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Unformatted text preview: t, however, being able to test their hypotheses against actual occurrences. The logical flaw in these hypothetical constructions of future events is always the same: what first appears as a hypothesis--with or without its implied alternatives, according to the level of sophistication--turns immediately, usually after a few paragraphs, into a "fact," which then gives birth to a whole string of similar non-facts, with the result that the purely speculative character of the whole enterprise is forgotten. Needless to say, this is not science but pseudo-science, "the desperate attempt of the social and behavioral sciences," in the words of Noam Chomsky, "to imitate the surface features of sciences that really have significant intellectual content." And the most obvious and "most profound objection to this kind of strategic theory is not its limited usefulness but its danger, for it can lead us to believe we have an understanding of events and control over their flow which we do not have," as Richard N. Goodwin recently pointed out in a review article that had the rare virtue of detecting the "unconscious humor" characteristic of many of these pompous pseudo-scientific theories. Events, by definition, are occurrences that interrupt routine processes and routine procedures; only in a world in which nothing of importance ever happens could the futurologists' dream come true. Predictions of the future are never anything but projections of present automatic processes and procedures, that is, of occurrences that are likely to come to pass if men do not act and if nothing un-expected happens; every action, for better or worse, and every accident necessarily destroys the whole pattern in whose frame the prediction moves and where it finds its evidence. (Proudhon's passing remark, "The fecundity of the unexpected far exceeds the statesman's prudence," is fortunately still true. It exceeds even more obviously the expert's calc...
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- Fall '13