Michael Moyer at Scientific American wrote, “Our fears of the apocalypse may in the end mirror the most fundamental fear of all: fear of our own mortality. It is all of a piece–death, the dissolution of our people, the extinction of our species.” And after all, scientists believe that we are, in fact, doomed. Our species, like all species is temporary. Plus, in four billion years, this planet is toast. Wait long enough and nothing you recognize will matter or exist. Our planet is mortal. It’s middle-aged and some day it will die.
So in a way, Camping is right about there being an end. It’s just his calculations of the timeline are (as per usual) just a little off.
As is typical of “skeptics,” this one spends a lot of time mocking Christians for their nuttiness, and then at the end just assumes the factuality of an unprovable scientific prediction. But both Dupuy and Moyer really miss the relevant theological points.
“Fear of death” is not the issue at all, and this analysis mainly is directed at people who are neither Christians nor scientists–the average readers who are anxious about death and not detached enough to accept a glib dismissal of their fear. But those people don’t believe they are saved; they are actually the same audience targeted by Harold Camping.
Despite Dupuy’s sneering attitude toward millennialism, it does have a purpose in forcing people to consider God’s judgment and prepare for it. This is the same approach used by environmentalists (with global warming) and government agencies (with disaster preparedness):
There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.
Are these legitimate rhetorical tactics when they have a “good” purpose? Personally, I’m not in favor of overreaching. I already consider worst-case scenarios first and then act on the basis of marginal utility.
I object to rapture predictions because the predictions are illogical. Making specific predictions is unbiblical, as well as being inconsistent with pretribulational premillennialist theology, which developed as it did in order to avoid the political implications of overly specific end-times predictions.