Leading article: World of trouble

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The Independent Online

The world did not end on Saturday. The followers of the California evangelist Harold Camping were left dismayed. Others were jubilant. Atheists in North Carolina put on a rapture "after-party".

In one sense it is remarkable that Camping managed to get people to listen to him. He had first predicted the end of the world back in 1994. When that prediction proved premature, the year was branded "an intermediary stage". So the world half ended. Perhaps Cramping will now claim that we are three-quarters of the way there.

But the next bombastic charlatan will also get a hearing. And even those who do not believe a word of it will take an interest. We love predictions of apocalypse in the same way we enjoy horror films: we know that we're safe, but get a thrill from imagining that we're not.

The thrill was there when the Large Hadron Collider was switched on, something cranks had informed us would create a black hole that would swallow the earth. And some are, even now, getting excited about the supposed Mayan forecast that our world will run out of time in 2012.

Apocalyptophiles are blessed: we are nowhere near the end of the end of the world.