2012 Doomsday: Wrong on more than one level.

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now (seriously, how could you not be?), the Mayan long count calendar is due to roll over on December 21st, 2012, as it does every 394.3 years (1 B’ak’tun). December 22, 2012 will mark the first day of the 14th B’ak’tun since the Mayans’ mythical creation date in 3114 BC. And since humankind likes to pick rollover dates for apocalyptic predictions, and thanks to the silly way this approaching landmark has been portrayed in the media, it’s only natural that the year 2012 would accrue a disproportionately large amount of fuckwittery about it. This world is rife with gullible people with fears (or hopes) for doomsday, and seeing a rollover on any timekeeping device is always a jarring experience for them, it seems.

The Earth is on fire... a fire made of numbers!!!
The real mystery about 2012 is why the Earth would be on fire, and why that fire would drip out of it 'south'-ward in space as though there's gravity. Oh, and why the fire is made out of numbers. (From kaheel7.com)

But as it turns out, the rollover may not be 2012 after all. A number of prominent researchers, including Professor Gerardo Montana in his upcoming book “Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World”, have disputed the GMT, the generally agreed-upon conversion factor between Gregorian and Mayan time. Montana suggests it may be off by 50 to 100 years.

The ABC article’s headline, in typical fashion, blares, “Phew! 2012 Doomsday Date May Be Wrong”. As though it was a narrow miss by an asteroid, or some other potential catastrophe barely averted or postponed. Really, all that’s been done is the target has been moved, so the doomsayers have another, more fluid moving target when 2012 comes and goes with nary a hiccup prophesied from ages past.

In actuality, the Maya made no prediction whatsoever that there would be any sort of calamity at the end of the 13th B’ak’tun, and would (if they are culturally extant today in any analogous way to the ancient people) very likely mark December 21st with a huge festival. You know, like how we partied like it was 1999, and yet the world didn’t end when it rolled over to 2000. Jesus didn’t even show up to have cake and champagne, which is a shame because I hear he could turn water into wine, and if he could manage that party trick, he could probably turn champagne into whiskey.

Anyway, the world didn’t end in 2000, despite it being a full 418 years since Pope Gregory XIII invented the Gregorian calendar which has since become accepted internationally. While it was a landmark in reforming the calendar to mathematically match our actual planetary orbit much more closely than the former Protestant calendar, its Year Zero is again based on a wholly mythical moment in the popular religion of the culture at hand.

There is therefore nothing especially significant about the year 2000 when viewed in relation to the existence of the Earth — roughly 4.54 billion years, plus or minus 1%. Since we’re very unlikely to be able to tell the age of the Earth to any degree of accuracy, and since the rest of the universe cares not one whit for the amount of times that a planet has whipped around its star, and there is absolutely no math inherent to the universe that necessitates working sums out in Base-10, any prophecies predicated on the rollover of a wholly human-created numbering system is egocentrism on a grand and lamentable scale.

Not to mention the idea that the universe works on the same math that we do, or that it works on math at all, or that it hates big round numbers as much as we do, or that our chosen starting points for these big round numbers are anything like accurate outside the limited experience sets our cultures grant us.

2012 Doomsday: Wrong on more than one level.