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Kary Mullis

Actually there has been quite a bit of serious research done trying to measure things like telepathy, and other forms of psychic phenomena.

Kary: Yes, but it’s not been terribly successful. Some people claim to have telepathic powers, but they can’t always do it on demand. 

David: When I interviewed Dean Radin for this book, he told me that he did a meta-analysis of all the psi research that’s been done over past hundred years. He said that, statistically, the odds of these hundreds of experiments–which tested for things like telepathy and psychokinesis–working out as positively as they did, were in the order of billions to one. The effects were small, but very statistically significant.

Kary: That may be so, but if I try to play the California Lottery, for the life of me, I can’t get it right. (Laughter) I know that once in awhile somebody does, but never me. My wife Nancy had this dream that she won the Lottery. It was a powerful dream, and it woke her up. In the dream she won sixteen million dollars. It was Saturday, and the lottery was at thirteen million. She bought a ticket, but didn’t get close. The following Wednesday, the lottery was sixteen million. She bought a ticket, got four numbers right, and made eighty-five dollars. She would have made a huge amount of money if she had gotten the Mega number correct.  Amazingly, her incorrect numbers were only digits away from the correct numbers. 

David: Do you have any kind of model that you use to explain experiences like that?

Kary: I just say that was something I don’t understand. It was mystifying that she would get four out of six, because that’s hard to do. After that happened, we tried doing it more often. I thought maybe she would be good at it. That’s what a scientist would think. If you could get four of them one time, maybe the next time you can get all six of them. But it didn’t work that way. On that particular day, the chances were high that she was going get it for some reason. Otherwise, it was just a complete coincidence that she had that dream.

David: It would be interesting to know how many other people got four out of six numbers right that day–and how many of those people had similar dreams.

Kary: Yeah, there are a whole lot of little questions like that. Do the people that win it just pick it by chance? Obviously, if enough people try, then somebody’s going to win eventually, because that’s the way it’s set up.

David: I don’t think that anybody ever wins it repeatedly. Or at least, I’ve never heard of anybody doing that.

Kary: I don’t think people do. If somebody could, they probably would, wouldn’t they?

David: You’d think. (laughter)

Kary: If people can really see into the future consistently, then they ain’t telling me that. Nobody’s ever told me they could see into the future anytime they wanted.

David: But then weird things do happen though.

Kary: Yes they do. Weird things like Nancy dreaming the lottery. She doesn’t normally buy tickets. It has that element of somehow seeing into the future, but you can’t really understand how it works. Anyone who doesn’t think the world is much more mysterious than the simple picture that a physics laboratory would give you, has not really been watching closely. If you think that everything that goes on here follows a set of Newtonian rules of mechanics, or even Einsteinian kind of stuff, then you’re not paying attention. 

David: There are a lot of people like that.

Kary: Yes, they’re not noticing it in their own life. They think it’s just a coincidence. It’s hard to say what the probability is that you will have a dream in which you’ve won the sixteen million dollar lottery, and in a few days, it is sixteen million, and you damn well almost win it. What is the probability of that? There’s no way to compute what the probability of having a premonition dream is, and having it be close. 

David: You could start keeping a log of your dreams.

Kary: If you do keep a log, and you’re paying attention, then there will be more chances to notice things. There are more weird things going on in your life then you expect by pure chance.  I’ve never had any luck moving things with my mind, like making a penny fall the right way. I know there are people who can guess them sometimes, but they can’t do it all the time. So, I would say that this place is not as well behaved as our theories about it would have it be. 

And exactly what we are–which goes back to your question about whether or not consciousness vanishes when we die–is something that we don’t know. Most of the people in the world think that there is a nonphysical part of people. By nonphysical, I mean that you can’t weigh it. But if it weren’t physical in some way, if it never had any effects on what you think of as real, it wouldn’t matter whether it was there or not, would it?

There are a lot of people who feel this weird thing about their soul. However they define the soul, they think it’s there. They say that the soul has certain properties, and you can make it be either happy for you or sad, after you die, by doing certain things. I consider these people to not be deep thinkers.

David: Do you think their beliefs are some kind of psychological defense mechanism, or that their religious ideas come out of their fear of death?

Kary: I don’t know where it comes from. Different cultures have all kinds of myths that are strongly adhered to by people. Christianity is one, and Islam is another. There are things in Buddhism that I would look at in the same way. They’re just little myths that we don’t really know much about, yet some people feel very strongly about them. So if you are studying humans, you certainly would not ignore religion, because it’s probably one of the strongest forces that have affected us in the last three or four thousand years, and probably from long before that.

If you are studying what you think to be ‘the entirety of existence’–like somebody who studies physics would think–and you can’t put an experimental framework on it, then it’s not really useful to entertain that sort of myth. In other words, if there’s nothing you can do about it–you can’t measure it, use it to predict something with, or do something with it that you can’t do without it–then you have to ignore it. One of the principles in scientific investigations is that you keep it as simple as possible. You don’t introduce an extraneous idea that doesn’t have some sort of meaning in terms of an experimental proof that you can do.

So introducing this idea of a greater-than-human force–a god, with human characteristics (which is usually the way religions picture this thing, who has it all figured out–has no basis, as far as I’m concerned, in my experience, or in the experience of reliable observers that I have access to. I don’t see any reason to use that as a hypothesis, and try to figure out an experiment to prove it or not.

David: A lot of people claim from their experience with psychedelics that they’ve had religious or mystical experiences, which caused them to suspect that there might be some kind of intelligence operating in nature.

Kary: Yeah, and after a six-pack of beer a lot of people think they’re invincible, which they’re not. I’m not discounting the fact that psychedelics might open you up to see things that are true, which you wouldn’t have seen without them. But a couple of six-packs might also show you something. It doesn’t prove anything. You don’t assume that what you see while your mind is under the influence of some drug is truer than what your mind sees when it’s not. When you go to Hawaii you might see some things that are quite different than what you would see on the West Coast of the United States–and that might make you think that there might be even stranger things. But you wouldn’t say that Hawaii is truer than the West Coast of the United States.

David: What are you currently working on?

Kary: I’m in the process of starting a project which involves a way to redirect the immune system from one target to another, by using a chemical linker that will link an immune response that you have made for one thing to a new target, a target to which you would now like to be immune. 

David: This sounds really exciting. How far along are you with this project?

Kary: We already know how to do it, and

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