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February 14, 2005

Global Consciousness Project reveals human foolishness

It's hard to know which category to place this one in -- it's a little bit ESP, a little bit fortune telling, and a whole lot of pseudoscience.

The Global Consciousness Project apparently is trying to use random number generators to detect changes in the the "global consciousness" of the population of the planet. They claim that, when a big event happens, such as the funeral of Princess Diana, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the December 26 tsunami, that they observe changes in the pattern of randomly generated zeros and ones.

In the original Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi felt a great disturbance in the Force -- these guys claim to be doing so in real life. Better yet, they claim to be doing so before the event happens. For example, they claim that the pattern of numbers generated changed before the first of the 9/11 attacks, as well as before the tsunami hit.

Anyone else suspect they know what's going on here? Various scientists claim to be baffled, so maybe I can help them out. Here's what's probably happening -- humans are being human. You see a spike in the numbers, you scan the news headlines to look for some big event. If you find something, then you can say that the spike you saw detected it. If you don't see anything, wait a bit and check again. Then when you find something, you can say that the spike you saw predicted it. From the other direction, if something big happens in the news, go back and look at your numbers. If you see a spike, bravo! If you don't, look farther back in time. Found one? It was a prediction! (Oh, and if you don't find a spike in the numbers, but instead find a trough, that's okay -- that counts, too.) Didn't find anything at the time of the event or before the event? Don't give up yet! Try looking after the event -- it probably had some sort of psychic impact on the population of the planet for some time after the fact.

Finally, if you weren't able to find a correlation before, during, or after the event, just chalk it up as "one of those things" -- no need to consider it as evidence against the truth of your theory.

The standard of evidence on this appears to be very low. For example, some of the events that their machine "detected" or "predicted" include Mark McGwire's homerun record, the finale of Survivor, and Oprah Winfrey visiting Africa. World-shaking events? Really? Hmm....

So this is the kind of research they're doing at Princeton these days, huh?

Link: RedNova News - Can This Black Box See Into the Future?.
Link: Global Consciousness Project

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February 14, 2005 in Pseudopsychology, Pseudoscience, Psychics and Fortune Telling | Permalink


Hey, Wally, great to see you back! Congrats on the new addition as well!
As for this story, I saw it on Free Republic of all places. There were some skeptics, but their objections were mostly tin-foil hat type mockery. A few folks did spot the central and damning problem, the apparent inability of this project to produce any usable information before the fact.
The dominant response at Free Republic was woo-woo credulity with some fundy overtones. This is as opposed to the woo-woo credulity with New Age overtones that we would see on a lefty site.
Any way you cut it, this is a classic propter hoc prophecy scam.

Posted by: Jimmy Reynolds | Feb 14, 2005 10:59:29 PM

[Reynolds]"...I saw it on Free Republic of all places. There were some skeptics, but their objections were mostly tin-foil hat type mockery."

Reading about it on Slashdot, I saw plenty of the same, and that bothers me a bit. Sure, there's no reason to buy into Nelson & company's theories, but the really interesting question at this point is whether there's a phenomenon to be explained. After spending time on their website, I'm not convinced there is. It looks like too many events, too many tests, too many chances for a "hit".

But I'm irritated at dismissals that pretend to be critiques. People complain about what they assume the experimenters are doing, raising issues that are obvious, naive, and (when you actually read the source information) bogus.

Posted by: jackd | Feb 16, 2005 10:32:36 AM

what's wrong with the GCP scheme is the routing of all data from the 60-some eggs to the "expert" for his pronunciation of the true and correct analysis.

Just put the raw data on the web site for download . Oh, and by the way, why should anyone buy one of their suggested random number generators, anyway?

I, not ones and zeros, so assert.

Mike H.

Posted by: Mike H. | Feb 17, 2005 5:31:38 PM

Here's an interesting article that debunks that PEAR nonsense: http://www.skepticreport.com/psychics/radin2002.htm

In summary, you are right - they are data mining.

Posted by: Skeptico | Mar 1, 2005 12:19:41 AM

I have challenged people to test whether humans can manipulate a random number generator. I made a little program is called No Psychic Left Behind.


Posted by: lepton | Apr 8, 2005 5:46:06 PM

GCP is a serious project, and they
don't claim any proof, just some "interesting" data.

Also, contrary to what Mike H says above, they do make their data freely available, and their website does include links to independent analysis -- including critical ones.


They certainly don't seem to be trying to hide anything.

I think I agree with jackd -- there may be no reason to buy into their theories, but also there is no reason to dismiss them with incorrect information (in particular did Mike H. even look at their web site? -- how could he miss the data download section?)

Posted by: Stephen Gryphon | Apr 29, 2005 8:22:03 AM

Global consciousness is real.It is the cosmic conscious wave that counts.This conscious wave is what i call the microtime, with its twin, the microspect.It is the smallest particle of all and yet the most powerful one in the entire cosmos.Everything comes into existence through the materialization of this particle. It resides in the higher dimensions. Up there they are all probabalities existing in the form of essence.Through quantum collapse,it turns into events which can exist either in the abstarct or in the concrete forms.All these could be understood through the principles of quantization and wave-functionalization.The microtime and the microspect could be revealed through the simple numerical systems which in turn could be encoded and decoded by the infinite combination of binary ones and zeros.In the higher dimensions, they are all probabilities to exist and to occur. In the lower dimensions, they are all events in its abstract and concrete forms. Quantum collapses occur via subjective cosmic resonances. Each resonance represents each occurrence of event whether be it in the form of concreteness or in the form of abstractness.Synchronicity is the bridge between the probabilities to exist and to occur and the actualities which is expressed in term of events.Global consciousness is cosmic and resonance-formed, and therefore it is detectable by the REG, and not the global emotional surge that affects the black box.REG combined with the microtimic and the microspective system does and could really reveal and register the global consciousness wave and transform it into the combined binary systems of ones and zeros.We are all selected synchroniciites throughout the cosmos for synchronicities are rampant in the cosmos.We are all interconnected in the highest dimension.All this is elaborated in the not-yet-published book of Microtime.( The Microtime is supposed to be published by certain publisher in Malaysia, but somehow terminated before the book is published due to some unreasonable pretexts from that certain publisher that the book is too philosophical, too technical and too sceintific and therefore rejected for publication even though the author has signed the contract with the published.

Posted by: ong ching guan | May 17, 2005 2:22:34 AM

Ong Ching Guan's entry contains many of the earmarks of quantum quackery. Deepak Chopra himself couldn't do a much better job of mixing terminology from legitimate physics with New Age drivel to create a finely sculpted mound of excreta.

Posted by: marc | Jun 2, 2005 1:04:51 PM

What I see in these days is a lot of stupids trying to get some popularity.
You don't look so smart, don't you? Your argumentation is very poor. You also compared Global Consciousness Project to Star Wars.
Try to write a good article next time, okay?
You don't like scientist, just a amateur.

Posted by: Marcos | Jul 24, 2005 7:23:21 PM

All the GCP is really doing is recording data, right? So what's wrong with that? All (empirically-based) new scientific discoveries start with the recording of anomalous data that cannot be explained by current models. This leads to revising the models and new scientific fact.
So what if we don't currently have any model that would explain this. The first step is to record data to see if we have any anomalies.
To simply presumptially and dogmatically proclaim "this must be nonsense" without actual evidence on your part that it is actually nonsense is like the Catholic Church ruling that the Earth must be center of the Universe.

Posted by: Channing | Jan 24, 2007 9:54:59 AM

Por qué te tomas a cachondeo algo que en sí mismo no es gracioso? Me refiero a lo del Proyecto de Conciencia Global. Me parece muy respetable que la gente se dedique a investigar este tipo de temas. Algo que ya aparece en filosofías orientales mucho antes que Internet. Asi que no le veo la gracia. Ser escéptico no significa ser ateo universal.

Posted by: Quini | Feb 2, 2007 2:00:03 PM

I can say I'm less impressed with an article like this, then some outrageous claim by a scientist "on the fringe".
Data mining? Sure.
Human interpretation? Probably.
But at least their asking the question. Whatever that question may be.
When someoen goes out with a VERY rough idea, and gets some data and goes "this is interesting, I wonder if it means anything."

You know what? It typically doesn't "mean anything". But it often leads to the next question, and then the next one, and then the next one. Which, one day, hopefully, leads to data, and information that DOES mean something.

People like the author of this article are the same poeple who said "electricity?! Quackery!"
"Paved roads across a whole country?? Never!"
"Go to the moon?! Foolish!"

Yeah, maybe the Write brothers were a long way from the moon.
But no one can deny it was step 1, on a path of many steps to NASA.

Perhaps the Global Consciousness Project is pointless. But who knows what wheels it has set in motion for humanity 100 years down the road.
At least their asking the question, where as the idiot of this article... well, who knows what he's adding to society.

Posted by: Tom Messing | Mar 1, 2007 7:37:07 PM

@Tom Messing

re: "But at least their asking the question. Whatever that question may be."

The problem isn't that they've asked a question. The problem is how they've gone on to ANSWER the question. Coming up with an interesting question is fairly easy. "Gee, I wonder if patting my head while I rub my tummy will give myself psychic powers?" There, I've asked a question. Asking the question doesn't make me foolish, but it doesn't make me a genius either. What matters is how I go about answering the question.

re: 'People like the author of this article are the same poeple who said "electricity?! Quackery!" "Paved roads across a whole country?? Never!" "Go to the moon?! Foolish!"'

In the 1967 movie Casino Royale, a mad scientist, played by Woody Allen, is speaking to a naked woman who is strapped to a table:

SCIENTIST: "They called Einstein crazy."
WOMAN: "That’s not true, no one ever called Einstein crazy."
SCIENTIST: "Well, they would have if he carried on like this."

Saying "They laughed at [insert name of genius here], too!" doesn't prove anything.

More importantly, you seem to have missed an extremely important aspect of the scientific method - criticism. That's an essential element that makes the whole thing work. When I announce, "By patting my head while rubbing my tummy, I gave myself psychic powers," it is essential that others apply their critical thinking skills to examining my evidence. If everyone just politely sat on the sidelines and says "how interesting", the scientific method would collapse under the weight of millions of unrefuted claims.

Yes, we should be willing to ask questions, but we should also be willing to accept the answers that the evidence gives us.

Posted by: Wally Hartshorn | Mar 2, 2007 4:07:00 AM

From what i understand, there seems to be a real correlation between significant world events and a spike or surge in the random number generators. This kind of reasearch is still in its infancy, but so far the data suggests there is something there. There will always be closed minded people that are not open to new ideas or if it goes against their materialist view of the world, they will not even consider it.

Posted by: nick | Mar 2, 2007 11:49:23 AM


re: "There will always be closed minded people that are not open to new ideas"

Being open-minded is very important. But open-minded means being willing to accept what the data is really showing, regardless of whether that data confirms or refutes the claim. In this case, what the data is really showing is that there is nothing to the claims of the researchers.

Posted by: Wally Hartshorn | Mar 2, 2007 12:31:21 PM

After reading through a couple of the PEAR articles (and I'm not just going on these random number generators, most of those studies have too broad of a scope to confirm or dismiss any ideas) there do seem to be different correlations which affect various outcomes relating to individual and group wills. The probabilities of the effects occurring are small, but there is a pattern. Personally, I'm not going to throw out the New-Age claims that many others seem to and I will question the methodology of these experiments; however, the results produced do pose a significant question that should be examined more closely. If these claims are totally and completely bogus, then it should be relatively easy for critics to setup a counter-experiment to be performed to dismiss them.

Posted by: Charlie | Apr 4, 2007 2:29:52 PM

Indeed all of the gcp hypothesis reports describe why their data is inconclusive, mostly by application of common stats methods. I've not read of any claims, just anomalous observations. The data is still being correlated to separate the hypotheses from known effects, and this is a process of scientific revision and repetition that is neither easy nor fast.

Posted by: Darren | Jul 29, 2007 12:52:35 AM

The world is full of persons that love to say what need to be done. They claim that "something" is true or not. But never, never say HOW should be done. A lot of "specialists" say that YOU and ME need to do something, but never say HOW it should be done. Of course, they are not skeptics: they are dumb. To debunk something, to say that an interpretation, a theory, whatever, is wrong, scientific proofs need to be showed. What projects the author of this crap conducted to debunk the Global Consciousness Project? We need see to believe. And what kind of projects do you conduct on the scientific community?

Posted by: Dennis Pinheiro | Sep 19, 2007 11:31:31 PM

To speak of "human foolishness" as though you are above
it is to judge it. When you do this, You reveal yourself
as being an arrogant and unkind fool. You are not the kind of person I would ever care to associate with.
So called "human foolishness" is more a judgement than a fact. When you pronounce it thus, you assign the whole human race to a categorical state of failure and unwittingly, you include yourself as humanly foolish.
Your job on this earth is to prove yourself to be not a fool but a saint and a saint would never judge his fellow humans as foolish. Rather than projecting your
self image onto others, why not mind your own business and quit revealing yourself as being a foolish human and support others right to be themselves and allow them the freedom to work out there salvation as you are, by being a fool and making your own mistakes.

Posted by: Doug Rosbury | Dec 11, 2007 11:17:39 PM

In stock trading/technical analysis it is called "curve-fitting".
Still, there is for sure a global consciousness - except that the appearence of this global consciousness can only appear within your OWN consciousness...

now think about the implications!


Posted by: fun-da-mental | Apr 2, 2008 3:24:58 AM

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