Scientists don’t like to make predictions. They’re cautious, conservative people who’d rather analyse data than make a guess, particularly about the future.
But sometimes the evidence is so clear scientists can’t help seeing what’s next.
In 1716 Edmond Halley predicted the appearance of a comet over London on Christmas Day, 1758 and although he wouldn’t live to see it happen, the comet arrived exactly where, when and how Halley said it would.
When a French chemist discovered the element Gallium in 1875, he was unaware that Dimitri Mendeleev had predicted its existence in great detail (right down to its density and melting point) two years earlier. And for an encore, Mendeleev then went on to describe every single element to be discovered over the next one and a half centuries.
Science can do that, because it’s meticulous, exhaustive and (most importantly) skeptical. Theories are argued, data is tested and results are questioned, all of which makes science our best way of knowing anything. Scientists rarely make predictions but whenever they do they make Nostradamus look like an amateur.
Scientists knew where Neptune was long before anyone had seen it in a telescope. They knew exactly where to dig (and how deep) to uncover the fossilised remains of Tiktaalik… and although no-one had ever seen one before, they even knew what a Tiktaalik would look like.
When I want to know the future I trust astronomers over astrologers, physicists over psychics, climatologists over clairvoyants.
Now all I want is a population, government and media that do the same.