Founders Lecture | Robert G. Jahn

Founder’s Lecture

Robert G. Jahn

To be invited to deliver the first Founder’s Lecture of the Society constitutes an immense, albeit daunting, honor. This Society is an important scholarly entity, and it is destined to become far more consequential in its intellectual, political, and administrative future as its public purview matures. There is just one minor issue: no one seems quite to grasp what such a lecture should address, or, for that matter, how a “founder” should be defined. Does he (or she) epitomize a certain array of values or talents or visions? Does he favor a particular scholarly strategy? Does he deploy a particularly effective style of operation? And if so, what is it? Alternatively, does the opportunity carry with it its own set of prerogatives to be espoused in due course? Frankly, given the uncertainty of our governing body to concur on the definition of the lecture, I have arbitrarily opted for the second alternative.

This opens the thesis of this lecture to inclusion of various elements of philosophy, history, and science, a tad of each I shall try to include, but at the end of the effort, it must be your values, your recollections, and your intuitions, that must prevail! Why? Because it is your Society, you must drive it, and it must drive you, or it will never fulfill itself or fully prosper. Oh, there have indeed been founders, in the traditional sense. Most of them very good. Most of us know who they are and were, what they have done, and what we owe them. But what is needed now is new blood, new energy, new wisdom, new commitment. The founders should be honored, but not replicated. SSE must continue to mature to an exciting, productive entity that fulfills its founders’ spirit on an on-going basis, as it grows with its insights and achievements compounding.

An example: over past decades, my long-term colleague, Brenda Dunne, has labored to sustain our founders’ spirit in a cadre of exciting and excited young people who, with fresh ideas and fresh energies, could carry our founders’ heritage forward into new topi- cal areas and scientific strategies that will continue to broaden the range and impact of many classes of anomalous phenomena, and our understanding and profitable application of them. Therein resides the real future of the Society and the mighty social role our founders have foreseen for it. We shall always need to think well, to plan well, and to share our best thoughts well. But we must teach well also, and that requires that we teach others to teach well, at every level. This is now our missing link.

The cultural educational system lacks this element of outreach. Who will provide it? Public education? Not likely. Private institutions? Better organized religions? Forget it. What is the entity to preside effectively over this inculcation of global insight? Anybody you know? Think about it!

Robert G. Jahn is Professor Emeritus of Aerospace Sciences and Dean Emeritus of the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University. In addition to his work in the field of electric propulsion, he established the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Laboratory in 1979, which he directed until its closing in 2007. He currently serves as Chairman of International Consciousness Research Laboratories (ICRL). One of the founding members of SSE, Prof. Jahn has served as an officer of SSE since 1986.

Recorded at the 34th annual SSE Conference in 2015 at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville hotel.

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Published on November 19, 2018