Friday, July 18, 2008

Prophetic Blues

There seems to be an e-mail circulating around the local webgroups about some earthquake that's supposed to hit the Philippines on July 18. (Hey... that's today, isn't it?) It's purportedly been predicted by a Brazilian psychic named Jucelino Nobrega da Luz, right down to the intensity 8.1 measure.

As much as I'd like to post the transcript of the e-mail here, I don't have it. Maybe my mailing lists were sophisticated enough to take it from a rational point of view. Maybe word has gotten out that I don't like getting forwarded mail. Whatever the case, I can't denounce anything that doesn't exist in my book.

Instead, I'll note an interesting little web site that was brought to my attention by the esteemed Speaketh-ed Geeketh, one that contains a translated version of all of da Luz's predictions for 2008. That way, you can believe or disbelieve it as you will.. even if over half the year has passed without so much as ten percent of his predictions coming true. It's an interesting exercise in cold-reading and misdirection, although the stranger ones (such as an infestation of spiders in Brazil) imply that he can be creative at times.

What I find interesting about this particular "prediction" is that it has apparently made it to the news. I arrived home close to midnight tonight and turned on the TV to find a couple of stations featuring the ubiquitous e-mail. That, I suppose, proves one thing -- today was a very slow news day.

I've denounced similar "predictions" before, of course. One of them, in fact, made it to this blog a couple of years ago. My attitude towards them before was just as surly as my attitude towards them right now.

What surprises me, however, is the number of people who have raised their opinions in disbelief. The reason why I don't have an e-mail to show you right now is that I can't find one. Nothing has shown up for me in Google so far, for instance. All I can see is a few news articles on da Luz (including one that points him out as a fraud on Japanese television), plus a couple of blogs that have also voiced their skeptical opinions.

And that's interesting, because it implies that we're getting more mature when it comes to technology. We're no longer taking anonymous e-mails at face value. We're not exactly falling into the trap of mass hysteria. We're no longer getting taken in by just any statement that appears on our cellphones, or computer screens, or television sets.

Oh, there's still quite a bit of naiveté out there, but I find this to be a good sign more often than not. We've got more important things to worry about, after all, than some spurious self-aggrandizing "prophecy" written by a man who doesn't even have much of a batting average.


Dominique said...

To the esteemed "prophet" Jucelino Nobrega da Luz, a song from Elton John:

Don't you know I'm still standing better than I ever did

Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

I'm still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

Sean said...

Dominique: The last time something like this came around, I cited 1 Kings 18, verse 27:

It came about at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened."

I mean not to disparage God, of course, but whatever force it is that causes people to make these spurious "revelations".