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Interview With
Gary Schwarz, Ph.D

“The quest continues…”Gary Schwartz

So Dr. Gary Schwartz, a research scientist, ended his 2002 book,The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death. The book tells of experiments carried out with five prominent mediums by Schwartz and Dr. Linda Russek, his research partner, in their University of Arizona Human Energy Systems Laboratory.

Highly skeptical about the whole subject of mediumship when, in 1995,  he first met Susy Smith, a medium and popular author on psychic matters, Schwartz, who received his doctorate from Harvard University and served as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Yale University before moving to Arizona, gradually came to accept the reality of mediumship.  “I can no longer ignore the data and dismiss the words,” he wrote in his popular but somewhat controversial book.  “They are as real as the sun, the trees, and our television sets, which seem to pull pictures out of the air.”

Among the mediums studied by Schwartz have been John Edward, who hosted a popular television program, Crossing Over, and more recently Allison DuBois, after whose life as a psychic legal investigator, a new American television weekly drama, Medium, is modeled.  In its third week of showing during January, the program drew an estimate 15.8-million viewers and ranked ninth among all prime-time programs.   

While also involved in energy medicine and healing research, Schwartz is continuing with his afterlife research.  “We are not just doing research to get percent hits under different levels of control [as is the focus of the book],” he said in a recent interview.  “We are now interested in studying the process.  The whole idea of how you establish that the medium is actually receiving communication from a genuine conscious, decision-making person (spirit) is a very important question, and we’re now asking questions as to what the afterlife is like.  That takes the work substantially further.”

Schwartz pointed out that in the “discarnate intention” experiment, there are 18 life questions and 38 afterlife questions.  “The reason we do the life questions first is to be sure the medium is getting accurate information about a particular deceased,” Schwartz explained.  “That allows the medium to earn some credibility before we get into the afterlife questions and take them seriously.  And if you have multiple mediums independently contacting the same deceased persons and asking the same questions of the afterlife to the extent that you get replication of information, you then have a scientific way of drawing a conclusion, saying, yes, it’s very possible this deceased person is experiencing the afterlife in this way and another deceased person is experiencing it differently.”

It is too early in this experiment for Schwartz to make any generalizations as to what his findings are, but he did comment briefly.  “There is a massive amount of data and we in the throes of analyzing it now” he said.  “There is only one thing I feel comfortable talking about now, even though we have all these questions.  What I find most amusing and potentially reassuring is that when people are post- physical it’s easier for them to ‘multitask’ in the afterlife, meaning to do just not multiple things at the same time but to be in ‘multiple places’ at the same time, that the capacity for doing non-local and multi-process activities is just easier than when you are in the physical and located in a very specific place.  That’s something that has been universally observed.”

Since the release of The Afterlife Experiments, Schwartz has come under attack by the fundamentalists of science, the people some refer to as “debunkers” or “pseudoskeptics,” but whom Schwartz kindly calls “superskeptics.”  They have scoffed at his research, calling it “junk science” while pointing out that the studies detailed in the book were not double-blind or subject to replication, two fundaments of hard science.

In fact, Schwartz has since done double-blind and even triple-blind studies (where the researcher, the medium, and the sitter were kept in the dark), but they have been equally unacceptable to the scientific fundamentalists.

“Based on my repeated observations of them and my experience with them, I would say that there is no experiment that I could even imagine designing that would convince them,” Schwartz said.  “Let’s say, for example, that we design an experiment where the mediums are sequestered and locked in a room with no telephone or communication and we have them watched by security guards to be certain no one provides them with information from the outside.  Well, then these skeptics will ask how we can be sure the guards weren’t paid off by the mediums, how we can be sure the guards weren’t involved in fraud.  The truth is that if you are absolutely convinced that the phenomena can’t be true, then no matter what experiment you design, you can always find some way in which there might be fraud.  Therefore, you are going to dismiss it, or you’re going to admit that you got it in that case but you want to see it replicated by other people.  Then you want to see it replicated again, and it just goes on and on.”

Schwartz recalled recently talking with one of the superskeptics, a university professor, and asking him what his reaction would be if he were able to observe positive results in a multi-center double-blind study.  “He said he would want to see it replicated a few more times before he’d take it seriously,” Schwartz said, “but I pointed out to him that the whole purpose of a multi-centered study is that you have independent laboratories replicating the phenomenon.  We’ve already built in the replication, so I asked him why he’d need to see it a few more times, and his answer was, ‘Gary, one of the things I’ve become interested in is why it is that I have no control over my beliefs.’  Now, if you can’t change your beliefs as a function of evidence, that’s a sad state of affairs.  I’m not hopeful that the superskeptics will accept any degree of data, but I’m not doing research for them.  We’re just doing the work.  We want to know if it is true.  Our project is called “Veritas” (Latin for truth) for a reason.”

Schwartz added that he is just beginning research relative to the mindset of the superskeptic, hoping to find out what pathology drives their closed-mindedness.

As frustrating as the scientific fundamentalists are, Schwartz finds that the mainstream media is just as difficult to deal with.  He recalled that after attending a memorial service for Montague Keen, the renowned British psychical researcher, last year, he was interviewed by a London reporter. “He got 15 to 20 facts wrong, some of which he literally changed because he thought it would read better for the London public,” Schwartz lamented.  “He’s not a bad guy and was sort of trying, but he got it garbled.” In jest, Schwartz added that the mediums outdo the media when it comes to accuracy.

As Schwartz sees it, the biggest problem with the media is that they see only two sides.  “I was recently contacted by a national television show which wanted to have a medium for research and then wanted to have a skeptic,” he explained, “and I said you are telling this as if there are only two stories.  There’s the medium and science versus the skeptic. I told him he had it wrong, that there are three stories here.  There are what the mediums claim, there are what the skeptics claim, then there is the science which attempts to look at what the truth is. Science is actually the third story.  Somebody can criticize the science, but that’s a different issue.  The media is making a huge mistake when it sees it as two stories only.  They’re looking for conflict, not resolution.”

Orthodox religion has ignored Schwartz’s research, apparently satisfied with faith alone, even though that faith might be turned into conviction with Schwartz’s findings. “It’s remarkable how this research has been for the most part ignored by religion,” Schwartz said, “but, frankly, I’m relieved.”

In spite of the attacks by the scientific fundamentalists, the indifference of orthodox religion, and the ignorance of the mainstream media, Schwartz courageously moves on with his research, feeling that it is having some impact on the public.  “I think it is ultimately the research mediums, like Allison DuBois, as they become visible and public,” he ended the interview, “who will awaken the public to the science, and then the people can go to the science and reach their own conclusions.”



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