Published 3:31 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thankfully, the predictions of hurricane Florence were not as bad for Virginia as predicted. As we give our thanks for that, let’s continue to pray for the families that lost life and worldly possessions to the storm. Also, be thankful for the warning that folks received so at least they could freely make decisions.

It is interesting that people make decisions derived on predictions based on information that may not be accurate. In the case of Florence, every computer model followed the path from the coast of Africa as it crossed the Atlantic. However, the computers cannot think. They only respond to data that humans have loaded into the computers. If additional data was missed and not entered, results could be, as in this case, wrong. Immediately, it was easy for us to understand that their sophisticated predictions were wrong. It was as easy and as immediate as predictions about snow falls and other measurable events.

Less immediate but just as measurable are election predictions. Two years ago, the predictions were that Hillary Clinton would soundly defeat Donald Trump. All the pollsters predicted and convinced the media and many of us that Trump had no chance. Likewise, two years earlier, every prediction was that Dave Brat had no chance of winning a seat in Congress. In both cases, the predictions did not take into consideration changing facts but rather focused only on the data they thought was important.

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Considering all the many errors in short term predictions, some would have us believe that we can depend on predictions hundreds of years into the future. Much computer modeling on climate change predicts horrors along coastlines that will become uninhabitable in the future. The standard line is this is settled science of what will occur. We are told that if we say that it is not settled science we are stupid or are controlled by this or that industry.

I have no idea what the weather will bring in the coming days or what will happen in elections in the coming months and years, much less what the earth will look like in the years to come. I do understand that our climate does change and will continue to change, but I have no idea what those changes will be and how it will affect us. As with hurricanes, nature is not easy to predict. As with elections, any modeling can be adversely affected by new data that might not be calculated in the predictions. Election predictions are based on who responds to polling and how honest are their answers. In both cases, the predictors are using the best data they can amass. In the case of long term predictions, it is much easier to include personal prejudices in the data. A perfect example is the climate research. Researchers chose an arbitrary date for beginning their data entry. For whatever reason, they chose a year which was at the low end of the climate spectrum. This, in turn, showed an incline over several years that has been projected into future years, creating temperature increases that may or may not occur.

Predictions are wise to watch but not to take as gospel. I believe that we all should do what we can to protect our planet but not be so all consumed that we kill off businesses that provide jobs for our citizens today.

FRANK RUFF JR. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen., (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.