Attempting to predict the future has become a popular pastime in religious circles. Christians everywhere seem to be absorbed in the prophetic aspects of Scripture. This is both good and bad: Christians certainly ought to be concerned about the Second Advent of Jesus Christ, but some spread ideas for which there is no biblical warrant.

This heightened interest in predictions comes at a time when intelligent foretellers working in other than religious fields are smarting from their failures. Old-timers will remember Drew Pearson’s radio broadcasts, which included “predictions of things to come; predictions that have proved to be 82 per cent accurate.” In our highly complex world, eighty-two per cent accuracy now appears to be an impossible dream.

The predictions made by astronomers last year about Comet Kohoutek are a current case in point: what was supposed to be a dazzling sky spectacle fizzled, and whatever the technical explanations, the highly touted event was a prognosticator’s flop.

Walter Heller, president of the American Economic Association, said recently: “Economists are distinctly in a period of re-examination. The energy crisis caught us with our parameters down. The food crisis caught us, too. This was a year of infamy in inflation forecasting. There are many things we really just don’t know.” A few years ago John Kenneth Galbraith, writing in The Affluent Society, castigated the “conventional wisdom” of the economists, which he said was often wrong. The trouble was that his unconventional wisdom isn’t much better. But at least he helped to make people aware that economics is not the science it was thought to be; the margin of error is large.

Physicists ...

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