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Who’s Watching the Soothsayers?

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For decades, the National Enquirer and other tabloids have published predictions about famous people and events. Few people ever go back to check on their accuracy. Here are a few from 1996:

  • Jay Leno will lose his Tonight Show job to Johnny Carson.
  • O. J. Simpson will become a minister after confessing during testimony in a civil suit that he killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
  • Good Morning America hostess Joan Lunden will become engaged to Shaquille O’Neal.
  • O. J. attorney Johnnie Cochran will be hailed as "the new Bill Cosby" when he plays a defense attorney in a TV comedy that becomes "a smash" hit.
  • Barbara Walters will be kidnapped by Middle East terrorists, "but will be freed after ABC agrees to let the terrorists air their views on a three-hour broadcast hosted by Barbara."

Jeane Dixon, astrologer and alleged "psychic," became famous when she supposedly predicted that John F. Kennedy would be assassinated sometime during either his first or second term of office. It was in 1952 that Dixon claimed that "As for the 1960 election Mrs. Dixon thinks it will be dominated by labor and won by a Democrat. But he will be assassinated or die in office ‘though not necessarily in his first term.’" Dixon’s prophecy was repeated "to investigative reporter Jack Anderson, who published it in Parade magazine" in the May 13, 1956 issue.[1] She didn’t name anybody in particular but simply said it was going to be a Democrat. That’s a 50/50 chance, since the two-party system in the United States almost guarantees that the president is going to be a Democrat or a Republican. This was hardly a prescient prediction for someone who came to be known as the queen of prognostication.[2]Like any good counterfeit prophet, Dixon did some research and played the odds. "[S]he merely employed the well-known 20-year cycle that every president elected in an even decade year since 1840 died in office."[3] The 1934 edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not includes a chart that shows the so-called twenty-year presidential curse. Beginning with William Henry Harrison in 1840, every president elected every twenty years since 1840 had died in office: Abraham Lincoln in 1860, James Garfield in 1880, William McKinley in 1900, Warren G. Harding in 1920, and of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.[4] Based upon this historical curiosity, a person could postulate that the same thing was going to happen to whoever was elected president in 1960. Ronald Reagan broke the cycle in 1980, although there was an attempt on his life.

People believe or remember only those things that the "prophet" gets right. They don’t normally go back to check what predictions failed to come to pass. Dixon was wrong more times than she was right. "Among her failed predictions: a world war started by Red China in 1958; Russia to be the first to put a man on the moon and a stunning wave of suicides in the U.S. She also stated repeatedly that President Nixon had ‘excellent vibes’ and would be remembered as one of the great modern presidents."[5]

Dixon claimed to have received a divine vision on February 5, 1962, about a coming world religious-political ruler: "A child, born somewhere in the Middle East shortly before 7 A.M. (EST) on February 5, 1962, will revolutionize the world. Before the close of the century [the 20th century] he will bring together all mankind in one all-embracing faith. This will be the foundation of a new Christianity, with every sect and creed united through this man who will walk among the people to spread the wisdom of the Almighty Power. . . . Mrs. Dixon claims that this man’s influence will be felt in the early 1980s and that by 1999, the ecumenical religion will be achieved."[6] In addition to getting this one very wrong, she also failed to predict her death in 1997.

The soothsayers are still with us. The Global Warming cranks kick against the evidence and make up some of their own to make predictions that have no basis in scientific reality. If there weren’t government grants and jobs on the line, these same scientists would find some new global crisis to fight. Soothsaying atheists predict that a religion-free world will bring "world peace." These irrationalists, who can’t believe in an uncaused cause (God) but do believe in an uncaused effect (the cosmos), attempt manufacture elements of a worldview ("give peace a chance") that can’t be explained unless God is first assumed. These materialistic soothsayers don’t want to discuss how a century of atheism brought about the deaths of a 100 million or more people through war, genocide, race purity, or just because. Stalin is still highly regarded today. Liberal soothsayers believe that legislation can overturn economic laws and, given enough power, government can save us. Then there are the Christians who believe in the fiction that public schools are and should be redeemable (see here). I don’t need to mention the prophetic soothsayers who will claim that recent events in Israel are self-evident signs that the rapture is near. Jeane Dixon fooled a lot of people, but her progeny are alive and well and ruining our world.

Endnotes:

[1] David Wellechinsky, Amy Wallace, and Irving Wallace, The People’s Almanac Presents the Book of Predictions (New York: William Morrow, 1980), 392.
[2] There are some who claim that "she predicted clearly that John F. Kennedy would fail to win the presidency." Dozens of web sites repeat this claim but offer no original source documentation. No source is given for this claim in Terence Hines’ Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, 2nd ed. (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988, p. 71). Hines quotes H. Tyler, "The Unsinkable Jeane Dixon," Humanist 38 (3), 6-9. The same unattributed claim is made in Todd Carroll’s The Skeptic’s Dictionary (104). Since I don’t have a copy of Tyler’s article, I can’t determine whether he gives an original source for his claim. This is typical of so much of what passes as "scholarship" today. Cut-and-paste "research" is not much better than the predictions of Jeane Dixon.
[3] Bill Hendrick, "Believe it . . . or not," The Atlanta Constitution (January 5, 1998), D1.
[4] Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and reelected in 1936, 1940, and 1944, and so he fits the pattern because of his 1940 election. He died in 1945 before he could finish his fourth term.
[5] Wellechinsky, Wallace, and Wallace, The Book of Predictions, 394.
[6] Quoted in Robert Glenn Gromacki, Are These the Last Days? (Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Press, 1970), 90.

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