Earlier this year I took a skeptical look at psychic Sylvia Browne's predictions for 2005. Readers of this blog know that I do think some people have genuine psychic abilities, but Browne's unimpressive track record of predictions does not inspire much confidence in her.
But maybe she did better this year. With 2005 nearly over, it's time to review her forecasts and tally her score. (All lines in italics are taken from the "True or False" Web site, whick keeps track of these things. For the most part I have omitted predictions that are too vague or open-ended to be evaluated, though I've left in a few, just to give you the flavor of her forecasts.)
She says the death count after the tsunami in South East Asia will hit 417,000.
Wrong. It was about half that number.
Osama Bin Laden is dead. She thinks someone is speaking for him. We will find out this year.
Wrong. Bin Laden may be dead, but if so, we don't know it for sure.
Saddam Hussein will be dead before his trial.
Scott Peterson will not survive in prison.
Vague. He's survived this year, but perhaps this is one of those open-ended predictions.
Economy will rebound at the beginning of the year then it will go slow and then in the middle of the year it will really rebound.
Right, more or less.
Real estate is a good investment.
Right. Of course, real estate has been on fire for years. The trend did continue in '05.
Unemployment figures will drop.
Right. They did drop from 5.4% to 5% over the year.
Technology in the medical field will be a big thing. Such things as diabetes and cancer. There will be a vaccination that will help colon and cervical cancers.
Wrong. No vaccinations for cancer have appeared. The rest of the statement is too vague to mean anything.
The FDA will have a clean out.
Stem cell research should be using umbilical chords and skin for its research instead of embryos.
Right. This seems to be panning out.
Medical surgery will start to use some kind of laser.
Wrong. As the True or False site notes, "Lasers have been used in medical surgery for years."
We will see all kinds of weather changes because of the polar tilt.
Wrong. I don't know what she means by the polar tilt - the drift of magnetic north, maybe? Anyway, there's no evidence that this is causing weather changes.
This year the US will be hit hard again by tornados. North Carolina will be hit. Florida will be pelted yet again. The east gets milder and the south gets colder. It will be a mild winter.
Right, I guess. Tornados did hit North Carolina and Florida, but this isn't very unusual. The real weather news was the series of hurricanes that hit the Gulf Coast, not mentioned here (unless "Florida will be pelted" refers to a hurricane).
The US troops will not be home from Iraq until 2006.
Right. The troops are still there, so this is correct so far. Whether or not they'll be back home in '06 remains to be seen, but there is talk of drawing down the troop levels. The True or False site notes, "Previously she has predicted US troops would be home by June/July 2004. Then she changed it to the end of 2004."
North Korea is a big worry. They have all kinds of weapons and they are being too quiet. Anything could trigger North Korea into action.
Some minor terrorist attacks on the trucks and trains not airplanes. This will hit our food supply.
Laser beams affecting the cockpits of aircraft are coming from other planes or satelites.
Wrong. As True or False points out, the beams were being aimed from the ground by dopey troublemakers.
Nothing will happen over the Ohio election tampering.
Donald Trump's third marriage will only last for two years.
We'll have to wait and see. Trump married Melania Knauss this year.
Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas are in trouble.
Wrong. If they're in trouble, they've kept it a secret.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher will get married and have a baby.
Partly right. They were married in September, but Moore denies reports she is pregnant, though she says she intends to get pregnant before long.
Elizabeth Taylor's health is a worry. She seems like she has given up her fight for life. 2005 will be a bad year for her.
Wrong. No news on any new health problems for Taylor.
Jennifer Lopez's marriage will hit the rocks. Jo Lo doesn't know what she wants to do.
Wrong. No news on any marital problems for J-Lo.
Britney Spears will become pregnant and her marriage will break up within a year.
Partly right. Spears did have a baby. She is still married to Kevin Federline, but there are rumors that the marriage is failing.
Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell will finally call it quits.
Wrong. Still together.
Mount St Helens will blow this year or within 18 months.
Wrong, at least so far.
Arnold Schwarzenegger will run for President in the future after they change the law.
No sign of any changes to the Constitution yet, and Arnold's falling popularity in California seems to make this prediction unlikely, but it's open-ended.
There will be no NHL this season.
Right. But the hockey strike was already in progress when she said this.
No major earthquakes in the near future for central California.
Right, so far.
There will be another election in the Ukraine. A third one.
Wrong. There were two elections, both held in '04.
There will be no US draft.
Right. But no one was seriously proposing a draft anyway.
A lot of terrorists will be found in Syria.
Vague. Everyone knows there are terrorists in Syria, but there was no major news in this area.
In the next two years we will find that the rogue nations will start to calm down and become more agreeable.
Wrong. Doesn't seem to be happening so far.
The war in Iraq will carry on for another year.
Right, but did anyone think otherwise?
Let's add it up. My count is 11 right, 2 partly right, 16 wrong, 3 vague, 2 open-ended.
Browne claims a success rate of 87%. If we give her full credit for the 2 partly right predictions and ignore the vague and open-ended predictions, we end up with 13 right, 16 wrong. That's a success rate of 44.8%.
In other words, her predictions for 2005 were correct less than half the time.
And many of her correct predictions were safe (there are no major earthquakes in central California in most years, and there are tornados and other weather problems throughout the country every year) or based on information that was readily available at the end of last year (the NHL strike was already underway, Britney Spears had publicly said she wanted to have a baby, real estate had been going strong for years, nobody in Congress or the White House was supporting a draft).
Add to this the fact that Browne has a tendency to change her predictions - for instance, predicting on a radio show that John Kerry would be elected president, but predicting on a TV show that George W. Bush would be reelected - and it's hard to put much faith in her crystal ball.
Overall, then, Sylvia Browne's 2005 forecasts represent a less-stellar-performance. But ... there's always next year!