Australian JOHN SMITH looks at the contemporary mania for predicting the future.
Far from being a passionate resolve to live life differently, our modern world new year's resolutions have been reduced by the weakness of human nature and the modern emphasis on self-indulgence to being simply and solely stand-up-comedy material.
The growing trend seems to be prediction and psychics. Interestingly (again) last year they didn't seem to do so well. Perhaps you missed the following events in 1995: A seventh-grade genius amazed science fair judges by constructing a working time machine from the parts of a microwave oven. Garth Brooks was ridiculed for claiming to have been abducted by a UFO, until doctors found a homing device implanted in his neck. A meteor the size of a Buick crashed into a used car lot in Las Vegas, opening a massive underground reservoir that ended the city's water crisis.
According to Roy Rivenburg of the Los Angeles Times, these are typical examples of the psychic predictions that did not come true last year. He claims the accuracy rate is abysmal. Gene Emery, science writer for The Providence Journal Bulletin, has been keeping computer records of predictions of verifiable public events since the 1970s. In his published findings in the Sceptical Inquirer, he claims the only one that came close was the 1992 hurricane in Florida, which is a bit like predicting an earthquake in California, a wet season in Darwin or a dust storm back o' Bourke. He claims that no fortune tellers (attestable) publicly predicted the Oklahoma City bombing or Christopher Reeve's tragic spinal injury. And he isn't losing any sleep over predictions about Hawaii disappearing into the ocean or the Grand Canyon becoming the world's number one nuclear waste disposal dump in 1996.
A strange aside to all this is that the US military has shelled out $20 million over 20 years for psychic assistance with military intelligence. Owing to a total lack of accuracy, they are now discontinuing their experiments and investigations. But perhaps that was predictable!
Seriously though, my concern is not the sincerity or accuracy of some psychics. What I am concerned about is the stability of an increasingly superstitious public who would desperately live on the predictions of psychics and astrology charts rather than the substance of great guiding principles like those of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount or the great Jewish Torah.
Happiness, Jesus said, does not rest on knowing the future, but on living the present by the spiritual and moral principles of humility, of faith and of compassion and justice towards others. Some psychic believers may feel hostile about what I'm saying, but beyond all the contentions over psychic phenomena I do extend to each and every reader a blessed new year, one which I hope will be filled with faith, hope and above all love. Someone once wrote: "I don't know about tomorrow, but I know who holds the future and I know he holds my hand."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.