Doomsday Prophets Who Never Say They’re Sorry
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published May 30, 2011 on The Washington Times website.
Well, we’re still here despite doomsday evangelist Harold Camping’s warning of the end of the world on May 21 at 6 p.m. But wait. Mr. Camping says we’re not out of the woods. He announced last week that “spiritual” doom occurred May 21 and physical destruction of the world will happen on Oct. 21. If he still has any acolytes after this, it will give new meaning to the term “credulous.”
Here’s his spin: “We didn’t see any difference, but God brought Judgment Day to bear upon the whole world. The whole world is under Judgment Day, and it will continue right up until Oct. 21 – and by that time the whole world will be destroyed.”
Well, I won’t argue with Mr. Camping that God can’t be pleased with the way America is abandoning its Judeo-Christian moorings. Lady Gaga’s pansexual “Born This Way” video alone is ample evidence that we’re no longer slouching toward Gomorrah but have entered its gates.
But what Mr. Camping is doing is serious mischief. He is conjuring with the Bible. Does he really think Jesus did not know what He was talking about? In Mark 13:32, Jesus says of Judgment Day, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
Doomsday prophets come and go. In 1988, Edgar C. Whisenant released a slim book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988. It was full of mathematical formulas ending in a September doomsday prediction. It got a lot of play all over the U.S., but especially in Southern California, where people are used to living on the edge waiting for the Big One. Whisenant, a former NASA engineer, went on to pen more books predicting later dates, but he never achieved the megasales that 88 Reasons garnered. He died in 2001.
Mr. Camping’s earlier ventures included a book simply titled 1994? that at least included the question mark. With age, he seems to have grown less humble about his seer abilities.
About the worst thing that happened is that a number of Mr. Camping’s followers sold everything, leaving them high and dry. That’s serious, but it’s nothing compared to the damage inflicted by the Hale-Bopp comet cult Heaven’s Gate back in the ’90s. Thirty-nine of its members committed suicide in March 1997 in order to escape the imminent cosmic “recycling” of the earth.
With cameras planted on Mr. Camping’s doorstep on May 21, the media had a field day mocking his apocalyptic failure, but I would wager that 99 percent of serious Christians took it all with a grain of salt.
Before those who delight in false predictions that make Christians look foolish laugh any louder, they have a multitude of liberal misfires to live down.
During the Cold War, liberal schoolteachers scared the beans out of children with dire predictions about imminent nuclear war. They had kids saying things like, “if I grow up,” not “when I grow up.” In 1989, the media terrified the country over the threat of Alar-tainted apples, but mass poisonings didn’t happen.
Most of the false predictions have involved weather. As the Media Research Center’s Dan Gainor reported in his “Fire and Ice” paper, the New York Times warned of a new ice age in 1895. “It was just one of four different time periods in the last 100 years when major print media predicted an impending climate crisis,” Mr. Gainor noted. “Each prediction carried its own elements of doom, saying Canada could be ‘wiped out’ or lower crop yields would mean ‘billions will die.’ ”
Liberal doomsayer Paul R. Ehrlich predicted widespread famine. In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, he wrote:
“The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. Population control is the only answer.”
If Professor Ehrlich, who in 1990 snagged a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” looks up from his magic black ball, he might notice the Obama administration railing against obesity among America’s children. Who would have thought Ronald McDonald posed a greater threat to the planet than mad scientists scaring us about man-made global warming?
How about this Ehrlich whopper? “By the year 2000 the United Kingdom will be simply a small group of impoverished islands, inhabited by some 70 million hungry people. … If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”
In the early 1970s, doomsday scientists predicted cooling and the possibility of another ice age.
“If present trends continue, the world will be … eleven degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age,”wrote Kenneth E.F. Watt in 1970 in “Earth Day.”
The Washington Post warned everyone to “get a good grip on your long johns, cold weather haters – the worst may be yet to come” in a Jan. 11, 1970, article headlined “Colder Winters Herald Dawn of New Ice Age.”
In a few short years, the hysteria flipped to global warming.
Here’s one from David Viner of the climatic research unit of the University of East Anglia in a March 20, 2000, interview, speaking of the United Kingdom’s coming weather, as reported by Fox News: “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” Snowfall will be “a very rare and exciting event.” In 2010, London was inundated with the heaviest snow in 20 years, and an email scandal at East Anglia in 2009 revealed a mother lode of cooked data and other academic shenanigans.
Now here’s where Al Gore has been smarter than Mr. Camping, Mr. Watt, Mr. Viner or Mr. Ehrlich. Mr. Gore, who has made millions pushing the theory of man-made climate change, was savvy enough to predict apocalyptic results so far in the future that he won’t be embarrassed when his warning doesn’t pan out.
The recent decade-long cooling? It’s just a speed bump toward the eventual environmental collapse. And how can you prove otherwise? Just shut up and surrender your incandescent light bulbs.
On May 21, Mr. Camping was spectacularly wrong. But he was by no means alone.
The latest prediction comes from Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who sees default and worldwide financial chaos if Congress decides not to raise the federal debt ceiling this summer.
Let’s see if he’s right.