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Psychic Predictions, Past and Future
The Alibi's resident skeptic places a few bets
By Benjamin Radford
It’s that time of year again: thick morning frost on the windshield, flickering luminarias along adobe walls and psychic predictions for the upcoming year.
I thought I’d try my hand at some predictions for 2010, but first take a look back at last year’s Alibi predictions for 2009 [ Feature, “Portents and Prognostications,” Jan. 8-14] to see how they fared. Most of the predictions played it safe by being too vague or general to determine whether they came true. For example, one psychic said that in 2009, “relationships will become more harmonious” and to expect “a lot of good summer movie releases.” Many of them weren’t even predictions; some were just random opinions on the world like, “this time we live in seems to be empty when it comes to original thinking and imagination,” and “someone should invent an interactive game like Guitar Hero to teach real guitar.”
All this is fine, but these are hardly provable or useful predictions. In science we call these sorts of statements “unfalsifiable”—that is, unable to be proven true or false, such as the claim that Obama is doing a good job as president. I personally think he is, but it’s really a matter of opinion, not fact.
More interesting are the big stories of 2009 that all the psychics somehow missed. It’s strange that none of them predicted the murder of the world’s biggest pop star, Michael Jackson, whose June drug overdose death was ruled a homicide. None of the psychics apparently foresaw the Tiger Woods scandal, either, or the attempted overhaul of the American health care system, or America’s largest automaker going bankrupt. (They shouldn’t feel bad; in 2000 all of the Alibi’s psychics failed to predict perhaps the most significant event of the century, the Sept. 11 attacks.)
There was one psychic that did provide a body of testable predictions for 2009. She is Psychic Ana, the tarot reader whose venerable mini-billboard has greeted northbound motorists on I-25 across from Downtown for years. Let’s take a look at her 2009 predictions.
Psychic Ana deserves credit for making specific testable predictions, regardless of her accuracy.
• Ana stated that “Mayor Martin Chavez will continue to be successful and receive an award for his exemplary work as mayor.” In fact, Chavez was defeated in his re-election bid by Richard Berry, and he did not receive any significant awards in 2009 for his work as mayor.
• “The Iraq War will slow down and many of our soldiers will be able to come home by the end of the year.” This somewhat obvious prediction came true, depending on how you interpret “slow down” and “many” soldiers. About 4,000 troops came home by the end of 2009, though that number is a drop in the bucket compared to the 120,000 troops who remain in Iraq.
• As for the economy, Ana stated that “the economy will be greater than people are expecting.” This is difficult or impossible to verify, but most opinion polls suggest that the economic recovery is not going better than most people had expected.
• On the climate front, “we will see more hurricanes, tornadoes and natural disasters, even in regions where it is unheard of, like parts of New York and around the East Coast area.” Not according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which notes that there were actually fewer hurricanes and tornadoes in 2009, due largely to changes in the atmosphere caused by global warming. According to the U.S. Storm Prediction Center, there were about 100 fewer tornado-related deaths this year than in 2008.
• In the world of science and technology, Psychic Ana predicted that “there will be some blunders scientists are working on that will be exposed in 2009.” It’s not clear what scientific “blunders” she is referring to that were exposed in 2009. (The recent "climategate" scandal does not involve any accusations of mistakes or blunders but instead intentional fraud.) Then there’s her claim that “there will be great technological advances in workplaces that will help us see 32-hour work weeks for people, four-day work weeks.” As far as I know, there were no major technological advances that ushered in 32-hour, four-day work weeks. Quite the opposite: Studies show that Americans are working longer hours than ever—especially in this bad economy.
More interesting are the big stories of 2009 that all the psychics somehow missed.
• As for the world of celebrity and entertainment, Psychic Ana stated that in 2009, “Paris Hilton will find love and become engaged. Even if she marries, she will be divorced within six months.” Actually, Hilton did not become engaged in 2009, nor was she married (nor divorced, for that matter). Also, “Angelina Jolie will become pregnant and lose the baby.” Wrong again; Jolie was not pregnant in 2009, nor did she lose her baby. “George Clooney will owe the IRS millions. George Lopez will end up in the hospital.” There’s no information that George Clooney owes millions of dollars to the IRS (though given how much he earns, it wouldn’t be surprising); nor is there any record of George Lopez having any significant hospitalization in 2009.
It seems that Psychic Ana was wrong on nearly every single specific prediction she made for 2009. Most psychics appear successful because few people bother to take the time to actually go back and re-examine predictions to see how valid they were. If psychics have the powers they claim, and they’re confident enough in their abilities to charge money for their services, they should be happy to go on the record and have their predictions put to the test. Psychic Ana deserves credit for making specific testable predictions, regardless of her accuracy.
A Skeptic’s 2010 Predictions
As it happens, I myself have a proven track record of amazingly accurate predictions. On Dec. 20, 2007, I wrote a list of predictions for 2008 and mailed them to the Alibi. It’s true that my psychic powers weren’t perfect; only about 90 percent of my predictions came true (even professional psychics don’t claim 100 percent accuracy). Most of the predictions were quite specific, not just vague, generic, untestable predictions like “next year will be difficult for some people.”
Here, to put my precognitive powers to the test once again, I reveal my predictions for 2010. My earlier 90 percent accuracy success rate will be hard to beat, but I’m willing to give it a shot. Maybe it will encourage other psychics (and alleged psychics) to step up and put their specific, verifiable claims to the test!
It’s true that my psychic powers weren’t perfect; only about 90 percent of my predictions came true.
Benjamin Radford's Predictions for 2010
1) A senior official in the Obama administration will come under fire for sexist or racist comments but will remain in office.
2) A famine will break out in or near Eritrea, causing a call for global food aid.
3) The U.S. housing market will begin to recover by March, and the stock market will significantly improve by the end of 2010.
4) A “Columbine-style” school shooting may occur (or be planned) in April or early May.
5) U.S. troops will be reduced, but not fully withdrawn, from Iraq. Afghanistan and Pakistan will be more of a security concern than Iraq.
6) A former world leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient will die.
7) The period August through November may be marked by major conflicts in world power struggle.
8) The weather will be milder than usual in the Southwest.
9) A famous athlete or performer will be forced to publicly admit that he fathered a child out of wedlock.
10) A group or cluster of suicides in Germany, Japan or the American Midwest will leave about a dozen people dead, probably in the summer or fall.
11) In July, a missing woman or girl in New England who was believed to have been kidnapped will be found safe. The abduction report will turn out to have been a hoax.
12) A beloved former TV star will die in November or December from an incurable disease.
13) A major city in either India or Indonesia will be targeted for terrorist bombings.
14) A well-known comedian or comic actor will commit suicide, shocking fans across the country.
15) New Mexico psychics will not provide any useful information in helping find the West Mesa serial killer.
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