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Religious Tolerance logo

Teotwawki: "The-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it" prophecies

Scientists expect that the Earth will
survive another 5 billion years, but
the Universe will survive much longer.

end of the world 1

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There have been many predictions by believers within Judaism, Christianity and Islam that "the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it "TEOTWAWKI would happen long before now:

  • One example is found in the Gospel of Q, the text of which has been lost. However, some of Q's passages have been preserved by having been copied into the Gospels of Matthew and Luke buy anonymous authors. Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) is recorded as predicting that the that the return of the Son of Man and the arrival of the Kingdom of God would occur during the middle of the first century CE. He said that this would happen within the lifetimes of many of the people who heard his preaching. He appears to have been in error.

  • Another example was Paul's later prediction that the end would occur during the late the first century CE. It didn't materialize either.

  • William Miller, founder of the Millerite movement, predicted that Jesus would return on 1843-MAR-21. When this proved to be false, he went back to his calculations and revised the return to 1844-OCT-22. In an event called "The Great Disappointment," many Christians sold their property and possessions, quit their jobs and prepared themselves for the second coming. Nothing happened; the day came and went without incident, except for mass disillusionment.

All of these predictions and many hundreds of others before and since -- perhaps thousands of others -- were wrong. The end did not happen when predicted.

However, according to scientists who have studied the evolution of stars, there exists a series of events in the future when the atmosphere, the rivers and oceans, all human life, and all other species of animals and plants will have disappeared from the Earth. It will occur about 5 billion years CE.

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Background:

Astronomers Enjar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell found that if the color of a star is plotted against its brightness, many stars fall into a band which is called the "main sequence." Our sun is currently one of these stars. Such stars are in hydrostatic equilibrium in which the

"... outward thermal pressure from the hot core is balanced by the inward gravitational pressure from the overlying layers" 2

of the star. The result is a relatively constant output of energy from the star.

The Sun currently generates energy through the fusion of hydrogen into helium within its core. When the Sun reaches about 12 billion years-of-age, its supply of hydrogen fuel will be almost exhausted.

Wikipedia reports that by this time, the total inhabitable area of land, air and water -- the Earth's biosphere --:

"... will have long been destroyed by the Sun's steady increase in brightness as its hydrogen supply dwindles and its core contracts. ... After just over 1 billion years, the extra solar energy input will cause Earth's oceans to evaporate and the hydrogen from the water to be lost permanently to space, with total loss of water by 3 billion years. Earth's atmosphere and lithosphere (the crust and mantle) will become like that of Venus. Over another billion years, most of the atmosphere will get lost in space as well -- ultimately leaving Earth as a desiccated, dead planet with a surface of molten rock. 3

Some human or other intelligent life might survive for a while by burrowing deep underground.

Our Sun, and other stars whose mass ranges from about 40% to 1,000% of our sun's mass, would then transition to a red giant stage. Their outer atmosphere would become:

"... inflated and tenuous, making the radius immense and the surface temperature (relatively) low." 4

They would grow in diameter by a factor of perhaps 200 times.

For our Sun, its diameter will grow to encompass the orbit of Mercury, and later the orbit of Venus. It will eventually reach the vicinity of the orbit of the Earth. All life will have long disappeared by this time. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and even the Internet itself will be history by this time.

There are many prominent stars in our galaxy (a.k.a. the Milky Way) that are currently in this stage of their evolution. They include Aldebaran (Alpha Tauri), Arcturus (Alpha Bootis), Gamma Crucis (Gacrux), Antares (Alpha Scorpii), and Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis).

The Sun is expected to spend about 130 million years as a red giant. Then it will collapse until its core becomes hot enough to fuse its supply of helium into carbon. It will then become a white dwarf about the size of the Earth. Ultimately it will cool down to the same temperature as its environment. Intelligent life from Earth could probably only survive if it had emigrated to another solar system. But first, we would have to find a planet with the right conditions that would support human life. Then we would have to get there -- a task that is well beyond our present capabilities.

Opinions expressed by Fraser Cain, of Universe Today -- a space and astronomy news source:

Cain bravely estimates the end of humanity, of all life on Earth, of the Earth itself, of the Sun, of the Solar System, of Cosmology, our Universe, of the Stars, of regular matter, of black holes, and of everything! 5

  • End of humanity: The vast majority of species who have ever lived on earth are now extinct. Humans could be wiped out by natural disasters, or man made disasters. For example, a world war might involve nuclear weapons and make the world too radioactive to allow humans to live. Climate change could get out of control and convert Earth into a Venus-like planet with surface temperatures in the hundreds of degrees. A comet could strike Earth. Cain estimates that humans might have 10,000 years more.

  • End of all life on Earth: Our sun is gradually warming up. Within 500 million years most of our world would become desert, and all life would have to retreat to the poles. Our oceans will boil away. Some simple forms of life that are deep underground will survive for a while longer.

  • End of the Earth itself: In about five billion years, the Sun will run out of hydrogen, will collapse, and then start expanding into a red giant. It will increase in size, swallowing up the inner planets: Mercury, Venus, and perhaps Earth as well. By seven billion years from now, our galaxy, the Milky Way, will have collided with the Andromeda galaxy. The black holes at the center of both galaxies will have merged.

  • End of our Sun: In 7.5 billion years to 1 trillion years, the Sun will run out of all fuel, shut down, and become a white dwarf about the size of Earth. it will gradually cool down to the temperature of its surroundings and become a cold black dwarf.

  • End of our Solar System: During more billions of years, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and the objects in the Kuiper Belt 6 will continue to orbit the Sun. Long term, they might collide with each other, collide with the sun, or leave the solar system.

  • End of Cosmology: About three trillion years from now, all the other galaxies will have accelerated out of our view, leaving only our galaxy, the Milky Way, visible.

  • End our Galaxy: Between about 1019 to 1020 years from now, all of the stars in the combined Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy will have been lost in space.

  • End of the Stars: Hundreds of trillion of years from now, all of the stars in the universe will have evolved into black, cold, dwarfs. Black holes will also remain.

  • End of regular matter: Stephen Hawking has developed a theory that black holes will eventually consolidate and leave only a few massive black holes in existence.

  • End of black holes: They may eventually all evaporate and disappear in 10100 years. Only radiation will survive.

  • End of everything!: Beyond 10100 years, nothing will be left except elementary particles that have escaped the black holes. The temperature of the universe will approach absolute zero (-273.15 degrees Celsius, -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Kelvin). The End.

That said, most of the large religions of the world teach the existence of a deity with infinite creative powers. If true, then presumably the Trinity, Allah, or another deity could will a new universe into existence and the whole sequence could repeat.

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References used:

  1. Downloaded free from Pixabay.com.
  2. "Main Sequence Star," World Heritage Encyclopedia, 2017, at: http://self.gutenberg.org/
  3. From an essay that is no longer available from Wikipedia.
  4. "Stars, Galaxies, The Universe," Quizlet, 2017, at: https://quizlet.com/
  5. Fraser Cain, "The End of Everything," Universe Today, 2015-DEC-26, at: https://www.universetoday.com/
  6. "Kuiper Belt Objects: Facts about the Kuiper Belt & KBOs," Space.com, 2016-JAN-22, at: http://www.space.com/

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Copyright © 2011 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published 2011-APR-14
Last update: 2017-APR-12

Author:  B.A. Robinson

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