Fortune Tellers

By Ex-Christadelphian Joseph Strong - 1% theist, 5% Cider, 90% common sense

The following is an extract from a page at the International Cultic Studies Association please read the full item. My notes in italics, emphasis mine throughout.

Modern physics sheds much light on the possibility of prophecy. The structure of the physical laws that correctly describe fundamental processes of nature — processes at the sub-atomic level — is such as to rule out the existence of specific information about future events; if such information existed, the laws would have a totally different form than they do and would also not agree with experiment. Quantum phenomena involve chance at the most fundamental level; the precise outcome of a given process cannot be known until it happens. All that the laws of nature permit us to predetermine is the probability of each possible outcome. Of course, one such probability may in some cases be unity, in which case one can calculate the future position of an object with very great accuracy — as is the case with astronomical phenomena, such as eclipses. But in general, accurate knowledge of the future is completely ruled out by the structure of the physical laws that describe our universe. 

Elementary logic also tells us that there are other difficulties with the concept of accurate knowledge of future events. If a prediction of the future could be made detailed and accurate enough, it would automatically invalidate itself by its influence on the future it is supposed to foresee. For instance, if I know in advance that something specific is supposed to happen at a very specific spot accessible to me at a very specific time, I can easily take steps to insure that such an event could not possibly take place, by removing the conditions that make it possible. Again, being aware of a prediction, I could force it to “come true,” when otherwise it would not have happened. In other words, the causal link is from prophecy to event, not the other way around. In general, the existence of a known prediction influences the future it is supposed to “fix” in ways that are themselves inherently unpredictable, and thus actually increases rather than decreases the uncertainty and unpredictability of future events. This is the paradox of prophecy. 

Whenever you hear that someone claims to have made a “successful” prediction of any event of everyday life, you might profitably ask some of the following questions:
  1. Is there any evidence the prediction was made before the event? Or has a very vague and ambiguous prophecy suddenly been “reinterpreted” to refer very unmistakably to an otherwise unforeseen event? 
  2. What is the probability of the predicted event occurring? If it was 100% certain — plane crashes and earthquakes somewhere in the world, death of some show-business celebrity by drug overdose, assassination attempt against some public official somewhere — the “prophet” is playing with the net down! 
  3. What is the predictor’s rate of error for all predictions he has made? About 50% is not too impressive if all predictions are for events with only two possible outcomes! Don’t let the “prophet” keep his own score. If “prophecy” were possible and a valid procedure was carried out to obtain the prophecy, there is no excuse for less than 100% accuracy. 
  4. What is the physical connection between prediction and event? Remember that causality runs only one way. A prediction must by definition occur before the event it predicts, and thus is always a potential cause of or influence upon the event. Self-fulfilling prophecies are not too mysterious. (Nor are they uncommon.) 
  5. How does the prophet earn his living? Does it not seem strange that someone who can accurately foresee future events and can demonstrate this ability reliably is not making a fortune in the stock market or at horse races? The usual answer is that the “mystic power” cannot be used for selfish ends. If this is so, why is the prophet then not working full time for the United Nations, or the Weather Bureau, or some other government agency? Doesn’t it strike you as a bit odd that a person with such a wonderful, inexplicable, fantastic talent earns his living giving $50 private readings to customers whose questions and problems are generally purely selfish? Doesn’t it suggest something when one realizes that the prophet’s published predictions mainly serve the purpose of drumming up free publicity for himself, so as to bring in still more $50 bills? (fresh suckers to the Ecclesia)
It’s difficult to believe that any educated, intelligent person could take fortunetellers, seers, readers, and psychics (or Christadelphians)seriously. Yet readers say business is booming. Many people (Christadelphians) seem to have a desperate need to be reassured about their futures, and to have advice on personal problems of one kind or another. Where the personal problems are financial, legal, or medical, or where the fortuneteller callously dispenses warnings and predictions of disaster, just to revel in his power over the poor sucker who’s in his clutches, the consequences are often horrible to contemplate. Many people have lost their life savings or avoided medical treatment that could have prevented or postponed serious illness and even death, by following the careless, thoughtless, irresponsible, stupid, cruel, and cynical advice dispensed by some fortune teller, reader, seer, or psychic

Authors Amendment

Fortunately our contributor Anonycott correctly pointed out that on leaving Christadelphia, a part of the mind remains behind, lost forever to the nonsense that they peddle, like the chicken pox virus lying dormant in the body, caused occasionally to flare up as shingles, to remind one of the vile grip it once held over you.

The article was prompted by two things (neither of which was cider). Firstly I was reading up on cults for an upcoming article, and secondly, one of Ken Gilmore's blog posts from a few weeks ago.

Ken laments the “fact” that Young Earth Creationist thinking and teaching is, in his words, “a faith destroying delusion”, and discusses examples of faith destruction by it outside of the Christadelphians. He vaguely attempts to shift the blame to the uncritical acceptance  Seventh Day Adventist pseudoscience writings. What he doesn't state is why the SDA for whom YEC is a fundamental belief, has blossomed to 15 million+ members, despite it's faith destroying properties, but Christadelphians struggle to maintain 50,000 members, only doing so by coercing children in. What is not explained either is why the oh-so-clever Christadelphians have been conned into believing what Ken states as “lies” and inculcating it into successive generations by ignorant and rambling speaking brethren. 

Ignorant and Rambling. Lies. At the core of Christadelphian teaching. Susceptible to  the pseudoscience of another cult, itself spawned from the Millerite (great disappointment) cult, with whom John Thomas flirted.

So it is with prophecy, despite a never ending stream of failure, not just of Biblical prophecy, but Christadelphian interpretation of it, the Christadelphians are more than happy to hitch a ride with any crackpot attempt to whip up excitement. Hence the blood-moons-signs-of-the-times acceptance by the Christadelphians, yoking them with just about every publicity seeking loony sect in the world. Another exercise in faith destruction.


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