Evidence for premonitions
Evidence for premonitions

Daryl Bem has a fascinating paper reporting experimental findings suggesting people have psychic abilities and are able to sense and react to future stimuli, before the stimuli are decided on i.e. the causal relationship in time is reversed.

“This article reports 9 experiments, involving more than 1,000 participants, that test for retroactive influence by “time-reversing” well-established psychological effects so that the individual’s responses are obtained before the putatively causal stimulus events occur. Data are presented for 4 time-reversed effects: precognitive approach to erotic stimuli and precognitive avoidance of negative stimuli; retroactive priming; retroactive habituation; and retroactive facilitation of recall. The mean effect size (d) in psi performance across all 9 experiments was 0.22, and all but one of them yielded statistically significant results. The individual-difference variable of stimulus seeking, a component of extraversion, was significantly correlated with psi performance in 5 of the experiments, with participants who scored above the midpoint on a scale of stimulus seeking achieving a mean effect size of 0.43”.

Chances are that this is explained by Ioannidis in Why Most Published Research Findings are False:

“There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research”.

But having just read:

“Social scientists are well aware of the pitfalls of modelling and the risk of reaching false conclusions. Two variables can appear to be causally related and yet, in fact, be both related to a third factor and be simply fellow travellers responding in lockstep to that third factor. In that case, the causal relation may appear to be robust when it is in fact non-existent.”.


Chances are there is more to reality than our consciousness is able to understand. Perhaps this includes the nature of time and the apparent direction of cause and effect.

Perhaps I owe the Sydney Morning Herald an appology for writing:

Lefty fantasy journalism

Lefty fantasy journalism strikes again, and we are not talking Philip Adams imagining life in a parallel universe this time. The Sydney Morning Herald claims Howard’s diplomatic faux pas in deciding to attend the Indonesian President’s inauguration has set off a chain reaction amongst regional countries, as they too now scramble to find someone to attend.

“The best evidence suggesting the Australian Prime Minister invited himself to an event heads of state have never traditionally attended”

Those few who bother reading to the end of the 460 word article will find the last 40 contradict what has gone before:

“Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, was the first foreign leader to make it known he would come, but it was Mr Howard’s decision hours later that has caused Indonesia’s neighbours to respond. A spokesman for Mr Howard declined to comment”

Gosh, perhaps it was the Malaysian Prime Minister’s decision to attend which set off the stampede of attendees? With the Howard Government being quicker to respond than others, something it should be congratulated for.

But I forgot, in the Adams parallel universe cause and effect run in reverse. It was Howard’s decision to attend that caused the Malaysian PM to announce his attendance before Howard made his decision. Or perhaps there was a time hiccup or worm hole? After all, journalism this rotten must be full of worm holes.

Update: Howard has said:

“That stuff in the paper this morning was ridiculous”.

No not ridiculous, a calculated attempt to mislead readers and discredit the government. But in the Adams universe that is good journalism. No doubt Marr could not agree more.



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