From the BPI Squirrel:

I saw in today’s Campus Chatter that the Mayan creation story says the Fourth World was created on August 11, 3114 BCE, at the start of the last 14th b’ak’tun on the Mesoamerican Long-Count Calendar. The next 14th b’ak’tun starts December 21, 2012. So that’s the end of the world? (More)

In a nutshell, and the shell is all I ever leave, that’s the evidence for The 2012 Myth. This modern myth says the ancient Maya predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012. And like that nutshell … it’s an empty husk.

According to the Mayan creation story in the Popol Vuh,the gods created three previous worlds. The fourth time, the Mayan story goes, the world was good enough for humans. (You people are picky.) In translating ancient Mayan, it’s hard to tell if the story means a new planet, or a new historical epoch. Their story may have ancient seeds in their ancestors recovering after the last ice age or a more recent natural disaster.

Or maybe someone made it up, like modern humans made up The 2012 Myth.

There is no Mayan prophecy about an apocalypse on December 21, 2012. In fact, the Temple of Inscriptions at Palenque refers to the 80th Calendar Round anniversary of the ascension of K’inich Janaab’ Pakal. Pakal became Palenque’s ruler on July 27, 615. The 80th Calendar Round of that date will be October 21, 4772. Why would the Maya refer to a date 2760 years after a prophesied end of the world?

Much of The 2012 Myth refers to a supposed “galactic alignment,” claims that the earth’s 26,000-year precessional cycle will pass through the equator of the Milky Way on the winter solstice of 2012. But there is no precise galactic equator, and our nearest point of convergence with the plane of the Milky Way already happened … in 1998. Although some scholars believe the Maya knew about the earth’s precessional cycle and were keenly aware of solstices and equinoxes, the evidence is inconclusive. The Mayan Calendar is not keyed to celestial events. The last 14th b’ak’tun – August 11, 3114 BCE – has no astronomical significance. That the next 14th b’ak’tun falls on the winter solstice of 2012 is a coincidence.

Of course the purveyors of The 2012 Myth are making money. The better question is, why are so many of you humans buying? Apocalyptic prophecies have a long history of being wrong. Ends of the world have been predicted on dates ranging from eclipses to passing comets to new calendar centuries or millenia to the title of George Orwell’s 1984. But for the tragic few who commit suicide, the same people seem to sell and buy into each new doomsday.

It’s like waking up every morning and saying “I will die today.” Sooner or later you will be correct, but you won’t have been a prophet. Just a pessimist.

So Happy 5124th Birthday, Mayan Fourth World. But please don’t put nuts in the birthday cake. Save those for me.