People believe that – to varying degrees – because, as mentioned, they’re dumb and/or credulous and because they heard someone say something about it sometime or something.
The fact of the matter is that saying that the world will end in 2012 because the stone calendar the Mayans used only extended that far is akin to, in 1996, saying that the world will end in 1997 because the last day on your current calendar is December 31, 1996.
(There is slightly more to it than that, in that the Mayans were actually determining that the end of that calendar marked the end of a particular age or epoch, which, naturally, has to occur before a new one can start.)
The thing that annoys me the most about the whole thing, though, is the notion that ancient peoples were somehow more “plugged in,” and had access to some sort of hidden knowledge that we modern people, with all our fancy book learnin’ and telescopes and quantum whatsits are unable to access.
It’s a sort of extreme nostalgia, I think, taking the basic notion of “the good old days,” when people were smarter and had more common – or even uncommon – sense than the current crop of people.
I mean, if things were better in your (poorly-remembered, romanticized/mythologized) past, and things were better still in the pasts of the generations that came before you (at least to hear them tell it), then, by extension, the farther back you go, the better things must have been.
The idea certainly aligns with our standard mythologies, which, when you go back far enough, generally lead to some sort of paradise or Golden Age.
(Or, if you watch The “History” Channel, which helps to propagate the notion of 2012 being the end, our mythologies all lead back to aliens.)
Personally, I think that xkcd has the best take on 2012.
In any case, all of this has just been my roundabout way of mentioning that I did my taxes today.
What does doing my taxes have to do with predictions about the end of the world? Nothing, really, but I was thinking about the old adage about death and taxes being the only certainties in life, and it occurred to me that there are actually two other certainties in life: people will continually predict the end of the world, and won’t learn anything when their predictions prove to be wrong.
Of course, the “end” was on my mind anyway, thanks to watching some science show about the universe and how things are, based on scientific observation and theory rather than the number of carvings on an old rock or predictions about wars and rumors of wars, or the shapes left by tea leaves, or runes tossed into entrails, and who knows what all else people rely on in their steadfast refusal to be rational and their desire to avoid being some kind of smarty-pants nerd, actually likely to end.
(The way things will actually end – most likely trillions of years from now – is actually far cooler, and in its way, more bleak and terrifying, than any Rapture or series of disasters anyone has ever conceived of.)
Anyway, as mentioned, I did my taxes today. Normally I actually go to H&R Block to have them done, but I decided that I could just as easily plug numbers into a computer program for a lot less money, and so I did them online, from the comfort of home.
This year I don’t have any major purchases planned – though somewhere along the line I may pick up a Samsung Series 7 Slate just because – so I’ll probably actually manage to establish some savings…until I start spending money on fixing up my house.
There’s yet another certainty, which also serves as something of an axiom: a Jon and his money are soon parted.