Jul
10

The Best Ad in the Universe

For the last year, I have been listening religiously to The Biggest Problem in the Universe – hosted by Maddox, and Dick Masterson. The premise of the podcast is that every week, they bring in two to four problems, and the audience votes on which is the biggest.

This type of discussion is right up my alley.  When I was awarded author of the month by Graham Hancock (in February 2013), one of my final parting questions for the discussion forum was “What do you think is the single biggest problem facing the world right now?” Answers ranged from moving away from the scientific method, to an unsustainable economy, to overpopulation and pollution.

So when I found an entire weekly podcast devoted to finding the answer to this question, I was hooked.

Recently, I decided to send a couple of copies of my book to the show&rquo;s hosts. But before reading on, some background information: When Maddox “loses” (no one really loses, but when he presents a problem that is minor relative to other problems) his punishment is that he has to watch a clip from the movie Titanic, which he hates. One other point: he loves barbecue sauce, and previously a listener named Butt Sanchez sent about five different types of gourmet barbecue sauce to the hosts in addition to other gifts. Unfortunately, the bottles exploded, ruining all of the other gifts in the process. So when I sent the books, I also included some barbecue sauce in an attempt to right previous wrongs.

I truly believe Doomsayers are the biggest problem in the universe (after all, Doomsayers Endanger Society), and wanted to bring that issue to the forefront. So read and listen on, and find out what happened once the package was received:

Maddox: I got—I got a package, from Justin Deering, I believe. It says—you mentioned barbecue sauce—it says, “Maddox, I offer you this barbecue sauce in tribute. It has been packaged in a superior manner than previous attempts by persons, or butts, unknown. I’m sending two copies of my book—”
Maddox: He’s a publisher—er, a published author.
Maddox: “One for you, and one for Dick. Please contact me if it would be feasible for me to discuss with you—with both of you guys, what I consider to be the biggest problem in the universe: Doomsayers. Or should that read, end of the world dipshits?”
Dick Masterson: Oh, yeah.
Maddox: “I defer to you on the correct phrasing of that. And I can be reached at blah blah blah, and he gave me his email.”
Dick Masterson: That sounds like a private message.
Maddox: Then he said here, “If the barbecue sauce does leak, I guess it’s not the end of the world.” And he sent us this package, guys, I’m pulling out here a Ziploc bag of McDonald’s tangy barbecue sauce.
Dick Masterson: Yeah, it’s leaking.
Maddox: It has leaked.
Dick Masterson: It is leaking, so you fucked that up.
Maddox: Yeah, you fucked that up.
Dick Masterson: You should have prepped for that Doomsday a little better.
Maddox: Although, I will say this—it is better packaged than Butt Sanchez’s package, because none of the barbecue sauce has left the Ziploc bag, thankfully.
Dick Masterson: Well, what else is in there?
Maddox: And he sent us two copies of his book, one for me and one for Dick. And here are the books. The book is called—The End of the World Delusion, and it has a big asteroid on it.
Dick Masterson: 2012.
Maddox: With 2012 on it.
Dick Masterson: Did I miss the boat on this 2012 thing?
Maddox: Maybe. It says here, the subtitle is, How Doomsayers Endanger Society, by Justin Deering. Justin, it sounds like you have a horse in this race, by bringing in doomsayers…
Dick Masterson: So wait a minute, wait a minute. He just got an ad on this show for the cost of four McDonald’s tangy barbecue sauce packets?
Maddox: Sounds like it.
Dick Masterson: Did you just get duped into an ad?
Maddox: No, he sent us his book!
Sean, the Audio Engineer: He’s a fuckin’ genius.
Dick Masterson: Yeah, he’s a genius! He sent us his self-published book on the 2012 end of the world delusion?
Maddox: No, Dick, this isn’t… I don’t think this is self-published, is it? It’s by iUniverse.com press.
Dick Masterson: Uh-oh.
All: [laughter]
Dick Masterson: Speaking of fan art, I got some awesome fan art I got to show you.
Sean, the Audio Engineer: Wait wait wait, you guys know there’s messages written to you on there?
Maddox: Oh yeah!
Dick Masterson: Oh, really?
Maddox: He signed this. Mine says, “To Maddox, the least worst problem in the universe. Congratulations on your latest book. Wishing you a long and healthy career as you make people happy by making other people miserable.” Thank you, Justin.
Dick Masterson: “To Dick, Maddox’s right hand man. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.” Yeah, it’s me. “One year—that’s a titanic achievement. Congratulations on the 52nd anniversary. I hope you have as much fun tormenting Maddox as we do listening.” I do.
Maddox: Good pun. Thanks!

So, my thanks goes out to Dick and Maddox for plugging the book, and pretending they were tricked into doing so.

It’s not only hosts of podcasts who should get free books. If you would like your own chance to get a free copy, I have partnered with GoodReads to give away ten free copies.

Again, you can head over to GoodReads for your chance to pick a copy at no charge. We are giving away ten of them. The deadline is August 4.

Jan
02

New Year, No Fear

Many New Years’ Resolutions are quickly broken, but a good one to stick with would be to give up living in fear. So says Dr. Phil in yesterday’s episode.1

Every year, we make resolutions. We make resolutions, but we never keep them, right? Come on, be honest. We make them about losing weight, exercising, getting a better job, fighting less with our spouses, going back to college, or some other self-improvement that sounds good when emotions are high. But boy, it fades in the cold morning light of February, right? Well, this year, I want us all to make a very different and very real commitment. I am calling it New Year, No Fear.

Of course, it is not so easy to give up the fear with the pervasive presence of the popular press. As I explain in The End of the World Delusion,2

A story about the end of the world is sure to sell papers or secure higher ratings, regardless of how true it is or whether or not the writer of the story even believes the claims… alarmist media coverage on such doomsday predictions as global warming, the Y2K “crisis,” the Mayan calendar, and others has not served the public well at all, inciting only panic if anything.

So rather than merely informing the public, and objectively reporting on the facts, there are many instances in which the media instills a sense of fear in the readers/viewers. What does this make the media? As Christopher Titus points out,3

Let’s define “terrorist organization.” A terrorist organization is an organization that keeps you scared all the time and makes you change your behavior. What does CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC do all the time? That’s right, that’s right! Wolf Blitzer? Terrorist. Glenn Beck? Terrorist. Nancy Grace? Terrorist. Her and her plastic surgeon.

Terrorists don’t have to work on a plan or blow us up. The news scares us so much, we’re scared all the time! They just sit in their cave—or the mansion in Pakistan. “Achmed, take off the grenade blazer. You don’t have to go today. No, the 72 virgins can wait. Glenn Beck’s going to call the President the Antichrist, watch this. And we all know the Antichrist is Gary Coleman’s wife.” Oh? She pushed a midget down the stairs!

The only news organization that is not a terrorist organization is the BBC. Because the BBC can make the worst thing sound okay. “Hello, welcome to the BBC. Satan has re-entered the planet. He’s picking up babies in his talons, biting off the heads, and sucking out their souls. We’re in for 1,000 years of darkness, all hope is lost, and now—the World Cup update.” Doesn’t feel so bad!

So what is the resolution here? Cartoonist Bruce Beattie provides one possibility:

References

  1. Grealy, B. T. (Writer), & Hermstad, L. C. (Director). (2015, January 1). New Year: Mama drama [Television series episode]. In McGraw, P. (Producer), Dr. Phil. Santa Monica, CA: CBS Television Distribution.
  2. Deering, J. (2012). The end of the world delusion: How doomsayers endanger society. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
  3. Titus, C. (Writer), Chapman, J. (Producer), & Karas, J. (Director). (2011). Neverlution [Motion picture]. Sherman Oaks, CA: First to Battle Entertainment.

Dec
04

Literally Sick of Fearmongering

“In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double”

–Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t Worry, By Happy”

Stressed Out Cat
There is always something to be afraid of, if the headlines are anything to go by.

One of the most recent scares is the ebola virus. In what has been termed “The Ebola Effect”, schools were closing down, traffic was shut down, employees were put on leave, and sales of hand sanitizers skyrocketed.1,2 These overreactions often occurred because someone was displaying flulike symptoms such as a fever, or because someone was in the same city as a known ebola patient.

And all of it is for nothing, really. You are much more likely to die from the flu than from ebola. Also worth noting: Every single person who contracted ebola in the U.S. has completely recovered.3

So ebola may not be much of a problem, but the fear that it generated sure is. What does all this fear do for us? The exaggerated response to ebola is similar to other forms of fearmongering that I discuss in my book, The End of the World Delusion.4

Think back to some of the stories of the last ten years, and you may remember sensationalized media reports on alligator and shark attacks, child abductions, the West Nile virus, SARS, anthrax, mad cow disease, and others. All of these events certainly happened but were greatly exaggerated and left the news consumer with the impression that they were happening to a much greater extent than they actually were.

There are a number of other health effects, as well. Read what risk perception consultant, David Ropeik, has to say about it.5 Or listen to Maddox read it for you:6

When we worry, that, biologically, is stress—that’s a mini fight-or-flight response going on in the body. When stress persists for more than several days (short-term stress is not the problem), it becomes damaging to our health. Chronic stress raises our blood pressure and increases the risk of cardiovascular problems; it suppresses our immune system and makes us more likely to catch infectious diseases or get sicker from them if we do. It interferes with neurotransmitters associated with mood, and it is strongly associated with clinical depression. Chronic stress interferes with digestion and memory and depresses fertility and bone growth (slows it down).


It should come as no surprise that panic/worry/stress leads to such problems. Researchers have known this for years:7

Individuals who experience a variety of different types of stressors… have fewer B, T, and NK cells. For example, one study… showed that on days in which people experienced more positive events, their bodies produced more antibodies, whereas on days with more negative events their bodies produced fewer antibodies.

This translates directly to being more susceptible to disease:8

Over the last 25 years, Sheldon Cohen, an American psychologist, has investigated the extent to which psychological and social factors influence susceptibility to infectious illnesses such as the common cold. As part of the research programme, Cohen and his associates have developed an unusual prospective study design in which healthy participants are exposed to a virus that causes the common cold. Participants are then observed following exposure in order to examine who develops a respiratory illness and reports cold-like symptoms. All participants also complete various psychological measures at baseline to assess their mood and whether they have had any recent stressful life events, and to measure their current level of perceived stress.

In 1991 Cohen and colleagues demonstrated for the first time that increases in psychological stress are associated with increases in risk for developing a cold after exposure to a cold virus. They also demonstrated that this association was independent of numerous other factors (such as season of the year, age, sex, education, allergic status and body mass index). In addition, they investigated whether this increased susceptibility was associated with changes in stress-related health behaviours such as smoking, exercise and diet. Their results showed that none of these factors explained the relationship.

Hence the reason for this blog entry’s headline: “Literally sick of fearmongering.” As if that weren’t enough, though, stress is even contributing to the obesity epidemic:9

Rick Jackson: Another big cause of obesity stems from stress. Prolonged stress can cause your body to unleash a hormone called cortisol that increases your appetite. In some cases, chronic stress can actually cause the body’s stress response system to get stuck in the “on” position, causing persistent hormonal problems that lead to diabetes and other complications… Stress and bad eating habits become a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.


According to comics legend Grant Morrison, this type of scaremongering and doomsaying leads to a variety of other social ills:10

We tell our children they’re trapped like rats on a doomed, bankrupt, gangster-haunted planet with dwindling resources, with nothing to look forward to but rising sea levels and imminent mass extinctions, then raise a disapproving eyebrow when, in response, they dress in black, cut themselves with razors, starve themselves, gorge themselves, or kill one another.


Since nothing good can come from worrying about things that are really a non-issue. Why give in to the panic? Rather than allowing yourself to go MAD, an alternative would be to adopt Alfred E. Neuman’s slogan: “What, me worry?”

Alfred E. Neuman

References

  1. Murray, R. (2014, October 16). The ebola effect: Schools shut down, sanitizer sales spike. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Business/ebola-effect-schools-shut-sanitizer-sales-spike/story?id=26247311
  2. Evans, C. (2014, October 18). Ebola panic spreading much faster than disease in U.S. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ebola-panic-in-us-spreading-much-faster-than-disease/
  3. Culp-Ressler, T. (2014, November 17). You’re much more likely to survive ebola if you catch it in America. Think Progress. Retrieved from http://thinkprogress.org/health/2014/11/17/3592997/ebola-survival-rates/
  4. Deering, J. (2012). The end of the world delusion: How doomsayers endanger society. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
  5. Zimmerman, R. (2014, October 16). Don’t worry, be rational: Why extreme fear of ebola is bad for your health. WBUR’s Common Health. Retrieved from http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2014/10/extreme-fear-of-ebola-bad-for-health
  6. Ouzounian, G., & Herrera, D. (2014, October 21). Episode 23 [Podcast]. The Biggest Problem in the Universe. Retrieved from http://thebiggestproblemintheuniverse.com/episode-23/
  7. Sanderson, C. A. (2013). Health psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  8. O’Connor, D., Jones, F., Conner, M., & Abraham, C. (2011). A biopsychosocial approach to health psychology. In G. Davey (Ed.), Applied psychology (pp. 151–169). London, UK: British Psychological Society/Blackwell, an imprint of John Wiley & Sons.
  9. Colby, K. (Segment Producer) & Baker, K. (Coordinating Producer). Be well: Obesity [Video file]. WVIZ PBS: Ideastream. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?&v=2txrbM-UdbY#t=2009
  10. Morrison, G. (2012). Supergods: What masked vigilantes, miraculous mutants, and a sun god from Smallville can teach us about being human. New York, NY: Random House.

Aug
24

Top 5 End of the World Simpsons Episodes

The Simpsons is making all kinds of headlines as of late, with every episode ever being aired back-to-back on the FXX network. To announce this marathon, they’ve aired this commercial, with a post-apocalyptic theme—illustrating, of course, that with everyone busy watching The Simpsons, no one would get any actual work done, and societal collapse is therefore inevitable:

This isn’t the first time the topic has come up on the show. Naturally, with as long a run as this show has (it is the longest continuously-running animated show, ever), it was bound to happen: the show has referenced the possibility of the end of the world, numerous times. In this article, I break down the top five times the Simpsons has done this—in chronological order.

Lisa the Skeptic

Season 9, Episode 8

November 23, 1997

Lisa protests the building of a new megamall, due its construction on top of a site where fossils were discovered. She convinces Sid, the owner of the site, to allow her and the entire Springfield Elementary to conduct an archeological dig. Events delve into the supernatural when she discovers the bones of what appear to be an angel:

Before long, the angel disappears from the Simpson house where it being kept and shows up at the other end of town, with a dire message: The End Will Come at Sundown!

Ned Flanders: Reverend, I’ve gotta admit, this doomsday warning has me just a smidge twitterpated!
Reverend Lovejoy: Oh, now, be calm, Ned. But be afraid also, tremendously afraid, for the day of reckoning is upon us!

At sundown, with the entire town gathered in front of the angel, it becomes obvious what has happened as a voice announces, “Prepared for the end. The end—of high prices!” and the grand opening of Heavenly Hills Mall commences. Of course, Lisa is none too pleased, as she confronts Sid:

Lisa: You planted a phony skeleton for me to find. This was all a big hoax!
Sid: Not a hoax, a publicity stunt!

An interesting plot point: even though Lisa was skeptical during this episode, when the entire town was gripped in fear of the possible end, it affected her as well.

Treehouse of Horror X

Season 11, Episode 4

October 31, 1999

In the third segment, titled “Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die,” the Simpsons tackle the Y2K bug head-on. The biggest fears are realized as the date being read incorrectly by the computers as 1900 instead of 2000 leads to massive computer failure and widespread destruction. Lisa sets up the exposition:

Lisa: “Even a single faulty unit could corrupt every other computer in the world!”
Homer: “That can’t be true, honey. If it were, I’d be terrified!”

Because of the date on Homer’s machine not being set properly (a fine Y2K compliance officer he made), Lisa’s explanation comes true. Across the country, machines start to malfunction. This is bad enough, as cars start to smash into each other without functioning traffic lights and other disasters ensue. To make matters worse, the town of Springfield resorts to looting even as Reverend Lovejoy warns that Judgment Day is upon them, and for them to repent their sins.

Things take a turn for the worse as the machines also somehow become sentient and overthrow their human masters. Electric razors, waffle makers, and even icemakers all weaponize themselves and go on the attack. The traffic lights even shoot red, greed, and yellow lasers:

Soon, they find an envelope marked “Top Secret” with information about a classified government plan, “Project Exodus”, where they intend to evacuate the planet. Lisa is allowed on board the spacecraft, since she was selected to be the ship’s proofreader, but Homer and Bart are denied entry. They find another, unguarded, ship and sneak onboard.

Homer: “I can’t believe I destroyed the earth.”
Bart: “Are you still talking about the earth?”

Just when they think they’re saved, it turns out only the other ship (with Marge and Lisa) is safe. Their ship, however, is headed for the sun. As Homer points out, “The sun? That’s the hottest place on earth!”

Thank God, It’s Doomsday

Season 16, Episode 19

May 8, 2005

The Simpsons go to the movies, and see the film Left Below (naturally, homage the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye). As the character in this fictitious film explains, “It’s the Rapture! The virtuous have gone to heaven, and the rest of us have been… left below.”

Homer worries that this movie will haunt him for the rest of his life. Sure enough, in the following days, Homer becomes utterly consumed with the idea that the Rapture is upon them. He begins to interpret anything and everything that happens around him as ominous signs of the end times. He soon goes to a Christian bookstore to read up on the Rapture:

Homer: The Rapture is nigh. These books will help me figure out how nigh! This whole deal is scientifically proven.

Homer calculates that the Rapture will occur will occur at May 18, at exactly 3:15 PM. He begins walking around Springfield, holding a sign proclaiming “The End is Near”, and telling TV reporter Kent Brockman, “God loves you! He’s going to kill you!”

Lisa remains just as skeptical as ever.

Lisa: “Dad, we love you, but we just don’t think the world is coming to an end! Yet… A hundred years, global warming, we’re goners!”

Homer convinces the town of their impending doom, as they all have a pre-Rapture party, shortly before they decide to head for the hills. The hill is Springfield Mesa, 15 miles north. After waiting patiently, for seconds—then minutes—then hours—they all decide to go home.

“Wait for it… Wait for it… Wait for it…”

Homer is now the laughingstock of the town, when he has a brilliant revelation—he must have miscalculated! He crunches the numbers and this time insists that the Rapture will occur the following day (same time, of course). This time, he heads to Springfield Mesa alone.

To his amazement, he is actually right this time. He goes to heaven and is given the tour. Selflessly, he wonders about his family back on earth. He checks it out on the TV, and sees that everyone is being tortured through the period of Tribulation:

Disturbed, Homer convinces God to put off this whole Rapture thing for a couple more years so he can have a chance to save his family, first. Initially reluctant, as doing so would mean turning back time, Homer points out:

Homer: “Superman did it!”
God: “Fine.”

God returns everything back to normal as he announces, “Deus Ex Machina!” Homer wakes to find everything back the way it was.

Treehouse of Horror XXIII

Season 24, Episode 2

October 7, 2012

The scene starts with a flashback to the city of Chichen Itza, at the height of the Maya civilization. As the Mayan priest [played by Reverend Lovejoy] explains:

Priest: According to our Mayan calendar, the world will be destroyed at the end of the thirteenth baktun.
Mayor Quimby: Unless we appease the gods anger with a human sacrifice.

Though they were attempting to fatten up a stand-in for Homer Simpson, Marge saves him, and tricks Moe Szyslak into getting sacrificed instead. This, in turn, angers the gods, who really will destroy the world on the thirteenth baktun (in 2012) as a result.

Fast forward to Springfield, present day, where the Mayan Gods come down to Earth, find the modern version of Homer Simpson, and flatten him—as well as the rest of planet!

Homer Goes to Prep School

Season 24, Episode 9

January 6, 2013

After taking the kids to a fun zone (a kind of miniature indoor theme park), panic ensues when a child escapes and the entire facility goes on lockdown. The mothers and children are all okay, but the fathers all erupt into violence. Homer sees them all as very barbaric, and—as the music to the original Planet of the Apes plays—he philosophizes, “Deep down we’re all savage apes!”

Upon returning back to the daily grind, however, Homer finds that he is a bit shaken up over his ordeal. He begins to see apes everywhere!

He goes to Moe’s tavern, depressed. “I guess despite all our so-called civilization, anarchy lurks around every corner like a racially diverse street gang on a network cop show.”

Homer encounters a newcomer, Lloyd, who tells Homer he just experienced WROL—Without the Rule of Law. He explains that anarchy and the end of civilization are coming soon to America. Homer counters:

Homer: “America can’t collapse. We’re as powerful as Ancient Rome!”

Lloyd shows the impressionable Homer an online video, using his tablet. The vid explains how modern society is like a house of cards that will collapse at any moment, and shows a futuristic post-apocalyptic nightmare world that is to come (copyright “You’re All Gonna Die Productions”). Homer exclaims:

Homer: Oh, my God! This unsourced, undated video has convinced me beyond any doubt!

Lloyd introduces Homer to the world of Preppers. After initially refusing to join them (confusing them with preppies) Homer decides to become part of the group. They promise to teach him the skills he needs to survive any potential crisis.

They show Homer their secret bunker and give him some tips on prepping. They explain that they need to stock up early, because when the disaster strikes, the sheeple will clean out every supermarket in town.

Lloyd: “We all know America’s collapse is about three months away.”
Herman: “Six weeks at most!”
Lloyd: “There’s always one alarmist.”

Homer spends all his time at work watching prepping videos online, ignoring his job duties at the nuclear power plant, creating an EMP leading to a power failure crisis that affects all of Springfield. Lloyd cheerfully exclaims, “This is it—bugout time! Everyone but us is doomed. I am so jazzed!”

The Simpsons hang out with the preppers in their bunker, but they don’t stay long. The Preppers are not interested in helping others, which is what Homer and Marge are all about. The Simpsons take all the food and supplies to the people of Springfield, only to discover that the power came back on after a few days, and everything’s going to be just fine after all.

Marge: Everything’s normal. The world didn’t end!

The final shot: A meteor full of brain-eating zombies about to crash into the earth!

Jul
11

All About the Supermoon

If you’re looking at the moon any time today and tomorrow, you will notice a 30% size increase. This is one of those times that the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie. Check out this 5-minute clip from this morning’s South Florida’s First News with guest Susan Barnett talking to hosts Jimmy Cefalo and Manno Muñoz.1

Jimmy: Were you able to see the moon this morning, around all those clouds that were around?
Manny: Almost “super” looking.
Jimmy: It was, and tomorrow, it’s going to be even more “super,” I think.
Manny: And luckily for us, we’re both up very early, so we’ll probably get a chance to see it if we go outside.
Jimmy: Yeah. That’s why it’s called a “super-moon,” and we’re going to have three of them in the next three months. What’s up with that? How come that’s happening?
Manny: Sign of Armageddon, Jimmy. According to some.
Jimmy: No, I think it’s global warming.
Manny: No, I don’t think it’s that.
Jimmy: I think it is.
Manny: Sign of the Apocalypse.
Jimmy: We’re moving closer to the moon. That’s what’s happening. Let’s find out with Susan Barnett of the Director of the Buehler Planetarium & Observatory at Broward College. Check out their website, which is really cool, at Iloveplanets.com. Good morning to you, Susan!
Susan: Good morning, good morning!
Jimmy: So we’re moving closer to the moon because of global warming.
Susan: Well, the world’s not ending. It’s not global warming. And actually, it’s the moon moving closer to us!
Jimmy: Oh! How much closer?
Susan: Frankly, on an average, just a few thousand miles. In terms of astronomy, a few thousand is like 30,000 miles. See, the orbit of the moon is not a perfect circle centered on the earth. So from its closest approach—think of it as a ring spinning on the table. The orbit wobbles. So from the time of the year where it’s the absolute closest to the earth to its farthest, it’s only a difference about 30,000 miles. What’s 30,000 miles among friends?
Jimmy: Right. But we’re going to have three of them in three months. Isn’t that unusual?
Susan: No.
Jimmy: Oh, okay.
Susan: To be perfectly blunt, no it isn’t. The word itself, “supermoon,” has only really been in common use the last few years. And to be honest, it wasn’t an astronomer who coined it. So, it’s now known [that] the definition of the word supermoon is, when it’s within 10% of that closest approach of its orbit for that month.
Jimmy: Oh, I see.
Susan: And by that definition, it happens four to six times a year. Astronomers used to call this point “perigean full moon.” The perigee is that point of the orbit closest. “Supermoon” is a lot catchier.
Jimmy: Yeah it is. It’s also called “thundermoon” or “buck moon,” I’m reading. Is that correct?
Susan: That is. One of the fun things about looking at the moon is, if you look at the folklore of all different cultures, people have given these moons lots of different names. So every culture has its favorite names for the moons at different months. For instance, we think June is such a popular month for weddings because it’s also called the “honeymoon.”
Jimmy: Oh, really? I like that. And what’s the difference between a supermoon or a thundermoon, or whatever you want to call it, and, say, a harvest moon?
Susan: The month.
Jimmy: Oh, that’s it?
Susan: That’s it. Those are just nicknames that people in different cultures have given it. Harvest moon was often called that because the bright light of the full moon gave farmers extra time to bring in the crops in the fall.
Jimmy: And so, if it was in say, October, it would be a harvest moon. But it’s the same moon as right now, [which] is simply a supermoon.
Susan: Possibly. If it occurs at that point in its orbit closest. I think all full moons are beautiful.
Jimmy: Yeah, I do, too.
Susan: To me, the most fun thing about supermoons is that it gets people talking about the moon.
Jimmy: Yeah, and we talk about [how] different cultures call it different things. Different cultures also believe different things about the moon, don’t they?
Susan: Oh, absolutely. There’s lots of stories or what we call sky lore about the moon. People are always trying to explain: Why does it go through the different shapes, the phases that it makes? Why are there markings on the moon? If you want to know more about the moon, this is a fun time of year for looking at the moon. Next week, we’ve got a very important date coming up.
Jimmy: What’s that?
Susan: Did you realize 45 years ago, we landed on the moon?
Jimmy: Oh, right. 1969. Absolutely.
Susan: 1969, and the anniversary is next week. In honor of that, we’re holding a festival here, Saturday, July 19th,called Moonfest.
Jimmy: Oh, cool!
Susan: So, if you want to know more about the moon, come on down to the Buehler Planetarium & Observatory.
Jimmy: Yeah, at Broward College. And can we learn more at IlovePlanets.com?
Susan: Absolutely, IlovePlanets.com or our Facebook page.
Jimmy: How do we find your Facebook page?
Susan: Search for Broward College’s Buehler Planetarium.
Jimmy: Got it. That’s easy too. The full moon is always tough for me because I turn into a werewolf, and it’s kind of hard. Thank you so much, it’s always a pleasure. You’ve shed great light on this—no pun intended.
Susan: Thank you very much.
Jimmy: We’ll talk to you at the next strange moon sighting that we see.

Though the hosts were clearly being facetious when suggesting that the supermoon could be heralding the end of all things, as they pointed out, there are plenty of people who actually believe this type of thing. In what he calls “Moonpocalypse”, one writer points out all the various disasters that Doomsayers have attempted to tie to supermoons in the past—including a 1938 New England hurricane in 1938, the 1955 Hunter Valley floods, a 1974 cyclone Tracy which struck Australia, and the 2005 Indonesian Tsunami as well as Hurricane Katrina.2 None of which has been borne out by the facts, and in some cases, the timing didn’t even match. Another author points out that Doomsday predictions seem to occur so often—perhaps twice a year—and the supermoon is certainly tied to some of that.3 Although there have been claims that the supermoon has been tied to various natural disasters, about the only real effect has been to cause tides about an inch higher than usual.
Another interesting fact alluded to the in the video was that astronomers did not coin the term “supermoon.” That honor goes to an astrologer named Richard Nolle, writing in a 1979 issue of Dell Horoscope. While this might make some of the more educated roll their eyes, astrologers have contributed others terms to astronomy, including the names of the planets.4
The moon was very important to many different cultures. Check out these other terms that many Native American tribes used to refer to the large moon:

  • Full Wolf Moon (January). During this time, wolf packs traveled hungrily outside of Native American villages.
  • Full Snow Moon (February). This is typically when the heaviest snowfall of the year occurs.
  • Full Worm Moon (March). As the temperature warms up, earthworms begin to appear in the mud.
  • Full Pink Moon (April). This is the time when the earliest wildflowers, such as the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, began to bloom.
  • Full Flower Moon (May). This is when other flowers—not just the pink ones—started to come into bloom.
  • Full Strawberry Moon (June). This is when strawberries began to come into season.
  • Full Buck Moon (July). This marked the period of time when the new antlers of buck deer would push out of their foreheads.
  • Full Sturgeon Moon (August). This was the best period of time for catching sturgeon, as well as other varieties of fish.
  • Full Harvest Moon (September & October). This is the time when corn should be harvested; usually occurs in September but sometimes in October.
  • Full Beaver Moon (November). This was the optimal time to set beaver traps and obtain furs in order to keep warm for the winter.
  • Full Cold Moon (December). Not only are temperatures at their coldest, but also the nights are at their longest, making it even colder.5

As if the supermoon phenomenon wasn’t enough, there’s more! A while back, a user on the Graham Hancock forum had asked me my opinion on the Blood Moons. There is an excellent breakdown of this phenomenon courtesy of Maria LaRosa on America’s Morning Headquarters and her guest, J. Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor of Sky & Telescope magazine:6

Maria: Of course, I’m totally geeking out over tonight’s lunar eclipse… The best part, though, tonight’s eclipse will bring out the blood moon. The fun starts at 1:58 AM (Eastern time). That’s the best part, right there. Tonight, complete eclipse by 3:06 AM (Eastern time). The moon will appear red because the sun’s light will be reflected through the earth’s atmosphere through into and onto the lunar surface, so it gives it that red appearance. And for more on the blood moon, we bring in J. Kelly Beatty, senior contributing editor of Sky & Telescope. And we appreciate your time so much, Kelly. First off, why the blood moon? Why do we call it the blood moon? It’s nothing other than it’s just a lunar eclipse.
J. Kelly: So you would think that when the moon goes through the shadow of the earth, it would completely black out. But if you’re looking back toward the earth, because we have an atmosphere, you’d see a crimson ring all around it. And it’s that light, leaking through the atmosphere, that gives the surface that reddish color. In fact, I think that’s really why they dyed the fountain red in St. Louis.
Maria: I like your take, I like your take. Where is the best place to see the eclipse?
J. Kelly: Wherever it’s clear. The lunar eclipse can be seen from an entire hemisphere of the earth. Anywhere you can see the moon when this is happening, you’ll see the eclipse. Not very likely here in the Northeast, I’m afraid.
Maria: Right, because we have the cloud cover. Southeast, I’m concerned about too. You’re looking right now at the cloud cast… And of course, you don’t need any special eye gear to witness this.
J. Kelly: That’s absolutely correct. This is an eyeball astronomy event. And it’s a slow-motion event. This whole eclipse takes about 3½ hours. From totality to totality is 78 minutes of blackout. Keep an eye out for subtle changes in the color of the moon. It’s red, but it’ll be red, and orange, and maybe different colors in different parts.
Maria: All right. Kelly, thank you so much for your time. We’re looking forward to seeing the pictures at least here in the Southeast. I appreciate your time!

But again, we have an interesting scientific phenomenon turned into another end-of-the-world scenario by the Doomsayers. And of course, one easily debunked, given that—like supermoons—we have had blood moons in the past, and are no worse off for it. Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop people from talking about the blood moon from heralding Christ’s return or starting the Great Tribulation.7
Why is the Blood Moons theory so popular? Probably because of Bible quotes such these:

The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe–inspiring Day of the Lord comes. (Joel 2:31)

And:

Then I saw Him open the sixth seal. A violent earthquake occurred; the sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair; the entire moon became like blood; (Revelation 6:12)

And in general, all types of astronomical signs—supermoons, comets, and anything else—have a Biblical precedent:

There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves. (Luke 21:25)

NASA scientist David Morrison coined the term “cosmophobia” to describe the irrational fear of objects in outer space, and that certainly seems an apt explanation here.

References

  1. Cefalo, J., & Muñoz, M. (2014, July 11). South Florida’s First News [Radio broadcast]. Miami, FL: WIOD.
  2. Diaz, J. (2011, March 8). The SuperMoon Apocalypse is here! (No, actually, it’s not.) Gizmodo. Retrieved from http://gizmodo.com/5779564/the-supermoon-apocalypse-is-near-or-maybe-not
  3. Campbell, H. (2013, June 23). Super Moon – Your semi-annual dose of Apocalypse. Science 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.science20.com/science_20/super_moon_your_semiannual_dose_apocalypse-115290
  4. Bakich, M. E. (2014, August). The truth behind the Super Moon. Astronomy, pp. 64–65.
  5. Full moon names and their meanings. (n.d.). Farmers’ Almanac. Retrieved from http://farmersalmanac.com/full-moon-names/
  6. Bettes, M., Champion, S., LaRosa, M., & Rodriguez, A (Presenters). (2014, April 14). In S. Warren (Executive Producer), America’s Morning Headquarters (AMHQ) [Television series]. Atlanta, GA: The Weather Channel.
  7. Hyde, T. (n.d.). 4 Blood Moons of Tribulation 2014–2015? Mark Blitz theory debunked. Escape All These Things. Retrieved from http://www.escapeallthesethings.com/2015-blood-eclipses.htm

Jun
22

Number of the OCD Beast

Here are some interesting facts about the sign of the beast:

  • 666 in Roman numerals is DCLXVI (which happens to be the first six characters of the Roman numerical system, reversed).
  • There is some debate over whether the “correct” number of the beast is 666 or actually 616. [1][2][3]
  • Numbers were used as disguises to represent people or political institutions; most seem to believe that the number referred to a Roman Emperor such as Nero[2] or Caligula.[3]
  • Some people attempt to interpret the Bible in terms of today, and thus try to the tie the number 666 to modern world leaders instead of anyone alive during Biblical times.
  • Former President Ronald Reagan once lived at “666 St. Cloud Road” (Nancy had the address changed to 668, just in case).

Some people are so freaked out about seeing the number 666 anywhere that if they’re out shopping and their total comes out to $6.66, they’ll go and add a stick of gum to their order so they come out with a different number.

Part of the reason for the fascination with the number 666 has to do with the number 3 (since there are, of course, three sixes.) Three is consistently seen as a “perfect” number. Christians who believe in the power of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) are already intimately familiar with this fact. In mathematics, Borromean rings (a set of three rings joined together) represent perfection because no one ring can be removed without the other two falling apart. In writing, the “Rule of Three” is used to stress that any time you provide an example of a concept, you should always use three examples. Two is just not enough, and four is overkill. Yet, three is perfect. Omne trium perfectum.

The other part of it has to do with the negativity of the number 6. Recently, Dr. Phil had on a guest with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She was constantly repeating rituals, and saying things to herself in her head three times. She had reported feeling that three was always her lucky number. She also stated, when asked, that the number six made her feel really uncomfortable and never knew why. It turns out, as Dr. Phil explained, that “almost every person suffering from OCD is seriously bothered by the number six.” [4]

The author of the Book of Revelation (who didn’t leave his name, but most commonly thought to be John) may have been living with OCD. Think about it: The number 6 is so abhorrent, and yet the number 3 is pure, so 666 must be pure evil.

References

  1. McHyde, T. (n.d.). 616 vs. 666: Which is the real number of the beast? Escape All These Things. Retrieved from http://www.escapeallthesethings.com/666-616-number-mark-of-the-beast.htm
  2. Pickett, P. K. (2013, August 12). The devil’s number is not 666. Knowledge Nuts. Retrieved from http://knowledgenuts.com/2013/08/12/the-devils-number-is-not-666/
  3. Wattie, C. (2005, May 4). Beast’s real mark devalued to “616”. Religion News Blog. Retrieved from http://www.religionnewsblog.com/11134/beasts-real-mark-devalued-to-616
  4. Grealy, B. T. (Writer), & Hermstad, L. C. (Director). (2014, April 23). Beauty and the OCD Beast [Television series episode]. In McGraw, P. (Producer), Dr. Phil. Santa Monica, CA: CBS Television Distribution.

Nov
17

What Planet are They From?

[image by Eduardo Barreto, for the cover of DC Comics Presents #87]

In The End-of-the-World Delusion: How Doomsayers Endanger Society, I cover one of the doomsayers’ favorite such prophecies: that a mysterious planet like Planet X (Nibiru) will crash into the earth. This theory was first proposed by Nancy Lieder in 1995, who claimed that alien life forms had contacted her and shared this information with her. When the event didn’t happen when she said it would—2003—the deadline was merely changed to 2012, to coincide with the Mayan calendar.

As if that’s not enough, we were also warned by V.M. Rabolú, a South American professor (?) who claims to have mastered astral projection techniques, that a giant planet named Hercólubus would crash into the earth. This knowledge came to him after his spirit had the chance to visit the aliens living on Venus and Mars, who promptly informed him of the coming cataclysm. In his book, Hercólubus or Red Planet,1 he explains that this planet is 5 or 6 times larger than Jupiter; he is also highly critical of scientists for “daring to give the weight and the measurement” of the planet. In fact, he spends a lot of the book criticizing everyone and everything he doesn’t like: scientists, Americans, capitalism, religions (except the Gnostic church), and humanity in general. He’s not sorry at all about the catastrophe he says will strike our planet soon (and this was in 1998). No, he says this is the punishment that we collectively deserve.

There is quite a bit of literature devoted to this idea, although often with a different name: Tyche, Sedna, Frightener, Maldek, Marduk, Red Kachina, Purifier, Doomdragon. Some tie it in with other prophecies, such as Nostradamus’ Bearded Star, the Hebrews’ Destroyer, or the star Wormwood or the Red Dragon, both from the Bible’s Book of Revelation. More importantly, this theory is debunked by NASA and other actual scientists, who have spent quite a bit of resources actively looking for other planets.

There’s also another out-of-this-world theory being proposed, by a completely different segment of our population.

The way this theory goes, the world is so overrun by people that humanity will trash the planet, or use up all of the earth’s natural resources, that we will need to find another planet to maintain our lifestyle. The brilliant cosmologist Stephen Hawking once stated, “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I’m an optimist. We will reach out to the stars.”2

While 1,000 years is certainly a long time out, some of the more fanatical segments of our society don’t give us nearly so long. For example, an environmental group, the World Wildlife Fund, warned recently that based on our consumption of resources we would need two earths by the year 2030.3

Thanks for the warning. This is the same diatribe against people and our modern lifestyle that has been used to try to scare us for as long as I can remember. And sometimes, that fear is focused specifically at children. As one child (Kimberly Carr) told the EarthWorks Group in the 1980s, “I hope the earth is okay when I grow up, because I don’t want to have to find another place to live.”4

Well, that child is all grown up now, and the earth is still here.

Not that finding another world to inhabit wouldn’t be incredible. I’ll be the first to admit that a planet resembling earth—an earth analog, a twin earth, an earth twin, a second earth, an alien earth, earth 2, or even earth 2.0, as some are referring to it5—would certainly be the most important find in our history. In fact, some are even speculating that this will happen by the year 2014:


Earth-like planet will be discovered by 2014. Is this a second chance, or false hope? I’m Rich Awn, and this is your Green Air Minute. According to NASA exo-planet expert Shawn Domagal-Goldman, the Kepler Space Telescope has identified some 2,300 earth-like planets orbiting distant suns. Of the 46 earth planet candidates found in the habitable zone, 10 of these candidates are near earth-size. All that is really known of these planetary masses, however, is that they’re orbiting at just about the right distance from its closest star to support liquid water, which could quite possibly support life.

Due to the success of the Kepler mission over the past 4 years, its purpose having been specifically to find these other earths, has prompted NASA and Kepler’s prime contractor, Ball Aerospace, to extend the exploration from its original end date of 2012 to 2016. The extension will allow for longer period orbits and to install the next generation of detectors and instruments designed to block the glare of the parent stars to get a better look at what lies on the surface of these mysterious planets.

But while the presence of water, mass, and orbit distance, may chalk up to the very basic earth-like characteristics of a planet, earth systems scientists such as Mark Gibling of the University of Nova Scotia, caution us not to rest on our laurels. The key factor is plants. Plants are not passive passengers on a planet’s surface system, Gibling says, they create the surface system. Organisms tool the environment—the atmosphere, the landscapes, the oceans, all develop incredible complexity, once plant life grows.

I’m Rich Awn, and this is your Green Air Minute. For more on the search for Earth 2, and ways to improve the original, visit greenairradio.com.

How many of these earth-like planets are there? The current estimates range about 40 billion to 100 billion such worlds in our galaxy6,7. Go beyond the Milky Way, and that number increases to 50 sextellion—a 5, followed by 22 zeros.

As exciting as that possibility is, let’s keep it in the realm of reality. There is no reason to give in to the fear and the dread, that we absolutely must find another world to inhabit—before it’s too late.

Therefore, I propose a solution, by which these two doomsday theories cancel each other out: The second we run out of resources and need another planet to live on, scientists will discover the one that’s about to crash into earth, and we colonize that one instead. Now that’s killing two birds with one stone!

References

  1. Rabolú, V. M. (1998). Hercólubus or Red Planet. Puerto Cortes, Honduras: Ediciones Humanidad.
  2. Highfield, R. (2001, October 16). Colonies in space may be only hope, says Hawking. The Telegraph. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1359562/Colonies-in-space-may-be-only-hope-says-Hawking.html
  3. Thornhill, T. (2012, May 16). WWF Living Planet Report warns that by 2030 two Earths will be needed to sustain our lifestyles. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/16/wwf-warns-that-we-will-need-two-earths-by-2030_n_1520449.html
  4. EarthWorks Group. (1989). 50 simple things you can do to save the earth. Berkeley, CA: EarthWorks Press.
  5. SPACE.COM Staff. (2012, April 3). First “Alien Earth” may be found by 2014. Retrieved from http://www.space.com/15141-alien-earth-planet-2014.html
  6. Anthony, S. (2013, April 4). Astronomers estimate 100 billion habitable Earth-like planets in the Milky Way, 50 sextillion in the universe. ExtremeTech. Retrieved from http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/152573-astronomers-estimate-100-billion-habitable-earth-like-planets-in-the-milky-way-50-sextillion-in-the-universe
  7. New York Times. (2013, November 4). Planetary census finds many exo-Earths. The Chronicle Herald. Retrieved from http://thechronicleherald.ca/other/1165107-planetary-census-finds-many-exo-earths

Oct
11

Government Shutdown Not the End of the World

In case you’ve been living under a rock the last two weeks, you’re well aware of the shutdown of the federal government in the U.S., which is currently in its 11th day.

Sorry, We're Closed

[image courtesy of FixTheDebt.org]

Not surprisingly, some people are in a panic about this. As one famous radio commentator explained,1

To a lot of people, this is their first government shutdown. 1995 was 17 years ago… So you realize this is a lot of people’s first government shutdown. You youths in the audience. And most people’s historical perspective begins with the day they were born. It’s just human nature. Most people believe that things happening when they were alive are worse than they’ve ever been. They can’t imagine it. And of course, that’s folly. But it’s still a part of human nature, that people think this. And every generation has its percentage of people that think this is it. This is it. Whatever you want to call it—last days, final days—it’s all going to end, or the government’s going to implode, or whatever. We just can’t keep going this way. It’s got to come to a head. I’ve often found that fascinating.

There has been a lot of fearmongering about this issue. (Fearmongering in politics being nothing new.) Part of the problem is that the term “government shutdown” is much more foreboding than what it actually describes, and is something of a misnomer. All the services considered “essential”—the military, air traffic controllers, the IRS, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Post Office—are still continuous throughout the shutdown period. In fact, 83% of the government expenditures continue uninterrupted, with spending only reduced by 17%.2

Republican Senator Ted Cruz has pointed out that the government shutdown is “not the end of the world”,3 and he’s right. The government has been shut down 17 times in the past, and each time it has managed to recover.4 But the damage is still very real—the last two shutdowns in 1995 and 1996 cost taxpayers a combined $1.4 billion, which—adjusted for inflation—is about $2 billion in today’s dollars.5

Too much focus has been on “who’s to blame” for the latest shutdown. (Hint: Democrats think it’s the Republicans, and Republicans think it’s the democrats.) But perhaps a more worthwhile endeavor would be to examine the root causes, and look at what, as opposed to who, led to the current predicament. When Congress is unable to pass a budget by the deadline, spending on the nonessential services must cease.6 With the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, about to take full effect in January 2014, House Republicans see this moment as their final opportunity to make changes to the law. President Obama has already made several revisions to the law as it was originally signed, most notably exemptions for unions and some businesses for the first year. Recently, John Stewart of The Daily Show discussed the new health care law with Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, echoing the concerns of Republicans (whom he characterized as hailing from “Crazytown”), asking her why these same exemptions weren’t provided to individuals.7 So now we have a role reversal situation (at least of the stereotypes), where Democrats are giving special privileges to big business and Republicans are championing the rights of the little guy.

There’s still a lot of finger-pointing, and not a whole of negotiating at this point. And any talks between the parties—at least in the immediate future—are more likely to focus on the debt limit, rather than the shutdown itself.8 After all, the debt limit must be settled by October 17, less than a week away.

Neither problem is likely to be disastrous, as observed by CNN Reporter Erin Burnett:9

What about the shutdown? The media notices the Amber Alert website isn’t working, it goes back up. Ninety percent of the civilian Department of Defense employees are now back working. If the government was really shut down there wouldn’t be money to do all of this so it does sort of create this atmosphere of, “Maybe they oversold this.” This was supposed to be the end of the world, and it’s not, so then maybe the debt ceiling won’t be the end of the world.

While both parties may be at an impasse, this is but a temporary issue. Just like all the previous shutdowns, this one will be resolved—one way or another. The U.S. government is not going anywhere, and life goes on.

References

  1. Limbaugh, R. (2013, October 9). The Rush Limbaugh Show [Radio broadcast]. Palm Beach, FL: Excellence in Broadcasting.
  2. York, B. (2013, October 5). Where’s sense of crisis in a 17% government shutdown? Washington Examiner. Retrieved from http://washingtonexaminer.com/wheres-sense-of-crisis-in-a-17-percent-government-shutdown/article/2536862
  3. Bendery, J. (2013, September 19). Ted Cruz: Government shutdown not “the end of the world”. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/obamacare-government-shutdown_n_3956365.html
  4. Matthews, D. (2013, September 25). Here is every previous government shutdown, why they happened and how they ended. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/25/here-is-every-previous-government-shutdown-why-they-happened-and-how-they-ended/
  5. Dann, C. (2013, September 28). Why a government shutdown could be a pricey proposition. NBC. Retrieved from http://nbcpolitics.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/09/28/20723289-why-a-government-shutdown-could-be-a-pricey-proposition?lite
  6. Nicks, D. (2013, October 9). The man who invented the government shutdown. TIME. Retrieved from http://swampland.time.com/2013/10/09/the-man-who-created-the-government-shutdown/
  7. Osterman, K. (2013, October 8). Jon Stewart grills HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about lack of individual Obamacare delay. Red Alert Politics. Retrieved from http://redalertpolitics.com/2013/10/08/jon-stewart-grills-hhs-secretary-kathleen-sebelius-about-lack-of-individual-obamacare-delay/
  8. Condon, S. (2013, October 11). Government shutdown drags on as lawmakers talk about a debt limit deal. CBS. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57607110/government-shutdown-drags-on-as-lawmakers-talk-about-a-debt-limit-deal/
  9. Burnett, E. (2013, October 7). Erin Burnett OutFront [Television broadcast]. Atlanta, GA: CNN.

Jan
26

Which is the Correct Term: “Denial” or “Skeptic”?

Doomsayers assert not only that they have stumbled upon the truth—that the world’s end is going to occur soon—but also that anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs is merely in “denial”. The doomsayers have the truth, and everyone else is simply denying that truth.

Let’s take a look at some of the doomsday theories and how their proponents use the word.

Harold Camping, who stated that the process of the world’s end would begin on May 21, 2011, with the Rapture:1

We know intuitively there is an end coming, and there will be the finality of God’s Judgment upon the world. And so by nature we should be very, very frightened. A lot of people try to cover it up by just being in denial, or by just not listening at all, or mocking God. They try every possible way to cover their fright. But deep in the heart of every human being, there is fear.

Or how about some of those in the New Age Movement, who really believed that December 21, 2012 would be the end of the world simply because they claimed the Maya had said so:2

The mistake many of the 2012 doubters make is that they view the Long Count calendar as merely a sequence of dates, as our own calendar is… The 2012 deniers ignore the fact that while the Maya had a annual calendar that was designed for everyday use (a multiple of 260 and 365 days called the Calendar Round) just as our calendars are, the Long Count calendar system was predicated upon cyclical cataclysmic events that surrounding the rebirth of their world after it was shattered.

Well, how about that. It looks like those on the side of science and skepticism were right on both counts. The “deniers” have been proven right, time and time again.

Of course, the word is a favorite among the climate change crowd, as evidenced by a piece titled “No Denying Climate Change”:3

Earth is growing warmer; the records prove that. Some still doubt human activity has anything to do with it, but it’s past time for the rest of us to face reality.

So it seems that those who use the word “denial” are just reaching for a way to assert that their misguided beliefs are correct, and that those who do not subscribe to them are the ones who are actually out of touch with reality.

Of course, there may be more sinister reasons behind the use of the word. Some have noted that the use of this word on the part of change believers is an ad hominem attack, done to question the opponent’s character or motives rather than on their actual position.4 One climate skeptic noted that the user of the term “denier” is done deliberately because it conjures up images of Holocaust Deniers. “Global warming alarmists are trying to associate me with these people when they call me a climate change denialist”—and in the process, are trivializing the deaths of six million innocent people.5

So what is the right word? A few environmental journalists are being responsible and avoiding the use of the d-word, and have considered to use skeptic instead. Predictably, however, those who believe that anthropogenic climate change is a real problem have objected to the term skeptic to describe their opponents—it lends too much validity to the skeptic’s argument, and they feel the use of the word skeptic has been co-opted. This puts writers who wish to remain neutral and objective in a tight spot: either word, “skeptic” or “denial”, demonstrates bias one way or the other and acts as a kind of Rorschach test.6

A variety of terms have been used. On the one hand, there are warmists, believers, alarmists. On the other are skeptics, deniers, contrarians, dissenters, realists.7 Some have tried to devise a way to make a distinction between skeptics and deniers, while to others they are one and the same.8

Interestingly enough, sometimes the Doomsayers themselves have co-opted the word “skeptic.” One New Age/2012-believer advised on his blog, “Don’t believe the don’t-believe-the-hype hype”—implying that December 21 could still be the end.9 Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society, once divided those involved in the climate change debate into two sides when he asked, “Are you a global warming skeptic, or are you skeptical of the global warming skeptics?”10

Whatever labels are used in the debate, one thing is clear: all the use of derogatory remarks has done is separate the two sides and turned it into an “us” vs. “them.” This is not a healthy way to get to the truth of the matter. Which is why I will always point out why the Doomsayers are wrong, but I will never attack them personally.

So to me, denial is just a river in Egypt.

References

  1. Camping, H. (2011, May 3). Open Forum [Radio broadcast]. Oakland, CA: Family Radio.
  2. Gleason, R. (2010, January 3). Is there any written record left of the Maya 2012 prophecy? Robert Gleason 2012. Retrieved from http://robertgleason2012.blogspot.com/2010_01_01_archive.html
  3. Anonymous. (2012, December 29). No denying climate change. Sun Sentinel. Retrieved from http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2012-12-29/news/fl-editorial-climate-td1003-20121229_1_climate-change-climate-change-intergovernmental-panel
  4. Ball, T. (2012, December 18). Labeling people “climate change deniers” merely reveals the attacker’s ignorance. Watts Up With That. Retrieved from http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/12/18/labeling-people-climate-change-deniers-merely-reveals-the-attackers-ignorance/
  5. Fuller, T. W., & Fuller, T. (2009, April 11). Skeptic or denier? Taking back the language. NewsFan. Retrieved from http://newsfan.typepad.co.uk/liberals_can_be_skeptics_/2009/04/skeptic-or-denier-taking-back-the-language.html
  6. Yulsman, T. (2010, November 22). Climate change “skeptic” vs. “denier”: Call me “INSANE”. Center for Environmental Journalism. Retrieved from http://www.cejournal.net/?p=4618
  7. Wihbey, J. (2012, August 16). “Denier,” “Alarmist,” “Warmist,” “Contrarian,” “Confusionist,” “Believer,”: The list goes on… and on… and on. The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media. Retrieved from http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2012/08/denier-alarmist-warmist-contrarian-confusionist-believer/
  8. Kloor, K. (2010, November 20). Who’s a skepic/denier/dissenter/contrarian? Discover. Retrieved from http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2010/11/20/whos-a-skepticdenierdissentercontrarian/
  9. Chaves, N. (2012, March 6). Not so fast, 2012-deniers. Thoughts about Software, Technology, and Making Things Better by Nick Chaves. Retrieved from http://www.nickchaves.com/post/not-so-fast-2012-deniers
  10. Shermer, M. (2009, September 29). Chill out: An economic triage for global climate change. Skeptic Blog. Retrieved from http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/09/29/economic-triage-for-global-climate-change/

Dec
19

Saying “I Told You So”

In case you were unaware, or haven’t seen any of the Mayan calendar countdown apps or websites, there’s not much time left. In only a couple of days, the madness will be over and we can get back on with our lives. It will turn out that the message in my book, The End-of-the-World Delusion: How Doomsayers Endanger Society, was correct all along.

I am reminded of one of my favorite scenes in The Dark Knight:

BRUCE: We all know how much you like to say, “I told you so.”
ALFRED: On that day, Master Wayne, even I won’t want to. Probably.

No one likes a gloater, yet everyone likes to be vindicated. Christian writer Christian Piatt explains why referring to our times as the end of days is just an overused cliché that should probably be stricken from our vocabulary:1

We Christians love to look for signs of the end of the world; we practically have an apocalyptic fetish. It’s like we can’t wait until everything comes to a smoldering halt so we can stand tall with that “I told you so” look on our faces, while the nonbelievers beg for mercy. Yeah, that sounds like an awesome religion you’ve got going there. Sign me up!

There’s many apocalyptic believers, but they won’t be the ones in a position to say, “I told you so.” It will be the skeptics and doubters. But, as Alfred Pennyworth explained, when the time comes we probably won’t even want to. Look at how one reporter described the time he spent with a family who believed in Harold Camping’s failed prediction of May 21, 2011:2

In the beginning, I was curious how believers would react, as if they were mice in a maze. But as time went on I grew to like and sympathize with many of them. This failed prophecy caused real harm, financially and emotionally. What was a curiosity for the rest of us was, for them, traumatic.

So while everyone who believed in this prophecy is going through one of the most difficult times in their lives, and trying to find a way to come to grips with the fact that the world will continue on after all, I will not feel like rubbing their faces in the fact that their beliefs were misguided and that they were blind to the truth. They’ll be going through a hard enough time as it is.

But perhaps, this whole “Mayan calendar” debacle can be used as a lesson to future generations. It’s a great lesson on why NOT to believe every unsubstantiated rumor about when the world will (or even may) end.

References


  1. Piatt, C. (2012, July 6). Ten cliches Christian should never use. Patheos. Retrieved from http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christianpiatt/2012/07/ten-cliches-christians-should-never-use/

  2. Bartlett, T. (2012, May 8). A year after the non-apocalypse: Where are they now? Religion Dispatches. Retrieved from http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/culture/5983/a_year_after_the_non-apocalypse%3A_where_are_they_now/

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