Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012: The Mayan Apocalypse? Yeah, right

Last May, I concluded my first post on the end of the world with the following prediction.
This post takes care of your daily dose of DOOM! Expect repeats at irregular intervals at least until December 21, 2012.
It's that time again.

James Howard Kunstler began his first post of the new year with a tip of his writer's cap at the Doomsday du jour.
There's a lot to be nervous about, even if you don't subscribe to the undercooked Mayan apocalypse lore moving through the gut of the Internet like a Staphylococcus-infected tamale.
Count me out as one of those people who thinks there is anything either supernatural or cosmological coming to end the world as we know it by this year's Winter Solstice. I still hold to what I wrote last May and repeated in October.
No supernatural causes will be needed to bring about the collapse of civilization; the interaction of human behavior with limited resources can do that all by themselves. That end will be completely natural, not supernatural.

The flip side is that anything that could also postpone or even prevent that collapse will also be the result of exploiting human psychology and the available resources. It may look like a miracle, but it will be completely natural as well.
That written, I would be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge the non-event on a blog that began as an examination of the collapse of civilization and evolved into an examination of sustainability from a science-fiction perspective.

Join me below the fold for the news stories about 2012 that I posted on Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Farewell to 2011 edition) over at Daily Kos.

MSNBC: http://cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/28/9779631-its-boom-time-for-weird-science
By Alan Boyle
Even with the supposed Mayan doomsday coming up, it's going to be hard for 2012 to match 2011 when it comes to weird science: What other year can boast a bird-killing "aflockalypse," a chupacabra prowling around the nation's capital, two Loch Ness-type monster sightings and two doomsday predictions. (News flash: The predictions were wrong.)

That's why the Weird Science Awards exist: To pay tribute to the strange but scientific (or pseudo-scientific) tales of each year. This year's winners of the fifth annual Weirdies will take their place alongside glow-in-the-dark cats and dogs, reattached rabbit penises, the 2,700-year-old marijuana stash and the Stone Age sex toy as talismans of this wacky age.

We're offering 30 nominees from the past year, and it's up to you to pick the top 10 award-winners. One of the nominees — the one about pee pressure — is a laureate from this year's Ig Nobel award ceremony, which honors "research that makes people laugh and then think." You can use that as your judging criterion, or you can go for the article that makes you laugh, and then ask, "What on earth were they thinking?"
Philadelphia Daily News: Looking ahead in 2012: The world ends - Mayan style
Mayan region starts apocalypse countdown
Philadelphia Daily News
narkj@phillynews.com 215-854-5916
IF OCEANS boil next year and ancient gods start sucking human souls into the fiery heavens, only then will you wish you had heeded the words of former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton.

"The Mayan calendar stops at Dec. 21, 2012 - the date the Mayans believed the world would end," Dutch supposedly told Sports Illustrated in 2006. "On that day, at 11:11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, those who are ready to ascend will vanish from this plane of existence, like the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek."
McClatchy Newpapers via the Deseret News: Mayan calendar doomsayers, debunkers welcome 2012
By Helen Gray, McClatchy Newspapers
Published: Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 5:00 a.m. MST
If some interpretations of the Mayan calendar are correct, we'll all be gone next year.

While every other doomsday prediction has (obviously) come and gone, some people think that the Maya knew something others didn't and that the world will indeed come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012.

Opportunists already are trying to cash in with 2012 survival kits, T-shirts reading "Doomsday 2012" and a "Complete Idiots Guide to 2012."

A website, december212012.com, devoted to the prediction, says, "Although this date may not necessarily mark the end of the world, it is widely believed that it may indeed mark the end of the world as we know it. ... . The signs and indicators of dramatic and possibly devastating change seem to be all around us. Both ancient and modern-day observers alike have foretold the possibilities of this date, and the coming events of our solar system seem to support their theories."

The site talks about the worldwide social and political unrest, new and untreatable pandemics, unusual and unpredictable weather patterns, devastating natural disasters in unlikely places and man-made devastation leading up to this date.
As you can tell, I take both of these stories about as seriously as Next Media Animation does, in other words, not very seriously at all.

2012 New Year: A prelude to disaster?

People around the world are preparing to celebrate the 2012 New Year, but some who buy into doomsday theories based on Mayan mythology are preparing for what they believe is the beginning of the end times.

According to the Mayan Long Count calendar, December 21, 2012 signifies the end of the 13th Baktun, a unit of time measurement equal to about 394 years. What exactly the Mayans believed will happen when the rollover occurs is being debated among scholars and Internet commenters alike.

A prophesy engraved on a slab of rock at the Tortuguero archaeological site in Mexico foretells the Earthly arrival of the Mayan god Bolon Yokte, which some alarmists have linked to other, hotly contested predictions involving natural disasters and cosmic events. Detractors feel December 21 will not mean the end of time. They offer the fact that Mayans made mention of dates past the 13th Baktun as proof.

As is the case with all doomsday panics, like Y2K at the start of the 2000s and this year's more recent claims from Harold Camping, only time will tell if the year 2012 is anything to fret.
Kunstler and I take the same tack on this story; there are plenty of ways for technological civilization to end, but all of them are perfectly natural and quite human. Even so, he's taking no chances.
Good luck to you in 2012, and report any suspicious characters adorned with ear-plugs, quetzel feathers, and carrying obsidian knives to your nearest office of Homeland Security.


  1. I can't believe I'm suggesting this, but perhaps we're all not cynical enough. Recent predictions are that Mexico will reap billions in additional tourism money (more than double 2011) as a result of the IMPENDING APOCALYPSE.


    We should ask William of Ockham whether it's better to believe a contemporary recasting of an ancient legend, or just Follow The Money...