Today's the day! Welcome to the eve of 18.104.22.168 ! No, it's not a goofy IP address, but the day civilization will be destroyed, according those of the tinfoil hat persuasion. In the past few years of blogging, I have noticed:
Seriously, I've had people attack me like *I* personally demoted Pluto. But, you don't start a blog to keep your opinions to yourself -- so, this piece is especially for my longtime readers who enjoy arguments and conspiracy theories.
In the Mayan calendar, the long calendar count begins in 3,114 BC and is divided into roughly 394-year periods called B'ak'tuns. Mayans held the number 13 sacred and the 13th B'ak'tun ends this year. Or ended last year. Or we might be way off.
The Mayan calendar marks the end of a 5,126 year old cycle somewhere between October 2011 and April 2013. Different scholars have done different math. Various crackpot groups have claimed a Mayan god of war or destruction & creation will resurrect, others claim a grand celestial event will occur.
Yah, actual Maya descendants counter with a weary eyeroll, it merely marks the termination of one period and the beginning of another. Kinda like taking down your 2012 wall calendar and hanging the 2013 one. Casting cataclysmic consequence onto this simple phenomenon is a little like accusing someone of murder for offing a stuffed animal.
To my intense shock and looming lack of respect, even the Discovery and History Channels have contributed to this preposterous hype, relying on 20th century re-interpretations of meagerly educated contemporary writers – and completely ignoring the fact that nothing in our cosmic neighborhood is due for major alignment, explosion, death by solar flare, or even close orbital flyby.
The National Institute of Anthropological History in Mexico issued a statement, hoping to quell the barrage of apocalyptic waves, stating calmly that "The messianic thinking of Western culture has distorted the world view of ancient civilizations. The Maya did not think about global warming or predict the poles would fuse together. We merely project our current worries on them."
On a level that even Bigfoot Hunters could understand, there are now banners all over Facebook proclaiming: "The Mayans couldn't predict their own demise, what makes you think they can predict ours?"
The Non-Committal Messiah
As tempted as I am to write off the nutjobs who can't grasp reality, it's no laughing matter. Even you believe it's harmless, history shows us that failed fake doomsday predictions have deadly real-life consequences, including mass suicides, lost life savings, isolating cult behavior, the splitting apart of entire families, and even people killing their own children.
Don't humor anyone who wants you to panic. Doomsday prophesying has been a hallmark of religious literature for thousands of years, and shouldn't be all that convincing in a scientific age.
The very reputable Live Science site produced a brief list of Ten Failed Doomsday Predictions. Feel free to point these out to people who haven't yet wrapped their brains around the pattern.
Further, the History and Archaeology Department of the Smithsonian compiled a fact-filled list of Ten Notable Apocalypses That Obviously Didn't Happen from 2800 B.C. to Present.