Prediction: The Experts Will Be Wrong Again in 2011

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The Experts Will Be Wrong Again in 2011

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The list of wrong predictions can be funny and frightening:

  • "The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."— Western Union internal memo, 1876.
  • "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."— Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1885.
  • "The [atomic] bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives."— Admiral William Leahy to U.S. President Harry Truman in 1945 (previous three quotes from "A Few Failed Human Predictions").
  • "An NBC Miami review of nearly a decade of pre-season predictions of hurricane season shows the two major predicting institutions are right about half the time. In some categories, they fail even more frequently" (Jeff Burnside, "Hurricane Hype? Predictions Wrong Half the Time").
  • National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins researcher John Ioannidis determined that "two-thirds of published medical research is wrong."
  • "'Existing Home Sales to Trend Up in 2008.'— National Association of Realtors press release, December 9, 2007."
  • "'I don't anticipate any serious problems...among the large internationally active banks that make up a very substantial part of our banking system.'— Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, February 28, 2008."


Entire books have been written about failed predictions. Like Dan Gardner's Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail—and Why We Believe Them Anyway and David H. Freedman's Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—and How to Know When Not to Trust Them (the source of the last three quotes above, pp. 6, 15-16). They list many examples and reasons even the experts are often wrong.

What we want influences what we get

One reason we keep falling for bad advice is it often looks like the kind of advice we want. As Mr. Freedman puts it, "Informal experts win us over simply by virtue of providing the sort of advice that resonates with us because it is simple, actionable, entertaining, or universal. And that's the kind of advice that is most likely to be wrong, of course" (p. 102).

We want easy answers. We want answers that fit with what we already believe. We want upbeat, clear-cut solutions. We favor dramatic stories over modest claims.

But in his ironically titled last chapter, "Eleven Simple Never-Fail Rules for Not Being Misled by Experts," David Freedman might as well be saying, Don't believe anyone. Characteristics of more trustworthy advice include not being simplistic, being "heavy on qualifying statements" and giving context and perspective. In other words, we have to do a lot of hard work to verify everything we learn—even from experts.

When everyone is wrong, who's right?

I'm not saying every expert prediction for 2011 will be wrong. Richard Watson, author of Future Minds, made this safe prediction on his Top Trends blog: "In 2011, nothing will be certain except uncertainty."

But that isn't very satisfying. We want—and need—good advice and clear directions about our future. Where can we turn?

The real source of expert advice and accurate predictions is the One who created us and the One who controls time and events. The Creator God says there is none like Him: "Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure…' Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:10-11). We can be thankful He gave humanity the gift of His revelation in the Bible.

The Bible is a unique book full of inspiration, wisdom and practical answers. But it doesn't claim to be an easy book. It can be intimidating and overwhelming on first glance. So we have launched a new website this year offering a variety of Bible Study Guides that are designed to help. Our authors search the Scriptures with you in mind, considering what practical answers you need to deal with the real challenges in your life today. We want these lessons to be relevant, engaging and life-changing—making your life better now and giving you a real, solid hope for your future.

For some accurate predictions of our future, see the series of lessons on "Bible Prophecy and You" starting with the vital question "Are We Living in the 'Time of the End'?" Dedicate 2011 to learning from the real Expert!