behavior genetics, end times, selfish gene, exceptionalism, ISIS, LDS


This paper will review “End Times Thinking” in Jewish, Christian and Islamic cultures to identify some common themes among myriad differing details. Simply put, some people have believed for hundreds or thousands of years that their prophets will return to earth someday to rescue humankind from sin (or in a common Shi’ite version, a son of the Prophet Mohammed will return, named or called the “Mahdi”). Some Christians think that Jesus will return to administer vast changes, ranging from “rapture” to annihilation; some Jews that a “Messiah” is destined for those tasks, but focused on saving the Hebrew people of Israel. Generally, the earth is supposed to be purified by these processes, so that some “true” religion can be manifest on the entire earth, which would then be free of war, famine and perhaps suffering of all kinds.

I then present a theory based on behavior genetics and the “selfish gene” hypothesis. This suggests that such beliefs may reflect an ancient template that encourages some to believe that they alone are the center of both the universe and God’s love. Some think that God wants them alone to populate the earth, or rule everyone else. Such people are easy prey for demagogues who abound in desperate places and royal courts. This is demonstrated today in ISIS. In the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormons), a group of Mormons killed some 120 people from the East who were on their way to California. This shows that a belief system of exceptionalism can arise in churches of much more recent origin. Today, a radical group of Mormons that follows this idea is exemplified by the Bundy family of Southern Nevada, USA. ISIS is still killing hundreds of people, but the LDS Church made some changes in the late 1800s that helped them co-exist better with others.1 How the LDS Church came to grips with modernity and literally decided to coexist agreeably with others provides some clues to how any church or religion might moderate so that a real “end” to civilization (and possibly humankind) can be avoided. The presence and spread of WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) lends urgency to this fix.