3759: mayan calendarAbout a year ago I blogged that the supposed Maya-predicted end-of-the-world on December 21, 2012, was not going to happen … mostly because the Maya themselves never made any such prediction. Belief in the putative Mayan Doomsday is pretty much a fantasy, an anachronism woven out of whole cloth by wild-eyed New Agers who cannot, themselves, even read Mayan or understand anything they left behind, and pretty much everything they have to say about it, is untrue. Well, it turns out that, even if the Maya had predicted a universal cataclysm at the end of the Maya Long Calendar, we can’t be sure that will be on December 12, 2012, as Live Science reports (WebCite cached article):

It’s a good news/bad news situation for believers in the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. The good news is that the Mayan “Long Count” calendar may not end on Dec. 21, 2012 (and, by extension, the world may not end along with it). The bad news for prophecy believers? If the calendar doesn’t end in December 2012, no one knows when it actually will — or if it has already.

A new critique, published as a chapter in the new textbook “Calendars and Years II: Astronomy and Time in the Ancient and Medieval World” (Oxbow Books, 2010), argues that the accepted conversions of dates from Mayan to the modern calendar may be off by as much as 50 or 100 years. That would throw the supposed and overhyped 2012 apocalypse off by decades and cast into doubt the dates of historical Mayan events.

The problem lies in how scholars have pegged our calendar to those of the Maya, something called “the GMT constant.” I’m not sure I buy how flawed the GMT constant supposedly is. But it sure would be amusing if someone could eventually show that the “Mayan doomsday” has already gone by and the New Agers and assorted kooks who’ve heralded it, never even knew it!

Of course — as I pointed out already — the idea that the ancient Maya could have known when the world would end in 2012 (or some other time) is contradicted by the fact that they were, themselves, blissfully unaware that their own civilization would collapse, c. 900 CE or so. Moreover, as I pointed out when addressing so-called Bible scholar Harold Camping’s competing prediction that the world will end in 2011, end-of-the-world predictions don’t happen to have what one might call a stellar track record of accuracy. (James “the Amazing” Randi has thoughtfully provided a catalog of them as an appendix to his An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, which he’s made freely available online).

Hat tip: The Skeptic’s Dictionary.

Photo credit: unnamed Flickr contributor.

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