Friday, December 17, 2010

Where Are All These 2012 Doomsday Theories Coming From?

Most people have realized by now there is a serious countdown to the apocalypse going on around the world. The idea that the end of the world, according to many seemingly normal people, even has a specific date, which is December 21, 2012, is either appalling or laughable depending on your frame of mind. Intelligent people and otherwise solid citizens are writing books and making movies about these doomsday prophesies for 2012.

Many people might see this as just another way to rile people up and make money off the fascination over this supposed credible prediction for catastrophe, where a confluence of natural and possibly even super natural forces will bring about the demise of our most favorite planet. But as always, we need to ask: is there any science behind these claims? So first of all we’re going to explore two obvious issues we need to address:

1. Where did this specific doomsday date of December 21, 2012 come from, and

2. Is this truly an accurate prediction we should all start preparing for?

First of all though, another obvious question should be, even if these predictions are true, how do you prepare for the end of the world? Should you even bother to pack a bag; or even a little sweater maybe? Where are you going to go? There are no other Earths we can simply relocate to. So if the end is really going to happen five days before Christmas 2012, then we may as well just relax and perhaps even start enjoying the life we have left.

When you think about it, if we really only have a little over two years left, what in the world do we have to worry about? Scrimping and saving for retirement? No, that’s really not much use. Finishing your doctorate, MBA or some other really important credential? Nope, that’s no longer important. How about going to work so you can afford the car and mortgage payment? Alas, that’s really not really much use–unless of course your car lease ends well before the world does. You’ll still need a car unless you plan on WALKING around until the world ends.

In all seriousness though, man has been consumed with concerns for the end of the world almost as long as we’ve been trying to figure out our beginnings. Religion of course has very definite ideas on the subject and in fact a whole department of religion was created called Eschatology, which is a branch of Theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world; or of humankind.

All the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) describe the end times as a cessation of the human existence and the beginning of our afterlife in a plane of existence beyond Earth. In fact all religions describe the beginning and end of human existence. But none are so specific as to name the day, month and year like the current 2012 prophesies. So how did we suddenly become so good with numbers? Most humans can’t even balance a checkbook much less figure out the end of the world after roughly 4.5 billion years of our planet’s existence.

It turns out the actual source of that date can be traced to translations of the Mayan Long Calendar. The Long Count calendar identifies a date by counting the number of days from a starting date of what they considered to be the mythical date of creation and they considered that to be August 11, 3114 BCE, in the Gregorian calendar, or September 6 in the Julian calendar. The completion of 13 b'ak'tuns (from August 11, 3114 BCE), marked the creation of the world of human beings according to the Maya. A b’ak’tun is roughly equivalent to 144,000 days or 394 solar years. None of this is particularly important. What is important is that the Maya considered the end of the first 13 b’ak’tuns to be the end of the creation period of mankind. And that from Creation, August 11, 3114 BCE, this period of 13 b’ak’tuns ends on the 20th day of December 2012.

Thus the end of the world as we know it was prophesied to occur on that date. People became electrified upon realizing the Mayans had predicted the date of the end of the world. However, the 13th b’ak’tun was to be followed by the beginning of the 14th b’ak’tun, on the 21st Day of December. Thus the beginning of a new era the Mayans believed would be one following the beginning Creation period. Not the end of mankind, but the end of the beginning phase of the creation of mankind.

Despite the publicity generated by the 2012 date, Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, stated that "We have no record or knowledge that [the Maya] would think the world would come to an end" in 2012.

"For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday event or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."

"There will be another cycle," says E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute (MARI). "We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this."

So obviously these cycles defined by the Mayan Long Calendar were meant to continue on. Just as any of our modern day calendars end each year, only to begin again the following year. It’s that simple.

Now another source of the 2012 doomsday theories centers on the writings of Zecharia Sitchin, an Iranian born American author of books promoting the origins of man to be the result of ancient astronauts mingling with humans here on Earth. He derived his theories from translations of myths contained in ancient Sumerian texts. The Sumerians, or the original people of Sumer, meaning land of civilized lords, can be traced to the earliest Mesopotamian settlements roughly 6000 years ago. Mesopotamia loosely translated, means land of rivers and was situated around the Tigris and Euphrates river system in modern day Iraq. This was also the area many believe was the location of the mythical Garden of Eden described in the Bible and indeed the Sumerians were the first people to practice year round agriculture and Sumer was the birthplace of written language. They left behind a carefully chronicled history written in cuneiform on clay tablets, which comprise the body of work we refer to as the Sumerian Texts. Clearly the Sumerians were technologically superior to any other civilized tribes in the region during that period of time.

According the Sitchin, the Sumerian texts suggest Earth was populated by inhabitants of a twelfth planet of our solar system that circles the sun on an extraordinarily wide elliptical orbit every 3600 years. This planet Sitchin refers to as Nibiru, is due to return to our solar system from its long swing out away from our sun and will be closest to Earth again sometime near the end of the year in 2012.

According to his translations of the Sumerian texts the inhabitants of Nibiru, referred to as the Anunnaki, originally arrived on Earth approximately 450,000 years ago bringing slave labor with them to mine for gold - which was apparently also very valuable on their home planet. Their workers eventually mutinied due to horrible working conditions after long indentured service to these human like aliens, who then proceeded to create clones to take the place of their slaves. These clones were apparently genetically created from both their race from the planet Nibiru and the DNA of Homo Erectus which of course were primitive ape-like hominids and the closest genetic matches to their race. Homo Sapiens became the genetic hybrids created from these Anunnaki clones and were then used for the labor needed to mine the minerals and gold the aliens then transported back to Nibiru. These clones were not stupid and some of the females were also fairly attractive resulting in the Anunnaki mating now with these hybrid humans and creating a third generation of humans that supposedly ended up jump-starting human civilization once the aliens finally left Earth for good still thousands of years ago.

But now that Nibiru is supposedly making a return visit in 2012, the prophesy supposes there will be another imposition of the aliens upon Earth’s inhabitants. Thus the concern for the end of humanity as we know it and resultant doomsday scenario.

The scientific criticism of Sitchin and his predictions would fill much more space than I should in this post. Suffice it to say that they fall loosely into the following arguments:

1. His translation of the Sumerian texts are considered to be faulty and he takes much of the myths in those translations too literally, while stretching the data to conform to his preconceived beliefs about alien influence

2. The planet Nibiru simply doesn’t exist – for it to be on the return lap and arrive near Earth again by the end of 2012 would mean it would certainly be visible to astronomers by now and it would have been creating observable gravitational effects on distant planets such as Uranus and Neptune well in advance of its passing; see NASA astronomer Phil Plait's: The Planet X Saga: The Scientific Arguments in a Nutshell on his "Bad Astronomy" website for the final word on this

3. Nibiru would also be a brutally cold world traveling out beyond the warmth of the only star in the region except for allegedly brief periods of time it passed through our solar system – certainly it would be too cold to support anything approximating human life

4. Claims by Sitchin that all primitive languages originated from ancient Sumerian dialects is also simply not supportable; disproving his theory that the Sumerian civilization was the incubator for all of humanity

As you can easily see, the Mayan Long Calendar translations that many would use as proof of the end of the world in December 2012, simply boil down to the Mayans defining the 20th to be the end of the old era and the 21st the beginning of a new one. In fact, in other Mayan translations, there are clear references to ceremonies and other important dates well beyond the 2012 date using the Long Calendar to calculate them.

And as for ancient aliens being the source of the “missing link” between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens, there is no credible evidence for it from Zecharia Sitchin’s voluminous writings about his translations of ancient Sumerian texts, or suppositions about genetically altered homo erectus by inhabitants of the fictional planet Nibiru.

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