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Preacher Harold Camping predicted that the world as we know it would end on Saturday. It didn’t.

Bare with me for a second, but, I read Camping’s analysis to get a sense of where his conviction came from.

You see, I’m in the future prediction business, too. Lots of people in corporate America are — maybe we all are in some way — but definitely business folk.

Before you make an investment of any kind, starting a company, creating a new product, backing a political candidate, you try to foresee. You study up, learn as much as you can, compile what you know and estimate around what you don’t.

And then, you make a bet.

As a stock analyst, I’m constantly asking myself: Where could I be wrong? What are the potential flaws in my thesis? What is the one variable that would render the rest of my analysis worthless? And what is the probability that one variable will occur?

And that’s the thing that Harold Camping, and his followers, did not do. Here’s an interview with him from NY Magazine. Look at these excerpts, notice the disconnect between the reporter’s way of thinking (always with the what if in mind) and Camping’s refusal to go there:

If six o’clock rolls around and there are no major earthquakes, are you going to start to get worried?

It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. I don’t even think about those kind of issues. The Bible is not — God is not playing games. I don’t even want to think about that question at all. It is going to happen.

You haven’t thought about what you’ll tell your followers on May 22 if the Rapture doesn’t take place?

I’m not even thinking about that at all. It. Is. Going. To. Happen.

I know you’re convinced this is going to happen, but if May 22 comes around and you’re still here, can we talk again?

I can’t even think about that question because you’re thinking that maybe, maybe Judgment Day will not happen. But it will happen, and I believe the Bible implicitly.

 

Wow. Fascinating. He never did a simple thing that most of us do every day, which is ask ourselves, “What if I am wrong?”

His analysis of the Bible — whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant, here — is guesses upon guesses. If just one of his estimates were wrong, his date could be off by a million years.  And he doesn’t appear to assign a probability to any of it. He assumes that “one day” means 1,000 years, and thus, seven days must mean 7,000 years and that “seven days to escape destruction” as told to Noah must really mean 7,000 years since the Old Testament was written until May 21, 2011 … or something. He kind of lost me.

When I first read Camping’s analysis days ago, I was pretty sure that he was wrong. So sure, I would have bet my own money on it.

Still, I made sure to spend time with friends on Friday and Saturday. I went to a class that I had been wanting to try out. I ate four tacos in a row instead of two, just because they tasted good. I literally stopped and smelled my neighbor’s lilacs.

Nothing major, but I’m glad I lived a little bit more in the moment this week. Maybe you did too — and that’s OK. You’re not silly, it’s prudent and humble to have in the back of your head, “What if I’m wrong?”

I only wish Camping’s followers, who sold their belongings and let debt pile up, had done the same. It’s not funny — it’s tragic.