Evidence that some dreams are experiences of your autobiographical future (precognitive)
Several precognitive dreams are described in detail throughout the book out of an ensemble of 332 precognitive experiences. The strongest evidence for precognition is laid out in Chapter 4, which concerns the discovery of the Fomalhaut planetary system. The evidence is considered "strong" because (1) the discovery of a unique feature in the universe not previously known to science, and, (2) the dream was written down and can be compared to subsequent events, thus permitting critical scrutiny by others, which is fundamental to science. Below is a brief summary of some of the evidence shown in Chapter 4.
2004 discovery of Fomalhaut's offset dust belt using the Hubble Space Telescope
My email on November 1, 2004, sent to Professor James Graham (UC Berkeley) and Dr. Mark Clampin (Deputy Director, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center). At this point, for the first time in astronomy, I have imaged the ring-like comet belt around the bright star Fomalhaut, and made a completely unexpected discovery. If you look carefully, "the ring is not centered with respect to the star." The black region in the middle represents the area where starlight has been blocked. This is required in order to reveal the tenuous, faint nebulosity circling the star in an apparent ellipse. The ring or belt is a system of dust grains produced by the collisional erosion of comets.
Dream log entry nine years earlier
After the 2004 discovery, I recalled a single dream that I had concerning a ring around a star. Going back 9 years, almost to the day, I find the dream recorded in my log. Not only does it sketch the apparent geometry of what I would discover with Hubble, but I also write, "The star seems displaced relative to the center of the material."
Chapter 4 describes the evidence in great detail; here is a summary:
- In 1995, beta Pic was the only image of a disk in existence and has a completely different shape in astronomical images, resembling two flames shooting out of the star.
- The theory that comet rings could appear offset with respect to the star was first proposed in 1999 by my colleague Prof. Mark Wyatt (Cambridge University). Therefore there is no reason that an astronomer in 1995 would anticipate such an observation.
- Fomalhaut’s belt in my email is tilted downward to the lower left by approximately 21˚ from horizontal. My drawing also has the ellipse tilted down to the lower left, by about 27˚.
- The star is “displaced” (offset) to the upper right relative to the geometric center of the belt. The dream drawing depicts this same displacement direction.
- In the Hubble image, the ratio of the short side of the ellipse to the long side is 0.53. In my drawing it is approximately 0.5.
- The Fomalhaut dust ellipse in the Hubble data is brighter in the lower half than the upper half. My drawing has a singles line defining the lower boundary of the ellipse whereas the upper part is not defined.
Process of elimination / Occam's Razor
Given a limited amount of information, the explanation that is simplest and/or has the least speculation is the more likely explanation. For example: Information time travel is speculative, therefore another explanation exists. Let's take a look at other possible explanations.
- Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). This can produce feelings/thoughts of déjà vu (previously seen) and déjà rêve (previously dreamed). The author does not have TLE, nor do many people who report precognitive dream experiences. TLE is an unlikely explanation.
- Anticipation. Thinking about or imagining the future is a natural cognitive process and some dreams are a problem-solving activity that involves the anticipation, execution, fear, etc. of a future event. In the case of Fomalhaut, the offset of a dust belt from symmetry around a star was not part of human knowledge in 1995, even among experts specializing in the field. Anticipation is an unlikely explanation.
- Hoax / Cheating. Both the Fomalhaut email record and the dream diary still exist and are available for scrutiny by experts. A hoax is an unlikely explanation. Cheating could involve writing hundreds of dream entries over the years that depict all possible future astronomical discoveries, then picking the best match for a future discovery. The dream logs actually contain only a few sketches and dream content rarely involves astronomical discoveries. Cheating is an unlikely explanation.
- Luck. It is possible to guess a complex password and by sheer luck succeed. If a complex password is guessed correctly more than once, then another explanation should be sought. The context of the Fomalhaut dream is that it is one of 332 precognitive experiences. Luck is an unlikely explanation.
- Pareidolia / Confirmation Bias. Humans mistakenly perceive patterns in random or incomplete information (pareidolia). If a person has a strong belief in precognition, they would look for evidence to confirm their belief (confirmation bias). The value of the Fomalhaut records is that others can judge the extent to which pareidolia and confirmation bias are at work. The key here is that the offset asymmetry of the ring from the star is a unique distinguishing feature (whereas patterns such as rings in and of themselves are common). Even though the drawing may appear messy with a chance off-center orientation, the written text specifically says that the ring was observed (in the dream) to be off-center. Therefore pareidolia with confirmation bias is an unlikely explanation.
Other reasons to be skeptical
- Discrepancies. Not everything in the dream record of 1995 is contained in the 2004 discovery. Chapter 4 explains why this should be expected. A future episodic experience is ripped from its native semantic reference frame of the future and understood within the semantic reference frame of the present dreaming brain. Basically, a future event can be confusing because the present brain has to assign meaning to it, and will do so in the wrong time context. Thus, discrepancies in the dream record of a single person should be expected. The proposed solution is to have a group of people with a common future experience so that the common denominator (the observation of the future) in their dreams can be separated from personal semantic associations.
- Replication. Scientific facts are established by consensus when an experiment is repeated and an effect is confirmed. Some science, particularly in medicine, such as research in psychology, suffers from a widespread replication problem. The purpose of publishing the evidence in The Oneironauts is to motivate further research aimed at replicating the effect. The Fomalhaut dream in and of itself is the replication by the author of previous observations of precognitive experiences.
- Unknown physical mechanism. Not understanding the physical mechanism for information time travel is a key problem. However, the book covers the history of scientific discoveries where the underlying mechanism was a mystery. In the present day there are many types of experiments where an effect can be replicated many times over, yet the mechanism continues to be unknown. The unknown physical mechanism for information time travel is not an unusual characteristic compared to many other scientific discoveries in the history of science.