'Dialogues on 2012' says end of world prophecies can lead to panic

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The year 2012 is approaching fast, and the author of a new book says apocalyptic predictions are powerful enough to cause mental and physical harm to those that believe them.

Christopher Keating, author of “Dialogues on 2012: Why the World Will Not End,” claims that even if doomsday prophecies are blatantly false, some people take them very seriously.

“Some of these prophecies are even laughable, but the truth is that people are just fearful of the future,” Keating said.

Keating also said when Harold Camping predicted that the rapture would occur on May 21, 2011, some people drained their finances and, in rare circumstances, physically harmed themselves out of fear.

“When people are fearful, they become prey for the ‘Camping’ types,” Keating said. “Some people quit their jobs, spent their whole life savings and gave things away just because a persuasive, endearing, albeit crazy man on television told them the world was ending.”

While there are uncommon instances when people take drastic measures, most people do not take prophecies seriously, said anthropology professor Brian Stross. He also said the media tends to harshly overplay the phenomena.

“I suspect that most people view the 2012 prophesies as unimportant and do not take them seriously,” Stross said. “I’m reasonably sure, however, that thanks largely to the media concentration on this theme, there are at least a few people who do.”

Although there are no hard statistics recounting the number of people who have actually thrown their lives away due to apocalyptic prophecies, there is real harm that could come to all of society if tangible, current problems are not dealt with, Stross said.

“I would say that rapture predictions and prophesies about the world ending are a drop in the bucket in terms of harming society when compared to wars, famine, disease, torture, renditions, murder, wiretapping, secrecy in government, joblessness, etc.,” Stross said.

Political communications freshman Emily Linn agrees there are more pressing issues to focus on.

“The media definitely gets excited when someone comes along to predict Armageddon, but it is important to remember and deal with problems that are happening right now,” Linn said.

Stross said that since these predictions will only truly affect a small number of people, it would be more beneficial to spend a greater amount of time looking at issues that affect society as a whole.

“I really don’t think these predictions are anything to worry about or even to waste time thinking about, whereas these other things pose major problems for society and are worth taking some time to ponder,” Stross said.