2012: Apocalypse Not.

metroatheists's picture

Written by Joel


Well, no, probably not.  There is a good chance this is wrong.  This 2012 Apocalypse hysteria is not a small nutjob movement based on fuzzy thinking and very little compelling evidence, it is in fact a very large nutjob movement based on a fuzzy thinking and very little compelling evidence.  Need proof of that?  An Amazon.com book search for "2012" generated 91,450 results.  So one can conclude that there exists a market for this crackpot idea, a large market.  Most intelligent people (most people reading this blog) understand, without me having to explain it to them, that this idea of a 2012 apocalypse is as wrong as the prediction that the world was going to end in the year 2000...oh no wait, the prophecy was ignorant to the fact that the Gregorian/Julian calendar started with the year 1, so actually the world was going to end in 2001, but that didn't happen either.  If you need proof that the world did NOT end in 2000 or 2001, you need only notice that we are still here talking about the fact that it didn't happen.  The 2012 apocalypse hysteria is based on, what proponents of the idea call several "key pieces of evidence".  Let us now examine this "evidence", to see if the claims stand up to skeptical examination.  However, it must be pointed out, that the "evidence" the proponents claim to be evidence, imply their own claims, which we shall examine.


Key piece of "evidence" #1: The Mayan Calendar

The Mayan Calendar may be the most popular, but by no means compelling,  piece of  "evidence" the proponents of ancient prophecy use to bolster their claims of Apocalyptic fantasies.  The main claim using the Mayan calendar is that "on December 21, 2012, for the first time in approximately 26,000 years, the Sun will rise to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way (eye, heart, center) and the ecliptic plane. The sun aligning with the galactic center, is referred to as the Cosmic Cross. According to the ancient Maya, this date will mark the end of one world as we know it and the beginning of another"(4).  With the wonders of the Internet it possible to learn about a great many things from the comfort of one's own home.  So here, I shall demystify the Mayan Calendar.  First,  let us acknowledge what a calendar, any calendar, or any time keeping device or system for that matter, truly is.  Any time-keeping device is merely an arbitrary, and altogether human invention, not more necessary, in the cosmic scheme,  than our inventions of anything else.  These devices and systems are important only to us, for our own selfish means of prosperity and survival.  Most calendars, of every culture and age, have a few features in common which tells us something both about the regularity of the cosmos and about human nature and observation.  These features include a set, 20-30 day months based on the phases of the moon, woven into a longer count of a 365 year based on how long it takes for the Earth to travel around the sun, and set within all of this days that the people consider scared or at least somehow different from other days for various cultural reasons.  The Mayan calendar, as well as our own Gregorian/Julian calendar, have exactly these features.  Although culturally different and separated by a vast amount of time, our calendar and that of the Mayan's are quite similar.  Not for any trivial, pseudo-scientific reason but because we are all humans observing the same cosmos.  The Mayan calendar is arranged thusly: it is composed of "a ritual cycle of 260 named days and a year of 365 days. Taken together, they form a longer cycle of 18,980 days, or 52 years of 365 days, called a 'Calendar Round'"(1).    Further, the calendar can be broken down even farther.  The 260-day ritual calendar, is composed of "two smaller cycles of days numbered from 1 to 13 and an ordered series of 20 named days"(1).  The names of these days varied greatly among the the peoples and cultures that unitized it, however, "the names for the ritual days differed throughout Mesoamerica, scholars believe that the various calendars were synchronized based on their use in divination. In particular, each named day was thought to have certain fateful characteristics, but most of the details have been lost"(1).  The Mayan calendar, just like all other systems of time keeping was extraordinarily arbitrary.  This is proven by the fact that "the start of the 365-day year varied"(1).  Also, "the 365-day year was divided into 18 named months (uinals) of 20 days" and, coupled with a religious superstition about the world, "one month of 5 “nameless” days, called Uayeb. The nameless days were considered extremely unlucky, causing the Maya to observe them with fasting and sacrifices to deities"(1).  The Mayan's also had a system in place in order to designated their calendar days, like we do today.  "Each ordinary day had a fourfold designation—in order, day number and day name in the 260-day cycle and day number within the month and month name in the 365-day cycle. Thus, each of the 18,980 days in the Calendar Round had a unique designation (e.g., 12 Caban 15 Ceh)"(1).  By now, 2012 Apocalypse advocates are jumping up and down about something called the Long Count'; "a continuous marking of time from a base date"(1), which was put in place by the Mayan's to "describe a given date more accurately".(1)  The most crushing blow to the 2012 myth, may be the fact, in fact a theme throughout this blog, that even the start of the 'Long Count' is inherently arbitrary;  "Ahau 8 Cumku (3113 BC) was the base date used by the Maya for the start of the present era"(1).  Not only that, but even more astonishingly, the calendar isn't set to end on December 21st of the year a.d. 2012, it is in fact "due to end in AD 2011"(1).

We have our own "ritual calendar" composed of "named days" ourselves.  We need only observe that we engage in festival celebration and relax the necessity for labor on a great many days during the year, i.e. The Fourth of July, Christmas, Hanukkah, Labor Day, Memorial Day etc.   We also have our share of superstitious "unlucky" days", namely any number of Friday's that happen to be the 13th of any given month, Halloween, and, in the recent past, June 6, 2006 due to the way we numerically represent the date, 6/6/06.  Our calendar lacks a "Long count" but that would be about the only real difference between the two in terms of features. However, no one alive today claims that our Gregorian/Julian calendar predicts any apocalypse or end-times scenario.


Key piece of "evidence" #2: The I-Ching

Believers in the 2012 apocalypse myth refute this objection by claiming that there is independent, corroborating evidence in the form of an ancient Chinese book known as, The I Ching.  Let us now investigate this so-called "evidence".   The I-Ching, or Book of Change, is "an ancient Chinese system of divination, based on a book of Taoist philosophy and expressed in hexagrams chosen at random and interpreted to answer questions and give advice"(2). This system is "a set of predictions represented by a set of 64 abstract line arrangements called hexagrams (卦 guà).  Each hexagram is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines (爻 yáo), where each line is either Yang (an unbroken, or solid line), or Yin broken, an open line with a gap in the center). With six such lines stacked from bottom to top there are 26 or 64 possible combinations, and thus 64 hexagrams represented."(3).  The system was supposed inspired or given supernaturally, the date ranges from 2800 BCE-2737 BCE (3).  The fundamental augment the 2012 myth proponents point out is its age and extraordinary precision of it's predictions.  The way the I-Ching supposedly predicts future events, for an individual or global, has its own dubious history.  "The oldest method for casting the hexagrams, using yarrow stalks, is a biased random number generator, so the possible answers are not equiprobable. While the probability of getting either yin or yang is equal, the probability of getting old yang is three times greater than old yin. The yarrow stalk method was gradually replaced during the Han Dynasty by the three coins method. Using this method, the imbalance in generating old yin and old yang was eliminated. However, there is no theoretical basis for indicating what should be the optimal probability basis of the old lines versus the young lines. Of course, the whole idea behind this system of divination is that the oracle will select the appropriate answer anyway, regardless of the probabilities."(3)  So here we have a system which itself has changed its method of prediction, starting out as very biased and then changed to a seemingly more random system to give the impression that if a prophetic prediction appears to come true that the "randomness" can be explained away by the invocation of the supernatural.  However, the predictions of the I-Ching work on the same principles as that of Astrology, a phenomenon known as The Forer Effect which is "tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements could apply to many people"(5).  This was discovered by Psychologist Bertram R. Forer, who "found that people tend to accept vague and general personality descriptions as uniquely applicable to themselves without realizing that the same description could be applied to just about anyone" (5).  This is how the I-Ching's so called predictions work and thus cannot be considered genuine predictions.   This includes the doomsday date of December 21, 2012.

Key piece of "evidence" #3: The Bible

Yes.  I know.  You're probably tired of this argument too, as it has been conclusively found to have not predicted anything and was written for predictive purposes.  Here, I will not focus on the whole Bible but only that book which has be touted as the great predictor of the apocalypse, The Book of Revelation.  The Book of Revelation was written towards the end of the 1st century AD by a man, known only  as John.  This is not the same John that wrote the Gospel of John, conclusively shown to be the case after a thorough statistical analysis of the two texts, but is someone very different.  He is known as John of Patmos.  This is due to his references to himself as "John" in Rev 1:1, 4, 9; 22:8 (6,7).  He refers to his exile to the island of Patmos, of the coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), in Rev 1:9 (6,7), where he wrote the Book of Revelation.  During the time John wrote Revelation, what is now modern-day Turkey, was under the control of the extremely powerful Roman Empire.  This fact alone is enough to derive the true, non-prophetic meaning from Revelation.  I will not go into lucid detail here but two symbols should be clarified.  The seven headed demon or beast is an allegorical reference to  the seven Roman Emperors that had ruled till John's time.  Although scholars can't agree on which specific seven emperors John was referring it is at least clear that it is a reference to Roman imperial power.  John goes on further to associate the beast with seven hills.  Rome is known as the city of seven hills, as then as is today, because it is build on seven hills (7).  Not terribly inventive.  The other is that of the now infamous, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, mention in Rev 6:1-8.  The four horsemen in  the order they appear in the Book of Revelation , with associated color and meaning, are: White (Conquest), Red (war), Black (Famine), Pale (Death)(7,Cool.  This imagery harkens back to the mythical story of the Jews fleeing Egypt in the Old Testament book of Exodus and the imagery of the the ten plagues.  Since John was writing about the Roman Empire and Roman persecution of the Christians of the day, he was doing the same kind of writing the Jews did when writing Exodus.  John was saying that God will intervene, exact justice for his downtrodden people, in the same sort of way that is written about in Exodus, via plagues.  In other words, John wasn't necessarily being completely original here.  Now, to the point.  How does this connect to the 2012 myth?  Believers in the 2012 myth claim that because The Book of Revelation predicts the end of the world, it MUST mean December 21, 2012.  This commits two fallacies.  The most obvious of which is confirmation bias.  The second, to a lesser degree, is post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means "After this, therefore because of this"(9).  Thus, this piece of evidence is more flimsy the preceding and as flimsy as the next, and last that shall be presented.


Key piece of "evidence" #4: Terence McKenna/Timewave Graph

This piece of "evidence" has its basis on the Mayan calendar, so I will not recount that bit.  However, this addition to the Mayan part must be mention, lest I be lambasted by the believers in the myth for not being "complete".  Terence McKenna (November 16, 1946 - April 3, 2000) was a writer, philosopher, and ethnobotanist. He is noted for his many speculations on the use of psychedelic, plant-based hallucinogens, and subjects ranging from shamanism, the development of human consciousness, and the Novelty Theory - Time Wave: Zero Point"(4).  He is also responsible for the Timewave graph.  First, we must understand Novelty Theory, which isn't a true scientific theory at all; "The theory proposes that the universe is an engine designed for the production and conservation of novelty. Novelty, in this context, can be thought of as newness, or extropy (a term coined by Max More meaning the opposite of entropy) (4)".  No scientific evidence for this so called "theory" has been found, ever.  Thus one can conclude that it most probably bunk and that McKenna was just a little affected by the psychedelic hallucinogens.  However, this "theory" isn't going away yet.  Further, "According to McKenna, when novelty is graphed over time, a fractal waveform known as 'timewave zero' or simply the 'timewave' results. The graph shows at what time periods, but never at what locations, novelty increases or decreases. Considered by some to represent a model of history's most important events, the universal algorithm has also been extrapolated to be a model for future events. McKenna admitted to the expectation of a "singularity of novelty", and that he and his colleagues projected many hundreds of years into the future to find when this singularity (runaway "newness" or extropy) could occur. The graph of extropy had many enormous fluctuations over the last 25,000 years, but amazingly, it hit an asymptote at exactly December 21, 2012. In other words, entropy (or habituation) no longer exists after that date. It is impossible to define that state. The technological singularity concept parallels this, only at a date roughly three decades later. According to leading expert Ray Kurzweil), another concept called cultural singularity (essentially cultural dissolution, or language dissolution), parallels this as well. McKenna claimed to have no knowledge of the Mayan calendar, which ends exactly the same day that the Timewave graph does: December 21, 2012 (4)".  This is a long quote and requires some dissection.  The graph argument is worthless precisely because there is no objectivity in it.  McKenna could easy, and probably did, fix the placement of the "Timewave Graph" such that it did end on December 21, 2012.  The pseudo-science regarding "newness" and so forth is so laughable as to be unworthy of further discussion.  Lastly, the idea that McKenna knew and researched things such as the I-Ching and wasn't aware of the December 21, 2012 date is so unlikely as to be nearly impossible.  Lining up a graph with a timeline doesn't prove or predict anything because doing such is riddled with subjectivity and thus is not science.



December 21, 2012 is most certainly not the date that the world is going to end.  Above, I have conclusively set forth why the 2012 myth is bunkum and should not be taken seriously.  It should also be pointed out that every last Apocalyptic/End Times prediction has failed to come true.  We know this because we are still here, mocking those predictions and those who made them.  Yes the Mayan's and Chinese were an advanced and successful ancient peoples.  However, we've learned much since their time and has rendered their superstitions not only false, but out-dated and unnecessary.  So, don't worry about 2012.  There will be a Christmas and a Happy New Year party in New York for 2013 and we'll all be exactly 4 years older.



1  Encyclopedia Britannica(http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/370868/Mayan-calendar)
2  Encarta Online Dictionary (http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_1861619882/I_Ching.html)
3  Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Ching#History)
4  Crystal Links (http://www.crystalinks.com/2012.html)
5  The Skeptic Dictionary (http://www.skepdic.com/forer.html)
6  Ancient Evidence, Discovery Times Channel
7  Bible Gateway (www.biblegateway.com)
8  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
9  How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age (Paperback) (Third Edition), Authors: Schick, Theodore, Jr., Vaughn, Lewis.2002:McGraw Hill ISBN: 0-7674-2048-9


I never gave the 2012 thing

I never gave the 2012 thing a hoot of notice, nor wanted to hear shit about it.

     BUT your post has alot of interesting stuff, and would be easier to read and re referenced with some more paragraphs / sub titles etc.

I am a lazy reader and a poor writer, and drunk now ! .... Anyway, this will now be in my RRS tracked option, so I will get back to this, maybe ..... thanks.

  I predict 3030 will be the biggy !       ((( the calender is just fucking wrong !

TomJ's picture

Spain killed the Mayan calendar.

It's not like the Mayan civilization mysteriously vanished and we have no idea what happened to them. The Mayan calendar ends because Mayan culture ended and the Mayan calendar tradition has not been needed for more than 450 years. Mayans wrote theirs out to the year 2012, and unfortunately the Spanish conquered their civilization from during a campaign that lasted from 1527 to 1546.  The Mayan people were assimilated into the Spanish colonies that were established following the conquest.  The Spanish brought Catholicism and western traditions to the newly conquered people and, surprise, no one updated the Mayan calendar anymore because they started using the Julian Calendar.

Today with modern computers we could calculate Mayan calendars for the next 1 trillion years in the blink of an eye, but back then the manual calculation would have taken much time, and their data storage was limited to what they could write on animal skins with animal hair brushes.

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Magus's picture

Is it a count down or a

Is it a count down or a count up calendar?

Sounds made up...
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pauljohntheskeptic's picture

Very well thought out

Very well thought out article debunking the 2012 BS.

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Wonderist's picture

Good post, metroatheists.

Good post, metroatheists. One of the key flaws in the Mayan Calendar idea and the Timewave idea is the idea that an exponential growth curve (such as technology) approaches a zero point.

The thinking goes something like this: In the past, the gap between major advancements was measured in 10s of thousands of years. Later it was measured in 1000s of years, later in 100s of years, recently in decades. Today, possibly in years, or even in internet time of months. Soon it will be in days, and eventually we will reach a point where there will be a zero gap between major advancements -- the zero point. At that point, who knows what could possibly come after that? It must be a huge shift, etc. etc., doomsday, etc. etc.

This is quite a distinct idea from the idea of a technological singularity. The idea of a technological singularity is that the rate of advancement of technology will eventually outpace the rate of advancement of biology, such that eventually we will end up with machines that are smarter than humans in all measurable ways.

The error in thinking of the timewave/mayan idea is that exponential growth can be seen as a decreasing mathematical series approaching zero (the time between advancements approaches zero). This is a backwards way of looking at it, because it fails to take into account exponential scaling. An interesting feature of an exponential curve is that the derivative of the curve is scaled with the curve itself. The derivative of e^x is e^x for example. The consequence of this feature is that if you scale out an exponential curve, no matter how big the scale is, the curve has exactly the same shape. So, if you look at the curve on a scale from 0 to 100 on the x axis, the shape of the curve will be exactly the same as if you look at it on a scale from 0 to 1,000,000. The y axis will have a much higher value, but the shape of the curve will look the same. This is different than other curves, such as a quadratic curve which tends to warp as the scale is increased or decreased.

In essence, the timewave people are viewing 'major' advancements in terms of the current modern day scale. From fire to the wheel seems like a single advancement, according to our modern day standards, but if you were living in the time of the wheel, the various advancements of that time would be in various materials and designs of wheels, to give a crude example.

The proper way to view an exponential growth trend is in terms of multiplicative increase in rates of change, not in decreasing time periods between 'major' changes, because 'major' is relative to the time period in which the person makes the judgment. That is the major hidden flaw in the 2012 idea.

So, if we look at it in the proper way, we will see that technology is increasing in some fashion similar to Moore's Law. In computers, we can see it as a steady increase in the power of computation. It is not restricted (as Moore's Law is) to transistors on a wafer of silicon, since today we are using networks of computers (and multi-core chips, and parallel programming, etc.) to increase computational power. Also, the exponential growth is seen in other fields now, such as genetics, nanotech, neuroscience, etc.

What is really happening is that technology is changing so quickly that eventually it will change too fast for any normal human to keep up with it. We will need to build machines that build machines, just to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. At that point, we will have reached a technological singularity. However, there will be no discontinuous shift to some 'new age'. It will merely be a scaling up of the exponential curve.

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metroatheists's picture

Thanks natural, I hadn't

Thanks natural, I hadn't heard that particular take on the issue before.  Very interesting.



i loved reading this altough

i loved reading this altough i dint quite grasp it all , im still so scared iv got 2 young children and im scard iv only 3 years and however many months with them! can you try and debunk what there saying now about the pope prophesy and how other civilizations came up with 2012 ( not that iv seen it anywhere this is just talk) this stuff is really scaring people! another good debunking site is www.astroengine.co.uk Smiling


I think the ONLY thing I've pieced together with decemberish 2012 is the firing of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) in Switzerland. They had begun to fire it September of 08, but had to shut it down a month later for repairs- and then decided to delay it for another four years to secure the power grid across France and Switzerland in order to power the thing without knocking half of Europe's electricity. Seeing as how they said it takes about a month to fire each particle to near relativistic speeds... October '08(When they shut it down to fix it and the power grid) + 4 years, + 2 months (1 per particle). ... Yea, thats about as close as we're getting to "end of the world".


Chances are, the worst we'll see is a whole bunch of quarks and a massive power bill.

The LHC has been subject to

The LHC has been subject to multiple delays, but none as far as 2012. The current goal is to turn it back on in September 2009 and start the first experiments in October. Don't you think they would have considered any such improvements, if needed, during the 15 or so years it was planned and built?



How about Nostradamus

You forgot to get him in this equation... unless he is the one you can't explain???  Eye-wink


It's not an apocalyptic event, no. Not by any means. But it is, factually, a changing of the cycles and the fact that you can just knock on the whole Mayan Calendar and the mathematical cycle because 'some people' who believe in the 'Apocalypse' use this scientific material for their own personal opinions is absolutely out of the question for me.

It's a changing of cycles and a galactic alignment. Nothing more, nothing less. The intelligence of the Mayans being lumped in with the stupidity and ignorance of the Bible and its thumpers is disgusting.


Wonderist's picture

Quote:It's a changing of

It's a changing of cycles and a galactic alignment. Nothing more, nothing less.

Absolutely nothing is going to change on Dec 21, 2012, except we'll flip the 21 into a 22, and it will then be Dec 22, 2012. Just like how we flipped the date on Jan 31, 1999. There will be no 'changing of cycles' nor a 'galactic alignment'.

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The whole calendar is out of whack from the beginning,  The year 1 was supposed to represent the day Jesus was born but it is wrong as it was created around 600 AD by counting back through the Roman emperors and computing the number of years since Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus was emperor, problem is they missed the first four years when he was called Augustus.  That and the fact that Jesus was already two or three years old when Augustus became the first Emperor.  So you can add up to 7 years to our current calender so it is actually already 2016 oops missed the end of the world in 2012.


 We've made it past the

 We've made it past the 11:11 GMT deadline.  A new Maya calendar cycle now begins.  Time for a new fake end of the world story.

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Jeffrick's picture





                   Thanks a lot Mayans!!!!  Like great prediction;FAIL!!!!!!  Now I have to pay all those  effin' bills that I let pile up. All those bastards I owe money to now want me to pay up [the greedy sh**s] . Next time go pick the NFL results, and FU to boot.




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