What is the scientific explanation for premonitions that come true?

About 6 years ago someone I know drowned at a beach, 1 year before the incident this person had a feeling that their life will be cut short, they also had a dream involving a sea. I’m pretty sure you guys hear stories like this all the time where people have this gut feeling that something bad will happen to them or someone they know and it actually happens, so what is the explanation for this? how can we know that this isn’t a supernatural/paranormal phenomenon of some sort?

Another premonition that came true was when Abraham Lincoln had a vision/dream predicting his assassination 3 days before it happened, in the dream he saw a corpse that was surrounded by guards and mourners, when he asked one of the guards who is the dead person, the guard responded and said something like “It’s the president, he was assassinated”. You might say that he had a feeling that he was going to be assassinated because he just won a civil war and he knew that people wanted to kill him, but why did this dream occur just right before his assassination?

I can tell you about many other premonitions like these that came true if you want.

So I wanna know, what do you think about this as an Atheist/Nonreligious person?

I apologize for any grammatical mistakes, English is my second language.

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Welcome @anonv011 … I hope you enjoy your time on Atheist Republic.

Just to clarify, I call myself an atheist because I withhold belief in “god”. That identity has nothing much to do with the idea of “premonition” (as you’ve described or defined).

We are constantly taking in information in a subconscious level (not aware) assessing risks, making judgements or decisions. It’s a good survival tool.

Stories from hundreds of years back can change - but given the political nature of the era (Lincoln) he probably predicted his assassination everyday of his presidency. Many world figures today could be “assassinated” and saw-it-coming because of their political opponents or citizens.

Our bodies can pick up cues and we may “know” or feel we’re dying - or being at the sea or planning a vacation at the sea…one considers “drowning” even as a fleeting thought.

When I surfed I knew there was a chance I’d get attacked by a shark. I’d mention it jokingly every time I went. I never got attacked - BUT if I had…would that have been a “premonition”?


As an atheist, I honestly don’t look at it like that. We all get bad feelings about something that may or may not happen. I think we call that paranoia. Some people are paranoid about burglars breaking into their home of a night, so they make sure the doors are locked. But then one night it does happen. Does that mean they predicted it would happen? No. Absolutely not. I would say that they were anticipating the probability of it happening. But by no means would I call that a premonition. What you might see as a premonition that then happened, I would instead see it as a coincidence.


Randomness and chance play a big role in the world, and our brains are evolved to see patterns not randomness.

Account for all of the times that someone doesn’t have a heart attack while watching porn, for instance, even though six months ago they had a “premonition” that it would happen, and this will be a conversation that will go somewhere.

Or even better: provide evidence of a force of nature or mental process that all physicists and neurologists have thus far missed. That will definitely have my attention, at least.


I was typing a similar response when you so rudely interrupted my thoughts. :wink:
How many times have you heard someone remark about a dream that did not “come true” ? Uh, ZERO.
My mother used to admonish me with the notion that if I didn’t quit climbing in that tree that I was going to break my neck. Well. when I was twenty-five I was in a car accident and I broke my neck. I didn’t fall out of a tree , but hey, good enough for a premonition.
much like @Whitefire13 ;
When my wife or I leave to go to town or to the city, the other one will often say something like “don’t die in a car wreck” . If it was to happen, then what?
My son and I joke frequently about injury or death and if one of us was to die subsequent to such a comment, neither of us would consider it a premonition.

Precisely. We are “pattern seeking creatures”.
When there is any scientific evidence to warrant such, there will be a scientific explanation forthcoming.

Edit insult


Scientific definition for preminitions that come true: Can you demonstrate that a preminition has ever come true under scientific conditions? I don’t think it has ever happened. In fact, if you could demonstrate a preminition coming true, at a rate more significant than pure chance, you might just get yourself a Nobel Prize. I can’t wait to go back and read what this great preminition you had was.

Um. We can’t. On the other hand, this is what is known as a non-falsifiable claim. You might as well claim a leprechaun was the cause, it is just as falsifiable. (or unfalsifiable). We can know it is not supernatural because the person claiming that the event was supernatural has not provided evidence for the existence of the supernatural. (Null-hypothesis) You don’t get to assume a cause without evidence. The same goes for whatever ‘Paranormal’ means. Before you can cite either of these as an actual cause of anything, you must demonstrate that they actually exist.

Most preminitions would be nothing more than selection bias. You remember the hits and forget the misses. You believe in the ‘woo’ and now you are playng a psychological game with yourslef and seeing how often you can support your favorite woo theory. Good luck with that.


lol a lot of Christians or Muslims or whatever the fuck religion they identify with come on here and ask stupid shit like this. I’m under the impression that it is some kind of apologetic baiting technique that the monotheist is using.

“Since you don’t believe (god) did it, then what did?” as “We Don’t Know” is not an acceptable answer to them. Theists are incapable of accepting an “I don’t know” answer when there is no evidence to begin with. But because of what they’re preached at in church, they’re taught that there is an answer to everything. They have developed this entitled self made necessity that it’s an Atheist’s job to fill in the blank with a “better” answer than the “god of the gaps” answer that the Monotheist has already accepted.They are under the impression that any answer the atheist gives will be already assumed “wrong”. It’s a very condescending & controlling position to take over someone.

Normally how I see it is that it’s where they try to take on the usual preacher role and proselytize their “answer” at you. You will give your answer but the Christian normally says “Wrong. It’s God.” and they’ll argue this over and over and over. At that point they’re just wanting you to repeat after them.


DING DING DING…hand that man a teddy bear.


Hello @anonv011, welcome to Atheist Republic.

First off, what are dreams? Best as I can discover by searching is that dreams serve a housekeeping function in the brain and we dream up to two hours and have two to six dreams every night. We do not remember them all.

From … https://www.sleepfoundation.org/dreams

Studies have revealed diverse types of dream content, but some typical characteristics of dreaming include:

It has a first-person perspective.
It is involuntary.
The content may be illogical or even incoherent.
The content includes other people who interact with the dreamer and one another.
It provokes strong emotions.
Elements of waking life are incorporated into content.

So we all dream a lot, possibly hundreds or thousands of times a year. When you stack that simple fact up against any of the dreams having a relationship with reality, some will come true.

I am willing to venture that your sadly departed friend has been to beaches before.


Coincidence. If you want to argue it isn’t coincidence, why don’t you start with a probability calculation.

Kay. Slow down anon. You still know them? And they’re dead? They “drowned”? That’s fucked up, dude. That’s just the first sentence. Geese. Okay. Keep going ratty. Keep going.

Oh. Dear lord. Apology accepted. You can’t “know” dead people. I mean, YOU probably can. But TECHNICALLY… just not possible. I would lead with the disclaimer rather than conclude. Mmm Kay?

Probably God. That’s my first intuition.

Or déjà vu. That’s a good question. Better than anon’s.

What is déjà vu? What happens if you die and have déjà vu? Hmm :thinking: hmm :face_with_monocle:

Howdy, Anon. Welcome to the AR. As you can see, we are quite a diverse group here. Enjoy your stay. Now, about your topic…

Having spent 20 years on patrol along with three deployments with the military, I had those “gut feelings” pretty much on a daily basis. They are what helped keep me alive. Simply put, they are called instincts. Nothing “magical” about them, though. With time and experience, your brain subconsciously receives “signals” that cause you to react without really realizing WHY you are reacting. The human brain is more complex than we can even imagine. (Oh the irony.)

As for “premonitions”, most often I would guess it is simply random chance. Really depends on circumstances and the amount of time between the premonition and the event. Although, depending on the situation, an individual’s instincts could be trying to warn them. And that individual either does not recognize the warning, or ignores the warning, or there is simply nothing he\she could could do to avoid a bad outcome. Regardless, there’s nothing “supernatural” about it, in my opinion.

(Edited because I had a premonition it would need editing.)


Shit - how did I miss touching on this?

The above statement seems to presuppose that there is an atheist viewpoint on anything other than “without belief in the existence of gods.”

A short reading of some threads in this forum alone will banish that notion.

Edited for: exhaustiveness

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I do not believe in the supernatural because I have never witnessed or seen any evidence of it. Although there are thousands (millions?) of stories, sheer weight of numbers does not make it true. Each claim must be examined and verified individually.

It is very sad your friend died, but everything has a reason. The difficult part is to discover what the true and real reason is.

So far I have two explanations.

  1. The supernatural reached out to him and warned him in a dream. If that was true the supernatural are incompetent and did a poor job. If I knew someone was about to drown, I would not send a message in a dream months before.

  2. Your friend had a desire to be at beaches, but not confident in his ability to swim. That concern was expressed in a dream. Of course we need to investigate whether your friend was a competent swimmer and knew of the dangers (undertow) of swimming close to shore.

Which of those two propositions is more realistic and what one is just pulling stuff out of the air??


Stop it. You did that on purpose. If not, then that is the true irony…

Edit to steam iron my shirt

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You can (biblically) “know” dead people. It’s just typically against the law, and nasty.


What you can actually do is tell people stories about preminitions. You can not demonstrate them.

For the sake of argument, assume that there is a supernatural entity and it has the ability to communicate with us humans.

Based on all of the stories I have heard, the supernatural entity (s) has decided to send very vague messages to individuals before the actual event. Do this entity actually care about us or are we just playthings? Why couldn’t this entity send a lot of people the same message like “get out, a there will be a massive earthquake tomorrow morning”.

That would truly be an act of love and salvation. Instead not enough people get those important messages and natural devastation happens all the time, with loss of life and tragedy.

If there really is a god behind those premonitions, it is a very sadistic monster who enjoys playing with people, who enjoys sending very vague messages, and it has done nothing to advance humanity.


I have had (and/or witnessed) intensely odd experiences which seem very psychic . . . and I’ve had essays published in Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic magazine. I have also been active in debunking medical quackery . . . so I like to believe that I approach such things very critically.

In any case, I’ve read somewhere that there is a very serious school of thought that consciousness arises from certian odd consequences of quantum mechanics, such as quantum entanglement.

Quantum entanglement seems like it could be a source of the psychic flashes that some people experience from time to time.

There are neuroscientists who claim that certain “microtubules” (whatever the hell they are!) in specific neurons are the location of the quantum events that lead to the perception of consciousness and the psychic flashes that some people experience.

While the idea seems very plausible, I have a lot of problems with it.

Amost all experiments that demostrate quantum entanglement require cryogenic temperatures, superconducting magnets, and a very hard vacuum.

It’s very difficut for me to imagine quantum entanglement under conditions that exist in the human body.

But–then again–I may be wrong.