Has a Computer Pinpointed When the World Will End?

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted July 01, 2019

America’s leading business newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, is hardly the place where readers go to find information about the end of the world. A 130-year-old daily, the paper tends to focus more on the ups-and-downs of the stock market and the fortunes of corporations and commodities.

Yet there it was, an article in the paper’s June 27 opinion section with an arresting headline: “‘Doomsday’ Math Says Humanity May Have Just 760 Years Left.” Right beneath it, an explanation: “An 18th-century equation that powers today’s computer algorithms also predicts the demise of humankind.”

What’s the equation? It’s called “Bayes’ theorem,” which writer William Poundstone describes as “a mathematical formula that shows how to use new evidence to adjust probabilities.”

The notion that you can calculate how likely it is, say, that the New York Knicks will gain a place in the NBA finals or how long Facebook will stay in business—questions posed to Poundstone on the Amazon.com page for his book The Doomsday Calculation—can also be applied to determining the end of life as we know it is certainly an interesting one. Poundstone suggests that Bayes, a clergyman, developed his theory as part of a quest to find proof of the Bible’s miracles, so perhaps there’s a link.

Doing the Math

As Poundstone notes, no guessing is required to understand what  J. Richard Gott III, an astrophysicist at Princeton University, was trying to convey. In 1993, Professor Gott wrote an article for the journal Nature where he suggested the world, as we know it, has less than a thousand years left.

Gott developed his theory based on the number of human births that had been calculated throughout history and estimated that with approximately 100 billion humans having been born thus far, the outer limit for another 100 billion folks coming along would be roughly 760 years from 1993. After that, the planet could be in peril, presumably either through massive overpopulation or perhaps from underpopulation: If there aren’t enough younger people to support and care for the aged, chaos could ensue. (Writer Poundstone’s article did not specify the means of global demise, just that it was likely to happen within the next eight centuries.)

Gott’s predictive prowess may seem far-fetched, but consider this: According to Poundstone, “When [Gott] predicted a range of closing dates for 44 Broadway and off-Broadway shows and checked back four years later, all 36 that had closed had done so within his predicted window.” That doesn’t certify the end-of-the-world probability Gott forecasts, but it makes the argument a tad more compelling, doesn’t it?

None of Gott’s reasoning, or Bayes’ theorem for that matter, has anything to do with Bible prophecy, of course. The scientists’ speculation is founded in probability, the science of predicting what will happen based on numerical evidence. Such probability-based thinking, however, allows Google to “know” what you’re likely searching for and can clue Amazon in on what you might be interested in buying.

You Can Know the Future—Today!

Commerce is one thing; the Bible is quite another. Unlike Professor Gott, those who believe in what the Scripture says have a better platform on which to base their anticipation of future events. The apostle Peter, one of Christ’s closest followers, recalls the encounter with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, saying, “We have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19).

Indeed, from almost the beginning of earth’s history, God has promised redemption for this sin-soaked planet. He told Satan that a descendant of Eve would seal the devil’s doom: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).

In due time, Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished this, securing redemption for all who would believe. And even though Jesus died, rose again, and ascended to heaven some two thousand years ago, the Savior didn’t flake on humanity. In John 14:3, we read these words from Jesus: “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Unlike Professor Gott’s speculations, we don’t have to wait 760 years to see if Bible prophecy is true. Our free study lesson “Right on Time!” documents how ancient prophecies have already been fulfilled, often in exacting detail. You can have confidence in what your Bible says about the future, because its earlier predictions have been proven.

Those seeking an understanding of what prophecy is—and is not—will benefit from Pastor Doug Batchelor’s presentation on “Proving the Prophets,” a part of the Millennium of Prophecy series. It’s available online, free of charge.

And our latest video production, Kingdoms in Time, will bring Bible prophecy to life in a way you may not have seen before. If you really want a bird’s eye view into the future—into your future—it’s worth your time to order a copy on DVD or USB, and watch and share this vital message with others.

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