Pharyngula

Party like it’s 2011

Speaking of satire that’s hard to tell from religion, one of the cycles of the Mayan calendar ends in 2012, which is prompting some end-of-the-world hysteria, and even a movie:

Apparently, the whole world is going to change suddenly on 21 December, five years from now.

Armageddon is not what it used to be

I think there is going to be more outbreaks of telepathy

This is my favorite quote:

Whether or not time ends in 2012, we should be assuming it will so that we take care of business. Secondly and most important, don’t cancel your appointments for 2013.

The movie seems to be taking this nonsense seriously—they got a whole mob of astrologers and shamans and New Age kooks twittering away. I’m afraid I don’t believe it.

Besides, everyone knows the real catastrophe strikes 100 years later, in 2112. (I actually own that album, on vinyl, buried in a box somewhere. That’s a more apocalyptic omen than anything in this movie, I suspect.)

Comments

  1. #1 Kristjan Wager
    March 21, 2007

    Why am I suddently reminded of the old Shadowrun roleplaying game?

  2. #2 Geral
    March 21, 2007

    The Mayans aren’t even around, I think they got the date mixed up.

    The only thing that is going to happen in 2012 is a democrat will be re-elected for President.

    Oohh maybe that’s what they mean by the end of the world…

  3. #3 Ben
    March 21, 2007

    What I really never understood about this particular brand of quackery is why there are lots of Christians that go in for it.

  4. #4 J-Dog
    March 21, 2007

    Ben – My Oh My Maya! Some of those damn Christians are just a little too literal… “body and blood Of Jeebus” indeed. Regarding this brand of quackery? If you fall for one scam, chances are you’re going to fall for another one.

  5. #5 Stanton
    March 21, 2007

    Didn’t the Mayans also predict that there was going to be a solar eclipse in 2017?

  6. #6 Bryn
    March 21, 2007

    Arrgggghhhh! (And not in a good, sort-of pirate way.) To quote Linda Schele (“A Forest of Kings”):

    December 23, 2012, will be 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ahau 3 Kankin, the day when the 13 baktuns will end and the Long Count cycles return to the symmetry of the beginning. The Maya, however, did not conceive this to be the end of this creation, as many have suggested. Pacal, the great king of Panlenque, predicted in his inscriptions that the eightieth Calendar Round anniversary of his accession will be celebrated eight days after the first eight-thousand-year cycle in the Maya calendar ends. In our time system, this cycle will end on October 15, 4772.

    (Emphasis added) Kind of hard to “celebrate” in 4772 if the world ends in 2012, isn’t it? Proof once again that woo-woos and Christians only differ in their type of belief. Their absolute refusal to listen to anything that challenges their beliefs, however, is very much alike.

  7. #7 Stanton
    March 21, 2007

    *wipes tears from eye*
    Oh, lordy…
    You mean to tell me that these nutjobs made a movie commemorating the end of the world on the wrong date?

  8. #8 Tony Popple
    March 21, 2007

    If I remember correctly, a date that significant only comes around every 5000 years on the Mayan calandar. If that isn’t good enough a reason for a party, I don’t know what is.

  9. #9 Stwriley
    March 21, 2007

    Hold the Red Star proudly high in hand!

    Well, it makes as much sense as this movie (maybe more so given the qualities of our current government.)

  10. #10 Krystalline Apostate
    March 21, 2007

    It could very well be that they just ran out of measurement, could it not? Or just got tired of calculating.
    I think there is going to be more outbreaks of telepathy
    Time to call the CTC (Center for Telepathy Control).

  11. #11 Steve_C
    March 21, 2007

    I’m looking forward to the outbreaks of telepathy.

    I can’t take any new ager seriously. Yes I can accept verious ideas about being healthier and eating organic or less processed foods and reducing stress, but why do they have to embrace all this supernatural msytical mumbojumbo?

    Gurus suck.

  12. #12 Crosius
    March 21, 2007

    Never mind that the counter people are sweating over has an arbitrary start point – why do all these “significant number” apocalyptic predictions assume the universe works in base 10?

    Palindromes, round numbers, runs and repetitions in base ten are rarely “special” in hex or binary. More anthropocentrism, I guess.

    Besides, everybody knows the universe is base 12 – just look at all the things that come in 12s, and how easily 12 divides between so many different numbers.

  13. #13 dukkamon
    March 21, 2007

    Sales of apocalypse related books and such have fallen off tremendously since January 1st 2001 (hmm- wonder why?) The Purveyors of Woo will be crankin’ it up for 2012, for the Woo Money Machine must be fed! Just ask Sylvia Browne.

  14. #14 Chinchillazilla
    March 21, 2007

    Bust out the bracelet-making machine for the newest religious catchphrase: What Would Quetzalcoatl Do?

  15. #15 chuko
    March 21, 2007

    Yet another chance to have an End of the World Party! It’s amazing how many chances one does get…

  16. #16 Stanton
    March 21, 2007

    Chinchillazilla, it should be “What Would Kukulkan Do?” as Quetzalcoatl is Aztec/Toltec.

  17. #17 minusRusty
    March 21, 2007

    Besides, everyone knows the real catastrophe strikes 100 years later, in 2112. (I actually own that album, on vinyl, buried in a box somewhere. That’s a more apocalyptic omen than anything in this movie, I suspect.)

    Me, too. I’ve even got the thingamajig that’ll play one of those buried somewhere, too! I think I used to call it a “turntable”. Hey, at least 8-track was dead by then!

  18. #18 Argent23
    March 21, 2007

    ah, Shadowrun…the old days of cyberpunk RPG!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun_timeline

    Somehow the Maya calendar isn’t mentioned in those two links, but I believe the great change was the awakening of the dragons.

  19. #19 Warren
    March 21, 2007

    Jeez. My calendar comes to an end on December 31, 2007! Oh, the humanity!

  20. #20 Christian
    March 21, 2007

    “We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
    Our great computers fill the hallowed halls”

    Loved that album.

  21. #21 windy
    March 21, 2007

    Jeez. My calendar comes to an end on December 31, 2007! Oh, the humanity!

    My calendar goes on after December 31 (whew!) but the font size gets smaller and smaller after that, until January and February 2009 only occupy a space about 1 cm wide. Could this mean that the world is not only ending, but shrinking?

  22. #22 Stuart Coleman
    March 21, 2007

    I’ve been hearing about this for some time now. It’s funny how easy it is to use an ancient culture’s mythology to make ridiculous predictions and have people believe you. What’s even better are the previous cycles of the Mayan calendar, how the predicted exactly what happened during those times! Just like Nostradamus!

    Just another reason we need better science/skepticism educations.

  23. #23 Brett
    March 21, 2007

    “We’ve taken care of everything,
    The words you hear, the songs you sing,
    The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes…”

    Yep.

  24. #24 dukkamon
    March 21, 2007

    Stanton- I prefer Chinchillazilla’s Quetzalcoatl bracelet over your Kukulkan bracelet: better name recognition, much more marketable. Consumers of Woo don’t place a high value on cultural authenticity. Do we want to be right, or do we want to make money?

  25. #25 Buffybot
    March 21, 2007

    Well, I’ll be turning 40 on that day. Should I reschedule the party?

  26. #26 Keith Douglas
    March 21, 2007

    chuko: Just as one can take a holiday every day of the year, one can no doubt celebrate The End of something or other.

  27. #27 gramsci411
    March 21, 2007

    well actually (heres a little real archeology)…

    the Mayan Calendar resets in 2012 OR 2011. THe truth is that we are unsure which year it is the Mayan calander starts. I have no website to refer y’all too…Im one of the wierdos that still reads books and all. And real books too! By actual academics who do actual research!!!!!! I know how odd that is in today’s world, but Im sure PZ can relate.

    The Mayan calendar has never ever ever had a complete reset before. Other minor resets–the mayan’s circular conception of time involves several time cycles that reset in various intervals–have coincided with the Mayan world going through a total disruption where they all abandonned their cities (1000 ADish) and when the pre-Colombian period ended with the arrival of the conquistadors (1520ish AD). So coincidence does set a precedent of major changes happening in the Mayan world when aspects of the calendar reset.

    However the Mayan calendar does have a begining around 5000 BCE (academic=godless liberal who uses “Before Current Epoch”). This begining pre-dates the Olmec civilization, but it is several thousand years AFTER humans enter the New World, which suggests that both the world and time existed before the Mayan calendar begins.

    There are no Mayan predictions for after 2012 (or 2011)…again I apologize for no websites to refer y’all too. Try reading books by Michael Coe (no, he doesnt have blog), who is one of the formost experts on ancient Mayans.

    And the Mayans are still very very much around. I dont know from Mel Gibson or his movies…but the anti-semite torture freak seemed to miss the fact that there are several mayan languges still in existence (tzotzal, tzotzil, chole…i think I spelt the first one wrong) and their decendants live throughout places like Chaipas in Mexico, Guatamala, Belieze, Honduras etc. Since the Mayan civilization has collapsed before the Spanish arrived, they were more like peasants under the Aztec empire or decentralized communities that still retained aspects of their fallen state society (as opposed to chiefdoms, tribes, or bands). With out any form of centralized government to rplace, te spanish never quite “pacified” the mayan people.

    anyway…anthropology class is now over (i need to go and draft a lecture about some of david harvey’s ideas…sorry no website or blog for harvey either). Ever the cassandras of academia, we anthropologists actually have been studying stuff like this for decades (and things like religion and marriage and kinship in general) and have been through the kooky theories and the new agers so many times…..

  28. #28 Carlie
    March 21, 2007

    Oh, gramsci411 already covered it – I was going to say that there are some Maya who would be quite surprised to find they don’t exist any more. Maybe not as a homogenous lobby, but still out there, definitely.

  29. #29 Vasha
    March 21, 2007

    Off topic a bit, C.E. standing for “Common Era” is a pretty good way of saying “the calendar we are stuck with” just because its use is common. For my part, I’d really like to use a dating system starting with the earliest exactly-known historical date. Everything before that would be “B.H.” (Before History), and all dates would be approximate. After would be “H.E.” (Historical Era), all exact historical dates would have positive numbers. None of this counting both forward and backward business. However, my research so far has not found what IS the earliest known date — anyone here know?

  30. #30 dukkamon
    March 21, 2007

    Earliest known date? October 23rd 4004 BC, you heathen.

  31. #31 CortxVortx
    March 21, 2007

    re: Wendy (#21)

    “Jeez. My calendar comes to an end on December 31, 2007! Oh, the humanity!

    My calendar goes on after December 31 (whew!) but the font size gets smaller and smaller after that, until January and February 2009 only occupy a space about 1 cm wide. Could this mean that the world is not only ending, but shrinking?

    Well, actually, as you look further into the future on a calendar, time dilation (or, in this case, compression) crowds the dates into smaller and smaller space.

    Or something.

    As for 2112, the hidden meaning is that, sometime that year, Geddy Lee’s fingernails-on-blackboard voice will accidentally be amplified, feedback will enuse, and Earth will split apart at its tectonic boundaries.

    You expect “something from nothing”?

    — CV

  32. #32 CortxVortx
    March 21, 2007

    “Something for nothing.”

    Ah, never mind.

    — CV

  33. #33 Scott Little
    March 21, 2007

    …and the meek shall inherit the earth” – but only temporarily.

    Actually 2112 is not an apocalyptic story. In fact, 2112 is the year that rationality returns to the earth to displace the insanity forced upon people by a priesthood.

    Hopefully that story does come to be a prediction of the future either. Another 100 years of irrationality can’t be a good recipe for us all!!!

  34. #34 khan
    March 21, 2007

    2012 is the year I can start collecting Social Security.

  35. #35 Joshua
    March 21, 2007

    Scott: For the original meaning of “apocalypse” (i.e., a revelation/unveiling rather than the end of the world), that still works.

    21 December is Joseph Stalin’s birthday. COINCIDENCE???

  36. #36 Hairy Doctor Professor
    March 21, 2007

    However, my research so far has not found what IS the earliest known date — anyone here know?

    Earliest known date? October 23rd 4004 BC, you heathen.

    I generally prefer to use January 1, 4713 BCE as a nice, round starting point — Julian Day #1 — convenient, well documented, fits in a 32-bit integer with plenty of space to spare, and most of the history we’re interested in happened afterwards, although there were plenty of goings on earlier, of course (e.g., Klamath Indian legends of the eruption of Mt. Mazama nearly a thousand years earlier). I just wish that Excel didn’t think time started on January 1, 1900…..

  37. #37 Christian
    March 21, 2007

    “It’s one for all, and all for one
    we work together commons sons
    never need to wonder how or why”

  38. #38 Hairy Doctor Professor
    March 21, 2007

    Oops. Current dates fit in a 32-bit integer using the Julian Day method. Today is 2,454,180.

  39. #39 elisabeth
    March 21, 2007

    These goons are not the only ones. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012#Metaphysical_predictions

  40. #40 Sam Paris
    March 21, 2007

    You know, it’s disgusting the way you unbelievers mock and jeer–I mean, the Harmonic Convergence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonic_Convergence
    came off just as it was supposed to back in 1987 and the world’s been just one huge lovefest since then. What more of a sign do you need…?

  41. #41 Millimeter Wave
    March 21, 2007

    At least we can console ourselves with the certain knowledge that once 2012 comes and goes without anything of any particular note happening whatsoever, all of these apocalyptic prophesy cretins will admit that they got it completely wrong and shrink away.

    What? Oh. Never mind…

  42. #42 doridoidae
    March 22, 2007

    I for one am completely able to believe that December 2012 will be the end of the world as we know it… ESPECIALLY if Jeb Bush makes his way into the White House! It IS, after all, an election year.

  43. #43 Autumn
    March 22, 2007

    2012 is the first time that I will be qualified to be President of the United States. Wonder what I’m planning…

  44. #44 Krystalline Apostate
    March 22, 2007

    I for one am completely able to believe that December 2012 will be the end of the world as we know it… ESPECIALLY if Jeb Bush makes his way into the White House!
    If 1 more Shrub makes it to the WH (& him w/an ‘invisible warrior Chang’ playmate), it’ll be time for revolution.

  45. #45 Ed Darrell
    March 22, 2007

    Ooooh. Did you notice the curtains billowing ominously in the one clip? That must mean something!

    Listen to the person with the billowing curtains, and ignore the man behind them . . .

  46. #46 chris y
    March 22, 2007

    Two questions;

    1. If the world ends/is transformed in conformity to Mayan mythology, what happens to pre-millennial dispensationalists? Is it wrong to hope that it will be painful and embarrassing?

    2. Who needs an excuse to party?

    Many years ago, when I was a member of a small group of political activists agitating in support of the opponents of the Central American dictators, we received an unexpected letter from somewhere in Yucatan, which we assumed was entirely written in one of the Mayan languages. Unfortunately there was no Spanish translation, so, with considerable regret, and taking into account the fact that we had no idea who it was from, or what it was about, we decided we could take no action on it.

  47. #47 Faithful Reader
    March 22, 2007

    “I think there is going to be more outbreaks of telepathy”

    Apparently the world will not end because of inaccurate grammatical constructions. Or maybe in spite of inaccurate grammatical constructions.

  48. #48 False Prophet
    March 22, 2007

    “2112” has a fun bassline too:

    +—+——————–+—————+—————–+——–+
    |—|*4:—————–|—————|—————–|——-*|
    |—|*4:—————3-|——-3—5—|—————3-|——-*|
    +-0-+—-5-5-5-0-5-5-5—+-3-3-3—3—0-+-5-5-5-0-5-5-5—+-3—0–+

    I saw Rush on the Test for Echo tour in 1996, when they were playing the entire “2112” before the intermission.

  49. #49 Bart
    March 22, 2007

    Burried in a box?!? Go find it PZ! Let it breath again!

    In a world of pop musicians who always thank some imaginary friend for their success, the boys of Rush are a breath of fresh air. Neil Pearts lyrics are always refreshing, and thought provoking. As far as I know, Rush is the only bad that was invited to a NASA launch. They wrote the song ‘Countdown’

    ‘This magic day when super-science
    Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams’

    Thats my idea of Magic.

    New album in May. Can’t wait.

  50. #50 Bess
    March 22, 2007

    I thought the best line was

    “For the Mayans, time is…the universal factor of synchronisation, which is very different from how we think of time.”

    That’s how I think of time! Am I backward?

  51. #51 Flex
    March 22, 2007

    gramsci411 wrote, “I’m one of the wierdos that still reads books and all. And real books too! By actual academics who do actual research!!!!!! I know how odd that is in today’s world, but Im sure PZ can relate.”

    Don’t kid yourself, actual readers of books by academics have always been a vanishingly small minority. Even the students never read them.

    Excellent post BTW.

    Them Mayan’s were pretty good planners to schedule the apocalypose on a Friday night. Sounds like a good, old-fashioned, hard-drinking, apocalypse and we don’t have to get up the next day to go to work.

  52. #52 frog
    March 22, 2007

    Crocius,

    I believe that the Mayan calendrical system is base 12 – their counting system definitely is base 12&20. That’s the usual for neolithic civilizations, where astronomical events were closely tied to counting – 12 and 20 go better into 360, with 5+ day intercalendrical period. Then you just scale it to 12 & 20 year cycles, rather than powers of 10. Never heard of a natural hex counting system.

  53. #53 The Constructivist
    March 22, 2007

    Just read Almanac of the Dead. What a novelist does with this tidbit is more interesting than Gibson or these idiots.

    Mind if I enter this in our Blogocalypse Carnival (for April 1, of course)?

  54. #54 Elsternwick Pierre
    March 23, 2007

    I’m reminded of a time, a few years ago, when I was a disk jockey on a community radio station. One of the nut-sects had come to the conclusion that the world would end on a particular day at 3PM (just the time I was on the air). This was some years before the 2000 nuttiness.
    I decided that the thing to do was play a long track by the Neville Brothers that would span the time. My reasoning was that God definitely wouldn’t want to bring the world to an end whenever The Nevs were playing. Turned out I was right.

    Elsternwick Pierre

  55. #55 David Marjanovi?
    March 24, 2007

    However, my research so far has not found what IS the earliest known date — anyone here know?

    That changes all the time. Science marches on.

    1. If the world ends/is transformed in conformity to Mayan mythology, what happens to pre-millennial dispensationalists? Is it wrong to hope that it will be painful and embarrassing?

    MUA HA HA HA HAAAAAH.

    2. Who needs an excuse to party?

    Good question. I’ve never understood it.

  56. #56 David Marjanovi?
    March 24, 2007

    However, my research so far has not found what IS the earliest known date — anyone here know?

    That changes all the time. Science marches on.

    1. If the world ends/is transformed in conformity to Mayan mythology, what happens to pre-millennial dispensationalists? Is it wrong to hope that it will be painful and embarrassing?

    MUA HA HA HA HAAAAAH.

    2. Who needs an excuse to party?

    Good question. I’ve never understood it.

  57. #57 Owlmirror
    March 25, 2007

    @#27:

    There are no Mayan predictions for after 2012 (or 2011)…

    I am not an expert on Mayan anthropology, but I’ve seen something by someone who certainly appears to be knowledgeable, that directly contradicts that statement. I’ll post the text, and the link to further explanation, and say no more myself:

    This “Maya Calendar/End of the World” carries some leftover milenialism from Y2k, which is entirely driven from the observation that the calendar “odometer” turns to a bunch of zeroes close together. The Maya calendar does a neat thing on 2012, but as Maya epigraphers point out, the Maya themselves expected the world to go on at least 2800 more years after 2012, otherwise they wouldn’t have written down predictions for 4772 AD.

    Herewith the link:
    http://elcalizazul.squarespace.com/the-blue-chalice-english/2005/12/30/get-ready-for-baktun-13.html

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