Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Relee » Wed Jul 01, 2009 7:48 pm

A friend of mine linked this. Apparently there are Atheist Summer Camps in Britan and the U.K.

Check it Out.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Thu Jul 02, 2009 12:31 am

I like the basic idea - and I definitely like the notion of teaching kids rational skepticism, moral philosophy, ethics and evolution. Yay.

I do think one of the examples cited, regarding telepathy, is pretty 'tarded though. I personally knew one of the scientists (she was a dear friend of mine) involved in the CIA/Army Intelligence study of telepathy and remote viewing, held at Stanford during the mid-80's. It was a response to similar studies being done in other countries. The official military conclusion was that both existed, for real, but that the phenomena was too affected by personality and emotional state to be usefully weaponizable. I was understandably fascinated by her accounts of the whole thing.

(It turns out that people are more likely to remote view the eye-catching tulips outside of military base than the gray and boring base itself, and are more likely to catch juicy personal, emotional issues through telepathic contact than boring details of military plans and devices. The degree of accuracy on these militarily useless details, however, was stunning. Really amazing. Apparently whatever these abilities are, they are more likely to happen for people who are more imaginative and pacifistic, for whatever reason, and those sorts of people find it hard to focus on, say, plans inside a briefcase, or the wiring of a missile silo. Curious, huh?)

In lumping such things with religion, the atheist camp seems to be overreaching itself a bit. More than a bit, really, more like a religious stance. Which I object to.

Skepticism is fine. But sometimes you have to accept the results of research, even if they disagree with your worldview.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Plasman » Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:43 am

Awww... :frown:
What's wrong with just going to a regular, non-denominational camp, people?!
Just get a bunch of rowdy kids sleeping in leaky drafty cabins or tents for a week or so, without the preachy hoo-ha. Why add proselytizing to the mix?

Incidentally, that telepathy story is interesting, though it set off my "woo-woo" alarm a bit.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Monocheres » Thu Jul 02, 2009 9:32 am

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:I do think one of the examples cited, regarding telepathy, is pretty 'tarded though. I personally knew one of the scientists (she was a dear friend of mine) involved in the CIA/Army Intelligence study of telepathy and remote viewing, held at Stanford during the mid-80's. It was a response to similar studies being done in other countries. The official military conclusion was that both existed, for real, but that the phenomena was too affected by personality and emotional state to be usefully weaponizable. I was understandably fascinated by her accounts of the whole thing.

(It turns out that people are more likely to remote view the eye-catching tulips outside of military base than the gray and boring base itself, and are more likely to catch juicy personal, emotional issues through telepathic contact than boring details of military plans and devices. The degree of accuracy on these militarily useless details, however, was stunning. Really amazing. Apparently whatever these abilities are, they are more likely to happen for people who are more imaginative and pacifistic, for whatever reason, and those sorts of people find it hard to focus on, say, plans inside a briefcase, or the wiring of a missile silo. Curious, huh?)

In lumping such things with religion, the atheist camp seems to be overreaching itself a bit. More than a bit, really, more like a religious stance. Which I object to.

Skepticism is fine. But sometimes you have to accept the results of research, even if they disagree with your worldview.


I would be curious to read a first-hand account of this research. From what you've said though, I think there is a very obvious explanation. The "telepaths" under study weren't remote detecting anything. They were simply remote imagining.

The fact that they could intuit the presence of a number of "juicy personal, emotional issues" going on inside a workplace employing human beings is not surprising. Any sufficiently large number of human beings with functional limbic systems, all working together day after day, will inevitably generate a predictable number of soap operas. I can guarantee there will be at least one disgruntled underling who hates his point-haired boss. There will be at least one clandestine mid-life-crisis affair. At least one lazy slacker surrounded by colleagues incredulous that he hasn't been fired yet. At least one workaholic woman afraid to go home because of an abuser. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

You can predict these things simply by understanding human nature and consciously drawing inferences. All you need to know is one simple fact: There are people in that building. And people are people. All else follows.

But if you are the sort of person who is imaginative and emotionally empathetic, even "pacifistic", and not very given to critical thinking, you might just let the unconscious, "intuitive" parts of your brain do that inferential work for you. Instead of engaging your fore-brain to construct a consciously-reasoned and wordy dissertation on potential human foibles, you instead let your hind-brain bubble up a holistic visual picture of an imagined personal situation. You delude yourself that you are "seeing" rather than "imagining". A certain percentage of times, your imaginings will be completely correct, simply by coincidence. When you happen to be correct, it can appear spectacular, and the researchers studying you -- eager for spectacular results, perhaps anxious to keep the funding spigot open -- may latch onto that and allow themselves to be deluded as well. The times when you are dismally wrong, however, will not shatter that delusion, because you and your eager researchers can attribute your failure to some vague fluctuation in your "emotional state". That is not science. That is magical thinking.

What would be science is if there were results that could establish that a telepath had extracted real, specific information that couldn't simply be guessed. Like perhaps the names of the inevitable disgruntled employee, pointy-haired boss, adulterous couple, incredible slacker, abused woman, etc. I'd be interested if there were any results like that. I'd also be interested if the researchers used protocols designed to eliminate unconscious biases they may have brought with them.

For instance, pick two sets of offices within your organization. Make them somewhere across town, someplace neither the telepaths nor the researchers directly studying them have seen. One office will be a target and the other a control. In the target office, you do confidential double-blind surveys on personal and emotional issues. In the control, you abandon the place, move all the people out and reassign them to new cubicles somewhere else. Make sure the telepaths and their researchers are unaware which office is which. Don't even tell them one office has been abandoned. See if the telepaths can detect which office is populated and which is empty. If they can get past that, I'd be impressed. Any correlation between the personal issues recorded by the survey and "remote detected" by the telepaths would be gravy.

That would be science.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Skatche » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:19 am

Monocheres: the project Mrs Reitz is referring to is the Stargate Project. I believe most (if not all) of the files associated with that project have been declassified, so you can certainly look at the firsthand account (and the Wikipedia article's cited sources will give you counterarguments that have been leveled, and countercounterarguments, and so forth).

Frankly, I find the very idea of this camp depressing. Well-meaning intellectuals astutely realize that one ideology (a particular interpretation of the Judeo-Christian mythos) is false. So far so good. But then they conclude that a different ideology - atheism, materialism, secular humanism - must therefore be true - this is where I start to get pretty wary. Now these same intellectuals go and fund a summer camp for drilling that ideology into children's heads.

NO. A THOUSAND TIMES NO. Can we please just stop brainwashing children? Is that really so unthinkable? Do we need to replace one coercive ideological program with another coercive ideological program?

Possible response: yes we do, as a natural corollary of certain comments I've made of late about mind control. Perhaps manipulation and noninterference can meet halfway, though. We could drill the metaprogram into children's heads, making them aware of manipulative techniques. Which, er, I guess is part of what this camp is doing.

Still, I have no especially positive feelings here. Dawkins in particular is far too much of an ideologue, and atheists in general have that unfortunate air of smug ideological assurance so common to religious nuts.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby strange_person » Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:34 am

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote: militarily useless details
Sounds to me like the CIA has been slacking off. Such details could be very useful, as part of a larger infiltration effort. Why bother with risky honeypots when it's possible to get accurate, exploitable intel on pre-existing relationships?

Even if the item to be surveyed cannot be made emotionally engaging, visual dazzle isn't that hard to fake. Just bombard the target base with paint in a variety of bright colors.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Thu Jul 02, 2009 12:25 pm

Monocheres wrote:I would be curious to read a first-hand account of this research. From what you've said though, I think there is a very obvious explanation. The "telepaths" under study weren't remote detecting anything. They were simply remote imagining.


I don't know how much overall has been released to the public. It does seem to have been declassified, since I've seen mention of it on the internet before. I did get to see some of the results at the time, however.

One example I remember in the documents I was shown was a test involving people at Stanford ('psychics'... people who were picked for apparent abilities) attempting to remote view randomly chosen set locations (from, say, a pool of ten such locations). At each location, there would be a room, and in this room would be placed an artifact; a painting, a large colorful ceramic, a sculpture of a dog, and so on, being the only thing in the otherwise empty room. The subjects had no knowledge of the rooms, their locations, or anything else about the test.

Inside the target rooms, they placed another 'psychic', also part of the test. Their job was to look at the object in the room, and 'send' that image to anyone who might try to 'hear' them.

The results were astonishing to say the least.

If memory serves, with the group they had, 90% accuracy, with many offering additional details that the researchers themselves were not aware of. One I remember involved a litter of kittens outside one of the 'send' buildings, which was located on a farm; a later check verified that outside the building, in the grass, was indeed a feral cat and her kittens, exactly as described. In this case, the 'viewer' only was vaguely correct about the target, but incredibly accurate about the unknown cats. It was as if the target person was used to home in to the area, whereupon the viewer lost attention on the target, and was drawn to the nearest living thing.

I've since seen some literature on these tests on the internet, you might want to go looking. I haven't tried in years, myself. At the time it was fun to see the experiments apparently declassified and spoken openly about, which is why I feel OK talking about them on a forum now. Maybe by now they have released the whole thing. Though it's possible that the opposite may be true; since overall the thing failed (it wasn't weaponizable), and there was more than a bit of mocking about it all (psychics! pshaw!), it could be there may have been an effort to bury it.

Maybe I'll try to dig it up, if I have time.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Relee » Thu Jul 02, 2009 1:26 pm

I've done telepathy before, when I was younger. My cousin and I experimented with it for a while, sending messages to eachother. It wasn't scientific, of course. I've also been able to predict card draws and random number generation at a rate far exceeding that which statistics would suggest, but never in a scientific study. Remote viewing, I've done as well; in High School people often wanted to test me by describing features of their homes, and I would do so. But, the attention made me uncomfortable and I would claim to grow ill after doing it.

I'm kind of afraid to test those abilities 'for real'. I mean, obviously it would be incredibly difficult to convince any scientist that it was worth their time to test. Parapsychology is a mostly skeptical science, despite people's expectation to the contrary; they are held to higher expectations because their claims are so incredible, and require additional proof to convince anyone. It's really difficult for them to use their limited funding on anything that isn't legendary to begin with.

But, the real reason I'm afraid to test those abilities is because of the two possibilities they could lead to. The first, and admittedly most likely possibility is that I'm deluding myself, and discovering that would remove a certain magic from the world. The second possibility is that I become a proven psychic, a real-life superpowered individual, and then the Uncle Ben thing starts up. With Great Power comes Great Responsibility, and I end up wracked with guilt for not using my gifts for the betterment of mankind, or throwing away my own dreams and cares for the sake of the world. One or the other.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Monocheres » Thu Jul 02, 2009 3:10 pm

Relee, my take on this is that some people have an exceptional capacity for unconscious intuitive mental processing. Their brains are able to process subtle cues and hints that do not register on conscious awareness, but which are there nevertheless. If we could discover these subtle pieces of information, and trace the logic of the intuitive inferences, most "paranormal" phenomena would resolve to be quite prosaic. But why would knowing the mechanism for the phenomenon spoil the "magic"? Personally, when science offers a mechanism that explains some aspect of physical reality, especially in an elegant and simple way, I find that to be a beautiful and even "magical" thing.

Regardless of its nature, why would having an unusual ability require an extraordinary burden of responsibility? Professional athletes have unusual physical prowess, are they wracked with angst over "using their abilities for good?" I have (if I do say so myself) an exceptional ability to design clean software (and refactor it cleanly as the requirements tides ebb and flow); do I engage in existential maundering about whether I'm worthy to wield such powers? Politicians as a species have an exceptional ability to lie and manipulate, do they go putting on capes and ponder how to apply their skills for the betterment of mankind? (Ah, if only, if only!)

If you've got some interesting ability, be like the rest of us. See if you can make a living off it, while generally being helpful to other folks. Will an unusual skill turn you into an evil person? Only in Faustian fantasy-morality tales. In my experience, in the real world, a person's skills don't determine whether they are nice or obnoxious. It's rather the other way around: How nice or obnoxious a person is determines how they wind up using their skills.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Thu Jul 02, 2009 3:47 pm

If telepathy is real, and I have a 98% confidence that it is, then it is a natural phenomena.

Not supernatural. Natural. It exists in nature.

It would be expected that other animals, besides Man, would also possess the ability, and likely at differing degrees, just as with all abilities.

Therefore there would be nothing weird about it, or strange, or good, or evil. Despite countless woo-woo movies, and the woo-woo of church and common belief, telepathy (and any other such phenomena) would be no more unnatural than having an arm, or a leg, or a liver.

Thus one might as well try to cultivate it, if one has any interest, because it could have use, even if that use is not applicable to warfare.

I have cartooned my mother's apparent episode of clairolfactance, and it was useful; it allowed her to remotely know the instant her house, and her valuables, were being pilfered by her oldest and dearest friend in a surprising, more shocking, sudden betrayal. Stealing would be impossible if such abilities were able to be on call at will, rather than wild and uncontrollable.

Perhaps such functions are gradually appearing in animal species, and are a fairly recent evolutionary change. Or, if physicist/mathematician Roger Penrose is correct, perhaps these are evidence of quantum effects on a macro scale, magnified by the peculiar machinery of cellular life. In the latter case, it may not be possible to control such phenomena; they may happen randomly because they are an artifact of the way the universe works, rather than being actual abilities as such.

Whatever the case, if such things exist, they are natural, and have nothing to do with gods or demons, or sin or virtue, and one might as well make use of them because there is no rational reason not to.

And above all, there is no reason to consider them creepy. Only our cultural stories make anything creepy. Things are what they are; our stories and myths cast them as good or evil.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Shackler » Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:06 pm

I don't remember the quote, but once I read something along the lines of "If magic/psychic powers are real, they are extremely weak; else people would have harnessed them on a large scale by now." That pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby RaharuAharu » Thu Jul 02, 2009 4:11 pm

Jennifer Diane Reitz wrote:If telepathy is real, and I have a 98% confidence that it is, then it is a natural phenomena.

Not supernatural. Natural. It exists in nature.

It would be expected that other animals, besides Man, would also possess the ability, and likely at differing degrees, just as with all abilities.

Therefore there would be nothing weird about it, or strange, or good, or evil. Despite countless woo-woo movies, and the woo-woo of church and common belief, telepathy (and any other such phenomena) would be no more unnatural than having an arm, or a leg, or a liver.

Thus one might as well try to cultivate it, if one has any interest, because it could have use, even if that use is not applicable to warfare.

I have cartooned my mother's apparent episode of clairolfactance, and it was useful; it allowed her to remotely know the instant her house, and her valuables, were being pilfered by her oldest and dearest friend in a surprising, more shocking, sudden betrayal. Stealing would be impossible if such abilities were able to be on call at will, rather than wild and uncontrollable.

Perhaps such functions are gradually appearing in animal species, and are a fairly recent evolutionary change. Or, if physicist/mathematician Roger Penrose is correct, perhaps these are evidence of quantum effects on a macro scale, magnified by the peculiar machinery of cellular life. In the latter case, it may not be possible to control such phenomena; they may happen randomly because they are an artifact of the way the universe works, rather than being actual abilities as such.

Whatever the case, if such things exist, they are natural, and have nothing to do with gods or demons, or sin or virtue, and one might as well make use of them because there is no rational reason not to.

And above all, there is no reason to consider them creepy. Only our cultural stories make anything creepy. Things are what they are; our stories and myths cast them as good or evil.


You have explained this better then I have heard any human prior.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Tychomonger » Fri Jul 03, 2009 9:13 am

Shackler wrote:I don't remember the quote, but once I read something along the lines of "If magic/psychic powers are real, they are extremely weak; else people would have harnessed them on a large scale by now." That pretty much sums up my thoughts on the matter.

Kinda similar to the "if there are advanced aliens, they would have been obvious by now" argument, which I don't really like either. It depends on discounting evidence for there not being enough evidence. And this 'dearth' of evidence makes the scientific community wary to study it full on and produce a sufficient amount of information on the subject.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Relee » Fri Jul 03, 2009 2:52 pm

Monocheres wrote:Relee, my take on this is that some people have an exceptional capacity for unconscious intuitive mental processing. Their brains are able to process subtle cues and hints that do not register on conscious awareness, but which are there nevertheless. If we could discover these subtle pieces of information, and trace the logic of the intuitive inferences, most "paranormal" phenomena would resolve to be quite prosaic. But why would knowing the mechanism for the phenomenon spoil the "magic"? Personally, when science offers a mechanism that explains some aspect of physical reality, especially in an elegant and simple way, I find that to be a beautiful and even "magical" thing.


Well, I'm not claiming it's something beyond reality, if these abilities exist then there must also be a logical explanation for them, even if it steps outside the boundaries of what we know. There are still things yet to be discovered. Of course, unconcious hints are the reason for Double-Blind research, something I doubt I'll ever have the resources to do on my own.

Monocheres wrote:Regardless of its nature, why would having an unusual ability require an extraordinary burden of responsibility? Professional athletes have unusual physical prowess, are they wracked with angst over "using their abilities for good?" I have (if I do say so myself) an exceptional ability to design clean software (and refactor it cleanly as the requirements tides ebb and flow); do I engage in existential maundering about whether I'm worthy to wield such powers? Politicians as a species have an exceptional ability to lie and manipulate, do they go putting on capes and ponder how to apply their skills for the betterment of mankind? (Ah, if only, if only!)


Well, I do feel that way for some things. I'm a very guilt-wracked person. My concience is a lot more intense than most peoples'.

Shackler wrote:If magic/psychic powers are real, they are extremely weak; else people would have harnessed them on a large scale by now."


I say that sometimes. ^.^;; It's probably true. Though, later this summer there is a Parapsychology convention being held here in my home town. Apparently there is a psychic detective who lives here in Sarnia, but he spends most of his time in the U.S.A. on call by various police agencies, using his abilities to help solve criminal cases. So, maybe people have harnessed them on a large scale, and everyone is just ignoring them because they prefer not to think about the alternative?

Of course, Electricity and Steam Power have been around for over a thousand years, but they were only applied large-scale in the last few hundred, because nobody could find proper applications for them. Maybe psychics just haven't found their niche? There are lots of fake psychics as well, so it's difficult for people to trust them to begin with. When you think about it that way, it's not unreasonable that such abilties could exist and be ignored.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Coda » Fri Jul 03, 2009 7:15 pm

I lament the loss of my talents in this regard. :(

I used to be really good at... well, I guess you might call it a sort of "remote viewing," but I always felt it to be more of an innate ability to synchronize with people after getting to know them for a while. Back in high school, and even a little while into college, during my first few years on the Internet, I had an uncanny ability to generate accurate mental images of my long-distance friends, even though I'd never seen pictures or even heard descriptions. I particularly synchronized well with one of my local friends and we seemed to always know when the other was having trouble.

Sadly, it seems higher education has ruined me. Now I am, if I may set humility aside for a moment, one of the best software engineers I know. (I know there are better out there. I don't know many personally.) You tell me what you want the computer to do, and I can make it happen. And this aptitude extends to non-programming fields as well -- if I don't already have a general idea of how to do something, I can pick it up fairly quickly.

But this aptitude has come at a cost: my ability to synchronize with people is gone, along with the creativity that used to fuel my music and my writing. I get precious bursts of it back from time to time but they never last long enough to accomplish anything. Good anime and really good music bring back the feelings I used to have when these old talents were active, but it's just an ephemeral illusion -- no substance.

It really makes me depressed.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Jennifer Diane Reitz » Sun Jul 05, 2009 5:44 pm

I was able to find the actual name of the program that did experiments on telepathy and remote viewing at Stanford.

Apparently, it is more well known that I thought.

It was called 'Project Stargate'. Cute name.

In Wikipedia, of all things:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate_Project

There are lots of entries for this project all over the internet. I never bothered to look before. Who knew?

There is a lot of conflicting stuff, though. It would be easy to conclude both that the experiments were a success and a failure, absolute proof of psi phenomena and also absolute disproof. And of course, a great deal of general obfuscation and conspiracy-mongering.

When I was told about it, it was still very hush-hush.

Fascinating!
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Monthenor » Thu Jul 09, 2009 8:41 pm

Relee wrote:So, maybe people have harnessed them on a large scale, and everyone is just ignoring them because they prefer not to think about the alternative?

The Harry Dresden defense. Weirdness gets ignored in favor of self-sanity.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Relee » Fri Jul 10, 2009 5:40 am

Monthenor wrote:
Relee wrote:So, maybe people have harnessed them on a large scale, and everyone is just ignoring them because they prefer not to think about the alternative?

The Harry Dresden defense. Weirdness gets ignored in favor of self-sanity.


I really want to read those books one day. The television show was really neat, but I think they cancelled it after the first season. ^.^;;
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby marinschild » Fri Jul 10, 2009 7:48 am

I really think that you should explore this talent you may have Relee. You don't have to make it public to the world or feel like you're obligated to do something. I think it could be something fun and entertaining to explore.

I've had experiences with accidentally predicting the future. The only one I can really recall right now involved a pregnant girl I was an acquaintance with. She was about to have her baby, and while everyone was at the hospital with her I was lying in bed. While I was awake, I could have sworn that I heard a relative of mine speaking in the other room about how the girl was bleeding dangerously. Not really caring about the information I heard (the girl was an idiot/beach), I went to sleep a few hours more.

When I woke up (still alone at home), I walked into the living room to see what was on television. I remember my cousin called and I answered the phone. She asked me if there was any news about the baby, so I told her I had heard something about bleeding. She kept asking me questions, and I told her that I may have misheard the information and not to quote me on anything I ever say.

Eventually I found out an hour later that the girl was still in labor and there hadn't been any medical problems at all. After many more hours of waiting for dilation, the girl finally made it to ten centimeters and the baby was delivered. As soon as the baby was out, blood started gushing out of the girl's uterus covering the delivery room floor in blood. The girl had emergency surgery to do whatever they could to keep her alive. After two weeks of being in a chemical coma and a hysterectomy, the girl survived to become a bigger idiot and an unfit mother.

Anyways, my cousin was shocked about my so called prediction of what happened to the girl and it really shook her personal image of reality. I didn't think it was any big deal, but that is what I've done with sort of accidental predictions I've made before. I tend to downplay them to coincidence.

Oh I just remember another sort of kind of prediction I made. One day I was riding with my best friend through a shopping area after we had finished a movie that was new at the time. I had this thought that seem to come out of nowhere. I said to my friend, "You know what I hate? People who drive over Islands in the road." The intersection we were driving toward has this taco bell on one corner that has an Island right in front of the entrance. This means that in order to enter the parking lot that you have to be on the side of the road the restaurant is on, you have to take a turn at the light to make it to the side entrance, or you drive over the island.

Well as soon as I expressed my opinion to my friend, this person on the road in front of us drove over the island with his gigantic 32 inch tires and pulled into the taco bell parking lot. This totally shocked both of us that I happened to say what I said without any provocation right before the think I was complaining about happened.

That is pretty much the sum of my experience with claircognizance I suppose.
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Re: Atheist Summer Camp

Postby Plasman » Fri Jul 10, 2009 10:47 pm

I only get the regular type of premonition in dreams, you know, the usual... ;]
Like the other week, when I entered a charity store that I'd never been in before. It was in an old house, and I realised as soon as I went in that I'd had a dream about the place about a year or two earlier. Same floor plan and everything. It was weird, but also totally useless; I mean, I couldn't have dreamed about lottery numbers or something useful... :frown:

Oh, and sometimes I'll get precognitive flashes that someone will do something, or something will happen to them (eg. fall pregnant, get married) but that could easily be ascribed to educated guesses. :P
If this last post seems ridiculous, please disregard it. Thank you. ;)
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By the way I made two level packs for Boppin' in case anyone is interested... :oops:
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