Paranormal Phenomena: When does a coincidence become paranormal?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

When does a coincidence become paranormal?

If you predict the right score to a football match, is that a coincidence or did you know it through paranormal means (precognition)?

If a psychic tells you that "you know your own mind and aren't easily influenced by others", are you impressed? It could apply to most people so probably not. Suppose they go on to tell you that your favourite colour is green (assume it is, for the sake of argument). Are you now impressed? There are not that many colours so it isn't that amazing.

However, put the two correct facts together and the odds against it being a guess lengthen. Suppose the psychic continues to tell you more facts about yourself, none particularly remarkable in themselves but all true. At what stage do you think the psychic really has some paranormal ability? At what level of odds are you impressed?

To 'believers', there will definitely come a point when they are impressed and probably convinced. To sceptics, that point may never arrive.

Odds are calculated against chance. So there is a one in six chance of getting any particular face on a die. But while odds of, say, 1000 to 1 against something being mere coincidence sound impressive, it could STILL be chance! The odds against winning the jackpot in the UK Lotto are nearly 14 million to 1 against but there are still winners most weeks and I doubt they claim paranormal abilities! Luck CAN operate against huge odds.

Generally, when the same person can repeatedly get positive guesses against great odds it is seen as paranormal. Though it could still just be luck!


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