About that title, Carnac the Magnificent would pause because he would at least be mildly confused as to his possible response. In time, he utters, "Not the life progression for Americans" and opens the envelope. There is only a trickle of laughter because the audience does not quite understand the connection. Johnny Carson grimaces and extends a particularly invective Middle Eastern curse.
Yes, Carnac would have been right, for the above title is not a sequential prediction of your past, present and future, if you are the typical American. But shockingly enough, not for the reasons you might think. The punch line comes at the end when you learn that we (not me, but the majority) believe in only one, well, maybe two, of the following: evolution, global warming, doomsday and the afterlife.
I recently wrote a book partially treating evolution and the afterlife, and an earlier one analyzing global warming and possible doomsdays, and have lately been busy reading up, responding to and organizing virtual discussion forums on the economic collapse, peak oil, global warming and doomsday. The participants tend to be the more scholarly facet of our society and hardly represent the masses. Yet, many of them have devoted their professional lives to these subjects and are the best and brightest, so their views are important and can't be totally discarded.
I would say something like 10% to 20% of this eclectic group actually believe the combined crush of the economic collapse, peak oil and global warming will be so severe that society as we know it will NEVER recover, our lifestyles will be seriously compromised and survival could become a life-or-death issue. Some have purchased land and are initiating self-reliant communities. There are blogs to prepare individuals living in these uncertain times. A few of my friends are actually looking forward to this new kind of adventure. Most in this forum, though, are like me, in that we rather enjoy our current mode of life, but are beginning to get mildly concerned.
I tried searching for a poll on what real Americans think about this coming doom, but couldn't find one with a scenario reasonably close to the above. Sure, there are the Biblical ones, and, well, we are a religious country, plus the Large Hadron Collider still has that miniscule potential and the SciFi Channel in 2006 had a countdown to our mass extinction. However, as none of the respected economists or politicians I see on television seems particularly concerned about this worst-case option, I take satisfaction in maintaining a similar insouciance.
Anyway, how can anyone get so traumatized by this latest series of existing and potential catastrophes, for in the 70's we muddled through the population bomb, limits to growth, potential nuclear winter, the Vietnam War, acid rain and two energy crises...and somehow recovered. In fact, nearly two decades after the Second Energy Crisis, crude oil in 1998 fell to the lowest on historical record ($15.52/barrel in 2008 dollars, even lower than the $18.29 of 1972), and there was nothing government, academics or politics did to orchestrate this drop. Further, another decade later the United States is now supremely unchallenged and oil is heading back to almost historic lows. Nuclear holocaust? Iran and North Korea will not precipitate a World War 3. Aside for this inconvenient economic collapse, things seem generally okay today.
All this led me to think, though, whether this small minority planning for the end (of life as we like it), might, in fact, be right? Let's look at religion, for example. The surveys vary a bit, but for the longest time, something on the order of 90% of Americans have said they believe in God and some form of Afterlife. Of that remaining 10% who don't, I would not be surprised if many of them are amused and disappointed at the same time that their friends and family can be so deluded. Is that what this doomsday group thinks of the population at large in terms of the coming downfall?
Changing the subject a wee bit, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin. By now, everyone must believe in evolution, right? Wrong! Two-thirds of Americans actually know that God created us within the past 10,000 years, so does this mean that only 33% of us accept evolution? Well, it's a bit more complicated then that, but, yet, alarming. Live Science reports on a poll of 34 countries, placing the U.S. second from the bottom (Turkey was lower at 26% on belief in evolution, while the European countries and Japan were just the opposite, with 60-90% in the evolution camp). I go into vivid detail on this subject in Chapter 5 of SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity.
Okay, so much for that controversial subject, but, then, by now most of us must be convinced about global climate change. Actually, yes, 82% of Americans do believe, with, interestingly enough, 91% being Democrats and 72% Republicans. That was a 2007 survey. A 2009 poll broke this down to 44% saying long-term planetary trends are causing this change, with 41% blaming it on human activity. Only 21% of Republicans think that we are at fault. Also, 54% say the media exaggerate the dangers. In other words, most Americans don't think their use of fossil fuels is causing this Greenhouse Effect. They blame nature.
To summarize, the majority of Americans believe in both creationism and an afterlife, the potential of some sort of religious doom, and think they are not causing global warming. So the title of this article should have been: "Creationism, Doomsday and the Afterlife," to more closely reflect life in the USA. You now should have a better understanding about why we are in deep...(feel free to add your own odious term). So what has this got to do with the economy? Go back to the beginning and try again, or revert to my earlier HuffPost introduction to this subject.
Did we become the greatest country ever because of our beliefs? Certainly not entirely, which gives me hope that the best is yet to come.