The End Is Near

I’ve always liked to think of the Hebrew Bible as mostly a collection of doomsayers who got lucky and were right. Lost to the mists of time are the thousands of guys who stood around Israel claiming that the end was near, only to live out their lives never seeing things get worse, much less come to an end. Ahijah the Shilonite’s grandfather spent his time claiming the son of David would turn out to be a no-goodnik so no one bothered to write his story.

Doomsaying seems to be a part of the human condition. John Derbyshire places it within the conservative tradition and that makes some sense. The Rousseau-ists imagine Utopia is just a few more committee meetings away from reality so doomsaying does not fit their style. Conservatives are naturally skeptical and therefore would imagine that disaster is much more likely to be awaiting the schemes of man. Then again, it’s easy to be skeptical of the doom and gloom claims too, so maybe Derb is wrong.

Still, you cannot deny that things have, from time to time, gone terribly wrong for mankind. The collapse of Rome set back human development for a thousand years. The Mongol Invasion exterminated Islamic intellectual life. It never did recover. The Black Plague killed off a third or more of Europe. The Sea People swept in from somewhere north of the Mediterranean, we think, and ushered in the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations.

That said, the last real threat to humanity was the Black Death and it probably made humans west of the Hajnal Line better in the long run. That’s hotly debated, but we did survive it. I guess you could put the nuclear standoff between the Russians and the US down as a near death experience for humanity. Whether or not it would have happened is debatable, but we survived that one too. So far, the doomsayers have been all wrong.

Then again, maybe we are long overdue for a great reset of the human condition.

The rise of robots and deadly viruses are among the threats that could wipe out swathes of humanity – but governments are failing to prepare properly for them, a new report warns

Catastrophic climate change, nuclear war and natural disasters such as super volcanoes and asteroids could also pose a deadly risk to mankind, researchers said.

It may sound like the stuff of sci-fi films, but experts said these apocalyptic threats are more likely than many realise.

The report Global Catastrophic Risks, compiled by a team from Oxford University, the Global Challenges Foundation and the Global Priorities Project, ranks dangers that could wipe out 10% or more of the human population.

It warns that while most generations never experience a catastrophe, they are far from fanciful, as the bouts of plague and the 1918 Spanish flu that wiped out millions illustrated.

Sebastian Farquhar, director at the Global Priorities Project, told the Press Association: “There are some things that are on the horizon, things that probably won’t happen in any one year but could happen, which could completely reshape our world and do so in a really devastating and disastrous way.

“History teaches us that many of these things are more likely than we intuitively think.”Many of these risks are changing and growing as technologies change and grow and reshape our world. But there are also things we can do about the risks.”

If there could be such a thing as a betting market for the next great calamity for man, I’d put my wager on disease. We have the technology now to look out into the heavens for asteroids and we know we are safe for now. Space aliens are probably too far away to ever be a threat, assuming they even exist, which is looking doubtful. That leaves the things that can occur locally as sources of the Apocalypse.

A financial crash is a good bet. The highly complex economic arrangements we have today have no plan B if things go wrong. A century ago, electronic transactions did not exist. Today they are the heart of commerce. If that breaks, we suddenly live in a world without money. That will spiral out of control so fast government could never respond in time to head off calamity.

Another take on this is a collapse of the electrical grid. The real currency of the West is the electron traveling over copper wire. If some Exploding Mohameds set off a nuke and collapse the grid, western civilization stops. A world without cellphones, computers and television becomes a world of shotguns, food riots and warlords. Just take a second to imagine a world without TV and the internet.

Of course, this brings up the old standby from my youth, the nuclear holocaust. This has dropped from the culture, but there are more than enough nukes in the world to wipe out humanity. The Pakis have nukes. The NORKs have the bomb and maybe an ICBM soon. The Russians have nukes and they are due for have a crazy Ivan gain control of the country. We don’t talk about it anymore, but nuclear holocaust is still an option.

For my money, the best bet seems to be disease. The Zika virus now flowing north from Brazil is a good example. Disease spreads best in high density areas. The modern world has loads of high density areas for diseases and all it takes is one lucky mutation and blammo! We have a new plague ravaging mankind. Something like Zika that is spread by mosquito is a great example. Even quarantine will not work against this kind of plague.

Another element we have to day that works well for pandemics is the mass movement of people. The Spanish Flu was most likely the result of the Great War. Troops carried the disease all over Europe and then back to their home countries. The exact source of this strain of flu is still unknown, but the mass movement of people is certainly the way it spread.

Millions of Muslims pouring into Europe, as well as millions of South Americans pouring into the US is already increasing disease rates. Things like Whooping Cough have shown up in America after a long absence. Some new flavor of an old disease, like Zika or Ebola, that can be spread by mosquitoes could easily unleash a new plague on humanity. In weeks these guys would suddenly expect to have books of the new Bible named after them.

22 thoughts on “The End Is Near

  1. Pingback: Monday morning links - Maggie's Farm

  2. I’m not sure what the Z Man’s reading habits are, but here is the Atlantic article that may have prompted this post:

    I am familiar with the Oxford Center referenced in both the article and the blog post from the last chapter of Ian Morris’ book about how Europe overtook China. The chapter is interesting but doesn’t really fit with the rest of the material in the book, it may be best read separately. Essentially as human population increases and societies get more complex, the risk of something going really wrong expands. The blog post made good points.

  3. Bingo. I agree that disease is the most likely next die-off. Of humans, anyhow. I would not rule out astronomical events, though. We don’t know and/or track anywhere near the number of objects we’d like to think we do, and if we did spot something, there is very little we could do about it. Stephenson’s Seveneves is a good example. Our plate tectonics is another route to mass die-off. Nothing we can do about that, either.

  4. The Big Reset, when nearly all th pieces are swept off of the chessboard is coming. In the form of World War, circa 2020. Get prepared for food and other rationing, and everything else you can think of, including fighting your own self to protect you and yours.

  5. Again re: Muslim intellectual life in the Middle Ages, it’s much overrated (as is the famed “tolerant” Muslim Andalusia) once you look beyond Islamic Law casuistry. As to the medieval Muslims active in other fields of knowledge, they were disproportionately Iranians, inheritors of an ancient non-Muslim civilization.

    Of course today’s Persians are politically just as crappy as the Arabs, Turks, Pakistanis — but still with more competence, it seems. Or would the Iraqis, Saudis, Moroccans, left to their own devices, be able to develop nuclear and missile technology in one generation?

  6. For catastrophe, the Dark Ages teach a better lesson than the fall of Rome, which was already weak. In the year 535 the atmosphere darkened with ash and for three of the next ten years there was no growing season, in the rest, little. The gruesome result were the same at similar latitudes around the world and little discussed.

    Perhaps Rome is an apt comparison but for different reasons. Civilization dissolved for a a few hundred years it is true, but there already had been no advance in learning under Roman rule for several hundred years, except concrete. They were a people who still used letters for numbers. Without the collapse of Roman civilization, no Renaissance explosion could ever occur. The same state of things happened in China, but multiple times. The human characteristics that grow civilization are eventually overwhelmed by the characteristics that administer one. It may be said that the cycles of civilization have been greatly shortened by our peculiar and unprecedented advances–one can hope– but we constantly witness here in our time what W H Auden observed: we would rather be ruined than change. We reach a point where it takes ruin to change.

  7. Pingback: The End Is Near | Anything Great Online Found On Damn Stuff

  8. I’m going to use your line about “Utopia is just a few more committee meetings away….” It’s terrific. What’s the proper attribution I should use?

    • It is good. Sort of goes with my “There is no situation that a Focus Group or a Task Force can’t make worse”.

    • Ya. Hydrogen bombs are not dirty bombs, as bomb go. The fission bomb is a dirty bomb, but the fact is that survivors of the Japanese attacks have a lower cancer rate than normal. What would be terribly unfair in a nuke attack is that leftards and feral populations would die disproportionately.

  9. “…Islamic intellectual life…”

    There never was, and never will be any such animal.

    The sum and substance of the myth of “Orientalism” has always been driven by the haters of Western culture and their desire to diminish and bring it down.

    Every single “achievement” of moslum “culture” has come from their co-opting conquered peoples achievements. 

    “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…”

    Know why? The moslum hegemony of the Med and no viably open sea lanes to the East. The dark ages? Caused by moslums invading and subjugating Europe. 

    From the Amazon blurb on “Muhammed an Charlemagne Revisited”

    “During the 1920s Belgian historian Henri Pirenne came to an astonishing conclusion: the ancient classical civilization, which Rome had established throughout Europe and the Mediterranean world, was not destroyed by the Barbarians who invaded the western provinces in the fifth century, it was destroyed by the Arabs, whose conquest of the Middle East and North Africa terminated Roman civilization in those regions and cut off Europe from any further trading and cultural contact with the East. According to Pirenne, it was only in the mid-seventh century that the characteristic features of classical life disappeared from Europe, after which time the continent began to develop its own distinctive and somewhat primitive medieval culture.”

    Full to the brim of history, archeological evidence and copious endnotes, I highly recommend it.

    Don’t, for one second, buy into the bullshit. Anywhere Islam is comes backwardness, death and destruction.

    • “The dark ages? Caused by moslums invading and subjugating Europe.”

      Yes, exactly. The dark ages were brought on by Islam, not by the collapse of the Roman Empire. The case is made by John J. O’Neill in his book, “Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Civilization”

      “One of the most enduring problems of history is the decline of Classical Civilization. How was it that the civilization of Greece and Rome, which had endured almost a thousand years, a civilization which prized learning, science and reason, gave way to the world of the Medieval; an age which saw, for a while, the almost complete disappearance of the rationalist spirit of Greece and Rome? The traditional view was that after their seizure of Italy in the fifth century, the Barbarian tribes of Germany and Scythia had reduced Europe to an economic and cultural wasteland, initiating a Dark Age, which was to last half a millennium. After the Reformation, another suspect was added to the list: Christianity, or, more accurately, Catholic Christianity. In this view Christianity was corrupted beyond recognition after the time of Constantine and from the fourth century onwards a power-hungry Church hierarchy, in cahoots with the Imperial authorities, kept the population of Europe in subservience and ignorance, effectively completing the destructive work of the Barbarians.

      In this ground-breaking work, historian John J. O’Neill examines a great variety of evidence from many specialties and reaches an astonishing and novel conclusion: Classical Civilization was not destroyed by Barbarians or by Christians. It survived intact into the early seventh century. The Vandals and Goths who seized the Western Empire in the fifth century had become completely romanized by the start of the sixth century. Artistic and intellectual life flourished, as did the economy and the cities built earlier under the Empire. Yet sometime in the middle of the seventh century everything changed. Cities were abandoned, literacy plummeted, royal authority declined and local strongmen, or “barons”, seized control of the provinces. The Middle Ages had begun.

      Who or what had caused this? As O’Neill notes, by the 1920s Belgian historian Henri Pirenne had located the proverbial “smoking gun”; but it was not in the hands of the Barbarians or the Christians: it was held by those who, even then, it had become fashionable to credit with saving, rather than destroying, Classical Civilization: the Arabs. In a conclusion that will have resonance for the modern world, O’Neill argues convincingly that all we regard as “Medieval” had its origin in Islam, and that the Muslims terminated Classical Civilization in Europe just as surely as they did in the Middle East.”

  10. By the way, you might ask what are they prosleytizing for?
    The usual stuff, more highly-centralized micromanagement of our lives.. what we are “allowed” to do, or prohibited from doing, to save Humanity, save the planet, or create their version of Heaven on Earth. Whatever their prescriptions would be, we all know that it will only lead to our enslavement, their empowerment, and at the same time have no effect on the emergence(or on-emergence) of their favorite catasrophe-du-jour.

    • This is one of my favoritest things about Our Betters, the Liberals – their childish faith in the magic power of Government. The Third World, where most of the nasty stuff originates, does not lack for Government. Indeed, it has the kind of expansive, intrusive, all-encompassing Government that would cause Our Betters, the Liberals, to seek medical attention for an erection lasting more than four hours. How else would Bwana’s third cousin’s best friend’s former roommate hold down a (baksheesh-) paying job? And yet, despite half the population “working” in Government, and all the lavish resources of Oxfam, Medicins sans Frontieres, et al, they’ve never managed to stop a single disease. You’d think that would be food for thought, but Our Betters know better. They always do.

  11. “Catastrophic climate change, nuclear war and natural disasters such as super volcanoes and asteroids could also pose a deadly risk to mankind, RESEARCHERS said.”

    Those aren’t researchers, they’re prosleytizers.
    Where have they ever proposed a “theory”, formulated an experiment, and proved or disproved it? No, it’s all just conjecture by these so-called “researchers”.

    • I think they have to include catastrophic climate change in every story by law these days.

  12. Your comments on the Spanish Flu epidemic sent me searching. I found this interesting article at a Stanford University website:

    The origins of this influenza variant is not precisely known. It is thought to have originated in China in a rare genetic shift of the influenza virus. The recombination of its surface proteins created a virus novel to almost everyone and a loss of herd immunity. Recently the virus has been reconstructed from the tissue of a dead soldier and is now being genetically characterized. The name of Spanish Flu came from the early affliction and large mortalities in Spain (BMJ,10/19/1918) where it allegedly killed 8 million in May (BMJ, 7/13/1918). However, a first wave of influenza appeared early in the spring of 1918 in Kansas and in military camps throughout the US. Few noticed the epidemic in the midst of the war. Wilson had just given his 14 point address. There was virtually no response or acknowledgment to the epidemics in March and April in the military camps. It was unfortunate that no steps were taken to prepare for the usual recrudescence of the virulent influenza strain in the winter. The lack of action was later criticized when the epidemic could not be ignored in the winter of 1918 (BMJ, 1918). These first epidemics at training camps were a sign of what was coming in greater magnitude in the fall and winter of 1918 to the entire world.

    The article is here with links to other interesting material:

    My late Dad contracted the flu while in an Army training camp in the South. He was a physical training instructor. He was very, very ill. Dying. He later swore that his nurse saved his life by moving his cot out of the tents they were in (there is an illustration of this with the article) into the open air. My late Mother’s young brother died on a packed troop ship headed for Europe where the war was effectively over.

    • Re the links with that Stanford article, I regret that the “personal experience” anecdotes are no longer available. The links are now broken. The links at the bottom are OK. The whole thing is worth a read.

    • A recent theory I saw somewhere is that it most likely started in France. Again, in a military camp. It moved around eventually mutating into the deadly variant. Again, the key I think is large groups of people moving into new areas.

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