Action Alert!

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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