Robert Todd Carroll
Remote viewing is the alleged psychic ability to perceive places, persons and actions that are not within the range of the senses. Remote viewing might well be called Psychic Dowsing. Instead of a twig or other device, one uses psychic power alone to dowse the entire galaxy, if need be, for whatever one wants: oil, mountains on Jupiter, a lost child, a buried body, a hostage site thousands of miles away, inside the Pentagon or the Kremlin, etc.
Ingo Swann and Harold Sherman claim to have done remote viewing of Mercury and Jupiter. Dr. Russell Targ and Dr. Harold Puthoff studied Swann and Sherman, and reported that their remote viewing compared favorably to the findings of the Mariner 10 and Pioneer 10 research spacecrafts. Isaac Asimov, however, did a similar comparison and found that 46% of the observation claims of the astral travelers were wrong. Also, only one out of 65 claims made by the remote viewers was a fact that either was not obvious or not obtainable from reference books [James Randi].
Targ and Puthoff were not put off by the fact that Swann claimed he saw a 30,000 ft. mountain range on Jupiter on his astral voyage when there is no such thing. It is hard to imagine why anyone would have faith in such claims. If I told you that I had been to your home town and had seen a 30,000 ft. high mountain there, and you knew there was no such mountain, would you think I had really visited your town even if I correctly pointed out that there is a river nearby and it sometimes floods? Swann, in a lovely ad hoc hypothesis, now claims that astral travel is so fast that he probably wasn't seeing Jupiter but another planet in another solar system! There really is a big mountain out there on some planet in some solar system in some galaxy.
The CIA and the U.S. Army thought enough of remote viewing to spend millions of taxpayers' dollars on such research in a program referred to as "Stargate." The program involved using psychics for such operations as trying to locate Gadhafi of Libya (so our Air Force could drop bombs on him) and the locating of a missing airplane in Africa. The mass media, ever watchful of wasteful government programs, did not exhibit much skepticism regarding remote viewing. Typical is the reporting in the Sacramento area. TV news anchors Alan Frio and Beth Ruyak led their nightly Channel 10 program on November 28, 1995, with a story on "exciting new evidence" that remote viewing really works. The same story had appeared that morning in the Sacramento Bee in an Associated Press article about "Stargate" by Richard Cole. "A particularly talented viewer accurately drew windmills when the sender was at a windmill farm at Altamont Pass," Cole wrote. The "talented viewer" was Joe McMoneagle, a former army psychic spy. Cole based his claim on the testimony of Dr. Jessica Utts, a statistics professor at the University of California, Davis, who was hired by the government to do an assessment of "psychic functioning." Channel 10 interviewed Dr. Utts, who confirmed that there is good reason to believe that Joe McMoneagle does indeed have psychic powers.
McMoneagle was in the army for 16 years, apparently serving some or most of that time as a psychic spy. He claims he helped locate the U.S. hostages taken by Iran during Jimmy Carter's presidency. Now a civilian psychic consultant, McMoneagle has turned his talents to more significant feats, as Dr. Utts demonstrated. She held up a drawing allegedly done by McMoneagle and declared that it was done by remote viewing. Another scientific researcher had gone to the Altamont pass, known for its miles of funny looking windmills on acres of rolling hills. McMoneagle tried to use his psychic powers to "see" what the researcher at Altamont was seeing and then draw what he was seeing. The sum total of the evidence for the value of psychic spying consisted of only one drawing and Dr. Utts's word that it looks like the Altamont pass. I will testify that in fact the drawing did have a strong resemblance to the Altamont pass. It also had a strong resemblance to ships on a stormy sea and to debris in a cloudy, stormy sky.
McMoneagle was just one of the psychics studied by Targ and Puthoff at the Stanford Research Institute (aka SRI International) from 1973 through 1989 and by another outfit with the unassuming name of Science Applications International Corp., which did its research from 1992 through 1994. Utts and Dr. Ray Hyman, a psychologist at the University of Oregon and a skeptic, issued separate reports on these studies. Utts concluded that "psychic functioning has been well established." Hyman disagreed. In his AP article, Cole wrote that Utts and Ray Hyman stated that "the research was faulty in some respects. The government often used only one 'judge' to determine how close the psychics had come to the right answer. That should have been duplicated by other judges." I would assume that Hyman, if not Utts, would have required a bit more of these studies than that they have more judges.
As a public service, I notified both Channel 10 and Dr. Utts of James Randi's challenge: $10,000 of his own money [plus pledges from others which at this writing amount to over a million dollars] to anyone who can prove he or she has psychic powers. I don't think a heartfelt testimonial from Dr. Utts or Mr. McMoneagle will qualify. As far as I know, the Randi money is still unclaimed.
However, in a startling new development CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said: "The CIA is reviewing available programs regarding parapsychological phenomena, mostly remote viewing, to determine their usefulness to the intelligence community." He also notes that the Stargate program was found to be "unpromising" in the 1970s and was turned over to the Defense Department. At one time as many as sixteen psychics worked for the government and the Defense Intelligence Agency made them available to other government departments. One of the psychics, David Morehouse, was recruited when he took a bullet in the head in Jordan and started having visions and vivid nightmares. He's written a book about it (Psychic Warrior) and it is sure to be better received by true believers than Mansfield's disclaimer.
We may not sleep better tonight, knowing that we no longer have psychics working for the Defense Department and the CIA. But we can be comforted by the fact that we still enjoy an eager scientific and academic community ready and willing to investigate anything for the sake of knowledge and national security, and a vigilant press corps keeping an eye on things.
Cole, Richard. "U.S. didn't foresee faults in psychic spies program," Associated Press, Sacramento Bee, Nov. 29, 1995, A2.
Randi, James. Flim-Flam! (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1982), pp. 68-69.
Vistica, Gregory. "Psychics and Spooks, How spoon-benders fought the cold war," Newsweek, Dec. 11, 1995, p. 50.
Robert Todd Carroll