Will the end of the world come with a bang, a whimper or a double scoop of cinnamon gelato? Apocalyptic visions are all the rage, and though we’ve survived the Mayan calendar (Merry Christmas!), the next doomsday forecast awaits.
Predictions about the end of the world are frequently fantastical. Whether “end of the world” means the end of human life, or Earth, or the universe, it involves earthquakes, eruptions, collisions and other fireworks displays.
But what if the end of the world is boring? Maybe it will be slow and steady, a patient decline in human population lasting centuries until a final catastrophe wipes out the scattered survivors. There won’t be any bangs, flashes or pows to see humanity off. Just a slow winding down. Is there a reason doomsday crazies would favor one scenario over another, a speedy annihilation over a slow decline? It could be that the flashy end times hypothesis are better at attracting audiences (and hence, potential recruits). But it could also be anthropocentrism.
There’s a bit of egoism in the doomsday scenarios. Humanity is so important in this universe, that it deserves a spectacular sending-off. Doomsday predictions are an interesting return to the pre-Copernicus view of nature that places humans at the center Just as Copernican revolution taught us that the universe is not Earth-centered, will we one day believe that the end will not be human or Earth-centered? Maybe future doomsday scenarios will be less sensational. We will go out not with a bang, and not even a whimper, but with a gentle sigh.