The end of the world. How many times have we read books or seen movies about it? From alien invasions, killer asteroids, and problems with the Earth’s magnetic field, to the good old fashioned biblical end of times, the end of the world has been a recurring theme through the existence of humanity. And from what some people have written about it, it will certainly not be a pretty sight. If the end of the world happened in an instant with no warning, that would be one thing, but many visualizations of the end of the world give humanity several weeks or months of awareness of their impending doom before it actually happens. And this is where things get ugly.
You would think that a sentient, thinking, civilized species such as our own would spend its last days engaged in spiritual, philosophical, or family-oriented activities. For example, people could await Armageddon praying in their churches and seeking repentance for every bad deed they have done, or meeting with their friends and loved ones to remember good times and eat, drink, sing, dance, and tell stories before oblivion. Alas, this is not what many of those writing about the end of times think will happen. Several authors envision scenes of panic and chaos with rampaging mobs bent on looting and pillaging. Destruction, fires, lynchings, and inebriated individuals seeking payback for actual or imagined transgressions by persons or by society against them. The poor at war with the rich, the minorities at war with the majorities, one race at war with another, etc. Every single point of friction that exists in our society explodes unleashing pent up anger and hatred.
Hopefully these writers are wrong and most of humanity will face eternity with grace and composure, but even if their apocalyptic scenario is right, that’s not what really bothers me the most about the end of the world.
Let me explain.
I don’t know if you remember, but many predicted that the world was going to end back in 2012. Why? Many claimed that the Mayan calendar was ending on that year and this signaled the end of the world. As it turns out, this was not true. The Mayan calendar was ending a cycle, but after that another cycle was scheduled to begin. But the doomsday crowd ignored this and swiftly moved to discuss not IF but HOW the world would end. Many claimed that a rogue planet called Nibiru, claimed to be originally discovered by the Sumerians, or a Planet X, or a large asteroid would collide with Earth, even though no such planets or asteroid were visible anywhere near Earth. Others claimed that an alignment of the planets would destroy the Earth, but not only was such planetary alignment not taking place in 2012, but also these alignments have happened before and they have no effect on our planet. Still others claimed that the Earth would reverse its rotation leading to worldwide e mayhem, and they invoked the fact that the magnetic polarity of the planet has changed throughout its history. This change is the reversal of north and south magnetic points, but not only does this change not cause any harm to life on Earth, but it would certainly not change the direction of the Earth’s rotation.
All this nonsense proliferated on many websites, was swiftly spread by social media, and led to the publication of many books, and even one major movie was made based on the premise aptly entitled “2012”. Of course, the date of the apocalypse came and went, and nothing happened. But this was irrelevant to end-of-the-world proponents who started their search for the next big revelation. Prophesying the end of the world is great business.
However, what bothers me is this. What if the doomsdayers had been right? I figure that in the hours or days before the end, they would have huge crowds listening to their every utterance, and they would have the power to command many people to do whatever they wanted. These doomsdayers would be rockstars! But the problem is that such veneration would be totally unwarranted.
Human beings have been predicting the end of the world since time immemorial. Every year there are dozens of individuals all over the world who predict when the world is going to end. If eventually the world does end, these people would be right but just because of chance. If you throw ten coins, what is the chance of getting ten heads? It’s unlikely, but if you throw 10 coins enough times, you will eventually get this result. Much in the same way, if people predict the end of the world continuously, they will eventually be right when it does happen. Before accepting they were right, the logical thing to do is to look at their predictive record. How many predictions have they made before? How many of these predictions were right? How detailed was their end-of-the-word prediction? Did they get these details right? I would suggest that to accept that these individuals really got it right because there is something special about them, they would have to clear a pretty high bar.
Call me naïve, but I would expect that a simple truth such as “we’re all going to die” should not get in the way of thinking straight. But good luck telling that to an irrational mob of terrorized people. For all I know, scientists like me would be the first to be hanged. But be it as it may dear reader, if that fateful occasion does come along within my lifetime, I hope you check my blog and social media channels because I will be here presenting the evidence and facts, and defending reason against unfounded claims right until the last minute!
On the meantime, however, I will settle for debunking the next irrational claim of an impending apocalypse when it comes along.
The Grumpy Cat meme was adapted from the internet. The Grumpy Cat image belongs to the company “Grumpy Cat Limited”. The image is used here in good faith in a non-commercial way under the doctrine of fair use in the same way it was used by the millions of people who made Grumpy Cat an internet sensation.