In 2008, Bill Maher produced a documentary called Religulous, and in it, presented his somewhat sardonic views on religion. In the opening scene of Religulous, the camera zooms in on Bill Maher standing on a circular pile of stones against a backdrop of palm trees and a clear blue sky. The words Megiddo, Israel are displayed at the bottom of the screen. He faces the camera and says “This is it; I’m standing on the very spot where many Christians believe the world will come to an end. It’s called Megiddo, and it’s the place that the Book of Revelations says Jesus Christ will come down to, end the world, and save the people who believe in Him. Now, when Revelations was written, only God had the capacity to end the world – but now Man does too. Because unfortunately, before Man figured out how to be rational, or peaceful, he figured out nuclear weapons and how to pollute on a catastrophic scale.”
Yes, we’ve had the ability to nuke ourselves out of existence for over fifty years, and we may soon (despite our most concerted and coordinated efforts) pollute ourselves into extinction, but there is also another way to end the world – one that was not mentioned by Bill Maher. This article will explain, step by step, how you can create your very own apocalypse and end the world. It’s actually much easier than you might think, and you can do it at the time of your choosing (give or take a few days). The world’s superpowers have spent countless billions of dollars building their nuclear arsenals, but you can end of the world almost single-handedly. All you’ll need is about $20,000 and a female friend who owes you a really big favour.
My target audience for this article consists of two groups: educated people with a strong background in science who also enjoy a little dry humour, and the folks who genuinely believe that the world is going to end on the last day of the Mayan calendar – December 21, 2012. To those in the latter group – when December 21st arrives, what if the world doesn’t end? You’re going to look pretty silly, aren’t you? How will you face your friends and co-workers the next day (assuming that you haven’t already quit your job)? How will you live (assuming that you haven’t given away all of your worldly possessions)? I don’t want you to lose face, so after reading this article, you’ll at least be able to tell your friends and co-workers that you have a “Plan B”.
Content Warning: Most of you will find this to be a delightfully whimsical and decidedly tongue-in-cheek article, that is not meant to be taken particularly seriously. However, if you consider yourself to be a Christian fundamentalist, evangelical, or merely annoyingly pious and overbearing, then this blog posting will just make you worry needlessly about something that you have likely never considered before. If you’re still not sure where you stand, then look in your bookcase – does it contain one or more volumes from the Left Behind series? If so, then for your own peace of mind, I recommend that you stop reading right now, close this browser tab and then continue your blissful daily routine. Seriously… go away. I mean it!
Our journey will begin in Turin, Italy, the town famous as the location of its eponymous holy relic, the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is thought to be Jesus’s burial cloth, and that it was placed over His body shortly after His death. There are some brownish markings on it that quite clearly form the image of a man. Many people believe that this man is Jesus, and pilgrimages are made to Turin whenever the Shroud is made available for public viewing. The shroud also has several crimson stains on it, and some people believe that these stains are actually Jesus’s blood. I’ve done a little online searching, and apparently these stains were tested in 1978, and did contain some components of human blood. This testing also showed that the blood type was AB.
You might be asking yourself “Why would anyone be interested in the bits of dried-up blood on the Shroud of Turin?”. I’m assuming that you are familiar with Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park, and that you’ve either read the book or have seen the movie. In the story, scientists discovered a piece of amber that was sixty-five millions years old. Inside was the perfectly preserved body of an insect. This insect had just bitten a dinosaur before being encased in the amber and its body contained a tiny bit of the dinosaur’s blood. The scientists were able to extract the blood, and since the amber did not allow any exposure to the elements, the blood was in pristine condition. Using the blood sample, they were able to sequence the dinosaur’s DNA, and re-create the dinosaur’s genome. After injecting the DNA into the egg of a modern bird, they hatched a living dinosaur.
I think you can see where I’m going with this…
Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a Biblical scholar, you’ve probably heard about the Second Coming, either in the book of Revelations, or from the Left Behind series of books and movies. At some yet-to-be-determined point in the future, Jesus is supposed to return to Earth. When this happens, He will end the world but save those who believe in Him. The believers will be transported up to heaven, while the sinners will be left behind.
Personally, I think that the entire premise just drips with irony: if you genuinely believe that the world will end during the Second Coming, then you are considered a believer; you will be saved and the world will not end for you. However, if you don’t believe in the Second Coming or that the world is going to end, then you won’t be saved, and your world will end.
You could sit around and wait for the Second Coming, but who knows when that will be? Two thousand years have already passed uneventfully. Some people have been brave enough to announce specific dates, but as we know, all of their predictions thus far have turned out to be incorrect. Wouldn’t life be more interesting if we could initiate our own Second Coming? Why sit around and wait for things to happen to you, when you can be proactive and bring about change yourself! Making changes in your life is a common theme among many motivational speakers…
Admittedly, up until now all we could do was wait. However, during the past decade, our understanding of DNA has progressed so rapidly that humankind is now in a position to take a little initiative. In 2007, a complete human genome was sequenced by Craig Venter, of Celera Genomics. Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project accomplished the same feat shortly afterwards. This is not only a significant scientific milestone for humankind, but it’s also the proof of concept that I needed for this little experiment. Our progress is astounding – the human genome was sequenced for the first time in 2007, and today there are corporations that will sequence your DNA for about $5,000 (down from $350,000 in 2008).
Before you begin, make sure that you have at least $20,000 in the bank. It is a substantial sum, but this will also weed out those who aren’t really serious about ending the world.
Step 1: The first thing we’ll need is a patch of cloth from the Shroud of Turin that contains some of the red stain. In order to do this, we’ll first need to get the Vatican’s permission. It’s probably best if we don’t tell them exactly why we need it, so let’s hope that they don’t ask too many questions. In fact, the more they know about this experiment, the less likely they like they are to climb on board.
Step 2: The next step is scraping off a blood sample, bringing it to one of these labs and getting the DNA sequenced. While this sounds pretty straight-forward, I should mention that in my online research, I encountered a few things that might be seen as minor impediments to the success of this sequencing step:
- Many people believe that the dried blood on the Shroud belongs to a 14th-century monk, and not to Jesus.
- The blood type from the samples has been identified at AB. This blood type didn’t exist much before AD 700.
- While the dinosaur blood from the Jurassic Park insect preserved in amber was untouched for 65 million years, the blood stains on the shroud have been exposed to the elements for hundreds of years. DNA this old will be heavily degraded, very fragmented and for contiguous sequencing purposes, utterly useless. However, you could still sequence multiple samples, and hope that the usable parts eventually cover the entire genome.
Let’s assume that we are able to sequence a complete human genome from the blood sample (or have a computer guess what any missing pieces might be). Therefore, we can now continue with the next steps.
Step 3: Remove the nucleus from a human ovum. Inject our newly-sequenced DNA into the ovum and then find someone who will agree to be a surrogate mother. Ideally, she should be a clean-living girl-next-door type, between 20-35 (the ideal child-bearing age) who doesn’t have any vices. If you can find a virgin willing to be a surrogate, then that would be icing on the cake. The cost for an in-vitro fertilization procedure (in Canada) is between $7750 and $12,250.
Step 4: Hope for a successful in-vitro implantation with no multiple births – having more than one Jesus wandering the Earth would only complicate matters. I shudder to think of the global consequences of any sibling rivalry. Revelations seems to be silent on this issue, so it’s best not to throw any curve balls.
Omitted Step: I originally was going say “Hope that the fertilization will produce a male. However, now that we’re in the 21st century, I think that our society is progressive enough to embrace a female Jesus. Technically, it shouldn’t make any difference, although some purists may complain.
Step 5: Hope for a successful progression from zygote to embryo to fetus, and hope that the fetus will be viable.
Step 6: Just before the due date, take the surrogate mother to Megiddo, Israel. The hill in Megiddo (where Bill Maher stood in the opening scene of Religulous) is the location where some Christians believe that Jesus will appear when He returns to Earth. Allocate about $1000 for plane tickets to Israel and transportation to Megiddo, and at least a couple of thousand dollars for a medical staff on site to help deliver the baby.
Step 7: While the surrogate mother is in labour, try to take her mind off the pain and ask her if she’s picked a name for her baby. If she hasn’t, then now is a good time to make a few suggestions. Personally, I like “Bob”, but feel free to choose whatever you think is appropriate.
Finally, we wait. When the moment arrives, the surrogate mother will give birth, on the hill of Megiddo, to someone who is genetically identical to Jesus Christ. If the baby is a boy, and if we can convince her to name the child Jesus, then will this fulfil the requirements of the Second Coming and bring about the end of the world? I guess there’s only one way to find out!