Why is doomsday thinking so popular?

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

Predictions of doom are mostly nonsense, yet immensely popular.

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 ...

40 thoughts on “Waarom is doemdenken zo populair?”

    1. See also the FAQ:

      Why are you so blatantly optimistic?
      As humanity, we have already achieved so much on balance. The universe is so wonderfully big. And… the stupidity of man is endless, so is the potential to improve it.


      1. mother tongue

        I fully understand you. In essence, I am also an optimist. I like to think in terms of solutions and not problems. But besides that, I am simply highly intelligent, I can not help it. Our species seems to miss rose-colored glasses or something. I do see problems, just realistic. (Not a 2012 scenario or anything, Homo Sapiens will be around for a long time.)

        FF staccato, please forgive my writing style;
        Rapid global warming due to rapid increase in CO2,
        all kinds of peaks (oil, fresh water, fertile soil, etc),
        all kinds of limits (population growth or food production,
        ceiling capitalist system, etc.),
        rich poor differences that increase even further.
        Due to dependence on oil (industry, transport, plastics, fertilizers, etc.) and electronics (industry, transport, automation, communication) and the small “error” margins given the current size of the population, things can quickly go wrong.
        In the past, people could fall back on the local farmer.

        In short, something can quickly go wrong and you cannot correct it quickly enough.
        So more and more people are going to die. Or you must immediately ensure a population decline and deny growth to developing countries.
        We are really up against a number of limits. Even if the population stops growing now, the demand for anything and everything will continue to rise really fast. Obviously, the need will bring a solution (innovation and thread power linked together), but I foresee that with the current capitalist system it is mainly the very few that will benefit from it. There is no other way, even with a different system you suffer from scarcity.

        Then this; I've seen almost all continents. The Dutch are still too well off and they may therefore see the problems less. The differences are only growing. Even in the BRIC countries, people die in the streets of misery every day and this will continue for a while. I live in Brazil (am now ff in Europe) and mainly see high-level growth and the blows of low-level inflation. Even in my time in South Africa and the USA, I unfortunately saw the problems only growing and that despite the fall of apartheid or the economic growth at the time.

        In short, yes, we are growing technologically, a lot will change and no, some things cannot be solved with sophisticated technology.
        But make me / us happy :-) I would love to hear good news!

        1. mother steel,

          You speak in contradiction in terminus.

          Do you actually know who Germen is? If you talk about "our kind" then Germen (and probably all other authors of visionair.nl) is without a doubt someone who belongs to your kind. And well..who I am ?? Opinions are still divided on this :)

        2. @Moerstaal: I've seen you visit this site before, right?
          My previous comment sounds funny, but the meaning is serious. And if all goes well, that is also reflected in many of our articles; the status quo is probably not okay, but let's focus on how things can be improved (normative) or where things are already going better (analytically). There are turning points and the 'paradigm shift' that the current sustainable thinking is a result of may be the start of a better path.

          Shure, there definitely need to be people who focus a little more on the negative consequences of things so that they are warned and change can start. But that may have become a bit much, hence this article. See also under 'Visionary Websites' in the description of Cassandra Club: “blog with often pessimistic (or, according to Cassandra Club itself, realistic) visions about the future”. We aim to be a kind of positive counterpart.

          Furthermore, I fully agree with you (as most philosophers say) that you must have seen a little more of the world than just your own backyard.
          Oh and as a final comment, I also disagree with everything in this article;)

  1. mother tongue

    Barry, as I often write on various forums; don't take my writing too seriously.
    Besides, you don't know who I am either. And we lack body language.
    I'll leave it at that.

    1. besides saying that you are highly intelligent, and I have no reason to doubt that, I don't know anything else about you.

      you said the writer might have pink glasses on and not long after that you said your kind (highly intelligent people) lack pink glasses. You certainly didn't mean this, I just thought I should point it out to you. As far as I know, all authors of visionair.nl are highly intelligent. There are many highly intelligent people whose glass is almost always half full.

      1. mother tongue

        I lost the thread but found it again.

        Barry, I don't feel like tug of war. I don't think you're a good conversation partner in that regard. You are also much too personal, by the way. Also like to remember that I am new here. Besides, I didn't know that pretty much all of you are highly intelligent too. Welcome me and explain it to my kindly. You come much further along.

        By the way, your reactions remind me of NuJij, where luckily I had a ModReset at my own request. You don't see me playing games there anymore.
        You keep diving at me and sending me in a direction I don't want to go at all.
        Forget the details in my argument, just look at the whole.
        Go (impersonally) into that and stay on topic.
        Hans, adenis and Loek Peters also write very sensible things that I agree with.
        Go into that.

        1. @Moerstaal: You are right about welcoming, I want that (as admin) is still forgotten. So here is still a late welcome!

          Hopefully we will see you here more often and both positive and negative reactions are welcome (if reasonably substantiated). I do not always agree with the other authors, but stimulating reflection (which is our goal) has been achieved. Have you ever blogged or written something yourself? Or do you have suggestions for topics? Then I like to read that.

        2. Moersteel,

          I've thought very carefully about your response.
          If I dove on top of you on Nujij.nl, it had a reason. I don't do this with everyone who says something that I don't like. I don't know who you were on Nujij.nl, so a bit of self-reflection on your part is just as appropriate. You can't blame me for being too personal because the first comment you posted on this article was already quite personal. If I keep sending you in a direction where you don't want to be, then ask yourself why that happens. As far as I am concerned, if you have good reasons for doing so, you can take down any article in the right way. But never start about the authors because then I will jump in. I also do this on Nujij.nl. If people rightly undercut an article, they can even get a compliment from me, authors should make sure that their articles are watertight or that it clearly states that some things should be viewed visionarily and that some things that are not yet certain. should be viewed as not fixed. If people on Nujij.nl start to piss off authors or put it down nicely and they do it often enough, they will have a serious problem with me. Again, I don't know who you were on Nujij.nl, but if you have acted like that then that is probably the reason why I reacted annoyingly to you. If I have not been annoying to you but you have followed my reactions that I have given to others and you have based your opinion on that, I hope you do not forget that there are always reasons why I respond to someone. Some people on Nujij.nl are focused on getting visionair.nl or the authors out of it without being able to respond appropriately to an article. Maybe you are even mistaken .. On this site I am Barry and on Nujij.nl I am News4U. I am not an author and not a member of the editorial board of visionair.nl. So are you sure it was me who dived on top of you?

          If you think I'm not a good conversation partner ... fine, what do you base that on? By the way, I had already welcomed you to this site once, but you apparently missed that thread. Do you want me to react on the topic? Fine, would you like to do the same for me? Keep in mind that if we just have to react ontopic, my responses are going to be damn boring. So pull those high-intelligence long toes of yours back in before I kick them again and use some self-reflection to find out why you and I are allergic to each other.

          There are 2 things that I have an allergic reaction to, people who are superior to other people because they are highly intelligent and also try to put other people down with it and people who on a site like this are fluttering with biblical texts that (for me) incomprehensible in combination with the topics. You do not fall under category nr2, do you fall under category nr1? Anyway, I do not intend to continue with an intellectual war that you apparently had with me on Nujij.nl. Just never give up on the authors of visionair.nl and we can just go through 1 portal called visionair.nl.

          Finally: On nujij.nl authors cannot defend themselves against anti-visionary hooligans, which is why I defend the authors there. If you did not belong to that group then it will all be okay in the future, I am not the worst, it just takes some time to get to know me.

        3. mother tongue

          Hi Barry,

          Thank you for your response, which is not that bad for me!
          So I don't have to pull in long toes or I'm just chill tonight ;-)
          Otherwise I would not have responded. That has been my strategy for years.
          When conversations, especially those in the digital domain, degenerate into endless tug of war; Let it go then ... can also be misunderstood, but anyway ...

          Besides, your welcome has escaped me.
          Enne, Niek thank you :-)

          As far as I know, we have never responded to each other on NuJij, let alone conflicted with each other. My pseudonym over there is also mother tongue.
          I sometimes see News4u passing by, mainly as a poster of your articles in the science section of NuJij.

          All in all, I don't think there is anything wrong.
          Take my laconic remarks with a grain of salt.
          Until discs!


  2. The limits to growth have been reached, economic growth is no longer possible. The (human) population of the Earth will decrease.
    But…. that is not doom thinking.
    Less material prosperity is not necessarily bad.
    A smaller number of people in the world is not a disaster.

    You can call the Limits to Growth doomsday, if you can only become happy from material possessions and enjoyment.
    The term doom thinker says more about the person who uses it than about the person he addresses.

        1. I was not very precise in my statement. 'if you can only become happy from material possessions and enjoyment' is the main reason for that article.

          See if I can publish an article about charities today :)

      1. The future of the planet is already set, Julie.
        It will circle the sun for billions more. Whether there is a lot or little life on it does not really matter.
        You're only here for a short while: do fun things instead of worry.

  3. I think "doom thinking" is in our genes. This is part of survival intuition. Since this is little stimulated in the rich countries (for example, I have not had a near-fatal accident at all), we still remain in the mode to think about survival. The only way is to prepare for a major disaster (at least talk about it). Nobody will voluntarily throw themselves in front of a car.

    The underprivileged people (the one who talks about mother tongue) are more looking for redemption. The day they are saved from their lives.

    Would like to have a survey to see if my thought is really correct.

  4. I think this is a naive article…. Okay, there are a few sensible things in it but the fact that you are assuming this; Quote… 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.

    What do we know completely about that? More and more evidence is being found that we were already walking around here 400,000 years ago. Ever heard of the Sumerian clay tablets? In which it is clearly stated that they had electricity, labs for DNA manipulation and that they flew around in saucer-like means of transport… also include the accumulating evidence that there has been a nuclear war on Terra before… and last but not least… that we were brought here and created by a civilization that has existed for millions of years? We are not the first and certainly not the last to establish a so-called advanced civilization here on Earth!

    Thinking logically and simply taking certain scenarios into account is not necessarily doom thinking. Look around you? We have a financial crisis, a climate crisis, an energy crisis, a nuclear crisis, a church crisis, an education crisis, a political crisis…. and mother earth is also in a very troubled state… just look at all the volcanic and tectonic activity… this is not necessarily a crisis, just light from which perspective you look at it.

    We only have real problems if this happens in the short term; Quote ... poverty-stricken countries will soon become prosperous ... no, we are now waiting for that ... Terra has already been looted and cannot use another 4 billion people in prosperity!

    I say; Mother earth, just press the reset button…. ff off the power for a few years! Then everything will be alright…. LOL

    1. @camel

      this article is not about whether we make everything beautiful and fantastic in the future, but why doomsday thinking is so popular. You now mention all kinds of civilizations that died out in the past. This usually does not happen in 1 human life. If we go back to the past 20 years, the world would have ended almost 50 times.

      the piece states very clearly that the chance that this will happen in our human life (at the moment) is very small. has nothing to do with the fact that humanity will or will not exist in 10,000 years.

  5. What naivety. I think there are very few “doomsday thinkers” who think that we are going to be punished because things would go well. Very shortsighted to reason only from your own situation. Every day 35,000 people die from hunger and malnutrition. We are doing so well! We use agricultural land to produce biofuels. We are doing well! We cling to growth systems on a planet that is finite. Very smart of us! When an oil field of 700 million barrels is found, it is reported by the media with a lot of fanfare. The fact that we use 85 million barrels per day, so the field only lasts 8.2 days, is a side issue. We are well informed and therefore know exactly what is to come.

    We are not the first civilization to die on its own end with open eyes.

  6. In times of major changes and with that uncertainty you always have people who think doom. But what exactly is doom thinking? I don't find that very interesting either. What I do know is that in our time there are people who think the world is ending. In a sense it also disappears, but figuratively and not literally. The world is constantly changing and once in a while there is a big change. The 'old' world disappears and a 'new' takes its place. It has always been and always will be. And if your world view does not go along with that change, then you have a big problem. I think doom thinking has a lot to do with your perception of the world and with that your world view.  

  7. Nils Peters

    People are naturally inclined to react earlier and more violently to negative influences than positive influences.
    This has arisen in the course of our evolution for the simple reason that if one did not react to danger, there was a good chance that that danger would mean the end of survival. 

    1. The only problem is that fear can also break through and have a paralyzing effect. You could then see doom thinking as a form of paralysis in order to still have a form of certainty.

      1. Nils Peters

        That's true, that's why governments and organizations like Darpa, Blackwater Corp, but also media, and commerce, I think, are also so interested in the interaction between fears and people and on average we see much more bad news than good news.
        Manipulating someone with their fears is the easiest way to get someone to do what you want, after all most people avoid their fears;)
        Fortunately, there is a counter-movement for every movement, such as free news gathering on the internet for example;)

        1. That's true :-) Fear and scarcity also go very well together. First give a lot of space and then restrict it again. Scarcity as a weapon of influence.

          And indeed: long live the free internet!

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