A Brief History of the Apocalypse
June 22, 2005 12:50 PM   Subscribe

The sky is falling! From Romulus to Ronald Reagan: a comprehensive timeline of apocalyptic predictions. If you decide to put some stock in one or more of these prophecies, you may need to do some preparatory research.
posted by brundlefly (11 comments total)
"The year 1999, seven months,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror:
To bring back to life the great King of the Mongols,
Before and after Mars to reign by good luck."

Ah, reminds me of seeing The Man Who Saw Tomorrow when I was a wee tyke and thinking we were all fucked because TV doesn't lie. Good times.
posted by Cyrano at 1:06 PM on June 22, 2005

Why would anyone bother trying to predict the end of the world? Bragging rights? Everyone is dead! No one will even be around to say that you were right in your prediction.

Good post. Really fascinating to see how different cultures at different times have thought of the END as somehow inevitable.
posted by quadog at 1:28 PM on June 22, 2005

Global warming anyone?
posted by Faze at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2005

Global warming anyone?

I'll pass, thanks.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 3:57 PM on June 22, 2005

"L'an mil neuf cens nonante neuf sept mois..."

what a difference two years makes.
posted by hayeled at 4:45 PM on June 22, 2005

It's interesting as a historical overview of end-of-the-world predictions. But if the idea is to "debunk end-time prophecy by listing hundreds of failed doomsday predictions," I would have to say it doesn't quite do the job. Just because previous apocalyptic predictions didn't come true doesn't mean that ALL apocalyptic predictions are wrong. You really have to judge each one on its own merits.

It's kind of like a person jumping off a 40-story building getting down to the 20th story and saying, "Well, I haven't hit the ground yet. I guess I'm not going to."
posted by magodesky at 5:28 PM on June 22, 2005

Global warming anyone?

Global thermonuclear war, anyone? (No? How about a nice game of backgammon?)

Just because previous apocalyptic predictions didn't come true doesn't mean that ALL apocalyptic predictions are wrong. You really have to judge each one on its own merits.

Right. Because maybe that last prophecy was wrong only because back then they didn't have the laser interferometer measuring devices required to get the kind of *exact* dimensions of the Great Pyramid you need to predict an accurate date.

Read the list. It's fun and educational. It's not about predictions that might actually have (or have had) a chance to be right. (Except for the last one.)
posted by sfenders at 6:17 PM on June 22, 2005

It wouldn't be beyond many conservatives, sfenders, to use a list like this to deride many modern scientific theories as mere "prophecies". This may be for fun, but magodesky makes a cautious, thoughtful point.
posted by dreamsign at 6:26 PM on June 22, 2005

I think a better point is that scientists and concerned citizens should try to avoid casting their warnings in apocalyptic terms, because sensible people stop listening when they get that "sky is falling" vibe. People who listened to, say, Paul Ehrlich wound up feeling like idiots:
In The Population Bomb, Ehrlich predicted that hundreds of millions of people would die of starvation during the 1970s because the earth's inhabitants would multiply at a faster rate than world's ability to supply food. Six years later, in The End of Affluence, a book he co-authored with his wife Anne, Ehrlich increased his death toll estimate suggesting that a billion or more could die from starvation by the mid-1980s. By 1985, Ehrlich predicted, the world would enter a genuine era of scarcity. Ehrlich's predicted famines never materialized. Indeed, the death toll from famines steadily declined over the twenty-five year period. Though world population has grown by more 50% since 1968, food production has grown at an even faster rate due to technological advances.
Lesson: As tempting as it may be to try to scare the bejeezus out of people, stick to telling them honestly what the facts are and what the immediate consequences are likely to be. Leave the doomsaying to Nostradamus and the others.
posted by languagehat at 5:28 AM on June 23, 2005

Beware of self-fulfilling prophecy. Worse, beware of those deliberately trying to fulfill their favorite pocky lips.

If we don't make an effort, some things will definitely end. Maybe technological civilization, sending 'us' back to the pre-industrial age. All for the want of energy, global war not required.

From the last link:
I believe it [apocalypse] is likely to happen, and may even need to happen to preserve the Earth as a home for humanity.

I worry about those that think it needs to happen, worry they may work to make sure it does. Limited resources may go further with less people. This is, by my understanding, a "New World Order" idea. I consider such ideas insane, and don't trust insane people with ordering lunch, much less the "New World Order".

To me, its clear: we have to replace our oil addiction and tap resources beyond this planet, while we still have resources with which to accomplish such goals. The only alternative is indeed, The End.
posted by Goofyy at 5:37 AM on June 23, 2005

ca. 4,500,000,000 AD: The sun will swell into a red giant star, swallowing Mercury, Venus, Earth, and perhaps Mars. This will be the true end of the world!

I hate it when somebody gives away the ending!
posted by alumshubby at 7:56 AM on June 23, 2005

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