Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Demonstrating precognition

Sun behind treeI was thinking about precognition the other day, as one does. I came to the conclusion, despite some apparently excellent examples around, that precognition is surprisingly difficult to demonstrate. Here are some hypothetical examples to demonstrate what I mean.

Example 1: Witness A has a strong feeling that event A is about to happen and it does, within a day. On the face of it this looks like a good demonstration of precognition.

Example 2: Witness B has a strong feeling that event B is about to happen and it does, within a day. Yes it's the same as example 1. However, further research reveals that witness B has strong feelings about the future several times a week and has done so for over a decade. This is the first time any of B's premonitions have come true.

Example 3: Witness C reads about event C in a newspaper and suddenly remembers she had a dream about just such an event the night before.

OK, firstly, examples 1 and 2 are identical in what actually occurs - a witness feels something will happen and it does. However, in example 2 the witness has had so many such premonitions, which were all wrong until now, that far from appearing incredibly unlikely, the final correct prediction almost seems inevitable!

Secondly, in example 3 witness C only remembers the dream after reading the newspaper. So how many dreams has the witness had which did not apparently predict any real life event? The answer is probably rather a lot. It is, in effect, the same situation as with witness B. The main difference is that witness C has forgotten all the dreams that did not come true whereas witness B may remember many at least some of their previous wrong predictions. Also, witness C did not initially see the dream as precognitive while B thought their feeling was. Question: if you only realise you've predicted the future after it has happened, but didn't think it was a premonition at the time, is it precognition?

Thirdly, there is the question of what constitutes a correct prediction. Suppose witness 4 dreams about event 4 which actually occurs. The essential events in the dream and event D are the same, However, there are many details in the dream that are different to event D. Also, many additional things happen in the dream than do not occur in the real life event D. Do all these differences count against this being a hit or not? I have, incidentally, seen many examples of this where there are a number of material differences between the prediction and event but it is still counted as a hit. I'm not so sure.

Fourthly, there is the question of symbolism. Do we accept a prediction as being fulfilled if it relies on symbolism rather than a literal description of the actual event? Again, I'm not so sure.

When I view some remarkable-sounding examples of precognition against these points many start to sound rather less amazing. I think when it comes to judging examples of precognition it is a case of "it's complicated".

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