Stephen Hawking's Doomsday Prediction Called 'Regrettable Hype'
By Robert Roy Britt
An expert on doomsday scenarios said Stephen Hawking's latest apocalypse
prediction -- humans would not survive the next 1,000 years -- was "fatalistic
and highly unlikely."
Hawking raised the threat of biological engineering in saying humans must
colonize space or face an end as a species. The comments came in an interview
with the British Daily Telegraph newspaper, published Oct. 16.
"I don't think the human race will survive the next thousand years, unless we
spread into space," Hawking told the Daily Telegraph. "There are too many
accidents that can befall life on a single planet. But I'm an optimist. We
will reach out to the stars."
Hawking, 59 and considered one of the most brilliant physicists and
cosmologists of all time, cited nuclear technology as one threat. But he said
there is an even greater danger.
"In the long term, I am more worried about biology," he said.
The comment comes at a time when all of America and much of the world is
focused on the threat of bioterrorism in the wake of several cases of Anthrax
Hope for humanity
Benny Peiser, an expert in apocalyptic movements and neocatastrophism at
Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, criticized Hawking for
increasingly unfounded and erratic doomsday prophesies.
Peiser told SPACE.com he thought Hawking's words constituted "regrettable
Peiser also provided the text of a letter he has sent to the editor of the
"Stephen Hawking's predictions of terrestrial doom have become increasingly
wide-ranging and unreasonable in recent years," Peiser writes. "They also
manifest a certain arbitrariness in his choice of end-time scenarios."
A year ago, Hawking warned that global warming would make Earth as deadly a
place as Venus, also saying humanity might not survive the next 1,000 years.
Peiser called Hawking's latest prediction "both fatalistic and highly
unlikely. It also violates scientific risk assessments commonly used for
Ability to cope
Peiser said apocalyptics typically exaggerate possible future dangers while
ignoring or underestimating the probability of finding a social, technological
or medical remedy for any given predicament.
"The risks of genetic engineering or bioterrorism are genuine," Peiser says.
"But like all the other major hazards, they need to be evaluated and weighed
up against our increasing capabilities to control and influence life, nature
Peiser draws on history for examples of our steadfastness as a species. "For
more than 5 million years, hominids and human beings have survived recurring
onslaughts of ice ages, global catastrophes due to asteroidal and cometary
impacts as well as global plague epidemics," he points out.
"Technological and societal evolution has now reached a level of complexity
that renders the probability of human survival for the next 1,000 years
drastically higher than at any previous stage of our long history."
--- --- --- --- ---
Useless hypotheses, etc.:
consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment
We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.
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