We have long had a strange obsession with our own demise. Today an entire industry might be described as “doomsday porn.” People can’t consume apocalyptic books and movies fast enough, it seems. For thousands of years, people have predicted the end of the world. It matters little that these predictions fail over and over. A NASA scientist reports being contacted by people contemplating suicide to avoid the horrors of the Maya 2012 doomsday. The good news is that by asking basic questions, demanding hard evidence, and checking physical claims about the Earth or space with the appropriate fields of science, it is not difficult to expose these claims for what they almost always are: made up out of thin air and placed atop a wobbly pedestal of faulty reasoning. The bad news is there have been several mass extinctions in Earth’s history – such as those wiping out the dinosaurs. Apparently the Tobo super-volcano erupted thousands of years ago, causing a global winter that cut human numbers down to as little as a few thousand. But they were smart enough and tough enough to make it. Giving further cause for optimism, a 2009 scientific study looked at how vulnerable we are today to a wide variety of major catastrophes – and found that humankind is very likely to endure.
Image by Kevin Hand/Prometheus Books
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