2012. Nibiru. Crashing asteroids. The greenhouse effect. All these doom-think theories have large crowds of supporters. These believe predictions that humanity will be almost completely eradicated readily. Why is doomsday thinking so popular?
The facts encourage optimism, yet pessimism is the rule
Optimism is the exception, pessimism the rule. Especially in Europe and the Middle East. Prophets of doom of all walks of life draw their inspiration from the strangest sources. Think of the poorly understood writings of the Maya, Mexican indigenous people who did not see their own demise coming. Others point to the great waves of extinction that strike the earth every 50 to 100 million years. This danger is more real, but not overwhelming on human timescales either. Our life now is better than it has ever been in human history. Everything indicates that things will get much better in the future. Simply because our technology is getting better and therefore our possibilities are increasing. These are undeniable facts. Why then the massive pessimism?
Pessimism in the past makes a lot of sense
In the past there has been cause for pessimism. If the population in an area grew too much, the soil would become depleted and famines would ensue. The resistance weakened, causing people to die en masse from diseases such as the plague or smallpox. If you made mistakes, insulted the local ruler or got pregnant without being married, for example, you were immediately punished. A civilization, too, usually did not last more than a few centuries from ecological disasters or warlike invaders. In short, pessimism was sensible at the time. Even though life was a lot more pleasant even in the late Middle Ages than in the Stone Age.
Why are people so fond of doomsday thinking?
Doom predictions are drastic, appeal to the imagination and trigger feelings of fear. You're more likely to worry about running out of petroleum than driving a fast electric car in ten years' time and once poverty-stricken countries will quickly become prosperous. They also provide a form of stability and simplify the world. When a new ice age arrives, you no longer have to worry about what to do in five years. That will probably cover the irons of your sledge with frozen mud or tear frozen cows free from the glacier, not take a new course NIMA-B or download your Santa Claus presents and print them with your new 3D printer without your little ones knowing. By the way, those little ones could become immortal if the scientists hurry up a bit.
The prospect of a world where we are much richer than now, experience many more fun things and we have never had it better is scary for many people. This is not possible, we must be punished. This is where religious guilt reappears. Remarkably, it is mainly believers who are fond of doomsday thinking. No wonder. All major religions assume a devastating Armageddon in which mankind will perish and only the true believers will survive. The much more gentle and rational Epicureanism did not survive the angry prelates. Unfortunately, only a few fragments of the optimistic Epicurus' masterpieces remain, thanks to the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a natural disaster that buried an Epicurean library under volcanic ash. Still something to make you sad ...