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Armageddon It

SOME say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what Iíve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

---Robert Frost

I had to memorize that poem in grammar school and I've never forgotten it. It wasn't until high school, however, that I got it. And really, no matter what you take from that little verse, you still end up with the same thing; thinking about the end of the world.

Martin Rees, Britain's honorary astronomer royal, has put the odds of the apocalypse at 50/50. It's almost laughable to read anything into that - isn't life or death a 50/50 chance every day, anyhow?

Does it really matter which way the world will end? Whether we go out with a bang - say, a bomb big enough to kill all of us, set off by some deranged Dr. Evil wannabe - or with a whimper - slowly dying off one by one via a mutant virus run amok - in the end we still die.

What's the use of speculating how or when the world will end? After all, people have been doing that for centuries anyhow.

When I was in high school, we were told the world would end in May of 1980. Something about the alignment of the planets causing massive tidal waves and earthquakes and mass destruction. I was pissed because graduation would be a month away at that point. Imagine going through your whole primary school career, only to have your final reward taken away by some stupid armaggedon?

Various End Days groups have announced the end of the world hundreds of times. The days would pass without incident, and a new date would be announced. Some of them said the earth would just blow up. Others claimed there would be a rapture, and just the good hearted souls would float up to nirvana, to live their second life in glory, while the rest of us stayed down here and turn the world into a Hell's Angel's festival, maiming and killing until we all just offed each other and there was nothing left but the charred remains of civilization.

Really, there's no good way for the world to end. I've seen enough armageddon movies to know that meteors and nuclear explosions would be painful and messy. Same with an ice age. I'd rather not freeze to death, thank you.

I envision the end to be not an end, but a new beginning, somewhat like The Stand, where survivors of whatever disaster befalls us split into factions and begin the divided earth all over again. Religious zealots here, heathens there.

Fire, ice, monkeypox, West Nile Virus, SARS, nuclear weapons, global warming, colliding planets, mad scientists accidently eliminating the gravity field, an army of clones run amok, Darth Vader blowing us up to prove a point to Ben Affleck as he tries to keep the moon from flying out of orbit - there's a million ways for our species to be silenced. None of them sound very promising.

Personally, I'd rather die at the hands of science than at the hands of hate.

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Comments

"Fire, ice, monkeypox, West Nile Virus, SARS, nuclear weapons, global warming, colliding planets, mad scientists accidently eliminating the gravity field, an army of clones run amok, Darth Vader blowing us up..."

I think you just rewrote REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It". Nicely done!

As long as the world doesn't end with another Affleck animal cracker singing number, I'll be fine...

Well said. From an individual's point of view a single bullet can be a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

Maybe it's more important when a rational world will start rather than when this one will end.

Talk to Frank.

He's got inside knowledge.

When I was teenage kid [mid-late 90's] my geeky group worshipped the Mad Max films.

I recall that in 1997 whilst sitting around a campfire that we all agreed the coming apocalypse in 2000 would be a great thing as it would mean we would never have to get real jobs and we could drive about in the desert having fun fighting tribes of motorized psycho-punks. Boys forever.

Its funny that we assumed we would all survive the end of the world. Chances are we and almost everybody else would in fact die.

Future dystopias would be exclusive places unfortunately.

Its also funny how people take comfort in fantasy apocalypse scenarios. I always thought the prospect of a nuclear winter sounded rather appealing. Swishing about on skis, riding snowmobiles and endless snowball fights. It sounded preferable to the seamy post-greenhouse-effect world my hippy school teachers prophesized.

I left out the probable starvation and plagues of ice mutants. It seemed such a nice daydream...

The scariest thing about that article is that CNN put it in the "Science" category. If we classify the cacaclysmic odds-making musings of the "honorary astronomer royal" as science, why can't Jeane Dixon make front page?

There certainly are all sorts of catastrophes that could befall us. The problem with thinking about it too much is you can end up feeling fatalistic about it and dooming the world through a self-fulfilling prophesy. There's nothing wrong with technology in and of itself - it's just that as our power over the physical world increases, so does the need to wield that power wisely.

I reckon that as long as human hearts beat, some of them will be filled with hate. However, I strongly believe that the urge to fight with other people is greatly lessened when you see yourself as having a life - a family, a good job, a new widescreen plasma tv, etc. - that you don't want to lose. In a best-case scenario, the Internet and other modern technology will eventually help lift the economies of all third-world countries and make for a new age of world-wide prosperity.

So yeah, we could get wiped out in the blink of an eye, but there's also a reasonable chance we can survive and prosper. The only way to ensure disaster is if we throw up our hands and stop trying to find ways to wisely manage the technology we're creating.

Michele,

You really hit the nail square on the head:

"Personally, I'd rather die at the hands of science than at the hands of hate."

If more people looked at things this way, the world would be a better place.

I'll take my chances with hate. At least I'm well-armed and can take a few of the fuckers with me.

But science or nature -- aaargh, my AK-47 won't help diddly with a damn kamikaze asteroid.

I've never understood making predictions like this. They've always been wrong in the past, so when the big day passes, and you're wrong, you look like an idiot.

On the other hand, if you happen to be right, what good does that do you? Where's the "nyah nyah ny-nyah nyah" in that?

Good call, Kim.

i like the stand scenario too..
but even then.. our infrastructure is too big.
(which already makes it vulnerable, unsustainable)

so...i just hope someone can go around the world doing things like dismanteling thousands of nuclear reactors and fuel dumps and such.

otherwise its only a matter of months/years before they start lighting up.
and just one of those events, burning uncontained... could poison a whole continent?

imagine if cherynobl was still cookin away..after all these years.