The Skeptical Teacher

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

Posts Tagged ‘prediction’

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 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 »

New Years Psychic Prediction Failures: 2010 Year in Review

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 1, 2011

Among the New Year traditions that seem to get bantered about these days are psychic predictions for the upcoming year.  Of course, psychics are a bunch of hooey – ever seen a newspaper headline titled “Psychic Wins Lottery, Gives Money to Starving Kids!”?  You never will, because psychic & other related paranormal phenomena just don’t work, period.

However, there are all too many faithful followers of psychic woo who want to believe that it works.  One of the primary ways in which believers fool themselves is to cherry-pick the predictions & results; in skeptic-speak, we call this “counting the hits and ignoring the misses”.  And there are a LOT more misses than hits, folks.  In addition, many of these psychics tend to make very vague & ambiguous predictions which can be twisted and interpreted in a number of ways.  This creative interpretation of misses or vague predictions after-the-fact as hits is well documented in the history of psychic woo.

As a way of illustrating this, let us take some time to examine a series of predictions made one year ago by a number of famous psychics, shall we?

What the Psychics Are Predicting for 2010

By , About.com Guide

THESE ARE THE people who are supposed to be able to tell us the future, right? Okay, so here are 2010 predictions from psychics, astrologers and mentalists from around the U.S. and around the world about the economy, politics, Hollywood – and a few very weird things.

Christopher St John, Psychic

  • Another crash in the stock market… maybe a little bit later in the year.
  • Increased recording and reporting of sightings of UFOs will place pressure on world governments to admit “the truth” of extra-terrestrial life. …

Another stock market crash?  Hmm, let’s see how the ol’ market did this year.  According to Yahoo News Finance, it seems like it was a pretty damn good year for the market, specifically the Dow Jones:

Of course, if Mr. St. John wants to call the dip in the market from May to July (which amounted to ~1000 points over the course of two months) a “crash”, I suppose he could do that.  But given what the markets went through back in 2008, I think this two-month-long dip could hardly be called a “crash”.  I’m going to call this one a miss.

As for the supposed “pressure” put on world governments to release “the truth” of ET-life, I don’t seem to recall any major headlines on that front.  In fact, a brief search of Google News using the terms “extra terrestrial life ufo governments” revealed pretty much nothing; well, nothing except for this headline: ‘Cosmic masters’ call for Govt investigation into UFOs

I suppose this is marginally interesting, but the prediction was that world governments (note the plural there) would have these UFO files released and facing pressure.  As it is, it seems that this has only occurred in New Zealand, not worldwide as predicted.  Not to mention, in the last few years we have seen the release of a number of formerly secret files on supposed UFO sightings by a number of governments, so this sort of “prediction” comes as no big revelation.  If this is a psychic hit, it is a really vague & lukewarm one.

Who is our next psychic? Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in astrology, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Psychic Gary Spivey Mega-Fail on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 4, 2010

It never ceases to amaze me how psychics and their ilk manage to persist, despite numerous moments of spectacular fail – such is the nature of cognitive dissonance with the psychics & their followers.  Well, at least we can have a little fun with it… A few days ago (on March 31st), just for a little bit of skeptical fun, Jimmy Kimmel had a psychic named Gary Spivey on his show to make a series of Final Four picks for the NCAA tournament.  Of course, as Kimmel outlines in his opening remarks, most of these games had already taken place, and some of the “teams” (such as Balboa and Flanders) don’t even exist!  Watch as master psychic Gary Spivey makes his predictions…

That’s pretty damn funny, if you ask me.  I will give Gary Spivey one thing, however: he’s got the most wicked-cool looking hairdo EVER!!! 🙂

Message to Gary Spivey…

Posted in humor, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Jay Leno Sticks It to Sylvia Browne — On Live TV

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 5, 2009

On Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, psychic Sylvia Browne made a surprise guest appearance on The Jay Leno Show. This is very surprising, seeing as how Leno is a definite skeptic when it comes to psychics & their woo (he coined the now famous phrase “Why don’t you ever see this headline: ‘Psychic Wins Lottery‘?”).  So why was Browne there in the first place?

What happened is that his show has a segment called Earn Your Plug, whereby celebrities who wish to have their TV show or movie plugged have to do something on the show to merit the advertising.  Well, last night the celebs were Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat of the movie “Paranormal Activity”, and for the Earn Your Plug segment they decided to surprise Leno by having Sylvia Browne give him a reading.  See for yourself how it went…

Jay Leno vs. Sylvia Browne

Right off the bat, Leno was completely blindsided by the fact that a psychic like Browne was even on his show.  Notice how he makes the crack at the beginning of the reading about replacing some employees in the near future; something tells me that this is one prediction which is likely to come true.  Had he known that Featherston & Sloat had wanted to bring Browne onto the show, Leno would have likely stopped it from happening.

In addition, I want to point something else out that Leno did – he was openly, though playfully (his show is about entertainment, after all), skeptical of what Browne was attempting to do.  Whenever she made a claim, rather than allow her to prattle on and on with all manner of nonsensical “predictions” (often known as cold reading), he would stop her and challenge her on specific points.  It is also worth noting how she reacted to Leno not simply believing what she said or at least playing along with her: she got angry with him.  She didn’t get screaming mad, but watching her demeanor and body language speaks volumes about how upset she was that he even dared to question her supposed divine prowess (she did claim, after all, that her “abilities” were “from God”).  Essentially, she was doing little more than making a blatant argument from authority in this regard, and it was painfully (for her) obvious that Leno wasn’t having any of it.

I think a good example was this exchange:

Browne: “Do you know how many people over the years have told me that I’m wrong about something, but came back later to tell me that I was right?”

Leno: “No. How many?”

In the end, I think that while it was a negative that a psychic scumbag like Sylvia Browne even got onto Leno’s show in the first place, Leno himself turned it into a more positive experience by not treating her seriously & acting openly skeptical and asking questions.  The result was, in my opinion, that by the end of the reading – which was mercifully short – the vast majority of the audience was laughing at Ms. Browne and not with her.  And if there’s anyone who deserves to be laughed at, it is Sylvia Browne and her ilk.

Good move, Jay, for educating people on how to deal with such supernatural claims.  Johnny Carson would be proud of you 🙂

Posted in psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

 
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