2012 is proving to be a record-setting year on the sheer quantity of Nostradamus predictions. Beyond the Mayan end-of-the-world event, a shaky global economy, an upcoming presidential election, and a looming crisis in the Middle East combine to create a flourishing environment for prophecy. In contemporary culture, the word "Nostradamus" applies to predictions of all types but this article will emphasize the real prophecies of Nostradamus, published in France during the 16th century.

A debate on whether or not Nostradamus really foresaw the future has been raging for more than four centuries. Proponents point to sensational successes and that the odds against coincidental fulfillment are enormous. Critics merely point out that the odds against winning a lottery are also enormous, but somebody always wins.

Some critics take note that it is technically impossible for a human, any human, to accurately foresee a complex historical event centuries in advance, by any means, including astrology and psychic powers. That argument makes a lot of sense and fully supports the lottery explanation of the apparent successes. However, a profound investigation into Nostradamus and his prophecies has cast a mystery around the origins of some of the prophecies. In other words, it is unclear who or what produced those prophecies, leaving the door open to unknown powers that might actually be able to accomplish the feat.

Other critics argue that the Nostradamus prophecies have no validity because they are so vague that you can interpret them to say pretty much anything you want. That is not exactly true: if words were incapable of saying anything definitive, there would be no human civilization. But it is also true that many of the prophetic verses, not all of them, can be interpreted in more than one way. For example, in the prophecy of the September 11 attack, the line "From the sky shall come a great king of terror" is generally understood as referring to the hijacked airplanes flown into buildings. That is a reasonable conclusion and easy to see after the event. But before the event, that line would more likely have been interpreted as:

a) an atomic bomb will be dropped from an airplane, or
b) a comet or asteroid will crash into the Earth, or
c) a great terrorist will fly from continent to continent instigating attacks, or
d) alien spaceships will attack the Earth, and so forth.

It was critical for Nostradamus proponents to have recognized the hijacked airplanes before the event, but no one did. For now, for the Nostradamus prophecies to ever become credible, an accurate and unambiguous prediction remains essential. Note that a general prediction like “there will be another terrorist attack” is worthless. A prediction of which one of two candidates will win an election is likewise worthless because the chances of accidental success are high.

A convincing prediction needs to relate to an event far from the ordinary and should answer all five “w” words, for example: What? (nuclear weapon terror attack) Where? (Olympic Games in London, England) When? (August 2, 2012) Why? (look to the Middle East) Who? (include the Queen of England among the victims). Predictions of this type (dated) provide enough detail to satisfy the critics, but, of course, must be published BEFORE the event.

Unfortunately for Nostradamus proponents, it is doubtful that it is at all possible to publicize a prediction and then expect it to come true. For example, let's suppose that in August 2001, the following prediction was widely circulated around the Internet: "On the morning of September 11, 2001, Arab terrorists will board airplanes in Boston, New York, and Washington, hijack those airplanes, and then crash them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." What would happen? Most likely, when the terrorists read that, they would cancel or change their terror plans, thinking that on September 11th, security at those airports would be taking a close look at Arabs trying to board planes and not allow them to carry their knives into the cabin. Predictions are inherently self-destructive.

Of all the predictions that have been derived from Nostradamus from the 16th century onward, the prediction of a terror attack on the 2012 Olympics is perhaps the most prominent. Several stanzas are claimed to converge on the theme, making it seem as if this single event was one of the original objectives. With allusions to sailboats, castles, kings, queens, emperors, and so forth, the famous prophecies are becoming out of synch with the natural progress of world history and the 2012 prediction may be the proponents' last chance. Critics of the prophecies can therefore rejoice: the failure of the Olympics prediction will help push the Nostradamus prophecies into oblivion where they rightly belong.

Author's Bio: 

Morten St. George has written extensively about the Nostradamus prophecies in his book Incantation of the Law Against Inept Critics and in many widely-circulated articles. In another area, he has proposed a solution to the mystery of the Nazca Lines.