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Clifford Pickover

concerned, they had no particular meaning or significance. After composing the quatrains, I asked people to match my quatrains with actual historical happenings. I called the quatrains the “quatrains of Antinoüs,” which sounded suitably exotic. Amazingly, respondents found that my Antinoüs “predicted” such events as: the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the comet that wiped out the dinosaurs, the rise of Microsoft, the wreck of the Titanic, The American War of Independence, the Punic War, the Jewish holocaust, the importance of Henry Ford, the Second Crusade, and much more.  The famous Prophecies of Antinoüs are printed in entirety in my article and book.

Additionally, I’ve conducted a fake ‘ESP test’ at www.Pickover.com in order to show how easily we can be fooled and how great our will is to believe in the spiritual, the paranormal, and phenomena beyond science. Give it a try. I receive more e-mail on this web page than any other. My goal in conducting this little demonstration is to emphasize the need for skeptical thinking when evaluating claims of the paranormal. I believe the universe has facets we’ll never truly understand–the universe is mysterious–but at heart I’m skeptical about ESP, telelpathy, precognition, haruspicy, cephalomancy, and other paranormal phenomena until we have very conclusive scientific results.  

David: But there actually has been quite a bit of serious research done attempting to measure unexplained phenomena like telepathy and precognition, with strong positive results. Are you familiar with the psi research that has been done by people like Dean Radin and Rupert Sheldrake?

Clifford: Some components of their work appear to be quite interesting, and my goal is to become more familiar with their research. What I would really love to see is Dean and Rupert draft a precise paranormal claim and a means for testing the claim–followed by a letter to CSICOP (The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), James Randi, and Robert Todd Carroll (author of The Skeptic’s Dictionary), asking if they would accept the “new” test as a valid test for a claim of the paranormal. 
Whatever differences Dean or Sheldrake may have had with James Randi in the past, perhaps there is a way to start fresh and agree to participate in Randi’s one-million-dollar prize offer to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. (http://www.randi.org/research/challenge.html). 

So far, no one has claimed the prize. If Dean or Rupert feel that they will not get a fair hearing from Randi, CSICOP or Carroll, then, in parallel, they send a letter to Scientific American and Science, asking if they would supervise the test. Whatever response Rupert and Dean receive from Randi, CSICOP, Carroll, Scientific American or Science should be posted on the Web for all to view. In the meantime, people should type “Radin Randi” and “Sheldrake Randi” into the Google search engine and enjoy the remarkable web pages that result. 

David: I don’t think that either Dean or Rupert would refer to psi phenomena as “paranormal” or “supernatural” though, as they see these unexplained phenomena as part of the natural world. But Robert Anton Wilson once told me that he countered James Randi’s offer by offering a million dollars to anyone who could demonstrate a completely “normal” event (i.e., statistically average in every way) in a controlled scientific experiment. In fact, he actually established CSICON  (The Committee for the Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal) to investigate claims of so-called “normal” events. (For more information see: www.rawilson.com/csicon) According to Bob, no one has been able to demonstrate a “normal” event either.  

Clifford: Ha! I’d be happy to flip a penny a hundred times in a hundred trials to show that the penny behaves in a way you’d expect an unbiased penny to behave! Robert and I could agree ahead of time what this behavior would be and then start flipping… Instead of paying me a million dollars when I win, all Robert needs to do is agree to collaborate on a science fiction novel with me. I understand his novels sell a lot more than mine! 

(Robert Anton Wilson responded to Cliff: “No need to flip the penny at all– just prove that it ‘is’ ‘normal’ in ‘all’ respects, after first defining the terms set in dubious Korzybskian quotes.”)

David: Cliff, let’s talk about God and the mind. What sort of association do you see between religion and mental illness?   

Clifford: Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) can produce profound religious experiences. Some researchers have gone so far as to suggest that the mystical religious experiences of many of the great prophets were induced by TLE. This is not to demean religious experiences, because all experiences are mediated by our brain states. Perhaps TLE is a doorway to valid dimensions of reality. In my books Strange Brains and Genius and The Paradox of God, I discuss several nuns with TLE who ‘apprehended’ God in TLE seizures and who described the experiences in glowing words. Even Ezekiel in the Old Testament had a TLE-like vision reminiscent of modern UFO reports.   
More recently, at my weblog RealityCarnival.Com, I published an article going much further… My controversial premise is that DMT in the pineal glands of Biblical prophets gave God to humanity and let ordinary humans perceive parallel universes. As we discussed, the molecule DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a psychoactive chemical that causes intense visions and can induce its users to quickly enter a completely different ‘environment’ that some have likened to an alien or parallel universe. DMT is also naturally produced in small quantities in the pineal gland in the human brain. Some DMT experiences remind me of experiences of Biblical prophets. Readers should visit RealityCarnival.Com for all the details and discussions.   

I think that our brains are wired with a desire for religion and belief in God. If so, the reasons for our interest, and the rituals we use, are buried deep in the essence of our nature. Religion is at the edge of the known and the unknown, poised on the fractal boundaries of history, philosophy, psychology, biology, and many other scientific disciplines. Because of this, religion and God are important topics for contemplation and study. Even with the great scientific strides we will make in this century, we will nevertheless continue to swim in a sea of mystery. Humans need to make sense of the world and will surely continue to use logic and religion for that task. What patterns and connections will we see in the twenty-first century? Who and what will be our God?    

David: Speaking of religious experiences, what is your personal perspective on the concept of God, and do you see any teleology in evolution?   

Clifford: Sometimes readers of my “Neoreality” science-fiction series ask me why I write on God, strange realities, and religious subjects. As I said, I tend to be skeptical about the paranormal. However, I do feel that there are facets of the universe we can never understand, just as a monkey can never understand calculus, black holes, symbolic logic, and poetry. There are thoughts we can never think, visions we can only glimpse. It is at this filmy, veiled interface between human reality and a reality beyond that we may find the numinous, which some may liken to God. 

I believe your use of the term “teleology” is related to the teleological argument for the existence of God that posits that order in the world can not be accidental and that since there is design there must be a designer. But what do you mean by God–the God of Miracles or the God of Order?  Many scientist uses the word God to mean the God of Order, the God of mathematical and physical laws and underpinnings of the universe. Others may use the word God to refer to the God of Miracles who intervenes in our affairs, turns water into wine, answers prayers, cures the dying, inflicts plagues on His enemies, performs various miracles, helps the Israelites destroy the Canaanites, and avenges the righteous people on Earth. I don’t see how the existence of order (e.g. the structure of snowflake) or evolution forces us to believe in a God of Miracles. 
 

When one looks at the amazingly complex ‘design’ of the Mandelbrot set–the whirls, the bridges, the islands, and the infinite regress–we might be tempted to say there is a cosmic designer, but all really have is the equation z = z2 + c, which is obviously not

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