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Is the end near? Podcaster Dan Carlin discusses his new book.
The host of Hardcore History has written his first book, The End Is Always Near.
- In his debut work of nonfiction, Dan Carlin discusses the last 6,000 years of apocalyptic moments.
- The podcaster talks about the choices we're collectively facing in view of the historical record.
- Carlin warns against judging past deeds on current standards, as we're setting a bad precedent on future generations.
What if you found out that you're alive today only because of the Holocaust? Discovering whether or not you're of Genghis Khan's stock is now a pastime, but what if that means many great-grandmothers ago your forebear was raped? How about this one: What if your death today resulted in the emergence of a world savior a century from now? Future generations would claim the sacrifice worthwhile. Would you?
Religious texts would idolize you as a great sacrificer, regardless of whether you actually wanted the cup taken from you. Contemplating the historical record requires masterful narration, first to suss out what is true, then to relay it in an engaging manner. Dan Carlin is one of the most gripping storytellers of our generation.
Since 2005, his podcasts, Hardcore History and Common Sense, have been downloaded more than 100 million times. While the opening episode of Hardcore History was just 16 minutes long, by the episode "Prophets of Doom" we were listening to the broadcast journalist for four-and-a-half hours straight.
Now we have another medium in which to hear, or at least read, Carlin. His first book, The End is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments, From the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses, asks the uncomfortable questions above (along with many others). It also offers insights into how to not make the mistakes of the past.
Fans have long asked Carlin to write a book. With a background in talk radio, podcasting made sense; nonfiction is another beast. As he told me during a wide-ranging interview, the creation of this book was a team project.
"I was in neophyte; my editors were going to teach me how to do this. They suggested a good way to start was to lay out all your past work on a big playroom floor where you have space and find commonalities between them. Obviously, I have a lot of material that never made it into the shows. It was like the old inkblot test from the psychologist where I never go back and look at old work. It was hard not to notice that the inkblots began to form a somewhat disturbing pattern in terms of my interests."
Joe Rogan Experience #1041- Dan Carlin
Throughout the book Carlin utilizes the revelatory moment at the end of the original "The Planet of the Apes," with the Statue of Liberty's head sticking out of the sand — Dorothy was in Kansas all along — to remind us that history happens to everyone, all the time, and that we're living through moments now without the ability to perceive where we're heading.
He begins the book with another question — do tough times make tougher people? — then makes his case, starting with a chapter on the history of child abuse in Bronze Age (and later) cultures and working up to the existential dilemma we currently face with nuclear armaments.
The book itself isn't so much a review of apocalyptic thinking as much as situations that empires have created over the last few millennia and how they've handled the dissolution of their reigns. Did Rome truly fall apart, or, "Did it transition to an equal yet more decentralized era, one with a more Germanic flair?" History compresses itself the further back we go; centuries are treated like months to suit our generally incapable brains from understanding the slow slog of time.
It can't happen here? Think again.
Don't expect conclusions from this book, however. As Carlin repeats during our talk, he offers process, not solutions. In a world of endless bold pronouncements on social media, Carlin's voice is refreshing. He's revitalizing the lost concept of nuance. Sadly, in the age of hashtag activism this skill is broadly denounced. Yet you don't have to agree with every point he makes. Education at its best offers tough questions and expects students (in Carlin's case, listeners, and now readers) to work it out for themselves.
But we have to face this fact: in a world with Great Destroyers in the form of nuclear bombs just a phone call away, these questions need to be asked.
"The basic questions may be different, but they boil down to the same either-or situation. Either things are going to be the way they always have been or they're not. Example: either we're going to continue to have another all-out war between the great powers on the planet as we have since caveman times or we're not. If we have another one, it's going to involve nuclear weapons and all the other fun stuff in the arsenals. So it's relatively inconceivable. But so is the idea that we have banished major war between the great powers for the first time in human history. A lot of the book boils down to that same either-or: either it's going to be the way it always has been, which is terrifying, or it's not going to be the way it always has been, which is fascinating."
Ruins of the Palatine, the nymphaeum or hall of the fountains and the apse of the Triclinium in the gardens of Villa Mills, Rome, Lazio, Italy, engraving from Roma la Capitale d'Italia (Rome the Capital of Italy), by Vittorio Bersezio.
Photo by Icas94 / De Agostini Picture Library via Getty Images
It comes down to our decision-making, not some pre-ordained apocalypse as many religious traditions espouse. This isn't speculation, but an inherent part of our biology. The human brain's hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, regions that process and store memories and perceive time, form the same network that predicts the future. We envision—we create—what's ahead by our perception of we've experienced. In a sense, the future is our collective memories playing out in real-time.
The future is malleable, even when (sometimes especially when) we're at the edge of a precipice. Therein lies one of the driving arguments of Carlin's work: you can never know what will happen until we get there. It's a fascinating realm of possibilities to contemplate.
The quick Twitter finger ready to fire a shot anytime one's sensibilities are offended is paralyzed in this realm, as it requires, as in the great Socratic and Buddhist debate traditions, a willingness to grapple with all the possibilities. Carlin and I both come from local news reporting. Back in the eighties and nineties, newspapers hired one editor to write every reporter's headline in order to avoid redundancy. The headline and lede offered a synopsis that introduced the reader to the heart of the story. Today the headline is often the only part being read.
I mention the tendency to immediately react based on headlines, the antithesis of nuance that often misleads one from grasping the actual story. Though there are benefits to everyone having a voice—nuance spreads in every direction—Carlin says,
"At least today, everybody kind of has an idea. We know what you're going to say that's going to get you in trouble. Those people [in the past] had no idea what the current standards were going to be for their past behavior, so they could not have complied even if they wanted to. For example, if a hundred years from now eating meat or driving cars gets your statue pulled down in the public square, how on earth could somebody have known that and and altered their behavior accordingly?"
Dan Carlin: "The New Golden Age of Oral Historical Storytelling" | Talks at Google
History might not repeat itself—we also discuss on the nature of patterns—but it does, as Mark Twain (might have) said, rhymes. Understanding the circumstances of past cultures on their own terms (and not current standards) is vital in recognizing our social evolution as a species.
Future historiographers will have to contend with a deluge of misinformation. Carlin notes that false history has always been a problem, but imagine turning to Twitter a century from now to piece together our current political situation in America. Where to even begin?
"It's a needle in a haystack problem. In the old days, there's one haystack and one needle. Today there's a million haystacks and a million needles. The problem that the historian is going to be much more about filtering rather than finding nuggets upon which to hang data points."
Most hour-long transcriptions of my interviews produce roughly 5,000 words; Carlin's was over 12,000. That's why we love him. You'll learn more in four hours of Hardcore History than most semester-long classes. The same holds for The End is Always Near, a book that should make its way into history classes nationwide.
Concluding a story is often more challenging than beginning one, because like history, it never actually ends. As with Carlin's career, you keep processing as information arises and try to make the most well-informed decisions possible.
The best advice of all didn't come from our talk, but from the last two lines in the book's preface, a message that a hyper-individualized world needs to take to heart. Three simple words remind us that we all create history every day, and that what seems to be the biggest grievance in the world will be lucky to receive a footnote even a decade from now.
"Hubris is, after all, a pretty classic human trait. As my dad used to say, 'Don't get cocky.'
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Do you get worried or angry? Ever forget to tithe? One minister has bad news for you.
- A recently published article claims to identify the symptoms of "low-level atheism."
- Among these symptoms are worrying, cursing, and not tithing.
- There is a solution to all of this though, not being an atheist. Sending in money is also involved.
Are you worried about literally anything? You're an atheist now!<p>The essay begins by focusing on worrying, an all too common problem and gateway emotion to atheism:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Every time we take a thought break and begin to wonder about how we will pay the stove oil bill, or the light bill, or what we are going to do if we get laid off from work in six months, we are worrying. We are actually telling the Lord, 'Jesus, you know all that stuff you said in Matthew chapter six about how you will take care of us? I don't believe it. I don't believe that you can do what you promised, so I am taking matters into my own hands; I'm going to worry about it until the situation is taken care of.'"</em></p><p>As it turns out, God plans his days around your dilemmas and will get to them in due course. So, if you are bothered about not being sure where your rent is coming form this month, you're doubting the Lord. Concerned about things like climate change? You're practically an iconoclast. Anxious at the thought that you aren't a good enough Christian? According to this, that exact worry is a sign that you aren't!</p><p>Are you feeling even more worried now? Oh, that isn't a good sign at all. You ought to be worried about that. </p>
Swearing and occasionally being angry, now signs of metaphysical distress!<p>According to Lindley:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"I have only sworn two times since receiving the Holy Ghost. The Lord has the power to change our attitudes and habits. I wish I could say that I never get angry anymore either, but that is not the case. Just like you, I struggle with atheistic tendencies.</em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Every time something doesn't go the way we want it to and we get angry, we are telling the world, 'I am losing my temper, because this problem is so messed up that not even God can sort it out.' When we slam doors, swear, yell, break dishes, speed, or shake our fist at somebody we are in the grip of an atheism attack. </em></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"You see the Bible very clearly states that there is nothing too hard for God to fix.</em> <em>'And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.' </em>(Romans 8:28 NKJV) <em>This is why a person who has been born again can hit their thumb with a hammer and not swear. This is why the sincere Christian can look at a flat tire and say, 'I guess God needs to slow me down, because he has someone he needs me to cross paths with today.' Swearing and getting angry only says, 'There is absolutely no way that God can turn this flat tire into a blessing!'"</em><em></em></p><p>Well, shit. It seems that being angry with things, including things that might seem to be perfectly reasonable things to be mad at, is admitting that you think God is useless.</p><p>How exactly this reconciles with Jesus getting pissed off at <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleansing_of_the_Temple" target="_blank">the moneylenders in the temple</a> and <a href="https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+3&version=NIV" target="_blank">healers that refused to save lives on Sunday</a> is unclear. Neither of these incidents seem to be the things that happen to somebody without bursts of anger, though I do suppose it is possible Christ had fits of atheism multiple times in his life. </p><p>Sometimes I don't believe in myself either. </p>
Stinginess, now coming to a den of heathens near you!<p>Lindley points out the final, most advanced symptom of atheism last: Not sending God money. He writes:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"<em>Some people are so greedy that they actually rob God.</em> <em>'…In what way have we robbed God? In tithes and offerings</em>.' (Malachi 3:8 NKJV)) <em>To those who would hold back the tithe the Lord has a challenge</em>: <em>'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this' says the Lord of hosts, 'If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.' </em>(3:10 NKJV)"</p><p>While the God of Abraham is well known not to need money on account of his transcendental nature, it seems that he is still owed ten percent of everybody's earnings. This is not paid to him, of course, but to his helpers. In exchange for this, God will make good things happen. If you don't send money in addition to swearing or occasionally being grouchy, the minister assures us that <em>"you are at extreme risk for very serious complications from your atheism."</em></p><p>While this may look remarkably similar to a concept used by the mafia, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_racket" target="_blank">the protection racket</a>, it is an utterly different operation. In the case of the mob, the threat of punishment is used as a way to force people into paying part of their earnings to a larger organization. In return, they are promised the protection of that organization from vague threats, often including that organization. <br> <br> In this holy case, vague are threats used to show people the wisdom of paying part of their earnings to the church. In exchange for their payments, they are offered kickbacks from God and protection from vague threats made by the people telling them they need to send in money. </p><p>Luckily, Lindley suggests a solution for all three problems, especially the last one: Don't be an atheist! In particular, start praying and sending God money. This will resolve the third symptom automatically and the first two eventually.</p><p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhnsHvz7UL8" target="_blank">It's an offer you can't refuse.</a> </p>
And now, the serious part.<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="SuG8OGad" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9e1bfda7981ed1abe9eb979157ea0496"> <div id="botr_SuG8OGad_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/SuG8OGad-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/SuG8OGad-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/SuG8OGad-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>While it is fun to mock the often-ludicrous positions of those who misunderstand atheism, that very misunderstanding is an all too common and all too real issue for the millions of Americans who are not religious. Atheists in the United States face <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_atheists#United_States" target="_blank">discrimination</a>,<strong></strong> are not <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2011-25187-001" target="_blank">trusted</a>, and are barred from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discrimination_against_atheists#Atheists_eligible_to_hold_office" target="_blank">running for office </a>in several states.</p><p> In my experience, many of these tend to come from a fundamental misunderstanding of what atheism <em>is</em>. I, at various times, have been accused of being a Satanist, a pagan, or an amoralist, among other things. It is little wonder why a person who doesn't understand what atheism <em>is</em> would find a variety of issues arising from it. </p><p>The minister in this case makes a similar mistake: He begins by thinking that atheism is something other than the proposition that there are no gods and then works forward. In this case, he seems to presume it is some kind of psychological condition which manifests as a hybrid of anxiety, Tourette's syndrome, and kleptomania. His use of the word "symptoms" is revealing. </p><p>While it is true that atheism can be anxiety-inducing, this falls more under the category of "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism#Angst_and_dread" target="_blank">existential dread</a>" than psychosis. John-Paul Sartre, the atheistic philosopher who made Existentialism popular, wrote on this extensively. In his essay <em>"</em><a href="http://www.mrsmoser.com/uploads/8/5/0/1/8501319/english_11_ib_-_no_exit_-_existentialism_is_a_humanism_-_sartre.pdf" target="_blank">Existentialism is a Humanism</a><em>," </em>he explains:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"What do we mean by saying that existence precedes essence? We mean that man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world—and defines himself afterwards. If man as the existentialist see him is not definable, it is because to begin with he is nothing. He will not be anything until later, and then he will be what he makes of himself. Thus, there is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of himself … what do we mean by anguish? The existentialist frankly states that man is in anguish. His meaning is as follows: When a man commits himself to anything, fully realizing that he is not only choosing what he will be, but is thereby at the same time a legislator deciding for the whole of mankind—in such a moment a man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility."</em><em></em></p><p>If choosing what you are and what meaning your life will have doesn't give you anxiety, Sartre would suggest you're doing something wrong. </p><p>However, this anxiety isn't necessarily cured by belief. <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kierkegaard/" target="_blank">Soren Kierkegaard</a>, the founder of Existentialism, wrote extensively on the topics of angst, dread, anxiety, and regretting all of your life choices while being a thoroughly devoted Christian. While he argues that the leap of faith can help, he also argues that we are still fundamentally alone and responsible for our choices when it comes to making that anxiety-inducing <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Concept_of_Anxiety" target="_blank">leap</a>.</p><p>The minister's point about swearing as a result of lacking faith is bizarre enough to be left alone. Ten minutes in any bar in the middle section of the country on a Friday night should be enough to convince anybody that any sincere believer can swear while remaining a believer. </p><p>Furthermore, the minister presumes that a believer is going to be of the kind that thinks God is very engaged in human life. While he may suppose God was involved in his tire going flat, many other approaches to the divine reject that idea. Deists, who tend to think that there is a God who created the cosmos but leaves it <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism#Aspects_of_contemporary_deism" target="_blank">alone</a>, would be an example. </p><p>All in all, the essay described above is an unintentionally hilarious look at what some people think being an atheist is like. It is hardly the <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-atheist-be-in-awe-of-universe/" target="_blank">first</a>, and it won't be the last. Anxiety about atheism has a history going back to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apology_(Plato)#Accusers_of_Socrates" target="_blank">ancient Greece</a>—studies demonstrate the continued <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/atheists-threaten-believers-with-mortality" target="_blank">existence</a> of Christian anxiety about atheists—and this essay is another example of people being unduly concerned about it. </p><p>I'd accuse the minister of worrying too much about atheism, but then he'd be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39Bnk6VU53Y" target="_blank">one of us</a>. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
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