In some circles this will conjure up "The Last Pope Prophecy."
It will probably lead to an increase in some branches or denominations of the survivalist ideologies.
They are a mixture of loosely knit as well as tightly knit groups that think either the world will end or civilization will end in their lifetimes.
The reasons vary from financial collapse, nuclear war, and/or environmental catastrophes civilization will bring on itself.
These ideas do not come exclusively from wackos, no, scientists and some other very respected and successful people have made observations in that direction, as we noted in a prior post:
“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson(The Life and Death of Bright Things). A lot of the mystical ideology derives some basic notion from science, but then takes it over the edge, as in the Mayan Calendar nervousness of some months back (A Savvy Ecocosmological Earth Calendar).
One interesting place where science and religion have a similar characteristic is the notions of prophecy and/or prediction.
The religious word "prophecy" compares to the scientific word "prediction" in that sense, and both are involved with predicting a future event based on current data and knowledge.
A scientific hypothesis advances into a theory when it makes predictions of future events based upon its own internal reasoning.
Religious prophecy is often based on some scriptural interpretation that the prophet thinks applies to current events, in the sense of being a marker on the flow of time, which usually is said to indicate a certain future event is axiomatic from that point onward.
So, let's take a look at the last Pope prophecy, which comes from the religious side of the coin:
The Prophecy of the Popes, attributed to Saint Malachy, is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. They purport to describe each of the Roman Catholic popes (along with a few anti-popes), beginning with Pope Celestine II (elected in 1143) and concluding with the successor of current pope Benedict XVI, a pope described in the prophecy as "Peter the Roman", whose pontificate will end in the destruction of the city of Rome.(Prophecy of the Popes, Wikipedia, emphasis added). Every prophecy and hypothesis has its challengers and detractors, and this one is no exception, however, that is not the focus of this post.
The prophecy was first published in 1595 by Arnold de Wyon, a Benedictine historian, as part of his book Lignum Vitæ. Wyon attributed the list to Saint Malachy, the 12th‑century bishop of Armagh in Ireland. According to the traditional account, in 1139, Malachy was summoned to Rome by Pope Innocent II. While in Rome, Malachy purportedly experienced a vision of future popes, which he recorded as a sequence of cryptic phrases. This manuscript was then deposited in the Roman Archive, and thereafter forgotten about until its rediscovery in 1590.
This prophecy is like a valid scientific hypothesis in the sense that it can be "falsified", that is, tried and tested to see if it is valid or not.
How is that?
Well, the Pope who replaces the current Pope Benedict XVI will either be the last Pope or will not be, thereby falsifying the prophecy or validating it.
Darwin had, and still has, a similar challenge ongoing concerning his hypothesis about the origin of current species of biological life on our planet Earth.
In his writings he said that unless proper accord was found for the Cambrian Explosion that took place some 550-510 million years ago, that part of his hypothesis concerning the process by which species originated could be invalidated.
See the Dredd Blog post "Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 14" for more details.