Since time immemorial, humanity has tried to gain advanced knowledge of things to come. The Old Testament of the Bible has numerous books of prophecy, although strangely many Christian fundamentalists now denounce fortune telling as a sin. Today many of us consult psychics, hoping to catch a glimpse of what tomorrow holds. Popular newspapers and magazines invariably feature a horoscope column, and who wouldn’t want a sneak peek of next week’s winning lottery numbers?
Does the future already exist?
Is it really possible to predict the future? To answer that question we need to examine the fundamental nature of reality.
Suppose we can really predict the future with certainty. Our first reaction may be excitement and joy. Those winning lottery numbers are out there somewhere, ready for the taking.
But let’s think again. This means that the future already exists, and our existence is a bit like being in a (ready-made) movie. What we perceive now is simply the frame that is currently being projected on the screen. But tomorrow, the day after, next week, next year, and so on, until the end of the universe, they’re already in the can. Nothing we say, think, feel, or do really matters one iota. We are powerless puppets enslaved within an inflexible and inescapable destiny.
Wouldn’t that be a nightmare?
Fortunately, I don’t believe that the true nature of reality is that of a fixed destiny. Despite the fact that the world appears to be ordered and to obey the laws of cause and effect, science has discovered that, at its most fundamental level, the physical world is anything but orderly, and every basic particle appears to behave randomly. Usually, because we observe millions of these tiny particles acting together, their individual randomness is averaged out and we perceive the illusion of order.
Examples of precognition
Having concluded that the future does not exist, it follows that it cannot be predicted. Yet history is literate with examples of seemingly amazing precognition. Here are a few:
In 1966, a coal waste landslide at a school in Aberfan, Wales, killed 28 adults and 116 children. Many people reported premonitions of the disaster, including a child victim who told her mother of a dream the night before in which something black fell on the school.
In the classic book “An Experiment with Time”, the engineer JW Dunne reports that numerous minor details were predicted in his dreams.
A study by WE Cox on train ridership found that significantly fewer people were traveling on trains involved in accidents.
And my personal experience:
One Saturday when I was about ten years old, I convinced myself that I would win the soccer pools (a weekly betting game based on soccer results). Throughout the day I repeated my belief to my family. Checking the soccer results, I found that I had won a minor dividend, an event of just under 2% chance. I have never felt such conviction before or since.
Can psychics and mediums predict the future?
In reality, we can all predict the future to some degree, simply based on our general understanding and knowledge of present conditions. If Manchester United (a major English soccer team) plays a non-league team, we can reasonably predict that United will win easily. And most likely we are right.
We should also note the possibility of the self-fulfilling prophecy. When we consciously and/or subconsciously believe that something will happen, we create the present conditions that increase its probability.
Psychics and mediums, by virtue of their contact with the spirit world, have access to more information about the present than is generally known through purely physical/sensory means.
Perhaps they can detect internal conflict in a soccer team, but a much greater sense of purpose and harmony in their equally matched opponents. So the psychic has an advantage in predicting the outcome of a match between the two, but could still be wrong.
Similarly, in premonitions of disaster, some sensitives may notice a loose bolt in the wing of an airplane, or “see” a terrorist making a bomb in some dark basement. His own higher self only has to extrapolate to create images of doom, but of course the plane may survive its journey without incident, or the terrorist may be thwarted in his attempt to carry out his gruesome act.
According to this model, mediums and psychics cannot predict the future with 100% certainty, but they can predict with significantly greater accuracy than is suggested by the laws of probability.