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Sunday, 23 October 2011

How We Know that Precognition Doesn't Exist

Although in my youth I was quite sympathetic towards the possibility of ESP, the continued lack of consistent evidence turned me away from it. That, plus the realisation that, if phenomena such as telepathy were possible, they would confer a huge survival advantage on any creature possessing, so natural selection would ensure that they were as widespread as, say, the sense of smell.

In the case of precognition, the ability to see the future, there is an even better argument against its existence. Many countries around the world hold lotteries, in which the participants have to guess which numbers are going to turn up in a draw. If precognition was a real power, even one that was only held by a small percentage of humanity, and then not even very reliably, still the effect would be visible in lottery results.

The lottery organisations would be the first to notice that more people were winning than chance would allow. Rollovers would be almost unheard of, and jackpots would routinely be shared between many winners. In the UK, guessing just three numbers out of six gets you a £10 prize.Even someone whose precognitive powers were only right half the time should be able to scoop up prizes week after week.

None of this happens. Unless it goes hand in hand with a profound aversion to gambling, I think it's reasonable to conclude that precognition does not exist.