Given the escalating series of natural disasters devastating various portions of the world in ever greater frequency and gravity, as well as Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami disaster, it would be no surprise to me if something similar happened here in Taiwan. In fact for weeks I’ve been asking my students whether they were prepared for such a natural disaster, whether they trusted the government’s ability to respond to catastrophic devastation, and whether they felt comfortable with the security of Taiwan’s nuclear reactors.
But one local fortune teller is taking it a step further: he’s predicted that a powerful earthquake will virtually destroy Taiwan on May 11th, 2011 (or in about 2 weeks from today). A small band of believers are so convinced by the accuracy of his fortune telling that they’ve begun building a series of fallout shelters to protect themselves from the coming tsunami. “Wang Laoshi” or Master Wang has also warned that Taiwan will be ripped in half, producing two separate islands.
The problem with making such absolutely binding predictions is, of course, that when they fail, they fail absolutely. In only a few weeks we will get to see if Master Wang can actually see the future or not; if nothing happens, then his fortune-telling business is probably going to take a hit. And if something does happen, there won’t be anyone left to celebrate.
At the same time, there’s this guy (http://worldwide.familyradio.org/en/) who’s telling everyone the world is going to end in 2011 (“the Bible guarantees it”). “On May 21st, Judgment Day will begin and the rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will occur at the end of the 23-year great tribulation. On October 21st, the world will be destroyed by fire (7000 years from the flood; 13,023 years from creation).” Parallel predictions that the world/Taiwan will be destroyed on May 11/May 21 2011? That’s pretty damn close for two nutcases on either side of the world to be predicting disaster.
Can we know the future through divination?
But is it impossible to know the future? Classical civilization put much stock in fortune-telling of various means. Cicero, speaking on divination, claimed “I see no race of men, however polished and educated, however brutal and barbarous, which does not believe that warnings of future events are given and may be understood and announced by certain persons.”
Famous oracles such those at Delphi were esteemed and consulted by emperors and the state before making weighty decisions in policy, or generals before planning a battle. A formal argument for divination, attributed by Cicero to the Stoics, is a rigorous example of classical logic:
If there are gods and they do not declare the future to men; then either they do not love men; or they are ignorant of what is to happen; or they think it of no importance to men to know it; or they do not think it consistent with their majesty to tell men; or the gods themselves are unable to indicate it. But neither do they not love men, for they are benefactors and friends to mankind; nor are they ignorant of what they themselves appoint and ordain; nor is it of no importance to us to know the future – for we shall be more careful if we do; nor do they count it alien to their majesty, for there is nothing nobler than kindness; nor are they unable to foreknow. Therefore no gods, no foretelling; but there are gods; therefore they foretell. Nor if they foretell, do they fail to give us ways to learn what they foretell; nor, if they give us such ways, is there no divination; therefore, there is divination. (De divination, i, 38, 82, 83)
I like to keep an open mind, so I’m hesitant to make the claim that it is IMPOSSIBLE to know the future (after all, we’ve learned to predict the weather pretty well because we can understand the process – couldn’t we similarly tap into the process and logic that creates cataclysmic natural disasters?)
At the same time, however, I’m not stocking up on essential supplies based on Master Wang’s dire warnings. (But maybe I should be – based on everything bad that could happen in the next year, why not take some basic precautions? If you’re looking for end of the world supplies, check out this page: http://www.raidersnewsupdate.com/nucleararmageddon.htm).
See the original news article about Master Wang here (in Chinese): http://tw.video.news.yahoo.com/video/lifestyle-19458046/14-25050632
If you’re worried about the world ending in 2012, check out this site: http://thisistheendoftheworldasweknowit.com/.
As they say, lots of really bad shit will probably happen next year, but that doesn’t an apocalypse make.
Ok – now it’s May 12th. Still now earthquake, but today there was a freak tornado in Taiwan. Watch this crazy video.