Review of The Reach of the Mind. By J. B. Rhine. (Pp. 188.) London: Faber and Faber. 1948.

British Medical Journal, 23 April 1949, p. 714

    Psychology is indebted to Professor Rhine for his pioneer scientific work on telepathy, clairvoyance, and, most recently, telekinesis. This work, extensively confirmed elsewhere, could not be seriously discussed until the combination of controlled experiment and statistical analysis showed, as it now has done, that effects are being obtained which cannot be accounted for by any present theory of mental and physical interaction. They demand further inquiry. The late Sir James Jeans once remarked that any experiment should be regarded with the greatest caution until it was confirmed by theory. This is the present standing of these studies of "'psi" phenomena. The reader receives the impression that Professor Rhine is studiously avoiding the statement of any working hypothesis and that he is best pleased when the results of experiment are apparently senseless.

   He has, for instance, performed a great number of experiments on the power of his subjects to influence the fall of rolling dice, and he shows that they can at will secure an excessive proportion of high or of low numbers on the top faces of the dice when they have come to rest. He has experimented with dice of various shapes - e.g., with sharp or rounded edges - and found no difference between them. Telekinesis is unaffected by such mechanical factors. He also says, however, that he gave up experimenting with disks because he got no statistically significant results; so it seems that the shape of these experimental objects does have some effect after all. If mental operations have some direct effect on isolated physical systems, then they must be to some extent subject to the laws of physics; if Professor Rhine has not found this, it may be because he has not'looked in the right direction. If his views are correct, there is no reason why the pure willing of one of his subjects should not be able to roll over a single dice after it has come to rest and turn it so as to show another face. A single successful experiment of this kind would be a clearer demonstration to the vulgar than a thousand experiments whose validity depends on statistical analysis.

   Professor Rhine is enthusiastically concerned to demonstrate the paramountcy of mind and the "psychocentric" nature of man, as well as to dethrone materialist systems of philosophy. Although the phenomena he reports are extremely interesting, their theoretical interpretation is still so doubtful that no radical change in the basic philosophy of, science seems yet to be called for.