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Writer's Block: Prophecy or Fallacy?

Happy birthday, Nostradamus. Many people consider the prophecies of Nostradamus to be uncannily accurate, while others remain skeptical. Do you think it's possible to predict the future?


Yeah, talk to any science fiction writer. We extrapolate and predict the future all the time. Sometimes reading about science fiction authors, I get the impression most people expect us to be Nostradamus and the speculations we write up to be accurate all the time.

What we really set out to do is write a good story that could happen. Sometimes it's based on an idea that delights engineers too, and then some of them go ahead and make it real. Thus you get Arthur C. Clarke publishing stories about communications satellites that are eerily accurate in how they describe what benefits they'd bring people... because he talked to the sonar people who were kicking around the idea to see if it was feasible.

What I wonder about is why the idea of prophecy and destiny is so appealing to people -- especially prophecy that gives a date and sequence of events to some mythical disaster. Revelations may be one of the most popular things in Christian scripture -- and a lot of people take it literally. Scholars look at it and find loads of esoteric symbology, a mythical journey through ancient Hebrew magic. But tabloids take it as literal and consistently predict it's going to be next year.

What makes the idea of the End of the World sound so good compared to life going on? What makes the gullible happier if it's always "next year all the bad things ever predicted are going to happen all at once?"

This is an ugly, scary thing in Western culture that's bugged me for a long time. Nostradamus has contributed to it in a big way and probably left other, more valuable writings in philosophy or other things that get ignored compared to the lurid prophecies. Is it just that there's a kick when the fated date passes and the prophecy is proved wrong?

What I really want to know is why that appeals to people at all.
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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
nerwengreen
Dec. 14th, 2008 05:09 pm (UTC)
Because they want to get to Heaven of course. ;) Where everything is all better and perfect and nice, unlike this horrible place that we're in while alive. :p

I don't understand how anyone can live like that either.
robertsloan2
Dec. 14th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's frightening at times. Especially if their ideas of nice and perfect meant that people like me and most of the people I've ever cared about never existed or are off conveniently somewhere else being tortured. There usually seems to be a sadistic streak of gloating over anyone who didn't Believe in the Prophecy being tortured endlessly in hell for skepticism.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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