Planning for catastrophe

February 02, 2005

When US judge Richard Posner wrote his book, Catastrophe: risk and response (OUP, 2004), he had no idea that a tsunami would kill 300,000 within months of its publication. However, he would have said (and now has that we should have been more prepared. Posner's basic argument is that there are events which have a very small probability of occuring, but whose impact is so dramatic that it makes sense to get ready for them. To give a crude example, if we knew that a tsunami would hit once every 300 years and kill 300, 000 people, that is 1000 people a year who need to be factored into the defence/health care budget.

Working out how to prepare for such events is difficult, but not impossible. For instance, some say much more money should be spent on asteroid watch and elimination (anyone see Deep Impact?) More generally, it warrants serious examination of global environmental issues such as warming, diminishing oil supplies and species extinction, and whether or not enough is being done about them.

What happens if we apply 'catastrophe planning' to Christian belief. Even if you think there is but a small risk that there is a God to whom the creatures of the universe will give account, what kind of planning might you do to prepare for such a possibility? Would it not be worth expending resources now in order to prepare for possibilities then?

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