MetaCognitions | Worst Apocalypse EVER!*

Last Caturday was the appointed time of a common non-event, the End of the World, again, as predicted this time around by an alleged Christian numerologist, one David Meade.

He has since shifted his goalpost by saying that the apocalypse has been moved to October. Whatever. They do this every single time an End Times prediction predictably fails to come. The claims both come and fail to bear out like clockwork.

Even professional theologians, which this fellow is apparently not, have powerful, versatile imaginations that aid them in seeing and recognising patterns in the data they perceive.

Sometimes, as when critically discussing the content of scripture, its origins, its meanings, its history, they are often spot on in the accuracy of their conclusions.

Other times, when expounding on matters of the Unknowable, their speculations are only that: speculation, and only as good as the assumptions they bring to bear. The patterns they see, or rather, impose on the data, have no objective bearing outside of their own faith community, much less the larger world outside their own lives and world-views.

What exactly is a Christian numerologist supposed to be anyway? The term is nonsense, empty of valid professional content, though I’m aware of what it’s supposed to mean.

So, moving on…

It is said that predicting the future is a lost art, and in many human endeavors that is so. There are the failures of long-term economic forecasts, the predictions of futurists, and most notably, the claims of politicians out for your vote or your money, or both.

But science, at least in the more rigorously mathematical fields, has a stunning record of successful past predictions even with the occasional failure. Rarely 100% accurate, as certainty of that level is never easy to come by on contingent matters of fact, science makes no doctrinal claims of absolute metaphysical certitude.

But it’s a stunning record of success nonetheless, with, for example, solar eclipses being accurately calculated years, even decades or centuries in advance of their actually happening, often down to the millisecond. Even in predictions not so accurate, the track record of science is still far better than the predictive claims of almost any other human enterprise.

So, with that in mind, I’ll raise a question: given the profound and consistent failure of predictions of the End by armchair mystics and even professional theologians who should know better, why give any weight at all to them?

Why, if the observed is to be a guide to the unobserved, as with scientific empiricism, or the past is to be a guide to the future, as conservative thinkers of history have argued, why are we to give any credence at all to such a historically consistent pattern of failure to bear out in fact?

If the past or the observed is to be a guide to the future or the unobserved at all, and if both show that there is nothing to these profligate, evidence-free claims, then the next time one of these makes its rounds around the Internet, maybe it’s wiser to give it no heed at all, and to simply get on with life.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

*title courtesy of Leslie Ann Ellis.

If You Claim ….

This piece has been rewritten and updated since its original posting date of mid-2009. This has been mostly to expand text and to shift emphasis from beliefs to claims, which I think most rightly demand skeptical scrutiny over belief, which is more personal and subjective. Claims can be shared intersubjectively, after all. (8/5/18) ~Troythulu

The following was inspired by a post by Skepdude on the Skepfeeds blog…Enjoy.

If you claim that the pyramids of ancient human civilizations were built by aliens or Atlanteans, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that conventional explanations for unusual phenomena are always contrived and implausible because you don’t understand them, you’re wrong.

If you claim that believing something really, really hard makes it true, you’re wrong.

If you claim that objective truth or reality doesn’t exist, and that this is objectively true or real, you’re wrong.

If you claim that cold reading, hot reading, the Forer effect and the Ideomotor effect are myths because they are used to refute psychic powers or some other personal favorite claim, you’re wrong.

If you claim that superstition and magical thinking are always and everywhere healthy and needed for humanity’s long-term survival, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that the Iron Age religious rules you follow metaphysically apply to everyone on Earth, including those of us not of your religion, you’re wrong.

If you claim that ancient myths are literally true historical accounts even with no validated corroborating accounts from independent sources, you’re wrong.

If you claim that electromagnetism and not gravity is the principal large-scale binding force of the Cosmos, given the evidence, you’re wrong.

If you claim that the laws of physics are different on Earth than they are in space, you’re in all likelihood wrong.

If you claim that invoking a conspiracy to dismiss a telling lack of evidence for a crank theory is logically valid, you’re wrong.

If you claim that human evolution was influenced by ancient astronauts from the stars, you’re probably wrong.

If you claim that the planets Nibiru or Tiamat actually exist and can or will cause catastrophic disasters on Earth, given the lack of evidence for these planets as claimed, you’re wrong.

If you claim that those who don’t believe in the paranormal are in fact deeply afraid of it or wedded to naive materialism, you’re probably wrong.

If I claim that I cannot possibly be wrong about any of the above claims, then I’m probably wrong, and likely to look very silly should any of them turn out to be in fact true … but I’m not holding my breath on that.