Friday, May 20, 2011

THE END IS NEAR ... (so we're told)

The world's coming to an end tomorrow. This is what apocalypse predictor, and religious provocateur, Harold Camping is saying. Why in the world anyone pays any attention to this guy is beyond me. Still, as I thought about his prediction (and his previous end of times prediction), I began to think about the other prophesies of doom.

The Bible's punishing Book of Revelations prediction has captured the imagination of Christians through the millennium. We have the Mayans and their December 21, 2012 "end of the calendars" solar-pole shifting event (which is backed by science). Edgar Cayce, the slumbering oracle of Indiana, chimed in with his quake predictions as well. Then there are the Nostradamus quatrains, and the Web Bot's "data gap" that begins in 2012 and restarts May 2013.

At the end of the day, one thing is clear. We've had numerous gloomy end of times predictions from diverse sources throughout the millennium. The prediction for tomorrow's global flame out falls right into that category.

But I'm still going to take my son to the Giants game tomorrow. Here's why.

What we need to remember is that throughout history we've been told that the end is near. We've also been told that Napoleon was the anti-Christ. Then it was Hitler. Then it was Bin Laden. Tomorrow we'll find another, I'm sure. The point is human nature is such that many are predisposed to embrace the worst predictions because, as we've seen throughout time, they don't know any better. So, as a species, we buy into myths, predictions, and superstitions. They help explain, and provide a sense of control.

Indeed, at one time many believed that anyone who fell to the ground - in what we now know is an epileptic fit - was possessed by the devil. Why? Because that's all we knew at the time. But - and here's the  key - we allowed ourselves to believe this. Floods and famine? The gods must be mad at us. The Plague? God was really pissed off then. And we believed it all.

Incredibly, the Enlightenment, the scientific method, and the modern world really haven't made things any better.

Think about it. Science and technology have evolved to such a degree that we have elaborate communication tools that allow us to keep tabs on the rest of the world. So we see more devastation and calamities. And, as products of the Enlightenment, we should be able to evaluate their developments rationally. But instead of saying, "Wow, isn't it incredible that we can see more of what's happening in the world ..." we have people who want us to believe "the end of times is near because more catastrophes are evidence of God's wrath ..."

Just because you see and hear about more quakes and devastation doesn't mean there are more quakes and devastation then we've had in the past. It only means that modern technology and media networks allow us to have more information about global events. We should be studying these events, and preparing for them. Instead, we fear them and have invented elaborate stories to explain them.

Look, whether you want to believe in the calculations of the Mayans (which do have a basis in science), the punishing judgment days foretold in the Bible (or the prophecies of St. Malachy), the dreams of  Edgar Cayce, or the mystical writings of Nostradamus, we need to keep one thing in mind: If you believe that the future of our world is guided by a divine hand, or cyclically determined, then what happens to our world tomorrow is beyond your control.

What is in your hands is what you do with your life, and how you treat those around you. Me? I'm going to the game tomorrow.

- Mark

UPDATE (12/20/12): For those wondering why the Mayan calendar ends so suddenly ...

UPDATE TO MY UPDATE (12/20/12): This piece from The Economist is interesting too ...

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