Re: Movement Vs. Telekinesis

From: HARNAD Stevan (
Date: Fri May 10 1996 - 11:47:22 BST

> From: "Petrie Susie" <>
> Date: Fri, 10 May 1996 10:38:20 GMT
> Movement happens due to the laws of science, namely the Force=Mass x
> acceleration (F=ma) equation. The force of gravity will cause something
> to move every time if this law is applied to it. It is a physical
> occurrence, which is more than likely, going to take place every time.
> This is because the majority of past 'movements' have happened in the
> same way. For example, if someone exerts a force on a pencil on a table,
> like a push, it will move in a certain direction.

Well, you have the laws and phenomena of motion a little garbled, but it
doesn't matter, as this is not a course on physics. The relevant thing
to understand is that there ARE causal laws of motion: Movements are, in
general, exchanges of energy: A moving billiard ball, in hitting a
stationary billiard ball, imparts part of its kinetic energy to that
ball, setting it in motion (while the original ball slows or comes to a
stop, depending on how much of its energy it has imparted). As the
moving ball keeps moving, it dissipates its energy as the heat of
friction with the surface of the billiard table (on a frictionless
surface, with no obstacles, it would go on moving for ever -- that too
is a consequence of the law of conservation of energy). The point,
however, is that in all of these interactions, energy has been neither
created nor destroyed; it has merely changed forms (just as the energy
you expend in pushing a boulder up a hill is transfered to the boulder,
which now has the potential energy to roll down the hill).

The conservation laws of physics are among its most general and
well-supported laws. No experiment has ever violated a conservation law.
Moreover, it is conservation laws that give physics its power to predict
and explain everything that happens and will happen, and explain it
causally: The conservation laws of physics are causal laws. The laws
that say what will happen when one body bumps into another body, the
laws of classical mechanics, are causal laws. And they are universal.
No exceptions have ever been observed. Any high school student who
wants to test them, any time, will always succeed, and will always
confirm them.

[Note to physics students: Please don't bring up quantum mechanics. It
would take a bit of time to show it, but apparent objections or
exceptions coming from quantum mechanics all turn out to be either wrong
-- or simply irrelevant to the issue of telekinesis, for which classical
conservation laws are a big enough problem!]

> Whereas with telekinesis, can this be done? Telekinesis is the supposed
> 'moving objects with the mind'. Can someone really move that pencil in
> the same way? Surely the mind can't have the power to exert such a
> force on the pencil. If the mind does actually move it, how does that
> mental process transform into a physical one like the normal F=ma
> situation? If there is this possibility I would have thought there was
> very weak evidence for it.
> Am I on the right lines here? Thanks Petrie Susie

You're absolutely right, but you don't go far enough. If the reason you
don't believe Uri Geller can bend a spoon with his mind alone is because
F=ma would be violated, you still have to add two further considerations:

(1) Physics does not rule out "action at a distance." Gravity itself is
action at a distance, because, unlike the direct mechanical contact
between two billiard balls, the interaction between the earth and an
apple falling from the top of a skyscraper is an ATTRACTIVE force,
exerted at a distance. Magnetic forces also act at a distance.

So the problem with Uri Geller's bending spoons with his mind is NOT
the distance between his head and the spoon -- after all, it COULD have
been true, though it isn't, that his brain produced a magnetic field
that bent the spoon, and if that had been true, it would not have
violated physical conservation laws. But then it wouldn't be Geller's
MIND that was bending the spoon, but the magnetic field generated by
his BRAIN. (Besides, Geller cannot bend spoons with his mind; it's a
trick; so we need not even look for a magnetic field radiating from his

(2) Ok, so maybe you want to say: "But still, if Geller HAD done it via
a magnetic field, Geller would still have "willed" that magnetic field,
so it was still his mind that bent the spoon! Was it? Here is the
subtler side of the movement/telekinesis question that I hope you will
all now understand: Geller's "willing" the magnetic field would then be
no different from Geller's "willing" his hands to bend the spoon! Whether
he (hypothetically) bends them with the magnetic power of his brain or
he (actually) bend them with the mechanical power of his brains+hands,
either way, it's the magnetism/mechanics that do the work; there's no
room for some extra work in which his MIND causes either the magnetism
or the mechanics. For that WOULD violate physics' energy conservation
laws, producing a physical effect out of the blue, out of nothing, out
of another "world"? the mental world? the mental "force"?

The point is, that although the incompatibility between the world of
physical causes (and its conservation laws) and mental causes
(violations of the conservation laws) is most obvious in the
mind-over-matter cases such as the mental spoon bending of Uri Geller (rare
cases, almost always eventually shown to be caused by fraud, error, or
coincidence), and such cases are rightly seen as far too weak to
challenge physics, it turns out that even the ORDINARY case of
voluntary or deliberate movement, such as ordinary manual spoon
bending, becomes a case of telekinesis and hence a violation of
physics's conservation laws if you literally claim that your
mind willed it!

In other words, there is no room for REAL free will in the world of
physics, only for APPARENT free will (i.e. it FEELS just as if I had willed
it, but in reality, my brain "made" me do it, and also made me feel as
if I'd willed it...). More on this when we get back to consciousness
and the papers of Libet and of Dennett & Kinsbourne.

Libet, Benjamin. Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of
conscious will in voluntary action.
Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 1985 Dec, v8 (n4):529-566.

ABSTRACT: Studied unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of
conscious will in voluntary action (VOA), by measuring electromyogram
(EMG) changes in a muscle after finger or wrist flexing. Data indicate
that VOAs can be initiated by unconscious cerebral processes before
conscious intention appears, but that conscious control over the actual
motor performance of the acts remains possible. VOAs are preceded by
electrophysiological "readiness potentials" (RPs). The negative RP
shift for unplanned spontaneous acts was used to indicate the minimum
onset times for the cerebral activity preceding a fully endogenous VOA.
Subjects' initial awareness of intending or wanting to move occurred at
-200 msec. The final decision to act could still be consciously
controlled during the 150 msec remaining after the specific conscious
intention appeared. Subjects could veto motor performance during a
100-200 msec period before a prearranged time to act. Commentary by 24
other authors and the author's own reply are provided.

Dennett, Daniel C.; Kinsbourne, Marcel.
Time and the observer: The where and when of consciousness in the brain.
Behavioral & Brain Sciences, 1992 Jun, v15 (n2):183-247.

ABSTRACT: Compared the ways in which the Cartesian Theater model (CTM)
and the Multiple Drafts model (MDM) of consciousness treat subjective
timing. According to CTM, there is a place in the brain where
discriminations in all modalities are put into registration and
presented for subjective judgment. The timing of events is thought to
determine subjective order. According to the MDM, discriminations are
distributed in space and time in the brain. These events are thought to
have temporal properties, but those properties do not determine
subjective order because there is no single, definitive stream of
consciousness, only a parallel stream of conflicting and continuously
revised contents. MDM does a better job of explaining such puzzling
phenomena as backwards referral in time and gradual apparent motion
phenomena involving abrupt color change. 29 comments follow, and the
authors respond.

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Tue Feb 13 2001 - 16:23:41 GMT