Friday, June 13, 2008

The World's Still Here...

Well, as the more perceptive of you may have noticed, the planet wasn't annihilated in an enormous nuclear conflagration yesterday. Yisrayl Hawkins' website hasn't updated yet with an excuse, and the "ask Yisrayl" link is down, so the world is regrettably denied his perspective on his third spectacular failure of prophecy. To be fair though, I don't think that website gets updated much - the "Current News" section's latest article is from July of last year - so maybe it'll be a few weeks before he gets around to telling us about how he miscalculated or his God decided to give the world a reprieve.

Apparently poor Yisrayl just hasn't quite mastered the art of prophecy, which is actually pretty simple as long as you follow a few simple rules:

1.) Be vague - The vaguer you are in your predictions, the more likely it is that something will happen that seems to match up with what you said.

2.) Never set dates - This is very, very important. Nothing spoils a good prophecy like being flat-out wrong, and concrete dates have a way of falsifying what are otherwise damn fine crazy pronouncements. If you must set a date, set it far enough in the future that you'll probably be dead by the time it arrives. That way you don't have to answer any questions that might come up.

3.) Make "predictions" about things that have already happened - Whether it's forging prophecies after some dramatic event has occurred or just basing your prophecies on historical events, this technique works almost distressingly well. Sylvia Browne has pioneered a modified version of this: Claim that you had a crystal clear vision of [dramatic news item] but that you didn't get the chance to warn people before it came to pass.*

4.) Predict things that are obvious - War in the middle east. Political infighting in the United States. Bad weather and natural disasters. Take your pick - all of these things are dramatic and unpredictable, but also commonplace enough that they're safe predictions to make.

5.) More prophecies = More hits - Also called the shotgun approach, the strategy here is to make as many predictions as possible, because if you put enough of them out there surely some of them are going to seem correct.

For a cool, readable discussion about these rules and few others in the context of Nostradamus, the king of huckster pseudo-prophets, I strongly recommend The Mask of Nostradamus by James Randi. Also worth checking out is Randi's ever-growing list of end of the world prophecies that failed.

*This was Browne's excuse for failing to predict the September 11th attacks, even though she was on Larry King Live just a week before the attacks.


Garret G said...

I predict that a shifting of presidency in the United States in 2009- someone other than Bush will be president. Also, on that day, I will urinate more than 5 times.
I am a very practical prophet.

Jay said...

I predict that I'm about to have another beer.

Garret - have you shown up at IIDB yet? I haven't seen any new folks that I recognize as you...

Skippy - get you skeptical butt into some discussions over there!

Garret G said...

Hi Jak-
No, I have only been a spectator there so far. As you can tell, I generally don't have anything valuable to say....
what do you call yourself there again?

Jay said...

I'm NinJay over there. Most of the regulars there have a fairly good idea of who I am.