Sunday, May 22, 2005

On Fortune Tellers

In a recent discussion about psychic phenomena, I was asked by a non-Christian friend about fortune telling. I told him that I could get a higher percentage of predictions picking weekly winners in the NFL than any psychic he could name. He agreed that was a probability if I were matched against most people who claim to be psychic but then he asked, “Denny; what about the real deal though? What do you think about someone who really can read the future, someone like Jeanne Dixon?”

“Well,” I countered, “Jeanne Dixon was certainly the most famous of my generation’s celebrity seers but it was all hype. Jeanne Dixon couldn't tell the future better than anyone else. Check her record. She was a mere fortune-guesser...and not a particularly good one at that.”

My friend seemed skeptical. "How then did she become famous?"

I replied, "How did Tiny Tim become famous? Because he was talented? Of course not. Johnny Carson, the National Enquirer and the rest of the media make people celebrities for all kinds of goofy reasons. But in Jeanne Dixon's case, I can assure you, she didn't earn her star status. She simply gave away a huge amount of predictions and then conveniently remembered only the 18% or so that could be interpreted as 'coming true.'"

"No kidding?" my friend asked.

I gave him a few examples. “When Mrs. Dixon just started to cash in on the popularity of horoscopes and fortune-telling in the early 50's, she made a pretty famous prediction. She said that World War III was going to begin in 1954. That error cooled her jets until the tabloids of the 60's were looking for wild attractions and they hauled Dixon out again. She promptly assured Americans that the Vietnam conflict would be over by 1966. She was only nine years off, poor thing. Must have been a short in her crystal ball."

"Then there was her prediction that Fidel Castro would be overthrown and tossed out of Cuba in disgrace before the year 1970 was out. Fortunately nobody took that one to their bookie. And how about her confident assertion that Russia would be the first nation to put men on the moon?"

"But hey. I can't forget my favorite," I finally added. "On October 19th, 1968, Mrs. Dixon predicted that the last thing on Jackie Kennedy’s mind was any possibility of remarriage. But the very next day, headlines announced to the world the union of Jackie and Aristotle Onassis.”

No, I assured my friend, I would feel no undue pressure from a prediction contest with even a "pro psychic" like Jeanne Dixon. "We would all be in the guessing game together. The fact is that there is only one source of accurate, dependable information about the future..."

“I know, I know,” my friend said laughingly. “Forget the psychic hotlines and read the Bible instead.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.