The End Is Nigh

by Zoe Pollock

Scientific American devotes its entire next special issue to "the end." They explain some of our eternal fascination with it:

The desire to treat terrible events as the harbinger of the end of civilization itself ... has roots in another human trait: vanity.

We all believe we live in an exceptional time, perhaps even a critical moment in the history of the species. Technology appears to have given us power over the atom, our genomes, the planetwith potentially dire consequences. This attitude may stem from nothing more than our desire to place ourselves at the center of the universe. “It’s part of the fundamental limited perspective of our species to believe that this moment is the critical one and critical in every wayfor good, for bad, for the final end of humanity,” says Nicholas Christenfeld, a psychologist at the University of California, San Diego. Imagining the end of the world is nigh makes us feel special.