Monday, March 07, 2011
A Ramble about the Royal Family and the End of the World
Family Radio, which is proclaiming Judgement Day on May 21 2011, and the End of the World on Oct 21 2011. A lot of its members have sold up or given away their possessions and are travelling the country in caravans, warning people about what is coming. They have arrived at their conclusions through applying mathematics to the Bible.
Unfortunately astrology does a similar thing. It applies mathematics to the motions of the planets in order to comment on, and even predict, human affairs. I can’t necessarily see the difference! Astrology works primarily symbolically and intuitively, it tells people stories about themselves that resonate with their sense of who they are. As long as the maths is kept simple enough so that the sense of symbolism is preserved and even unfolded, then I’m fine with that. But if it heads too far into abstractions such as mid points and harmonics, I lose my sense of relationship to the planets, even though I can see that these techniques work. It’s like the maths in astrology keeps the rational side happy and quiet so that the intuitive side can get on with its job. But too much maths and the rational begins to usurp its place.
Anyway, I guess one query I have of Family Radio is that if their dates are produced mathematically, then at the moment of Judgement Day, it will not be 21st May in certain parts of the world. It will be the 20th or the 22nd. And the same with the End of the World. Unless the world is to end gradually, beginning at dawn on Oct 21st in the Far East and then sweeping across the globe, ending with California and Alaska.
A professor from Canada, Lorenzo DiTommaso, has made a 12 year study of apocalyptic movements.
"It’s a philosophy that explains time, space and human existence,” DiTommaso says. And by buying into this sort of outlook, a person can find comfort in a “comprehensive answer.”
He calls the apocalyptic worldview “adolescent” because it’s “a simplistic response to complex problems” and one that “places responsibility for solving these problems with someone else or somewhere else.”
I quite liked that idea of adolescent thinking, because it seems very common. Like the 2008/9 financial crisis was the fault of greedy bankers, or of the governments, or of a secret cabal who engineered it for their own ends. Or that 9/11 was the result of ‘terrorists’, or of a secret government plot. All of these are simplistic explanations for complex problems, and that blame somebody else. In the case of 9/11, both ‘explanations’ are ways of not having to understand why there are foreigners who are angry with America. Politics thrives on adolescent thinking.
Last night, I was watching a programme on the end of the world, or rather the end of the universe, from a scientific rather than from a quasi-theological point of view. The programme was presented by Professor Brian Cox, who has recently become well-known amongst British astrologers for saying on TV that astrology is rubbish. A complaint to the BBC was worked up by the Astrological Association and signed, I assume, by many astrologers. I think it’s helpful not to get too pissed off when astrology gets criticised or dismissed, because it’s always going to happen, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It can be quite interesting if you do get pissed off, to look at why. Is it any different, in principle, to the Islamists and their fatwas? Is astrology part of your sense of who you are, your identity?
Heat Death theory of the end of the universe, which I hadn’t encountered. It’s based on the idea that entropy in any system always increases with time. Entropy is disorder. So the universe will eventually, after an immense period of time, have no order left in it. This is in a trilliontrilliontrilliontrilliontrilliontrillion… years, if you get the idea. We are at present in a long phase where stars shine. But that will come to an end, and all that will be left are white dwarves and black holes. They too will gradually come apart, and their constituent atoms will dissolve into light particles. And as the universe keeps expanding, so will the average density of energy in the universe approach zero. And that will also be a state of maximum entropy, of no order, of everywhere the same – nothing.
The direction of time is measured by entropy. Time goes in one direction, that of increasing disorder. When the universe reaches maximum entropy, then time will necessarily come to an end.
The period during which life is possible, though lasting for trillions of years, is infinitesimally small compared to the overall lifespan of the universe.
I don’t know where consciousness lies in all of this, if indeed it can be separated from matter. But remember, it’s just a story!