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MCCULLOUGH: Misfortune-telling

This prediction business is getting out of hand.

I like a good conspiracy theory or doomsday tale as much as the next guy. I will sit and watch every single 2012-Mayan-Apocalpyse-Nostradamus-alien-invasion-end-of-the-world show the History Channel cares to broadcast. But I watch because it’s escapism, because it’s entertaining, not because I believe one whit of it.

Other people, apparently, can not help but fall for this nonsense, some to the point of taking people to court over it. More on that in a minute.

First we had Harold Camping. You may remember Camping from last week’s episode of As The World Ends. To the surprise of quite a few people, the Rapture did not happen on May 21 as Camping predicted. (It also did not happen when he predicted it in 1994 either.) Now he says the Rapture was not a physical taking of Christians to heaven, but a spiritual thing. You’re already saved or your not, and oh by the way, the world now ends on Oct. 21, Camping said.

And this time, he really, really means it.

Really.

In all seriousness, Camping needs to — how do I put this nicely? — shut his pie hole. He’s done enough damage.

Some of Camping’s followers were so distraught last weekend when the end didn’t come that they didn’t know what to do. One man who’d spent more than $100,000 helping spread Camping’s message was so distraught he could barely speak.

Now should we feel sorry for these fools so recently parted from their money? Maybe a tiny bit. They fell for a con, after all, and lots of otherwise-smart people have been taken in by cons.

But for anyone still stupid enough to follow this clown, let me spell it out for you: Camping no more knows when the world will end than anyone else does. (The Maya don’t know either, by the way.) Would you like to know why? BECAUSE YOU CAN’T PREDICT THE FUTURE.

Well, unless you’re in Italy, apparently. That is where this prediction business takes a turn for the truly bizarre.

A group of seven scientists were indicted in Italy this week on charges of manslaughter in the deaths of more than 300 people. The reason? They failed to accurately predict a deadly earthquake.

I kid you not.

Seven people on trial, facing jail time, because they couldn’t predict the future. It’s so preposterous you’d think it a joke, but we live in preposterous times.

Their defense attorneys have pointed out a fairly obvious fact, that it’s impossible to predict the future. But that didn’t stop Judge Giuseppe Romano Gargarella from ordering the trial. According to a report by the Associated Press, the judge said the scientists ‘‘gave inexact, incomplete and contradictory information’’ about tremors leading up to the 2009 quake.

We already have thought crime. (Beat the crud out of a guy, do two years. Talk about his race or his sexual preference while you’re beating him and do 20.) Now we have, what? Supernatural crime?

Imagine where we go from here. Quarterbacks jailed for inaccurately predicting Super Bowl wins. Boxers in prison for not being great and putting him down in eight. Pundits doing life for getting election predictions wrong. Bankers jailed when they fail to predict an economy nosedive over super-risky, grossly negligent and downright criminal business practices.

Say, that last one ...

Nah, it’ll never happen.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.