« Back to home

Apocalypse Not

Posted on

Wired has a great article up right now.

When the sun rises on December 22, as it surely will, do not expect apologies or even a rethink. No matter how often apocalyptic predictions fail to come true, another one soon arrives.

They chronicle some of the apocalyptic predictions of the past 50 years or so, including acid rain, CFCs, famine, and oil shortage.  I think the folks who make these predictions often want to focus humanity’s attention on some important issue.  The method works for a short while, but mistrust brews when apocalypse fails to materialize.  I think this is what has happened with environmental concerns.  We’ve heard apocalyptic predictions regarding nature for so long that a substantial group of people are now convinced that anybody who even mentions “climate change” cannot be correct.  We’ve got to stop turning climate change into an imminent apocalypse.

The Wired article barely touches religious apocalypses, and skips the Y2K apocalypse predictions.  I’d love to see something that discusses apocalyptic thinking from earlier history - I’ve heard that the scare around the year 1000 was similar to Y2K scare (minus the nuclear-armed computers).  This kind of thinking has always been a part of humanity, and I think folks like Glenn Beck understand and exploit this very basic human fear.

Recently Fox News has been playing scare ads stating that a UN arms treaty would give the President a way to take away our second amendment rights.  This is completely untrue, and is just another way of playing on that basic apocalypse-type fear.  No UN treaty can circumvent our constitutional rights, that’s just not how the process works.  Here’s an example of the scare mongering.  The Forbes article says that the treaty “will almost certainly force the U.S. to” do a bunch of things, “setting the stage for full-scale gun confiscation”.  Then it goes on to some classic conspiracy theory thinking, and the typical emotional appeal of, “if someone breaks into your home when you are there, which would you prefer” blah blah blah.  I’d prefer a gun, yes, but the emotional argument only serves to fill space and detract from any rational discussion of the treaty’s contents and scope.

Snopes has some info which puts this whole thing in a historical context.  Shortly after Obama’s election (2008/2009) gun and ammunition sales shot through the roof on rumors that the President would limit gun sales.  Bass Pro in San Antonio was sold out of 9mm ammo for months.  Snopes points out that there was a similar UN treaty back in 2010.  Gun ownership and sales are still legal.

I hope that people will get tired of this constant apocalyptic thinking the same way that they got tired of climate change.


Russell Hollander - Aug 0, 2012

Hey Karl, I read the same article and found it to be fascinating. I think one of the biggest hindrances to solving any problem is that the problem inevitably gets overblown, no matter what the issue is, and we fall into slippery slopes and reductio ad absurdum. People championing a cause need to remember that they look less credible when they present things in any way that isn’t 100% factual. I think Americans can handle the truth, even if we don’t want to. We don’t need to see a tsunami swamping the Statue of Liberty, a man in a suit pushing Granny off the cliff, or forecasts of people marrying animals to consider a situation and weigh possible outcomes. I don’t know enough about the UN arms control treaty to comment on it in specifics, but I am hesitant about anything that potentially reduces our national sovereignty. I’ll have to read up on it to see what it’s all about. As far as apocalyptic thinking goes, you’re absolutely right in pointint out that it has been with humanity probably forever. Each generation thinks they’re living in the last days and things are worse than ever. I watched a TED talk recently about how violence and death have plummeted for almost all of human history in terms of percentage of total population, even factoring in world wars. But that doesn’t sell ad space. I can remember talking to my Grandma about how she remembers hearing about how it was the end of days even when she was a child, at times before the A-bomb. From a Christian perspective, the Bible says no one will know the hour, but I’d think things would have to be much worse than they are now.

finity - Aug 0, 2012

forecasts of people marrying animals

I’m a bit embarrassed that I used to think this was a reasonable argument against gay marriage.

Each generation thinks they’re living in the last days and things are worse than ever

Reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puSQjcAxbR0

Neil Sickendick - Aug 3, 2012

have to second what you said about people marrying animals, Karl, I embarrassingly thought the same. I stopped listening to Glenn Beck when his fear exploitation was amped up. Seems he is only sponsored by companies that make their money off of other’s fear… Especially if you sign up for The Blaze email list etc. Oh well. Hopefully we’ll see you on the other side of December 22nd, but probably not…