chapter  7
25 Pages

The Doomsday Discourse in the Earth and Planetary Sciences, 1700–Present


In recent years, scientifi c doomsday literature has surged. Remarkable about this trend is that doomsday warnings no longer come from just popular and pseudo-scientifi c sources but also from mainstream science. A representative instance is Our Final Hour, which carries the subtitle: A Scientist’s Warning: How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster Threaten Humankind’s Future in this Century-on Earth and Beyond (2003). It is written by none other than Martin Rees, the onetime Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge University, and President of the Royal Society of London. Admittedly, the title Our Final Hour, which is given to the book’s American edition, carries a pseudoscientifi c fl avor (the title of the original British edition, less sensationally, is Our Final Century).1 All the same, today’s scientifi c establishment shares the doomsday anxieties that used to be the domain of religion and science fi ction. ‘The end’ has entered scientifi c discourse as a serious subject of research and science policy.