Harold Camping and his organization, Family Radio, were proved wrong this weekend when the world did not end. NPR reports that Tom Evans, a board member of Family Radio, “hopes the organization will repay people who gave their money to the cause. But at this point he can’t guarantee it.” I have heard other calls for compensation to Camping’s followers as well. I wonder when leaders of other religious organizations that make very highly dubious claims (e.g. that the earth was created some time in the last ~10,000 years) will say that they hope to compensate their misled donors.
I actually think Camping should feel less guilty about misleading his followers than a lot of other religious leaders: he seems to have truly believed what he said. In contrast to most other religious leaders, he was willing to bet his reputation on a falsifiable claim, and thus was, all else equal, less likely to be lying. Other religious leaders tend to profess astounding levels of certainty about various beliefs, none of which, conveniently, are falsifiable.