End of World Predictions
Y2K? A bust. Judgment Day 2011? As quiet as a mouse. The Mayan apocalypse? Certainly not now.
As they have throughout history, failed doomsday predictions come and go. But with the Pope resigning, an asteroid whizzing near the planet Friday (Feb. 15) and a completely unrelated space rock exploding over Russia, it seems a good time to ask: What’s next?
Plenty, as it turns out. Previous failures have in no way shut down doomsday predictors, and dates are set for possible apocalypses in 2020, 2040, 2060 and 2080 (zeros have an appeal, apparently). One of these doomsdays was even predicted by Sir Isaac Newton himself.
“It’s clear that these kinds of scenarios return over and over and over again,” said John Hoopes, an archaeologist at the University of Kansas who has studied doomsday predictions.
The end is nigh
Doomsday prophecies date back thousands of years. The ancient Persians kicked off the hobby of apocalypse predicting in the Western world, Saint Joseph’s University professor Allen Kerkeslager told LiveScience in December 2012. When the Zoroastrian Persians conquered the ancient Jews, they passed their end-of-the-world beliefs into Jewish culture, which subsequently handed them to Christianity. Now, everyone from Protestant preachers like Harold Camping, who predicted Armageddon in 2011, to UFO cultists and New Age mystics occasionally jump on the doomsday train.
The most recent apocalypse prediction was tied to the Mayan calendar, even though actual Mayans and scholars who study ancient Maya culture pointed out repeatedly that the calendar was never meant to predict the end of the world. The appointed day (Dec. 21, 2012) came and went without fire and brimstone.
But failures haven’t stopped aspiring doomsday prophets in the past. In one of the most notorious apocalypse failures ever, American Baptist preacher William Miller predicted the return of Jesus Christ on March 21, 1844. Nothing happened, so Miller and his followers revised the prediction to Oct. 22. When that day, too, passed without incident, it was dubbed the Great Disappointment. [Oops! 11 Failed Doomsday Predictions]
Likewise, Camping predicted the Rapture three times in 1994 before his 2011 predictions.
The Pope’s doomsday
So it should come as no surprise that doomsday believers have plenty of dates to fixate on in the future. Friday’s ultimately harmless asteroid flyby may trigger more anxiety about world-ending asteroid impacts in the near future, Hoopes told LiveScience. A Friday morning meteor explosion that shattered windows and injured more than 1,000 in Russia is likely to do the same.
The surprise announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI last week has also triggered doomsday chatter.
- Mayan apocalypse failure bad news for believers (msnbc.msn.com)
- After Mayan Apocalypse Failure, Believers May Suffer (livescience.com)
- Doomsday, All Human Predictions are Always Wrong (socyberty.com)
- Sad The World Didn’t End? You Aren’t Alone (businessinsider.com)
- Apocalypse Predictions Are Nothing New: A Look At Doomsday Theories (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Why doomsday debunking is no laughing matter for troubled scientists (thestar.com)
- Denver sirens are just a test, not doomsday signal (sfgate.com)