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Apocalypse, Eventually PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sean Sturgeon   
This is a day for all of humanity to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The ABC News website ‘ABC.go’ recently posted an article explaining that the meme-worthy and oft-referenced Mayan Apocalypse of 2012 appears to have been postponed. It seems that a misinterpretation of the Mayan system of calculating dates may have bumped the destruction of everything back by one hundred years.

The internet can wait while your jubilations are exhausted.

A reader merely skimming the text may feel better as a result, but it seems equally likely that a torrent of drool ought to have shorted out their netbook. This could be, a more tolerant reader might add, just news fluff and of no harm at all. This is possible, but there is something about the piece that is just not right. A quality persists, like an ephemeral scent in the air. The text seems innocuous enough albeit silly, but the nostrils of this particular analogy still flare at the hint of that scent. That’s the smell of stupid.

The ABC, GO! story states that the Mayan Apocalypse may not warrant much concern but for no other reason than the math might be off by a smidge.

First off, it seems a shame that someone used actual math – numbers that might have been used instead for inventing better telescopes and waffle irons – on the nerdly details of a premise so faulty that it mistakes the pages of a calendar for the destruction of all human life.

Secondly, the author must have dislocated a lobe or a cortex in the fierce mental contortions needed to smear this text onto your monitor and avoid even accidentally passing on the thinnest scintilla of meaningful fact. Despite words, sentences and a serious, almost-a-newspaper font, the piece seems designed to actually leave the world with less knowledge than had previously existed.

Rather than even attempt to address the frivolity of the 2012 Doomsday scenario, ABC News reports the matter as they would the cancellation of a pie-eating contest. To their credit, they do deploy quotation marks when using words like “end-of-days” and since they posted the thing, that effort alone must cut the mustard as their measure of editorial responsibility.

The ABC News article is precisely the kind of mushy, brain-stalling, stupor-inducing pseudo fact that is anathema to critical thinking and bars the way to serious contemplation of the silliest of notions, up to and including, “my gazebo is a spacecraft piloted by gnomes”.

This may seem like exaggeration, but the common denominator of the information we are given has not just been lowered, it’s been traumatized. The common denominator is lying in bed right now amid a debris field of empty ice cream tubs, crying like Lindsay Lohan at trial.

There is no Mayan Apocalypse and ABC “News” never hints at this. The Mayan Long Count calendar is built in great long ages and the last one they really bothered with just happens to end (maybe) in December of 2012. They never got any further because they were too busy having their culture wiped out, a topic that would make a much better story than the last page of the Farmer’s Almanac bringing on Universal Armageddon.

Any calendar is as germane to the fate of the world as the fact that phonebooks are published annually. When the new phone book comes out it’s not as if someone shows up at the door and motions for you to enter a big garbage truck; it is not your time to be replaced by the new crop of humans.

ABC News must know all of this, but they don’t want to upset anybody. So, the quotation marks do the journalism.

 Among the boils of brain puss that have been built around apocalypticism, dates are very common cysts. It meant no more in the year 1000 than it did in 2000 or than it will in 2012. All such numerology is false; even if nature could care about our days and years, it would not. Every human calendar is just that – human – and no more predicts the end of planets, stars and civilizations than the lyrics to MacArthur Park.

In the year 1000, when despair was one of the four food groups and the guy who could almost count to six was the smartest person in his village, you could at least make an argument that they didn’t know any better.

 We ought to know better now. The story has shown up on Yahoo, the bewildering Huffington Post and a wad of other sources. People will read it and may never think of the underlying foolishness. If anyone ever asks why critical thinking is so important, show them that article, and the thousands like it. We’re swimming in hollow noise posing as information.

Thanks, ABC “News”.

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Comments (22)Add Comment
Amen!
written by GusGus, October 29, 2010

Amen! (You should excuse the expression...)
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written by Otara, October 29, 2010
Well given how distressed some people do get at 'world will end' dates, its a good thing, even if the ideal would be people realising its all crap.
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written by lytrigian, October 29, 2010
Let's not make too much fun of the math. Correlating the Mayan calendar with the Gregorian is a legitimate archaeological/astronomical problem. Very likely, some researcher came up with a new calculation -- the one that placed the end of the 13th b'ak'tun in December 2012 was always tentative -- and thought this would be one way to get his results noticed. If so, it's not his fault that it's being reported with the wrong emphasis. Even if one might have predicted it, knowing as we do how the press treats woo.
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written by FledgelingSkeptic, October 29, 2010
Damn! So much for the really big party we were planning to throw.
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written by Bruno, October 29, 2010
Apocalypses are always cancelled shortly before the planned date. Remember the total lack of mass panic as the planetary alignment of may 5, 2000 came near. It wasn't like that in the past of course, proving that doomsday prophets are capable of learning by experience. They've learned to avoid embarrassment by any end times failing to happen by calling them off in a timely fashion.

People are simply bad at long term planning. When 2012 seemed as far off as never-neverland, so does the impending humiliation of nothing at all happening. With 2012 coming closer, and actual things like the London Olympics coming into sight, apprehension sets in. With a few exceptions and perhaps a mass suicide of oh, two or three people, the whole thing will peter out well before december 31, 2011.
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What he said, Lowly rated comment [Show]
@Fledgeling Skeptic
written by StarTrekLivz, October 30, 2010
Yes, I was going to max out my credit cards and have a REALLY good holiday .....

Oh well.

I wonder why all the doomsayers are not concerned the world will end on December 31, when our calendar ends? Oh, that's right, because they've experienced it before and see that bookstores and cardshops are selling new calendars with January 1. Maybe if some enterprising Mayan would sell a new calendar????
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Predictable Lyrics
written by Willy K, October 30, 2010
Mayan Apocalypse Park is gnawing at my heart
All my sweet gray neurons melting down
Someone knocked the sense out of my brain
and I'm not sure that I can take it
'cause it took so long to waste it
and I'll never have to use my brain Again
OH NO! smilies/grin.gif
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written by Destroyer of Worlds, October 30, 2010
There is no Mayan Apocalypse and ABC "News" never hints at this.
Oh, come on, as if claims about the end of the world need to be dignified with a response. That would just give its lunatic proponents the excuse to claim there's a genuine debate about the subject.

Nerdy maths on a faulty premise is the only thing this story is good for. Like asking how much energy the Death Star would need to blow up Alderaan.
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written by Zoroaster, October 30, 2010
The galling irony about all the end of the world predictions is that there are so many of them that whenever the earth does get smacked by an asteroid it will, in all likelihood, fulfill somebody's prediction somewhere and the last thing we shall here will be, "I told you so!"
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@Mabus, Lowly rated comment [Show]
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written by UltraTexan, October 31, 2010
I have a sure-fire bet for the end of the world peeps: I will bet all the money in my checking and savings account that the world doesn't end. If the person taking the bet is 100% sure, then he/she has nothing to lose because the money will be useless after the end of the world!
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@UltraTexan
written by Betting Man, October 31, 2010
Why would they want to take that bet? If they're right and the world ends, they can't very well get you to pay up, can they. (Well, depending on in what way the world ends.)

It might perhaps make more sense to offer to pay them some amount now for the right to take all their possessions later, after the supposed doomsday date. That way it would make sense for them to take the offer, since there's actually something in it for them.
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@Betting Man
written by UltraTexan, October 31, 2010
Good thinking, looks like I'll have to modify my bet. Maybe pay half upfront.
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written by tmac57, November 01, 2010
Well crap!!! Now what am I going to do with all of my 'Food Insurance'http://www.foodinsurance.com/.
I'll never trust that Glenn Beck again!
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“my gazebo is a spacecraft piloted by gnomes”
written by RobbieD, November 03, 2010
What this article really seems to be telling us is the shockingly bad state of contemporary journalism. There is no hesitation, it seems, in exaggerating the most ridiculous story to obtain the maximal amount of hype. Facts are not allowed to get in the way of a 'good story'. It is fantasy and fairy tales. That a 'mainstream' outfit like ABC should be touting this garbage shows what a sorry state the industry is in.

Gone are the days when news was the reporting of facts about events that have happened. Now it is speculation about what might be from crystal ball gazing and entrail readings. This amounts to a fundamental dishonesty in reporting that no-one in the media appears to be addressing.
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Not so bad in year 1000
written by shingouz, November 03, 2010
Just a precission about your comment about year 1000: probably the "year 1000 terrors" didn't actually existed, or at least they weren't connected to any numerological thing.

In fact, almost anybody knew exactly in wich year they were living, at year 1000 :-)

I thought this historical hoax (1000 year terror) was widely known, but perhaps it's not the case.

A very good article about this at http://books.google.es/books?id=kbLAPgcPA5MC
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written by gr8white, November 03, 2010
Why would they want to take that bet? If they're right and the world ends, they can't very well get you to pay up, can they. (Well, depending on in what way the world ends.)


As hard as it may be to believe, I actually made a bet back in the seventies with a guy who was so sure the rapture was imminent that he promised to give me everything he owned if it hadn't come in ten years. Unfortunately I lost touch with the guy. Probably wouldn't have got much from him anyway.
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written by curtcarl, November 04, 2010
Re: the American Revolution Oct 30- 2010
written by endatheismnow, October 30, 2010

Is this the guy who writes the blurbs on the labels of Dr. Bronner's liquid soap?
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written by kennypo65, November 07, 2010
Changing the date BEFORE this non-event doesn't happen is just perfect. If you try to reset the date after nothing happens, you risk looking like the Millerites of the 19th century. All standing around, after selling off all their possessions, looking for the rapture that never came.
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written by Steel Rat, November 13, 2010
Now if we can only get people to say "twenty hundred" instead of "two thousand" when referring to the current years, we'll be golden.
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