'Yes, sir, we've just had our 70 fat years in America, thanks to the Greatest Generation and the bounty of freedom and prosperity they built for us," New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote last week. But it's over. "Welcome to the lean years."
He may be right. I don't know. But I do know that Friedman is far from the first big-name pundit to confidently proclaim the dawning of a new, dismal era. For the better part of the last year I've been writing a book about expert forecasts and much of that work consisted of going through archives and digging up old predictions. Two conclusions emerged with overwhelming clarity.
I believe the earth has existed for precisely 3,213 years, five months, seven days, and four hours. Of course the reader will have to adjust these figures somewhat as I am writing this column a day before it will be published.
I further believe that scientific evidence to the contrary -- geology, biology, and a couple of other "-ogies" -- is uncertain, inconclusive, hypothetical, epistemological, scatological, or phantasmagorical. As these polysyllabic words plainly demonstrate, I am an expert. Plus, I'm a trained chiropractor. And I'm really big on natural health products. So I'm a physician, a scientist, and a guy who uses very long words. I believe I have earned your respect.
Two huge medical studies wrap up. Both assess the value of screening for prostate cancer. Both are published in the same edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.
One of the studies is American. It finds there is no difference in the mortality rate of men screened for prostate cancer and those who are not.
The other study is European. It finds screened men are less likely to die, although the difference is modest.
Prostate cancer is a hot topic and these are landmark studies. So how will the results be reported?