In this post, LSAT Blog reader Sami analyzes that claim. Please feel free to discuss her analysis, and the imminent doom we may be facing, in the comments.
If you'd like to write a post for LSAT Blog with your own analysis of the Mayan prophecy, or any other real-life situation, please email me. I'd love to feature you!
Some people interpret the Mayan Long Count Calendar as predicting that the world will end on December 21st, 2012. Since that date is rapidly approaching, some people are starting to get a bit antsy.
However, very few take the time to analyze the prophecies and dissect what they actually mean.
The Long Count Calendar does indeed run out of listed days around the end of this year, but it’s not as simple as overlaying that calendar on top of ours (the Roman calendar).
The Mayans saw time as cyclical. It’s why they had a round calendar—when it runs out, you start over, and maybe it’s a new and different age, or maybe it’s just a continuation.
Additionally, the Mayans measured months differently than we do, and they didn’t account for leap years. As such, when we make those adjustments, it turns out that the end of their calendar happened late last year. Other adjustments put it at as late as spring next year. Either way, the world should've ended already.
Doomsayers claim that two texts say we’re in for a world of pain when the calendar resets at the end of 2012. However, here, too, the facts are muddled.
Those two texts (actually carvings at two different archeological sites) are fragmentary at best, inconclusive at worst, and part of a body of texts numbering around 15,000. So, only 2 out of 15,000 texts mention the year 2012. If the Mayans truly believed the world would end in 2012, surely it would have appeared more frequently in the texts.
The New Age Interpretations
Astrologers say that when we have the Winter Equinox this year, it’ll happen during an alignment with the galactic center, and that that will cause massive tidal forces. Or that we’ll encounter a rogue planet. Or that there will be solar storms that will burn us to a crisp. Or that the poles will shift. The speculation has grown to the point that NASA has posted an FAQ page to debunk these ideas.
Furthermore, the media, especially movies and TV, really likes to give us end-of-the world scenarios, even before we were near 2012, and the fact that when you boil it down, Western—and especially American—views are built on a branch of thought that looks for an apocalypse. Add this again to a world where we’re constantly hearing about how scarce all our resources and liberties are getting, and how angry our enemies are, and how frightening the future looks. We’re left with a culture ripe for exactly this sort of an idea to latch on. Apocalyptic ideas thrive when people feel powerless in society.
The world will most likely not end. So most likely that I can almost make an absolute statement about it, and if it does, it won't be by any of the ways listed above. The panic is fueled by the availability of information that TV and the Internet gives us without the balance of any context or analysis. The ideas catch on because they’re exciting. They’re big. They’re good stories. They give people something solid to prepare for. There’s a quirk in human psychology that lets people believe massive, weird things much easier than they believe down-to-earth, reasonable things, and the 2012 predictions have tapped into this quirk in spades.
The same thing happened in 1999 when the idea that computers wouldn’t know what to do with the year 2000 surfaced, and there was a massive uproar about the Y2K bug. There were people who really, honestly believed that something terrible was going to happen, and they built bunkers and stockpiled food and weapons, but the result was nothing more than clocks and calendars clicking over like they always do. The same will happen here, too.