Jonathan Schooler interviewed by CMN

The Conscious Media Network has released an interview with Jonathan Schooler (here) about his work on the decline effect.

Be warned, the CMN is pretty eclectic and ‘alternative’. They feature interviews about David Icke, conspiracies, UFO’s, and natural foods, among other things. The interviewer’s perspective on the decline effect, not surprisingly, was that it is a manifestation of mind, a parapsychological phenomenon. Of course, CMN haven’t seen my book and so wouldn’t know about all the economic and epidemiological evidence (by the way, progress toward release of the e-book continues).

Schooler would only go so far as to say that it occasionally ‘feels’ like a parapsychological thing. Being a scientist with statistical expertise, he was aware of the enormous scope of the problem and wasn’t going to rule anything in, or out. I liked this quote:

There may be some way in which beginner’s luck is somehow just in the fabric of the cosmos. If we set off in some sort of promising direction, when we first try something new and promising, the universe affords opportunities that may not be there subsequently.

He did a good job of articulating the importance of the subject, the need for more work to be done. I’m biased, but I think he made it sound very interesting, as well.

Later in the interview he stressed a point that I deal with constantly, that decline is an essentially neutral concept. He clarified that it is a mathematical phenomenon pertaining to effect size and the rarity of certain outcomes:

The key thing here is that when one finds oneself in new circumstances, we can expect certain kinds of opportunities to potentially present themselves.  But that doesn’t mean that one wants to just go willy-nilly. There have to be constraints … You could have things going extra bad.

The second half of the interview dealt mostly with material from last year’s New Yorker article, and again Schooler was appropriately scientific in his perspective, working through the various meta-studies and explaining each one. At the end he urged that more data from ‘failed’ studies be made publicly available, to increase the transparency of science.

Now if you’re a ‘hard science’ type, and you’ve been stimulated by my table of contents and want (for example) the numbers for the decline of AIDS, or more details on the military applications of decline, then Schooler’s interview might seem a little “woo woo” overall. The folks doing ESP work are attracted to him because he brings credibility to the subject.

But in all fairness, we need to give the parapsychological community huge credit for doing the first studies on the concept, in ESP work in the 1930’s. This is where it all started, folks, with people brave enough (like Schooler) to point to ESP testing and say that there is something real going on here. I of course have my ideas on where the inquiry should go next. There is a long, long distance to travel to bring together Rhine’s ESP tests and the elasticity of labor. But then all the more reason to try and respect where it began. Let’s acknowledge there is still a great deal to understand on the psychological side, and that folks like CMN have a role to play in the process.

Check the video out!

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