Offered for my readers’ amusement, I recently came across the following humbly named site: The True Bible Code. As with all devotees of the Bible code, this site works by randomly stringing together letters from randomly chosen chapters of the Bible until they manage to come up with one pattern that spells something and that seems applicable to future events.
Their latest startling prediction runs as follows:
The UN in Midtown Manhattan will be hit by a sea borne nuclear bomb sometime in the Biblical month of Tammuz, i.e. before Sundown July 28th, 2006. We expect this to happen on 2006Tammuz28/29 i.e. between Sundown Tuesday July 25th and Sundown Thursday July 27th, 2006.
I say “latest” for a good reason: namely, because the authors of this site have already erroneously predicted the nuclear annihilation of the United Nations four different times during this year alone. Needless to say, none of those predictions came to pass. However, unusually for devotees of this type, the authors of this site forthrightly admit their previous errors rather than taking the usual approach of failed prognosticators everywhere, which is to attempt to erase their mistakes from history and deny that they were ever made. In my book, this gets them high marks for honesty. Now the only step remaining is for them to acknowledge that the Bible code is a bunch of pseudoscientific nonsense and an utter failure when it comes to predicting any future event. Perhaps they will recognize this when their newest prophecy of doom fails to come to pass, although I cannot say I am optimistic. After all, the Bible clearly predicted the apocalypse in the first century CE, and believers have been busily making excuses for it ever since, without betraying the slightest apparent awareness of their scripture’s abject failure.
Then again, perhaps I speak too soon. By this time, two of the days in their self-granted three-day window have elapsed, and the United Nations remains conspicuously undestroyed. There are still twenty-four hours left, give or take. Will the Bible code finally, shockingly, be vindicated in a most dramatic fashion? Or will the skeptics be proven correct yet again when we say that no one can divine the future? This post will be updated with the answer at midnight on July 27, Eastern Standard Time. Watch this space!
UPDATE: July 27 has come and gone, and the United Nations remains steadfastly undestroyed, by atomic bombs or otherwise. Was there ever any doubt?
On another note, I recently came across an irritating review, in the New York Times, of several recent books discussing the connection (or lack thereof) between evolutionary biology and Christian faith. The author, Cornelia Dean, condescends to inform us that the writings of atheist scientists and philosophers such as Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett are “unsatisfying”, and that by arguing for atheism, they are driving people away from science and towards creationism.
P.Z. Myers has already torn this nonsense to shreds in his usual inimitable take-no-prisoners fashion, but I would like to offer one more remark:
In any event… in simultaneously defending evolution and insisting upon atheism, Dr. Dawkins probably “single-handedly makes more converts to intelligent design than any of the leading intelligent design theorists.”
Ah yes – that must be it! The masses of people who believe in creationism could not possibly be because of the massive, multimillion-dollar propaganda efforts organized by Christian megachurches and creationist think tanks such as the Discovery Institute; it could not be because creationists are every day working their hardest at spreading patent falsehoods about what evolution is and what it implies; it could not be because a huge industry of Christian TV channels, Christian books, Christian magazines, and Christian politicians are pumping lies about evolution straight into the heads of their followers; it could not even be because a mostly religious public is accustomed to unquestioningly believing whatever nonsense their pastors tell them and unaccustomed to viewing the world in the light of scientific reason. No, it’s got to be because those dreaded, curmudgeonly atheists like Richard Dawkins have the unmitigated gall to put forward their own view of the world and argue for it! (I guarantee Ms. Dean that the percentage of the creationist public that even knows who Richard Dawkins is is in single digits. People who reject evolution know very little about science in general, as a rule.)
I do not think the general public is such a group of shrinking violets that we atheists must stay silent lest we drive people away via our extremist, unhinged rhetoric. That sort of self-defeating belief can only arise from unconsciously absorbing the rhetoric of the enemy. Follow that logic through and soon we’ll be hearing that scientists must not defend science at all lest they persuade more people to forsake it for religion. No, Ms. Dean, I will continue to speak out in defense of atheism, thank you very much, and I hope people like Dawkins, Dennett and Myers continue to do so as well. It is the correct position, and I am not in the least apologetic about defending it.