I am much taken with a series of French experiments reported in issue 62 of Network, the journal of the Scientific & Medical Network, by Dr Peter Fenwick, a well-known London neuropathologist, whereby chickens and rabbits apparently influenced signals composed by a random-number generator for a robot close to them, and human subjects apparently influenced the movements of the robot even though its signals had been generated by a random-number computer program six months earlier.
Chicks hatched close to the robot imprinted on it as their mother and followed it about. It had a random-number generator inside it controlling its movements, which checks showed were truly random. The chicks were then removed and one placed so it could see the robot but not follow it. Under these circumstances the robot spent measurably more time close to the chick than away from it. The effect was that the chick was influencing the robot's generator.
The generator was then removed to a computer away from the experimental area. The same effect occurred. Non-imprinted chicks however had no apparent effect on the robot.
In the rabbit experiment, baby rabbits were frightened by the robot and kept away from it. When the rabbits' movement was inhibited, the robot's movements became non-random and it kept away from them. However, when one rabbit was starved and food was placed on the robot, this behaviour was reversed and the robot brought the food to the rabbit. It was found that humans likewise could influence the robot.
Now for the interesting bit. The humans were invited to influence the robot as before, but in fact it was being driven by code generated six months earlier and recorded on a CD, now being played back. The robot was influenced as in the contemporary study. The CD was then examined and it was found that the first half of its code was indeed non-random, but the unused code was truly random. This gave the effect that the computer somehow knew six months earlier not only that half the code would be used for such an experiment, but also the general direction of the movements that would be required.
The experimenter was Dr René Peoch, working at Fondation ODIER at Nantes.
From the viewpoint of someone who has been involved in random-number experiments, this looks very like human-animal-machine symbiosis. You can be sure chickens can't influence automatic feeders that are not in a parapsychological lab. And I would also not want to rule out paranormal alteration of the CD - I doubt that happened, but it needs checking.
The following prologue written by the Editor of the Journal could shed some light on the discussion:
It is not often that we have the privilege of publishing a genuinely innovative parapsychological experiment and one, moreover, that is strikingly successful but this paper by Dr. Peoch surely comes into this category. The author is an authority on animal behaviour and a former pupil of Dr. Rimy Chauvin whose name will be familiar to many of our readers. By a happy chance we are publishing below a paper which Dr. Chauvin sent us quite independently which likewise breaks new ground. Dr. Peoch, who runs his own research institute in Nantes, has been working on the phenomenon which he here reports for some six years. Since Lorenz first drew attention to the imprinting response it has attracted a great deal of research. For example, at the Department of Zoology of the University of Cambridge, work has been going on to ascertain the precise neurophysiological basis of this behaviour. If, therefore, as the author claims to show, it can also function as the basis for a psychokinetic effect this should impress biologists who would otherwise prefer to ignore parapsychology. Readers may recall that in our issue of July 1986 we published Pierre Janin's account of his ingenious device the 'tychoscope', a little machine that performs a random walk, together with an article by Chauvin describing an experiment using the tychoscope with mice. Here Dr. Peoch uses the Iychoscope with his chicks who then treat it as if it were the mother hen! Cautious readers may wonder whether it is indeed the chicks who are exerting a PK effect or whether this could be another instance of the ubiquitous experimenter effect. Only the future can give us the final answer to this question but the author, at least, is confident that this is not a case of experimenter effect and he tells us that a colleague who ran the experiment when he was out of Nantes obtained the same results. At all events, we earnestly hope that, by publishing this article we may inspire others who have the necessary expertise to try the experiment for themselves. Dr. Peoch himself is ready and willing to furnish all the relevant information and advice to anyone who is thinking of taking on this challenge.
Rene Peoc'h wrote his Ph.D thesis in Medicine (These pour le doctorat en medecine, Diplome d'Etat, Universite de Nantes, U.E.R de medecine et techniques medicales de Nantes) in 1986. Title: Mise en evidence d'un effet psychophysique chez l'homme et le poussin sur le tychoscope (80 pages).
Rene Peoc'h told me in 1988 that there were some problem to repeat the experiments, because of the malfunctioning of the random event generator (tychoscope). This problem seems to persist practically and theoretically, if not on the side of the experimenter, at least in the mind of the critiques...