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Apocalypse Redux

by Michael Shermer, May 17 2011

The following article originally ran in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday, May 14, one week before Judgment Day is to arrive. The following essay is a longer and more detailed version of the story.

May 21, 2011 is the latest in a long line of predictions of the end of the world. What drives doomsayers, both religious and secular?

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

—William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”

God…now commandeth all men every where to repent because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world.

—Acts, 17:30–31

Harold Camping in 2002

Harold Camping in 2002

That day is Saturday, May 21, says the Oakland, California-based evangelical Christian Family Radio host Harold Camping. By his calculations, May 21, 2011 marks the beginning of end of the world, when Jesus returns to judge us all and rapture those who believe in Him. How did Camping arrive at this date? Genesis 7:4 states that, “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.” Seven days is actually 7,000 years because in 2 Peter 3:8 it notes that a day is as a thousand years. (Although apparently 40 days is not 40,000 years of rain.) The Noachian flood unleashed its rain of terror in 4990 B.C., so if you add 7,000 years minus 1 (because there was no year zero), you arrive at 2011. Camping claims that May 21 is the 17th day of the 2nd month of the Hebrew calendar, from which the biblical chronology of the flood is determined. Therefore, May 21 is the Big Day.

If you are still around on May 22, it means you are not one of the chosen. But there still may be time to repent before October 21, when the physical end of the world comes. What will happen when that prophecy also fails? (Camping previously predicted September 6, 1994 as Judgment Day.) Doomsayers are nothing if not resourceful. (I mean this in both senses—according to, which monitors nonprofit assets, Camping’s organization is worth over $100 million, raking in a cool $18 million in 2009). Not only do they not admit when they are wrong, they become even more adamant about the verisimilitude of their beliefs, spin-doctoring the nonevent into a successful prophecy, with such rationalizations as these previously employed gems:

  1. Miscalculation of the date.
  2. The date was a loose prediction, not a specific prophecy.
  3. The date was more of a warning than a prophecy.
  4. God changed his mind in response to members’ prayers.
  5. The prophecy was just a test of members’ faith.
  6. The prophecy was fulfilled physically, but not as expected.
  7. The prophecy was fulfilled spiritually, but not recognized.

Thus it is that Jesus’ first-century prophecy (in Matthew 16:28) that, “There shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom,” did not attenuate in the least belief in the Second Coming for the past two millennia. Hundreds of predictions have been made, with the Jehovah’s Witnesses possibly holding the record for the most failed dates of doom: 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1920, 1925, and others up to 1975.

The classic case study in end-times psychology is the 1843 “Great Disappointment” that unfolded after William Miller became “fully convinced that sometime between March 21st, 1843, and March 21st, 1844…Christ will come and bring all his saints with him.” When March 21, 1844 came and went without note, the temporary great disappointment was followed by a recalcitrant recalculating of a new date, which was the “tenth day of the seventh month of the Jewish sacred year,” October 22, 1844. When the new date passed without note, one disciple announced that “our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. We wept and wept until the day dawned.” That disciple was Hiram Edson who, after concluding that Miller had misread the Book of Daniel, determined that the Sabbath should be observed on Saturday, the seventh and last day of the Jewish week, and he went on to become a leader of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

But religionists hold no monopoly on the apocalypse. There are also secular end of days, from Karl Marx’s end of capitalism and Francis Fukuyama’s end of history, to natural and man-made doomsdays brought about by overpopulation, pollution, nuclear winter, genetically engineered viruses, Y2K, solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions, polar shifts, super volcanoes, resource depletion, runaway nanotechnology, and most notably, global warming. In his book Our Final Hour, the British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees put our chances of surviving the 21st century at 50 percent. Last year Stephen Hawking famously warned humanity that contact with aliens could result in our enslavement or extinction.

In all of these apocalyptic prophecies—religious and secular—there is a sense of both fear and hope, and herein lies a clue to their appeal. For most true believers the end of the world is actually a transition to a new beginning and a better life to come. For religionists, God destroys Satan and sinners and resurrects the virtuous. For secularists, good triumphs over evil in myriad ways depending on one’s doomsday preferences. Radical feminists have prophesized a day when patriarchy will collapse and men and women will live in egalitarian harmony. Marxists projected communism as the liberating climax of a six-stage evolutionary process that requires the collapse of capitalism. Liberal democrats proclaimed the end of history when the Cold War was won by democracy and liberty. And most recently, the Tea Party’s messiah is John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, who leads a strike by the men of the mind, forcing civilization to collapse into anarchy, out of the ashes from which the heroes resurrect an “Atlantis” on earth. In the book’s final apocalyptic scene the heroine Dagny Taggart turns to Galt and pronounces “It’s the end.” He corrects her: “It’s the beginning.”

Whatever the circumstance or setting, it plays out the same: destruction is followed by redemption. Why? What is the underlying psychology of the apocalypse? In my new book The Believing Brain (Times Books), to be published next week should the world continue its existence, I present my thesis that we form our beliefs for a variety of subjective, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, and culture; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow. The brain is a belief engine. From sensory data flowing in through the senses the brain naturally begins to look for and find patterns, and then infuses those patterns with meaning. I call this first process patternicity, or the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data, and the second process I describe as agenticity, or the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency. Once our brains connect the dots of our world into meaningful patterns of belief, we look for and find confirming evidence to support them and employ a host of cognitive biases that insure we are always right.

In this belief model, the apocalypse is a pattern of chronology based on our cognitive percepts of passing time from past to future, with a fleeting moment (about three seconds) of a present in between. Our brains are wired to denote patterns of time from beginning to end, and then infuse those patterns with agency and intention, be it God settling moral scores or nature knocking us off our pedestal of human hubris. As well as making things right, apocalyptic visions also help us make sense of an often seemingly senseless world. The literal meaning of apocalypse is “unveiling,” or “revelation,” from St. John the Divine’s narrative in the book of Revelation to any number of the secular chronologies that fit the events of history into a larger cosmic design. How much easier it is to suffer the slings and arrows of life when you believe that it is all a part of a deeper, unfolding plan, whether determined by God or nature. We may feel like flotsam and jetsam on the vast rivers of history, but when the currents are directed toward a final destination it elevates the meaning of our place in it.

In the face of confusion and annihilation we need restitution and reassurance. We want to feel that no matter how chaotic, oppressive, or evil the world is, all will be made right in the end. The apocalypse as history’s end is made acceptable with the belief that there will be a new beginning.

47 Responses to “Apocalypse Redux”

  1. Oscar Deckman says:

    I find it amusing that the champions of the apocalypse that name a specific date for the last days are, in media, portrayed as nut jobs while the mainstream conviction that the time for the end will be “sometime during one’s lifetime” are treated as holding beliefs less insane.

    As one is aware of how minuscule in cosmological or earthly time our human civilization, or indeed a human lifespan, is the two are practically the same.

    The sad truth is, as stated in the excellent article above, that many prefer a suicidal notion of control rather than to face the chaos of reality.

    As usual; had these ideas been kept outside a religious framework both therapy and medication would be suggested…

  2. Somite says:

    Nice trick putting climate change along the same lines with woo apocalyptic theories unsupported by evidence. I liked the rest of the article but there has to be a discussion on how theories may be apocalyptic AND true and it is a scientific problem to distinguish between the two.

    Conquistador theory was truly apocalyptic for the Inca and climate change for Mayans and some amercan Indian societies, for example. Also the chances of an asteroid hitting earth likely approach certainty. It is just a matter of when.

    • tmac57 says:

      Well,to be fair, Shermer had a mix of implausible as well as plausible catastrophic events,such as solar flares,super volcanoes,and cosmic collisions.It’s not like his examples were all woo,then threw in global warming to imply that it was also woo.He may well have intentionally tried to belittle global warming,but it is not clear from the context.

    • Trimegistus says:

      Or in other words, “MY apocalyptic belief is TRUE!”

      • Max says:

        Yes, an apocalyptic belief based on science (e.g. asteroid impact) is far more likely to be true than an apocalyptic belief based on religious revelation, agree?

      • Matt says:

        Very true, but still highly unlikely in our lifetimes.

      • tmac57 says:

        Asteroid impacts can be inherently unpredictable,simply because we don’t know where they all are,and they often ‘sneak up’ on us.So in stating that “they are unlikely in our lifetimes” is simply extrapolation from the past combined with tracking the ones that we know about now.But if there were a very large asteroid out there on a collision course with the Earth that we are unaware of,then the likelihood would be 100%.

      • Bad Boy Scientist says:

        Sorry for being pedantic but statements like “an apocalyptic belief based on science” are grist for the woo-woo mill. Too many think that scientific positions are just the same as religious beliefs, the only difference is putting one’s faith in science rather than god.

        There is a nice article by Kristine Larsen about banning the “b-word” from science teaching:

      • Max says:

        Yeah, well I’m taking back the primary definition. Beliefs don’t have to be based on faith.

    • Steve says:

      I don’t think he belittled global warming at all. I think he was demonstrating that religious folks don’t have monoloply over doomsday prophecies and that even some secular folk think global warming will spell the (ultimate) end of us as a species. This doesn’t mean, and I don’t think Shermer implied, that global warming is an example of woo. In fact, I think in previous articles he’s explicitly stated that the scientific evidence is in favor of global clmiate change.

      • Somite says:

        Except that climate change is not a “doomsday prophecy” but a scientific observation.

      • Erik Jay says:

        “…climate change is not a ‘doomsday prophecy’…”

        Not the way you are discussing it, but it sure the hell is for a lot of folks. Even accepting the slight AGW effect, I remain skeptical of the, well, DOOMSDAY PROPHECIES (use “predictions” if that second term is too religiously tainted for you) raining down daily from the media. I am very tired of being called a “denier” because I do not fully embrace computer modeling as being predictive (or “prophetic,” if “predictive” is too secular for you). Case in point: The Nutty Professor, Paul Ehrlich. Wrong about everything, and if he is not a doom-monger, no one is. And thank you, Robo Sapien — well put.

      • I think he DID. (See my additional comment below.) And, no, in previous articles, he’s NOT stated that, either, certainly not as far as *anthropogenic* global warming. The man thinks Bjorn Lomborg is right and supports him in posts on this site.

      • Robo Sapien says:

        AGW has been proven – the consequences of AGW have not. There are droves of people out there telling everyone that we’re all going to choke on carbon cupcakes while we boil to death under an unprotective sky. This is unfounded sensationalism, and its purveyors are the ones Shermer speaks of in this article. Sorry, but supporting AGW does not exclude you from consideration in the Doomsday Nutjob Olympics.

        As an aside, I’d love to see a Shermer article here that doesn’t have the words “libertarian” or “racialist” in the comments. What is wrong with racialism anyway?

      • Somite says:

        It’s scarier than that. There extent is unknown.

    • Good FUCKING doorknob, Shermer. Hey, why don’t you hire the racialist blogger from Psychology today to join Frank Miele and Vince Sarich at your mag and complete your idiocy?

  3. Marcus says:

    Very interesting article Dr. Shermer but the problem I have is spending time and giving credence to these types of apocalyptic predictions. This is National Inquirer, Jerry Springer type of sensational news that doesn’t warrant serious discussion. It’s no different than reporting on the mom who gives her 12-year old Botox so she can win beauty pageants or the Octo-Mom. Life will contine on after May 21 and some other religious fanatic will put up a new billboard with a new date and time.

    • Jeff Pedigo says:

      I disagree. The article is less about Camping and his prediction than why Camping and others throughout human history continue to make such predictions. I find it useful scientific inquiry.

  4. Somite says:

    Is there a name for the logical fallacy that if a conclusion is apocalyptic it must be false?

    • Max says:

      Appeal to consequences and/or hasty generalization (all the past apocalyptic prophecies were false, so all apocalyptic prophecies are false).

    • M167A1 says:

      This would be a variation on excluding the middle I expect.

      Although in general apocalyptic predictions should be filed under “extraordinary claims” requiring extraordinarily evidence. Surviving said evidence is optional. :-P

  5. Blaze says:

    I think a nod should be given to how this “apocalypse-love” extends into fiction. It’s practically a sub-genre of science fiction & fantasy. A few decades ago, it was post-WW III tales of a survivors of a bombed Earth. In the modern day, there is the obsession with zombie apocalypses that won’t fade away.

    It all seems to stem from the urge we all have on occasion. “I’m surrounded by nincompoops/idiots/maniacs/(and downwards depending on how foul your mood and vocabulary)!!” And wishing they’d all be wiped away. I think the degree of wiped away then depends on the strength of one’s social skills, social network and self-esteem. People with no measurable amount of those characteristics want the whole human race to obliterated. People with a small rating, and large egos, envision an apocalypse with themselves as the lone survivor. As the ratings go up, so does the size of the select group of “not entirely nincompoops” that are allowed to survive and start over.

  6. John says:

    If it was just one nut job predicting the second coming and he had no resources to waste, it would be appropriate to ignore the fool, but this guy’s radio empire is worth $100,000,000. I could personally do a LOT of good with that kind of dough. His organization is wasting it on radio broadcasts and billboards while some of his fellow humans are hungry, homeless, dying for lack of health care and profoundly ignorant of how the real world works. Sure, he couldn’t save them all, but he’d be doing good to save one, but all he’s worried about is saving his fellow man’s probably non-existent soul. Last time I checked, you don’t eat with your soul, even if you do have one. It’s more than appropriate to loudly let the rest of the world know what he and his deluded followers are doing and to also point the finger of shame at him.

    • Trimegistus says:

      This dude does believe in souls, and obviously thinks that saving souls is more important. In his belief framework, that’s incredibly obvious.

      So: how much good do YOU do?

      • tmac57 says:

        John’s point is about Camping’s failure to perform ‘actual’ good with the substantial resources at his disposal.If a person collected millions of dollars to bleach everyone’s hair blond because they thought that this was the most important thing in the world,would you think “well OK,I guess that’s doing good in someone’s view”,or would you find it a waste of money?
        Your last statement “So:how much good do YOU do?” ,is and example of the Circumstantial Ad Hominem fallacy.

  7. Mario says:

    Well I’m more leaned toward some explanations from the Terror Management Theory (TMT), although a not broadly accepted view, It has some very good points when it comes to explain our eternal need for beliefs.

    In a nutshell we are the only beings who are both aware and scared of our limited time on earth, that force us to create a whole framework to give some kind of meaning to our ephemeral existence, that is what we call culture, a way to not only put a purpose in life but also to give some hope that there is much more to come after we die, if you accept that, then anthropocentric view points and religious beliefs, come as a subproduct of that line of thought, degenerated ideas infused with fear that leaders come up with to make sure people stick to the general plan.

    Patternicity, the term coined by Dr. Shermer, would be another example of that feeble attempt to cope with the anxiety derived from fear of death. Although his thesis do sound more interesting, and that’s many of the reasons I’m looking forward to read that book.

  8. Let’s take a further look at Shermer’s secular end of days that, for whatever likely nonskeptical reasons, he lumped with Harold Camping and other Xn millenialists:

    There are also secular end of days, from Karl Marx’s end of capitalism and Francis Fukuyama’s end of history, to natural and man-made doomsdays brought about by overpopulation, pollution, nuclear winter, genetically engineered viruses, Y2K, solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions, polar shifts, super volcanoes, resource depletion, runaway nanotechnology, and most notably, global warming. In his book Our Final Hour, the British Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees put our chances of surviving the 21st century at 50 percent. Last year Stephen Hawking famously warned humanity that contact with aliens could result in our enslavement or extinction.

    Marx was unscientific, and his followers even more so. Everybody this side of Pyongyang knows that. Beyond that, contra Shermer, Chicago Schoolers, etc., economics (except for behavioral economics) is less scientific than sociology or psychology, even. Fukuyama was making a political statement, and has since backed off it himself. So, just scratch these from being lumped with scientific “apocalypses.”

    Nuclear winter? Modelers who were worried about that *scientifically looked again* at their calculations and admitted they’d overstated it.

    Pollution? Still a problem. But, less so, with *nonlibertarian regulatory schemes* in the US and other advanced nations. If Shermer thinks pollution isn’t a problem in general, I’ve got some Beijing air I’ll pump into his house.

    Overpopulation? If all of the upwardly-estimated 9 billion ppl on planet Earth at 2100 want to live like Shermer likely does, and other “average Americans,” it will probably be a big problem in terms of AGW, degree of effects of AGW, resource depletion, etc.

    Ditto for resource depletion to hit that one. Shermer apparently hasn’t heard of Peak Oil, Peak Copper and more. (Paul Ehrlich just picked the wrong time frame for his bet with Julian Simon on copper, chromium, nickel, tin, and tungsten.)

    Wikipedia, talking of their bet, notes that Simon declined a more expansive follow-up bet:

    Solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions? Fringe science at best, and it’s been known as such all along. More intellectual dishonesty to lump them with legitimate “scientific apocalypses.”

    Shifting magnetic poles, if that’s what Shermer meant? Unknown what damage that might do; that said, the highest alarmists don’t seem to have too much evidence.

    Nanotechnology? Luddites aside, who knows what might happen as a result of that. Given the rising police state within the United States, maybe we should be alarmed about the possibility of nano-spying. Very alarmed. Ditto for libertarian-beloved big corporations getting ideas in that area.

    Hawking on aliens? Well, if they had hostile intent, and the capability for interstellar travel, he’s 120 percent right, Shermer. You’re a doorknob for mocking a prediction like that.

    Surviving the century? While I’ve not seen anybody besides Rees put odds on it, I have seen other people worry about whether Homo technologus, at least, will survive in current form.

    Who knows how close India and Pakistan may be to nuclear war right now, for example?

    • Erik Jay says:

      You are more pedantic than I am, which is quite a feat. Libertarians that I know, and I have been one since the age of 10, don’t “love big corporations” any more than small ones, or partnerships, or sole proprietors. We oppose cronyism, which is not capitalism and certainly is not free enterprise. Big corporations are about zero threat compared to our insanely meddlesome and corrupt government. I completely agree with you about the growing U.S. police state, and if you are serious in opposing it, you would be quite welcome, irrespective of any other views, in any of the circles (real and virtual) that I run in. I can live with disagreements on other topics if I can make common cause with folks like you against our common enemy, the state. (Hat tip to A. J. Nock… Great book!)

    • Bad Boy Scientist says:

      I disagree with this:

      Solar flares, rogue planets, black holes, cosmic collisions? Fringe science at best, and it’s been known as such all along. More intellectual dishonesty to lump them with legitimate “scientific apocalypses.”

      Depending on the meaning of ‘cosmic collision’ and ‘rogue planets’ those could be very real threats. Collisions with asteroids (AKA minor planets) and/or comets have caused mass extinctions and will likely do so again.

      Also a nearby Gamma Ray Burst (within say ~1000ly) could damn near sterilize the Earth.

      Super solar flares and CME’s may not kill off humanity but could severely wound civilization (imagine if much of the American East Coast had to do without a power grid for six months – how would Wall Street govern our government?)

      These are not ‘fringe science’ even if the odds of any one of them happening are low – just like the Department of Homeland Security isn’t ‘fringe law enforcement’ just because the odds of terror attacks are low.

      • Let me nuance a bit …

        There’s no rogue planet inside our solar system. Asteroids, by definition, aren’t planets, so I’m not counting them. Nor do “planetoids” out in the Kuiper Belt count as planets.

        A rogue planet outside the Solar System, if a threat, is millennia way. Even a Kuiper Belt planetoid is long away.

        Asteroid collisions? Nuclear warheads would likely take care of many. It’s a legit concern, but addressable.

        Flares? Being without the power grid for six months seems unlikely. A power reduction system like Japan post-tsunami is quite possible, but obviously not apocalyptic.

        Gamma ray burst? Most stars within 100 light years have been well categorized, so this isn’t likely TODAY.

        That said, we could have one 10,000 years from now and civilization still might not be advanced enough to defend itself.

    • This all said, Live Science also gives a realistic presentation of scientific apocalypses.

      It also includes Shermer’s pseudoscientific “heaven” – the Singularity!

      Speaking of, that’s the single biggest reason to not take Shermer seriously on this. As long as he’s fellating Ray Kurzweil, we know he’s a ….

      Crackpot. Not a religious one like Camping, but a crackpot nonetheless.

  9. BillG says:

    Would it not serve best that we ignore ditzoids like Harold Camping? I doubt he believes his own tripe – only reaching for attention and has preloaded exemptions ready to kick the can of doomsday for another ego stroked date.

    Wealthy or poor, perhaps this should be caution to what happens to adults when infants fall to parental neglect.

  10. MadScientist says:

    I love how this article goes from discussing the nutjobs who predict the end of the world on certain dates to lumping in anyone who has brought up any warnings of potential future problems (y2k, global warming, etc). For example:

    “Last year Stephen Hawking famously warned humanity that contact with aliens could result in our enslavement or extinction.”

    Big whoop. Hawking never claimed that the world would end, only that in the hypothetical situation in which alien lifeforms capable of intergalactic travel happen to stumble upon us, we shouldn’t think that they must necessarily be friendly. Nor is Hawking’s sentiment anything new; the non-benevolent alien invader has always been popular in sci-fi – for example, look at H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds”. Which was written long before Hawking was even born.

    “Y2K” was nothing but doomsday nonsense? Sure there was a lot of nonsense going on back then, but the Y2K defect was a serious flaw which businesses had to address before the clock ticked over. Global Warming? Well, it’s happening although doomsayers are lying when they make claims such as “there will be more numerous and more severe storms” on the one hand and then “it is difficult if not impossible to determine if there are more numerous or more severe storms”. However, we know the globe is warming and we know it’s due largely to CO2, and we know there will eventually be a higher crop failure rate which will creep up on people because the temperature change is so gradual. People who know nothing of what’s involved tend to say things like “there’s no problem”, “we’ll adapt”, “we can always relocate cities” and other such nonsense and yet offer no evidence for their position of faith. As with Y2K, there is a genuine threat from Global Warming and if the issue is simply ignored there will be huge problems in the future, although none of those problems are likely to be anything like what today’s climate doomsayers say. Global sea rise? Oh please, we’re screwed long before that becomes a major problem.

    • Max says:

      Why is it more difficult to determine if there are more numerous or more severe storms than to determine if there are more numerous or more severe crop failures?

      • MadScientist says:

        Determining if there are more numerous or more severe crop failures would be done in a similar fashion to determining if there are more numerous or more severe storms. You just need to gather the numbers and look at them over a span of decades. If anything the more+severe storms bit would be easier. With crop failure you have to spend more time weeding out failures which are not due to natural events (for example, if the water wells run dry in regions irrigated with ground water). Similar methods are used to demonstrate that the earth is in fact warming due to increased CO2. It’s no simple task, but certainly not “(too) difficult if not impossible” as the IPCC web site claims. Well, I hadn’t looked at the IPCC website in a few years – I wonder if they removed that spurious claim about the more+severe storms being “difficult if not impossible” to determine and yet somehow true.

  11. Bill Dietrich says:

    The Charlatans who make the doomsday predictions are con men who dupe the uneducated and gullible, take their money and live a high life style with the millions they confiscate/steal from the ignorant rabble among us. One needs to be an idiot to give these Charlatans any money, but idiots we have in abundance.

  12. I bet Harold Camping will be glad we dont live in a Christian nation ruled by biblical law on the 22nd because if not he would be killed.

    Deuteronomy 13:1-5
    Deuteronomy 18:20-22

  13. One thing does seem clear: there are fewer Julian Simons out there, and more Paul Ehrlichs. We are nervous about the near future, and each of us projects onto it the scenario that makes the most sense to the individual. The scientific try to balance a multitude of intersecting factors and boil them down to one or two dominants, and the non- or anti-scientific are at the mercy of fools and cynics. Jay Hansen has made a notable attempt to distill the situation into one terrifying diagram of the various intersecting trend curves of population and energy; unfortunately he proposes a typically psychologically impossible solution involving an Orwellian techno-hive society.

    The train is entering a tunnel, it seems; no light shines in it as yet. Bad stuff is probable. But it is nevertheless our duty as conscious beings to think honestly and argue in good faith about it, even if it may be ultimately beyond our influence.

  14. The 21st is my little brother’s wedding day. Any phenomena that wants to intervene will have to deal with a pissed off big sister!
    Gray Matter Ghost