Harold Camping died last month. In case you don’t remember, Camping, the president of evangelical Family Radio, predicted that the world would end in 2011. Twice.
He made these prognostications on the basis of numerology, which sounds like it might be a sophomore-level math subject, but isn’t. The data for the calculations Camping used to forecast rapture and Armageddon were numbers he found sprinkled throughout the Bible.
His procedures wouldn’t impress a referee for a peer-reviewed, academic journal. And unsurprisingly, many scientists waved off Camping’s doomsday dates as both silly and wrong. Well, it’s true that havoc and destruction were a no-show. But silly? Didn’t Camping follow the rules of science?
Along the lines of the posts this week, Seth Shostak has a brief article on the demarcation of science. Was Harold Camping engaging in science? For that matter, is SETI?
Falsifiability takes another blow in this post. It seems pretty fair to say that the demarcation problem, that is the criteria for determining what is and is not science, remains far from solved.