In our recent Western history war has been following war in an ascending order of intensity; and today it is already apparent that the War of 1939–45 was not the climax of this crescendo movement.
Writing in the shadow of World War II and at the dawn of the Cold War and the nuclear age, Toynbee could certainly be forgiven for his bleak prognostication. Many other distinguished commentators were equally pessimistic, and predictions of an imminent doomsday continued for another three decades.
The other scholar’s qualifications could not be more different. Lewis Fry Richardson (1881–1953) was a physicist, meteorologist, psychologist, and applied mathematician. His main claim to fame had been devising numerical techniques for predicting the weather, decades before there were computers powerful enough to implement them. Richardson’s own prediction about the future came not from erudition about great civilizations but from statistical analysis of a dataset of hundreds of violent conflicts spanning more than a century. Richardson was more circumspect than Toynbee, and more optimistic.
The occurrence of two world wars in the present century is apt to leave us with the vague belief that the world has become more warlike. But this belief needs logical scrutiny. A long future may perhaps be coming without a third world war in it.
Richardson chose statistics over impressions to defy the common understanding that global nuclear war was a certainty. More than half a century later, we know that the eminent historian was wrong and the obscure physicist was right.
Потому что история - это не наука о предсказании будущего. Ей бы с предсказанием прошлого разобраться.