Thursday, December 6, 2012

The end of the world as we know it

The magazine Popular Mechanics calls end of the world predictions "a fools errand"

With apologies, I lifted that title from the rock group REM and their great song "It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)".

Tonight I walked a trail in San Mateo, California and saw an intensely lit warehouse wall covered in graffiti. Over the years I've been told lighting stops crime. I've been told if you cut robbery here, it just moves there. I've been told more cops means less crime.

These are myths disproven by scientific evidence. They lack diagnosis and proof. Proof doesn't matter to myth-makers and myth-believers. It's not truth they seek, but fantasy.

Myths have power because, like all matters of blind faith, they rely on looking the other way when evidence intervenes. They rely on blindness.

My favorite? End-of-the-world myths. I have no doubt the world will end, probably in a billion or so years when the sun runs out. But the Mayan calendar, so we're told, prophesizes our doom this year on December 21. We have until December 21 to tie up loose ends and say goodbye. How will this happen? By a comet (that doesn't exist), by a rogue planet (that hasn't been found)...whatever.

In response to the witchy-woo-woo crackpots the real Mayan descendants are outraged by the hype. "We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit" says one.

NASA has systematically debunked Mayan apocalypse myths. "For any claims of disaster or dramatic changes in 2012, where is the science? There is none."

The best debunker is the Australian Prime Minister who spoofed apocalypse stories with her news announcement to say goodbye. I love a politician with a sense of humor.

See you on the 22nd.

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