromagnetics directly causes
a particular tumor. It's not so simple, unfortunately. Our bodily systems don't
work linearly; they're more like chaotic systems. They can absorb stress, they're
somewhat resilient, but they get to the point where there's only so much stress
they can take, and then they break. So the causal relationship is not clear. It's
not like classical mechanics and physics, because once again, I'm considering
these things from a new paradigm perspective, not from na•ve, simple causality.
Everybody would like simple causal relations in medicine, but unfortunately, it's
not so clear-cut. For chronic degeneration, it's impossible to point to a single
cause. This is also true of electromagnetic influences "causing" disease.
I'm certain, however, that the evidence for the other side of the coin --
electromagnetic medicine -- is clearer. There are many devices on the market,
some of them FDA approved and most of them not, that can enhance or accelerate
healing, lift mood, and can help broken bones heal faster.
REDWOOD: Why do you think they are not more widely used?
RUBIK: That's a puzzling question, especially when they're FDA approved. For
example, the bone healing device has been on the market for about 20 years is FDA
approved and is used in only about 20 percent of the cases for which its use is
indicated. It's probably because doctors don't learn about the possibilities of
using them. They're focusing mainly on chemistry, biochemistry, and drugs, and
very little on physics, electromagnetics, and other ways of healing. So it's
simply not within the scope of the dominant biomedical paradigm. And I don't
think doctors have teams of salesmen pushing electromagnetic medical devices like
they have drug salesmen knocking on their doors.
REDWOOD: Do you have an opinion on the therapeutic use of magnets?
RUBIK: I do. I've seen some studies and I'm impressed that the anecdotal reports
I've heard all over the place are bearing true in clinical trials in terms of
pain relief and reduction of inflammation. I once sprained an ankle and used some
magnets obtained from an Oriental health shop in San Francisco. I had some
amazing results with the swelling going down quickly and the pain disappearing.
It's hard to say how the magnets work on the body. From physics, there's the Hall
Effect, whereby if you have charged particles in a stream moving near a magnet,
they will be altered in their flow because of the magnetic field. This might
explain changes in the flow of blood and lymph, which contain a lot of charged
proteins, ions, etc., and that may explain why swelling, pain, and inflammation
REDWOOD: What questions is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) posing
that conventional medicine may have the most difficulty answering?
RUBIK: Most people are using multiple modalities of CAM for a chronic condition.
That is, they may be taking dietary supplements, doing biofeedback, going for
acupuncture treatments, and practicing relaxation techniques. These may be acting
synergistically, and they may also be tailored for the individuality of the
patient. Conventional medicine uses more standardized procedures, largely
ignoring patient individuality. So, here we see one major clash between
conventional medicine and CAM: standardized scientific approach vs.
Secondly, in CAM, optimization of self-healing is the goal; whereas conventional
medicine throws out any self-healing response and maintains that the cure is
something contributed by the drug or other medical intervention. What this means
is that the gold-standard of conventional medicine, the controlled clinical
trial, is much less meaningful as a test for CAM, since it does not address
individuality of patients, nor does it respect self-healing.
REDWOOD: What are your views on parapsychology research?
RUBIK: In parapsychology research, they're using old paradigm methodology to
look at these phenomena, which I think are elusive and largely confined to
particular life contexts. Experiments can't capture the richness of those
contexts or maintain them. I have been interested in this area for a long time,
but I soon learned the difficulty in creating experiments with meaningful
contexts for people to get high scores repeatedly.
In other words, the dominant parapsychology paradigm requires you to do
repetitions over and over again. You do many repetitions so you can calculate
statistics. But by that time fatigue has set in, the person is bored, and their
overall score is low. If you average all the data together, you get something
statistically significant, but humanly insignificant. That's one of the
difficulties of the old "repeat and replicate" inquiries with a lot of data
REDWOOD: What's a good alternative methodology?
RUBIK: Trying to design an experiment that has a meaningful outcome, that has
high social value rather than just some number crunching. Parapsychology research
often involves number guessing, card guessing, remote viewing of targets, and
similar tasks. Unless there's money being given away for correct answers, such as
at a casino, it's not very meaningful to the participants. It doesn't have any
survival value for life. Whereas for example, if a doctor had some tough cases,
say, in radiology, such as ambiguous mammograms that would require the women to
go for further lab tests -- if a medical intuitive or psychic diagnostician
could successfully diagnose these people, that would have high social value.
Moreover, it would be extremely helpful to both the doctor and the patient. So I
think that would be an interesting experiment, to test medical intuitives. To set
up something with radiologists and women who have ambiguous first-level
mammograms, with follow-through to see if something like that would work. If it
did, this might add a dimension of diagnosis that could assist radiologists or
other doctors in interpreting the status of these women before they go on for
REDWOOD: Aside from issues of politics and money, do you feel that it is
significantly harder to study these frontier science areas than it is to do
biomolecular research? Is it more difficult to create a good methodology?
RUBIK: I certainly think it's challenging to create a new methodology.
"Difficult" is a tricky word, because for some people in science, like myself,
frontier science is my calling. So I don't find it more difficult. By contrast,
I would find it rather difficult and boring to do molecular biological tinkering.
So to me this is so fascinating that it's not hard work. It requires some
cleverness, but science is much about developing appropriate methodologies. In
order to do so, sometimes we have to go places where no one has gone before.
REDWOOD: What projects are you most focused on these days?
RUBIK: I have a rather eclectic career of writing, lecturing, consulting, and
research. I'm consulting in part for corporations involved in holistic or
alternative health care, from the nutrition industry to the bioelectromagnetic
industry. I give many public lectures; for example, I'm giving a seminar in
December 1999 at Stanford University at their complementary medicine center, and
I give presentations around the US and abroad. I have a new appointment as
Visiting Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Arizona at Tucson,
in the program in integrative medicine under Dr. Andrew Weil. So I'm going to be
working more closely with them, next year especially. I'm gearing up to go to
Tucson, where I hope to engage in some research and give seminars to the medical
I'm an adjunct faculty member at a number of schools, for example, Union
Institute, California Institute for Human Science, and the University of Creation
Spirituality. Typically these programs involve distant learners who come in for a
week or two for an intensive class, and then continue their studies at home.
I'm also conducting research through the Institute for Frontier Science. We have
a microscope, and I'm performing live blood analysis observing the effects of
intention on blood, as well as studying certain energy medicine modalities. IÕm
looking in particular at white cell chemotaxis, the movement of white cells.
REDWOOD: Do you have a book in the works?
RUBIK: Yes, but I don't have a title yet. Many people have asked me to explain my
energy view of life. It's not just about energy, but also about the organizing
field of mind-body and information. One of the problems we face in moving toward
integrative medicine in the West is the Cartesian split between mind and body,
and the resulting splits between the various fields of complementary medicine,
such as energy medicine and mind-body medicine.
Let me say a bit more about that. I'm involved in a committee formed under MITI,
Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry. As I understand the concept
of qi (or ki, as it's called in Japanese), it's not just energy. It's really an
intelligent energy, with consciousness attached to it. In other words, in Eastern
philosophy, they never suffered a Cartesian split. So when they're thinking about
an energy field around the body, it's not just physical electromagnetic or
biophotonic fields, it's imbued with mind. It's something much more profound and
not quite part of Western science. Not yet, that is.
So one problem we face in the West is our split between the energy view of the
body and the mind-body view. And all the biology of mind-body interactions, and
mind-body medicine -- these have become distinct areas of pursuit. But in the
Orient, it's all one. It's beautifully one. One of my goals is to develop a
concept in science that would bring together energy and consciousness. I've
sometimes referred to it as "intelligent information." We need to recover the
wholeness of mind and body in our thinking in the West, and in our medicine. It
doesn't help to have energy medicine over here, subtle energy over here, and then
mind-body interactions over here, with the various experts never talking to one
another, especially as we try to move forward with a concept of integrative
medicine and a view of the whole person in biology. We don't have a good grasp of
these things in science, because Western science has been based on fragmentation
of concepts, fundamentally. We need to put Humpty Dumpty together again!
Daniel Redwood is a chiropractor, writer and musician who lives in Virginia
Beach, Virginia. He is the author of A Time
to Heal: How to Reap the Benefits of Holistic Health (A.R.E. Press),
and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Alternative
and Complementary Medicine. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©1999 Daniel Redwood
|Daniel Redwood, DC, is a Professor at Cleveland Chiropractic College - Kansas City. He is editor-in-chief of Health Insights Today (www.healthinsightstoday.com) and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of the......more||