It's really a jungle out there!
— NASA scientist David Morrison, talking about the Mayan Apocalypse on the internet
It seems pointless to write this blog, or for that matter, do anything which doesn't have an immediate payoff, if the widely anticipated End Of The World arrives on December 21st, a mere 88 days from now. How many people are "looking forward" to this singular event? One in ten worldwide, according to a poll conducted by Reuters last May. That's about 700 million people. And one in seven expect the end to arrive during their lifetimes. We can contemplate what "the end" actually means, but if I were 19 years old, instead of 59, I might think that too
The end of the Mayan calendar, which spans about 5,125 years, on December 21, 2012 has sparked interpretations and suggestions that it marks the end of the world.
"Whether they think it will come to an end through the hands of God, or a natural disaster or a political event, whatever the reason, one in seven thinks the end of the world is coming," said Keren Gottfried, research manager at Ipsos Global Public Affairs which conducted the poll for Reuters.
"Perhaps it is because of the media attention coming from one interpretation of the Mayan prophecy that states the world 'ends' in our calendar year 2012," Gottfried said, adding that some Mayan scholars have disputed the interpretation.
Responses to the international poll of 16,262 people in more than 20 countries varied widely with only six percent of French residents believing in an impending Armageddon in their lifetime, compared to 22 percent in Turkey and the United States and slightly less in South Africa and Argentina.
But only seven percent in Belgium and eight percent in Great Britain feared an end to the world during their lives.
About one in 10 people globally also said they were experiencing fear or anxiety about the impending end of the world in 2012. The greatest numbers were in Russia and Poland, the fewest in Great Britain.
People are feeling pretty pessimistic in Poland and Russia, and why not? In Russia, the world already ended back in 1991. And if I were a citizen of the U.K., I wouldn't be so sanguine about my prospects. This next part was interesting.
Gottfried also said that people with lower education or household income levels, as well as those under 35 years old, were more likely to believe in an apocalypse during their lifetime or in 2012, or have anxiety over the prospect.
"Perhaps those who are older have lived long enough to not be as concerned with what happens to their future," she explained.
Precisely. Older, highly educated people—you know, economists like Paul Krugman, for example—would never think the world is going to end in their lifetimes or later this year. That's patently absurd!
OK, I'll be semi-serious for a moment. Suppose you lived on Planet Stupid, you were intelligent and well informed, and you had noticed that the oceans are being trashed, the planet is warming very rapidly—in no time at all on the Geological timescale—a mass extinction is underway, etc., and the agents of these changes were making things worse all the time. You might entirely agree with those "with lower education" or who are "under 35 years old" in thinking they will be screwed some time during their lifetimes. And of course, for those with "lower household income levels" (or no income at all) the "world" has already ended! No surprise there.
I am happy to report that Rocket Scientists have stepped in to educate the public and save the day. On The Media's Brooke Gladstone interviewed NASA scientist David Morrison, who is now in the debunking business. I've included the audio.
Citing the Mayan calendar, many people believe that the world will end on December 21, 2012. Some of those people email NASA scientist David Morrison who, unlike most scientists, takes their concerns seriously enough to explain that there is no science to back up the 2012 prophecy. Brooke speaks to Morrison about the possibility of dissuading people from believing the end of the world is near.
Morrison has found, in the words of Brooke, that—
People can be highly resistant to facts they don't like
Maybe this keen observation could serve as the official DOTE motto!
The supreme irony of writing a blog like DOTE is that one is apt to be confused with those who think the world is coming to an "end" sometime real soon, perhaps next week, maybe this year, maybe next. See my post Contemporary Eschatology, which is about people I call Doomers.
But imagine being in David Morrison's shoes. Like economists, who believe markets are full of wholly rational actors who are like calculating machines, Morrison believes he can persaude total wackos through rational arguments that the world is not going to end four days before Christmas. At some point, the question becomes who is crazier? The Mayan Doomers? Or Morrison, whose mental model of how people work assumes that such people can be rationally persuaded to stop worrying if he points out some incontrovertible facts about rogue planets and killer comets?
In short, poor David Morrison operates under the assumption that other people function just like he does.
We've got two videos. The first is the trailer for The Mayan Apocalypse 2012. The second is David Morrison debunking the impending end of the world.
Nothing to worry about — the Solar System is as solid as a rock!