Skip to content

Author: Briggs

August 20, 2018 | 6 Comments

Does It Mean I’m Psychic?

Years ago I wrote and self-published for fun the book So, You Think You’re Psychic? You can download a free PDF of it on the Books page.

There’s nothing wrong with the book—except that now I would do all the probability tables differently. None of them in the book are wrong. But I wrote the explanations when I was still a p-value believer, as all fledgling statisticians were trained to be. And still are. That has to stop. But that’s a subject for another day.

I also wrote it back in my atheist days, when I was a mistaken believer in materialism. That means the discussions about physical mechanisms of purported psychic phenomenon are incomplete, and in part flawed.

Except for these weaknesses, the rest of the book stands up pretty well. It badly needs updating, of course, and if I find myself with unexpected free time, or lucrative financial incentive, I’ll do so.

For now, let me answer an email I recently received from a person with the wonderful name of Swapnil Kamble.

Hello sir,

I have read your book ‘so you think you are psychic?’. Its a great book. I am not very good at statistics. I had a question.

1) If try guessing numbers from a pool of 1 to 100, using (pseudo)RNG app on my mobile or pc, what is the probability of getting it right 3-4 times in a session of 100 guesses?

2) Does it mean am i psychic?

3) Also if i guess 99 out of 100 times, then am i psychic?

4) in context of guessing the numbers, at what point will i be called psychic, i mean what is the minimum probability that will prove that there is some extrasensory phenomenon involved?

Thank you

1) The probability of guessing a number from 1-100, when all you know is that the number will be 1-100, is 1%, or 0.01. The probability of getting k = 3-4 right in a session of n = 100 is had by a binomial calculation. For k = 3, it’s 0.061 and for k = 4 it’s 0.015. That means getting 3 or 4 right is 0.076.

That’s not so small. Especially if you consider you might repeat the session. The probability of getting 3 or 4 right if you repeat the session just once, for a total of 2 sessions, is 0.15. If you do 3 sessions, the probability is 0.21 that at least one of the 3 sessions you’ll get 3 or 4 right. By the time you repeat it just 10 times, the probability is 0.55, or 55% that at least in one session you’ll get 3 or 4 right. Better than a coin flip!

2) Now 10 sessions isn’t a lot if you consider more than one person around the globe has done them. If just 2 people did 10 sessions, the probability at least one of them sees at least one session with 3 or 4 right is 0.79. For 3 people it’s 0.91, for 4 it’s 0.96%, and for 5 it’s 0.98, or 98%! I certainly sold more than 5 copies of the book, so maybe at least this meany sessions were completed.

You can see it’s really easy for at least one “successful” psychic session to be reported using these criteria as a “success.” Even if people are just guessing—by which I mean not using any psychic powers.

In order to prove psychic ability using these criteria, you’re going to have to do a lot better. Guessing only 3 to 4 in 100 is indicative of very weak powers. What’s stopping you from guessing all 100? Or something in the high 90s?

One answer is that you’re a very weak psychic. Hey, not every ball player hits 400, so this is possible. Now if you can consistently hit 3-4 in every session, then you might be on to something. You must keep careful, careful track, not forgetting any sessions, or partial sessions, and you must not allow yourself any excuses about why a failed session (or partial session) “doesn’t really count.” Ball players don’t get those excuses, and neither do you.

3) The probability if guessing 99 out of 100 is about 1 times 10 to the negative 197. A very, very, exceptionally small number. So, yes, if you can in test conditions, under the watchful eye of people like myself, who can spot mistakes (people often fool themselves with sensory leakage), then I’d say you’d have psychic powers.

4) This is an excellent question. There is no excellent answer. The problem is that no session of the types you are attempting are ever considered in isolation. We have had long experience of people cheating, and amazing reports come under immediate suspicion. That’s why testing under controlled conditions are mandatory.

Then some paranormal powers don’t need probability at all. Like coming back from the dead. Or turning water into wine. Do these things and we’ll know you’ve got something.

August 19, 2018 | 2 Comments

Summary Against Modern Thought: Ultimate Happiness Does Come In Knowing Separate Substances

Previous post.

We’re closing in on ultimate happiness! You didn’t think it would be easy, did you? A short chapter this week. But an important one. See paragraph 3 for a huge limitation of science!


1 Of course, it is not possible to identify human felicity with such knowledge of separate substances, as the aforementioned philosophers have maintained.

2 Indeed, a thing is futile which exists for an end which it cannot attain. So, since the end of man is felicity, to which his natural desire tends, it is not possible for the felicity of man to be placed in something that man cannot achieve. Otherwise, it would follow that man is a futile being, and his natural desire would be incapable of fulfillment, which is impossible. Now, it is clear from what has been said that man cannot understand separate substances on the basis of the foregoing opinions. So, man’s felicity is not located in such knowledge of separate substances.

Notes A nicer definition of futility you will not find.

3 Again, in order that the agent intellect be united to us as a form, so that we may understand separate substances through it, it is required that the generation of the habitual intellect be complete, according to Alexander; or that all objects of speculative understanding be made actual within us, according to Averroes.

And these two views reduce to the same thing, for in this explanation the habitual intellect is generated in us, in so far as the objects of speculative understanding are made actual within us. Now, all species from sensible things are potential objects of understanding. So, in order that the agent intellect be joined with any person, he must actually understand all the natures of sensible things, and all their powers, operations, and motions, through speculative understanding.

This is not possible for any man to know through the principles of the speculative sciences, by which principles we are moved to a connection with the agent intellect, as they say. For, one could not attain all these objects of knowledge from the things that come under the scope of our senses, and from which the principles of the speculative sciences are drawn. So, it is impossible for a man to achieve this connection, in the manner suggested by them. Therefore, it is not possible for man’s felicity to consist in such a connection.

Notes In other words, Science cannot and can never bring full understanding. The first paragraph of 4 is, though, outdated. Because now, of course, many men dare. Perhaps not for themselves, but for their progeny at (among other places) the “singularity.”

4 Besides, even granting that such a connection of man with the agent intellect were possible as they describe it, it is plain that such perfection comes to very few men; so much so that not even these men, nor any other men, however diligent and expert in speculative sciences, have dared to claim such perfection for themselves.

On the contrary, they all state that many things are unknown to them, Thus, Aristotle speaks of the squaring of the circle, and he can give only probable arguments for his principles for the ordering of celestial bodies, as he admits himself, in Book II of On the Heavens [5: 288a 2], and what is necessary in regard to these bodies and their movers he keeps for others to explain, in Metaphysics XI [8: 1073b 2]. Now, felicity is a definite common good, which many people can attain, “unless they are defective,” as Aristotle puts it, in Ethics I [9: 1099b 19]. And this is also true of every natural end in any species, that the members of this species do attain it, in most cases. Therefore, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to consist in the aforesaid connection.

5 However, it is clear that Aristotle, whose view the aforementioned philosophers try to follow, did not think that man’s ultimate felicity is to be found in such a connection. For he proves, in Ethics I [13: 1102a 5], that man’s felicity is his operation according to perfect virtue. Hence, he had to develop his teaching on the virtues, which he divided into the moral and the intellectual virtues. Now, he shows in Book X [7: 1177a 18], that the ultimate felicity of man lies in speculation.

Hence, it clearly does not lie in the act of any moral virtue, nor of prudence or art, though these are intellectual virtues. It remains, then, that it is an operation in accord with wisdom, the chief of the three remaining intellectual virtues, which are wisdom, science, and understanding, as he points out in Ethics VI [6: 1141a 3].

Hence, in Ethics X [8: 1179a 32], he gives his judgment that the wise man is happy.

Now, wisdom, for him, is one of the speculative knowledges, “the head of the others,” as he says in Ethics VI [6]. And at the beginning of the Metaphysics [I, 1: 981b 26], he calls the science which he intends to treat in this work, wisdom. Therefore, it is clear that Aristotle’s opinion was that the ultimate felicity which man can acquire in this life is the kind of knowledge of divine things which can be gained through the speculative sciences. But that later way of knowing divine things, not by means of the speculative sciences but by a process of generation in the natural order, was made up by some of his commentators.

August 18, 2018 | 7 Comments

Insanity & Doom Update XLVIII

Item Decline in the Fall (or Late Summer, Anyway): by Fred Gibbon This is Fred Reed at his curmudgeonly best.

Item The Next Woman To Try Playing In A PGA Tourney Came Up Considerably Short

…there was some unique excitement taking place at the Barbasol Championship, where LPGA star Brittany Lincicome was teeing off against the men. Unfortunately for her, when the end of Friday’s round came along, Lincicome didn’t make the cut to play on into the weekend. In fact, it wasn’t even close. (USA Today)

Despite shooting 1-under-par 71 in a strong second round Saturday, Lincicome finished 36 holes in 5-over par 149 and failed to make the cut for the tournament’s third round.

“It was cool just to be inside the ropes with the guys, and it’s been a dream come true playing in this event,” Lincicome said. “A lot of people don’t realize how good (LPGA golfers) are.”

Then again, a lot of us do realize how good LPGA golphers are. Which is that they are, God bless them, worse than PGA golphers. This is a hate fact.

It is also a hate fact that only rank sexists would insist that males and non-males compete in any sporting (or military) event separately. For to insist on separation is to insist there are fundamental ineradicable non-ignorable consequential important differences between the actual sexes. (There are also non-actual sexes, as when a man pretends or is deluded into believing he is a woman.)

No feminist can henceforth—I decree it!—be taken seriously unless she insists males and non-males no longer compete separately. There is no other way equality can be achieved!

Let’s hold them to the fire, boys.

Item Jimmy Carter: Jesus Would ‘Approve’ of Gay Marriage, Some Abortions

Regarding whether he thinks Jesus would approve of gay marriage, Carter replied “I don’t have any verse in Scripture,” but added, “I believe that Jesus would approve of gay marriage.”

“I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else,” he said.

This is older news. What concerns me is that I like peanuts and that I eat a lot of them. My favorite are the salted kind roasted in shells you have to peel off.

My hope it is that the eating of them that drives one mad, but that it is the pesticides or other chemicals used in farming them.

Item Artificial intelligence, immune to fear or favour, is helping to make China’s foreign policy

The programme draws on a huge amount of data, with information ranging from cocktail-party gossip to images taken by spy satellites, to contribute to strategies in Chinese diplomacy

Diplomacy is similar to a strategic board game. A country makes a move, the other(s) respond. All want to win.

Artificial intelligence is good at board games. To get the game started, the system analyses previous play, learns lessons from defeats or even repeatedly plays against itself to devise a strategy that can be never thought of before by humans.

It has defeated world champions in chess and Go. More recently, it has won at no-limit Texas Hold’em poker, an “imperfect information game” in which a player does not have access to all information at all times, a situation familiar in the world of diplomatic affairs.

Several prototypes of a diplomatic system using artificial intelligence are under development in China, according to researchers involved or familiar with the projects. One early-stage machine, built by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is already being used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I’ve never come across a satisfactory spelling of Twbbpppt! But you know what I mean.

Last week we learned Everything Is Already In The Simulation. “Researchers” won’t find anything in their “solutions” from artificial “intelligence” that they themselves didn’t put there.

The danger is always scientism, perhaps here better labeled computerism. If the advice from the AI system says “Nuke ’em!” we wouldn’t want Chinese politicians to say to themselves, “Well, the result did come from a computer. With artificial intelligence. Therefore it has to be right.”

The faith people have in statistical models, which is precisely what artificial intelligence is, brings tears to your eyes.

August 17, 2018 | 40 Comments

On Israel’s Jewish New ‘Nation State’ Law

I am probably the wrong man to ask about Israel being named as an official Jewish state. My idea is that at least Jerusalem should be Christian. After all, Our Lord sacrificed himself there for all mankind. Christianity began there by men who saw the light, men who realized the Old Covenant(s) found its fulfillment in the New, an act made painfully clear even to unbelievers in the razing of the Temple in 70 anno Domini.

Interregnum Pope Benedict has recently published a paper on this general subject; it being written about in many places. But not many have or can read the paper, since it is in German. If anybody can translate or knows of a translation, please tell us. In this paper it is reported Benedict acknowledges that the re-founding of Israel was a political and not theological act. On that, see also this on Hal Lindsey.

Jews, of course, do not believe in the Divinity of Christ, and all that follows from that ultimate truth (though some Jews, calling themselves a race, call themselves Christian). They are thus in error on these fundamental points. They are not, again of course, alone in these errors. These errors are shared by people the world over, even by those who were once not in error. But there is practically speaking—and here is our third “of course”—a world of difference between ex-Christians and never-were-Christians.

Never mind all that. Israel has as little chance of turning Christian as do hot dogs with ketchup tasting good. Let’s deal therefore with things as they are, not how they should be.

Israel passed a law they’re calling the “nation state” law, which says “that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and that ‘the right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.’ It establishes Hebrew as the official language of Israel and downgrades Arabic to a language with ‘special status.'” This “special status”, we gather, will be the same as that accorded traditionalists on American college campuses.

Well, Israel is its own country and can decide things however it wants. If they want to say Israel is the historic homeland of the “Jewish people”, that’s their business, as things stand. Of course (another one!), to do that they’ll have to decide who gets to be Jewish and who doesn’t. And Jews seem confused about that.

At times the term appears to mean a Jew is a person who adopts one of the several branches of Judaism, and that’s fair enough. Be born or convert, as the apostate daughter of our president did, and you’re a Jew. Whatever rules govern such conversions can decide.

But Jews also say they are a race, to which even those who reject Judaism can belong. The linked article above mentions a “Jewish diaspora”, for instance. That means the black lady rabbi I saw a reformed temple boasting about in print is of the same race as, for instance, Bill Kristol or Harrison Ford. And so, then, is Trump’s daughter of the same race (as long as she met the criteria for membership in the religion). And so are the many Ethiopian Jewish converts from times past of the same race. And so are the Arabs who converted, and so on and so forth. The Jews after all did pretty good at proselytizing after the Temple’s destruction.

But if that’s the demarcation of race, it means folks who have lived long enough with calling themselves a race are that race. Well, self-identification is the norm now. And Jews seems to recognize each other just as Christians do.

If all that is true, then are European and American Christians a race? If so, it means the Israeli government, and the Israeli-American dual-passport holders who are in our government’s and the media’s employ, ought to support with vigor a law here which states that the United States of America is unique to Christians (if Jews are a religion) or, say, blacks (if Jews are a race) in the same way Israel is a Jewish State.

We don’t need to stop at the USA. Austria can get in on this, too. And Poland. And a few other obvious candidates. English for the USA, naturally, German for Austria, and Polish for Poland, all other languages being designated as special status.

What do we make of this idea? At the best, (if Jews are a religion) it would acknowledge that when a designated official Christian country deals with Israel, she does so knowing that Israel denies the divinity of Christ, and is therefore in error on that and many associated points, points which would be by definition of prime importance to the official Christian country.

Israel (yet another of course!) would think the opposite. That is, they would think the official Christian country is wrong about the divinity of Christ, and Israel would deal with that country with that understanding. It’s an all-cards-on-the-table approach that is bound to pay off diplomatically.

If Jews are a race regardless of religion, and Israel is their home that all must recognize, then that country would and should support other countries that want to designate themselves official homes for various races. Right? It can’t be that Jews are the only race that get to call themselves a race that gets to make rules for itself and keep outsiders out. Can it? Israel is alt-right (I’m supposing the media’s definition of that term) and Jewish supremacist, and would seem to be obliged to support alt-right status for other nations.

There are difficulties of declaring Jews a singular race, though. There will be some race (if we use the older, commonsense definition of the word) among Jews which is at least a plurality, some race who has the highest count. I haven’t done this counting, but it looks like those of East European descent, perhaps Russian. Or maybe Kahazar/Turkish? Or even white. Whatever it is, it is something. It would not be a mistake to say that this numerical winner is “the” Jewish race; that would be up to Israel to decide. But it would follow that those of other races who consider themselves Jews are in official error, or are of secondary status.

Same goes for the Christian race. Some race is number one—maybe it’s Nigerians or Brazilians. It could even be Chinese (67 million Christians in China). I don’t know. Whoever is tops would then be “the” Christian race.

Rules for commenting: Let’s agree with the Encyclopedia Britannica that the first one to use the misnomer “anti-Semitism” loses, because not all Jews are Semitic, and not all Semites are Jews. If you mean “anti-Jew” say “anti-Jew.” Unless, of course, all non-Semites are declared by law non-Jews, and all Semites are thus declared Jews, regardless of their religion. Or maybe, if we accept self-identification, anybody who declares themselves a Jew becomes a Semite.

And then if Jews are an official race, by whatever rules Israel decides, and Israel must be seen as the official Jewish homeland, then to criticize Israel would by definition be criticizing Jews. That’s a win-win for them.

It’s all very confusing.