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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Desire for an apocalypse: a psychological analysis Part 2

Part 2 -is it all in your mind?

Is there something diagnostically wrong with the people who wish for mass death and destruction in the form of an apocalyptic event? Is there something misfiring inside the neuron-filled superhighway that comprises their brain?

The word, apocalypticism (yup, there's a word for it) is defined (by my buddies at Dictionary.com) as any doctrine concerning the end of the temporal world, especially one based on the supposed prophetic passages in the Revelation of St. John the Divine.

So people have been secretly wishing for the end of times since...dare I say, the dawn of time (we're a morbid race, us humans, aren't we?). 

PBS even has a pictorial chronology of the 'Apocalyptic Worldview' a phrase coined by Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal.

In the article from Psychology Today: Why the World Will End in 2012 by Howard Bloom, Bloom references a 60 year old experiment cited in his book, The Lucifer Principle. The experiment (described below) hints at the genetic need to thrive (and therefore wipe out your competition). Essentially, humans have a subconscious and primal need to destroy the competition so they can spread their own genes and thrive. 

"In the late 1940's, the German researcher F. Steiniger put fifteen brown rats who had never met each other into a cage. At first the creatures cowered in the corners, frightened and apprehensive. If they accidentally bumped into each other, they bared their teeth and snapped. Gradually, however, it dawned on some of the males that among this batch of strangers were attractive young females. The gentleman rodents became budding Don Juans and went a courting.

The first male and female to win each others' hearts now had something all the others lacked an ally. The pair took full advantage of the situation: they terrorized their cagemates. At first, the lovers simply chased their fellow rodents away from food, sending them scurrying to the safety of the far end of the enclosure. Later, the romantic duo hunted down their neighbors one by one. The female was a particularly quick killer. She would sneak up on a victim as it was quietly chewing a bit of chow, spring with a sudden speed, and bite the unfortunate in the side of the neck, often opening a wound in the carotid artery. Some of the attacked died of infection. Others, mauled and worn down by frantic efforts to escape, succumbed to exhaustion. When the happy couple had finished, they were the only survivors.

The rats had cleared the new territory of competitors, transforming the cage into a spacious land of milk and honey for themselves. A new promised land. Now, they could found a tribe that might if left to its own devices thrive for generations to come. A tribe that would carry the parental line of genes."

Unfortunately, Bloom concludes with what appears to be a politically motivated series of questions rather than speculating on the the possible demise of humanity as we know it.  I guess when you're publishing in Psychology Today, you aren't given the liberty of causing mass hysteria.

Fortunately, I'm bound by no such constraints.

So is apocalypticism some type of neurological disorder or simply a manifestation of the desire to spread our genes while destroying the competition?

That is the million dollar question.

Coming soon: An interview with an expert, the apocalypse in literature, pop culture apocalypses, and much more! Suggestions, topic requests, questions for the expert? Leave a comment.


As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.

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