The headlines are screaming: Prepare, for the end of the world is at hand, tomorrow, May 21, 2011.
This is the latest in a long and rich history of such predictions, reaching back to when humans started making predictions in the dim fog of prehistory.
A quick Googling reveals these fascinating predictions:
• Many Europeans expected the end of the world in the year 1000. Many people gave away all their possessions, or fought wars to try to convert as many people to Christianity before it was too late.
• Paul Ehrlich’s 1972 book The Population Bomb predicted that there would be worldwide famines and massive die-offs in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In fact, world population has steadily increased since then, in large part due to more effective supply chain management of food and other resources.
• In 1997, 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed group suicide, so they could somehow reach the spacecraft which was following comet Hale-Bopp, which was nearing Earth. They did this because they thought the Earth was about to be “recycled” by the aliens, and everyone was going to die.
There are countless other examples from across the millennia. Everyone wants to believe that his or her time on Earth is special, significant, and momentous.
So here we are on the eve of yet another prediction of Doomsday. Who knows? This one could be right. But if we wake up on Sunday, we can all gather in the streets and celebrate our continued existence by loudly singing together that famous REM song: “It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”
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Alex Howerton

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