Good Math, Bad Math

A lot of people have been sending me links to a numerology article,
in which yet another numerological idiot claims to have identified the
date of the end of the world. This time, the idiot claims that it’s going to
happen on May 21, 2011.

I’ve written a lot about numerology-related stuff before. What makes this
example particularly egregious and worth writing about is that it’s not just
an article on some bozo’s internet website: this is an article from the
San
Francisco Chronicle
, which treats a pile of numerological bullshit as if it’s
completely respectable and credible.

As I’ve said before: the thing about numerology is that there are so many
ways of combining numbers together that if you’re willing to spend enough
time searching, you can find some way of producing any result that you want. This
is pretty much a classic example of that.

Our numerologist is a chap named Harold Camping. Mr. Camping starts off
by claiming that there’s a correlation between certain words in
the bible and certain numbers. According to him, the number “5″ means
“atonement”; the number “10″ means “completeness”; and the number
“17″ means “heaven”.

So, as our starting point, we’ve got the numbers 5, 10, and 17.

Next, he says that the crucifiction happened on April 1, 33 A.D.
There are 1,978 years between April 1, 33 and April 1, 2011. Unfortunately,
1,978 doesn’t fit any combination of numerical operations performed using
5, 10, and 17 that Mr. Camping could figure out.

So, he took the length of a solar year, to 7 significant digits: 365.2422
days. He multiplied 1,978 years by 365.2422 days, to come up with 722449.0716
days. Why use 7 significant digits for the length of a solar year? Because
using that number of digits produces a result that he can tweak into a
connection with his three magic numbers.

See, if you take the three magic numbers, multiply them together, and
square the result, you get 722,500. Why square them? No particular reason,
other than the fact that, by golly, it works! Now, take that as a number
of days.

So, take the two numbers we’ve come up with: 722,500, and
722,449. They’re different by about 51 days. And hey! 51 is 17 times
three! So it’s not a fudge factor, it’s meaningful! Therefore,
if you just add 51 days to the supposed anniversary of the crucifiction,
you get the date of the end of the world!

So May 21, 2011 is the end of the world – because it’s (atonement times
completeness times heaven) days squared since the crucifiction.

According to Camping, “I just about fell off my chair when I realized
that”.

Like I keep saying about this topic: when you play with numbers, you’ll
constantly find patterns. Numbers are a beautiful closed system, where
you can easily spin in circles without even knowing that you’re doing it.
If you’re willing to spend enough time looking, you can always
find some sequence of arithmetic operations that will produce whatever
result you want. There’s nothing meaningful about it.

To make matters sillier, this isn’t the first time that Camping
has pulled this. An earlier calculation of his predicted that the world
would end on Sept 6, 1994.

People are incredibly gullible when it comes to this sort of shit. As I’ve
talked about before, you can be wrong time and time and time again in these
kinds of predictions – and it just doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. The
suckers will fall for it, again and again. (The worst case of this that I know
of is “The Lord’s Witnesses”, an offspring of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who
have, to date, made 159 incorrect predictions since the year 2,000.) One of
the people who sat outside Camping’s church in 1994 is busily preparing for
the end of the world next year:

Rick LaCasse, who attended the September 1994 service in Alameda, said that 15
years later, his faith in Camping has only strengthened.

“Evidently, he was wrong,” LaCasse allowed, “but this time it is going to
happen. There was some doubt last time, but we didn’t have any proofs. This
time we do.”

Would his opinion of Camping change if May 21, 2011, ended without incident?

“I can’t even think like that,” LaCasse said. “Everything is too positive
right now. There’s too little time to think like that.”

Comments

  1. #1 DannyHaszard
    January 5, 2010

    Circa 1996 the Watchtower society was compelled to make a strained public announcement that: ‘we will NO LONGER SET DATES for THE END OF THE WORLD’.

    GOOGLE: Watchtower Jehovah 1914 1925 1975

    Watchtower society Jehovah’s Witnesses false prophets declare end of world in 1975
    http://www.dannyhaszard.com/1975.htm

    Read all the evidence look at the actual news releases on Armageddon 1975 prediction

  2. #2 Danny Haszard
    January 5, 2010

    Watchtower apocalyptic vision

    The end of the world is coming someday, but it won’t be the Watchtower society Jehovah’s Witnesses fulfillment.

    If the leaders owned up to their errors instead of white washing they would have more respect.
    They set bogus dates over and over…
    The Watchtower JW has made apocalyptic proclamations profitable.

  3. #3 walt crawford
    January 5, 2010

    Hmm. I didn’t read the Chronicle article (which I read, in the paper form, as usual) as at all treating this nut’s predictions as “completely respectable and credible.” I read it as a human-interest story, basically “here’s another nutcase predicting the end of the world” (or, actually, the Rapture, when everybody like him suddenly vanishes). I thought it was a funny story, but certainly didn’t read it as offering any credibility.

  4. #4 kevin
    January 5, 2010

    And beyond the problem of using only 7 significant digit to get the number of days since jebus died, he’s also forgetting the numerous calendar adjustments that have been made over time. Look at 1752, for example.

    Working with dates is just a pain.

    Also, if I could meet this guy or any of his followers, I’d ask them to sign over their house, car, and bank accounts to me, effective midnight on the day of rapture.

  5. #5 eigenvector
    January 5, 2010

    I think he also did a little wordsmithing with the statement: “”I just about fell off my chair when I realized that”.” What really happened was: “I…fell off my chair…[just before] I realized that”. Stunned and obviously with a concussion he made a logical leap of faith and there you have it.

  6. #6 BenE
    January 5, 2010

    “Hold on. You have to slow down. You’re losing it. You have to take a breath. Listen to yourself. You’re connecting a computer bug I had with a computer bug you might have had and some religious hogwash. You want to find the number 216 in the world, you will be able to find it everywhere. 216 steps from a mere street corner to your front door. 216 seconds you spend riding on the elevator. When your mind becomes obsessed with anything, you will filter everything else out and find that thing everywhere. As soon as you discard scientific rigor, you’re no longer a mathematician, you’re a numerologist!”

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Pi_(film)

  7. #7 Danny Haszard
    January 5, 2010

    “Feed your faith and starve your doubts.”
    What keeps doomsday cults going after repeated prophetic failures.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses are still expecting the end because their rational mind no longer works it has become irrational because the desire for a new world is so potent it overwrites everything else”~ Greendawn

    Cognitive dissonance:In brief, the theory of cognitive dissonance holds that contradicting cognitions serve as a driving force that compels the mind to acquire or invent new thoughts or beliefs, or to modify existing beliefs, so as to minimize the amount of dissonance (conflict) between cognitions.

  8. #8 Jer
    January 5, 2010

    Would his opinion of Camping change if May 21, 2011, ended without incident?

    “I can’t even think like that,” LaCasse said. “Everything is too positive right now. There’s too little time to think like that.”

    I know that point of this post is about bad math and bad numerology, but just look at the mentality here. This guy is actively hoping for the end of the world – for the death of the planet and everyone who lives on it. I live around people like this and still, every time I encounter it head-on like this it amazes me. When your religious beliefs make you sound like a comic book supervillain, perhaps its time to seek some professional help.

  9. #9 landisbs
    January 5, 2010

    2Pe 3:3 KJV – Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

    weCANknow.com

  10. #10 Peter
    January 5, 2010

    The Bible says that no one will know when the end will come, but that doesn’t stop idiots from ignoring this warning. I guess they wouldn’t be idiots then, and besides only an idiot would keep making predictions that turn out to be false over and over again.

    Anyway the world probably won’t end for billions of years until the sun goes nova. However, that doesn’t mean that individual nations won’t perish. Just about every European country has a persistent negative fertility rate. In around three hundred years many of these people will be extinct, replaced by Muslim immigrants. I guess the doom sayers can’t wait that long. Idiots need immediate feedback.

  11. #11 DSimon
    January 5, 2010

    The Bible says that no one will know when the end will come…

    That’s brilliant! That’s why they keep predicting that the world will end! After all, if someone “knows” for any given date that the world will end on that date, then by their own rules the world cannot end on that date! Eat that, JC! ;-)

  12. #12 lemartin
    January 5, 2010

    Why is it that scintist are the only people or people that claim to know how the earth was made, yet they were not there and they still can not reproduce the same results in a lab. Evelution a thery that can not be proven. The big bang thery that can not be proven. They force us to belive what they want so they can fell important, not because its the truth but because its the only train of thought that the Goverment will throw money into that will keep the people so devided that we wont watch them throw our money down the drain.
    More people in the world belive in God or a god than those that dont. Belive in God or gods birth science. All the early greats had some type of faith in a deity. So when you make fun of those that belive then you belittle those hose shoulders you so prouldly stand on. As for the end of the world you have to be deft, dumb and blind not to see the truth that its comeing like a late freight with no brakes.
    The truth being that this planet cannot substain the number of people that is on this planet at this point. Unless we lose at least half of the population really quick then this planet is doomed to strave itself out. Destroy itself through war because of no water,food or other resources. And no scientest can save us from ourselfs because we cant make something from nothing. When the water is to poluted to drink, the crops wont grow because the dirt has no nutreunts for them and people has lost all trust in goverments that only care for themselves and not the people. Then the end is on us and nothing we try to do will save us. The end is closer than we think.

  13. #13 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    January 5, 2010

    @12:

    You’re wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start.

    The easiest one, I suppose, is that scientists aren’t the only ones who claim to know how the world was created. Pretty much every religion claims to know how the world was created, and there are billions of people around the world, from every religion you can image, who are absolutely certain that *they* are the only ones who *really* know the truth of how the world was created.

    Next: that’s a pretty damned bleak worldview. If you’re a religious person as you claim to be, then why would a merciful loving deity put us into such an awful situation?

    Contrary to what bozos like you think, I’m not an atheist. I’m actually a religious Jew. And I’ve got faith that God gave us the ability to repair our world, if that’s what we really want to do. We *can* feed every person on earth, if we’re willing to do the work to make it happen. We can solve our energy problems. We can provide clean water to everyone who needs it. It’s within our abilities. Fixing the messes that we’ve made won’t be an easy thing – but it’s a doable thing.

    And sitting down, understanding the problems, and looking for solutions is a hell of a lot more moral than just praying for God to come along and destroy the world, so that we don’t have to clean up after ourselves.

    The important divide between kinds of people isn’t between religious people and non-religious people. It’s between decent people and ambulatory shitbags like you. Both atheists and theists come in both varieties. The difference is what they’re willing to do to make the world better. What people like you are willing to do is sit around, whine, and pray for God to come and destroy everything. What you believe isn’t what’s important: what matters is what you *do*.

    But I’m sure that you believe you’re a much better, more moral person that an atheist, or than a Jew like me.

  14. #14 DuaneBidoux
    January 5, 2010

    I have run into people who believe the world is coming to an end since I was a child. I am still trying to figure out how to get them to believe they have an interest in placing a bet with me. They all say “what do I have to gain. If I’m right we’re all gone (the Christians) and I gain nothing.”

    I really don’t know how to respond. I need a counter argument so I can start cleaning up on a regular basis. Any ideas?

  15. #15 lemartin
    January 5, 2010

    @13to begain with no I am no better than the next person that stands beside me. You are right that there are many religeons around the world that belive that they know how the earth was made. I dont.
    I never said I was religious, but just about every school in the u.s. is forced to teach some form of evolution and the big bang theroy.
    Whit no disrespect tended what type of religious Jew are you? And yes God has given us the ability to repair or heal our earth but I just dont see mankind haveing the desire or the Godly moral fortitude to scrafise to the point that we must to repair the earth.
    A merciful God did not do this to us, we did all this to ourself. Out of greed, self importance and the desire to be more than we are. No God had nothing to do with the way the earth is now. This is our handywork.
    As far as the problems we understand the problem its just that the goverments of this earth dose not want to do anything about it because their scared that they might be overthrown because they may have to ask their people to scrafice to much.
    Decent people dont judge others that they dont know and dont curse at them just to make them mad. I forgive you.
    You are right , it dosent matter what you belive, I could care less. It doses matter what you do with what you have while you are alive and on this earth. I have fed those that others said no to, I have repaired washing machines and dryiers for the elders of my town, I have helped people with their cars in the parking lots for no charge.
    Now my family and I now face a uncertain futhure because my job has moved out of the u.s.a. and I have to go back to school to retrain myself for another job at 49 years of age.
    May you live in peace and prosper
    Salom

  16. #16 Billingham
    January 5, 2010

    @13

    I have to correct you there: the easiest mistake to correct is that scientist has an ‘e’ in it. And theory has an ‘o’ in it. I’m not sure which of those is easier.

  17. #17 Dana
    January 5, 2010

    Please bear with me on this.
    A gold miner continues to dig for gold even when he has failures. He predicts success based on the best information available.
    A bronco rider continues to get on horses he predicts he can ride. Is he a scoundrel if he doesn’t ride perfectly or he makes mistakes?
    A race car driver predicts he will win the race. If he fails is he ridiculed or told he is not a True race care driver, because he took the information on had and said “I will win the race?” A Politician says I will be President! Many help him in this endeavour and even put there lives on hold to help him do it….If he fails to win the Presidency is he a despot who is then ridiculed for failing to Win the Presidency….

    Religious Predictions have been made by every religion that has ever been, but you won’t hear the Apostate Hate Spewers talking about other religions…tools of Satan are simply focused on what Satan hates.
    Predictions are made by men who truly believe that what they are saying is true and correct when they say it!
    Would you rather be a part of a group that is digging deeply into The Holy Scriptures and other verifiable research and trying to come up with the truth or would rather be part of a group that knows what they are doing is contrary to God’s standards and really doesn’t care what you believe or how you behave morally as long as you put money in the offering plate. JWs are doing there best to do God’s will the best way they know how. Mistakes have been made and will be made again in the search for the truth, but God is not one who looks at the errors of any honest hearted one. God looks at what the intent is. If a man pounds on your door and tells you your house in on fire and you are need to get out, but he is mistaken due to some smoke or steam coming from your house will you whip him with a stick and bring up his error at every chance simply to beat him down,…..The question really is are JW’s intentionally trying to hurt people by their teachings….JW’s aren’t perfect, but they are a good group that is TRYING to do what they know is right!
    The apostate worldlings like living in a world of filth and perversion and are malcontents that spew half truths and out and out lies to get you on their side of the argument.
    The Truth is no one knows the day or the hour and all that want to have a good life need to serve God with Spirit and Truth until GOD through his Son brings and end once and for all to the wicked of this world. It will come….some day, but it will come as sure as the sun is the brightest light in the sky. Run the race for life with endurance and maybe you will be saved.

  18. #18 Ergo Ratio
    January 5, 2010

    Dana, intention has little value outside the scope of personal relationships and a court of law. Many of the worst atrocities are done by well-intentioned idiots. Well-intentioned harm is the evil of evils.

  19. #19 Alex
    January 5, 2010

    Too late everyone.
    The Jehovah’s Witness beat you to the punch.
    The end of the world (this system of things) happened in 1975! lol
    It’s got to be true! Jehovah’s only speaks to all of mankind via a group of old white guys out of New York USA.
    Ha Ha Ha.

  20. #20 charles
    January 5, 2010

    While you may be right about numerology, your rationale about it is all wrong.

    Your argument that numerology is baloney because you can combine numbers into anything you like, therefore no numerological events exist.

    It’s like saying that because it is possible to combine genes in any number of ways, therefore no living beings exist at all.

  21. #21 Rob
    January 5, 2010

    @11: Your comment is quite reminiscent (possibly intentionally?) of the unexpected hanging paradox. It’s quite a fascinating little logical conundrum that turns out to be deeper than it first appears.

  22. #22 Badger3k
    January 5, 2010

    I thought the end of the world was going to happen when a mutant space goat eats the sun, and only telephone sanitizers and ad executives would survive in the space ark?

    I could have sworn that was how it was foretold.

    Side note, I had a friend who was a JW, and he was basically a good guy, but his beliefs were so ate up it wasn’t funny. I did get him to think, somewhat, and start to question his ideas, but I doubt he really faced them. Other than that, the JWs are a bunch of vile, harmful idiots. Their stance on medicine alone makes them dangerous to others. But despite their continual failures, they still are around spouting their nonsense.

  23. #23 Rob
    January 5, 2010

    @20: No, his argument is not that no numeroligical events “exist,” it’s that the occurrence of some event predicted by numerology is a coincidence in the same sense that if I buy, say 6,991,908 lottery tickets, all with different numbers, in a 49/6 game and one of them wins, it’s a coincidence. It doesn’t mean I’m clairvoyant. If you throw enough shit against the wall, some of it may stick.

  24. #24 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    January 5, 2010

    @20:

    Sorry, no.

    Genes are a piece of objective reality. You can observe them, and test them.

    When you look at genes, you can do tests. There are invalid combinations: sequences that don’t work. You can analyze a gene, develop a theory of what it will do, and then you can test that. You can look at how genes express themselves: by analyzing the chemistry of DNA, you can figure out what effect a gene will have on the development of an organism – and you can test it.

    Numerology is completely different. There is nothing objective. No testable system of numerology has ever been demonstrated. No system of meaning, no way of connecting the magic numbers of numerology to anything real has every passed any objective test of any kind.

    In fact, there aren’t really any *systems* of numerology. Pretty much everyone that does numerology has their own idiosyncratic system. Each practitioner insists that they’ve got the One True System: everyone else is wrong, but *THEIR* system is actually true.

    What evidence is there of *any* numerological system of any kind having any meaning beyond the circularity of someone playing games? What results have any numerological system ever produced? What mechanism has ever been proposed for how/why any of these things work?

  25. #25 R E G
    January 5, 2010

    I’m always puzzled by the assumption that God schedules events based on our calendar, or base 10 numbers, or anything else we measure.

    All measurement is arbitrary. Suppose God has decided that the world will end after someone predicts the end of the world for the 4,114,578,672,111th time.

    Just saying. Don’t add to the total people.

  26. #26 eddie
    January 5, 2010

    Analogy FAIL!
    What the nutters keep claiming is not just how the numbers combine but why their numbers are significant, and even then they fudge and fumble. What geneticists see is combinations of genes that lead to similar forms and functions. If they ever just throw genes together, they don’t make the jumbo jet.
    Dolt.

  27. #27 Pseudonym
    January 5, 2010

    I don’t know much about Harold Camping, but he once wrote a book claiming that the end of the world would be in September 1997. You think he’d have gotten the idea by now.

    (I only know this because of a Usenet troll from the mid-90s. I don’t know why I still remember this.)

  28. #28 eddie
    January 5, 2010

    Also, 501? D’s that mean the levis are to blame?

  29. #29 Pseudonym
    January 5, 2010

    Duh, I’m an idiot. It was indeed 1994, as Mark said in the article. Guess I don’t remember it as well as I thought.

  30. #30 Pseudonym
    January 5, 2010

    One more thing… I disagree with Mark that the San Francisco Chronicle article treats Camping’s patent nonsense as if it’s “respectable and credible”. I read the whole thing and did not get that sense at all.

  31. #31 jahigginbotham
    January 5, 2010

    Where can I get contact information for Camping and his followers (I don’t think lemartin would qualify)?
    I’m offering loans (up to a total of $100,000), no payments due till May 22, 2011 (interest rate will be pretty steep and I require some sort of collateral).

  32. #32 Felix
    January 5, 2010

    Dear Dana, this sort of prediction is just wild speculation and has almost no relation to what the Bible actually says.

    People who practice such stuff are not “digging deeply into The Holy Scriptures” but engaging in their own foolishness.

    By the way, a friend of mine was almost convinced that the end would happen in 1998 (because it’s 666*3). I offered to give him $10,000 in 1997, on the basis that he give me $20,000 if we made it to 1999. But he wasn’t quite that convinced …

  33. #33 Thomas
    January 5, 2010

    @21 Maybe this means that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and all the other doomsday prophets have been correct each time they predicted the end of the world, and the world would have ended on every one of the dates, but by knowing, they saved us all?

  34. #34 Alex
    January 5, 2010

    The Jehovah’s Witness don’t know about their own religion. They are restricted from reading anything about the Watchtower and its religion. According the to society it is to protect the flock. Of course the real reason is to control the flock. I have seen this group and many of the members are sad and unfulfilled with their lives. Of course they put on a different mask around thier ‘brothers and sisters’.

  35. #35 readmore
    January 6, 2010

    Did you get your PhD reading newspaper articles? Based on the fact that you are summarizing Campings 60+ years of faithful Bible study to an SF article mimics your simplistic impression of numerology.

    Christ himself uses an example of how numbers can be multiplied for spiritual truth (KJV):
    Matthew v18:21 – Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? v18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

    Numerology is a man made concept. In the Bible, a number is just a holy as a word. It is there for a purpose. Campings application of numbers is not from visions or dreams, but from understanding numbers in their context of Biblical verses. I’m coming to the realization from my limited Bible knowledge that what Camping has done, searching the scriptures, would take anybody a lifetime.

    I’d recommend reading Camping’s short publication “We Are Almost There” (free to download at familyradio.com) which summarizes how he comes to May 21, 2011 from many vantage points using scripture alone.

  36. #36 Barry Leiba
    January 6, 2010

    I’m sure it’s not intentional, but I love the coinage “crucifiction”, a nice portmanteau of “crucifixion” and “fiction”.

    Sometimes the unintentional ones are the best. He-he-he……

  37. #37 Kenny
    January 6, 2010

    Jehovah’s Witnesses DANA SAYS’s: (The apostate worldlings like living in a world of filth and perversion and are malcontents that spew half truths and out and out lies to get you on their side of the argument. )

    AND

    (…. the Apostate Hate Spewers talking about other religions…tools of Satan are simply focused on what Satan hates.
    Predictions are made by men who truly believe that what they are saying is true and correct when they say it! )

    *****

    TO:DANA (Steve Klemetti)
    Thanks for posting the obligatory Jehovah’s Witnesses rabid rant, this proves what a David Koresh Scary cult you freaks are.

    STAY OFF my private property!
    http://www.jwfiles.com

  38. #38 trj
    January 6, 2010

    @35:
    Camping with his “60+ years of faithful Bible study” is going to look embarassingly like a fool when, once again, his prediction will fail to come true in 2011. So will you, though I feel convinced it won’t cause you to question numerology in any way.

    Also, your use of Matt 18:21 as a justification of numerology is extremely weak.

  39. #39 j a higginbotham
    January 6, 2010

    @14, Join up with me. We give them a small but significant amount of cash now for deeds to their house effective May 22.

  40. #40 Karsten
    January 6, 2010

    Oh boy does the original article attract the loonysphere.

  41. #41 Danny Haszard
    January 6, 2010

    It’s amusing to ridicule,but theses killer apocalyptic cults ruin and steal lives.

    How can there be literally MILLIONS of *premature* JW deaths over the 100 plus year history of Watchtower edge-of-the-seat new-world-coming-any-minute to fix your health problems?

    Simple-In 1992 when I exited the JW cult 90% of my Congregation was absolutely convinced from Watchtower promises that they most certainly would not see 2010 in this ‘ole system’.Most of them where NOT managing their long term health care such as hypertension and diabetes,obesity,health check ups.

    Multiply this times 60,000 congregations and there you have it.
    This is a horrible cruel apocalyptic cult!

    Read my own life story born JW in 1957 then I get severe Ulcerative Colitis in 1970 and it was mismanaged because the Watchtower promised me the new system in 1975. NOW at 52 I am lucky to be alive with only a colostomy bag.

    Danny Haszard http://www.dannyhaszard.com

  42. #42 John
    January 6, 2010

    If you add words like “temperature”, “CO2″ and “sea level” to those numbers, suddenly everybody believes them and even the most rational skeptics are happy to accept we’re heading towards armageddon.

  43. #43 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    January 6, 2010

    @42:

    I realize that you’re probably just trolling. But just in case:

    Numerology is just random number play, with no justification except the end result. Why does Camping decide that 5, 10, and 17 are the key magic numbers? Because they produce the result that he wants. There’s no reason for it other than that it produces a result that he wants. He’s spent years playing with numbers, and discarded everything except the one combination he found that works.

    Climate change is solid science. Analyzing physical processes via multiple methods produces consistent results. Data collected by multiple methods from multiple sources produces consistent results. But being science, it’s not 100% certain. All we can say is that the best evidence we have now produces a prediction with a certain probability.

    How much will CO2 warm the earth? No one is completely sure. There’s some really good science and math that produces some predictions with pretty good certainty. But no scientist says that there is no doubt, or that we know exactly what will happen with perfect precision.

    And that’s the real key difference. Scientists say “Based on our analysis of multiple data sources, we can predict with high confidence that X will happen”. Crackpots say “Based on my playing games with numbers, I’m absolutely 100% sure that I’m correct”.

  44. #44 Kevin
    January 6, 2010

    Jehovah’s Witnesses have never said the world would end in 1975. There is not a single publication of theirs that says this and every time I ask people to show me they keep coming up empty the same as I have.
    1975 was only significant in that it represented the end of a 6,000 year period of time.
    In 1972 I was having a study with JWs. I think they would have mentioned 1975 if they were claiming it to be the end.

  45. #45 jeff putnam
    January 6, 2010

    I have a few expressions that compute 1978 with 5,10,17,5,10,17,5,10,17 (in that order). These where generated by code written in response to someone’s blog post about computing 2010 as arithmetic combinations of [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9] in that order. It was easy enough to change the digits to 5,10,17,5,10,17,5,10,17 (only two repetitions doesn’t seem to work) and the target to 1978. (I didn’t bother changing to code to use the digits in any order, which would undoubtedly have led to smaller expressions).

    The first of these in my output is :

    (5+(10+(((17-5)*((10*17)+(5-10)))-17)))

  46. #46 AnyEdge
    January 6, 2010

    Holy CRAP @45!

    So Camping was right after all!!??

    PREPARE FOR THE END!

  47. #47 Mark Davis
    January 6, 2010

    TO: Kevin you are a LIAR there are MANY Watchtower publications and news release on 1975.

    Read the first post:
    [ Watchtower society Jehovah's Witnesses false prophets declare end of world in 1975
    http://www.dannyhaszard.com/1975.htm ]

    Amazing that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the pompous gall to come on my property saying they are the *truth* when in fact they lie like sociopaths.

    They entire JW belief system is based on dates.. dates.. dates…It was started as a numerology cult back in 1874

  48. #48 Mark Davis
    January 6, 2010

    http://www.dannyhaszard.com/1975biu7.jpg

    Click for Newspaper articles collage of Jehovah’s Witnesses end of world 1975 hysteria

  49. #49 Robert Benbrook
    January 6, 2010

    Many interesting comments here. I would like to add these. I am one of Jehovahs witnesses and have been for a very long time. During the seventy’s I was very active in our preaching work. Most, if not all of us at that time felt that 1975 would be the year that the thousand year reign of Christ would begin. We were taught that Bible cronology indicated that from the end of Jehovah’s creative work on earth until the start of Jesus’ reign was 6,000 years and that ended in 1975. Calculating such things is not an exact science, that’s for sure. But on the other hand there are many other things in the Bible that indicate the time for God to change the system of things. Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 21 for example. What we thought seemed reasonable and we took a stand on that. That stand has given many opportunities for ridicule. We have to accept that. In spite of that, the Bible does predict that. “as the days of Noah so it will be in the days of the son of man.” When we preach about this we are not wanting to see vast numbers of people killed. Rather we see that as a time when all survivers well stop dying. We often quote Revelation 21:3,4 as the basis for this conclusion. All of us believe the Bible is our communication from Jehovah and we use it as the basis for what we teach. What we ask people to do is look at the scriptures we offer and if our position is reasonable then follow it. If it does not seem right one should by all means look elswhere. Jesus said at Matthew 28:19,20 “go therefore, make disciples, teaching them…” Should we do that?

  50. #50 readmore
    January 7, 2010

    @38 Was Christ supposed to tell you “you can use algebra with my holy numbers”. He shows by example. And your assessment is a non sequitur because you have no set criteria for an “extremely weak” verse.

    @Mark, numerology = random number play. Vague definition used to your advantage. Either way, you have zero comprehension of where Camping’s numbers come from, but again make conclusions based on an SF article. I remained humble when I first heard him declaring this in late 2007, and read into it. Many like you, refuse. On another note, a computer scientist lecturing on CO2′s is rather unusual. Have you been involved in writing code to do numerical analyses of the differential equations involved in describing the chemical and physical processes behind global atmospheric models?

  51. #51 darrell
    January 7, 2010

    All this talk about numerology is unfounded. The dating of judgment day is based on calendar information in the Bible as it relates to various scriptures. For example, if one understands that the date of Noah’s flood was in 4990 BC (based on Genesis 7:11) one can discern the date of judgment by examining verses like Luke 17:26 and II Peter 3:6 where God compares the flood to judgment day. He also equates one day as 1000 years. Therefore since Noah was given 7 days to get in the ark we know that 7000 years after the flood points to judgment day. Very simple.

    Lu 17:26 And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.

    II Pet 3:6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

    Another important prophesy which helps us know the end is near concerns the sign of the fig tree. The Bible uses the fig tree to represent the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 24). Israel was reestablished as a nation (i.e., came in leaf) on May 14, 1948. In Matthew 24:32 we read that Christ will be at the doors (meaning His return is imminent) when Israel becomes a nation again.

    Matt 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

    As for spiritual numbers in the Bible, practically all theologians, historians and archaeologists understand that the numbers in the Bible can have special meaning. For instance, most agree that the number 40 represents testing and the number 7 represents perfection. Camping is not breaking any new ground in this area. But when it comes to understanding the time information in the Bible (e.g. 1290 days of the abomination of desolation) Daniel 12:9 clearly states that this information was sealed up until the time of the end. Since we’re at the time of the end, God has increased knowledge so that we will understand this information (Daniel 12:4).

    Da 12:9 And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.10 Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
    11 And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.

    Bottom-line. This is not about numerology. This is about being able to discern time in the light of the Bible.

  52. #52 Karsten
    January 7, 2010

    #51:

    This all looks like a very throughout work, and almost as if it made any sense. It will, however, come to you as no surprise that “wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” does not weight much in the content department; you would find delusional men since the beginning of time considering themselves to be the wise ones.

    So in what way exactly does citing any of this mumbo-jumbo brings you nearer to knowledge about judgement day? In science, or indeed in any form of reasonal thinking, this stuff would be instantly rejected. Only in religion and esotherics is such bordlerline idiotic nonsense treated seriously.

  53. #53 April
    January 7, 2010

    To Darrell who posted the above information. Will you answer this question for me, (regardless of whether or not *numerology* is involved with your timeline)? You believe and teach a large group of Camping supporters that 2 Pet. 3:8 contains a “hidden time clue” that has now been “unsealed” in our day.

    2Pe 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

    Do you agree with Mr. Camping’s conclusion that the 2nd time reference above (“and a thousand years as one day”) CONFIRMS or REPEATS the first time reference (“one day is as a thousand years”)?

    Your entire timeline hinges on what you call the “hidden time clue” of the first time reference which turns each of the 7 days of Gen. 7:4 into 7,000 years to take you from 4990 BC to 2011 AD.

    The problem is, there is a corresponding SECOND time reference in 2 Pet. 3:8 which you ignore.

    Do you ignore it because it CONFIRMS (or REPEATS) the first?

    If not, then where is the thousand years that becomes one literal day in your timeline?

  54. #54 trj
    January 7, 2010

    @50:
    Ironic that you accuse me of using a non sequitur. You take a verse in which Jesus says you must forgive your brother when he sins against you seventy times seven times (which is probably his way of saying “a lot”). From this you claim that biblical numerology is true and supported by the Bible.

    This is what I’m calling an “extremely weak” justification.

    Not that it matters, of course. You’ve already decided biblical numerology is true, so coming up with flimsy justifications for it is only of secondary importance. Come June 2011, when Camping is proven wrong for the fourth time, you’ll no doubt believe in it just as fervently as ever. I’m sure Camping will come up with some correction. Maybe he forgot to factor in the number of archangels, or maybe he’ll find he should’ve used the ancient Jewish calendar. Whatever works for him. There’s always an excuse and another prediction. Numerology is predictable that way.

  55. #55 Tacroy
    January 7, 2010

    Here’s a test to see if you actually believe that the world will end:

    I am currently offering a deal. I’ll give you a dollar right now, with the only caveat being that, at some time of your choosing within the next 10 years, you give me two dollars. (Deals for >10 year time periods are available, but then you have to give me more than two dollars back (I do have to show a reasonable ROI, after all)).

    You can take this deal as many times as you want. I’ll give you ten dollars now, if you give me twenty dollars by 2020. I’ll give you a ten thousand now, if you give me twenty thousand by 2015. Hell, I’ll give you a million dollars now, as long as you pay me or my descendants ten million before 2075.

    Do you take this deal? If you really truly believe that the world will end in 2011, you’d do it in a heartbeat. Just think of what your favorite charity could do with that million right now, to ease people’s suffering before the inevitable end of all things, or the number of converts your church will be able to save from eternal damnation with that money.

    However, I have a theory: no matter what you say you believe, you will still act in a matter consistent with a reality-based worldview. That means not taking this deal, despite the fact that any rational person who believed the world will end on a specific date would.

    So… would any of you people who believe there will be an apocalypse soon take this deal?

    (I have to admit that I personally would not be able to offer this deal, since I don’t have enough disposable income to wager a significant amount – however, I’m sure that if you ask around at the Long Bet Foundation, you’ll be able to find a taker. Funny that Mr. Camping isn’t in there already – perhaps he learns from experience?)

  56. #56 Delboy
    January 7, 2010

    I hope there is some allance for the switch over from Julian Calendar ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_calendar ) to the Gregorian Calendar ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar )
    Britain and the British Empire (including the eastern part of what is now the United States) adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752 by which time it was necessary to correct by 11 days. Wednesday, 2 September 1752 was followed by Thursday, 14 September 1752.
    So the end of the world may be out by 11 days

  57. #57 B-Con
    January 7, 2010

    There’s a huge difference between numerology and recognizing the patterns and order or numbers in the physical world. I don’t think that everyone who protests to Mark’s article here gets that.

    Math drives the world. It’s everywhere. The world obeys logical patterns. Obviously, interesting relationships between the world and numbers will show up. This is to be expected.

    The problem is when people claim that they’ve found some specific combination of numbers that predicts something, like the end of the world. They say: Number X is significant for reason A, number Y is significant for reason B, number Z is significant for reason C. It is natural, for reason D, to combine numbers A, B, and C in a certain manner and interpret the resulting number as being the result or date of a certain event.

    We don’t have any good way of forming relationships between events we humans perceive as “interesting” and numbers. We don’t know what dates we should use, how we should multiply, what should be added, when we should subtract, etc. There is simply no good correlation that we can follow that has track record of being right. So by making any such choice to do so, it’s all up to the numerologist and what he wants to do. And because of this, a numerologist can pick any of zillions of “interesting” ways to come up with “interesting” numbers.

    For the people arguing against Mark: Mark is not saying that numbers are meaningless, or that they are not found in nature, he’s saying that there are ZILLIONS of interesting ways to combine them, meaning that any one specific way is pretty much meaningless. In fact a LOT of numbers can be represented in an interesting way. The fact that a numerologist combined numbers in an interesting way is useless. In face, it’s to be EXPECTED. Give me any number and I should be able to find out why it’s an “interesting” number.

    We do not deny that numbers and their order come up in nature. For that matter, we are not even claiming that, if you believe in God, that God Himself does not use numbers in an interesting way. For example, in the Bible, God uses certain numbers repeatedly. The number 40, for example, reappears many times. Why? Beats me, I just know that it got re-used somewhat often, usually in association with difficulty or tribulations of some sort. So 40 could be considered “interesting”, according to the bible. The number 7 also came up a few times, and seems to be the number associated with completion (7 days in a week/the time period of creation, for example). So you can argue that 7 is an “interesting” number. The number 3 also appears to be “interesting” in how it shows up in the Bible. And there were 12 tribes of Israel, which was significant, so maybe 12 is also “interesting”. (Don’t contest this, I’m just trying to come up with an example on the spot.) And it seems that God acknowledges Earth solar orbits as an “interesting” way to mark time. So does that mean that, say 3*7*12*40 = 10,080 years will be the end of the world? Assuming the world was created about 10,000 years ago means that we should be due to end roughly any day know.

    That is, more or less, how a numerologist goes about coming up with predictions. But there’s a problem: we have LITTLE reason to believe the numbers were significant to begin with, NO reason to believe that this is a good way of combining the significance of these numbers, and we have NO good way of knowing how to interpret the results. Essentially, it’s nothing better than a random guess. Yet numerologists do this kind of thing and claim that this is a proof, or at least evidence, of some prediction.

    Like Mark, I am a theist. I believe in God, and I believe that He is orderly. But I would be an utter fool to assume that by combining a few numbers I deem significant in an order I also deem significant I can predict His mind. That’s just stupid.

    A non-Bible example: 2010 = 2*3*5*(7+11+13+17+19). That is the multiplication of the first 3 primes by the addition of the next 5 primes. 3 and 5 are the first two non-prime numbers. 2 is interesting because it’s the only even prime. I therefore declare 2010 to be the most interesting year ever and therefore predict the world will end on March 14 (3-14, which is like pi = 3.14) of this year.

    That was better than most numerology predictions. (Although I can’t take credit for it.) It’s elegant, but that only makes 2010 a somewhat-ish interesting integer mathematically. I didn’t rely on any

    It doesn’t matter which game you play (between my two examples), you can’t win with numerology. It just doesn’t make any sense. And to drive the stake into its heart, there have been no demonstrable methods. No one has been right.

    Put that all together: There are many, many ways to make “interesting” patterns. There is no correlation that we can find between simple combination of numbers and significant events. Every attempt to do so has failed.

    Numbers are interesting and important. Reality is more complicated than just adding significant dates and multiplying by interesting numbers. Real life has patterns, but the principle of wide-scale emergence makes it difficult to go from underlying patterns to the final results.

  58. #58 B-Con
    January 7, 2010

    Continuing my thought from #57, before anyone takes it wrong:

    I don’t want to sound as if I deny that any numbers are significant. Indeed, it is obvious that there are many interesting numbers, such as prime numbers and Fibonacci numbers just to pick two well-known sets.

    My point is simply that, although we can have fun manipulating mathematical expressions involving interesting mathematical numbers, even if we base numerology on interesting mathematical numbers we can’t translate or interpret them into a prediction of reality.

    Basically: Using numbers from nature/religion/history is flaky because we don’t know why it’s important/if it’s important/how it translates into being important (respectively). Using mathematically interesting numbers is, in my opinion, one small step up the ladder, but it still leaves an insurmountable problem: we don’t know how to correlate the results to the natural world. Considering how complex the world is, we have no idea to believe it’s as simple as most numerologists make it out to be.

  59. #59 Lee
    January 7, 2010

    Hey!! That’s my man Camping you’re dissing on there!

    Harold has kept me company on many a drive through California’s Great Central Valley, where the radio options skew heavily toward “rock” stations that think it acceptable to play The Eagles (gah!) and country stations that don’t seem to have heard of Merle or Hank.

    I’ve been trying to get him to take my call, on one of his Bible History call in shows, but I don’t seem to get patched in for some reason.

  60. #60 Camelia Elias
    January 8, 2010

    Some say Elvis died August 16, 1977…

  61. #61 Margarett
    January 8, 2010

    The end of the world will absolutely be the Watchtower fulfillment. Even if it’s seemingly delayed [Habakkuk 2:3] or actually delayed. (Read the short story of the true prophet Jonah.)

    1914 was an over the top hit by the bible students. Compare the synchronized global events of 1914 and after (Global Spanish Flu, Global starvation fm a synchronized cause etc.) with the four horsemen and the Mount of Olives statements. It will have its complete fulfillment before earth succumbs to man.

    Also google doomsday clock, put in effect for good reason after the 2nd world war. War may be chaos, but earth became synchronized that year.

    The truth is a fruitful journey of honest mistakes. We share that fruit with all because we ‘don’t’ think we’re better than anyone else. Please open your doors. M

  62. #62 Drekab
    January 9, 2010

    DuaneBidoux:

    If your still listening out there. Offer them a bet. You give them a hundred dollars now, if there still around after their armageddon date, they owe you five hundred dollars. Adjust that to as high odds as they are willing to offer/can afford.

  63. #63 F. Caria
    January 10, 2010

    Dear Mark

    Thank you very much, for making my weekend happier!
    So far, I was convinced that Portugal was the only “heaven for bad Newspapers editors”. However, you also have to deal with it.

    I have been following your Blog for a couple of years and I would like to congratulate you for the excellent work you have been developing, exposing bad maths, bad analysis and lack of critical thinking!
    Thanks again and please keep on making this effort to expose basic lies, disguised of scientific knowledge.

  64. #64 vadim
    January 10, 2010

    Were there any specific reason for 5, 10 and 17 to be chosen to mean what they mean?

  65. #65 vadim
    January 10, 2010

    Sorry, wrong www-address in the previous comment

  66. #66 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    January 10, 2010

    The numbers are significant according to Camping. He claims to have found the numbers by looking at co-occurence patterns: that is, he looks at the contexts in which numbers are used, and tries to find a connection between numbers and words. Then he claims that those associations imply meaning.

    So, for example, he claims that the number “5″ is frequently used in passages that talk about atonement – therefore, 5 means atonement.

    Typically, he ignores examples of his magic numbers occurring in other contexts; or of other numbers appearing in contexts of the word atonement. He found the pattern that he wants, so he stops looking for others.

    It’s like the Torah skip-codes thing. If you set things up right, you can find some amazing-looking things by looking at skip-codes in the hebrew Torah. Look for some connection, and you’ll probably find it. Of course, if you look for a connection between totally nonsensical things, you can find *that* too. And if you look for connections in another text of similar size using skip-codes, you can find amazing-looking connections.

    Humans are natural pattern seekers. We can find all sorts of patterns in things, whether they’re really there or not. People like Camping find patterns that match some meaning that they desperately want, that they’re sure must be there. Since they’re sure it’s there, once they find something that looks like it, they just accept it: it must be real!

    People have been using similar crackpot stuff pretty much forever. Isaac Newton spend a considerable amount of time during the 18th century trying to work out a precise date for when the apocalypse was going to happen. The followers of Bar Kochba in the 2nd century had numerological “proofs” that Bar Kochba was the messiah, and that the age of the messiah had come. Keep going back, and you’ll keep finding people doing the same thing. Even really smart people: when you’re absolutely sure that something is true, then you’ll accept anything that confirms that belief.

  67. #67 hillary
    January 11, 2010

    omg! i dont wanna dieee! i h8 this article it scares me and so im just gonna think its not true

  68. #68 James Sweet
    January 11, 2010

    Speaking of numerology, you may get a kick out of today’s xkcd:

    http://xkcd.com/687/

    Which is disturbingly close to:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/12/the_god_equation.php

  69. #69 James Sweet
    January 11, 2010

    Speaking of numerology, you may get a kick out of today’s xkcd:

    http://xkcd.com/687/

  70. #70 James Sweet
    January 11, 2010

    Contrary to what bozos like you think, I’m not an atheist. I’m actually a religious Jew.

    But Mark, if you want people to stop mistaking you for an atheist, you need to stop applying reason to every single little problem that comes your way. Sheesh…

  71. #71 rtperson
    January 12, 2010

    People are incredibly gullible when it comes to this sort of shit. As I’ve talked about before, you can be wrong time and time and time again in these kinds of predictions – and it just doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. The suckers will fall for it, again and again.

    And then they will stampede your blog comments and tell you that, no, you’re wrong, Mr. Evidence-Based-Reality-Guy! Because… ummm… because Habakkuk said so!

    I’ve been reading this blog for years, and this is the first time I’ve seen so many crazies come out of the woodwork. Anyway, the Mayans have already called it for 2012: end of the world, twelve-point spread. And I know a guy who knows a guy who says the bookies are laying heavy odds against Jebus coming back…

  72. #72 illuminati
    January 15, 2010

    the end starts on 1998 and end within 333 years year 2331

    here is the wisdom let him the count the number of the beast for it is the number of a man and it is 666.

  73. #73 Jim
    January 23, 2010

    Looking over your blog, it appears there is much name calling. In your opinion is this a falsifiable claim? If this is the case, simply disprove using all data inputs(the bible). If not, accept the possibility.

  74. #74 B-Con
    January 23, 2010

    The following link has a humorous math “proof” that a particular CS class is evil: http://compgeom.cs.uiuc.edu/~jeffe/teaching/satan.html .

    This reminds me of numerology proofs. If you make the right interpretations and use enough mathematical manipulation, you can start an argument and end it with any conclusion that you want to.

  75. #75 Sean
    January 24, 2010

    Mark C. Chu-Carroll’s argument is that via his good math, good analysis, and critical thinking, all having been put to work, no stones are left unturned.

    Absolute certainty has been obtained.

    Thus from here onward, there is nothing to left be learned of, wherever Mark C. Chu-Carroll has once set foot.

    http://www.outersecrets.com/real/biblecode2.htm

  76. #76 Tree
    February 7, 2010

    Was your blog invaded by Poes over the weekend? Congrats to everyone for such stunningly hilarious parodies! ROTF.

    Because.

    If I can’t cry ‘Poe’, I’ll just cry.

  77. Silly me. And I was always under the impression that the end of it all would be that fateful moment some five billion years hence when our Sun starts to swell into a Red Giant.

  78. #78 Keith Richard Radford Jr
    April 1, 2010

    kinda like the elder who sentences people to death,,,huh?

  79. #79 Jonathan Vos Post
    April 2, 2010

    “I was always under the impression that the end of it all would be that fateful moment some five billion years hence when our Sun starts to swell into a Red Giant.”

    Not quite. As I put on my web domain back in 2006:

    TIMELINE COSMIC FUTURE
    http://magicdragon.com/UltimateSF/timelineCF.html

    (10 to the Power of 303) AD
    One Centillion Years From Now

    Years = 10 to the power of 303

    We can easily reach a centillion using the Factorial function.
    169! = 42.6906801 centillion =
    169x168x167x166x165x164x…x3x2x1

    Raising 26 to the 215th power, we calculate that there are approximately 16.5679896 Centillion arrangements of 215 letters (the same letter can occur more than once).

    “Haught develops a kenotic form of process theology with a metaphysics grounded in the future…. He recognizes the possible challenge to eschatological purpose posed by the Big Bang cosmology, but claims that ‘the cosmological features of modern science are no less assimilable to a deep religious trust than were the cosmologies of the past.’ Gloomy scenarios of the cosmic future were based on ‘emaciated mathematical abstractions that ignored the contingent openness of nature’s de facto historicity’…. Instead, Haught points to the new sciences of chaos and complexity as rendering ‘the process of a precise scientific prediction of
    final cosmic catastrophe… shakier than ever.’”

    “Two lights for guidance. The first, our little glowing atom of community, with all that it signifies. The second, the cold light of the stars, symbol of the hypercosmic reality, with its crystal ecstasy. Strange that in this light, in which even the dearest love is frostily asserted, and even the possible defeat of our half-waking world is contemplated without remission of praise, the human crisis does not lose but gains
    significance. Strange, that it seems more, not less, urgent to play some part in this struggle, this brief effort of animacules striving to win for their race some increase of lucidity before the ultimate darkness.
    [Olaf Stapledon, "Star Maker"]

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