News & Politics

The Doomsday Clock Is at 100 Seconds to Midnight, Whatever That Means

Remember the Doomsday Clock? It’s a symbolic clock created by a group of scientists in the 1940s, supposedly indicating how close the human race is getting to Armageddon. Originally the clock was set to seven minutes to midnight, and when the clock strikes 12, we’re all dead. That’s the idea, anyway. This corny propaganda tool reached its pop-culture zenith in the ’80s, when everybody from Midnight Oil and Iron Maiden and Sting to DC Comics’ Watchmen were predicting catastrophe by referencing the Doomsday Clock. People love to be scared about the end of the world, and a lot of artists made a lot of money by exploiting that. Nobody ever lost a buck fearmongering.


But you’re reading this right now, which means we’re all still here. Doomsday hasn’t come. So of course, that must mean… it’s just that much closer!

Rebecca Kheel, The Hill:

The famed Doomsday Clock has been set at 100 seconds to midnight this year, the closest it’s ever been to the metaphorical point of the Earth’s destruction…

Last year, the Bulletin [of Atomic Scientists] set the clock at two minutes to midnight, choosing to leave the clock at the same time as the previous year.

This year, the Bulletin’s panel of scientists and other experts decided to move the clock 20 seconds forward and for the first time express the time in seconds rather than minutes because the “moment demands attention,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin.


And this means as much as it’s meant for the past 70-odd years: nothing. Real clocks are instruments of science; the Doomsday Clock is an instrument of the arbitrary whims of some scientists. It might as well be the Doomsday Dartboard. Do you really think we’re any closer to planetary doom than we were during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the Chernobyl disaster, or the premiere of MTV’s The Real World? You’ve got all those brainiacs gathered in one place, and not one of them has read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”

We scoff at Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite and other doomsday cult leaders, but at least they had the courage of their convictions. If these scientists really believe we’re all doomed, why are they sticking around? If Al Gore actually believes all hope is lost, why is he still living in huge mansions and jetting off to Davos? As the great Glenn Reynolds says: “I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who say it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis.”

Sorry, Boomers. Just because you’ve been told your entire lives that you’re killing the planet, that doesn’t mean it’s true. If some scientists want to pretend they can’t tell time, that’s their business. The rest of us have enough problems already without making up new ones.


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