Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
Dr. Dick Bierman is currently an emeritus professor at the University of Amsterdam, where he is in the Brain and Cognition Program of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences. He supervises students working on issues related to consciousness, intuition, and anomalous experiences,. He recently also joined the university of Groningen at the Heymans-lab. Heymans, Dick wrote to me, “was one of the first serious experimental researchers of the paranormal, and the very first one who introduced systematic manipulation of potentially relevant variables like alcohol consumption.”
In the past, he has been a visiting researcher at Interval (Paul Allen’s thinktank in California) and a visiting researcher at StarLab in Brussels. Some of his parapsychological publications include:
Bierman, D.J., & Bijl, A. (2014). Anomalous “retrocausal” effects on performance in a Go/NoGo task. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28, 437-452; Bierman, D. (2011). Anomalous switching of the bi-stable percept of a Necker cube: A preliminary study. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 721–733; Bierman, D. (2010). Consciousness-induced restoration of time symmetry (CIRTS). A psychophysical theoretical perspective. Journal of Parapsychology, 24, 273–300; Bierman, D. J. (1999). The PRL autoganzfeld revisited: Refuting the sound leakage hypothesis. Journal of Parapsychology, 63, 271–274; Bierman, D.J., Broughton, R.S., Berger, R.E. (1998). Notes on random target selection: The PRL autoganzfeld target and target set distributions revisited. Journal of Parapsychology, 62, 341-350; Bierman, D.J., & Radin, D.I. (1997). Anomalous anticipatory response on randomized future conditions. Perceptual and Motor Skills 84, 689-690; Bierman, D.J., & Houtkooper, J.M. (1975). Exploratory PK tests with a programmable high-speed random number generator. European Journal of Parapsychology.1 (1), 3-14.
How did you get interested in parapsychology?
I think curiosity is part of my nature. But the actual reason was that at the Institute for Atomic & Molecular Physics, where I did research for my PhD, I also was editor of the institute’s newsletter. This was in the late sixties when young people rebelled against those in power. The power person at the institute was the physicist Prof. Kistermaker and everybody knew he was interested in parapsychology and did secret psi experiments in the lab over the weekend. So, as a ‘rebel’, I wrote a funny piece about this ‘hobby’ of his. Skeptics would have liked it. BTW Kistemaker later became my PhD supervisor so there were no hard feelings. In spite of my ridiculing Kistemaker’s interest I also got curious and at the time thought this should be an easy-to-solve signal-noise problem. So I designed a well-powered study with over 2000 school kids in the Busschbach tradition, trying to guess what random picture their teacher was looking at.
The study was a methodological failure because we used the same target sequence (on punched paper tape) over and over again and hence ran into the so called stacking effect. A humbling experience for a physicist.
What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?
My main interest is to understand the phenomena and integrate them in main stream science. My secondary goal is to help maintain and create a sufficient level of knowledge in European academia in order to have a ‘fast take off’ once the topic becomes an accepted academic topic. It is important to always set up the research in the framework of a theory. We have contributed the RIPP-RNG to the fieldMany PK-experiments have used them and they are also used in the Global Consciousness Project. I am currently working on a new PK-test environment that is embedded in an automatic and simple pre-registration and remote real time data storage environment. And we have done many (conceptual) replications because we think replications are extremely important and jumping from one successful protocol to another one does not forward the field.
After many years of research I think the field has ‘established’ that ‘miracles’ do happen but that psi under lab conditions is rather elusive and that we have a paradox of researchers reporting effect sizes of 0.3-0.5 (in RV) but no profits. The paradox being that it can easily be shown by simulation that using the Associated Remote Viewing protocol with this kind of effect sizes, one doesn’t need any grants anymore. My preliminary conclusion is that whatever psi turns out to be, it can’t be used in a robust way or we currently overestimate the effect sizes.
Any theoretical approach should account for the elusiveness.
Why do you think that parapsychology is important?
There is a hunch that further research might shed light on the free-will issue. An issue that by the way is becoming more and more important in fundamental physics around the topic of retro-causation. I suspect that free-will, in spite of the neuroscientific evidence suggesting otherwise, has a role in our existence. I am agnostic/skeptical with regard to other more philosophical or world view (spiritual) consequences.
In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?
The main problem is that the topic is underestimated. It is not a question of just an extra sensory capability. Single phrase solutions of the problem, like it’s all ‘non local consciousness’, are counterproductive in my opinion. Having the ‘solution’ of the problem ready actually implies that further research is not really necessary. Many serious colleagues in main stream are not so sure that there is even a problem to be solved. What I see in our psi-community is a disdain for main stream science and especially for physics, because their materialistic approach is thought to be the source of all ‘evil’. That is not a good starting point for integration.
Can you mention some of your current projects?
In a recent project we attempted to see if we could fit the meta-analytic ganzfeld data to a model that assumed questionable research practices. We could not get a good fit without assuming some psi in the database. But the psi effect size to obtain the best fit was very low and we concluded that, if this model was correct, the power of ganzfeld studies was way too low and that the only solution for this power problem was to use selected populations like musicians.
It seems therefore a logical next step to focus on the development of ‘selection instruments’ for good subjects and, what might be even more important, for good experimenters. Most of our research occurs in the framework of main stream intuition research where we allow for a retrocausal component (presentiment). As far as I know there haven’t been presentiment studies with special populations (with the exception of meditators).
By far the most important project that I envision is an experiment where the computer analyses the presponse and decides on the basis thereof that the future must be ‘emotional’. In one condition the computer then, on purpose, creates a non-emotional future, thus creating a so called time loop paradox. I hope to work on this in the forthcoming year at the university of Groningen.
In order to see if, in spite of my belief of the contrary, it is possible to create a robust income by associative remote viewing, we will run another ARV experiment next year. We hope to expand our automatic ARV system when the grant for this research is finally available. In the end I am a Popperian and thus have to try to reject my own theoretical ideas as worded in CIRTS (consciousness induced restoration of time-symmetry).