The Earth is going to be destroyed. Do we tell the public?

In this thread I’ve set up a scenario where the Earth is going to be destroyed, but that there’s a slim chance humanity can survive if we can get off the planet.

Building the needed ship(s) will require a global commitment of time and resources. The opinion I took for that thread was that the governments of the stable industrialized nations would know of the threat but not the public at large. There would be ficticious cover stories set up for the projects and governments would take action against groups that were a viable threat to those projects.

My thoughts being that less than 100% effort with fewer distractions would be better than 100% with all the doomsday cults, religious zealots, and probably even governments with issues that would be actively trying to sabatoge efforts.

Someone later suggested that the public should be informed so that all efforts would be focused on saving humanity.

The question for GD then is whether public knowledge would be the best approach. Let’s pre-fork this for two different futures. The first being that there is a small chance that we can survive to rebuild on another planet. The second that we’re toast, it’s the end of human history, close the book.

For the time being, I’m going to stick with my original premise. Public knowledge would pretty much cause immediate economic and political collapse. There is no futures market because there is no future.

There would be a huge upswing in crime because everyone is under the death penalty, there is no appeal.

Most governments would become some varient of a theocrasy because people people facing imminent death tend to get religion. “There are no athiests in foxholes”

My thinking remains the same for either side of the coin. Slim chance or none.

Well, 62 years is more time than I have left anyway, so I wouldn’t do anything drastic, but if you didn’t lead people to believe there was hope, I’d expect anarchy.

I vote for not telling the public. OTOH, not telling the public makes it hard to divert all your resources to your project.

You should probably lie and tell the public you’re working on a deflection plan, even though you’re not.

I’ve thought about starting this very same thread, Projammer. My own opinion is they definitely wouldn’t tell the public, whistleblowers would be ridiculed and worse, and a select few would be planning on riding it all out in the space station. So, keep an eye out for excessive traffic to Mir. :wink:

You couldnt practically keep the secret that long in todays world. In practise it would leak and be verified within months.

You have to have too many deus ex machina’s to make it a possible dilemna.


What you do, see, is tell the public, and encourage people to just eat like crazy because why not, eh? And then after a few years, you start hurling all the fat people at the runaway moon and deflect it. Problem solved.

I don’t know if I want to shake your hand to absorb your optimism, or pat you on the head because of your naivety.

Well I guess Id have to wonder how you’re so certain they’re possible without knowing of ones that have failed.

Always a tricky dilemna for the ‘big government secret’ fans in my view.


It would be the biggest human undertaking ever. It’s not the kind of thing you can keep under wraps.

I don’t see why we need to panic. I say we spend the next 62 years putting all efforts into producing the mother of all nuclear stockpiles and use it to destroy that pathetic little travelling moon using a gigantic Teraton missile. to hit it from the side and deviate it from its course.

Humanity victorious!

It would make a nice show but only char up the surface. The moon would still be coming.

My impression has been more that with 62 years out you dont know whether it will really hit or not because of error.

Which is the other tricky bit about these doomsday scenarios, they have to invoke certainty, which often isnt really available.


Huh? Honestly, I don’t see how such a large conspiracy could be possible. I mean, all those engineers and scientists who have to know what’s going on have families, and the only way to prevent them from telling them is to kidnap them and allow no communication. Once the families know, then the rumor mill starts up, and there’s no way to stop it then. The governments can deny it all they want, but given the sheer number of people necessary for the project, there’s no practical way for them to silence all of them. How is that naive?

That doesn’t actually matter, as long as it’s deflected enough to miss.

Given the specified parameters of the incoming object and the time until impact, it wouldn’t be.

I stand by my post in the other thread.
We are tallking about an unprecedented effort here, doing it without telling the world will stop the all out effort needed to get even a fighting chance to get something done
I would purpose informing all governments first, sketch some plans, and then going public with it, declaring martial law at the same time to contain any riots.

People can not riot forever, sooner that you think things would calm down, then, with the full force of every government, media company, celebrities, religious figures etc, we convince everyone to work his ass off for the only thing that matters, saving the human race.

Of course lots of egoist people will only work for themselves, let them do it, with an apocalypse coming in 69 years they can reach their petty rewards before dying, everybody else busts his ass off building, researching testing, anything necessary to reach the goal. I think it would work, anyway the needs of the project could never be fulfilled otherwise so give it a chance.

If there is no chance of avoiding extinction i still say we go public, perhaps someone will find a way, i for one will be found by the falling moon shooting upwards with a gun at least, if everything else has failed.

I don’t think for most people saving the human race would matter one bit. Unless it meant saving themselves and their loved ones personally.

I believe there’s a 1950s movie that closely fits the OP but I can’t remember the title.

When worlds collide. Good movie. IMDB says there will be a remake in 2010.

But for everyone, it would mean precisely those things, especially as the younger generation starts having children who would be alive when the thing hit; you’d have a lot of people fighting for their very kids and grandkids.

I guess i didnt exactly understand what the solution would imply, if we are talking about taking everyone and moving to another planet then yeah i guess we would work together towards that. On the other hand if the solution is some sort of Noah’s ark type thing were only a few are saved to “preserve the human race” then i think most people would be more interested in enjoying their remaining time than working towards something that will not benefit them in the least.