This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 423,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The world will end in 2012! ... or not

"The 2012 doomsday prediction is a present-day cultural meme proposing that cataclysmic and apocalyptic events will occur in the year 2012. This idea has been disseminated by numerous books, Internet sites and by TV documentaries."
The best part of this video is the line "even an Internet-based prophetic software program ..." like the I Ching and the Mayan calendar weren't quite enough to sell you on the whole thing. Of course, the gods know the Internet is without flaw. Where else could the Flat Earth Society exist? Cast the first stone, oh, noble hacker.

The forecast is based primarily on what is claimed to be the end-date of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar -- attributed to Mayans or Aztecs, because "Mesoamerican," doesn't doesn't sound as nifty -- which is presented as lasting 5,125 years and as terminating on Dec. 21 or 23, 2012, along with interpretations of assorted legends, scriptures, numerological constructions and prophecies.

A New Age interpretation of this transition posits that, during this time, the planet and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation rather than an Armageddon, and that 2012 may mark the beginning of a newer sociopolitical age for the global community.

I highly doubt the human race will change course in a heartbeat. Living in Sedona for a mere 5 1/2 years, I can definitively state that good will and blind hope hasn't made a whole heck of a lot of difference. Yes, the arts community is more active and we have a few more cool festivals, but there hasn't been any increase in "consciousness," whatever that means. We still have hippies camping in the woods outside of town because they can't afford Sedona's high rent, gas is still just under $3/gallon, and city politics are as petty "me, me, me," as they were when I became a journalist in Sedona 5 years ago.

Baring alien invasion, a visit by angels -- wouldn't that suck if we found out if an extinct religion like Zoroastrianism or the extinct Christian heresies like Arianism or Monothelitism were right -- the only thing that's going to happen by Dec. 23, 2012 is a fire sale on all the "2012 end of the world" merchandise before Christmas Eve.

Yet, Web sites like Survive 2012 are still raking in the dough in the meantime, namely by selling a "Survive 2012" book. God bless capitalism to make a quick buck on Americans' natural fear of being wiped out by prophesies made by "non-Christian foreigners."

If George Bush was still president in 2012, you know he'd be planning a preemptive strike, "against them godless foreigners who hate America back in ... Mayanistan."

On the plus side, it provides great fodder for disaster movies. I do love John Cusack and Oliver Platt. Ever seen "The Ice Harvest?"

Here are some logical postulates why the world won't end in 2012, (or why we won't see it coming via a 1,000-year-old expiration date):
If there is a divine force that guides human events,
And the Mayans had some contact with that divine force 1,000 years ago,
And this divine forces cares enough about human events to give -- at least one population of -- humans an accurate calendar,
This divine force likely won't wipe us out of existence "just because" the calendar says so
Thus, the belief that world will end when the calendar does is false
The world will end in 2012,
which means that there is not a divine force that will prevent it and save us,

which means that there is not a divine force in the universe, which means that the Mesoamericans do not have a calendar derived from divine source,
thus, predictions made 1,000 years ago that the world will end are false,
or at as accurate as saying that Natalie Portman will spontaneous walk through my front door in the next minute and make love to me,

hold on a minute ....

nope, she's not here ... yet.

Or more simply:
If the Mayans had some contact with the divine forces of the universe ...
Why could they not prevent their empire's decline in 900 CE?

or foreseen the Spanish conquest of the 1500s?

My favorite part of the New Age communities' seemingly intentional blissful ignorance of geopolitics, world history, biology or human nature is the blind acceptance that the world will end due to a whole host of fun "kill 'em all let god sort 'em out" fiascoes.

From Survive 2012:
* Flu Pandemic: it might not be swine flu, but flu researchers say a deadly pandemic is not a case of if, but when.
The Black Death wiped out 1/3 of Europe in the 1300s -- at that was when "civilized people" thought leeches were a sane cure and that Jews grew horns and brought the plague on behalf of Lucifer. A pandemic would likely wipe out the Third World, not people who spend their money on nose jobs and the movie "2012."

* Nuclear War / WW3 / Biological War - although the Cold War is over, and less bunkers are being built, the threat is still very real.
No country in its right mind would initiate World War III with nuclear weapons, Mutual Assured Destruction is not a theory but common practice. Even rogue states like North Korea, a coup-led Pakistan or an Islamist-led Iran lack the ballistic capability or power to do anything but launch limited nuclear strikes against their nearest neighbors. And to do so would likely bring a military, perhaps nuclear response by other armed states. North Korea has fewer than 10 nukes and missile technology that can likely not reach halfway across the Pacific. India and Pakistan both have around 60 nukes, but point them at each other while China has more than 250 and a more stable government.
If Iran manages to get one or two nukes by 2012, they would be answered by the 80 nuclear weapons with greater reach the Israel neither confirms nor denies it has. Besides, before Iranians can master missile technology, they have to master PhotoShop (the above photo is what the Iranian press released in 2006 about a cutting edge missile test, the lower photograph was later leaked to French journalists showing the obvious failure of one missile to launch).

* Large Hadron Collider - scientists tinkering with something they think they understand the risks of, but what if there's a 0.000001% chance their black hole calculations are wrong? Is it worth the risk?
If a micro black hole is formed in at CERN, thermodynamic laws of Hawking radiation dictate that they dissipate almost immediately. Even if a large one could be formed that could harm Earth, it would require more power than has ever been produced in the history of mankind to start the process, all at once. But leave it to the Swiss to figure out a way. If CERN could do it, we'd only have minutes to survive anyway before the planet imploded.

* Nanotechnology - while this might have health concerns when used in everyday products (ie sunscreen), the doomsday risk is when self-replicating little thingies are developed. Search for "grey goo."
Not near this level of technology. Maybe if the calendar expired in 2112.

* Religious apocalypse - or rapture, or "judgment day." Most religions predict such a day, but atheists have nothing to worry about.
Sweet. The meek and atheistic shall inherit the Earth. I call dibs on Maui.

* Nuclear Accident - nothing is foolproof. We've had such accidents in the past, and a bigger accident is totally possible.
True, meltdowns are possible, but even a major meltdown and catastrophic explosion would directly affect only a few hundred square miles. Radiation levels would rise globally, but this would not be the end of the world, just the end of a city and maybe a province or state. However, all American nuclear reactors since Three Mile Island in 1979 have been built with a containment core so that if a nuclear meltdown occurred, the radiation would be restricted to the shell. Other nuclear reactors have been retrofitted or use a reduced amount of fissionable material to prevent another meltdown.

* Rise of the Machines - somewhere between Terminator and I Robot is an easy prediction: robots one day will have the capacity to rule the world. Are we stupid enough to allow it to happen?
Before we have the technology to build the first killing machine, we need one that can clean a house. We're still decades from Steve Jobs unveiling the first iDroid.

* Genetic Modification - we blindly take vaccinations, and we might be sheep when it comes to "gene therapy" as well. Our desire to live longer might just be our undoing.
Genetic modification leads to plants that may devastate other plants or cause cancer. This might lead to mutations that destroy us but again, not for a long, long time. Eat an organic apple and shut up.

* Time Travel Error - someone from the future ventures into our past and causes a conflict in the time-space continuum...
1) If someone from our time went back in time, we'd already be living in the universe they changed.
2) If someone from the future comes back to our time, they would already have known about the effect as it would be "history" in their time. To us, however, it would be as though nothing new happened.

From Space
Nearby Supernova - experts say that no supernova candidates are close enough to harm us. But how many supernovas have they observed?
Warning signs from supernovas, i.e., radiation, travel at the speed of light. The dust and debris of supernovas, however, travel much, much slower. If our nearest star, Alpha Centauri went nova, the first warning sign of radiation would take 4 1/2 years to reach us, even traveling at the speed of light. Which means the material would reach us sometime in the next 40 to 400 years. It's a long, long distance and incredibly slow. If a nearby star exploded, it could destroy Earth, yes. But not in the next three years.

* Explosion from the black hole at the center of our galaxy - read about how something similar could have caused the recent tsunami.
The center of the galaxy is roughly 50,000 light years from us. Again, only light and electromagnetic radiation travels at that speed. If a black hole exploded in or near the center of the galaxy, it would take roughly hundreds of thousands of years to reach us, meaning the detonation had to have happened roughly at the same time modern humans began using tools. And this far away on the edge of the Orion Arm, we have little to fear.

* Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) - a 2004 study told us that a GRB from a distance of just one kiloparsec could destroy half of Earth's ozone layer.
Dangerous, yes, but I decided to read that 2004 Princeton study (scroll down to the "Print options" to download the pdf). One happens every 10,000 to 100,000 years. And gamma-ray bursts are not like a typical nova, they eject material from a star at both poles, meaning the pole would have to be aimed right at Earth. So imagine trying to shoot a dime standing on its end on the observation deck of the Empire State Building ... and you're blindfolded and have to spin around and shoot without aiming ... and you only get one shot every 10,000 years ... and you have to do it standing in a parking lot on the island of Guam.

* Asteroid, Meteor or Comet - ancient, advanced civilizations have one distinct advantage over us - they may have observed the skies for longer, and may have spotted an orbit that will culminate in a collision with Earth in 2012.
True, most cultures watched the stars. However, the concept that space is a three-dimensional environment and not just the "painted" interior of a sphere is a relatively new concept. Johannes Kepler was the first European to even conjecture that space might not be so simple in the 1530s, but there is certainly no evidence that any ancient peoples from Stonehenge builders to Aztecs saw the movement of planets and stars as anything. Most earlier peoples thought the skies were like an overturned bowl on a table, with Earth as the table and certainly wouldn't even imagine the collision of a celestial body with the Earth. A large asteroid ("Armageddon") or comet ("Deep Impact") would be an extinction-level event that could roll into the solar system and destroy life on Earth by 2012, I just doubt the Mayans saw it coming.

* Coronal Mass Ejection (CRE) from our Sun - typically expected to merely cause power blackouts and wreck satellites. But do we really know how big they can get?
The hypercharged plasma would cause blackouts and maybe an electromagnetic burst-type disruption. It would wipe out bank records, a la "Fight Club" but not destroy Earth. The sun could eject physical matter, too, but to hit Earth, this has the same weight at the gamma-ray burst hypothesis, but you get to shoot once every 5,500 years with a howitzer while standing in Battery Park. Still blindfolded though.

* Cosmic Rays - a pet favorite of mine. Either an increase striking our atmosphere, or a weakening of our shields. Either way, more cosmic rays would be silent killers.
Cosmic rays cause cancer and genetic defects. A sudden influx would increase cancer risk, but we're not going to suffer a massive influx of cosmic radiation on Dec. 21, 2009, and begin dropping like flies on Dec. 22. Earth's electromagnetic field, rotation, and moist atmosphere block most radiation anyway. It could lead to massive numbers of deaths by cancer, but it would take years to see the effects.

* Alien Invasion - no evidence, but plenty or believers!
They could also bring us the equivalent of space chocolate. Which would be awesome.

* Solar System Falls Apart (butterfly effect) - to the best of our knowledge, everything is OK for a long, long time. But throw a stray comet or Planet X into the mix, and our solar system could turn into a catastrophic pinball machine.
Or turn every human being into purple-skinned versions of Tom Waits. Which would be equally awesome.

From Earth
* Magnetic Pole Shift - this is something that scientists state has happened before. They suggest it takes thousands of years and does no harm. They are wrong - it could just as easily happen overnight. No mechanism is known for the cause of the magnetic poles swapping places.
The magnetic poles migrate but at the rates of 1° per million years or less. There is no evidence or cause as to why they might shift any faster. Dramatic global changes require a tremendous amount of power, mass, electromagnetic disturbance or other celestial bodies passing nearby, none of which happen quickly nor out of the blue. If something like this were to happen by 2012, we'd likely have noticed warning signs for at least a decade.

* Crustal Displacement - a physical pole shift.
Superearthquake? Lots of buildings fall down but even a major quake beyond anything seen before is still a highly localized phenomenon, not the end of the world.

* Supervolcano -these are real, they have caused great catastrophes in the past, and we have no idea when the next eruption will be. Some believe Yellowstone has been exhibiting signs of unrest.
This is actually feasible.

* Ice Age - right now the buzz is about "global warming", yet a mere thirty years ago we were worried about an impending Ice Age.
Takes hundreds if not thousands of years.

* Global Warming - it will only take an increase of a couple of degrees to make life very difficult for most humans
This is a serious concern, but a gradual one. The temperature won't suddenly jump 10°F between Dec. 20 and Dec. 21, 2012.

Other 2012 criticism:
(I'm not the only one critical of the New Age)
* Academic research does not indicate that the Maya attached any apocalyptic significance to the year 2012: the date for the end of their world lay unimaginable aeons of time in the future.
* John Major Jenkins's 'Galactic alignment' theory is based not only on a misleading astronomical claim, but in part on the same false calendrical premise.
* As the Timewave Zero theory has never been published in a peer-reviewed journal and its sources and reasoning are primarily what would be considered numerological rather than mathematical, the theory has failed to gain any scientific credibility or much recognition by professional mathematicians and scientists.
* Professional astronomers ridicule the Nibiru collision theory, which is based on claimed 'channeling' by extraterrestrials.
* More academic research is needed into the claimed Hopi prophecy: it does not appear to mention the year 2012.
* The Bible's Book of Revelation, composed some 1,900 years ago, did indeed offer a dramatic picture of the end of the world—but it also promised that it would happen "very soon," and indirectly mentions Roman Caesars who were persecuting Christians. The Bible says nothing about 2012 or any similar date.
* The prophecy of the Tiburtine Sybil, as reproduced in the 16th century, did indeed likewise present a dramatic picture of the apocalypse, but did not date it, least of all to 2012.
* While the quatrains of Nostradamus are clearly intended to be read in a pre-apocalyptic context, they do not specifically mention (or, consequently, date) the end of the world: the preface states that they are valid until the year 3797.
* The so-called Lost Book of Nostradamus is a version of the anonymous Vaticinia de summis pontificibus — a book of prophetic papal emblems dating from centuries before his time – and does not mention the year 2012.
* The Prophecies of Merlin were a fictional composition by the medieval Geoffrey of Monmouth, amplified in 13th-century Venice, and did not mention the year 2012.
* The original 1641 edition of The Prophecies of Mother Shipton says nothing at all about doomsday or the end of the world or, consequently, any proposed date for either.
* The alarmist claims of imminent doom made by Sony Pictures in their fictional publicity for the forthcoming film 2012 are not supported by reputable independent academic research.

All I know about 2012 is that if the world is going to end, throw your vote away on my 2012 Sedona mayoral campaign.


Anonymous said...

I kinda have been expecting this in a way...
But I reali dun think da world is going to end...start a new era maybe but the world is not ending.
That's not gonna happen till a thousand years later! Ok, I'm not sure bout that either but that's not the point! The world's not gonna end! Full stop!
]earth 2012
[/url] - some truth about 2012

Anonymous said...

You know, people unceasingly make comments when anything is predicted to come to pass in 2012, like “fairly that is if the faction is hush here.” You do realize that the Mayans suggest the creation will end on Dec. 21 (or 23rd)? So in all distinct possibility if anything is going to encounter in 2012 there is solitary the slimmest possibility that the everybody hand down contain ended before it happens.
]eschatology 2012
[/url] - some truth about 2012

Anonymous said...

your website is very informative but to be honest with you i wish something would happen there are over 6 billion people on this planet and counting how far will it go before the reset button is pushed again i am only 28 years old and have seen to much chaos even in my time and i have no intentions of bringing another life into this world as it stands now im sure this comment wont be approved but im just a realist that welcomes any globule change to this human race

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.