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{Published in the Colorado Springs Gazette, 6-1-06}
Did you know the world ended last week?   A comet was supposed to hit the earth, kept secret by a government conspiracy.  The impact would have caused a devastating tsunami, killing millions.  Good thing it didn’t happen.  I had theater tickets.

I know about this thanks to my son, who’s a big fan of Phil Plait’s “Bad Astronomy” web site.  If you go there, you’ll learn about Eric Julien.  Mr. Julien runs  He claims to have been a French military air traffic controller who has tracked UFO’s and communicated with extraterrestrials.  He seems to be a normal guy.  He just believes some things that, in my opinion, are a little weird.
What interests me about Mr. Julien is that he made a prediction. In fact, he made a very public and specific prediction, backed up with a great deal of scientific analysis:  “Big tsunami on Atlantic coasts, May 25th 2006.”  That took guts.  Most people who believe they see the future never make claims like that.  So when anyone makes a testable gloom-and-doom claim, I get interested.  Checking things is how humanity gets smarter.  It’s how we make progress.

It’s tempting to write off Mr. Julien as a harmless kook.  He has a book out, so maybe he’s trying to boost sales and doesn’t really believe what he says.  That would mean he’s not harmless at all.  He’s ripping people off.

But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.  Mr Julien claimed to have visions of Absolute Truth:  The world would end on Thursday, May 25th.  He turned out to be wrong.  Let’s suppose he’s genuinely shocked and sad.  If so, he’s in good company.

Humanity has a less than inspiring record for predicting the end of the world.  We’re  0-for-a-million (give or take).  Few things are more embarrassing for believers in the progress of humanity then our continued gullibility on this issue.

Ever heard of Thiota of Manz?  She told anyone who would listen the world would end in 847 C.E.  Bernard of Thuringia?  960.  I can’t even count how many medieval scholars were sure that 999 was going to be it.  I guess they had a Y1K problem.

In the Middle Ages, astrologers gave us 1186 (when all the known planets were in Libra) and 1524 (when they packed up and moved to Pisces).  People really went bonkers in 1524.  Some of the well-to-do built arks.  Thousands of others sold their possessions.

The abysmal failure of astrology didn’t slow the apocalip-syncers one bit. William Miller predicted the end of the world in 1843, then again a year later.  [[Edgar Cayce]] prophesied numerous disasters starting in 1958, none of which happened.  [[Herbert W. Armstrong]] predicted the end in 1936, and then later in 1975.  [[Charles Taze Russell|Charles Russell]] seems to have predicted the end of the world at least three times, based on measurements of the Pyramid of Giza.  The [[Branch Davidians]] had an apocalyptic revelation of 1959, long before the tragedy of Waco. 

All these people attracted considerable followers.  Some still have them.  None were right.

It might be tempting to paint this as a science versus religion issue, but it’s not that simple.  The great mathematician Jacques Bernoulli made an apocalyptic prediction of May 19th, 1719.  Isaac Newton deduced 2060.  And there are plenty of believers in the “End Times” who would never pick dates.  The book of Matthew,  for example, says no one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ coming.

I’m actually surprised Mr. Julien picked May 25th. I would’ve thought he’d push for this Tuesday:   6-6-06.  In fact, I’m a little nervous, because my band has a gig at the Sky Sox game.  Come on by and say hi.  But only if you’re free.  If you can’t come, it’s not the end of the world.

I think there’s a deeply human need to witness the End of Everything.  That’s what Eric Julien’s site says to me.  Who among us wouldn’t want to be present at the most significant event in all of existence?  Who wouldn’t want a part to play? 

And yet, that’s why we should be careful.  When it comes to the Apocalypse, we’ve been wrong every time and done a lot of stupid things.  Our judgment is worst when it is Last.