Predicting the future

There are those who believe that the future is unpredictable, and there are those who spend huge amounts of money consulting fortune tellers, astrologers, palm readers, tea-leaves readers, horoscopes, among others, only to find out what will happen to them in the near future.

Either of them are mistaken. You can predict the future, (you’d be in deep trouble if you weren’t able to), and these predictions are usually for free.

Consider: one of our main survival tools is precisely the ability to foresee the future. If I weren’t able to predict what would happen to me if I’d cross a highway, blindfolded, at the rush hour, my chance of survival would become drastically small. The option not to do it isn’t the result of my horoscope’s advice, nor of my acquiring an astrologic chart, but of a logical prediction based on data gathered from my daily experience. I don’t even need to be very intelligent to reach this conclusion, it suffices to remember what my parents taught me when I was a child. This is, of course, another of our inbred skills: to learn from others and not exclusively from personal experience, (which, concerning the highway, wouldn’t say much in favour of the species anyway.)

Now let’s consider the less obvious and more mundane. If my cousin, who lives in Switzerland, and I agree to meet in Paris at day X, in the hotel Y, at Z o’clock, both of us must be able to predict several things, or else we’ll never meet again: we’ll have to predict our holidays, our financial possibilities, the most adequate means of transportation, its schedule, the route from home to the airport, the weather, (if I live in Brazil my Summer clothes won’t probably be ideal for Paris in Winter), etc., etc., etc. Considering I have an average income, my budget for this trip will be somewhat tight, but, if everything works as predicted, perfectly viable.

Now let’s suppose I would pay an astrologer to make these predictions for me. Apart from making my trip more expensive, do you really believe that an astrologic chart could give me more precise information about my future trip than my bank account, the hotels’ and travel agencies’ price lists, the schedules of the buses and airlines and the weather forecast?

We predict the future daily, constantly, from the smallest decisions, like what am I going to buy for dinner, to nation-wide decisions like putting more police on the roads during the Christmas holidays. In this last case, the prediction was done by a science called statistics, which unfortunately is seldom wrong when foreseeing more road accidents during national festivities. The day any politician has the bright idea to cast the runes in order to decide whether it’s worth preparing the hospitals for a high percentage of urgencies at these times, I’ll move to another planet.

There are, of course, people who still play the lottery, expecting to win, while driving their car every day, expecting not to have an accident, though, statistically speaking, the probability of suffering a car crash is much bigger than being the sole lottery winner. Perhaps they are following some astrologer’s advice…

Karin Krippahl


All the material of the authorship of the Associação Cépticos de Portugal is public domain and can be used freely for non-profit purposes. Please refer CEPO as a source if using this material.