Please welcome for February 2013 Author of the Month Justin Deering, whose new book The End of the World Delusion presents facts about end-of-the-world doomsayers – how they function, the effects they have on individuals, and the truth about how end-of-the-world hype affects society. The ideas presented reflect painstakingly detailed research, scholarly analysis and a willingness to go against the end-of-the-world grain with regards to virtually every popular theory in the news/media today.
Justin Deering graduated from Lynn University with a degree in business, and is a member of the honor society, Sigma Beta Delta. He worked his way through college as a tutor on numerous subjects (including psychology, history, and religion) and has experience in conducting research and presenting it in a logical manner.
Website – http://www.endofworldbook.com/
Blog – http://endofworldbook.authorsxpress.com/
Remember how the world was supposed to have ended on December 21, 2012? …Or any of the other dozens of dates before that? The rumors had spread like wildfire: there was to be a geomagnetic reversal, an aligning of the planets, massive solar flares, a collision with a near-earth object, and on and on. And yet, here we are.
In my book, The End-of-the-World Delusion: How Doomsayers Endanger Society, I not only pick apart the false claims surrounding the Mayan calendar, but I use the fear mongers’ claims to illustrate a broader point. Despite the often repeated claim that the world is coming to an end—and the various “proofs” that are offered to us concerning the planet’s imminent demise—there is no actual danger.
These proclamations of the world’s destruction aren’t just some silly but harmless warning; they constitute a real problem. All these predictions have done is destroyed people’s lives. People who buy into these types of claims and fall for some date that’s been predicted really begin to believe that the world’s end is here, and they begin to take action that reinforces that belief. We’ve all heard stories of those who would quit their jobs, give away or spend all their money and possessions, and go wait on a mountaintop somewhere for the world to be destroyed. By the time reality sets in and they give up their vigil, their lives aren’t waiting for them anymore. There’s the prepper mentality, where people spend large sums of money on survival kits full of freeze-dried food, batteries, generators, and everything else they might need to survive the collapse of civilization. In the most grisly cases, the fear is so gripping that people have actually killed themselves or even their loved ones. Their reaction is almost understandable: if we’re all going to die soon anyway, why try and stick it out as long as possible—why not just end it sooner, rather than later? The problem is every bit as much their reaction as it is the underlying doomsday claims themselves.
Clearly, apocalyptic thinking is hazardous to your health. It would be nice if the only claim that there was to worry about was the Mayan calendar. How wonderful it would be if that was a one-time event, and that doomsday predictions would be forever behind us. All indications are to the contrary, however.
There are ongoing claims from some of the more extreme religious segments of society that mankind is so steeped in sin and that God is so displeased with the present state of the world, that His judgment will be upon the world any day now. Those of who us who are handpicked by God will be saved, and their souls will be Raptured directly to heaven while the rest of us will be Left Behind. The rest of us will be left to suffer on earth for the rest of our miserable lives. Mirroring these are claims from some in the scientific community about carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere having reached a tipping point, and that a series of catastrophes will be brought about as a result of climate change. Both of these camps point to every natural disaster: every hurricane, every tsunami, every earthquake, every volcanic eruption, every wildfire, and every flood, as proof that their end of the world theory is the right one. And when their dates fall apart, and their theories fall apart (as they inevitably do), they simply revise their rhetoric with a “new” deadline.
The prophesied date of December 21, 2012 has come and gone. As predicted in my book, none of the various theories connected with that date materialized. The next widely publicized end-of-the-world date—whenever that may be—will turn out the same way. There are already plenty of dates that have been called, many of which are chronicled in the book. Since The End-of-the-World Delusion has been published, new dates for the end of the world have already begun popping up. For example, The Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God announced that Christ’s return will happen on May 19, 2013. Climate change activist Bill McKibben, who recently kicked off his “Do the Math” tour, points to the year 2028 as the year of catastrophic climate change. Whatever line of thought has been pursued in these calculations, it’s safe to say that there is nothing to worry about and that each of them will similarly pass without incident.
So what about the people making these claims? I’m not here to judge them and say what might be in their hearts. Maybe they honestly believe what they say; so they think they’re doing good work and that by warning people they are going to help to save them. Perhaps they’re simply out to make a name (and a buck) for themselves, and don’t care if they scare people and ruin a few lives in the process. Their sincerity notwithstanding, what really matters is the fact that the dates they give are just plain wrong; very often, the underlying logic behind these claims is so flawed it’s hard to understand how anyone can take them seriously. The most obvious explanation is that fear is such a powerful emotion, that it can short-circuit our critical thinking skills. This would explain why so many otherwise intelligent people end up buying into these beliefs.
So what’s the answer? Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This is exactly what I set out to do with The End-of-the-World Delusion. By examining the various doomsday theories that have been offered and working out exactly where each one goes wrong, the reader is armed with enough information to develop a healthy skepticism when it comes to the next similar claim.
The market is already flooded with books—there are about 400 new books released every day in the U.S. alone—but surprisingly, there really wasn’t a book that dealt with this subject in the way that it needed be dealt with, once and for all. There were some that would address one such end-of-the-world theory or another, but generally the author would stick to his or her area of expertise. For example, one book might make the case that Christians cannot scour the Bible for hidden dates, and argue that God uses plain language to communicate as opposed to some secret code. Another book might demonstrate the folly of climate alarmists, dismissing their theories as “junk science” and noting that they first fretted over global cooling, switched to global warming, and finally settled on climate change so that no matter which way the temperature goes, they’re covered. I see this as two sides of the same coin—all apocalyptic theories, whether they originated from religious or scientific circles, are a reflection of the same fear that is apparently part of the human condition. What sets my book apart is that I am willing to spend equal time addressing both.
In my research, I looked into and discovered many other end of times beliefs from various world religions. Muslims, just like Christians, believe in the Second Coming of Christ. They reserve an empty tomb for him, right next to the prophet Muhammad, because they believe the next time he comes back he will eventually die and will need to be buried there. Hindus divide time into four ages, and many believe we are in the latter part of the final age called the Kali Yuga. Traditional Jewish sources teach that the Messiah will come by the year 6000 in the Hebrew calendar, or 2240 CE. The most surprising thing that I found while reading up on the various eschatological beliefs arising from different cultures was that they haven’t already all been compiled in one place before. While this wasn’t what I set out to do originally—I simply wanted to allay people’s unnecessary anxieties—this is just one more way in which the book is unique.
But my primary objective has always been to counter the notion that the world’s expiration date is right around the corner. And, despite the fact that some scientists have joined in with the soothsaying crowd, what most scientists bring to the debate is a dose of reality: the sun, like all stars, goes through different phases; and the world will end when the sun grows and expands as it reaches its later stages. At that point, the intense heat and gravity will mean that our planet could no longer support life. That’s about five billion years away, according to scientific estimates.
In the meantime, there remains lots of conjecture about how we “might” all die. Ancient cultures made sacrifices to appease the gods and ensure the continued existence of their civilization. Today’s theories, while more advanced, are based on the same underlying fear. Whether it’s a race of alien beings, some force of nature, or whether we do ourselves in, there is no end in sight to the doomsday scenarios.
Much of the speculation and fear mongering is done by someone who has a book to sell. It is by no coincidence that my response to the doom saying is also in book form. People have often asked me why I chose to sell a book, as opposed to making the information available on the Internet for free. The fact is, there is a vast library of free information available online (one of my favorite sites for setting the record straight being 2012hoax.org). In the old days, if you wanted something factual and trustworthy, you would have consulted a print source. Information on the Internet was considered notoriously unreliable. Now, there are excellent online resources and yet volumes of books with little to no literary value. Somehow, the role of books and the role of web sites have done a complete 180-degree reversal. One of the reasons for putting my argument as a book was because books should still be worth reading. People should be able to get the facts in a book just as easily as they can online, if not more so. NASA scientist David Morrison recently explained, “I have to admit that there’s something of an inherent contradiction when we scientists tell people not to trust things they read on the Internet, and then put information on the Internet.” This is one more reason why information why websites alone are not enough; books are an important part of the equation.
Of course, with so many different types of media available today to choose from, it isn’t only books that doomsayers are using to spread their fear. They use email, social media, magazines, radio, TV, movies, and every other medium imaginable to get their message out there. Once respectable organizations, such as History Channel and National Geographic, have joined in on the hype and are cashing in on the public’s doomsday fears. This has only led to the fear becoming even more widespread, to say nothing of the organizations’ losing their credibility in the long term.
Fortunately, those on the side of rationality and skepticism are rising to the challenge. Emails and websites claiming that NASA supports some doomsday theory can easily be checked on sites that track urban legends, such as snopes.com. NASA, to its credit, has issued a plethora of reports on its website and videos on its YouTube channel explaining why none of the theories pass scientific scrutiny. The Las Vegas magicians, Penn and Teller, have put together an excellent debunker program called Penn & Teller’s Bullsh*t including three separate episodes exposing the nonsense behind the end of the world, climate change, and 2012. Even many churches have started their own campaigns, rejecting the practice of date-setting and labeling religious leaders who engage in this activity as “false prophets” and “false teachers.” It’s important that the doomsayers’ opponents are just as visible and vocal as the doomsayers themselves are; and indeed, they can be seen and heard in all the same media channels.
Make no mistake—the discussion concerning the fate of the world is an important one. It is literally a life-or-death issue. When doomsayers lie, people die. This is why it is so important to continue to fight against this kind of fraud and to encourage others to reject this type of thinking. The job of the 2012 skeptics now is to watch for any new theories and dates for doomsday that are being offered and to continue the battle there. As long as there are people announcing that we need to run for our lives and that the end of days is upon us—whatever the reason may be…then our job continues.