Psychic Spies: Any Truth in 'Men Who Stare at Goats?'

Psychologist: 'No Evidence Behind It

Could they document successes? Sometimes, Smith said. The viewers provided just one slice of information and, often, he said they wouldn't get feedback on the projects.

But in one high-profile example, he said, a particularly talented viewer, Joe McMoneagle, predicted a new class of Soviet submarine months before photos confirmed its existence.

Still, after 20 years, the controversial program was brought under review and found to be lacking enough evidence to justify its continued existence.

Ray Hyman, now a retired University of Oregon psychology professor, was among those called in at the time to review to the program.

"There's no science behind it," he said. "There's just no evidence behind it."

He and Jessica Utts, a statistics professor at the University of California, Irvine, were asked to review the data surround remote viewing and answer two questions: Is there any scientific basis for remote viewing? And, if so, is it at a stage where it could be useful for intelligence gathering purposes?

First Earth Battalion Meant to Explore Limits of Possible

While Hyman said there was no science to remote viewing Utts said that it was just not yet reliable enough. Utts did not immediately respond to requests for comment from but is on the executive board of the IRVA.

Though remote viewers point to a few successes as proof that the technique is effective, Hyman said that when they went back to research the success stories, they couldn't find witnesses to corroborate or confirm the stories.

However, though there's no documentation supporting the phenomena, he said that the defense he often hears for remote viewing is that science can't accommodate it.

"Rather than admit they don't have anything there, they say there must be something wrong with science. That's the nature of psychic phenomena. Whenever you study it, it disappears," he said. "The situation is that they just don't have anything that would come close to being scientific evidence."

Col. John B. Alexander, a retired intelligence officer who is on the IRVA's executive board, didn't take part in the remote viewing program, but participated in other activities loosely described in "The Men Who Stare at Goats."

Even more than the remote viewing program, the so-called First Earth Battalion supposedly inspired much of the book and movie. In the movie, members of the group are the ones who experiment most heavily with the paranormal.

But Alexander said that though the Battalion did indeed exist, it was not an official, authorized military unit. Instead, it was a manual and tool meant to encourage other officers to think creatively.

"It was what we called a 'notional unit'," he said. People interested in it would meet occasionally, but the purpose was less about studying the paranormal and more about pushing boundaries to improve military operations, he said.

The story of the goat stared to death, he said, likely came from casual experiments with the martial technique, dim mak or "death touch."

Did 'Death Touch' Kill Goat?

The controversial technique supposedly involves channeling energy in such a way as to use a small amount of force to inflict a great amount of damage.

It was explored, Alexander said, with weakened prisoners of war in mind. The idea was that after months of physical degradation, with the right training, they might be able to summon enough energy to escape.

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