The End Is Nigh!

“The Bible guarantees it”. I was in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, visiting a few friends. I noticed a guy on the plane who had a jacket on which had the words “Judgement Day, May 21, 2011. The Bible guarantees it.”. I remembered that there had been a group in Dublin claiming that date as the end of days. I happend to pass them by on Prince’s St. in Edinburgh two days later and, after a litte nervousness, my friend and I ran back and chatted to two of them. They were very polite, as was I. Given that I knew very little about their predictions, I played the amicable questioner and just asked them about who they were, how they had come to their prediction and what it meant. You can see their website here and read the text of the leaflet they have here.

In its simplest form, the group say: The Bible (“without question a very ancient book” link) and “each and every word in the original languages is from the mouth of God” (link). From their reading, the date of judgement is May 21st, 2011. After that is a 5-month administrative period, where all human souls (but not animals, because they don’t have the “breath of god” as one of the people we spoke to stated) are audited. Then, on 21st October 2011 (According to the people we spoke to) the world will be destroyed.

There’s not much to discuss really, because the argument fallsThe End Is Nigh from the outset because of lack of proof: There isn’t enough evidence to support the Bible as an infallible and credible source of “correct and accurate information” (link). If you can show that, then we can move on to the actual interpretation of the source. After that, we would use other sources to corroborate the idea. Never mind though.

We’ll be having a party on May 20th and a countdown to midnight. That should be fun. Theoretically, of course, it might be true. The odds are that it’s not true, in the same way that the world might end on any randomly chosen day. Honestly, arguing from the Bible or any one book baffles me. The problem is, any world events can be tied to any prediction of chaos and destruction. The upheaval in Tunisia; climate change; the global economic recession – they’re all, apparently, signs of the apocalypse.

On the question of whether this is dangerous behaviour on their part, I think I’d suggest that it is. While for most people, the idea that the world will end soon is a ridiculous one, other people may be indoctrinated into it and may give up their possessions, or take excessive financial risks on the basis that the world won’t exist for them to pay back any debt! Perhaps I’m being overly-cautious, surely no one will actually believe this stuff. Will they?

Belfast Skeptics in the Pub – Colin Johnston: Armagh Planetarium

Happy January! We hope you enjoyed your Winter/ Festivus/ Christmas/ other break. We took a pretty big break too; all has been quiet here since our last event, Dr. Lesley Storey talking about myths relating to cancer and some myths in popular psychology. We aren’t going to hold an event in January, mostly because of exams for the students among us. However, we have been planning some great speakers for the coming months. February is going to be a great month; not only do we have the excellent QED convention in Manchester (Some of us will be there, so read more about it here!) but we are also happy to announce that our next speaker will be from the Armagh Planetarium. Colin Johnston, Science communicator with the planetarium, will be speaking to us about the history of people seeing odd things in the sky, while also drawing on some of the UFO reports or queries he has handled. Colin first studying physics at QUB then worked in the aerospace industry for many years. However, in 2006 he changed career and became a full-time science educator. Colin also edits the Plantarium’s Astronotes blog, advises on the science content for the Planetarium’s Digital Theatre shows, responds to astronomical queries from the public, presents public talks and teach courses at QUB. You can see more of Colin’s work on the Planetarium’s website as well as a few videos on the YouTube channel.

It’s also International Darwin Day on February the 12th, so I imagine we’ll do something Darwin-related during the event too.

The Eventbrite page is here, so register there please! The Facebook event page can be found here.

Date: Thursday 10th February

Time: 7:30pm

Location: The Club Room (up the stairs and around to the left) in The Parlour, 2-4 Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT9 6AY [map – although the front looks considerably different now!].

QEDCon in Manchester – February 5th & 6th

This year’s first big sceptical conference is nearly upon us – QEDCon in Manchester. The convention is taking place on  the 5th and 6th February. Those of you who have not bought tickets yet should do so as soon as possible! There are both one- and two-day tickets available, from £59 for one day, £99 for two days and £75 for two days for students. The Question Explore Discover conference boasts great speakers such as Steven Novella and Eugenie Scott. Check out all the speakers here. There are diverse topics which should cater to all tastes from ghost hunters to the big bang. There will be a small group going over from Belfast Skeptics so if you would like to get in contact please do so or on Twitter.

You can find the website here and the timetable for the event here. As well as the event, there’s a mixer on Friday night in the hotel bar and a Gala dinner on Saturday night. Those without Gala dinner tickets can also come along to alternative dinner – check the Facebook event page here. Also, click ‘like’ on the QEDCon Facebook page and follow them on Twitter. Also, sign up here if you’re on Twitter, so we can see who’s going!

The David Meade Project – Tonight at 22:45 on BBC1

You may remember that David Meade gave us our first wonderful talk last year, in which he bent spoons, read minds and made many people laugh. You can read some reactions in the comment section of this blog post. This evening, we’re delighted and excited to be able to watch the first in a series of the David Meade Project. The Facebook page for this is here and I would strongly suggest that you watch this video from this morning’s Stephen Nolan Show on BBC Northern Ireland’s radio. It’s on tonight at 22:45 on BBC1 Northern Ireland. There are four episodes, this first one is about intelligence. So go on! Watch!

More information soon about QED and our next guest.