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One time I went to a dinner meeting at a Chinese restaurant in Knoxville, TN with my wife. There were a group of her Tai-Chi friends there and they were giving out door prizes. We were given tickets with numbers on them when we first entered the restaurant and towards the end they were dipping into a hat and calling out numbers. The first time they dipped into the hat, right before they called out the number, I got a strong feeling that I had won. It was like I "knew" that I had won. I almost called out before they read out the winning number. It was for two free dinners at that particular chinese restaurant. And yes, I really had one. What is interesting is that a year or so later my wife told me the same thing happened to her. She was at some meeting with door prizes and she knew a second or two before hand that she had won. It is like a very strong feeling comes over you - but the problem is that for me I am only given a few seconds warning when it happens - and I have absolutely no control over it. It happens when it happens and I am not in control of it. I wish I could control it but I can't.

I think there seems to be a confusion between PSI and omnipotence, and some people are expecting the latter. As Michael says, there appears to be varying degrees of abilities in terms of PSI abilities. I remember hearing that in a debate, Michael Shremer tried to dismiss verdicial NDEs by saying if they were real, how come we don't know where Jimmy Hoffa's body is? And I think that's the point, NDE experiencers who have had OBE components are not omnipotent, they didn't see everything in the entire world but usually a specific area for a short time period.

I think some of you may see what I'm getting at, but maybe Michael is right in that there maybe some use of PSI in lotteries but either the person was unaware of it or the person just isn't advertising it.

I've had quite a few precognitive dreams, probably due to sleep apnea. The problem is that I can't control them. They happen when they happen and I don't really know it's a precognitive dream until after the fact. Sometimes they are just mundane innane stuff and sometimes they are like really "WOW!" dreams - but I don't even know I've had a precognitive dream until I see something that reminds me "Oh yeah, I dreamed about that a couple of nights ago." Sometimes I'll wake up and say something to my wife like "I had the weirdest dream last night, I dreamed about these giant swordfish" and then a couple of nights later I'll be watching the movie "The Perfect Storm" on TV and they will be catching these giant swordfish that look exactly like the ones I saw in my dream. Precognitive? I don't know? And it happens when it happens and I have absolutely no control over it.

Psi is just a fancy word with multiple possibilities.

Seeying the future as some people claim to do in dreams or precognition by mediums is done by a person being an intermediary for spirits of the light.

Be it inspiration or trance, people might get cocky thinking they have the skills themselves when it's actually in the hand of a higher spirit.

Why do spirits focus on solving murders or convincing loved ones of the reality of a life after death instead of winning the lottery?

Well,materialism is a big no no for any spirit that has progressed enough in the afterlife.Inspiring mediums to get money is actually detrimental for their progress as there needs to be a harmony between a medium and a spirit for contact to stay fluid as is and spirits from dark spheres to stay as far as possible of a possible medium.

Above explains why so many of the supposed best mediums are poor or haven't asked a cent for their services,it's to avoid any temptation which money brings and instead get something of real value,light.

Spirits from the dark spheres also have limited potential besides possesion/poltergeist or what not compared to higher evolved spirits who can make much more possible including winning the lottery,if even 10 times over because seeying a possible future is within their grasp.

Above explains why this is so unlikely to happen as regularly as other topics come into play.

Not too impressed. With the huge number of people who consistently play the lottery YOU WILL get a number who are multiple winners. What would be impressive is if those few individuals who are identified as "lucky" go on to win more, then I will pay attention.

"What would be impressive is if those few individuals who are identified as 'lucky' go on to win more, then I will pay attention."

Hasn't that already happened? I mean, Joan Ginther must have seemed pretty lucky after she won two jackpots, and she went on to win two more. Segura Ndabene must have seemed lucky after his first two or three wins, and he's now won five times.

Hi, Michael

in the article "PURPORTED SPONTANEOUS PSI PHENOMENA, PSYCHOTHERAPY AND TRANSFERENCE AND THE EMERGENCE OF THE SYSTEM OF INTEGRATED FACTORS" the researcher, Andre Percia de Carvalho, mentions the case of Janaina, who said to him the right number to win the lottery, but "My session with Jana occurred at 8 am, the draw took place at ten o'clock and I only learned of the result at 12:30 the same day."

"Not too impressed. With the huge number of people who consistently play the lottery YOU WILL get a number who are multiple winners."

I hear what you're saying, Michael D, but I trust this phenomenon because I've read a number of accounts over the years in which people describe vivid dreams that showed them what horse to pick, or what lottery numbers to choose.

Since I've had many compelling precognitive dreams myself, I can't brush those stories aside.

When all else fails, go check it out at Snopes:

http://www.snopes.com/luck/lottery/dreamwin.asp

Interesting, RabbitDawg. Thanks.

RabbitDawg, MP's right, that article IS interesting, and certainly relevant to my point about the precognitive dream connection. But this part leaves me baffled:

"You see, Mary had already purchased a lottery ticket with the combination she later dreamed about, but her vision instilled her with such confidence that she went out and bought a second ticket with those same numbers."

So how the heck did she come with the winning numbers the first time? Seems to me an important part of that story is missing.

Weird Rabbitdawg, I clicked on that Snopes link with the expectation that such things was a hoax, I actually jumped a little when Snopes said it was true. Of course, that doesn't prove anything, as Michael said, winning twice could be easily passed as a coincidence, but more than that is harder to explain away.

I also think there is a serious issue if PSI is essentially omnipotent. Imagine if psychics could predict who would win the American presidency every four years, what day everyone on the planet was going to die, or pretty much predict the action of every living being here. I'm not arguing for or against the existence of free will, but let's imagine some scenarios: let's imagine PSI was proven and accurate. Imagine a psychic told you your were going to be a serial killer and kill 16 (random arbitrary number I came up with) in your life. Given in that scenario PSI is proven to be known and accurate, you can only watch in horror as you essentially have no will over the 16 people you'll eventually kill.

Or even if you were a good person of good nature, what if a a psychic told you would one day seriously injure or kill your spouse out of a fit of anger? (Again, this assumes PSI is always accurate)

Or on the topic of death, let's take the accurate psychic scenario again and say PSI was shown to you that you only had two years left to live. Would it be something that you would accept or would it trouble you for the remainder of your life? I guess it really depends on the person, but I am willing to guess if PSI was to show your life expectancy was a lot shorter than you expected it to be, it would be something that would trouble a lot of people.

The only way I could see this being resolved is a "Minority Report" scenario where PSI rather predicts possible outcomes rather than what will exactly happen in the future. Of course, this raises a whole new set a questions about PSI if this was true.

So I think in conclusion, if PSI was like an omnipotent power it would ultimately be more of a curse than good in my opinion anyways. It would be like someone explaining to you the details of the plot and ending of an extremely long movie you have to sit through with no choice, I think it would make some people feel helpless.

I wonder if any controlled research with multiple winners has been done? Do they perform better in standardised psi tests, and are they generally lucky / precognitive in other areas? Ideally a cohort of these lucky few could be monitored (and the number of tickets bought checked) to see if they are really special or just the few that probabilty theory predicts.

OT (posted here because the Kindle vs. iPad thread is closed):

Holy cow, check out this site full of insightful commentary on the Kindle and other ereaders. (I clicked on Firefox's Readability plug-in and printed out the whole shebang.)

http://ireaderreview.com/

Scott Adams described many weird coincidence of this sort in pages 228-30 his book, The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Business Stupidity in the 21st Century, including a family that consciously won lotteries, etc., whenever it was hard up for cash. Here's a link to a "Look Inside the Book" view of those pages.

He also proposed a very "alternative" way of looking at reality in the pages on that Look Inside that precede and follow 228-30 in the "Look Inside" above. Used copies are only a penny.

I would even go as far to say that it would be more likely to be able to use PSI to win the lottary than to beable to develope a system to actually win the lottary. Perhaps some numbers might come up more often for some strang reason but to know which numbers will come up when... I seriously doubt it.
Some system might have a pattern but there pattern is beyond our comprehension or it is not a pattern at all, it is truely random. I learned about this when I was 20 and read Chaos Theory by James Glieck. The movie Pi well illustrates this phenomena as well...

This is an awesome post.

Now I want to know if Monozygotic Twins (genetically identical twins) have more PSI ability between them! I bet some of the similarities between Twins Reared Apart is because of PSI and not genetics!


Bruce, good point, but I believe the confusion has more to do with poor sentence and paragraph structure than fact dodging. I checked further, and found this link to the Ontario Lottery website post concerning Ms. Wollens:

http://www.lotterycanada.com/lottery/?job=lottery_news_oct_2006

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find a better phrased, clearer version of her story.
Apparently she dreamed the numbers first, and bought a ticket on Thursday. She felt so strongly about the veracity of the numbers, that she bought another ticket the next day. In a way, the strength of her conviction is the second half of the story here, but then...

***********************************************************

October 6th, 2006

* Lottery officials do double-take on Ontario senior's repeat Lotto win

With luck like hers, Mary Wollens should buy a lottery ticket -- or two.

In what's being described as an unprecedented win in Lotto 6/49 history, 86-year-old Wollens held two of three winning tickets in the Sept. 30 draw, scoring her a windfall of $16 million.

The Etobicoke woman credited a dream for the win, saying she saw the winning numbers in her sleep.

"I was lying in bed and I had a dream about numbers so I wrote them down when I woke up," she said.

Wollens felt so confident she bought a second ticket playing the same numbers.

"I bought my ticket on Thursday, felt really good about the numbers so I played them again on Friday ... guess it paid off," she said.

The other winning ticket was sold in B.C.

Wollens plans to splurge on herself, beginning with a haircut and a new wardrobe.

"It has been a while since I treated myself, so now is as good a time as any."

Source: Calgary Sun

Thanks for clearing that up, RabbitDawg! It's such a great story.

The important thing to remember is that when these things happen to people it is NOT under their control. They can't make themselves dream to win the Powerball or Megamillions jackpot. It just happens spontaneously without any input from themselves. You just wake up and realize that you have experienced something very profound and mystical. As to where it originates from - we can only speculate. I am convinced though that it happens and it is "real."

But I reiterate - it is not something one can do on command. It happens when it happens and it is what it is.

Art -

Maybe its a bit more dynamic than that.... Maybe sometimes a person can be really good at it and sometimes there not as good, maybe the degree of ability has variance not constancy. If someone has a higher than normal PSI ability than they could still use it to win the lottery if they played consistently. However, there are sometimes these mystical experiences which provide profound insight.

Whenever I've had mystical or transcendental experiences they happened on their own; I didn't cause them to happen. I can't control it. That is one of the complaints I have with the million dollar Randi prize - my experience has been that it's not like a science experiment that one can reproduce on command. I am somewhat skeptical of people who try and make money off it and say they can control it. That hasn't been my experience.

Art

I agree with everything you said there Art. The most amazing of my mystical experiences I have had between long intervals and they sometimes happened when I least expected them. I suppose that I am just saying that there are people who have a consistent gift and they could probably use it to help there winnings.

Instead of challenging what your saying I think I am adding to it. That highly mystical experiences happen, usually out of our control. But also that some people have heightened extraordinary sense compared to others.

The last thing I want to do is challenge someone else on the same team especially if I at least mostly agree with that they are saying. You make a vital point regarding the nature of mystical experiences.

The fact that someone, somewhere, has multiple wins in a lottery is just not impressive, nor is it necessary to infer some psychic ability at work. Coincidences happen all the time and there is nothing special going on.

What would make these coincidences special would be if the winners had predicted the specific wins (and publicised it) before they had actually won. It is likely that someone will win the next lottery draw here in the UK; now, is there any psychic who is going to tell us who it is BEFORE the draw? I don’t think so. Do THAT four or five times, and I will be convinced. If you are going to claim that someone has won due to some psychic ability they don’t even know they have, then that is an extraordinary claim – please supply the equivalent evidence.

But asking a psychic to predict the lottery is a cliché. When I occasionally meet someone who claims to be psychic, I tend to ask slightly different questions – has Albert Einstein finally formulated a theory of everything, and what is it; or can you explain Fermat’s last theorem; or what is the cure for cancer; or what fundamental physical forces have yet to be discovered by we mere mortals; or how can the existence of the paranormal be proven beyond any doubt? I suppose you won’t be surprised that they tell me “psychic powers just don't work that way.” (And a “psychic” I know is one of the worst players I have ever come across in the local pub quiz)

About three years ago at a social club I belong to I won the BIG BIG cash draw prize three weeks in a row. (Big money) But I won nothing for the next three years until just last week when I won the consolation prize of ten pounds. Personally, I think those three wins were just coincidence, but if your argument is correct then I must be psychic! In reality, I make a conscious prediction each week that I will NOT win that night’s prize. And it turns out that I am right about 99.9% of the time. Do I qualify as being psychic?

No-one who has any training in probability theory is going to be amazed by these coincidences. Now, can we list all the people who have had a prophetic lottery dream and then gone on to lose their money?

"If you are going to claim that someone has won due to some psychic ability they don’t even know they have, then that is an extraordinary claim – please supply the equivalent evidence."

Two quick points: 1, I'm not insisting on this explanation, only raising it as a possibility; and 2, it doesn't seem like an extraordinary claim to me, since I'm already convinced, on the basis of other evidence, that psi is a real phenomenon.

Harley said:

"The fact that someone, somewhere, has multiple wins in a lottery is just not impressive, nor is it necessary to infer some psychic ability at work. Coincidences happen all the time and there is nothing special going on."


It actually may be impressive, depending on what statisticians work out to be the likelihood of such multiple wins from the universe of worldwide lotteries.

Someone who attributes multiple winning-number picks to psychic ability certainly might want to remain unknown.

Why? They'd likely be concerned about a well-financed abduction of family members for ransom. The fact we don't hear about such doesn't mean they haven't happened. If I banked, say, $200M, surely there would be any number of thugs fantasizing about how easy it would be to take my wife or child for a massive ransom. Worse, the true bad guys - Mafia, domestic or international drug gangs, or even terrorist organizations - might look at me, and decide that before I'd had a chance to do substantial security upgrades, I was a very big, soft target. Seems to me there's a not insignificant chance such a group could snatch me or a family member, and demand I start laying golden Lotto predictions, pronto.

I suspect most persons with psychic ability already suspect this, because they've likely been imposed on for "psi favors". Surely they would know how important to their sanity & security it would be to keep multiple wins quiet.

So I think it's likely psi-winners are out there, but we just don't know where because they don't want us to know. Or is it that, as my wife has only half-jokingly accused, a lifetime as a professionally suspicious SOB has left a permanent warp in my weltanschauung?

Also, if people can manipulate the lottery psychically - even if only slightly - then multiple people may be competing with each other for the same thing, and as a result, there may be a canceling out of the effects.

"What would make these coincidences special would be if the winners had predicted the specific wins (and publicised it) before they had actually won. It is likely that someone will win the next lottery draw here in the UK; now, is there any psychic who is going to tell us who it is BEFORE the draw? I don’t think so. Do THAT four or five times, and I will be convinced. If you are going to claim that someone has won due to some psychic ability they don’t even know they have, then that is an extraordinary claim – please supply the equivalent evidence." - Harley
--------------------------------------------

LOL! It doesn't work like that. It's more like a powerful "feeling" that you "know" you are going to win. Almost like a Kundalini experience. You get this profound feeling (it feels really good by the way) that makes you smile, and you just know that something amazing has happened. It's not like being a trained seal that can perform on command.

Here's a "for instance." One time my wife's Tai Chi group was celebrating the Chinese New Year at a local Chinese restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. We were all together in one big group and they were giving out door prizes. They had given us these little coupons with numbers on them and at the end of the meal they were reaching into a bowl (or a hat can't remember) and pulling out the corresponding coupon and reading off the number. When they were giving away two free meals at that same Chinese Restaurant before they read off the number I KNEW I had won and that they were going to read off my number. It was like a real strong feeling - before they even read the number. I almost blurted out before they'd even read the number "I have the winning ticket!" but I remember it was like this really good feeling; probably similar to a Kundalini experience that I'd read about before.

A few other times in my life when I've bought Powerball tickets I've known a second or two ahead of time - before I'd even gone on the computer to check my numbers - that I'd won a few bucks, like I had the powerball or three of the first five balls and I'd won a few bucks. I remember it put a smile on my face. It's really neat when it happens, but it only happens a few seconds before I actually look up the number. It's like I "KNOW" before hand that I've won something - even if it's only getting the powerball right and winning back my $3.00 I'd spent in the first place.

But I guess if you've never experienced anything similar you wouldn't understand. All we can hope is that one day you will. It's really neat when it happens.

This fits right in with what we've been talking about. It's like someone whispered the answer in her ear. And after you see it becomes so obvious.

"I've got a good feeling about this: Gameshow contestant stuns audience by solving seven-word Wheel Of Fortune puzzle with just ONE letter"

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1327672/Contestant-Caitlin-Burke-solves-Wheel-Fortune-puzzle-1-letter.html#ixzz14hbeZTD3

That Wheel of Fortune video is fun, but I think the answer was guessable, given the apostrophe in the first word. As at least two commenters on the linked site pointed out, once you've guessed that the first word is "I've," the rest falls into place - or at least it *could* fall into place, if you're good at seeing patterns.

Albert Einstein once said: "There are two ways of looking at the world — either you see nothing as a miracle or you see everything as a miracle." ...
www.jewishmag.com/97mag/.../davidaaron.htm

I'm more of a "everything is a miracle" sort of guy.

Michael Duggan:

"With the huge number of people who consistently play the lottery YOU WILL get a number who are multiple winners."

Harley:

"No-one who has any training in probability theory is going to be amazed by these coincidences."

These commentators are raising the right question. Are there more Joan Ginthers out there than we would expect by chance, or not?

The first problem is that the news stories about these cases don't ever seem give enough information to calculate the odds in a rigorous way. If Joan Ginther had won four consecutive lotteries, each at an odds of 1 million to one, by buying one ticket for each, the total probability would be (according to my calculations) 1 in 10^24. In other words, it's something you would never expect to happen by chance.

In reality, of course, she won the jackpots over a 17-year period, and she likely plays several lotteries a week and possibly buys many tickets per lottery. My grasp of combinations and permutations has faded since high school, but clearly the real probability is far above 1 in 10^24.

How far above? How high do we have to raise to probability in order to dismiss Joan Ginther as a mere coincidence (keeping in mind that Joan Ginther is not a unique case)? Let me speculate. How many North Americans are enthusiastic lottery players as we assume Joan Ginther is? Say, 10 million (10^7), tops? So, if we were to calculate Joan Ginther's true probability at 1 in 10^10, one might say, "OK, there's a 1 in 1000 chance that this happened by sheer coincidence. That, to me, is a more likely explanation than the existence of psychic powers." But at some point (say, 1 in 10^11) even a hardened skeptic would have to concede the case for some psychic phenomenon.

Now, there's a big gap between 1 in 10^10 and 1 in 10^24. How much of this can we bridge using reasonable estimates of Ms. Ginther's ticket-buying habits? That's the question posed by Harley and Michael Duggan. The answer isn't obvious, to me, anyway. Anyone up on their combinations and permutations math?

This is an interesting blog by the way. I think this is my second comment over a couple of years reading it.

You can use the binomial distribution (http://mathworld.wolfram.com/BinomialDistribution.html) to approximate the correct distribution for the Joan Ginther case. The probability for winning 4 lotteries (with an 1 to a million odds) in a lifetime out of thousands attempts is with this simple model 4.13758938095493E-14.

...and the probability for a "Joan Ginther" among 300000000 million americans playing a 1000 lotteries each is approx. 0,00126%

Thanks for the stats, sbu. So, on the first analysis, it looks like Joan Ginther-type cases are far more common than they ought to be assuming completely random lottery results.

Interesting.

It's interesting, and it can't be just chance. I don't think people say "I am going to use my psychic abilities to win the lottery." I don't think you can do this by conscious effort. But a person who tends to be psychically sensitive may have some very accurate hunches.

This is a very good answer to the "skeptics" who wonder why psychics aren't winning the lottery. Well maybe they are. And maybe there are lots of other things where psychic abilities give you an edge. Maybe everything.

Another interesting question might be whether successful people in general are more psychic.

And by the way, some recent research http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-social-thinker/201010/have-scientists-finally-discovered-evidence-psychic-phenomena seems to confirm precognition in ordinary people.

So if precognitive abilities really exist, then maybe these multiple lottery winners have better than average precognition.

"Another interesting question might be whether successful people in general are more psychic."

There was a book touting the business-practicality of intuition by the president of a Kansas-based railway about 100 years ago. Intuition told him to terminate his railway in Port Arthur, not Galveston, where he'd already been building lines. He overrode his engineers and avoided huge damages when the Galveston hurricane hit. There was an article about him in Fate about five (?) years ago.

Recently, here in Portugal, the same store sold two first-prize Euromillion tickets to two different persons on the same week.

Chances of winning first prize are 1 in aproximately 72 million for the Euromillions lottery.

Chances of there being two winners in the same week who bought the ticket in the same place?

Just to say, it happens... I think its called very large numbers theory or something of the sort.

Implications are also quite interesting.

For instance, in an infinite universe there will be a number of "copies" of each and every living being, if for no other reason because while infinitesimal, chances for equal evolution are not zero (as can be determined from the simple fact that we exist) and since they are not zero, in an infinite universe they happen an infinite number of times. Same is true if the universe is somehow finite, but there are infinite multiverses.

It is mind boggling, and I certainly like your explanation better and find it more plausible, but it's not the only one.

"For instance, in an infinite universe there will be a number of "copies" of each and every living being . . ."

Actually, if you buy that logic, wouldn't there have to be an infinite number of copies, since there is literally no end (that's what infinite means, after all) to the potential for replication?

The problem here is that those who believe in the paranormal work things out the wrong way around:

Premise: someone has won the lottery five times.

Conclusion: it is paranormal (psychic ability or synchronicity, etc...)

But that is a non sequitur. The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

Given enough tries, someone, somewhere, will have these coincidental wins. When something startling like multiple lottery wins happen, it is always after the event that the psychic claims are made.

Probability theory predicts that there will be clusters of people who will have phenomenally lucky multiple wins in a lottery, in just the same way it predicts that there will be people who will never have a significant win as long as they live, however many tickets they buy for each draw. Do we therefore assume that someone who loses their life savings on the lottery is also experiencing something psychic? What probability theory does not predict are the names and/or addresses of those people, nor any other personal details about them. It is the psychics who claim to be able to do that (but they do so only after the event).

I wonder what we should make of the small number of people who have survived multiple lightning strikes? A handful of them have survived up to – I think the record is – eight, or thereabouts. The probability of being struck by lightning is very small (a bit like winning the lottery, but in reverse, if you see what I mean), but those cases are confirmed without anyone suggesting anything paranormal is going on (or do they?). If anything psychic is happening, then evidence is needed. It is just not good enough to say that because coincidences have happened then a paranormal explanation is necessary. The law of large numbers and a statistical analysis is adequate to explain it, unless someone can give a definitive (and testable) method of determining what is or is not paranormal in these circumstances.

I am a sceptic, of course, but my opinion can be changed if a multiple lottery winner can be identified before the event rather than speculation after the event. And can anyone tell me how to tell when a coincidence is, in fact, just a coincidence rather than paranormal?

Just a final note: no-one has a system rooted in mathematics for picking winning numbers. If it were possible, then it would be mathematicians winning. But they don’t – just the same as psychics. A game of chance really is just a game of chance.

Harley: "Given enough tries, someone, somewhere, will have these coincidental wins."

This is easy to say, but, really, you need to do the math.

In an earlier comment, sbu calculated that if 300 million Americans played the lottery 1000 times at a-million-to-one odds, the chances of ANYONE winning four jackpots was slightly greater than one in 100,000.

Now, maybe his/her calculations (or premises) are wrong - but that's the point you need to address. Mere hand-waving about probabilities is not persuasive.

"In an earlier comment, sbu calculated that if 300 million Americans played the lottery 1000 times at a-million-to-one odds, the chances of ANYONE winning four jackpots was slightly greater than one in 100,000."

Which, if I understand it correctly, means that this scenario (300 million people playing 1000 times at million-to-one odds) would have to be repeated 100,000 times in order to generate a four-time winner. That's 1000 plays X 100,000 iterations, or 100,000,000 total plays per person. Or have I misunderstood the principle?

This issue reminds me of an origin-of-life argument that used to be made - namely, that given enough time, it is statistically inevitable that all the constituents of a living cell would come together by chance. The argument sounded good until statisticians actually crunched the numbers. They found that there would not be enough time in the whole history of the universe (let alone the much shorter lifespan of the Earth) for this to happen. In fact, there wouldn't be enough time to create even a single protein. At first, the calculations were disputed, but eventually they were accepted. Today no one argues that the first cell could have come together by chance alone, which is why theories of "self-organizing systems" and similar ideas are being bruited about (though these theories have not solved the problem either).

In general, I think "believers" in the paranormal tend to underestimate the role of chance, but skeptics tend to overestimate it. Just my two cents, or to put it in the only math terms I can fathom: $0.02.

Oh charming Harley is around here now. I would advice everyone to go to paranormalia and read almost every blog just to see Harley get skinned again and again. He will misqoute you, attack you for arguments you never made and in general he enjoys the fallacy of the excluded middle.

Chris – I’m not merely “hand-waving” about probabilities; I had to spend three years at university learning and applying statistical analysis (which is really just probability theory put to practical use).

Yes, I can do the math, but I am not here to try to give math lessons. The reason I commented is not because I want to argue a point about the improbability or otherwise of coincidences; rather, I would like someone to give me a persuasive reason to think that a coincidence is anything more than just that. I mentioned the fact that some people have suffered multiple lightning strikes - which is as unlikely as multiple lottery wins – and I would be interested to know whether the same argument from improbability holds in that case too. What, exactly, is it about something improbable happening that implies psychic intervention?

Michael – your point about origin of life arguments is a different issue, I think. It is a staple of creationists who would like to dismiss evolution, but they are using a straw man argument – evolution is a theory about how organisms change over time, and has nothing to do with how the first life originated. But I agree with what you seem to be getting at – even a single cell will not come together by pure chance – there are many other factors involved.

Your last paragraph is interesting, and I am sure that “believers” do, indeed, underestimate the role of chance. But I disagree that skeptics (I’ll change here to the American spelling) overestimate it. I am a skeptic, and I have had a formal education that included the use of chance calculations. What I can say is that if, in the exams I had to take, I overestimated the role of chance, then I would have failed those exams.

But as I said earlier, I am not so much interested in calculating the exact probability of someone winning the lottery multiple times (or being struck by lightning just as often), but what it is that makes the difference between something being a coincidence and a similar event being put down to psychic intervention. It’s easy to make the claim, but the claim really has to be justified in a way that can be tested.

By the way, I don’t mind if anyone can prove the existence of the paranormal. If it is true, then it would become a scientific fact the same as any other. I think it would be pretty good to have a whole new branch of science opened up for study.

Kris – I’m not psychic (just like everyone else) but I just knew you would be here to poison the well. I’ve commented here because, like Robert McLuhan’s blog, there seem to be people here who can make a sensible contribution to the ongoing debate about the existence or otherwise of the paranormal. By all means, let everyone go over to Paranormalia: they will see you attack me in the same way you have managed to do in a single brief paragraph, but as usual without a single example or reference to support your claims. Personal attacks are not the same as evidence.

Harley, "........then it would become a scientific fact the same as any other"

Funny. Much of what you would call accepted scientific fact is based not on some ultimate objective determination, but on probabilities that are actually not as small as those involved in the multiple lottery winners' situations.

Multiple lightening strikes may not be due to mere coincidence. How can you reasonably state that it is? There may be some physical as well as behavioral factors involved. Who knows, could even be a psi component.

"your point about origin of life arguments is a different issue, I think."

What I was getting at is that sometimes people assume that very unlikely outcomes become plausible given enough time and opportunities - but when the numbers are crunched, it turns out that these outcomes are statistically impossible.

Whether or not this is true of someone who's won four jackpots, I have no idea. Only sbu has done any actual number-crunching on this thread. If I understand him correctly (which I may not), it would appear that pure chance isn't a satisfactory explanation ...

The intention with my calculation was indeed to show that winning four jackpots is unlikely to happen by chance. To cite the article:

What are the total odds for four multi-million-dollar payoffs? Michael Starbird, a University of Texas at Austin math professor who has written a book on coincidence and other mathematical quirks, calculates the odds of a four-time winner to come up with this answer: "It's pretty astronomical...She should quit, incidentally."


And this is a perfect example of Harley screwing up, again.

It is not poisoning the well to factual report about you. Once again you do not get basic logical fallacies.

You misrepresent peoples arguments, you did that to about everyone who commented on paranormalia.

You will accuse people of misbehavior , for example when you accuse me of misqouting Wiseman and then you literally supplied the exact same quote. You said I used Radin's argument in support of my views and when I challenged you for evidence of this you refused to give it. I am sure Paul and The Major would have similar stories of your antics.

Seriously folks go to paranormalia and simply see Harley in action. He is a complete utter troll.

State lottery departments could perform studies (perhaps spurred by a grant) to locate multiple winners and quiz them on their purchasing frequency. This would give some idea of how outlandish their outliers are.

But not entirely, because residents move so much among states that many multiple winners would not show up as such on any one state's records. There should be a study, once one-shot intrastate winners' names have been determined, to see if they've been winners in another state.

Then we'd have adequate data to get a good ballpark figure on this possible anomaly.

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