Among the oldest human civilizations, the Mayans built great architectures that surprise modern archaeologists. Their knowledge of astrology was great. Yet unfortunately in our times, their expertise of astrology, instead of fascinating us, has been used to instill fear – fear that the world is going to end on December 21, 2012.
The idea that action of human beings can have an impact on the global environment, or that an asteroid caused dinosaurs’ extinction, is less than a century old. The awareness of the dangers from atomic warfare, population growth, global warming and biological warfare has materialized over the same period.
Yet some claim Mayans shared this concern with us, and on the top of that, apparently predicted thousands of years ahead when the world would end. Though Mayan knowledge of multiplication and division remains contestable, Mayan calendar brought speculations that the world is going to end.
The scientific community has been fighting back the popular reaction of fear generated by the prediction. It became imperative to take the necessary actions to save vulnerable populations, such as children, from this piece of misinformation. In order to put forward a strong case, every potential catastrophic event has been explored, and was consequently shown to have no danger on the scale required to destroy the world.
For instance, it has been convincingly affirmed that the possibility of a meteor hitting the Earth is nil, as with the help of thousands of telescopes scattered around the globe, we know of every astronomical objects that are near the Earth. Similarly, the 11 years solar cycle, related with sunspots and solar winds striking earth’s atmosphere, is not in its peak in this month, and will not cause any serious effect.
In addition to exhaustively disproving every case suggested, experts have even that the Mayan calendar does not end on December of 2012, but rather continues and begins a new cycle.
The reactions to the prediction of end of the world is revealing about our society. The popularity of cataclysmic prediction aside, the panic reaction shows a lack of ability to distinguish science from pseudoscience. In fact, decorated with data, Mayan prediction appears another scientific claim.
What distinguishes the dangers of global warming from the prediction of the end of world is the purpose – science fundamentally aims to raise the awareness of individuals while pseudoscience exploits the irrationalities present within us.
Some businesses are using the opportunity to make their fortune in this process. They are selling comfortable underground bunkers, supposed to be safe during the time of catastrophe. It is rather sad to see how some people remain close to rational arguments, and allow themselves to be exploited.
Sheila Rabin, professor of history department in Saint Peter’s whose interest lies in science history, said, “For me a true prophet is one who looks at the past, and says what must be changed.”
Indeed, we have issues at hand that need more guidance than two-thousand-year-old, inconclusive Mayan speculation/