Logical people and the scientific community have been scoffing at Psychics, Astrologers, Tarot readers, Palm readers and all other types of so called future seers, for quite some time now. As far as we know time only flows in one direction.
It would be awesome however if we were able to know the future before it happened. Imagine the possibilities and implications. Winning the lottery and investing in profiting shares would be top of the list. And what if we could know when and how we were to die (perhaps even glean beyond our death!?). We would be able to know so many of our itching curiosities like whether we are able to settle beyond earth, whether we do make contact with extraterrestrials, whether we make artificial consciousness etc. The possibilities are endless and wide reaching.
Alas, it seems to be scientifically impossible to do so. There is some possibility of traveling to the future (using high gravity or near light speed travel) but not of knowing it in the present before it happens.
But is it really Scientifically impossible to know the future?
Although that seems to be the prevailing paradigm it does not appear to be entirely justified. Much of the reason why the alternative isn’t a widely accepted concept is due to a lack interest and support from scientific ‘authorities’. Sticking to authority over evidence is not in the spirit of science but it is something we are prone to and must resist.
The evidence in favor of prophecy, precognition, and premonition:
There are decades worth of experimental pieces of evidence to support that we have an ability to know the future. The effects are not very large but they are statistically and scientifically significant nonetheless.
Dean Radin is a researcher in the field of parapsychology and a minor celebrity because of his many international talks on Psi Phenomenon. He has compiled a good list of evidence on his website.
Emeritus Professor of Psychology Daryl J. Bem is another researcher who has published articles, which are available on his website. In 2011 his research paper ‘Feeling the Future’ was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. His latest research (2014) a meta-analysis of the same phenomenon appears still to be under editorial review.
I have shared a few of these research articles below (not an exhaustive list):
- Honorton & Ferrari (1989). “Future telling”: A meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments, 1935-1987 [pdf – source DeanRadin.com]
In this meta-analysis, the researchers found a significant result after compiling trials from 309 studies, collectively involving 50,000 individuals. The number of trials amounted to 2 million. The purpose was to see if individuals could significantly predict the identity of a stimulus that was going to be presented to them, a few hundred milliseconds up to a year in the future.
- Spottiswoode & May (2003). Skin Conductance Prestimulus Response: Analyses, Artifacts, and a Pilot Study
This experiment (similar to many others) confirmed that we become significantly aware of a stimulus before it has been presented up to a few seconds into the future.
- Radin (2004). Electrodermal presentiments of future emotions. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 18, Number 2 (2004) [pdf]
In this study similar to the above one a visual stimulus was randomly shown to an observer and their electrodermal response measured. The twist is that the response was measured prior to seeing the stimulus. Surprisingly the results were similar to as if the observer was already seeing it! Other possible explanations such as expectation, sensory cues, and other artifacts have been ruled out.
- Rollin McCraty, Mike Atkinson, and Raymond Trevor Bradley. Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: Part 1. The Surprising Role of the Heart. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. June 2004, 10(1): 133-143.
- Rollin McCraty, Mike Atkinson, and Raymond Trevor Bradley. Electrophysiological Evidence of Intuition: Part 2. A System-Wide Process? The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. July 2004, 10(2): 325-336.
Another study which in 2 parts contributes some evidence and replicates other and earlier studies that the body (here specifically focusing on the heart) is able to perceive information from the future. They find that the heart gets involved before the brain in processing this information. The study also interestingly claims that females are more intuitively attuned to perceive the future compared to males.
- Radin & Borges (2009). Intuition through time: What does the seer see? The journal of Science and Healing. July-Aug 2009, Volume 5, Issue 4, Pages: 200-211
This study is very interesting because it uses eye data prior to and during visual stimulus of different emotionality and valence. It confirms previous findings of a significant response. But it adds more depth to the findings in that it appears that the type of autonomic response significantly correlates with the emotionality and valence of the future image as well. So it appears not only that the body knows before hand that an emotionally charged image is going to be shown but also the amount and direction of this emotionality. Here again in the study, it appears females are better at perceiving the future.
- Bem, D. J. (2011). Feeling the Future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 407-425.
Yet another replication of results of presentiment studies. Here they compare results of guessing erotic images versus non-erotic images and as expected the guessing rate for erotic images was significantly more than expected by chance. The guessing rate for non-erotic images, on the other hand, was similar to what you would expect by chance.
- Radin (2011). Predicting the unpredictable: 75 years of experimental evidence
Here Dean Radin presents a thorough analysis of 75 years worth of scientific evidence demonstrating with high levels of significance the observation that we can and do know the future.
- Tressoldi et al (2011). Let your eyes predict: Prediction accuracy of pupillary responses to random alerting and neutral sounds
This study is different in that they compare eye response to future auditory stimuli. Again the results are statistically significant.
- Mossbridge et al (2012). Predictive physiological anticipation preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: a meta-analysis
The results are again confirmed. Interestingly in this study the authors found that higher quality studies revealed a greater effect size compared to lower quality ones.
- Bem et al (2015). Feeling the future: A meta-analysis of 90 experiments on the anomalous anticipation of random future events
Yet another meta-analysis which pooled results from 90 studies across 33 laboratories and 14 countries. Again yielding highly significant results in favor of precognition.
There are negative studies as well:
As with most scientific results, there are negative studies as well. Researchers are not insensitive to these. One such study (which I found from Dean Radin’s website) is the following one:
- Galek et al (2012). Correcting the Past: Failures to replicate psi [pdf – source DeanRadin.com]
Here the researchers were unable to replicate the results of Bem et al (2011) – Feeling the future. However, (as the researchers discuss) the replications focused on only 2 of the 9 experiments conducted by Bem and only the paradigm of retroactive recall. Based on this they suspect those experiments had a Type 1 error but they do not have any evidence to reject the other 7 experiments.
- Ritchie, Stuart J.; Wiseman, Richard; French, Christopher C.; Gilbert, Sam (March 2012). Gilbert, Sam, ed. “Failing the Future: Three Unsuccessful Attempts to Replicate Bem’s ‘Retroactive Facilitation of Recall’ Effect”. PLoS ONE.
I was pointed towards this study which is another negative study similar to the one above focusing on retroactive recall.
How come no one is talking about it?
These are extraordinary results. Even more so than questioning whether we need the brain for consciousness (as I discussed in a previous post). The weight of evidence seems to be there to support this claim as well (at least in my humble opinion). So why isn’t it shaking up our world view?
Being suspicious I suspect that we are trying to cling on to our old ideologies. Time is one directional and so is cause and effect. To have an effect, before its cause, is a complete inversion of our foundational assumptions.
Take an example:
A sound wave that had not yet been produced, arrived into our perception, was processed and produced an autonomic effect that we were able to measure. And then it was produced!
Such notions would dramatically change how we conceive what a sound wave is, indeed how we conceive everything.
What are (or could be) the implications?
Firstly it makes the study of consciousness and perception even more mysterious than it already is. It gives a hard blow to our current direction of studying these notions. In neuroscience, we generally think that sensory data comes in, it is processed and that leads to its perception. But it seems we are already perceiving (to an extent) before the sensory data ever had the chance to get to us let alone to be processed. This seems to show our field of perception probably extends into the future.
On the note of developing artificial consciousness, we are then also faced with the huge problem of being able to ‘program’ machines whose perception also extends into the future.
Secondly, as the results show some individuals are better at feeling the future than others (e.g. females) one has to wonder if some exceptional individuals would be extreme outliers and be able to perceive the future with a greater ability hence being truly psychic (this is obviously speculative).
Thirdly could this effect be exploited and exaggerated to become more useful to us? That would be very exciting indeed.
So what do you think?