21 November 2017


David E. H. Jones. Why Are We Conscious? A Scientist’s Take on Consciousness and Extrasensory Perception.  Pan Stanford, 2017.

David E H Jones who died last July aged 79 was for many years the 'Daedalus' of the New Scientist and Nature. Daedalus was described in his Fortean Times obituary as “the court jester in the palace of science” and he himself described  it as “a region of scientific humour whose appeal lay in its closeness to reality”. (FT 359 p28)
Though he retired as Daedalus in 2002, this book, his swansong, had all the hallmarks of an extended Daedalus column. Starting with the “hard problem of consciousness”, Jones argues that consciousness must depend on the unconscious mind of Freud and Jung, and that might give access to another world, the unknown world, from which information might leak in the form of ESP. This unknown world might be colder than ours, it should have three dimensions like ours, there are discussions of the size and velocity of entities in the unknown world, whether any “matter” in it would be atomic or continuous etc.

Jones then goes on to describe how the concept of the unknown might explain various paranormal phenomena. There are some interesting asides, there should for example be about 100 billion ghosts in the world, there calculations as to how much space a ghost can haunt. We should be careful about stories of materialisations and denaturisation because hardly anyone reports the explosions caused by the air thus displaced. The use of the unknown world for space travel at transoptical velocities or for recovering information from lost historical documents are among suggestions Jones makes. Jones, however, has missed another possibility here, of the unknown world could react across the “many worlds” of Hugh Everett it should be possible to recover documents that do not exist in our reality such as the Necronomicon or Magonia 100, and its annual successor Visions and Beliefs.

Getting information form this unknown world from psychics and the like is not ideal and so Jones speculates that it might be detected using computers, powerful decryption techniques and anomalies in the behaviour of liquids.

Behind the humour it is clear that Jones took a serious interest in parapsychology and psychical research and the humour allows him to raise questions that otherwise could not be publicly aired by a scientist and it is important to note that he is not laughing at these topics but rather using humour to encourage open minded speculation. -- Peter Rogerson.

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