I should watch Kathryn Schulz’ TED talk every time I’m mad about something political. Here is a paraphrase of my favorite part, about 4 minutes in.
How does it feel to be wrong? Most of us are doing everything we can to avoid thinking that we ourselves are wrong. Maybe we get it in the abstract – we’re fallible – but we can’t think in the present tense of something about which we are actually wrong. When we are wrong about something, but before we realize it, we’re like Wyle E Coyote right after he runs off a cliff but before he looks down. It does feel like something to be wrong: it feels like being right.
I have a deep love for failed prophesies. People who make them are so cocksure and so obviously wrong, that they always amuse me. Plus, you can only ever lose once on this kind of bet. The odds are, to put it mildly, in my favor.
Here’s the thing: The end has always been Nigh and always will be Nigh according to someone.
I laughed when Harold Camping was wrong in May. I will get to laugh as loudly again when Harold Camping is wrong again on October 22 (or whenever). I fully expect that, without a lapse in his self-confidence, he will push his prediction back again and I will get to laugh at him a third time. How long can this go on? I’m game as long as he is. [Edit: I can admit when I am wrong – he gave up on predictions]
From the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize awards:
MATHEMATICS PRIZE: Dorothy Martin of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1954), Pat Robertson of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1982), Elizabeth Clare Prophet of the USA (who predicted the world would end in 1990), Lee Jang Rim of KOREA (who predicted the world would end in 1992), Credonia Mwerinde of UGANDA (who predicted the world would end in 1999), and Harold Camping of the USA (who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994 and later predicted that the world will end on October 21, 2011), for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.
This follows nicely on the Great Randi the Skeptical’s list of failed predictions of the end of the world. Or if you would like some more details on the Millerites and the Great Disappointment have a read at Wikipedia or Britannica.
It blows my mind that people get taken in every time. How many times will these hucksters get it wrong before people stop listening? Well… I think Albert Einstein said it best:
“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.”