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doom, gloom, and-- worst of all-- boredom

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 17, 2010

A prominent Australian microbiologist, Frank Fenner, predicts that mankind will be extinct within a century.

Are you yawning? Probably. Not only because we’ll pretty much all be dead within a century anyway, but also because we’ve heard so many of these gloomy predictions in the past. Mass famines, nuclear winters, Y2k breakdowns, acid rain, the population bomb, and now global warming: we’ve been threatened with disaster for years, and somehow life goes on.

What’s particularly curious about the prophets of doom, notes Australian columnist Andrew Bolt, is that they go on living normal lives, apparently undisturbed by the impending apocalypse. They aren’t marching around carrying placards, warning us to repent before it’s too late. They aren’t headed for the mountains to find survivalist lairs. They’re making the rounds of the talk shows, chatting amiably about their latest books, making small talk about the weather and the ball games. Bolt writes:

Strange. It's like we privately agree that when these scientists say the end of the world is nigh, they don't mean it, not literally, but are just scaring us for our own good. Or that they do mean it, but are frankly batty.

It’s become a form of entertainment. We listen to the scientists, telling their scary stories, and feel the same sort of mild frisson that jaded viewers get from a horror movie. It’s what we expect. The gloom industry has become too predictable.  

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  • Posted by: lynnvinc7142 - Jul. 16, 2010 7:50 PM ET USA

    I like to tell the End Worlders that we don't know when it will happen, but our own personal end on earth will come, and we could end up in a place a lot warming than a globally warmed world and for eternity no less, if we fail to mitigate global warming, and (I now add) esp if we insist on denying anthropogenic global warming, as Cain denied killing Abel, and dissuading others from mitigating. That seems to be a much worse sin than simply ourselves failing to mitigate.

  • Posted by: lynnvinc7142 - Jul. 16, 2010 3:22 PM ET USA

    I know an honorable scientist--James Hansen, head of NASA climate science--who is doing plenty about his dire predictions re climate change. He writes for laypersons, e.g., his great book STORMS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN. He protests mountain top removal (continued coal mining that harms people in many ways) and gets arrested for it. He tries with all his wherewithal to get people to mitigate climate change. But people seem not to care about the harm they are causing or their immortal souls.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Jun. 18, 2010 12:44 AM ET USA In this vein also.

  • Posted by: DJM749 - Jun. 17, 2010 7:19 PM ET USA

    Wasn't there some announcement this week by NASA about an solar storm threat in the next 4-5 years? It wouldn't be a life-ending event, but it could muck things up somewhat. Problem is, serious threats get buried under the noise created by the sensationalists like Fener-- to the detriment of all.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Jun. 17, 2010 5:27 PM ET USA

    Really, the doomsayers are just a social form of introspection on the frailty of existence. I, personally, like to roll my eyes and keep going. Some people get quite worked up over these sorts of things, though. Like the family in South America that killed their child to save him from global warming.

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