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Noetic science, according to its promoters, is an "exploration into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing—including intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses", most famously mentioned by Dan Brown in The Lost Symbol.
Note that noetic "science" and noetic philosophy are distinct. Noetic (from the Greek noetikos, "mental") philosophy is philosophy dealing with the mind, intellect, or consciousness. However, this more often goes under the more obvious name of "theory" or "philosophy of mind" these days. Noetic "science" is closer to the pseudoscience of parapsychology and other such New Age fluff as "expanding your consciousness."
Institute of Noetic Sciences
The Institute of Noetic Sciences is the primary outlet for this form of woo. It was co-founded by former astronaut Edgar Mitchell and billionaire and former Exxon executive Paul N. Temple, who is also associated with the fundamentalist Christian organization The Family,
According to the Institute, the core of Noetic Science is as follows:
“”Noetic sciences are explorations into the nature and potentials of consciousness using multiple ways of knowing—including intuition, feeling, reason, and the senses. Noetic sciences explore the "inner cosmos" of the mind (consciousness, soul, spirit) and how it relates to the "outer cosmos" of the physical world.
Unsurprisingly, noetic science has come under criticism from skeptics and actual scientists, and the organization Quackwatch has placed the Institute of Noetic Science on the "questionable organizations" list.
Global Consciousness Project
The Global Consciousness Project (GCP) is more or less the PEAR project applied on a global scale. The idea is that random number generators (RNG) run by GCP will be affected by the focused attention of many people or high emotions from a worldwide event (i.e., the alleged "global consciousness"). This essentially boils down to running a whole bunch of RNGs, waiting for a spurious, statistically significant result, and then claiming to have successfully detected a "great disturbance in The Force."
Impact of The Lost Symbol
Following the publication of Dan Brown's book promoting noetic woo the institute has reported a twelve-fold increase in traffic to its web site and an increase in new members, indicating that at least some people take Brown's work seriously.
- What is Noetic Science? Institute of Noetic Science
- Quackwatch — Questionable Organizations
- Global Consciousness in The Skeptic's Dictionary
- GCP: An Independent Analysis of the 11 September 2001 events, Edwin C. May and James P. Spottiswoode
- NPR - Woman Reads Dan Brown Novel, Discovers Herself