Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

More Numerology

A bay area minister has calculated the day of the rapture, and it’s May 21 of this year.…
As skeptics, we know that predictions of the end of the world and numerology both have very bad track records. For a wonderful summary of failed TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) predictions, scroll down at

Rev Harold Camping already has a bad track record,

having assembled his flock for the end of the world in 1994, an event that even his followers noticed did not occur. He claims he now has a better system that corrects the calculation that led to the previous erroneous date.

Camper’s current prediction is based on his reading of the Bible and his association of specific numbers (5, 10 and 17) with themes of atonement, “completeness” and heaven. Then he calculates the years from Jesus’s crucifiction (April 1, 33 AD) to the current year, multiplies these years by the number of days in a solar year (not a calendar year), adds the 51 days between April 1 and May 21, and arrives at 722,500 days. This is the same as the product of his biblical numbers 5, 10 and 17 multiplied together and squared: 722,500.
Still with me? Of course, a different number would be arrived at if the date of the crucifiction were (as many Jewish Biblical scholars conclude) 34AD. But the crucification could be any date between 27AD and 34AD, depending on how the texts are read (if you’re interested, check here: What happens to May 21,2011 if Jesus???s date of crucifiction were some other year within this range? Similarly, if Camping had found different numbers associated with different Biblical themes, his multiplicands would be different and perhaps no special relationship would be seen at all — although new ones could be cooked up, given enough tweaking of numbers. The nature of numbers makes the start-with-an-arrow-and-draw-a-target-around-it fairly simple of you only tweak enough variables to fit.

This is not to say that Rev.Camping is deliberately faking his data: we wouldn’t know that. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that he is truly convinced (yet again) that he has properly calculated the end of the Earth. But he and his followers should know that there is a long tradition of such predictions being wrong.

Every one of them.

Anyone care for a Skeptics in the Pub on May 22?

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