Meanwhile, I am in another room, watching your image via closed-circuit television. We have a random schedule, so across the half hour schedule period sometimes I'm staring at you and sometimes I'm not. I have no idea what that random sequence will be. The only time I learn about that sequence is after we stop interacting, and I go to my room and you're in your room. So, part of the time I see your image on the television monitor and part of the time I don't. The idea is that when I see your image, I try to wake you up or get your attention. The goal is to get an increase in the autonomic activity during the staring period as compared to the control period. And again, we have found that across a series of experiments (we've got 11 now), very significant differences under those two sets of conditions. So it appears that one person's intention has a measurable, demonstrable effect on the physiological activity of a different person. And this is under conditions that completely preclude any kind of conventional sensory interaction between the two people.
Redwood: What theories have you and others developed to explain how this sort of effect can occur?
Schlitz: That's a good question. To date we don't have any good theories to explain it. My job as an experimentalist is to collect data, and to try to develop proof of principle. My hope is that there will be people who have the theoretical skills to begin to put the pieces together. I could begin to speculate on what it might involve. It's been empirically demonstrated that there can be superposition within the quantum mechanical world, where two electrons have some kind of relationship with each other even though they're separated and at a distance. This has been recently demonstrated in a laboratory. So there is evidence in the area of quantum mechanics that there is some kind of nonlocal exchange of information between particles. What we don't have yet is a way to translate that to the macro level, as to how that would translate into gross physiological activity. But it may be that combining quantum mechanics with some kind of complexity theory, where you have a very complex system (the human biological system), and a minor perturbation in that system could cause macro level changes. We just don't know yet, really. But as I said at the start of this conversation, our worldview changes over time, and we operate from a certain model of causation that may not be adequate, and that may not be accurate for understanding the fullness of human experience.
Redwood: With the various experiments you've been describing, it really sounds like you and your colleagues have bent over backwards to try to eliminate any design flaws that might contaminate the information that emerges from your studies. I read recently a quote from Charles Tart where he said that scientific journals hold parapsychology research to a higher standard of proof than more conventional research, because there isn't a theory that journal editors find plausible. What has your experience been in trying to get research like this published in conventional journals?
Schlitz: There's no question that there are paradigm wars at play here, in that this goes against the mainstream scientific worldview, and that there are obstacles to getting data published in those kinds of journals. This also is true regarding grant support. I have a colleague who recently conducted a study, and the study that she was proposing to do based on some extremely positive, well-controlled pilot data, was sent to peer review. They evaluated the experiment, and gave it the highest scores imaginable, almost a perfect score. So the methodology was good, everything was very sophisticated about the design, and they rejected it on the grounds that it just a priori doesn't make sense.