Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Apocalypse later

Several times here at Skeptophilia headquarters we've made fun of people predicting the end of the world, be it from a collision with the planet Nibiru, an alien invasion, and the Borg cube draining the Sun of energy (no, I swear I'm not making that one up), not to mention the depredations of the Four Apocalyptic Horsepersons.  Until yesterday, however, I didn't know the scale of the problem.  A friend and loyal reader sent me a list of predicted end dates -- and all I can say is, we're not out of the woods yet.

As if we didn't have enough to worry about, what with impending ecological catastrophes, wars breaking out, and sociopaths in leadership roles in government, now we have to worry about the world ending over and over.  So without further ado, here's what we're in for:
  • June 9, 2019 -- the Second Coming of Christ, according to Ronald Weinland, founder of the Church of God - Preparing for the Kingdom of God, an apocalyptic Christian sect headquartered in Colorado.  This is far from the first time Weinland has predicted the End Times; he also said Christ was coming back in 2012 and 2013, the latter of which would have been during his prison term for tax evasion.  (Weinland's, not Christ's.)  Oh, and Weinland also said that anyone who mocks him or his church would be divinely cursed with a "sickness which will eat them from the inside out."  I'm still waiting for that, too.
  • An unspecified date in 2020 -- Armageddon, if you believe the late Jeane Dixon, a self-styled prophet and professional astrologer who died in 1997, so she won't be available for commentary when it doesn't happen.  Dixon was famous for touting the few times her predictions came true (such as a well-publicized one that whoever won the 1960 presidential election would die before his term was out), while ignoring all the wrong ones (such as her certainty that the person who'd win that election was Richard Nixon).  Speaking of Nixon, apparently he believed she was the real deal, which makes me wonder why she didn't warn him not to do all the stupid shit that led to Watergate.
  • Some time in 2018, or possibly 2020, 2021, or 2028 -- Kenton Beshore, pastor of the Mariners Church in Irvine, California, says that Jesus will return within one generation of the founding of the state of Israel (1948), as hath been foretold by the scriptures.  He said that the usual upper bound of "one generation" -- forty years -- is wrong, because Jesus didn't return in 1988.  So q.e.d., apparently. He says that a "biblical generation" is more like seventy or eighty years, so we might have to wait as long as 2028 for Jesus to come back.  Or not.  He doesn't seem very sure, himself.  I guess the line in the Gospel of Matthew about how no one knoweth the hour includes Pastor Beshore.
  • 2026 -- an asteroid is going to hit the Earth, according to Riaz Ahmed Gohar Shahi, a Sufi prophet from Pakistan, and founder of Messiah Foundation International.  Shahi is a bit of an enigma.  He fled Pakistan upon learning that he was being accused of blasphemy, and was tried in absentia and sentenced to 59 years in prison.  He ended up in England, but disappeared from there in 2001.  Some say he's in prison in India, others that he's in hiding in England, a few devotees that he was assumed bodily into heaven, and some more pragmatic types that he simply died.  Despite all this, there are reports of his devotees seeing him "all over the world."
  • 2060 -- according to an apocryphal story, physicist Isaac Newton said the world was going to end in some unspecified fashion in 2060.  Apparently, this came from an unpublished manuscript wherein Newton was trying to put apocalyptic predictions to rest, and said that from the motions of known objects in the Solar System, the world was not going to end before 2060, which I'm sure you can see is not the same thing as saying the world is going to end in 2060.  Nevertheless, you still hear the claim that Newton predicted the end of the world in 2060, lo unto this very day.
  • 2129 -- Kurdish Sunni prophet Said-i Nursî said that according to his interpretation of the words of Muhammad, the world was going to end in 2129.  Myself, I wonder why you'd need an interpretation, if that's what Muhammad meant.  If he wanted to say that, the simple thing would be to come right out and say, "Hey, y'all, you know what?  The world's gonna end in 2129," only in Arabic.  Of course, if religious leaders were that direct, they wouldn't need prophets, ministers, et al. to interpret their words, which would put a whole industry out of business.
  • 2239 -- according to some interpretations of the Talmud (cf. the previous entry), the "period of desolation" marking the start of the End Times has to occur within 6,000 years of the creation of Adam, which apparently happened in 3,761 B.C.E., which must have come as a hell of a shock to the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians, who had already been around for a thousand years by that time.  Then there follows a thousand years of "desolation," followed by the actual end of the world in the year 3239.  Although given how desolate things already are, you have to wonder how we'll tell the difference.
  • 2280 -- Rashad Khalifa, an Egyptian-American biochemist and scholar of the Qu'ran, said that from numerological analysis of the Qu'ran he predicted the world would end in 2280.  That's far enough ahead that I'm not really worried about it, and in any case (1) numerology is a lot of bunk, and (2) Khalifa was murdered in 1990 and didn't foresee that, so I think we can safely say that he wasn't worth much as a prophet.
So there you have it; eight times the world's gonna end.  And those are just the ones in the future.  The same list includes 173 dates the world has ended in the past (I shit you not) including several by such luminaries as Martin Luther, Jerry Falwell, Christopher Columbus, and Cotton Mather (Columbus and Mather each predicted the end three separate times).

Albrecht Dürer, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (ca. 1497) [Image is in the Public Domain]

Interesting that 173 failures in a row doesn't stop the apocalyptoids from claiming that okay, we've been wrong before, but this one's real, cross our hearts and hope to die in shrieking agony as the world burns.  Myself, I'd be a little discouraged by now.  It must be disappointing to think you're going to see the Rivers Running Red With The Blood Of Unbelievers a week from next Tuesday, and then you have to go to work the next day as if nothing happened, which it did.  At least we only have till June to wait for the next time the world is going to end, so we won't be kept in suspense for much longer.


This week's book recommendation is a brilliant overview of cognitive biases and logical fallacies, Rolf Dobelli's The Art of Thinking Clearly.  If you're interested in critical thinking, it's a must-read; and even folks well-versed in the ins and outs of skepticism will learn something from Dobelli's crystal-clear prose.

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