Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sunday's blood moon won't be the end of the world

There's a lunar eclipse tomorrow night, which has received a lot of press.  The sane perspective on the event comes from KPBS's Total Lunar Eclipse and Supermoon This Weekend.

Peggy Pico talks with Jerry Hilburn of the San Diego Astronomy Association to discuss the lunar event this weekend.
There, just a spectacular sky phenomenon.  However, some people are making it out be more than that.  Follow over the jump.

LiveScience describes the Blood Moon Prophecy: The Science of Supermoon Eclipse Superstitions.
A full "supermoon" will pass precisely within Earth's shadow this Sunday (Sept. 27), creating a total lunar eclipse and bathing our planet's natural satellite in rusty hues. This eye-catching lunar eclipse will give night owls everywhere a reason to look up in wonder, but not everyone thinks this weekend's "blood moon" is a harmless celestial event. Some folks see it as a sign of impending doom.

One of those doomsayers is John Hagee, a Christian evangelical minister from San Antonio who has stirred up controversy with his sermons (and books and television broadcasts) about the alleged religious significance of the upcoming lunar eclipse. Hagee contends that this weekend's reddish moon could bring about the end of the world — an idea sometimes referred to as the "blood moon prophecy."
What does Hagee think will happen when Earth passes between the sun and the moon Sunday night?

"A world-shaking event," he said in a promotional video for his book, "Four Blood Moons: Something is About to Change" (Worthy, 2013).

Just what the big event will be isn't yet known, Hagee said, but whatever it is, it is somehow connected to the so-called "end times," or the end of the world as prophesized in most major world religions. Also unknown is when, exactly, the event that brings about the end of the world will take place. Back in 2013, Hagee said the event could happen anytime between April 2014 and October 2015, and presumably, it hasn't happened yet.

The dates that Hagee mentioned more or less coincide with the eclipses of the 2014-2015 tetrad, a series of four consecutive lunar eclipses occurring at approximately six-month intervals. The first of these eclipses occurred in April 2014, and this weekend's eclipse closes out the series with a bang. It's the only one of the total eclipses to take place during a supermoon, which means the moon will be as close to Earth as it can get in its orbit, making it appear up to 14 percent larger in the night sky.
This will be another failed doomsday, such as the ones I've ridiculed before.  That's not what's interesting about it.  What is worth examining is why people both make these predictions of DOOM and believe them.  LiveScience explains that, too.
It's what Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal, calls the "apocalyptic worldview."

The apocalyptic worldview has gained popularity in the past 40 to 50 years, DiTommaso told Live Science in 2011. Its rise is linked to the belief that the world's problems are too big for humans to solve, he said.

"Problems have become so big, with no solutions in sight, that we no longer see ourselves able, as human beings, to solve these problems," DiTommaso told Live Science. "From a biblical point of view, God is going to solve them. From other points of view, there has to be some sort of catastrophe."

Hagee's blood moon prophecy combines these two potential outcomes: To solve the world's problems, God will destroy the world, the prophecy suggests.
That's not going to happen.  The planet has been here for 4.6 billion years and will be here for another 5 billion.  It did just fine before humans came along and will do so again after we're gone.  As for solving the problems of our civilization and our species, I'll repeat what I wrote the first time I blogged about a failed apocalypse.
No supernatural causes will be needed to bring about the collapse of civilization; the interaction of human behavior with limited resources can do that all by themselves. That end will be completely natural, not supernatural.

The flip side is that anything that could also postpone or even prevent that collapse will also be the result of exploiting human psychology and the available resources. It may look like a miracle, but it will be completely natural as well.
This concludes your daily dose of DOOM.

Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry.

ETA: For more on the psychology of apocalyptic predictions, read Perspectives on the next doomsday from The Archdruid and me.


  1. I dunno man. I mean, the Pope's in-country... Boehner resigning... Trump winning the GOP primaries... Mulder and Scully coming back... Tennessee winning in the Swamp... IT ALL FITS MAN IT ALL FITS! We're getting measured up by aliens right now man it's all part of the plan... EVEN WHEN THE PLAN IS HORRIFYING! Aiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeee....


    Okay, maybe I'm letting it get to me or something...

  2. Replies
    1. Normally I'd delete spam like yours, but that's such a cool tune I'll let it stay.