I have been wondering for what (notice NOT why but more on that later) reasons people believe that end of days is imminent. It´s now the year 2012 according to Gregorian calendar and end of one Mayan calendar (out of three possible interpretations). A prediction was made by a humbug writer about 50 years ago that the world will end in 23.12.2012 when this Mayan calendar ends. There are many names for this special day: Apocalypse, Doomsday, End of Days, Armageddon, Judgment Day, Ragnarök etc. It has been predicted over and over again with poor success.
Check out the list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events
The question is what motivates people to create and believe such predictions. I think that this fear, and in some cases hope, for The End originates from a fact that we humans are aware of our personal and inevitable demise. This survival instinct of being aware of impending danger has been mutilated into a belief in end of the world and for this reason we are mostly interested about and thus shown bad news in the media. It´s this realization that enables us to accept and wait for the plausible end of all things.
So what is this Doomsday? It could mean the destruction of particular group of people, culture, civilization or end of man as a species. It could also mean annihilation of this planet which will happen when our lovely gas ball runs out of fuel or the end of this Universe which, according to recent observations will happen if it continues to expand at ever increasing speed. First there would be no more stars in the night sky, then atoms would break apart and finally even quarks, particles that make everything, could not hold together. This would take an unimaginable amount of time but it would truly be The End.
Now back to Earth. This Final Hour has been in collective consciousness of mankind since we evolved to the point where we had the capacity to imagine it. Ancient mythologies and most big religions include a story for creation and destruction of the world and man. Pagan calendars were based on rotation of the Earth and cycle of seasons where the Sun “died” in the autumn and was reborn in the spring. Death and cycle of life was integral part of everyday life in the past and easily observed in nature. This might have guided thinking towards the final apocalypse. Power of nature also influenced the way a doomsday was pictured.
Change is constant in the Universe and 99% of all species that ever existed on this planet have faced extinction. Huge tsunamis, earthquakes, storms, wildfires, hurricanes, diseases, floods and super volcanoes are just few examples nature´s power. These have tested the survival skills of man and reminded us of how fragile our existence really is. The end will come sooner or later and then one prediction will finally be “right”, some religious and other groups will rejoice but most people won´t be that happy. Only sure thing about these predictions is that there will more of them in the future.