This is a guest post written by David G. McAfee. He is author, most recently, of Atheist Answers: Rational Responses to Religious Questions.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, chaired by theoretical physicist and actual atheist Lawrence M. Krauss, announced today that President Donald Trump’s actions have moved the group’s “Doomsday Clock” to two and a half minutes ‘til midnight.
The Doomsday Clock, a symbol that represents a countdown to a possible global catastrophe, hasn’t been closer to midnight since 1953. It was two minutes until midnight after the United States and Russia began building and testing H-bombs, according to the bulletin.
Krauss, speaking before the National Press Club this morning, told reporters that we “can’t make sensible policy” unless we acknowledge that “facts are facts.” He cited Trump’s statements on nuclear weapons and actions regarding climate change as reasons for the group’s decision.
In a statement, Krauss also noted that facts are “indeed stubborn things.” They must be taken into account “if the future of humanity is to be preserved, long term,” he added.
Nuclear weapons and climate change are precisely the sort of complex existential threats that cannot be properly managed without access to and reliance on expert knowledge. In 2016, world leaders not only failed to deal adequately with those threats; they actually increased the risk of nuclear war and unchecked climate change through a variety of provocative statements and actions, including careless rhetoric about the use of nuclear weapons and the wanton defiance of scientific evidence. To step further back from the brink will require leaders of vision and restraint. President Trump and President Putin can choose to act together as statesmen, or as petulant children, risking our future. We call upon all people to speak out and send a loud message to your leaders so that they do not needlessly threaten your future, and the future of your children.
The Bulletin’s Science and Security Board said the 30-second move of the Doomsday Clock, something that has never been done before, reflects the fact that Trump “has been the U.S. president only a matter of days. His “disturbing comments” about nuclear weapons and climate change spurred the action, according to the board.
Krauss and the other board members also took questions from reporters, addressing issues related to technology and comparing today’s nuclear landscape to that of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The board stressed the gravity of the situation, encouraging Congress to act where it can.
As a skeptic, environmentalist, and secular activist, I took these words as a call to action not just for legislators but to citizens as well. Whether we are calling policymakers, protesting, or writing about these important issues, we have to do our part. It’s almost midnight, after all.
David G. McAfee is a Religious Studies graduate, journalist, and author of Atheist Answers: Rational Responses to Religious Questions, The Book of Gods, The Belief Book, Mom, Dad, I’m an Atheist: The Guide to Coming Out as a Non-believer, and Disproving Christianity and other Secular Writings. He is also the founder of The Party of Reason and Progress and a frequent contributor to American Atheist Magazine. McAfee, who writes about science, skepticism, and faith, attended University of California, Santa Barbara and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in English and Religious Studies with an emphasis on Christianity and Mediterranean religions.