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Newton, Astrology, and the End of the World

  1. Jun 4, 2008 #1
    I just finished watching a documentary on Newton's involvement in alchemy, and how this influenced his religious views, which can be seen here:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=930571660745143381&hl=en [Broken]

    At the end of the documentary, it gave Newton's predicted date for the end of the world: the year 2060. Considering the fact that there are astrological references in the Bible, I found it interesting that this date corresponds to the coming Age of Aquarius. Also, this date or number closely resembles the time it takes for an age to pass (roughly 2160 years). I'm not quite sure what Newton had in mind when he calculated this date, but I'd love to read your interpretations on the matter.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
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  3. Jun 4, 2008 #2


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    I suspect he didn't say 'the world will end in 2060 - here are the equations'
    Generally his alchemy stuff was written in code/rantings/drivel.
    Check out the "mark steel lectures" from the open university - they are probably on utube somewhere
  4. Jun 5, 2008 #3
    newton was an incredibly gifted and intelligent man, but unfortunately he's most likely dead wrong about the world's end at 2060
  5. Jun 5, 2008 #4
    Newton's religious views are...dubious at best. Apparently he believed that there were hidden codes in the Bible, and he had various other views that put him well outside of orthodoxy. As for astrological references in the Bible, I wouldn't take such claims very seriously, since the Bible has only negative things to say about astrology. Finally, I would caution against the "it's true because Newton said it" line of thinking. Yes, Newton did a lot of brilliant things. He also did a lot of stupid things, like give himself Mercury poisoning from his many alchemical experiments.

    As for the Age of Aquarius and the end of the world...well, all I can say is that we're all physicists here. How seriously should we be taking astrology anyway?
  6. Jun 5, 2008 #5
    You're reading into alot of things unnecessarily, in my opinion. We're not all physicists here (although some of us are aspiring physicists), and nobody said we're taking astrology or Newton's fanatic religious views seriously. But seeing as Newton was of exceptional brillance, his thoughts and actions are, at the very least, interesting. The Bible does not have "only negative things" to say about astrology, as even the God of the Bible himself makes astrological references in the book of Job.

    I'm simply curious how Newton calculated this date or number, as there are similar numbers in reference to astrology. This does not mean that I or anyone else here believes that Newton's date infers endtimes.
  7. Jun 5, 2008 #6


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    Alchemical texts of the day were deliberatly written in coded language, partly to cover up their secrets and partly to cover up the fact that there were no secrets.
    Add in making numbers from the letters of words while conveniently ignoring different translations and transcriptions and allowing anangrams you can generate pretty much any value or conclusion you want.
    It's the same technique people use to read polical predictions into nostrodamus or just about anything into the bible.
  8. Jun 5, 2008 #7
    Why bother with 2160, that is a boring number to speculate about because we will all be dead by then. Wouldn't you rather speculate about 2012 so we can have something to anticipate.
  9. Jun 5, 2008 #8
    It's a topic that has been exhausted on PF. Additionally, it has nothing to do with Newton, whose name happens to be in the thread title..
  10. Jun 5, 2008 #9
    Oh, sorry if I've misunderstood your post. I should clarify, though. I'm not saying that Newton's religious views were fanatical. He wasn't out to crusade the Saracens or anything. His views were merely heterodox (for example, he believed in heretical non-Trinitarian Christian doctrines, though privately). His alchemical experiments were interesting, but not necessarily insightful. I've always found it a bit surprising that someone who applied such scientific rigor to clasiical mechanics and optics could fail to apply the same rigor to the pseudoscience of alchemy. But then, maybe I'm expecting too much of a seventeenth century scientist.

    The astrology is a rather strange issue. Many of the scientists at the time were actually court astrologers, most notably Galileo, who cast horoscopes for a living. Astrology back then didn't rely on pseudoscience like it does today (modern astrologers spout nonsense about how neutrinos pass through Jupiter to affect a newborn infant's personality). At the time, it was part of a religious belief on how the position of stars affects destiny. But what I find interesting is that this religious belief was syncretized with the Catholicism of the time, even though the Bible condemns this practice. I'm familiar with the reference you made to the book of Job, but these mentions are more astronomical than astrological: Orion and the Pleiades are described as examples of God's creative power, not as a means to seek supernatural signs) Of course this was done as much by laypeople as by scientists, so I guess that this is more a commentary on the culture of Europe at the time.

    If all goes according to plan I should graduate in 2012. So it would seriously suck if an asteroid hits the day after I get my PhD!
  11. Jun 5, 2008 #10


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    2160 is the date that we pass from the age of pisces to the age of aquarius in astrological terms via the precession of the equinox (so I understand). It was thought that the references in the bible to the second coming and to a doomsday around about 2000 years after the first appearance of christ was a misinterpretation of an astrological passage talking about the passing of ages.

    I'm not sure how much of this is true since its just what I've heard here and there and I haven't looked into it myself but it seems plausible.
  12. Jun 5, 2008 #11


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    Yes, but if you wanted to sell a book on the subject, you'd have a much better shot of getting it published and getting people to buy it if you set the date at 2012. 2060 is just too far away for people to get nervous about it.
  13. Jun 5, 2008 #12
    Sounds like something I heard on the conspiracy theorist documentary "Zeitgeist" (which also posits whacked out 9/11 conspiracy theories). The problem here is that most likely, none of the Biblical authors knew anything about the precession of the equinox or the Age of Aquarius. Maybe I haven't read enough about this, but my understanding is that these guys read Biblical passages like "I am with you, even until the end of the age," and conclude that the word "age" refers to the Age of Pisces. Seems like grasping at straws to me.

    Also I'm not familiar with any legitimate interpretation about something interesting happening 2000 years after the first appearance of Christ.
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