An article about the Law of Large Numbers in Psychology Today

#21
David,
Yes. Would a billion monkeys banging away on a keyboard for a billion years ever, by chance, create an exact copy of 'War and Peace'? Would they even create an exact copy of the text of the See Spot Run children's intro to reading book? I think not.
Although I'm not a monkey, I tried the "random typing" test for a little while to see what would happen. Based on the result, I doubt that the famous example of a billion monkeys and a billion years would yield more than a couple of short words strung together in a way that isn't obviously wrong. The reason is that random typing is not the same as typing with a goal, such as using every key on the keyboard. What I found myself doing was hitting the same keys over and over again in something approximating a pattern that had more to do with the shape of the keyboard than constructing words. The same thing happens with young artists when you ask them to make something abstract. Before they understand what "abstract" means, they tend to make "random" lines and curves that somehow always line up in a grid-like pattern. That is, there are equidistant concentrations of darkness, or brightness, that line up in parallel rows if lines were drawn through them to form connections.
 
#22
My favorite article, also the most recent, was rejected by the JSE because they thought I was "evangelizing". I disagreed with their assessment, and made some effort to avoid even the appearance of promoting a religious perspective but I did want to discuss the possibility that the connection between genuine psi and religious beliefs suggests the possibility that at least some of those beliefs are correct.
I guess at this point in our culture any references to God are automatically deemed unscientific. Which places great limits on science.

Was a very interesting article. I look forward to further publications form you.
 
#23
David,
Yes. Would a billion monkeys banging away on a keyboard for a billion years ever, by chance, create an exact copy of 'War and Peace'? Would they even create an exact copy of the text of the See Spot Run children's intro to reading book? I think not.

Would they eventually type out each word in either book? Yes, but not strung together in the right order to convey meaning; i.e. sentences and paragraphs.

The probability of obtaining the exact order of words in sentences and paragraphs, by random chance, is infinitesimal (but would even an infinite number of monkeys typing into infinity ever get it right?). Obviously, probability calculation based on randomness breaks down if there is intelligent design behind the outcome.

Statistical analysis has no way of telling us if there is intelligent design behind an event's occurrence. It is up to the analysist to decide whether or not the probability is so small that an event is not a mere coincidence/law of large numbers. What I like about working in the insurance business world is that we can observe unusual events or patterns and decide that it's not random chance and take action - and we're usually right.

We flip the skeptical science approach on its head. If it's too low a probability to be random chance, then it's not random chance, though I note that is how science itself looks at most things. Law of large numbers only gets applied when its the paranormal hypothesis, or some other out of vogue concept, being asserted. If it's a crumby drug trial with a sample of 90 and you get a P <.05, then you've created a miracle cure that can go to market for big profits. No need to replicate multiple times to ensure that other samples also come in at the same or smaller Ps.
Yes - just to back that up with a bit of maths, there are 26 letters in the alphabet, but you also need space, full stop, comma, and quotation marks, so let us say 30 different symbols. So the number of possible texts of length N is 30^N. So far this reply is about 2000 characters in length. 30^2000 is 1.7 x 10^2954 - far, far larger than the number of seconds since the big bang, or the number or organisms, including microbes, that have lived and died on the earth!

Incidentally, this is the real problem with Darwin's evolution by natural selection. A gene might be 500 codons long (i.e. 1500 base pairs long). There are four DNA bases so that makes 4^1500 possible strings = 1.2 x 10^902. Natural selection isn't much help because until a gene is very close to the optimum it can't do anything - NS can't select between a gene that does nothing useful, and one that does nothing useful, but is slightly closer in sequence to one that would do something!

David
 
#24
Hi Andy

Was there any particular event that changed your worldview or was it a gradual thing? I’m interested in this. If so, have you written about it?

Do you continue to experience events like those described in Dreamer? What do you think about some people having them while the majority don’t, at least not to the point where they are very persuasive of something unusual.
Yes - just to back that up with a bit of maths, there are 26 letters in the alphabet, but you also need space, full stop, comma, and quotation marks, so let us say 30 different symbols. So the number of possible texts of length N is 30^N. So far this reply is about 2000 characters in length. 30^2000 is 1.7 x 10^2954 - far, far larger than the number of seconds since the big bang, or the number or organisms, including microbes, that have lived and died on the earth!

Incidentally, this is the real problem with Darwin's evolution by natural selection. A gene might be 500 codons long (i.e. 1500 base pairs long). There are four DNA bases so that makes 4^1500 possible strings = 1.2 x 10^902. Natural selection isn't much help because until a gene is very close to the optimum it can't do anything - NS can't select between a gene that does nothing useful, and one that does nothing useful, but is slightly closer in sequence to one that would do something!

David
A crucial requirement of the monkey test is that they must be instructed to never repeat themselves. Without that command and their implementation of it, you won't ever get the full range of possible variation.

AP
 
#25
A crucial requirement of the monkey test is that they must be instructed to never repeat themselves. Without that command and their implementation of it, you won't ever get the full range of possible variation.

AP
I doubt that would matter because even the phrase "I'd like to begin my talk by thanking" Had N=37 and thus has 14.5 x 10*54 random variants!

David
 
#26
Hi Andy,
I thought the ethical skeptic was basically reiterating what was said in the article, "The existence of 7 billion people on our planet is only relevant to our coincidence experiences if we know how many of those 7 billion people have or have not experienced coincidences as striking as the ones we’re considering. That is, large numbers are only relevant if we have data for those large numbers."

What is interesting to me from the statistical analysis standpoint is that, in addition to the forecasting aspect, Kitty's roll results and your roll results were not really independent. Your forecast mandated that you each sequentially obtain a certain roll in order. Thinking about this....
It would still be a Uniform-36ths arrival distribution with a Sample Space: S= {(1, 1), ..., (6, 6)} = 36 for each role of two dice. The Uniform Distribution for this instance can be found here: Ismor Fischer 2016

The ex ante prediction was the specific pathway in which 10 successive two-dice rolls would take inside the Sample Space. ----> 12, 12, 10, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6, 4, 4 and then multiplied by the the predicted two fails which bore a discrete probability of 35/36ths each under the same Uniform distribution.

Beitman miscalculated the probability here (but to be fair he posed it as a 'conservative estimate'), because he saw Andrew attempting this prediction over and over through his lifetime. That is not relevant to a single ex ante prediction - and time is not relevant therefore, as he asserted. So the math would be:
MatLab.png
(revised per Eric's comment)

= 2.585 x 10^-16 or 1:25,900,000,000,000,000

Or one in 26 Quadrillion

Very impressive - and NOT a case of The Law of Large Numbers because Andrew did not attempt this ex ante test 55 billion times; rather just once. The fact that he predicted it beforehand, makes this a completely different circumstance than its simple serendipitous occurrence. Fake skeptics will miss this principle and falsely call this a circumstance of The Law of Large Numbers. By this means they can dismiss the argument below (and protect their tender terrified minds):

The Threat This Poses to the Nihilist

Now this would certainly pass a p-value threshold, however the problem is that it is not easily replicated. So this suggests the necessary alternative that there is a non-deterministic element at play with Andrew (physics did not do its job completely - and physical equivalence is one of the universal principles identified by Kip S. Thorne in his excellent work Black Holes & Time Warps).

This would then violate Neti's Razor, first corollary which states.

1. A comprehensively deterministic system, cannot introduce an element solely in and of its inner workings, which is innately nondeterministic. Free Will Intelligence must arrive from the outside of a comprehensively deterministic system.
This would stand as a falsification therefore, of monism - IF it were able to be replicated. The question then arises - why can we not replicate this?

The fact that this (and similar stand alone improbabilities) occurs, yet cannot be replicated - means that we have to take Andrew's word on the matter. This renders all forms of hope and meaning (the idea that monism has been falsified) - a personal deontology. Perhaps this is a hint which we should heed - the final answer must be determined by YOU... and not be solely handed to you by means of the insistence of outsiders (neither physical nor spiritual).

Were this phenomenon easily replicable - we would stand under the tyrannical insistence of those who replicated it (as we stand now under the tyrrany of the nihilist who insists that science has proved his religion). Meaning would be handed to us on a silver platter. This would violate the very meaning of meaning.

The cleverness of such an ontology/deontological dynamic is fucking brilliant.... It is this cleverness which inspires me and gives me hope.
 
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#27
Here is an article that might be an interesting read for some of you:
This is a great thread. Thanks for posting.

I stumbled on this article a couple days ago, It is a slightly different approach to a similar conclusion.
What A Mathematical Formula Can Teach Us About Coincidence
(Discover Magazine. Article is by Noson F. Yanofsky)

My short summary of the article:
He seems to be saying that you can never be "certain" that the meaning of events you create in your mind are the best, most accurate meanings. (He applies Godel's uncertainty principle to certain techniques for comparing "math" to the experience of life. He doesn't specifically mention Godel, but I think he's one of the mathemetacians he's referencing, among others.)

I think we can tell intuitively if our interpretation of a mystical experience is a GOOD interpretation or not. The article suggests, though, that we can never know for sure that it is the BEST solution. It may be the case that there may be a BETTER interpretation. And if a BETTER interpretation comes along in the future, it may be a GREAT interpretation, but we would have no way of knowing that there isn't a better interpretation still beyond that.
 
#28
It would still be a Uniform-36ths arrival distribution with a Sample Space: S= {(1, 1), ..., (6, 6)} = 36 for each role of two dice. The Uniform Distribution for this instance can be found here: Ismor Fischer 2016

The ex ante prediction was the specific pathway in which 10 successive two-dice rolls would take inside the Sample Space. ----> 12, 12, 10, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6, 4, 4 and then multiplied by the the predicted two fails which bore a discrete probability of 35/36ths each under the same Uniform distribution.

Beitman miscalculated the probability here, because he forgot that EITHER dice (of two not just one) could roll the number in question. So it was not 20 successive rolls of a single die, but rather ten successive rolls of a pattern (doubles) from two dice. So the Uniform-36 ex ante (Andrew predicted this very progression) progression would be
12 12 ----> 1/36 x 1/36 x​
10 10 ----> 3/36 x 3/36 x​
8 8 ----> 5/36 x 5/36 x​
6 6 ----> 5/36 x 5/36 x​
4 4 ----> 3/36 x 3/36 x​
not-2 not-2 ----> 35/36 x 35/36 (the tail prediction - note this is a fat tail circumstance as well)​

= 1.309 x 10^-11 or 1:131,000,000,000

Or one in 131 Billion

Still impressive - and NOT a case of The Law of Large Numbers because Andrew did not attempt this ex ante test 55 billion times; rather just once. The fact that he predicted it beforehand, makes this a completely different circumstance than its simple serendipitous occurrence. Fake skeptics will miss this principle and falsely call this a circumstance of The Law of Large Numbers. By this means they can dismiss the argument below (and protect their tender terrified minds):

Now this would pass a p-value threshold, however the problem is that it is not easily replicated. So this suggests the necessary alternative that there is a non-deterministic element at play with Andrew (physics did not do its job completely - and physical equivalence is one of the universal principles identified by Kip S. Thorne in his excellent work Black Holes & Time Warps).

This would then violate Neti's Razor, first corollary which states.

1. A comprehensively deterministic system, cannot introduce an element solely in and of its inner workings, which is innately nondeterministic. Free Will Intelligence must arrive from the outside of a comprehensively deterministic system.
This would stand as a falsification therefore, of monism - IF it were able to be replicated. The question then arises - why can we not replicate this?

The fact that this (and similar stand alone improbabilities) occurs, yet cannot be replicated - means that we have to take Andrew's word on the matter. This renders all forms of hope and meaning (the idea that monism has been falsified) - a personal deontology. Perhaps this is a hint which we should heed - the final answer must be determined by YOU... and not be solely handed to you by means of the insistence of outsiders (neither physical nor spiritual).

Were this phenomenon easily replicable - we would stand under the tyrannical insistence of those who replicated it. Meaning would be handed to us on a silver platter. This would violate the very meaning of meaning.

The cleverness of such an ontology/deontological dynamic is fucking brilliant.... It is this cleverness which inspires me.
For what it's worth, I love this answer. Thanks for making the effort! It makes me wonder what you think of my paper on spiritual dreams. What may not be obvious is that the spiritual dreams paper is the one I thought of writing first. For it to make sense, I had to write and publish several other papers first, on the following subjects: 1) a method for determining credibility of events whose probability cannot be calculated, 2) veridical OBEs, to introduce the idea of a non-local "mind", 3) evidence for survival, to solidify the idea of a separate non-physical domain inhabited by non-physical entities, 4) the rarity of unambiguous symbols in dreams, to introduce readers to the ways information is conveyed in dreams, then finally 5) a discussion of independent agents in dreams, who happen to convey information that is sometimes veridical, sometimes unverifiable from the physical world. The idea I wanted to get people thinking about is "Should spiritual dreams be ignored because they are physically untestable, or should they be taken seriously on the basis of credibility of content that can be checked, sometimes in the same dream?"

Best regards,

AP
 
#29
It would still be a Uniform-36ths arrival distribution with a Sample Space: S= {(1, 1), ..., (6, 6)} = 36 for each role of two dice. The Uniform Distribution for this instance can be found here: Ismor Fischer 2016

The ex ante prediction was the specific pathway in which 10 successive two-dice rolls would take inside the Sample Space. ----> 12, 12, 10, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6, 4, 4 and then multiplied by the the predicted two fails which bore a discrete probability of 35/36ths each under the same Uniform distribution.

Beitman miscalculated the probability here, because he forgot that EITHER dice (of two not just one) could roll the number in question. So it was not 20 successive rolls of a single die, but rather ten successive rolls of a pattern (doubles) from two dice. So the Uniform-36 ex ante (Andrew predicted this very progression) progression would be
12 12 ----> 1/36 x 1/36 x​
10 10 ----> 3/36 x 3/36 x​
8 8 ----> 5/36 x 5/36 x​
6 6 ----> 5/36 x 5/36 x​
4 4 ----> 3/36 x 3/36 x​
not-2 not-2 ----> 35/36 x 35/36 (the tail prediction - note this is a fat tail circumstance as well)​

= 1.309 x 10^-11 or 1:131,000,000,000

Or one in 131 Billion

Still impressive - and NOT a case of The Law of Large Numbers because Andrew did not attempt this ex ante test 55 billion times; rather just once. The fact that he predicted it beforehand, makes this a completely different circumstance than its simple serendipitous occurrence. Fake skeptics will miss this principle and falsely call this a circumstance of The Law of Large Numbers. By this means they can dismiss the argument below (and protect their tender terrified minds):

Now this would pass a p-value threshold, however the problem is that it is not easily replicated. So this suggests the necessary alternative that there is a non-deterministic element at play with Andrew (physics did not do its job completely - and physical equivalence is one of the universal principles identified by Kip S. Thorne in his excellent work Black Holes & Time Warps).

This would then violate Neti's Razor, first corollary which states.

1. A comprehensively deterministic system, cannot introduce an element solely in and of its inner workings, which is innately nondeterministic. Free Will Intelligence must arrive from the outside of a comprehensively deterministic system.
This would stand as a falsification therefore, of monism - IF it were able to be replicated. The question then arises - why can we not replicate this?

The fact that this (and similar stand alone improbabilities) occurs, yet cannot be replicated - means that we have to take Andrew's word on the matter. This renders all forms of hope and meaning (the idea that monism has been falsified) - a personal deontology. Perhaps this is a hint which we should heed - the final answer must be determined by YOU... and not be solely handed to you by means of the insistence of outsiders (neither physical nor spiritual).

Were this phenomenon easily replicable - we would stand under the tyrannical insistence of those who replicated it. Meaning would be handed to us on a silver platter. This would violate the very meaning of meaning.

The cleverness of such an ontology/deontological dynamic is fucking brilliant.... It is this cleverness which inspires me and gives me hope.
I disagree to an extent. I agree that the forecasting (you call it ex ante) changes the situation and I'm going to write something about that when I have time to think (it's been a busy day as usual), but I still argue that the rolls are not independent. The forecast was for specific rolls in a specific order. The success of each subsequent roll is dependent on the success of the previous roll.(success = meeting the forecast)
 
#30
I disagree to an extent. I agree that the forecasting (you call it ex ante) changes the situation and I'm going to write something about that when I have time to think (it's been a busy day as usual), but I still argue that the rolls are not independent. The forecast was for specific rolls in a specific order. The success of each subsequent roll is dependent on the success of the previous roll.(success = meeting the forecast)
True. Also, the entire sequence was predicted at once, not one prediction prior to a roll, then another followed by a roll, etc.,

AP
 
#31
Yes - just to back that up with a bit of maths, there are 26 letters in the alphabet, but you also need space, full stop, comma, and quotation marks, so let us say 30 different symbols. So the number of possible texts of length N is 30^N. So far this reply is about 2000 characters in length. 30^2000 is 1.7 x 10^2954 - far, far larger than the number of seconds since the big bang, or the number or organisms, including microbes, that have lived and died on the earth!

Incidentally, this is the real problem with Darwin's evolution by natural selection. A gene might be 500 codons long (i.e. 1500 base pairs long). There are four DNA bases so that makes 4^1500 possible strings = 1.2 x 10^902. Natural selection isn't much help because until a gene is very close to the optimum it can't do anything - NS can't select between a gene that does nothing useful, and one that does nothing useful, but is slightly closer in sequence to one that would do something!

David
David, I especially like your comments here: "NS can't select between a gene that does nothing useful, and one that does nothing useful, but is slightly closer in sequence to one that would do something!"

This follows along with the discussion of information and usefulness in the thread that tarantulanebula started.

I would be interested to hear more of your insights about the role "usefulness" plays in your system of ideas.
 
#32
This is a great thread. Thanks for posting.

I stumbled on this article a couple days ago, It is a slightly different approach to a similar conclusion.
What A Mathematical Formula Can Teach Us About Coincidence
(Discover Magazine. Article is by Noson F. Yanofsky)

My short summary of the article:
He seems to be saying that you can never be "certain" that the meaning of events you create in your mind are the best, most accurate meanings. (He applies Godel's uncertainty principle to certain techniques for comparing "math" to the experience of life. He doesn't specifically mention Godel, but I think he's one of the mathemetacians he's referencing, among others.)

I think we can tell intuitively if our interpretation of a mystical experience is a GOOD interpretation or not. The article suggests, though, that we can never know for sure that it is the BEST solution. It may be the case that there may be a BETTER interpretation. And if a BETTER interpretation comes along in the future, it may be a GREAT interpretation, but we would have no way of knowing that there isn't a better interpretation still beyond that.
True in academia and "debunking". Not so true in areas where there are serious consequences. like business or national security. When there's money, career, duty/honor or life/death on the line, suddenly there are no low probability coincidences.
 
#33
True in academia and "debunking". Not so true in areas where there are serious consequences. like business or national security. When there's money, career, duty/honor or life/death on the line, suddenly there are no low probability coincidences.
I wonder what that would mean in those situations when the "non-coincidence" is difficult to replicate? Does it apply to how the event is evaluated though it has no practical utility?
 
#34
I disagree to an extent. I agree that the forecasting (you call it ex ante) changes the situation and I'm going to write something about that when I have time to think (it's been a busy day as usual), but I still argue that the rolls are not independent. The forecast was for specific rolls in a specific order. The success of each subsequent roll is dependent on the success of the previous roll.(success = meeting the forecast)
You are correct Eric - I fogot that it was doubles and not totals.... so I revised the post. I still think Beitman is incorrect however in the calculation. This however only makes the successive argument even stronger....
 
#35
For what it's worth, I love this answer. Thanks for making the effort! It makes me wonder what you think of my paper on spiritual dreams. What may not be obvious is that the spiritual dreams paper is the one I thought of writing first. For it to make sense, I had to write and publish several other papers first, on the following subjects: 1) a method for determining credibility of events whose probability cannot be calculated, 2) veridical OBEs, to introduce the idea of a non-local "mind", 3) evidence for survival, to solidify the idea of a separate non-physical domain inhabited by non-physical entities, 4) the rarity of unambiguous symbols in dreams, to introduce readers to the ways information is conveyed in dreams, then finally 5) a discussion of independent agents in dreams, who happen to convey information that is sometimes veridical, sometimes unverifiable from the physical world. The idea I wanted to get people thinking about is "Should spiritual dreams be ignored because they are physically untestable, or should they be taken seriously on the basis of credibility of content that can be checked, sometimes in the same dream?"

Best regards,

AP
I will read it ;;/?
 
#36
True in academia and "debunking". Not so true in areas where there are serious consequences. like business or national security. When there's money, career, duty/honor or life/death on the line, suddenly there are no low probability coincidences.
I think the author is trying to make the broader point that for some complex interpretations of data, as good and as useful as our interpretation is, we can never be sure that there isn't an even better interpretation. In some practical contexts, the better interpretation may be just as useful as the previous good interpretation.

In some common sense way, the lack of certainty about whether a given interpretation is the best interpretation probably correlates with how "complex" the events in question are.

Statistical analysis has no way of telling us if there is intelligent design behind an event's occurrence. It is up to the analysist to decide whether or not the probability is so small that an event is not a mere coincidence/law of large numbers. What I like about working in the insurance business world is that we can observe unusual events or patterns and decide that it's not random chance and take action - and we're usually right.
I think you may demonstrate Yanofsky's point with this piece from your earlier post:

"Statistical analysis has no way of telling us if there is intelligent design behind an event's occurrence. It is up to the analyst to decide ... and we're usually right."

I think it's important that there's people involved in making judgment calls on what the numbers mean. For me, it seems useful to consider that the judgment calls are usually right in the sense that they are useful to the insurance company and the folks who do business with the insurance company.

For me, it also seems useful to consider that there is a limited range of useful judgments that the analyst can make. Either the events or patterns are random or they are not random. More nuanced interpretations could possibly be made, but only those two judgments seem "useful" in the practical sense of resolving the business concern.

If we compare interpretations of insurance questions to interpretations of mystical events, there are possibly a greater number of "useful" interpretations for mystical events. And so in some common sense way, the greater complexity of the mystical event perhaps means there is greater uncertainty that a given interpretation is the "best" interpretation.

True in academia and "debunking". Not so true in areas where there are serious consequences. like business or national security. When there's money, career, duty/honor or life/death on the line, suddenly there are no low probability coincidences.
I want to be careful to note that I'm not debunking here. In the model I am playing around with, the "still better" interpretation of a mystical event could be a better "spiritual" interpretation, for example. My talking about uncertainty doesn't eliminate the possibility of higher powers, it just suggests some usefulness to the idea that our interpretations of "life, the universe, and everything" can never be ultimately certain.

I want to reiterate that I think this is a great thread and I am enjoying reading and responding to the comments. I always appreciate these opportunities to explore different ideas with good people; it helps me think better for my own purposes. :)
 
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#37
I wonder what that would mean in those situations when the "non-coincidence" is difficult to replicate? Does it apply to how the event is evaluated though it has no practical utility?
Andy,
It doesn't matter in the areas I have worked in.

Here's an example; we have algorithms that comb through millions of medical claims. We note a particular physician with unusual billing patterns. This could be say, an unusual proportion of patients getting expensive imaging procedures (CT scan, MRI, etc). Or an unusual proportion of members with back pain end up with spinal surgery. That kind of situation. That's one guy. We flag him. If the $ amounts are high enough to be worth investing resources, we go after him. Ask him about the billing pattern.

The physician will invariably state that either he is so good at what he does that he attracts a sicker sample and the more intense treatment is appropriate or he argues, basically the law of large numbers. He just got the sicker sample because someone was bound to sooner or later. He's out on the distribution tail; not his fault. We don't buy those arguments.

Also invariably, we then audit the physician, pull his patient records and look for the key notes that justify the intensified treatment. We don't find them. Fraud and inappropriate treatment, as we suspected, is involved.

Or some sheik makes 5 contacts from a certain device and each person he contacted ends up committing an act of terrorism. It could be the law of large numbers in operation, but it would be a dull witted IC analysis that didn't dedicate resources to watching the sheik more closely, if not just jumping off an op to wrap him up.

My crude point being that whenever I have seen highly improbable, though theoretically possible, events and I have put the law of large numbers explanation to the test, it has failed more often than not and intelligent design has been the true explanation. It isn't enough to just wave the law of large numbers at a situation and then walk away satisfied.
 
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#38
A crucial requirement of the monkey test is that they must be instructed to never repeat themselves. Without that command and their implementation of it, you won't ever get the full range of possible variation.

AP
Andy, you quoted my post, but did you answer my question? I really don’t know, but if you did then I didn’t understand.
 
#39
I want to be careful to note that I'm not debunking here. In the model I am playing around with, the "still better" interpretation of a mystical event could be a better "spiritual" interpretation, for example. My talking about uncertainty doesn't eliminate the possibility of higher powers, it just suggests some usefulness to the idea that our interpretations of "life, the universe, and everything" can never be ultimately certain.

I want to reiterate that I think this is a great thread and I am enjoying reading and responding to the comments. I always appreciate these opportunities to explore different ideas with good people; it helps me think better for my own purposes. :)
This is the essence of incremental critical path. What a team would employ in a discovery research lab.

Take inference where it deductively leads, but go no further. Falsifying monism in no way supports theism, it only means that some form of pluralism exists.
 
#40
Hi Andy

Was there any particular event that changed your worldview or was it a gradual thing? I’m interested in this. If so, have you written about it?

Do you continue to experience events like those described in Dreamer? What do you think about some people having them while the majority don’t, at least not to the point where they are very persuasive of something unusual.
It was gradual and I did write about it in my book, Dreamer. That said, a better description is that I started out unalterably opposed to the idea that any kind of psi was real. Then, despite quite a few impressive examples of psi in my life, my resolve to interpret them as anything but psi was unshaken. This remained the status quo until around 1984 (when I was 18). At that time I had a veridical dream about a ghost. I did brush it off but unlike prior examples, the thought of it nagged at me every once in a while. In other words, a tiny seed of doubt was there but I largely managed to ignore it. A year later, my wife-to-be started telling me that I was dreaming of the future. Somehow, her way of insisting this was happening had the effect of hardening my skeptical instincts. At that time I was just as hostile to the idea as I was before the ghost example.

Over the next few years, my wife continued to point out what she thought were precognitive dreams. Among them were: veridical dream of lottery numbers, correct premonition (while waking) of a suicide (a person I hadn't even seen or met at the time I had the premonition), and a plane crash. These weren't totally ignored but they weren't wholly trusted either. Then, in rapid succession, there were a few things that were unquestionably odd: a dream of the Ramstein airshow disaster, the dice rolling event described in the PT article, a similar event but with Scrabble tiles, and a few others. That got me thinking about some of the earlier examples that I had previously discarded. At that point, primarily because of the backgammon and Scrabble events, I was positive that there was no non-psi explanation for those two events. However, I still doubted the dreams.

The reason was that they seemed so rare and there was no written record. I wanted a piece of paper with a date to feel comfortable accepting them. This is now 1989, when I was 24. My wife and I argued about it. Perversely, I still disagreed with her about the dreams, though I had to accept that with the dice and Scrabble tiles something odd was definitely going on. Those events also reminded me of some earlier, similar events, that dated back to 1972 or so, making me think about them differently. Then, on September 15, 1989, I decided to settle the question by starting the journal. At the time, I didn't expect it to work because I thought that my wife was making mistakes with the way she remembered the dreams I described to her on waking. I also felt that even if she was right, the dreams were so rare that it would be difficult to capture one in the journal. I assumed that if I found one unusual dream over the course of a year, I'd be lucky.

The journal did the trick. Within a few days, the precognitive dreams started rolling in. By the end of 1989, I was willing to accept that precognitive dreams were real. I still didn't believe in ghosts or God, but that changed over time also. The start of accepting the idea of ghosts was just thinking about the earlier incident when I was 17, but then I discovered a number of veridical OBEs in the journal. I may not have ever seen them but for a call from a friend who suspected I had dreamed of her that night. I had, and the dream content matched what happened on her end, three thousand miles away. I started looking into other dreams of friends and found more like it. Over time, I saw that I was more likely to have a veridical OBE than a dream of the future. At least, more likely to be able to verify an OBE than a dream that looked like it might be precognitive.

I have always dreamed of ghosts. Possibly the earliest I recall was around 1972, when I was six. The combination of the veridical OBEs, the ghost dreams, and the veridical ghost dream of 1984 were enough to convince me of survival by 1990. Reincarnation, oddly, was something I accepted prior to the journal, thanks to reading the research of Ian Stevenson around the time of the Ramstein air show disaster dream. That also probably contributed to me taking my wife more seriously. I don't talk about this much because I don't think of it very often but at the time of the Ramstein dream and some of these other events, I lived a block and a half away from the Parapsychology Foundation in New York City. I discovered it at around that time and got in the habit of reading in their library on Wednesdays. This might be surprising but those books didn't push me that far in the direction of accepting psi.

The reason the Parapsychology Foundation was less influential than one might think is that the exact content I read wasn't in every case the best material. They have a good library and in their upper floors have a terrific archive of research. However, I never looked at their research due to a total lack of interest. In their library, the books could be broken down into two categories: pop-occult and scientific. Unfortunately, the pop-occult outnumbered the rest and at the time I couldn't tell the difference. That means I did not discover Sheldrake, Krippner, Rhine, or any of the scientists writing on these topics. Instead, I was reading Van Dahniken, Holzer, and others who essentially collected ghost stories and then juiced them up in the most unbelievable ways. That said, there was one notable exception: Ian Stevenson.

I thought Stevenson's work was credible and fascinating. I read almost all of the books they had by him, which may have been all of his books at the time. I also read a book by Adam Crabtree and a couple by Colin Wilson. One thing all of these books had in common is that they didn't deal with dreams. None of them did. There may have been a mention here or there but not much. At the end of the day, I walked out of the Parapsychology Foundation with my opinion of my dreams unchanged (not enough proof), though I did at that time accept reincarnation (to my surprise).

The funny thing is that although there were a few books that had minor things in them that came across as credible, I thought of those as "real" examples, whereas my dreams were, if anything, pathetic shadows of the real deal. In other words, even if my dreams were psi, they were too few and too weak to be of interest to anyone.

So the "gradual transition" took from around 1984 (ghost dream) to 1989 (almost 1990). It took from 1990-2000 for me to accept the possibility of a god, then until 2004 or so before I accepted the idea that the physical universe was likely created by God.

If you'll forgive a metaphor, I'll write something about Yoga. There was a time when I was very good at Yoga poses. I could do a one-armed lotus handstand, for instance. I could do a full splits and then rest my back on my rear leg while grabbing my rear foot with both hands. And yet, every new pose required some effort to master. No matter how good I got, new poses had to be learned. The same is true for how my beliefs changed. I never simply accepted all psi at once. Each specific type required its own evidence before I would accept it and move on. That means that there were times when I had a puzzling collection of ideas that I accepted and others I rejected, though both were closely related.

Now, after researching this for almost thirty years, I do not look at my own experiences as trivial. From the research I've read, my experiences are unusual in a number of ways and have few published parallels. That said, they are substantially different from the most easily replicated form of psi that I am aware of: mediumship. I simply don't have that experience, though I have a suspicion (based on certain dream content) that I know why. I mention this because my experiences fall into the "spontaneous" category and that makes them more difficult to deal with for people who want replicable abilities for the sake of establishing credibility. I can say that within a given period of time, like a year, I can expect a certain number of OBEs, precognitive dreams, etc, but not when they will happen or why. Nor have I had much luck making them happen, though with a few striking exceptions.

I should also add that I lost all interest in attempting to prove psi with my dreams a long time ago. Remember that I originally kept the journal to satisfy my own curiosity. Once that was satisfied, I did talk about it with others, including here on Skeptiko, but after many such interactions, my interest has waned. This is particularly true after finishing my book and the five papers I published subsequently. Now, I feel like I can just direct people to the articles, skip the conversation, and spend my day doing other things.

The effect this has had is that the type of dreams that interest me the most are spiritual dreams that usually have no content that can be checked for veridicality. I continue with the journal to explore those because I think there is genuine value there. Proving that precognition happens is really the small stuff and hardly interesting compared to the spiritual subjects.

Best regards,

AP
 
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