Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Can Humanity Survive? Want to Bet on It? - New York Times

Will our own fear do us all in?

A far more likely scenario, I think. Fear does strange things to people, one of which is to make them stupid and gullible. The years since 9/11/01 are a perfect example of that phenomenon, in the U.S.

I'm getting a little annoyed with the term, "existential threat," being thrown around by simply everyone, these days.

Being born is an existential threat, because it means you're gonna die. It's only a matter of time.

On that, I will bet.

John Tierney: Can Humanity Survive? Want to Bet on It? - New York Times:

Sixty ago years, a group of physicists concerned about nuclear weapons created the Doomsday Clock and set its hands at seven minutes to midnight. Now, the clock’s keepers, alarmed by new dangers like climate change, have moved the hands up to 11:55 p.m.

My first reaction was a sigh of relief. After all, the 1947 doomsday prediction marked the start of a golden age. Never have so many humans lived so long — and maybe never so peacefully — as during the past 60 years. The per-capita rate of violence, particularly in the West, seems remarkably low by historical standards. If the clock’s keepers are worried once again, their track record suggests we’re in for even happier days.

But there’s one novel twist that gives me pause. When the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced two weeks ago in Washington that it was adjusting the clock, it was joined in a trans-Atlantic press conference by scientists at the Royal Society in London. One of them was the society’s president, Martin Rees, a new breed of doom-sayer.

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