The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘doomsday’

ANOTHER End-of-the-World Prediction…

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 15, 2012

Despite the faux-surprise in the title of this post, I am not in the least surprised that there’s yet another true-believer who is trying to convince their followers that the end-of-the-world is just around the corner…

Former Worldwide Church of God preacher says Jesus Christ is returning on May 27, 2012 and that today marks the end of time and beginning of “half time”

Ronald Weinland

Ronald Weinland, who considers himself a prophet of God, continues to warn that Jesus Christ is returning on May 27, 2012.

For those who do not believe him and mock his message, Weinland claims that they will die from cancer.

His website, Church of God – PKG, claims that various end times events were triggered by the scattering of the Worldwide Church of God after the death of its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.  With Armstrong no longer at the helm, Weinland claims he “is the pastor of God’s Church on earth, has also been appointed by the God of Abraham to be His end-time prophet and one of the two end-time witnesses (and spokesman of both), preceding the return of Jesus Christ on May 27, 2012.” …

I like the whole “you’ll die from cancer for mocking me” bit; it just seems to show that the good “Prophet” Weinland is full of Christs’s love.

Seriously though… this again?  Wasn’t it just last year when there was another high-profile failure of the end-of-the-world prediction?  Now here’s another prediction of doomsday (but this time it’s the real thing, honest!). Wouldn’t you think that, given their terrible track record of failed religious predictions of this nature that people would learn to just ignore these loons by now?

Thankfully, most people will wisely ignore doom-mongers such as this self-proclaimed “Prophet”, but there will be those will be bamboozled.  As for me, I just cannot wait to see what sort of excuses are offered on May 28th 😉

Posted in doomsday, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

MORE Rapture Fail…

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 22, 2011

I think the caption says it all… 😀

Whoops!  Back to the drawing board… again.

 

Posted in doomsday, humor, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Real Reason Why the Rapture Didn’t Happen: “Macho Man” Randy Savage!

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 23, 2011

Rather than waste any more electrons on seriously analyzing the most recent doomsday Rapture silliness and how the followers of that particular religious cult are attempting to rationalize away the spectacular failure of Judgement Day to manifest itself, I would like to offer up this humorous portrayal of why it is the Rapture did not come to pass this last Saturday… 🙂

Posted in doomsday, humor, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The May 21st “Rapture”: When Crazy Religion Meets Crazy Numerology

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 19, 2011

I know that I’ve blogged a couple of times already (here and here) about the supposed impending “Rapture” coming up this coming Saturday, May 21st.  But while I’ve written there about how loony of an idea this whole Christ-is-returning-so-it’s-the-end-of-the-world is – mostly because there are so many failed doomsday predictions that were supposedly ironclad before they failed epically – one thing I haven’t yet done is to actually seriously analyze the claims made by the would-be prophet of this weekend’s Armageddon festivities, the good Rev. Harold Camping.

It’s Judgement Day!!!

My oh my, that Jesus is one fine lookin’ dude!  I wonder who does his hair? 🙂

In the following Livescience.com article, the rationale (such as it is) for Camping’s predictions is outlined.  Let’s take a look at the argument and then take it seriously just long enough to show the logical flaws within it, right before we piss ourselves with laughter…

End Times Math: The Equation That Predicts May 21 Judgment Day

The May 21 Judgment Day meme is the brainchild of an 89-year-old radio evangelist named Harold Camping. Using a mathematical system of his own creation to interpret obscure prophecies in the Bible, Camping originally predicted that Sept. 6, 1994 would be Judgment Day, or the day of the “Rapture” when Christian believers will ascend to heaven, leaving the rest of humanity to its deservedly dreary fate.

Hold on, right there.   Camping has made such a prediction before?  Yes, he did – he predicted the world would end almost 17 years ago… and the world is still here.  Also note this key phrase: “… Using a mathematical system of his own creation…” – what this basically means is that Camping has created a system of numerology which would allow him to manipulate the numbers of his calculation in such a fashion as to give him whatever result he wants.  In other words, using such a system, folks like Camping can’t fail… that is, until they actually fail, which is what happened to Camping on Sept. 7, 1994 when we were all still here.  But that’s the beauty of using slipshod and ad hoc mathematical systems such as Camping’s:  since they are essentially made up out of whole cloth with the express purpose of “never failing”, a missed prediction can easily be discounted when “corrections” to the calculations are magically uncovered after the fact.  This, like the thinking driving conspiracy theorizing, shows that such a system is clearly unfalsifiable: it is always right, even when it’s wrong.

The article continues:

… Here’s the gist of Camping’s calculation: He believes Christ was crucified on April 1, 33 A.D., exactly 722,500 days before May 21, 2011. That number, 722,500, is the square of 5 x 10 x 17. In Camping’s numerological system, 5 represents atonement, 10 means completeness, and seventeen means heaven. “Five times 10 times 17 is telling you a story,” Camping said on his Oakland-based talk show, Family Radio, last year. “It’s the story from the time Christ made payment for your sins until you’re completely saved.”

Okay, once again note that these numbers only make sense “in Camping’s numerological system” – which he made up.  What is the rationale which justifies Camping’s numerological system as being superior to that of other failed doomsday prophets (such as Nostradamus and those claiming the Mayan calendar portends The End on Dec. 21, 2012)?  And why does Camping settle on 722,500 days?  Why not 722,500 seconds, minutes, months, years, or centuries?  What is so special about days in Camping’s system which distinguishes them from any other unit of temporal measurement?  And, assuming there is some kind of reason (whatever that could be) for using days as units, why is it that you have to multiply and subsequently square 5, 10, and 17?  Why not simply add them up?  Or just multiply without squaring?  Or add them up and then square the result?  Why not raise the product of these numbers to the third power?  What is the rationale behind this calculation which explains why it could be considered trustworthy – other than, of course, the fact that it just happens to give a “prediction” of the world’s end, conveniently, during Camping’s lifetime?

And last, but not least, here’s a good question to ponder: if the Rapture is supposed to come on Saturday, May 21st, on which side of the International Date Line is that going to happen?  Will the Rapture follow the rotation of the Earth, seeing as how some parts of the planet will still be on Friday night time while other portions will be on early Saturday morning time?  Or is it supposed to just kind of go “poof!” all at once?  But if it does that, then it can’t all happen on the same day – and why doesn’t Camping take this into account in his calculations?  You can see the problem here.

Now that I’ve taken this stupidity seriously for a bit,  it is now time to treat it as the utter silliness that it most certainly is: I’m off to go get ready for the After Rapture Party & Looting 😉

Posted in doomsday, mathematics, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Armageddon on May 21st? Meh…

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 12, 2011

[**Update (5-19-11): If you want to take, just for a moment, a serious look at the flaws in the calculation which produced this prediction, see my latest entry on the topic.]

I just wanted to provide an update on the fundamentalist religious loonies who keep on preaching the message that the Rapture will take place on Saturday, May 21st.  According to these folks, the true followers of Jesus Christ will be magically whisked away to be with him in Heaven, leaving the rest of us poor shlubs to tough it out here on Earth.

And, apparently, these folks are serious… very, very serious: they are attempting to warn as many people as possible about the impending end-of-the-world…

Armageddon Weekend? It’s the end of the world as we know it (and they don’t feel fine)

One of my favorite places in Washington, D.C., is the National Mall. When you stand in the center with the U.S. Capitol on one end, the Washington Monument on the other and the Smithsonian museums flanking the sides, you can’t help but feel you’re having the quintessential D.C. experience.

Because the mall is so popular, it has become a type of free-speech zone. People often stand around hoisting signs with various political or religious messages and pass out literature.

Today’s Washington Post has a story about a group of fundamentalist Christians who are working the mall with an aggressive pamphlet campaign. These folks, who follow a radio evangelist named Harold Camping, are convinced that the world will end on May 21 at 6 p.m. Not surprisingly, they feel compelled to warn us all.

Call me a skeptic. A few years ago, I read an interesting book titled End-Time Visions : The Road to Armageddon(authored by an evangelical Christian) that chronicled a long list of failed end-of-the-world predictions. Somewhere around the house, I have a flier handed to me by a fellow who was convinced that the world was going to end in October of 1988. When it didn’t happen, the man who made the prediction, Edgar Whisenaut, insisted that his calculations had been off by one year, and it was definitely going to happen in 1989. … [emphasis mine]

Now I have to say – well, meh.  I mean, come on folks, people like these have been claiming the end-of-the-world is coming ever since there’s been religious belief.  And, as the bolded part above notes, there is one all important fact that every last one of these predictions have in common: they have all been dead, flat wrong.  Period.

Here’s my bottom line prediction: don’t worry about the Rapture on May 21st, because it isn’t going to happen.  I further predict that the true believers in this fairy tale will somehow attempt to rationalize away the glaring fact that they look like complete idiots because of how obviously wrong they were.  And, for the hat trick, I predict that the next time some nutty group comes up with a religious doomsday scenario based in some esoteric reading of the Bible or another holy book, there will be far too many people willing to gobble up the nonsense.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be enjoying a really big laugh on May 22nd 🙂

Posted in doomsday, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Skeptical Teacher Interviewed on Warning Radio!

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 15, 2011

Last night, Monday Feb. 14th, I was invited as the special guest for the weekly broadcast of Warning Radio with Brian & Baxter. During the interview, we discussed “fun talk about asteroids, funny statistics, and Bill Nye’s strange water ideas.”  It was a real hoot.

The show is archived here. Enjoy! 🙂

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Asteroid Apophis to Hit Earth in 2036? Calm Down, the Sky is NOT Falling

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 9, 2011

In recent days, one of the more popular news stories flying around the Internet has to do with a supposed “doomsday” asteroid called Apophis. And, according to some idiotic journalists who seem to want to push a sensationalistic “news” story, this asteroid is going to hit the Earth in 2036 with devastating consequences – in short, they say this is going to happen…

Well, I’m here to tell you that this is, to use the scientifically-accurate phrase, a complete load of crap. That’s because the original story, which came via a Russian “news” outlet, has been completely and thoroughly refuted by NASA and scientists worldwide…

Will Apophis Hit Earth in 2036? NASA Rejects Russian Report

In 2004, NASA scientists announced that there was a chance that Apophis, an asteroid larger than two football fields, could smash into Earth in 2029. A few additional observations and some number-crunching later, astronomers noted that the chance of the planet-killer hitting Earth in 2029 was nearly zilch.

Now, reports out of Russia say that scientists there estimate Apophis will collide with Earth on April 13, 2036. These reports conflict on the probability of such a doomsday event, but the question remains: How scared should we be?

In answer to that question, I think we shouldn’t really be scared at all.  When you crunch the latest numbers, the probability that Apophis will actually impact the Earth in 2036 is about 1-in-250,000.  If you work that out to a percentage, it comes out to a 0.0004% chance the asteroid will hit Earth.  That’s a pretty slim chance, and certainly nothing to get all upset about, in my opinion.

Let’s think of it this way: compare the probability that Apophis will hit Earth in 2036 with the chances of other unfortunate events (as reported by Popular Science magazine)…

Lifetime odds of dying from:

Any accident: 1 in 36

A motor vehicle accident: 1 in 81

A firearm: 1 in 202

Poisoning: 1 in 344

A falling object (terrestrial): 1 in 4,873

Drowning in a bathtub: 1 in 10,455

Being caught in or between objects: 1 in 29,860

Suffocation by a plastic bag: 1 in 130,498

So that means that you are about twice as likely to die by being suffocated in a plastic bag as compared to the chances that this “killer” asteroid Apophis will wipe out planet Earth.  Stop and think about that for a moment… now, are you suddenly going to start demanding the recall of all plastic bags from society in order to protect humanity?  No?  Good.

Now, please don’t get me wrong – I think the issue of tracking & cataloging near-Earth objects (NEOs) is a very important one, precisely because we have solid evidence that NEOs such as asteroids & comet fragments can and do hit the Earth.  In fact, this happens all the time, but the regular impacts are from smaller objects; the big, “planet-killer” type objects are fewer in number so the chances of one coming our way is comparatively small.  But it could happen, and with the implications being what they are (i.e., the destruction of human civilization on Earth being among the worst-case scenarios) it would be prudent for us to invest at least some resources into these questions.  And we have invested such resources into NASA’s NEO Program.

So, in conclusion, is the sky falling with regards to Apophis?  No.

Should you go buying your own “asteroid apocalypse” bunker?  No.

Should we then turn a blind eye to the potential threat of NEOs?  No.

Should we invest a reasonable amount of money into researching this issue?  Yes.

Interestingly enough, one thing we really can do when Apophis makes its closest approach to Earth in 2036 is use the opportunity to learn more about asteroids and the early solar system.  In fact, some scientists already have plans to use Apophis as an amazing research opportunity!

If you’d like to know more about Apophis, and the related physics & astronomy behind it, I suggest taking a look at this entry over at Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog.

Posted in doomsday, media woo, space | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

The Shifting of the Zodiac & Why Astrology Fails

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 15, 2011

For the last couple of days I’ve been getting questions from some of my colleagues about the “shifting of the zodiac” and today one playfully asked me if they were still a Cancer.  In fact, I’ve seen news headlines stating “Your horoscope could quite possibly be wrong” – this is humorous because I’ve always known horoscopes are wrong & useless 🙂

Some astrologers and other pseudoscientific goofballs are apparently making a lot of hay out of this (including some doomsayers who have bought into the 2012 hysteria), but I’m here to tell you that this is the effect of nothing more than simple physics.  What is going on is just the effect of the rotational axis of the Earth twisting around in a cone – this is a phenomenon called axial precession. Picture a spinning toy top on the ground – does it stay upright and keep spinning forever?  No, it eventually starts to wobble.  In much the same way, the Earth’s rotational axis wobbles, and it takes about 26,000 years for this cycle to complete.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

For example, many of us have heard of the North Star, also known as Polaris, as the star in the sky right above our north (geographic) pole.  That is, if you were standing at the geographic north pole of the Earth, Polaris would be directly overhead all the time with the rest of the sky appearing to wheel about it.  Well, believe it or not, Polaris hasn’t always been the North Star; in fact, about 13,000 years ago (halfway through our precessional cycle) our North Star was Vega!

Thus, if our North Star can be shifted over time due to precessional movement, then so too can other features of our night sky, such as the zodiac.  The zodiac is a collection of constellations which inhabit a band of sky called the ecliptic – the ecliptic is that region wherein we see the Sun, Moon, and all the planets move from our perspective on Earth, and it basically outlines the plane of our solar system.  The following image explains clearly the arrangement of the zodiac symbols along the ecliptic…

A band around the sky about 18° wide, centered on the ecliptic, in which the Sun, Moon, and planets move. The band is divided into 12 signs of the zodiac, each 30° long, that were named by the ancient Greeks after the constellations that used to occupy these positions; “zodiac” means “circle of animals,” and only Libra is inanimate. Over the past 2,000 years, precession has moved the constellations eastward by over 30° so that they no longer coincide with the old signs. Image Source

So what’s really going on is that, due to the long slow precessional cycle of the Earth, our old star maps which laid down the zodiac we’ve all come to recognize are now getting out of date.  That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.  So relax, it’s not the harbinger of cosmic disaster, it’s just simple physics.  And, I might add, where superstition & astrology have failed, science & astronomy have triumphed – what astrologer predicted the shifting of the zodiac? That is, without consulting the actual scientists first… 😉

If you’d like to see an excellent blog post on this same subject, I highly recommend this entry by Phil Plait over at the Bad Astronomy Blog.

Posted in astrology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Rapture… AGAIN?!!

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 4, 2011

In my previous post – Our Godless U.S. Constitution – I made mention of how back when our Constitution was ratified, there were those religious weirdos who kept insisting that unless it was “Christianized” properly, God was going to unleash His wrath upon the fledgling nation.  And… it didn’t happen – last I looked, the country is still here.

Of course, the history of predicting the end-of-the-world doesn’t stop there.  Hell, self-proclaimed prophets & gurus have been stating, ever since the beginning of civilization, that the world was going to end.  This is true even up to our modern day… in fact, there is another group of nutty folks who say, wait for it, that the end is coming on May 21st, 2010…

End of Days in May? Christian group spreads word

By TOM BREEN, Associated Press Tom Breen, Associated Press Mon Jan 3, 10:01 am ET

RALEIGH, N.C. – If there had been time, Marie Exley would have liked to start a family. Instead, the 32-year-old Army veteran has less than six months left, which she’ll spend spreading a stark warning: Judgment Day is almost here.

Exley is part of a movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible that the end of the world will begin May 21, 2011.

To get the word out, they’re using billboards and bus stop benches, traveling caravans of RVs and volunteers passing out pamphlets on street corners. Cities from Bridgeport, Conn., to Little Rock, Ark., now have billboards with the ominous message, and mission groups are traveling through Latin America and Africa to spread the news outside the U.S. …

All I can say to this is… are you f***ing kidding me?  This crap AGAIN?!!  When I was in high school, some local nutcase kept going on and on about how The Rapture was going to take place in September or October of 1988 – it scared the hell out of a lot of gullible kids (and their parents), and it made the more sensible ones among us question the sanity of our fellow man.

Seriously folks, how many times do people need to have these stupid predictions made, only to have them – time & time again – fail to come true?  In fact, just look at this history of iron-clad, Biblically-supported, true-believing, end-of-the-world predictions which were all dead, flat wrong!

If you are a God-fearing true believer who really does, in your heart of hearts, believe that The Rapture is going to take place on May 21st of this year (or at any time in the future), I have one question for you: before you ascend into Heaven, how about giving me all of your stuff?

 

Posted in doomsday, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Oops! Correction to Mayan Calendar Shows that 2012 Might NOT Be “The End of the World”

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 22, 2010

Of course, the notion that the end of the Mayan “Long count” calendar predicts the end of the world is downright silly – does anyone get worried when December 31st on our modern calendars approaches?  But just to show how idiotic this whole notion really is, it seems that some archaeological research has – pardon the pun – dug up a correction to the Mayan calendar.  The result is that the big date, December 21st, 2012 according to various doomsayers & New Age gurus, is probably not the right date…

End of the Earth Postponed

It’s a good news/bad news situation for believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. The good news is that the Mayan “Long Count” calendar may not end on Dec. 21, 2012 (and, by extension, the world may not end along with it). The bad news for prophecy believers? If the calendar doesn’t end in December 2012, no one knows when it actually will – or if it has already.

A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook “Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World” (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events. (The doomsday worries are based on the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, much as our year ends on Dec. 31.) …

This is hilarious!  Various folks have been jumping on the doomsday bandwagon ever since this 2012 nonsense became part of the social consciousness, claiming alternatively that it will be the end of the world or some kind of revelation of cosmic wisdom or other similar goofiness.  Charlatans have made a LOT of money selling books and all manner of claptrap to the gullible who are swallowing this stuff.  But even if they were right about the supposed apocalypse coming to destroy/enlighten us, they screwed up the date!

Of course, this is nothing new.  Historically, when those who make these kind of bold predictions are clearly shown to be wrong (and they’re ALWAYS wrong, because we’re still here), they simply tweak their estimates & calculations and make another set of predictions that the credulous folks want to believe in.  And so it goes… I wonder what the next end of the world fad is going to be?  Whatever it is, I’m going to make a prediction which I’m certain will come true: they’ll be dead wrong, again 🙂

Posted in astrology, doomsday | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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