The most vehement criticism of Dan Brown's new book The Lost Symbol concerns the view of many reviewers that while the material about Freemasonry may be based on fact, the science is more akin to science fiction.
Katherine Solomon, one of the main characters, is a scientist particularly interested in 'mind over matter': the power of thought--or intention--to affect and change the world.
The 'big idea' in Dan Brown's book is that science is only now providing evidence of what ancient traditions have traditionally espoused: that thought has a tangible power, enabling human beings to be creators of their own world.
I'm in a unique position to comment on this as I have extensively studied all the science Brown includes in his book, written two bestselling books on the subject and I facilitate these kinds of experiments all over the world.
In fact, Brown prominently singled out me, my book, The Intention Experiment, my research and my website www.theintentionexperiment.com for special mention in the blockbuster, claiming that one of his main characters was 'fascinated' by my work and my web-based global laboratory, testing the power of thought.
Although Solomon is solidly fiction, the vast majority of her work is based on solid fact.
In a sizeable body of research exploring the nature of consciousness, carried on for more than 30 years in prestigious scientific institutions around the world -- Princeton and Stanford Universities, the Universities of Arizona and California, and, in Europe, the Universities of Freiberg and Edinburgh --thoughts directed at targets in the laboratory have been shown capable of altering machines, cells and even complex organisms like human beings. This mind-over-matter power even seems to traverse time and space.
In my own web-based experiments, we involve thousands of participants in 90 countries around the world, sending thoughts to targets created in rigorous laboratory settings at the University of Arizona, Pennsylvania State University, University of California at Davis, and other prestigious universities in Europe.
Of our 19 experiments to date, 16 have shown significant positive results, six of which have been published in a scientific paper.
These studies go well beyond spoonbending tricks. This central idea, that consciousness affects matter, lies at the very heart of an irreconcilable difference between the world view offered by classical physics - the science of the big, visible world - and that of quantum physics - the science of the world's most diminutive components. These discoveries offer convincing evidence that all matter in the universe exists in a web of connection and constant influence, which often overrides many of the laws of the universe that we used to believe held ultimate sovereignty.
At least 40 top scientists in academic centres of research around the world have demonstrated that an information transfer constantly carries on between living things, and that thought forms are simply another aspect of transmitted energy. Hundreds of others have offered plausible theories embracing even the most counter-intuitive effects, such as time-displaced influence, as now consistent with the laws of physics.
Ideas about the power of thought are no longer the ruminations of a few eccentric individuals. They now underpin many well-accepted disciplines in every reach of life, from orthodox and alternative medicine to competitive sport.
Medical scientists often speak of the 'placebo effect' as an annoying impediment to the proof of the efficacy of a chemical agent. It is time that we understood and made full use of the power of the placebo. Repeatedly, the mind has proved to be a far more powerful healer than the greatest of breakthrough drugs.
Frontier science is the art of inquiring about the impossible. All of our major achievements in history have resulted from asking an outrageous question. What if stones fall from the sky? What if giant metal objects could overcome gravity? What if there is no end of the earth to sail off of?
All of the discoveries about the power of thought and remote influence have similarly proceeded from asking a seemingly absurd question: what if our thoughts could affect the things around us?
True science always begins with an unpopular question, even if there is no prospect of an immediate answer - even if the answer threatens to overturn every last one of our cherished beliefs. The scientists engaged in consciousness research must constantly put forward unpopular questions about the nature of the mind and the extent of its reach.
In our group Intention Experiments, we have asked the most impossible question of all: what if a group thought could heal a remote target? It is a little like asking, what if a thought could heal the world?
It is an outlandish question, but the most important part of scientific investigation is just the simple willingness to ask the question.
Mainstream science has grown ever more fundamentalist, dominated by a few highly vocal scientists who believe that our scientific story has largely been written. Nevertheless, a small body of resistance carries on in defiance of this restricted view. With every unorthodox question asked, with every unlikely answer, frontier sciences such as those featured in my books - and now Dan Brown's -- remake our world. May they and their ilk light our way.