THE end is nigh — again!
Harold Egbert Camping, a Christian radio broadcaster in California, has calculated that the end of the world will start this afternoon at around six o’clock Philadelphia time, which is just about after last orders here in the UK.
This is, of course, complete drivel.
But his predictions seem to have caused quite a stir in the United States.
I don’t want to give this man any more publicity than he deserves — which is none at all — but in my view the 120million dollar fortune he has amassed through his radio empire would be better deployed helping people in genuine need rather than paying for a global advertising campaign to scare the gullible.
But since he’ll be feeling like a complete plonker by the time you wake up tomorrow morning, I have decided to write a short history of baseless doomsday prophecies for your amusement.
After Mr Camping has returned disappointed to his mansion, you’ll soon be hearing about the so-called Mayan doomsday prophesy, which, according to the internet, predicts that the world will end on December 21, 2012.
The Maya civilisation peaked between around 250AD and 900AD with the construction of magnificent cities and pyramids to rival those of ancient Egypt. It is not known why the civilisation collapsed but, when the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the 1500s, the Maya were already in decline.
At their height, they were fascinated by astronomy, particularly the movement of Venus, and constructed elaborate calendars stretching thousands of years into the future.
They had a 260-day calendar known as the Tzolkin, a 365-day solar year known as the Haab and a 52-year cycle known as a Calendar Round.
The current nonsense surrounds the longest Maya calendar, known as the Long Count, which most scholars consider to have started on September 6, 3114 BC.
Just as our year ends on December 31, so will the current time period of the Long Count.
The Maya celebrated the ends of their many and diverse “years” in the same way we celebrate New Year and there is absolutely no evidence that they read anything more significant into these dates. They had so many of them so why would they?
The Maya didn’t die out with the arrival of the Spanish — there are still seven million Mayas living in modern-day Mexico and areas of central America. None of them attach any significance to the 2012 date.
I visited the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula and spoke with several experts — all of whom dismissed the so-called 2012 prophecy as totally baseless.
Indeed, one leading authority has said that the 2012 myth is a “complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in”. I wonder where we’ve seen that before?
Then there was the Large Hadron Collider end-of-the world fiasco in 2008, in which some bloke actually tried to shut down the CERN laboratory in Geneva through the Hawaiian court system because he thought it would destroy Switzerland when it was switched on.
The LHC has been running beautifully for well over a year — Switzerland is still there and fascinating results are expected soon.
These silly stories can easily be dismissed but there is a darker side.
During the height of the LHC nonsense, a 16-year-old Indian girl killed herself because she was so frightened by local media reports repeating the baseless diatribes of the prattling internet idiots.
I get emails from parents concerned that playground gossip about 2012 — fuelled by irresponsible media reporting — is scaring their children.
As the 2012 date approaches, the hype will increase and it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a repeat of the Indian tragedy somewhere in the world — perhaps even in the UK.
Some people believe this nonsense and that’s not funny.
My message is very clear.
The world isn’t going to end any time soon so enjoy life, embrace reason and ignore the prophets of doom because, in my best Biblical language, they are verily daft.
Just don’t try to tell this lot
IT is easy to mock, but for Harold Camping’s many followers the end of the world is a serious business.
They believe they will be carried up to heaven “in rapture” while everyone else will be left to face the Apocalypse.
New Yorker Robert Fitzpatrick, 60, has even ploughed his £86,000 life savings into an ad campaign on subways and buses predicting the end of the world.
Meanwhile, a canny atheist is offering a “post-doomsday” service for Christians worried about their pets. The unnamed businessman is charging believers £83 to look after their cats and dogs after doomsday.
He said: “They will be disappointed twice – once because they weren’t raptured and again because I don’t do refunds.”
And one hopeful atheist is even inviting survivors on a post-rapture looting spree organised on Facebook.
- Bran writes mostly on science and is an avid reader and writer of popular science. He brings sciency a literetic emphasis bring it to mainstream media for all.
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