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The Fascination With Doomsday

The Fascination With Doomsday

DOES the future make you nervous? If so, you are not alone. From ancient times, people have speculated about the things to come, and many have concluded that the outlook is not exactly rosy. The prospect of doomsday, or the end of the world, has intrigued and fascinated people for millenniums.

Consider, for example, recent fiction. Comics, TV, hundreds of movies, and thousands of books weave tales of impending doom. There seems to be no end to the forces ready to pounce upon and lay waste to humanity​—killer robots, monsters of all sorts, aliens, zombies, ghosts, dragons, apes, birds, mutant rats, and giant wasps. Hardly would anyone take such stories seriously!

Of course, other stories and theories make some people much more nervous. Some of these claim to be scientific. One foretells that the earth’s entire crust will experience a massive shift that will result in immense tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Another holds that the planets will come into a straight alignment and that this will cause the sun’s solar winds to intensify and wreak havoc on earth. Still another asserts that earth’s magnetic poles will suddenly reverse and cause radiation from the sun to kill us all. Don’t worry. These things will not happen. Still, such scenarios continue to captivate the imagination of many.

What about the countless books and doomsday Web sites that predict  that the world will end on December 21 of this year? One claim is that a supposed planet named Nibiru (or Planet X) is on a collision course with the earth and will reach here in December 2012. This and other theories unsupported by fact have been linked to interpretations of an ancient Maya calendar, which, according to some, ends at the winter solstice of 2012.

Persuaded by similar predictions of disasters, some have built shelters in their backyard or, at considerable expense, have reserved quarters in underground community bunkers. Others have moved to the mountains and have become self-sufficient, living “off the grid,” independent of public utilities, such as water, heat, or electricity.

Of course, there are those who will have none of this. They scorn the idea of an imminent end of the world. Scientists at NASA, for example, assert: “Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.”

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that humanity faces no peril or that only the gullible believe that doomsday is something more than the stuff of fiction and fantasy. Will doomsday really come? If so, how and when?