The world did not end last Sunday, May 27th. Once again, this comes as no surprise.
Last year around this same time, one practically could not avoid news coverage of Harold Camping's prediction of Judgment Day for May 21, 2011. Driven by the Christian minister's broadcasts on his Family Radio Network and billboards around the country, many of his followers sold their belongings and traveled around to spread the word of a looming disaster that ultimately never came. Camping had previously botched predictions for May 21, 1988 and September 6, 1994.
The prediction this year for May 27th came from a Church of God pastor named Ronald Weinland (born May 30, 1949) who has been promoting a pair of free e-books about how the world will end. I'm sure he is quite disappointed his prediction did not come true, not the least because it would have prevented the start of his trial for federal tax evasion, which is currently scheduled to begin Monday, June 4.
No rational person is surprised when these predictions fail to come true. They've been made all through history, literally thousands of times. Appendix III of Randi's Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural lists no less than forty-four of them. There is a website called A Brief History of the Apocalypse that lists hundreds more.
Of course, much has been written about the ridiculous Mayan apocalypse predictions for later this year, which have been promoted for years. These are based on a flawed interpretation of ancient calendar systems by new age believers. And just this month, a previously unknown Mayan ruin was revealed that contains murals which further contradict the bogus 2012 story.
But even with that debunking, we're still not done with doomsday predictions for this year. Another religious sect known as Growing in Grace International (led by one Jose de Luis de Jesus) has erected billboards in Toronto and elsewhere that predict a "transformation" for June 30, 2012. This group, perhaps more accurately called a cult, claims that adherents will be granted superpowers on that date, such as the ability to walk through walls.
Though it might be tempting to simply laugh at Weinland, de Jesus and their followers, these predictions are not without consequences. Their adherents will make life decisions based on the predictions, such as selling all their belongings, just as Camping's followers did last year.
These peoples lives will be devastated by this ridiculous misinformation. Think about them after the next prediction proves wrong.
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(This is adapted from a segment that originally appeared on the Skepticality podcast episode #156)
Tim Farley is a Research Fellow for JREF.