Psychics Unreliable, Future Uncertain
(Investigator 173, 2017 March)
In every age and culture some people have claimed that foreknowledge of
future events can be obtained through various methods of divination,
which are independent of induction or deduction from known facts.
Indeed, an entire encyclopaedia could be written on prophets,
fortune-tellers, psychics and the methods they employ in their quest to
penetrate the veil of futurity. However, as this is far beyond the
scope of this article, I shall confine the investigation to a general
examination of these claims.
Firstly, an examination of some assumptions that appear to underlie the
belief that future events are accessible to us shall be undertaken.
Secondly, a list of strategies many psychics employ to increase their
chances of a successful prediction will be outlined. This shall then be
followed by an examination of the predictions made by a number of
psychics and, finally, the conclusions based on the available evidence
shall be given.
Causality, Space-time and Mind
In order for the future to be known with certainty, it seems necessary
that all prospective events must exist in the same sense that London,
Rome and Paris exist. However, whereas these cities are separated from
each other by space, past, present and future events are separated from
each other by time. Moreover, the future, in order to be known, must
cast shadows of itself into the past, thereby creating omens and
portents by which it can be discerned.
The problem with this idea is that: Firstly, time and causality flow
from the past to the future — past causes give rise to present events
which, in turn, become the cause of future events. Given that this is
so, future events can't exist until those causes set in motion all the
agents that will eventually give rise to them. For example, ten years
ago all those factors that eventually gave rise to this article did not
exist and, in view of this fact, how could any person at that point in
time know anything about something (this article) that didn't exist?
Secondly, to say that all events exist simultaneously, but are
separated by time makes no sense for, in my opinion, time is not a
thing-in-itself; rather, it arises from the order in which events occur
and the way we perceive the flux of existence. It seems to me that if
we believe time is a distinct entity, then we are probably committing
the error of reification by making abstractions into substances.
Thirdly, even if future events pre-exist, how could they project some
aspect of their existence into the past in the form of omens? In order
to do so, each event must emit some form of radiation carrying an
imprint of its nature. However, there is no evidence that this is even
theoretically possible, let alone that it actually happens.
Furthermore, how does this hypothetical radiation manifest itself as
abstract signs (omens) that correspond to what will actually occur?
Alternatively, believers may claim it is the mind that penetrates the
time-barrier and perceives future events, and can do so because it is a
non-physical entity that transcends the limitations of the natural
The problem with this assumption is that mind is not an entity; rather,
it is a process which arises from brain activity. Therefore, mind can
no more transcend nature than any other biological function as all such
processes owe their existence to organic structures whose attributes
are circumscribed by their material nature.
Believers may also attempt to defend their ideas by reference to
physics — specifically, the special and general theories of relativity
that were formulated by Einstein, in which time and space are treated
as mathematically equivalent and become a single four-dimensional
entity called space-time; and in addition the works of the famous
mathematician, Kurt Godel, who showed that time travel is possible
within the context of Einstein's theory of general relativity.
However, a universe in which this could occur would need to be rather
different from our own — the cosmos would have to be spinning
uniformly, rather than expanding (as ours is). In this hypothetical
universe one could, in principal, travel backwards in time by
travelling through space in a large circle. Time travel
may also be possible if wormholes exist (a wormhole is a hypothetical
tunnel in the fabric of space-time). However:
"The creation of a
traversable wormhole requires the existence of a peculiar form of
matter which acts as if it has negative mass. It may be, therefore,
that while a wormhole is compatible with Einstein's theory of
space-time, it is not compatible with the properties of matter." (The
Icon Critical Dictionary of the New Cosmology, page 362)
It is probably fair to say that the question of time travel will remain
unresolved until a theory of quantum gravity is fully developed. Be
this as it may, it is clear that we do not live in Godel's universe,
nor have wormholes been observed within the vicinity of Earth, and so
this appears to rule out psychics gaining knowledge of future events by
Finally, the whole idea of being able to know the future raises a
number of paradoxes: If a person is advised that they will die in a
traffic accident at a particular time and place, and they avoid that
time and place, then this event will never occur. The paradox here is
how an event that doesn't take place (the death of a person) can be
foreseen when it doesn't take place.
Believers may claim that the future is not fixed — rather, it is a
dimension of all possible worlds, with the most probable world being
determined by actions in the present. This may be true, however, if
this is so then I think it negates any claim to the certainty of any
prediction, for how could we know which of this infinity of worlds will
manifest itself in actuality? In addition, merely knowing the future
may set up perturbations in the chain of causality and thereby render a
clear view of the future impossible — the more one seeks to know about
a future event the greater the perturbations and therefore the greater
the uncertainty as to what will actually occur.
Secrets of the Trade
Proponents of the paranormal may claim that although the mechanisms of
divination remain unknown, they nevertheless work, and cite various
cases that appear to support their view.
Accordingly, I shall now investigate this claim. However, as it is
beyond the scope of this article to examine every prediction that has
been uttered by every psychic that has lived, I shall confine myself to
an examination of a small number who have been considered exponents of
Before I begin it may be helpful if I disclose some of the secrets of
the psychic trade relating to predictions:
(1) Generally speaking, psychic predictions are couched in vague terms
and generalities. This increases the likelihood that any future event
can be fitted into the original prediction.
(2) There is an emphasis on predicting natural disasters,
assassinations and social and political turmoil — events that are
likely to occur in any given year. Indeed, upon close examination, many
of these predictions appear to be extrapolations based on facts known
at the time of the prediction, and if enough of these predictions are
made, some may come true purely by coincidence.
(3) When making predictions relating to individuals, insider
information is often used — for example, the Blue Book which is:
"A privately published,
regularly updated directory of names and pertinent information about
potential sitters, secretly subscribed to by spiritualist mediums...
The data is submitted free or sold to the publishers by practicing
mediums who obtain it from each other and from important and wealthy
clients." (J. Randi: The Supernatural A - Z. The Truth and the Lies, Page 47)
(4) These apparent displays of psychic power are then given great
publicity, while the numerous failures are ignored or rationalised;
thus creating the illusion that the psychic is far more accurate than
what he or she actually is.
I shall now proceed to examine the accuracy of some allegedly
"world-famous" psychics whose predictions for the 1970s appear on pages
119-122 of ESP and the Clairvoyants,
the blurb on the front cover of which reads "Jeane Dixon, Maurice
Woodruff, Daniel Logan, and other world-famous clairvoyants make
startling predictions!" I have chosen these particular prognostications
because over 40 years have passed — ample time for them to have
occurred. These predictions are quoted in italics, and are followed by
my comments on them.
Jean Dixon's Predictions
• There will be great wars in the
near future involving our country. The war in Vietnam is small in
comparison to what I see building up in other parts of the world.
Wrong. The Vietnam War was the only major military operation the US was
involved in during the 1970s (remember, she said the near future).
• As for world peace, I have had a
recurring vision that it will come as a result of an alliance between
England, France, Germany, the United States and Russia.
World peace did not eventuate in the 1970s and, considering the number
of bloody conflicts in progress around the globe; I think it is fair to
say that this goal is still a long way off. Another failed prediction.
• Within the following decade the
two-party system will vanish from the American scene.
Wrong again. The Democrats and the Republicans remain the two major
political parties in the U.S.
• Something literally earth
shattering — a natural phenomenon — will happen to our planet in this
century. I believe it will be divine intervention, perhaps a meteor,
and it will involve the shifting of the waters on earth.
We are now in the 21st century and no sign of any global cataclysm,
natural or otherwise has materialised. Another failed prediction.
It is claimed that Ms Dixon uses vibratory impressions and astrology to
divine future events, however, as her score is zero out of four, it
appears that this method is less than adequate.
Daniel Logan's Predictions
• I foresee a depression in the
Wrong. There was a world recession (1974-76), however, no depression
occurred during this decade.
• The USA will be involved in
Southern Asia for many more years.
US support troops arrived in Vietnam in 1961. The Vietnam War ended in
1975. The US, however, had completed its withdrawal by 1973, handing
responsibility for the war to the A.R.V.N. (the Army of the Republic of
Vietnam). As with most psychic predictions this prognostication has
considerable wriggle room; but as it appears to refer to the Vietnam
War (of most concern to Americans at the time this prediction) it can
be considered false.
• There will never be another
Kennedy in the White House. If Ted tries for the Presidency, he, too,
There are two predictions in this statement: (1) Some members of the
Kennedy family are still alive, so the possibility that one may run for
the Presidency can't be ruled out. (2) Ted Kennedy ran unsuccessfully
for the Presidency in 1980, and did not die as a result. The score is
one unconfirmed and one wrong.
• There will be a cancer cure on the
market by 1975.
If only. The problem is that there are many different types of cancer,
with different cancers caused by different factors. Each requires a
specific treatment that may not be effective against other forms of the
disease. Although treatments for the disease have improved, we are
still a long way from a universal remedy such as the prediction implies.
• Jackie Kennedy [Onassis] will be
divorced by 1971. She will have three husbands and three children.
There are three predictions, all of which are wrong. Jackie Onassis
died in 1994. Aristotle, whom she married in 1968, was her second and
last husband (she was still married to him when he died in 1975}. She
had 3 children — Patrick, born in 1963 was her last child and
tragically died due to complications of being born premature.
• The United States and Russia will
become allied in 1970 to combat the great threat — China.
Another failed prediction.
• A third world war is likely by the
Fortunately, this event did not take place. Failure again.
• Man will communicate with beings
from other planets before the year 2000. Flying saucers (UFO's) are
indeed a reality ... though no one on earth has yet had contact with a
being from outer space.
Despite many years of research, there is neither proof that UFOs are
extraterrestrial in nature, nor sound evidence that anyone has been in
communication with alien beings. In the light of these facts and
considering that we have passed beyond 2000 AD, this prediction has
• Major destructions of sections of
the east coast (by inundation) and of the west coast by earthquakes
within the next 25 to 30 years.
There are two predictions here: The usual disaster scenarios, along
with the usual failure of the events to materialise.
• A new movement of youth seeking
higher values through spiritual means will begin. This will signal the
start of the "New Age" predicted by psychics for hundreds of years.
This is an extrapolation based on the social trends of the 1960s. The
claim that this has been "predicted by psychics for hundreds of years"
has not been substantiated. I will award one point, even though this
movement started well before Logan's prediction.
Mr Logan claims his ability to foresee future events comes from rapport
with a higher power. However, of the fourteen predictions made, twelve
were wrong, one unconfirmed and one right. A better line of
communication is obviously required.
Maurice Woodruff's Predictions
• There will be an earthquake on the
west coast. This could be the start of the sea taking over some land.
No major earthquake occurred in the United States during the 1970s.
Another failed prediction.
• Power failures will occur in the
United States, causing alarm. These will be thought accidental at first
— but this will be proven wrong.
Failed again. There were no wide scale power failures in the US during
the 1970s. This prophecy may be based on a blackout that occurred in
the US during November 1965 that stretched from Ontario to
Pennsylvania, and affected 1/6th of the nation's population. Indeed,
one newspaper (International Herald Tribune) described it as "the
greatest electrical power failure in history."
• The dollar bill will be redesigned.
A redesigned US two dollar Federal Reserve note was issued in 1976.
However, as this was not the one-dollar bill, no points can be awarded.
• Nixon will establish more amicable
relations between America and France than exist at the moment.
Nixon was successful in establishing better relations with the Soviet
Union and China. Unfortunately, I have been unable to either confirm or
refute the prediction relating to France.
• British Prime Minister Harold
Wilson will go.
Wilson imposed a range of unpopular measures to solve Britain's chronic
adverse payments balance. Consequently, there was a fair chance that
his government would lose the general elections of June 1970 (which is
what happened). Woodruff had at least a 50% chance of being correct.
One point can be awarded.
• Italy: A new "strong man" will
appear on the scene. He will be idolized by the Itolions and hailed as
a new Mussolini — but a benevolent one.
No dictator, benevolent or otherwise, emerged in Italy during the
1970s. Indeed, no Italian politician to date can be considered
comparable to Mussolini. No points can be awarded.
• China will put a satellite in orbit.
China launched its first satellite on the 24th April 1970 from the
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. Is the accuracy of this prediction due
to psychic powers? The answer is probably not. China's space program
existed well before the 1970s, and would have been monitored by the
West because of potential military applications.
From the data obtained, specialists would have been able to predict the
most likely decade in which a successful launch would occur. The
possibility that Mr. Woodruff based his prediction on such information
cannot be ruled out. I will, however, award one point.
• The Canadian dollar will become
very important in world economy.
Wrong. During the 1970s the five main currencies of importance in the
West were the American dollar, the German mark, the Japanese yen, the
French franc and the British pound.
• Nasser will be deposed.
Nasser died in office (1970). A more significant event in the Middle
East during the 1970s was the outbreak of full-scale war between Israel
and Egypt in October 1973. Another failed prediction.
• Princess Grace will have no more
children but she will make another film — a very good one.
There are three predictions contained within this statement:
(1) Considering that princess Grace of Monaco would have been 42 in
1970, the assumption that she would not have any more children is
fairly sound and does not require psychic powers.
(2) Princess Grace made a number of screen appearances after her
marriage and prior to 1970: The Wedding in Monaco (1956) and A Look at
Monaco (1963). Considering it was known that Princess Grace maintained
an interest in acting and filmmaking, there was always a good chance
that she would continue to appear in films. (3) That the film she
appeared in would be very good.
Those films she appeared in during the 1970s and after were:
The Children of Theatre Street
(one of the five nominees for Best Documentary Films for 1977),
The Story of Princess Grace ... Once
Upon a Time is Now (1977) and Rearranged
None of these films can accurately be described as "very good" — The Children of Theatre Street did
not win any awards, and Rearranged
has been described as a "pretty, innocent banal affair" (S. Bradford: Princess Grace, page 211).
Consequently, only two points can be awarded.
Mr Woodruff uses crystal balls and tarot cards to divine the future.
However, of his twelve predictions seven were wrong, four correct and
one unconfirmed. Even if the unconfirmed prediction is correct, his
score would only be five correct predictions. Crystal balls and tarot
cards do not appear to be a reliable method of forecasting future
Irene Hughe's Predictions
• Major News of a cancer
preventative widespread by June, 1970.
Unfortunately, this medical breakthrough failed to materialise.
• Germany: Government will change
drastically by 1971. In less than 25 years she will be on the march!
There are two predictions contained in this statement: (1) There were
no dramatic changes to the German political system — Waiter Ulbricht,
leader of the German Democratic Republic, retired in May 1971, and was
succeeded by Herr Honecker. (2) More than 25 years have passed, and a
militaristic German state has not appeared. No points can be awarded.
• Tidal waves will hit our [US]
western coastline. Earthquakes will hit there and in the east — New York.
There are three predictions contained in this statement, none of which
eventuated. Failed again.
• 1970 will be a year of
assassination of certain important men in Egypt and Cuba. In China, the
death of an outstanding leader will occur.
Three more failed predictions. No important Egyptians were
assassinated. As for Cuba: Castro died of natural causes in November
2016. China: Mao Tse-tung was the only outstanding leader, and he died
in 1976, not 1970.
• Lowered hemlines and high heels
will return! The basic dress will come back also. Jewelled clothing and
frills will continue until 1975.
There are five predictions contained in this statement, only three of
which are correct: Classic skirts (cut just above the knee) and high
heels made a comeback. However, considering the general shortness of
skirts in the sixties, there was only one practical direction that
hemlines could go — namely, down. Indeed, during 1967-68 hemlines were
almost to the ground, perhaps giving a hint of what was to come.
A similar situation applied to women's shoes — low heels replaced high
heels. These trends are often of a cyclical nature — what is out of
fashion comes back into fashion: The stiletto heel of the 1950s was
replaced by low heels, and then in the 1970s low heels were replaced by
high ones. When these facts are considered, Ms Hughe's correct
predictions are more likely the result of an educated guess rather than
a display of psychic powers.
• Methods of preventing brain
tumours and amazing new discoveries concerning the workings of the
brain will appear very soon.
There are two predictions contained in this statement. (1)
Unfortunately, we still have not discovered a way of preventing brain
tumours, so this prophecy can be considered false.
(2) Concerning new discoveries relating to the brain: As research in
this field is an ongoing enterprise it is obvious that our knowledge of
the brain will increase. Unfortunately the use of terms such as
"amazing" and "soon" to describe these findings is somewhat subjective.
In my opinion, of the two predictions made, only one came true:
In 1974 it was discovered that peptides produced by the body could act
on the brain's opiate receptors. A related discovery was also made in
1975. The accuracy of Ms. Hughe's prediction is more likely the result
of an educated guess than a manifestation of psychic powers.
• Within 25 years, a divorce will be
available to any couple willing to go before a judge and state a desire
for it. Marriage laws will be made more stringent in order to prevent
There are two predictions. (1) Most US states now offer a "no fault"
divorce on grounds of simple incompatibility. The need for reform,
however, was recognised at the time of this prediction — existing laws
led divorcing couples and their lawyers to invent facts that would
satisfy the legal requirements for divorce and any law that encourages
collusion and perjury is in need of revision. (2) Laws relating to
marriage, however, have not been made more stringent. The correct
prediction is more likely the result of natural reasoning abilities
based on known facts, rather than psychic powers. I will, however,
award one point.
Ms Hughe claims to obtain her knowledge of future events through
meditation-induced visions. However, as only five of her eighteen
predictions were correct, this method does not appear reliable.
Clifford Royse's Predictions
• Huntley and Brinkley will break up
their long-standing news team.
Chester Robert Huntley and David McClure Brinkley were U.S. broadcast
journalists who anchored NBC's nightly news program from 1956 to 1970.
It is highly unlikely that the decision to end such a long-standing and
successful partnership would have been made overnight, and it is
possible information about the matter may have come to the attention of
Mr Royse in advance of a public announcement. I will, however, award
• 1975 - World War Ill! Russia and
the US against China.
We can all be grateful that this prediction was wrong.
• 1980 — First black Vice-president
of us. He will be the present mayor of Cleveland, Carl B. Stokes.
Jimmy Carter was President of the US from 1977-1981, Walter Mondale was
the Vice-president and of European ancestry.
• A single leader will emerge in
Russia soon, ending the dual leadership that presently exists.
Khruschev was deposed in 1964, and Brezhnev became the new general
secretary of the Communist Party, and remained so until his death in
November 1982. The references on history I have consulted clearly refer
to Brezhnev as the leader of the Soviet Union. No reference was made to
any dual leadership. No points can be awarded.
Mr Royse's score is only one out of four. The deep trances he employs
do not appear to be an effective method of forecasting future events.
Significant Events of the 1970s
In my opinion what is significant about the aforementioned psychics'
predictions is not what they got right, but rather what they missed
Below is a list of some major events that should have caused
significant perturbations in the Psychic Ether (to coin a term) and
therefore should have been perceptible to these allegedly world famous
• Four students at Kent State University in Ohio
slain by National Guardsmen at demonstration protesting US incursion
• Beatles group disbands
• Apollo Moon Mission aborted due to onboard explosion
• The first commercially available microprocessor,
the 4004, is released by Intel
• A military junta led by Major General Idi Amin
seizes power in Uganda
• Terrorist attack at Olympic games Munich
• Bangladesh becomes independent from Pakistan
• Spiro Agnew becomes the first U.S. vice president
to resign in disgrace
• The United States Supreme Court declares that
abortion is a constitutional right in the landmark decision on the Roe
v. Wade case
• Halie Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia, deposed
• President Nixon resigns due to Watergate scandal
• India becomes the sixth nuclear power when it
successfully detonates a nuclear bomb
• Civil War in Lebanon
• Two Assassination Attempts Against U.S. President
Gerald Ford (Sept 5 & Sept 22)
• The Vietnam War ends
• North and South Vietnam join to form the Socialist
Republic of Vietnam
• Tangshan earthquake kills over 240,000
• The Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter defeats
Republican incumbent Gerald Ford to win the U.S. presidential race
• Elvis found dead
• Amnesty International wins the Nobel Peace Prize
• Pope Paul VI dies and is replaced by Pope John Paul
I who also dies this year and is replaced by Pope John Paul II
• Jonestown Massacre
• Ayatollah Khomeini returns as leader of Iran
• Iran takes American hostages in Tehran
• Margaret Thatcher first woman prime minister of
• Mother Teresa awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
• Nuclear accident at Three Mile Island
There is no solid theoretical foundation or sound empirical evidence
that support claims psychic powers exist and can give people access to
knowledge of future events.
From an examination of the predictions made for the decade of the 1970s
it is certain that many prognostications were clearly wrong. Moreover,
many significant events during this decade were missed entirely.
Furthermore, when psychics do make accurate predict-tions, the lack of
a solid theoretical foundation for psychic powers suggests their
success is due to the application of inductive and deductive reasoning
rather than the use of paranormal abilities.
For example, natural disasters are unpredictable — no one can be sure
exactly when and where they will strike, and so it is not surprising
that the psychics were total failures in this area of prognostication.
On the other hand, one psychic was accurate when it came to predicting
election results (and considering there were only two possible outcomes
the chances of success was fairly high), while others showed limited
accuracy concerning the actions of famous people and the direction of
The most likely explanation for their success in these areas is that
information was available at the time of the prediction that helped
them formulate an educated guess as to the course of events. The
situation can be summarised as follows:
The case for predicting future events through the use of psychic powers
remains unproven, and even if psychic powers do exist the predictions
engendered by them are of a too vague and unreliable nature to be of
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