- List All

  • Web   The Point


+ Theology/Religion + Culture + Marriage & Family + Politics + Academia + Human Rights
Christianity Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory
Religion Blogs - Blog Top Sites
Link With Us - Web Directory

« New light on an old story | Main | The ones left behind »

January 28, 2008

Thanks for All the Fish

Asteroid And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Apparently January has been Destroy All Humans month on the History Channel. Almost every night has featured a program about the various ways that life -- in particular, human life -- on Earth can come to a violent, painful and gruesome end or the many ways that "life as we know it" can come to an abrupt and -- yes -- painful end.

One of these, Last Days on Earth, "[counted] down seven ways in which the world as we know it could meet an abrupt and untimely end, from a mammoth asteroid strike to the eruption of a super volcano." It disappointed. True, the gamma ray burst (GRB) sounded intriguing and I'm fascinated by the thought of  Yellowstone going VEI 8, but the program ended up mostly being a lecture about the horrors of anthropogenic global warming, which, whatever your thoughts on the subject, is not comparable to a volcanically induced ice age or a radiation burst that "could deplete up to half of the atmosphere's protective ozone layer and cook all life on the surface of the planet."

This was the opening act for Life After People, which imagined what the world would look and feel like after some unnamed catastrophe eliminated every last one of us. Right away, I called bovine scat: any force or catastrophe powerful enough to wipe out the entire human race would almost certainly have an effect on other creatures. Yet, they were unscathed. Not even our artifacts -- buildings, bridges, etc. -- were, as Christopher Moltisanti once put it, "scathed."

The effect was a bit eerie: kind of like a Universalist-Unitarian Rapture. The buildings were completely intact but there were no people, not even human remains.

We learn that our dogs would miss us (those who survived our absence would revert to wolf-like behavior fairly quickly) and our cats wouldn't; plants would reclaim our cities and structures would eventually crumble from lack of maintenance. The world would be a lot darker and 100,000 years from now the only reminder  of our existence would likely be Mount Rushmore.

Yawn. The most memorable thing about Life After People was the scarcely disguised excitement and even glee on the faces of some of the talking heads at the prospect of our demise. Whereas Neil deGrasse Tyson told viewers that seeing a gamma-ray burst meant you were about to have a very bad day, some of these presenters practically chortled at the prospect of our becoming Ozymandias.

Mark Twain once wrote that "man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to." My corollary is that man is the only animal capable of regretting its own existence. That's because he's forgotten why he's here.

(Image courtesy of ABC News)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Thanks for All the Fish:


Steve (SBK)

Some good thoughts Roberto.

On a comical note, it reminded me of this Futurama exchange (Bender being a robot, Fry being his human roommate, the room being essentially a closet, and Fry is having trouble falling asleep while standing):

Bender: [murmuring in his sleep] Kill all humans, kill all humans, must kill all…
Fry: Bender, wake up!
Bender: I was having the most wonderful dream. I think you were in it.
Fry: Say, uh, where's your bathroom?
Bender: What-room?
Fry: Bathroom.
Bender: Bath-what?
Fry: Bathroom!
Bender: What-what?
Fry: Never mind.
Bender: [murmuring in his sleep] Hey, sexy mama… wanna kill all humans?


Roberto, did you and Gina collaborate on a theme for today? (While in college one day I suddenly understood the philosophical implications of the Darwinism I had embraced, and I wondered if life was really worth living. And today, just think of the carbon footprint I could have reduced!)

And I'm a bit surprised your post doesn't provide a link to explain the (darkly hilarious) title. I devoured the Douglas Adams "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series long ago; is it still sufficiently popular to be comprehensible to Point readership?


Regarding the smirking misantropes featured in these programs: Do they somehow imagine that they will be spared? Or do they think these kinds of global catastrophes will not occur in their lifetimes, so they have no personal worries? Or are they just willing martyrs?

I had thought this was a fringe attitude held by only a very small number of environmental extremists. But if it is possible to gather enough of them out of which to make a documentary perhaps they are not as fringy as I thought. Which is more scary.

Gina Dalfonzo

Explanations would take away from Roberto's mystique. ;-)

Incidentally, seeing the post title the other day (the post was percolating in TypePad for a few days) reminded me that I was getting behind in my "Hitchhiker's" reading, and in fact that was the next book I was due to read, so I bought it yesterday. Thanks for the nudge, Roberto!

James Willis

I was wondering some of the same things without the "Hitchhiker's" refrence. I was also wondering what any of this has to do with History. I thought something like this would be more approproate for National Geographic which I don't watch (Does anybody?)or the Discovery Channel. Of course I checked this out but the Discovery channel seemed to be to busy with shows that blow things up, crash things or survival shows to be bothered with anything scientific. Of course this is not science or history it is pure speculation with political implications. Maybe the folks at The History Channel have a crystal ball and this is just future-history. They were not totally occupied with this though, they did have a great special on the history of Bigfoot.


Gina wrote: "Explanations would take away from Roberto's mystique. ;-)"

Ah, yes, but for some of us the presence of a curtain near a fearful Shekinah causes a strong desire to peek into the Sanctum Sanctorum:
Hmmm - "Auntie Em would like to announce the engagement of her niece Dorothy to Mr. Christopher Hitchens." I'm going to have to re-think what "The Wizard of Oz" is really all about.

But I digress. Roberto can keep his mystique /in toto/.

It's fun to watch these kinds of programs during PBS Sweeps Week. "We desperately need your donations to help keep this kind of quality programming on the air." OK, but if we'll all be vaporized by the Sun's heat death as they just said, and you're not going to show us how we can build a Dyson sun shield, what does it matter what you can't afford to show on TV? I think I can live (if you would call it that) without seeing it.

Roberto Rivera

Steve: I'm hurt that you feel the need to explain who Bender and Frye to me. What do you take me for? A cretin? Just for that, I'm not introducing you to Leela!

LeeQoud: Gina and I don't need to coordinate anything, at least not since we had those telepathic implants a few years ago. And, the "Hitchhiker's Guide" never goes out of style here at the Point. I'm thinking about making passing a quiz a requirement for posting.

Ken: "smirking misanthropes." I like it! I'm going to steal it.

Steve (SBK)

Roberto: I know you didn't need any explanation... it was more to help out the Thornburgh types. (Sorry Allen, I needed a scapegoat).

Gina: I'm not sure if there's a right way to read the Hitchhiker's Guide. My experience was that the first few were hilarious, but then they seemed repetitive by the fourth book (and so I felt I should have spread the reading out between other books). And the last book was quite Bleak. Anyone else have a similar experience?


Yes, Steve (SBK), the HHGG series did seem to go from sidesplit, to chuckle, to at-best-smirk very quickly. At the time I chalked it up to my not living in Britain and not having a British sense of humor. (I had to have the "Ford Prefect" gag explained to me, and so on throughout.) But it did have the feel of a work by an author who started well but couldn't determine how to finish.

BTW, I am delighted to use the service at babelfish.altavista.com to translate between languages. The URL is nostalgic.

I wonder if HHGG fizzled at the end precisely due to Roberto's original point? After a while one could begin to feel rather nihilistic about nihilism.

Steve (SBK)

Hehehe: babelfish. (Use that often too).

"I wonder if HHGG fizzled at the end precisely due to Roberto's original point? After a while one could begin to feel rather nihilistic about nihilism."

I think that's right on.

Gina Dalfonzo

British humor often goes over my head, but that doesn't keep me from enjoying it. For instance, I've had scenes from the election episode of "Blackadder" season 3 -- http://www.bbc.co.uk/comedy/blackadder/episodes/three/three_dish.shtml -- running through my head fairly often lately. I can't think why.

The comments to this entry are closed.