052. Annihilation

A discussion on our obliteration.

[Zoom link: https://umich.zoom.us/j/94651294615]

Questions to ponder

  1. Who are you and approximately how long do you think you will be remembered?
  2. How do you know when others are “gone”? How will they know when you are?
  3. Is our current medical determination of death – “brain death” – both a necessary and sufficient description of human death? 
  4. Let us consider a few possible routes we may take after death:
    1. We are reborn into the exact same body and live the exact same life;
    2. We slumber in the grave awaiting the return of a messiah, possibly with violence against good evil;
    3. We live, we die, we live again;
    4. We join the gods in Valhalla;
    5. We disappear into nothingness.
      How would each affect us in life if true?
  5. If oblivion awaits, why mind the fleeting present moment? Why recall the days that disappear as a vapor into the fog of “history”?
  6. One day, the final human being will live and (presumably) perish. Will there be anyone there to watch? What do you think follows? 
  7. Testoni et al. (2015) report they  analyzed the correlation between Testoni Death Representation Scale and Beck Hopelessness Scale, Suicide Resilience Inventory-25, and Reasons for Living Inventory. The results confirm the hypothesis, showing that the representation of death as total annihilation is positively correlated to hopelessness and negatively correlated to resilience.” Given the professional responsibilities of healthcare workers, do they have a corresponding moral obligation to present (at least to possibly dying patients) “positive” views of death?
  8. We will mostly be nonexistent. Whether it is before we’ve arrived or after we’ve left, what surrounds the “being” of every human is a lot of “nonbeing”. Why do you think that scares (some of) us?
  9. The mystery no one knows / where does love go when it goes?
  10. Some hold “selflessness” as a virtue. Transcending the self is intrinsic to many religions. Staring out into the darkness of space can bring about a sense of the numinous. What is it about brushes with self-annihilation that bring about meaningful senses of being?
  11. One day, when we’re long gone, our social media profiles may carry on on servers we’ll never see or agree to. Is this a memorial of us? Can/Should it keep on living without us? (Consider Herman Cain’s Twitter still tweeting long after he took his final breath.)
  12. Of all the times people have predicted the end of the world, who do you think has come the closest? Care to wager when you think the world will end?
  13. Who do you think will be the last person to think of you? (Now’s perhaps your only chance to think of them!)

Readings to consider

Times People Predicted The End of the World

All dates are given in “Common Era”. A pair of dividing lines separate “past” predictions and “future” predictions from “current” prediction(s).

30ish to 100ish – Jesus, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” 

500 – Hippolytus of Rome, Sextus Julius Africanus, and Irenaeus, based on dimensions of Noah’s Ark

1000Pope Sylvester II, riots resulted from the populace’s belief that Jesus would return one thousand years after his birth, and a similar logic led similar believers to believe 1033 to be the true date, one thousand years after his death

1284Pope Innocent III, arrived at the number by adding 666 years to the year Islam was founded, 618

1600Martin Luther, the first Protestant prediction

1648, 1666, and 1667Sabbatai Zevi, used the Kabbalah and used it again

1656 and 1658Christopher Columbus, from El Libro de las Proecias, a compilation of apocalyptic ruminations written towards the end of his life

April 5, 1719Jacob Bernoulli, the man who discovered the number “e” thought the earth would be destroyed by a comet

April 23, 1843, December 31, 1843, March 21, 1844, October 22, 1844The Millerites, the first of many American predictions

1910Camille Flammarion, believe Halley’s Comet would scorch the earth, “comet pills” were sold to alleviate the effects

1914, 1918, 1920, 1942, 1975, ≤1999, “imminent”Jehovah’s Witnesses, pick up a copy of The Watchtower magazine for the latest update

1967Jim Jones, had vision of a nuclear holocaust

1969Charles Manson, believed his “Helter Skelter” “race war” signaled the end of the world

1982Pat Robertson, then again in April 29, 2007

1988ish (±5 years, every five years after) – Hal Lindsay, popularized in The Late, Great Planet Earth (over 35 million sold!)

1991Louis Farrakhan, declared the Gulf War to be “the War of Armageddon which is the final war”

September 6, 1994, September 22, 1994, October 2, 1994, March 31, 1995, May 21, 2011, October 21, 2011Harold Camping, died in 2013, ending his end of the world predictions

July 1999Nostradamus, had a poem about a “King of Terror” that would come screaming across the sky in “1999 and seven months”

January 1, 2000Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and Jerry B. Jenkins, all profited handsomely

2000Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church was among many thinking those zeros foretold the end

October 30 through November 29, 2003Aum Shinrikyo, the same Japanese cult that carrier out the Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks in 1995

December 21, 2012Misinterpreters of Mayan Calendars, there is nothing to suggest classic Mayans thought this is when the world would end

2020Jeanne Dixon, previously predicted February 4, 1962

Before 2239 until 3239The Talmud, Orthodox Judaism posits that a Messiah will come within 6,000 years of Adam’s creation and the world would be destroyed a thousand years later

Within 1,000,000 yearsThe Geological Society, within the next million years Earth will likely experience a supervolanic event (my money’s on Yellowstone)

Somewhere between 1,000,000,000 and 5,000,000,000 years from nowThe Sun Exploding, on its way to becoming a red giant, the Earth will be swallowed by the sun

In approximately 1,600,000,000 years  – All life dies out, with multicellular life dying out first somewhere between 800,000,000 and 1,200,000,000 years from now, all eukaryotes suffocating on carbon dioxide somewhere between 1,300,000,000 to 1,500,000,000 years from now, and procaryotes returning to dust 100,000,000 years after that

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years from this very minuteThe Heat Death of the Universe, a state of the universe in which there is no thermodynamic free energy