Let's put it this way: Roland Emmerich probably isn't buying any ten year treasury bonds. The director of such modestly apocalyptic films as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and Godzilla (1998) has taken his predilection for destruction to its natural apex: the end of the world as we know it. In his new film 2012, he depicts the ruin of civilization and decimation of earthly life in a series of epic natural disasters. The date for doomsday comes from the Mayan calendar system, which marks the end of a 5,126 year calendar cycle in December 2012. Some reviewers, while noting that the disintegration of the earth's crust is unlikely, have made a special effort to contemplate and refute the 2012 eschatology. The strangest, greatest hits:
- Ground Control to Major Tom NASA, the agency that sent people to the moon and recently found water there, has taken the time to post a lengthy Q & A debunking apocalyptic prophecies for 2012. Some highlights:
Q: Are there any threats to the Earth in 2012? Many Internet websites say the world will end in December 2012.
A: Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.
Q: Could a phenomena occur where planets align in a way that impacts Earth?
A: There are no planetary alignments in the next few decades, Earth will not cross the galactic plane in 2012, and even if these alignments were to occur, their effects on the Earth would be negligible. Each December the Earth and sun align with the approximate center of the Milky Way Galaxy but that is an annual event of no consequence.
- Misreading the Maya Kristin Romey at men's website Asylum has compiled a list of the top "5 Reasons You Can Stop Worrying About the World Ending in 2012." She explains that there were multiple Mayan calendars simultaneously in use, and argues that we shouldn't trust them because they failed to foresee the downfall of the ancient empire in which they originated: "If the Mayans were so damn brilliant at predicting the future, how come they never foresaw their own apocalypse? The arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s and the near-destruction of what remained of their entire culture? Just sayin.' "
- Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste Over at Yahoo! Buzz, Vera H-C Chan gives readers another reason for paranoia--the fact that the film premieres on Friday the 13th. But she firmly dispels the hype, arguing that the emphasis on unlucky dates is pure marketing: "Then again, the facts shouldn't get in the way of making a quick buck. Bad science means a burgeoning industry on both sides, with skeptics and fearmongers writing books, selling T-shirts, and protective gear to prepare for the end of days. And with another two years to go, there's still time to cash in. Now that's scary."
- Modern Shamans Say Otherwise The Wall Street Journal's Nicholas Casey interviews a Mayan shaman in order to get to the bottom of the 2012 myth. Carlos Barrios says that Hollywood and other 2012 doomsayers are actually being too generous with the date, and that there is actually much less time before another major crisis ensues, at least in the financial sector: "Barrios is (fairly) sure Hollywood’s got it wrong about the world ending in a couple years. He’s made predictions before, he says, and many of them have come true, from the date of the American invasion of Iraq to the presidential election of Barack Obama. Forget 2012 as far as disasters go, he says. Watch out between the months of August and November 2011. 'There are more possibilities for financial crisis,' says Barrios"
- Multiple Alternate Endings At Fox News, Lauren Green covers a Christian take on the date in her interview with biblical scholar Mark Hitchock, who has written a book on the subject. She quotes him: "While there are these similarities that there is going to be a time of cataclysm, there are big differences in what the Bible says and what the '2012' viewpoint sets forth…The Bible doesn’t give us any time periods for when these events are going to take place. In fact Jesus a warned against doing that.” She also summarize the eschatology, or end times theology, of Shia Islam and Judaism, neither of which give as precise a date for the apocalypse as the Maya. Atlantic correspondent Lane Wallace has an explanation for why people of all faiths and times are obsessed with the world's end:
"The phenomenon typically springs up among groups who find themselves in the minority, threatened, or repressed unfairly--at least, in their own view of the world. The Christian Book of Revelation came about under perceived Roman repression of the fledgling faith. The Anabaptists of the 1500s came out of a society stressed by economic disparity between rich and poor. Native American cultures developed apocalyptic narratives in the 1880s and 1890s, when those cultures were in danger of annihilation."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.