Healthy scepticism

This is a copy of an email I sent to a number of friends after receiving an email about some apparent quotes from Nostradamus related to the terrorist attacks in NYC. I think it demonstrates how often people are just willing to believe what they read, rather than investigate further for themselves. Given the abundance of reference material, views and counter-views on the Internet these days, it's usually fairly easy to do some searches and come up with some relevant information. After that, it's up to you to interpret it how you want to of course.

I received this quote today and decided that I'd pre-empt possible reactions if anybody else receives it.

> Subject: Fw: Quote from Nostradamus
> "In the City of God there will be a great thunder, Two
> brothers torn apart
> by Chaos, while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb" ,
> "The third big war will begin when the big city is burning" -
> Nostradamus
> 1654

Firsly, Nostradamus wasn't alive in 1654 (1503-1566), secondly, if you actually search his writings (called Quatrains), you won't find any of these anywhere. Try this site and search for: chaos, burning, war, fortress, brothers, twins. Nothing comes close to matching the above.

So the above look completely made up (or an example of the many translations possible). Despite the fact this appears to be a hoax, I have a bigger bone to pick on the whole issue.

I think Andrew Denton summed it up perfectly when he talked about the horrifying prophecies of "The Simpson Automatic Washing Machine Manual" written by the one they mysteriously call "The Mechanic". Given the segment was in the early 90's, the startling prophecies and revelations went something like this:

Bob Hawke's political style:
"When loaded, turn on taps"

Ben Johnsons drug test failure at the Olympics:
"Test clothes for colour fastness"

What about this chilling prochecy:
"When clothes stick to agitator, remove and restart cycle"

What's that mean, you interpret at will, but 'agitator' sounds pretty much like 'Saddam Hussein', and 'restart cycle' could be destroying and rebuilding civilisation!

The motto, you can interpret just about anything anyway you want, and especially given Nostradamus wrote his "prochecies" in an obscure ancient French/Latin combination, it's even better because you can translate it in many different ways to suit your preferences. See these links for some more sobering versions of their translation: (and the link to reviews)

While you're at it, check out some of these links:

To remind yourself of all the garbage that is peddled out there as psychic powers, prophecies, divining, channeling, etc. James Randi has had a standing $1 million dollar prize for anyone you can demonstrate any paranormal powers under scientific conditions. Quite a few people have taken up the challenge, but no-one has ever won it. Interestingly the people most convinced of their own powers are the water dowsers.

Anyway, just my 2 cents on trying to remain a little rationality in the world (despite some of the human nature we've seen today). Feel free to delete, pass on or flame away.