Debunking doomsday

By Phil Plait | February 23, 2012 11:48 am

In January, I was interviewed live on WHYY radio in Philadelphia about 2012 doomsday conspiracy theories. NASA astrobiologist (and my old pal) David Morrison was there as well, and we talked about some of the (wrong) ideas behind 2012 end-of-the-world prophecies, their impact, and why people believe them.

Here’s a direct link to the archived interview.

It was an interesting discussion. We took some calls from folks, including two from people who seemed to be trying to blame 2012 stuff on religious beliefs, which I think is misguided. Believing in something without evidence or despite evidence against it is human nature, and something we all need to be aware of. Religion falls under that category, as does any other belief system. Conspiracy theories and doomsday prophecies are all part of that larger umbrella. Now, you could make a point that our unquestioning tolerance of religious belief in the US supports the growth of things like 2012 belief. That would make for an interesting discussion, I think, but not one that’s easy to get into on a radio program where you need to keep things brief!

A woman called in and relayed the very sad story of her brother who joined a cult, and wound up killing himself over their doomsday beliefs. This was terrible to hear, and I wrestled with how to discuss it. The Heavens Gate cult came to mind right away, as did that of Jim Jones. I tweeted about it, saying:

"A woman called into WHYY and said her brother committed suicide over doomsday theories. Damn this stuff so much."

[NOTE: I got emails and tweets from people after I tweeted that saying that there's no evidence this woman was telling the truth, and that she may have made this story up. That may very well be true; we have no evidence either way besides her claims. However, David hears similar stories all the time, and I myself have first-hand knowledge of lots of people who are really scared by 2012 claims. So even if the woman's story is not true, the sentiment is relevant.]

It’s hard to convey depth and subtlety in a tweet, and I wrote that during a very short station break, so I didn’t have time to elaborate. I’m not blaming his suicide on doomsday beliefs per se (and note it wasn’t necessarily the 2012 stuff); clearly anyone who contemplates killing themself has deeper issues than that and needs to find help — by coincidence, the wonderful, wonderful Jenny Lawson, aka the Bloggess, wrote a moving blog post related to this topic the same day.

But certainly circumstances play their role. David has said that he gets a lot of emails from people with similar suicidal thoughts due to 2012. Let’s be clear: these people need to find help; neither David nor I am qualified to help them. And perhaps if this 2012 garbage didn’t exist something else would come along to take its place in their minds. But it is here, and it is influencing these people (a couple in Utah was arrested for a homicide and crime spree, and apparently 2012 doomsday thinking played a role there).

And think of this: unlike other issues, this one has a deadline. Having an actual date on this (imaginary) event makes it seem more solid, more real. I hate to write this, but I expect we’ll be hearing more about people going through with suicide over the next few months because of these doomsday claims. How many of them might have had a chance to seek help, to live longer, if the idea of a 2012 doomsday weren’t so prevalent?

And it’s not just this terrible circumstance of people contemplating or even committing suicide; I’ve started giving public talks about 2012, and hear from a lot of folks in the Q&A after about how they’re really scared about this. Most of them are kids. The other day I chatted with some kids about it, and the visible look of relief on their faces as I assuaged their 2012 doomsday fears was amazing.

I can’t say why specific people are out there plugging 2012 by writing books and making websites; perhaps they honestly believe something will happen, or maybe they are loathesome scummy immoral mind-parasites, not caring how they affect people as long as they get money or fame. But either way they are wrong. There is no evidence that any of the 2012 claims is true, and in fact plenty of evidence they’re all wrong.

I’ll be writing more about this, don’t you fret. I’ve been putting it off a long time for various reasons, but it’s long past time for me to hunker down and give this crap both barrels of reality.

Hat tip to Ian O’Neill for the Utah story.

Comments (122)

  1. Anchor

    “Damn this stuff so much.”

    Right on.

  2. Peptron

    Wasn’t the Earth already destroyed in September 2003 by Planet X? How can it get destroyed again?

  3. Nanobot101

    Thank-you, thank-you. Dr. Plait for pointing out the absurdness of the 2012 craze. It truly is sad to hear about people taking their own lives and many of them over the 2012 misinformation. The closer we get to the month of December, it will be inevitable that we will hear more of this. I certainly do not have the education background that most people here claim, but I have, on my own researched the Mayan culture and the background story for the 2012 hysteria and I found myself coming to the same conclusion, WHAT A BUNCH OF BUNK!

  4. Digitalaxis

    I remember, somewhere around 1994, seeing a Weekly World News headline prophecizing the end of the world on Christmas Eve, 1998. At the time I was something like 10 and had already realized WWN was full of sensationalist nonsense… but the thought- “what if?” -stuck with me for a few years, although I forgot about it by 1998 and only remembered years later when 2012 mania was ramping up. Somehow the idea of the end of the world being four years from then made it plausible- tomorrow? How? Why? …but four years down the road, well, that’s a lot of time for things to start going very badly wrong.

    I can see how people who’ve been marinating in 2012 myths for years could get downright panicky. Particularly when everyone’s been talking about it, and there’s the internet to cherry-pick “evidence” (bird deaths! hurricanes! tornadoes! wildfires! earthquakes! global warming! godless liberalism! resurgent Russia! peak oil! Nibiru!) for the benefit of True Believers.

    And then there’s the particular sort that embraces millenialism and the second-coming, because it’s comforting in a narcissistic way. We are now the pinnacle of human evolution, this is the best it gets, we are the chosen who get to see how it all ends… rather than admit that the planet, the human species, etc will continue to improve and advance in its odd little ways long after we’re dead. (Because what’s the point of it all if that’s true? Future generations will laugh at the idea of the VCR repairman, and you don’t get to claim “ah, but I was there when the Great Event happened”)

  5. cope

    Students in my high-school earth/space and astronomy classes ask me about 2012 every so often. It is usually in the form of a “do you believe?” sort of question. I tell them, “no, I don’t believe” and give a very short explanation of how it is that the current Mayan Long Count cycle ends this year in December. They usually look a little confused (disappointed?) so I go to my desk and pick up my school-year desk calendar. I flip to the last page and tell them that my calendar ends in July of 2012 but that doesn’t mean the world will end then. They are usually content with that demonstration.

  6. Chris

    I can’t understand this. Assuming for the moment the world was actually ending, I’d want to hang around to see how it actually ends. I’d probably try and stake out a good location to catch the most destruction before I’m incinerated. Why would you possibly want to miss all that excitement? The world actually ending is a less than once in a lifetime event. Don’t be afraid, make some popcorn, enjoy the show.

  7. You could deliver a whole lecture just on the highly specific doomsday predictions that have so far been incorrect. Heck, didn’t we just blow past TWO scheduled dates for the Rapture?

  8. DrBB

    So what I seriously don’t get is, according to what hypothesis does anyone think Mayans had any special knowledge about events centuries off in their future? I gather their calendar was remarkably accurate as to local astronomical events, so good on ‘em. But how does that translate as Mysterious Mystic Knowledge Of The Future? Cuz, y’know, WE actually know a LOT more than they did about l.a.e. so how come we don’t have this MMKOTF in spades compared to them? Is it because we don’t practice ritual human sacrifice?

    I’ve watched this stooooopid on History Channel once or twice, where you might expect at least the most glaringly obvious questions to be asked (you’d be wrong of course, but you MIGHT expect it), and they seem to go from Mayan Calendar to Signs of Immanent Catastrophe in one go without pausing to glance at this completely irrational assumption. It’s almost like the fact that the Mayans lived a long time ago IS the thing that validates their authority. “Donchu GIT it? They lived a LONG TIME ago! So, you know. See?”

  9. We’re all forgetting that aliens have revealed that the real date for doomsday is February 14 in the year 2016.

    Valentine’s day. Bummer.

  10. If I had absolutely no morals, I would take advantage of these poor people to the best of my ability. Make off with all their money and worldly possessions. Sadly, I’m a humanist/atheist, so I actually have developed a sense of morality that seeks the greater good instead of getting it handed to me in a series of attrocious bronze age fables…

    No ill gotten gains for me. Instead I will continue to try and debunk this, and get the peole who need help the actual reality based help they deserve.

  11. Oh, look! Wikipedia has a list, which, you know, is on Wikipedia, so you might want to check all the sources.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events

  12. Caleb Jones

    Which is why it is so important for religions to have the concept of open cannons. Religions with open cannons, and their followers, tend to weather things like this far better than their peers who doggedly hang on to closed cannons.

    As a religious person, who takes the opportunity to debunk 2012 when I catch any whiff of it from someone, I ground my faith with the following personal ideas:

    * Just as science’s understanding of the universe is incomplete (there’s always more to learn) the exercise of religion is not infallible.
    * Faith: accepting something w/o total regular proof and then acting on it. By this definition, much of what we do in life has some element of faith.
    * Blind faith: faith but refusing to check it against reality or evidence.
    * Science: a systematic way to move from faith to knowledge.
    * No matter what, if any belief would attempt to require me to sacrifice my responsibility to be a decent human being towards others and/or have hatred towards anyone else, then I reject that idea no matter how valid it may seem.
    * Religion is very metaphorical and attempts to interpret it purely literally (e.g. creationists) or to think that religious texts were meant to encompass all of history disrespects those texts and limits your understanding of it and the world around you. It is best to focus on constantly interpreting and re-interpreting those metaphors as you learn new things and find new evidences and not reject facts simply because they don’t conform to your beliefs.

    From this people ask me why I even entertain religion. The reason for that is personal, but boils down to my feelings (note just feelings) about a general supernatural force for good in the universe and the fact that my implementing it in my life has had a profoundly positive impact. For religion, as well as lots of things, it’s all about how you implement it.

  13. Chris

    Forget exploding planets or cosmic collisions. The only thing I’m worried about in 2012 is that one of those Republicans wins the presidency. Now that’s something to fear.

  14. As a person with depression, I can see some of the difficulties here.

    The 2012 end of world stuff is clearly crap, BUT people will believe what they want to believe. I remember worrying when we have a grand conjunction of planets in the early 1980s and how people thought the world would end. I was a kid and it terrified me. If I was i a bad phase of depression, I can imagine believing anything to allow the pain to end.

    The best thing is to keep getting the word out. Keep reminding people of coincidences, of the newest discoveries from Kepler, to remind people of the fun things still out there and help eliminate the fears.

    For those who need help, all you can do is try to listen. They always have to make the decision to change themselves.

  15. Jesse

    @Caleb Jones:

    While many religions have had open cannons, in this case that is less applicable because most people, when the cannons are open, are shooting at other people and tend to be a bit more rigid about their beliefs.

    That said, the canon does change once in a while. And after all, one could say that Star Trek is one of the better examples of an open canon that you are describing. I mightn’t describe Star Trek as a religious text per se, though I could see it having many parallels in the metaphorical role of religion that you have here.
    :-) I don’t mean to beat on the spelling, it’s just sort’a funny to this former editor and language nerd.

    @Larian LeQuella – you are giving me bad ideas. Please don’t. :-) I might act on them in a fit of financial distress.

  16. Jesse

    Hey, everyone has a typo here and there :-)

  17. Phil

    Sometimes I just laugh off these doomsday panics. And then I hear about people killing themselves, such as the Heavens Gate cult mass suicide that happened not far from me in 1997. Then I get angry.

    But what really gets me upset is to hear about kids getting affected by it. They’re too young to have developed critical thinking skills, so they depend on the adults around them to reassure them, to help filter and make sense of the world. Any adult who scares a kid with the notion that the world is going to end in 2012 or at any other time before the sun’s red giant phase is committing nothing short of child abuse. It may not be illegal, but it sure as hell offends my sense of right and wrong. (I first said “morality” but that concept has been abused so much it no longer really has much to do with what’s really right or wrong.)

  18. Phil

    I’m not even sure many kids can handle the notion of the world ending when the sun becomes a red giant. They don’t yet grok just how long that will be on a human timescale. Just as every young kid goes through a phase of seeing a T. Rex outside his bedroom window even after they’re told dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, it takes kids a while to understand the concept of deep time. Hell, even many adults (only some of them Young Earth Creationists) can’t really wrap their heads around the idea. Phil (Plait), I’m curious — how do you discuss scientific topics with very young children that, while true, may scare them unnecessarily because they can’t fully comprehend what you’re telling them? Your book “Death from the Skies” makes it obvious that you love talking about doomsday scenarios so you must have encountered this.

  19. Sunfell

    I briefly had a 2012 debunking site going, but realized that it would eat all my spare time chasing down the various stems it would create. So, I am very grateful that you are going to take this onerous task upon yourself.

    But hysteria is catching. I am more worried about people going totally doo-lally over the idea than the actual non-event itself. It could be one of those horrid self-fulfilling prophecies.

  20. Phil

    (accidental dupe – I can edit my comments but how can I delete one entirely?)

  21. truthspeaker

    Caleb, historically, letting religions have cannons has been a very bad idea.

    (I think the word you want is “canon”)

  22. Anchor

    @#11. Caleb Jones Says:
    “It is best to focus on constantly interpreting and re-interpreting those [religious] metaphors as you learn new things and find new evidences and not reject facts simply because they don’t conform to your beliefs.
    “From this people ask me why I even entertain religion. The reason for that is personal, but boils down to my feelings (note just feelings) about a general supernatural force for good in the universe and the fact that my implementing it in my life has had a profoundly positive impact.”

    So, your “evidence” for the existence of a “general supernatural force for good in the universe” is…(drum roll)…”just feelings”.

    Is that a fact? If so, according to what you say, it should be potentially subject to rejection (or falsifiability). If not, return to “From this people ask me why I even entertain religion” and start over.

    Oh, but “the reason for that is personal” puts the kybosh on resolving the issue, doesn’t it? How convenient. Instant feedback loop, no resolution. End of scientific inquiry. No more movement toward knowledge. You know, as you say: “Science: a systematic way to move from faith to knowledge.”

    I guess, then, one might as well believe in a supernatural agency. No reasoning or justification necessary, except some nebulous “feeling”.

    I don’t need a feeling, personal or otherwise, to inform me that isn’t nearly enough. That toy airplane won’t fly no matter how often I throw it.

    I wonder what its like to harbor so prodigious an amount of contradiction in one’s head.

    (Truthspeaker, that was beautiful).

  23. Chris

    @15 Phil
    how do you discuss scientific topics that, while true, may scare very young kids who can’t fully comprehend what you’re telling them?

    Just tell them that while a comet, asteroid, black hole, gamma ray burst … could happen and wipe out all life, that they are much more likely to die in a car accident, cougar attack or by some weirdo child killer, so those are the things to worry about. This should help alleviate their fears on scary science topics.

  24. Daniel J. Andrews

    I just knew Phil would read The Bloggess. She is indeed wonderful.

    @truthspeaker 18: lol.

  25. Olaf

    This 2012 is especially hurting young kids, as young as 8 years old, and young parents that had their baby or are about to have their first child.

    It is very hard for a young kid to go onto the Internet and not bump into some site that yells that the world is ending. Even science sites like Universe today gets flooded with 2012 ads.

    The worst are the religious nuts that use rapture to terrorizes little kids. Look at the Elenin 3 days of darkness claim that was flooded with religious messages of rapture.

    Those hoaxers that are just in for the fun must realize that they are part of a big mob that terrorizes young kids just for fun. You are destroying young kids lives just for fun. (As an individual it would not be that big a deal)

    These hoaxers should be sued big time every time they cause damage to a family.

  26. Caleb Jones

    @truthspeaker

    Yes, religions with cannons (two n’s) is a bad idea. ;-)

    @Anchor

    Wow buddy, slow down there. I never said my feelings proved there is a God.

    “Is that a fact?” – yes, it is a fact that I have those feelings and that they have a positive impact on my life. Again, I merely stated that I had those feelings and that those feelings contributed to why I have the belief that I do. I don’t present them as evidence that there is a God.

    “If so, according to what you say, it should be potentially subject to rejection (or falsifiability).”

    The *fact* that I have those feelings and that they have a profound positive impact on my life are demonstrable. Now any inference that I make that those feelings somehow prove there is a God should be subject to rejection or falsifiability. That’s quite easy though since feelings are subjective and thus aren’t logical evidence. Good luck, however, on *proving* there is no God since you’ll probably have just as hard a time doing that as I will *proving* that God does exist.

    “Science: a systematic way to move from faith to knowledge.”

    Most religions have the notion that faith is merely a starting point and not the end goal. Where science and religion differ is the methodology to move away from that starting point of faith. They contradict often (mostly because either are implemented by humans). But they don’t always contradict, and it’s that area of where they don’t contradict or where they can learn from each other that interests me.

    “Oh, but “the reason for that is personal” puts the kybosh on resolving the issue, doesn’t it?”

    No. You, and anyone else, can think whatever you want about the idea of my personal feelings. Again, you seem to assume that by my stating a feeling I am somehow offering it as demonstrable proof of the existence of a God. Now, if you want to have a discussion about how those same feelings can be replicated by other means (e.g. inspirational books, movies, poems, music, etc.) then that’s a much better discussion than simply making wild assumptions about what I said.

    “I wonder what its like to harbor so prodigious an amount of contradiction in one’s head.”

    It’s actually quite liberating. I am free from dogma (either religious or secular) and can accept facts or information from wherever they come from even if they contradict what I may currently believe. It’s called humility.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5wCfYujRdE

  27. prei

    Dear Phil, let me first say that I really like your blog, and i really liked this post. Somehow it just felt right, it expressed a lot of sadness but also a desire to help. It’s great how you managed to let that shine through your words here.
    I’ve had a discussion myself with someone that was genuinely scared of the 2012 thing. I don’t think it made her suicidal, but still, it’s so sad to see people being scared of something like this. The saddest part might even be that things like this can’t seem to be countered with arguments. Cause the people believing in it will keep doing that.
    I also strongly agreed with you on the believing in something without evidence being part of human nature thing.

    However, and this might be a little ‘offtopic’, but it’s been bothering me a lot in your blog posts and to me it seems like an important aspect of this particular blog: I think you’re wrong in your statement about religion in general. Let me first say that i’m not religious, or at least i don’t believe in any kind of god. However, saying that religion is “without evidence or in spite of evidence” is in my opinion wrong. We are not the ones capable off or responsible for claiming that one belief system is better than the other. That only creates a fresh system, with the same problems as the one before that. If believing in something without evidence is in our nature, then why would the belief that one belief system is wrong be right?

    Of course certain aspects of a lot of religions have been proved wrong (most of the bible for example) But that doesn’t mean the essence of the religion is wrong. To say that there is no evidence or that there is even evidence against believing in something supernatural, is as far as i know unprovable. You are of course completely entitled to believing that. But there just is no evidence for it. Therefore it’s not much more than faith. And therefore saying that it is like this, shouldn’t be part of this blog (in my opinion)(and you shouldn’t bring it as fact)
    Again, i don’t mind you believing in this, it is my belief as well. But if you criticise one group for ‘believing in something without or despite evidence’, then you should blame ‘your’ group as well.
    Unless you give me prove that there does not exist a god of course. I just don’t think that’s possible.

    Apart from that, there’s not much i can criticise about this blog or this specific post. Great stuff!
    (and if i misinterpreted your opinion about this, then feel free to ignore these ramblings)

  28. Olaf

    @20. Chris
    Once you have this parent/kid in the 2012 scare, they need therapy.
    I have read stories of perfectly normal people that are expecting their first child and once they saw this animal deaths in the beginning of the year the scare got so deep when they realize that their baby will never have his first birthday that they really need psychiatric help to get out of it.

    There is absolutely no excuse to tell a young kid that he is going to die even if it is just for a joke. If you do such a thing, then you have lost any humanity.

  29. Keith

    I posted a link to this blog entry over on 2012hoax.org for the benefit of people there who might not know about it yet.

  30. Lets not leave out the site that I founded and has been debunking 2012 since 2009…

    Also, it might interest people to read some of the nearly insane comments on Dr. Morrison’s video at http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=1TIy-t48uU0

  31. Gary Ansorge

    19. Anchor

    What do you have against “feelings”? I have a “feeling”,,,of love for living critters(including humans) but there is no proof that this is real(objective). Subjective reality is just as real to the person experiencing it as is objective reality. The most powerful “feeling” can be the experience of a mystical high. Unfortunately, these are spontaneous and so far we’ve been unable to capture brain scans for anyone enduring such a happenstance(enduring is the correct word. Lab induced brain stimulation still leaves the subject functional but the spontaneous variety often leaves the one experiencing it,,,flummoxed,,,).

    Rationality has little to do with feelings. I like to think I’m rational but maybe I’m just a little less crazy than others. Watch what I DO,,,then decide,,,

    Phil, I’m really glad you do the hard work of de-bunking BS. It’s good to be young, energetic and passionate,,,and very, very rational,,,

    Gary 7

  32. Anchor

    Three little words, Caleb: “Burden of proof”.

    You’ll have to supply it if you are going to claim the existence of a supernatural force to which you are privy through what you yourself have identified as your source: your feelings.

    “I never said my feelings were evidence.”

    I don’t care. I said so. You are free to find my opinion uncomfortable, but you can’t cry foul where none was committed. I SAY: No equivocation invalidates your own proposed source of support for your conviction that nature isn’t complete, that there exists something else outside of existence. (That’s always struck me as a very fine oxymoron.) I call you on THAT and you register outrage with insinuations that I’m mischaracterizing MY opinion of your claim? That’s not very scientific (and some might argue it doesn’t particularly harmonize with religious virtue either; considering the alleged compatibility between religion and science, I hear nothing but a clamourous dissonance, which can only mean that one of them isn’t exactly playing a true tune, but I digress).

    A reasonable person would at least agree to try on that burden mentioned above, as a follow-on to their argument, instead of complaining how rude it is of anyone to question how you arrive at it.

    You do realize, I trust, that there are people who do not subscribe to the fallacy that religion is compatible with science. If you supply a claim, why shouldn’t people exercise their skepticism and liberty to question it? Why should it be impervious to inquiry? What makes your claim so special?

    Strange as it may seem, humility has nothing to do with it. It’s irrelevent to the issue, and that goes even for the humble sort invested with special feelings from which they claim to extract all kinds of ‘knowledge’, which nobody else may dare glimpse, let alone question. Or is inquiry to be restricted only to those who are graced with The Knack of Direct Contact with the Completely Ineffable?

  33. Anchor

    @#28, Gary Ansorge asks, believe it or not: “What do you have against “feelings”? ”

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!??

    Are you often that obtuse?

    Man oh man oh man….

  34. Caleb Jones

    @Anchor

    “that there exists something else outside of existence, a very fine oxymoron”

    Who said anything about existence outside of existence? If there’s a god, it/he/she has to exist in the very real sense. I’ve never liked the immaterial/unknowable concepts of deity.

    “I call you on THAT and you register outrage with insinuations that Iu2019m mischaracterizing MY opinion of your claim.”

    Nope, I’m not outraged. Just trying to clarify. :-)

    “You do realize, I trust, that there are people who do not subscribe to the fallacy that religion is compatible with science.”

    Absolutely. But thanks for insinuating that I didn’t. :-(

    “If you supply a claim, why shouldn’t people exercise their skepticism and liberty to question it? Why should it be impervious to inquiry? What makes your claim so special?”

    Never said you/others couldn’t. And never said what I am or my beliefs are impervious to inquiry.

    “Strange as it may seem, humility has nothing to do with it.”

    Humility has everything to do with it. When I say humility I don’t mean any kind of religious or mystical interpretation of it. Humility to me is simply being open to new information and realising that we know far less that we’d all like to think we do (see Youtube vid). If someone closes down to new information (no matter the source) they stop or slow their learning.

    Gotta get back to work now, lunch break is over. Thanks for the spirited debate.

  35. CB

    Three little words, Caleb: “Burden of proof”.

    Those words irrelevant unless you’re trying to get someone else to believe the same thing you believe. When someone shows up at your door and says “Have you heard the good news?” and wants you to join their church, feel free to lay the burden of proof line on them. If someone is simply stating what their own beliefs are, “burden of proof” doesn’t enter into it.

  36. zyggy

    As far as the original post: Bravo, Phil. I’m glad someone is addressing this nonsense

    @Caleb and Anchor: For the record, I am not a religious person at all. I do not believe in the existence of “God” or any other supreme being. That said, I think that religion, unfortunately, is here to stay. However, the attitude that Caleb has represented is much more healthy and responsible than that of most “religious folks” that I have encountered.

    Since they (the religious) are going to be here anyway, I wish more would follow his example of at least thinking about their beliefs.

    Not everyone is going to come to the same decision I have, but at least think about what you “believe”. Have some ownership, understand what it is you are actually believing. Understand what your church is preaching, what their ideals are.

    I guess what I am saying here is that I don’t like blind faith. I suppose that makes me skeptic. I guess I’m in the right place.

  37. CB

    Rationality has little to do with feelings. I like to think I’m rational but maybe I’m just a little less crazy than others. Watch what I DO,,,then decide,,,

    Except in the sense that every rational person must admit they have irrational feelings. Rationality is just a trick our mammal brains learned because it was useful for satisfying our emotional needs (which are evolved mechanisms for satisfying our physical needs… we seek out food and sex because we’re hungry and horny, not because of a rational desire for nutrition or reproduction… but these emotional needs have become more complex as our brains did).

    The most irrational thing a person who values rationality can do is believe they are rational.

  38. Old Geezer

    While all of you folks are busy debating the unknowable, let’s get down to the fundamental. If all these folks who are writing books and delivering lectures actually knew the truth they wouldn’t be charging a lot of money to spread the word. Heck, what will they do with all that money nine months from now?

  39. ND

    @12. Chris Says: February 23rd, 2012 at 1:29 pm
    “Forget exploding planets or cosmic collisions. The only thing I’m worried about in 2012 is that one of those Republicans wins the presidency. Now that’s something to fear.”

    And how do you know the Mayans weren’t prophesizing a Republican presidency? Hmm? Think about it. But not too hard, because then it’ll start not making sense :)

  40. Anchor

    @Caleb, #27, who says, “Who said anything about existence outside of existence? If there’s a god, it/he/she has to exist in the very real sense. I’ve never liked the immaterial/unknowable concepts of deity.”

    My goodness. If God is exists “in the very real sense” (that is, an inhabitant of the realm of existence, is there any other kind?), then the existence of God must be a potentially observable commodity and in principle therefore subject to scientific investigation and falsification, yes? That is, I suppose, completely consistent with what you said here:

    “Good luck, however, on *proving* there is no God since you’ll probably have just as hard a time doing that as I will *proving* that God does exist.”

    And earlier, as already mentioned:

    “…people ask me why I even entertain religion. The reason for that is personal, but boils down to my feelings (note just feelings) about a general supernatural force for good in the universe…”

    I detect an inconsistency. (Sorry, but that’s just me. I hope you don’t mind)…On the one hand, it seems you have already declared the question of God’s existence as unprovable, yet on the other hand you characterize God as “a general supernatural force”.

    Do you realize what “supernatural” means? Most definitions emphasize it is as outside, beyond, other-than, not-of, and generally opposite to natural reality. If nature is identified with the totality of potential configurations of existence, then supernaturality isn’t included.

    You do not subscribe to “immaterial/unknowable concepts of deity”, yet insist God’s existence is beyond verification by any empirical means based on potential observational or experimental test. You insist a vague feeling is all that’s necessary for you (which I do not at all dispute, as you mistakenly alledge) at the same time you insist that YOUR feeling should be all that is necessary for me. It isn’t.

    Thank YOU for a very “spirited” discussion indeed. (Very cute, that. Very little light penetrates tightly closed eyes, as is typical with those who consort with spirits).

  41. Digitalaxis

    @16. Sunfell

    So what did you have?

    Off the top, I can think of:

    1.) The Mayan calendar does NOT actually end in 2012; other temple markers and carvings mention *later* dates.
    2.) Our calendars end every year, and nothing happens.
    3.) How, exactly, did the Mayans get this secret knowledge? Sure, they were clever enough to make a calendar synched to the orbit of Venus, but they weren’t, as far as we know, aware of comets or any of the myriad things modern civilization knows about the Solar System and the Earth. Or are we claiming that Quezacotl (or was he an Incan god?) is real (then why aren’t you worshipping him?) and gave them insider information?

    4.) The solar system cannot possibly be a long-lost part of the Pleiades. The Pleiades are rather convincingly 125 Myr old and 133 parsecs away; the Sun is even more convincingly 4600 Myr old, and has a completely different motion through space than the Pleiades do. Furthermore, the Pleiades (and the nearby AB Doradus association, and several other open clusters) are apparently in some sort of gravitational resonance with the galactic bar… but the Sun is NOT.
    5.) The vernal equinox (where the Sun is at noon on the Spring Equinox) DOES come close to the center of the galaxy… but it came closest in 1998 and nothing happened.
    6.) There is no way a planet could come close enough to Earth to destroy it in December 2012, and not be visible to the naked eye right now.

  42. Olaf

    A big planet that would get close to Earth would be at 4.15 AU from the Sun right now. No more no less unless it is not in orbit around the Sun.

  43. Anchor

    @28, CB: “Those words [burden of proof] are irrelevant unless you’re trying to get someone else to believe the same thing you believe.”

    No they aren’t irrelevant, and they are a legitimate feature of the scientific method, sensibility and ordinary every-day rationality.

    Can you imagine the mess that would erupt if scientific journals published every goofy claim made by crackpots, mystics and con-artists?

    Can you? Well, then you can appreciate that it has less to do with trying to persuade a stubborn and recalcitrant opponent over some argument than it has to do with preserving an orderly consensus of what is actually true.

    Religion does dogma – folks doing nothing but telling each other about the way it is, never mind consulting their creator’s putative creation for the goods that might corroborate their imaginative stories. They’re the ones into the persuasion gig. (Or evangelizing, or indoctrination, or…well, you get the basic sordid picture).

    Science is very different: its really just ears and eyes, listening and watching what nature reveals. Scientists consult each other to find out what the OTHER fellow found out about nature, in order to arrive at and refine a consensus conceptual model of the way things really work in nature. Science constantly updates itself and corrects its world-views.

    When has religion ever done that?

    And why hasn’t any holy text, for example, EVER identified that stars are suns and the Sun is one of innumerable stars inhabiting innumerable vast galaxies distributed across an expanding universe? One would think at least ONE of the legions of self-professed divinely-inspired holyfolks liberally sprinkled throughout history would have revealed at least a FEW of the basic details about the marvels of that ‘Creation’ everybody talks about but hardly ever pay attention to, through that convenient Direct Grapevine to the Omniscient and Omnipotent Creator Who Knows and Sees All…yet after thousands of years, not a peep or a single correct revelation about the workings of the universe, with billions of people ‘tuned-in’ to religious feeling over that period? Out of countless marvelous things that only several hundreds of thousands of dedicated scientists managed to systematically discover over the course of only several centuries???

    Look at what applied science has invented in terms of technologies, then consider what religion invents with THEIR ‘applied knowledge’.

    Big difference.

    We all have to grow up and face it sooner or later. Perhaps the simplest explanation accounts for this glaring impoverishment and impotence of religion after all: maybe religious knowledge and its much-acclaimed wherewithal (ahem, ‘prayer’) really is just plain bogus.

    THATS why a principle of ‘burden of proof’ (that is, of concept, of demonstration) is RELEVANT, and practically useful it is, too.

  44. Please forgive the quote mining, but:

    they are loathesome scummy immoral mind-parasites

    This.

  45. Chris A.

    I am the manager of a public observatory. One of our regular offerings are bimonthly astronomy lectures for lay audiences. In January, 2010, I delivered a lecture (“Apocalypse 2012: Fact and Fiction) debunking the predictions being made about purported astronomical cataclysms in 2012.

    My audience was the largest I’ve had in the eight years I’ve been giving these lectures. Packed the house.

    With two years of hindsight, I’m convinced that one of the best ways to prevent people (kids, especially) from taking this stuff too seriously (even to the point of harming themselves and/or others) is to mock it at every opportunity. Point out that the claims are laughable, and that anyone who believes them is deserving of ridicule. Make jokes at the expense of Barbara Marciniak, Jose Arguelles, Patrick Geryl, and every other woo peddler who’s trying to make a fast buck off people’s fear and gullibility.

    You may not be able to explain to young kids why there’s no reason to believe the Mayans were making apocalyptic predictions about the end of one of their longer calendar cycles, but kids understand making fun of silliness. Jay Leno (and his talk-show peers) get it. Chevy and TD Ameritrade (both of whom have ads out which spoof the 2012 codswallop) get it. Join in the fun, folks, and let’s laugh the “loathsome scummy immoral mind-parasites” (nice one, Phil) right off the public stage. (Don’t worry–Harold Camping will be there to console them.)

  46. Messier Tidy Upper

    Why so much “2012 = Eeeennnnddd oooof ttthhheee Weeeeerrrrld” nonsense recently?

    It’s the last minute rush to fleece the gullible before 2013 comes round of course. ;-)

    Such predictions are so often simply about gaining their “prophets” money and attention and are always, always wrong. Mind you, Nostradamus did make one correct prediction – he correctly predicted today’s level of human gullibility. ;-)

    When it comes to the Mayan calander humbug I always like to ask people if they’re really going to take something as scientifically, factually, accurate coming from a group that thought our Sun needed human sacrifices to rise each day.

    That so many people are fooled so badly, so often into believing some of these End of the World predictions is variously exasperating, morbidly entertaining, face-palming, pathetic and worst of all sometimes horribly tragic. :-(

  47. brett

    Anchor @35 seems to me you have not studied the history of religion nor the history of science very deeply, the way you make so many naive ‘just so’ pronouncements about both. You also seem to confuse what the bailiwick of both is. As for the glaring impoverishment and impotence of religion, I would advise you to study trans-historically and cross culturally the Art, Music, Archictecture, Literature, Poetry and Philsophy, of the last 5,000yrs to understand what such an impotent and impoverished force can inspire.
    I , like you, am an atheist ( well upon reflection probably more of an agnostic) but do not make the mistake of denigrating all the aspects of such a powerful human constant because you don’t believe in it or simply reject it. This is what the zealots and fundamentalists do ;-) cheers

  48. brett

    MTU@ 38 whether its 2012 os some other selected time seems to be a human constant doesn’t it. Here in Austalia it seems to be most rampant amongst the New Age/ Alternative types. I wonder if it is some sort of deep psychological metaphor of our our mortality that is projected onto the planet or universe.

  49. CB

    @ Anchor

    Thanks for the description of how burden of proof is important in a wide variety of contexts that aren’t the one in question. If “science” journals were just publishing opinions of the “I believe X, but don’t expect anyone else to believe it” variety, aside from not being science journals, the notion of “burden of proof” simply wouldn’t apply.

    “I believe in God, but I don’t expect you to.”
    “The burden of proof is on you to prove God exists or I won’t believe you.”
    “I’m happy with you continuing to not believe me. ”
    “You need to prove God exists! Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!”
    “But I’m not trying to prove god exists…”

    Anyway, obviously demonstration of results is important to science and understanding physical reality. So glad we agree on that.

  50. Bill Hudson

    Hm, prior comment still awaiting moderation. Something’s stuck.

  51. CB

    I mean as long as you’re saying burden of proof is a universally applicable concept, then why didn’t you demand proof for Caleb’s statement that he believes in God? Maybe because it’s obvious “demonstrating” such a thing is hallow and meaningless. Might as well ask him to prove he loves his mother.

  52. @40. brett :

    MTU@ 38 whether its 2012 os some other selected time seems to be a human constant doesn’t it?

    Yep. I’ve lived through & recall quite a few just in my own short lifetime – 1988 was supposed to be the rapture – as well as Camping this year – twice! – with 1984 or was it 1981 being the “Jupiter Effect” year among so many others. A former State premier Don Dunstan once waited down at the beach for a tidal wave that was supposed to herald the end of it all in an effort to reassure the gullible. I recall 2000 and the Y2k bug panic – my old computer just thought it was 1990 instead – no biggie. So many more too. I sometimes wonder if there’s more years that are supposed to be the End of It All (according to various rogues, lunatics and liars throughout history) than there are years that aren’t?

    Here in Austalia it seems to be most rampant amongst the New Age/ Alternative types. I wonder if it is some sort of deep psychological metaphor of our our mortality that is projected onto the planet or universe.

    Could well be.

    There does seem a certain morbid appeal that seems to really draw people into this sort of stuff. Related to folks seeking out horror tales and ghosts stories I suppose. Along with other factors. The media, natch, will always try and spruik and beat up anything that can be sensationalised and sell newspapers.

    Seems such a shame that so much time and attention gets dedicated to so much .. humbug .. that is just so stoopid. :-(

    Also that newspapers carry daily horoscopes columns but – if you’re lucky – monthly astronomy columns too. :-(

    @34. Digitalaxis :

    Or are we claiming that Quezacotl (or was he an Incan god?) is real (then why aren’t you worshipping him?) and gave them insider information?

    Wikipedia – article linked to my name here – suggests that was an Aztec God rather than a Mayan or Incan one although it also calls Quetzalcoatl – a variation of spelling but I presume the one you’re meaning – a mesoamerican diety. Wikipedia also notes that the Mayans and Aztecs were pretty closely related and similar though.

    BTW. I wonder if so many folks seemingly still taking the Mayan cosmogony seriously is an argument against the USA being a Christian nation that – and if they do believe it why aren’t they cutting out hearts on a daily basis to ensure the survival of America’s agriculture and keep our Sun rising? Would that be covered under “freedom of religion” provisions I wonder? ;-)

    @31. Old Geezer :

    While all of you folks are busy debating the unknowable, let’s get down to the fundamental. If all these folks who are writing books and delivering lectures actually knew the truth they wouldn’t be charging a lot of money to spread the word. Heck, what will they do with all that money nine months from now?

    ^ This! Exactly. Quoted for truth.

    Also reminds me of the similar concept regarding televangelists best summed up with a line in a U2 song (‘Silver &Gold?’) :

    “Well the God I believe in isn’t short of cash Mister!”

    Would an all-powerful creator diety(ies) really need people to send Her /Him / It / Them money?

  53. Grizzly

    Anchor. Atheist here with an opinion. You’re acting like a jerk spoiling for a fight. We get it – you don’t believe in God. Fine and dandy. But Caleb isn’t the person of belief that you seem to hope to score points on. Give it a rest.

  54. CB

    Would an all-powerful creator diety(ies) really need people to send Her /Him / It / Them money?

    Kirk: What does God need with a starship?

  55. brett

    CB@45 God to Kirk:…… To experience the universe at WARP speed!!!! and if your chief engineer Mr Scott laments one more time “cap’n she canna take it, the dilithium crystals ha’ overheeted” well its orf to purgatory with him my son.

  56. brett

    Grizzly @ 44 totally agree

  57. Robin Byron

    I will never forget (or forgive) the fear-mongering our own country practiced in the late forties, early fifties. Constant reminders of complete and total atomic annihilation, practicing atomic attack procedure in school and weekly tests of air-raid sirens that were often not on the specified day or time (probably deliberate). Imagine being an impressionable kid, 5 to 10 years old as I was during this time. I am very happy all the bastards (er, politicians) who dreamed up this BS are all dead.

  58. CB

    @ Brett:

    Kirk: But… it’s his thing!

  59. shunt1

    Actually, I love reading these comments!

    Most of the things that my friends are posting tonight, I fully agree with.

    Those who believe that the Earth will soon be destroyed, are placing their absolute trust in the “authorities” which they trust the most.

    It reminds me of the “infallibility of the Roman Catholic Pope” and the religious wars during the 1500′s when people started to ask questions.

  60. It’s everywhere I go. People talking about the “end of the world.” And we continue to fuel the flames by making stupid moves like FILMING FREAKIN’ MOVIES about it! I got this friend; Yeah, he smokes a lot of pot, and he’s always going on about 12/21/2012. The sad part is he really is an intelligent guy.

    I argue with him all the time: “Dude, we all know the world is gonna end in nuclear holocaust…”

  61. Chris

    As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.

    Proverbs 26:11

  62. shunt1

    Of course, the religion of “catastrophic global warming” is based upon an infallible core of “scientists” that have declared that the Earth will soon hit a “tipping point” and will be destroyed.

    Anyone who dares to question their form of religion is a heretic and will be persecuted. Like the Roman Catholic Pope, they must NEVER be questioned!

    Heck, we even have a form of the inquisition in today’s world.

    I give up, what is the difference?

  63. brett

    Shunti@61 no need to bring every thread back to CAGW. The universe is a big place, plenty of wonderful stuff to discuss and debate :-) -cheers brett

  64. shunt1

    What is the difference?

    An honest question.

  65. brett

    And just for you Anchor Job 12:8 “..and speak to the earth, for it shall teach thee..”

  66. shunt1

    What is the difference?

    An honest question.

    As someone who has fought in many courts of law to defend people’s freedom to practice their personal choice of religion, I know all about this subject.

    I had one woman who was following the Wicca form of religion and was about to loose the custody of her children because of her beliefs.

    Darn right that I stood up and fought “like a badger in a corner” for her!

    She hated me because I forced her to plead guilty to a minor charge, but I had worked out a deal and nothing legal would every happened to her. The alternative was the loss of her children and having them placed into foster homes.

    I am not a lawyer, but military sergeants are trained in the law. Sometimes, this old soldier can still pick a fight and win!

    Oh, I know all about this subject.

  67. Messier Tidy Upper

    @63. shunt1 :

    What is the difference? [Betwixt HIRGO consensus climatologists & the Medieval Catholic Inquisition -ed.] An honest question.

    Which is probably better saved for another more relevant thread instead of derailing this one. :-(

    Oh well, okay, just quickly then :

    How many climatologists do you see actually physically threatening their detractors with physical torture and execution?

    Do you see Michael Mann or James Hansen or even the irrelevant, much demonised Al Gore in “Papal authority” mode actually claiming *infallibility* and demanding everyone do what they say based solely on the authority of the person saying it rather than pointing to actual physicial tangible evidence?

    Because I sure don’t.

  68. shunt1

    Do I not get attacked almost daily on this blog, because I refuse to believe and follow the dictates of the official religion of “catastrophic global warming” that will destroy the Earth in the next 100 years?

    Am I not attacked almost daily because I have refused to obey the official religion as express by you and others on this blog?

    Once again, what is the difference?

  69. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ shunt1 – February 23rd, 2012 at 11:44 pm :

    Not threatened with phsyical violence or / and public execution by fire certainly not! :-o

    I think you are very wrong in matters of fact and science but I respond by arguing, I hope politely and reasonably and countering your arguments with better counter-arguments.

    You – & other climate contrarians who share your views or are even more extreme on the HIRGO issue – have the freedom to express your opinions here which as long as it is done by his basic and reasonable blog rules the BA is happy to allow you to do at least as far as I can ascertain.

    @34. Caleb Jones :

    Humility has everything to do with it. When I say humility I don’t mean any kind of religious or mystical interpretation of it. Humility to me is simply being open to new information and realising that we know far less that we’d all like to think we do (see Youtube vid). If someone closes down to new information (no matter the source) they stop or slow their learning.

    I think that’s a very good definition of humility and it is one that I share.

    I think we always need to remember that we can be wrong and can learn from seeing other persepctives and need to be wary of ever getting too certain of what we think we know.

    I think over time I have mellowed and become much less certain of things than I used to be. Perhaps that’s a usual part of getting older? Getting older .. durnnit! Oh well.

    Socrates said it very truly when he noted a wise person is one who realises how much one does NOT know and isn’t sure about. Maybe?

    @42. Olaf :

    A big planet that would get close to Earth would be at 4.15 AU from the Sun right now. No more no less unless it is not in orbit around the Sun.

    Sorry Olaf but I don’t understand what you are trying to say or are referring to there. Can you rephrase & / or elaborate further please?

  70. Very few people actually believe this 2012 crap, and almost all will watch the date pass with perfect equanimity and move on to the next doomsday prediction as they have done many times in their lives. The few that really go nuts are just that. Nuts. They would have glommed on to some other idea if 2012 predictions hadn’t been there, or even made up one of their own.

    As far as kids go, my 8 year old daughter heard about it, I told her it was silly, explained briefly what a few people believe about it, and she got it. Lead into a neat talk about predicting the future, which she related to how bad weather predictions are.

    And to the religion angle, not sure you can really coonnect the idea of the Mayans being visited by or themselves being “ancient aliens” to religion. Though come to think of it that kinda sorta what Childhood’s End does. Kinda. Still, this 2012 silliness is closer to science fiction than to any religion I know of.

  71. shunt1

    Do I not get attacked almost daily on this bog, because I refuse to believe and follow the dictates of the official religion of “catastrophic global warming” that will destroy the Earth in the next 100 years?

    Am I not attacked almost daily because I have refused to obey the official religion as express by you and others on this bog?

    Once again, what is the difference?

    Heck, I have one “child” that enjoys telling me how stupid I am to talk about the albedo of the Earth.

    Question: Would the CO2 band albedo not alter, if that theory is correct?

    If the albedo of the Earth in the CO2 molecular bands has not altered, then the total theory of the Green House effect would be invalidated.

    ….

    This old soldier is laying down firm and legal documentation of the false science being presented on this bog. When I see something being presented that is scientifically wrong, then I will try my best to give a firm warning.

    With FAKEGATE, it is now rather obvious. It does not matter what happens with climate related science, as long as it agrees with the currently accepted religious doctrine.

    Anyone can lie, cheat and steal as long they agree with it.

    Doing something like that would have gotten me fired the next day when I was working at White Sands Missile Range, and it would have been perfectly justified!

  72. @66 Messier – The irrelevant and much demonised Al Gore does usually come off as if he thinks he’s speaking ex cathedra, otherwise I’m with ya. That should be his official title. I suppose I will have to credit you when I use it in the future.

  73. Homer

    Where’s the Kool-Aid??

  74. shunt1

    My friends on this blog are more than happy to attack me, but I have never seen anyone that took the time to counter my arguments.

    Instead, they call me stupid or other insults, while totally failing to understand the basic scientific principles that I was trying to express.

    Why? Because I am not following their religion and they know no other way.

    This old soldier has been working with climate and weather related scientific research longer than most of you have been living on this Earth.

    Have you never asked yourself the most basic question?

    Why is the vast majority of those who are challenging the current “religion” of global warming retired scientists?

    You need to seriously think about that question!

    The wrong answer:

    We are old farts who can not keep up to date with modern research!

    That would make you sound rather stupid and ignorant. But to show that ignorance in a court of law would be something funny to watch.

  75. Mike

    People commit suicide over the 2012 doomsday “event”. Darwinism in action…

  76. William

    Maybe the Mayan’s were talking about the economy.

  77. Jan

    Of course, the world ends on my 31st birthday (30 would be more poetic, but hey, you can’t have everything), so I’m throwing a big “End of the world” party.

  78. Jumbo

    I don’t think that suicidal ideation is necessarily indicative of “needing to find help” or “deeper issues”. I don’t think it’s that unusual to think of that sort of thing every now and again; the key (for people who don’t have abnormal brain chemistry-caused depression) is to remember the good times as well as the bad, to remember that this too shall pass, and to endure.

    I’m not very old, but I think that if you haven’t ever at least thought of suicide then you haven’t lived long enough to experience the truly bad along with the good.

  79. DennyMo

    BA said: “Damn this stuff so much.”

    Rather ironic for a post criticizing religion to include a prayer like this.

  80. Monkey

    @ DennyMo: Not sure that was a prayer, exactly. Not at all, actually.

  81. Satan Claws

    No day that goes by that the Astronomy forum of Yahoo Answers gets a 2012 question. Even for completely unrelated questions (like posting about national exams).

    Most of the time people don’t actually post details, just asking “Is the world going to end?”; once in a while, they do ask specific questions about what they heard/read/watched on Youtube. This is often addressed in http://www.2012hoax.org so it’s an address to keep in mind when forwarding the people to it; they’ve done a fairly good job at addressing each of the absurd claims.

  82. technochill

    I don’t think 2012 doomsday belief is a christian religious belief. I think it’s based on Mayan prophesy TV specials and ideas from George Noory listeners.

    It must be frustrating looking at life through religious hate glasses all the time.

    If you ask me, the way the president has been running things and spending half his time playing golf and vacationing he must know something we don’t (after all,the president gets the book of secrets). And if there’s a planet killer heading our way, and there’s nothing we can do about it, who cares about a few more trillion dollars of debt. Or anything for that matter.

    There I go, making a subject as serious as “Doomsday” political. I guess we’re all wearing glasses of some sort.

  83. CB

    I have never seen anyone that took the time to counter my arguments.

    Haha! That’s hilarious! I guess if you never looked then that might not be a lie, but then again “haven’t looked” explains most of your behavior.

  84. Richard Aitken

    Debunking doomsday, is that Global Warming doomsday?
    I for one welcome your debunking of Global Warming doomsday.

  85. DennyMo

    Monkey Says:
    @ DennyMo: Not sure that was a prayer, exactly. Not at all, actually.

    Sure it is, parse it out. Oh, I’m sure it wasn’t intended as a prayer, just a colloquialism. But since damning something involves “condemning it to hell”, and only a limited set of beings would be capable of fulfilling such a request, for someone who doesn’t believe in the concepts of hell or supplication to deities to use the word is ironic.

  86. Digitalaxis

    @70. shunt1

    Question: Would the CO2 band albedo not alter, if that theory is correct?

    If the albedo of the Earth in the CO2 molecular bands has not altered, then the total theory of the Green House effect would be invalidated.

    As I (not climate scientist) understand it, yes. The Earth’s atmosphere should become more opaque in the CO2 bands as more CO2 enters the atmosphere to absorb light. That should result in the trapping of heat as photons in that energy band are absorbed on the way in (from the Sun), AND the way out (from the Earth’s surface). But that’s just for the CO2 band. If the Earth’s surface and atmospheric temperature emits enough blackbody radiation in THOSE BANDS then the overall albedo could drop and yet we’d still have more warming.

  87. Hey Phil – what if someone took a full accounting of the 2012 doomsday proponents, including names and claims, and then did a big big story on them in early 2013. Combined with an analysis of how much money they made, how many hits they racked up on YouTube, etc, it might make for an effective counter-attack on this ulcerous growth on modern culture.

  88. Elmar_M

    I think that our society is somehow perverted to be lusting for apocalypse a doomsday scenarios. Maybe it is because of religions predicting doomsday and some people wanting to believe the end of the world is coming to see their religion proven right with the ultimate proof (even though I doubt it).
    Maybe it is because there are too many people in close spaces especially in an urban environment and they feel the need to liberate themselves from that. I guess they are all somehow assuming that they would be among the survivors/those saved/going to heaven/whatever, because they are better people, better believers, better prepared, smarter or simply because they are (like most people) ignoring their own mortality).
    Either way, I have on several occasions seen christians get all excited at the prospect of an apocalyptic event and this does bother me quite a bit.
    I think it would be interesting to write a psychology thesis or paper on this topic. I want to know, how widespread this condition is or whether this is really just limited to a certain social background.

  89. Olaf

    68. Messier Tidy

    Yes I want to explain.
    If a big planet comes near Earth to do any harm. (And it must come close if tidal effect are there) then you can easily track back the orbit it must be by putting the planets at 21 dec 2012, Put a big planet close to Earth and now make it an 3,600 year orbit. And run the simulation backward to the current date.

    This simulation shows clearly that a big planet that could fit a description of Nibiru has to be at 4.15 AU from the Sun at this current date. (with speed of 20.76 km/s You can discuss the orientation of the orbit but the distance and speed is fixed no matter what orientation.

    And since people talk about a brown dwarf that means it has minimal 1.8 times the diameter of Jupiter.

    There is no evidence of a 1.8 times radius of Jupiter mass at 4.155 Au from the sun right now. We are talking about a mass inside the orbit of Jupiter!

  90. Olaf

    @77. technochill
    The 2012 is not based on Christian believe, but it is Christians that misuse the bible to promote 2012.

    If you are a Christian then you need to take a stance against these 2012 promoters because not only are they damaging your religion and people lose faith. They also go for the weakest Christians that have no defence. I have not seen many none-religious people falling for this 2012 scam. The 2012 massacre is in the religious community.

  91. Olaf

    Also how the hell did we end up with religious and global warming fights?
    As far as I know this is about 2012, not religion or global change or atheism…

    Bad Astronomy is about science. Maybe stick to 2012 topic.

  92. Olaf

    Here is one example of Christians misuse 2012 as a way to convert people.
    This really makes me sick since he tries to hit on the weak people.

    This is 0050emtee and this is around September 25th 2011 or so:

    —- “NOT a trivial comet or planet….a brown dwarf star….Revelation 12 is happening above you right now….Virgo…with the moon at her feet…and on the 4th October gives birth to Venus..the morning star ((JESUS)

    I don’t follow false prophets I follow the Bible…you just don’t know what time we are in…as for damaging families

    if just one family repents because of my postings I am happy with that..the others will when the Rapture happens and they remember what I said!!” —-

    Here is an example of him again, 10 days before 27 September 2011

    —- “Just wait 10 days…Isaiah 19…the uprising in Egypt IS happening…Isaiah 18…the forming of the new Christian state of South Sudan HAS just happened this year….Israel being surrounded by armies IS happening while we speak …the collapse of the world economy to bring in the antichrist and the one world order IS happening…the sun being blacked out WILL happen 26/27/28 Sept…the Feast of Trumpets…the only feast that uses the term you won’t know the day or hour 28/29th Sept”—-

  93. Olaf

    One more example from 0050emtee around 16 sept 2011.:

    — Well let’s wait and see…my Bible tells me that Israel will be attacked by Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Hizbella from Lebanon, Hamas from the Gaza Strip and it will be nuclear…and Damascus will be destroyed… this happens when there is a massive earthquake and the sun and moon turn to darkness… Revelation 6:12 and Joel 2 .. and it even descibes the so called elite hiding in dens in the mountains…26/27/28th Sept…DEFCON 1…ten days to go…then the Psalm 83 War—

    (sadly this is only one example, there are many Christians out there misusing the bible to terrorized kids)

  94. Tony Mach

    @shunt1
    Runaway climate is something other than a doomsday scenario. Any proper skeptic can tell you that. And all proper skeptics will agree without a question, that the climate scientists are right who say that the only way to battle against our runaway climate – and save our earth – is to forsake our disastrous behaviors.

    See, science is something *completely* different than a doomsday cult.

  95. “…or maybe they are loathesome scummy immoral mind-parasites, not caring how they affect people as long as they get money or fame.”

    I’d bet my 2 pennies on this one. I’ve seen a lot of [......] here in Latin America, and it comes from people getting a lot of propaganda and media coverage. And of course they get a lot of money for that.

    One thing people fail to see is this: if there is a doomsday coming, so why are these people very interested in taking the money away from you? what good would they get for that if there will be no place where to spend the money after the deadline? If you are certain about one thing, you have to adjust your living according to that.

    And they are not living according to the coming doomsday ….

    Clear skies!

  96. MNP

    It’s wrong, but there is a sense that the entire planet has gone badly off the rails and there’s nothing most of us can do about it. Doomsday 2012 is a myth (and I myself use it in fictional writing though even then, it’s not a doomsday) but the sense of doom (as in fate) over us is palpable.

  97. Olaf

    @89. MNP
    This sense of the entire planet being gone off rails have existed all the time. This includes 1999 where the exact same claims were used as we hear them now.

    It is not something new.

  98. Brent

    W
    h
    o

    C
    a
    r
    e
    s
    ?

    People die every day.

  99. Vacca

    It seems a bit contradictory. Doomsday is coming and because you’re scared of dying you commit suicide?
    What, are you trying to avoid a queue of souls?

  100. Messier Tidy Upper

    @91. Olaf : Okay. I get what you are referring to now. Cheers. :-)

    @93. Olaf :

    Also how the hell did we end up with religious and global warming fights?

    Because some people just can’t help themselves – & I guess I’m one of them. ;-)

    On the internet the derailing of threads is just about inevitable provided they go on long enough, I’m afraid.

    @95. Olaf :

    One more example from 0050emtee around 16 sept 2011.:
    — Well let’s wait and see…my Bible tells me that Israel will be attacked by Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Hizbella from Lebanon, Hamas from the Gaza Strip ..

    Well, that sounds pretty familiar and typical of the on-going Arab-Israeli wars .. The Islamic nations are forever attacking Israel in an attempt to wipe it out and forever failing and haver been ever since the Jewish state was declared back in 1948. I wish they’d stop but they just never seem to learn ..

    .. and it will be nuclear…and Damascus will be destroyed… this happens when there is a massive earthquake and the sun and moon turn to darkness…

    Aaa-aand that bit not-so-much. :roll:

    Its the Iranians not the Syrians who are presently vigorously trying to develop nuclear WMDs and whilst Damascus may well be destroyed its much more likely to be the result of the present Syrian civil war than any nuclear strike.

    Sadly, predicting war and terrible upheaval in the Middle East region is all too easy and inevitably right. (Struggles valiently but futilily against another potential derailing of the thread here.) :-(

    @99. Olaf : “It is not something new.”

    No, its not. Part of human nature I guess. :-(

  101. Anchor, Caleb et al:
    As the thread has already been derailed, I can’t resist it… Proving that God doesn’t exist – at least, one with the attributes given to him by the Abrahamic religions – is in fact very simple. And Anchor has already done so, with one sarcastic phrase in #43… “the Omniscient and Omnipotent Creator”.
    It’s a logical impossibility for any entity – even a supposedly “supernatural” one, to be both “omniscient” and “omnipotent”, as those two attributes are mutually exclusive! If he/it “knows everything”, then he can’t arbitrarily change his mind and do whatever he chooses, and vice versa. QED.

  102. Nigel Depledge

    Neil Haggath (103) said:

    It’s a logical impossibility for any entity – even a supposedly “supernatural” one, to be both “omniscient” and “omnipotent”, as those two attributes are mutually exclusive! If he/it “knows everything”, then he can’t arbitrarily change his mind and do whatever he chooses, and vice versa. QED.

    Eh?

    Please elaborate.

  103. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (102) said:

    The Islamic nations are forever attacking Israel in an attempt to wipe it out and forever failing and haver been ever since the Jewish state was declared back in 1948. I wish they’d stop but they just never seem to learn

    Well, maybe they will stop, after Israel gives back the territory it occupied by force (its current area is far larger than it was in 1948), and stops treating Arabs as sub-human, don’t you think?

  104. Nigel Depledge

    @ Brent (100) -

    Did you have a point?

  105. Nigel Depledge

    Technochill (84) said:

    It must be frustrating looking at life through religious hate glasses all the time.

    I don’t think anyone here would know about that.

    What I (and, I suspect, other commenters here) do know is that it is frustrating to live in a society that blindly and unquestioningly accepts baseless ideas and values them above ideas that have been tested and validated.

  106. Nigel Depledge

    The BA said:

    We took some calls from folks, including two from people who seemed to be trying to blame 2012 stuff on religious beliefs, which I think is misguided.

    Denny Mo (81) said:

    Rather ironic for a post criticizing religion to . . .

    Erm, so in what way is the BA’s post about 2012 doomsday wolf-criers a critique of religion?

  107. #104 Nigel:
    Certainly.
    If the hypothetical God is “omniscient”. i.e. he “knows everything”, then this presumably means that as well as knowing everything that has ever happened, he also knows in advance everything that ever will happen in the future. ( In fact, a Christian friend of mine has claimed this explicitly – that his God somehow “exists independently of our dimensions of space and time, and sees and knows everything that happens in the past, present and future”. ) Therefore, he can’t arbitrarily “do anything”, and change the course of future events.
    Conversely, if he is indeed “omnipotent”, i.e. can “do anything”, then he can arbitrarily change the course of future events, and therefore can’t possibly know everything in advance.
    Ergo, omniscience and omnipotence are mutually exclusive, so it’s a logical impossibility for any hypothetical entity to be both.

  108. Getting back on topic…
    Apparently, in 2008, a 16-year-old girl in India committed suicide, because she genuinely believed the “LHC will destroy the Earth” drivel! I hope all the sensation-seeking editors who published that scaremongering garbage were rightly proud of themselves…
    At the time, I personally knew someone who was genuinely worried that “something terrible” might happen, as a result of the same scaremongering garbage. Thankfully, I and a colleague managed to reassure her, by pointing out that cosmic ray particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere every day, with thousands of times more energy than those in the LHC.

  109. Nigel Depledge

    Shunt1 (76) said:

    My friends on this blog

    You have friends?

    (I know, it was a cheap shot, but you lined it up so beautifully, I could not resist).

    are more than happy to attack me, but I have never seen anyone that took the time to counter my arguments.

    Your arguments have been demolished plenty of times. Just because you don’t accept the conclusions, does not make you right.

    IIRC, you are a meteorologist, not a climatologist. I expect you know substantially more about climate data than I do, but that does not change the fact that the consensus among the world’s climatologists is that AGW is a serious issue that we must address.

    Instead, they call me stupid or other insults,

    Citation needed.

    while totally failing to understand the basic scientific principles that I was trying to express.

    And you fail to recognise that the climatologists whose integrity you deem so poor also understand those principles and have applied them in their work.

    Why? Because I am not following their religion and they know no other way.

    No, it’s because you refuse to accept that the overwhelming preponderance of the climate data indicate that three conclusions are firmly-grounded:
    1. GW is occurring, and more rapidly now than in any previous time since the advent of human civilisation.
    2. The current GW is largely caused by human activities.
    3. It is a serious issue that looks likely to have a substantial impact on human civilisation.

    This old soldier has been working with climate and weather related scientific research longer than most of you have been living on this Earth.

    So, what? Are you trying to make an argument from authority here?

    Have you never asked yourself the most basic question?

    Why is the vast majority of those who are challenging the current “religion” of global warming retired scientists?

    Erm . . . there’s a big difference between a scientist and a scientist commenting outside their field of expertise. That’s one reason I accept the conclusions of the world’s expert climatologists. Jack Schmidt, for example, was trained as a geologist, yet has weighed in among those criticising the conclusions of the climatologists. You are another example.

    So, your claim seems to me to be irrelevant. All that aside, though, I doubt it. I have seen arguments expounded by people who know nothing of the topic – I have seen arguments that GW is not occurring at all, and arguments that if it is happeneing it’s a good thing, and arguments that it is happening but isn’t anything to do with us, and none of these withstands much scrutiny.

    You need to seriously think about that question!

    You need to find a relevant question about which to think.

    The wrong answer:

    We are old farts who can not keep up to date with modern research!

    I’ve never seen this argument used – largely because it is not needed.

    That would make you sound rather stupid and ignorant.

    So, now it’s you calling your opponents “stupid”, is it?

    But to show that ignorance in a court of law would be something funny to watch.

    Why? What does a court of law have to do with the real world?

    It’s odd that you bring this up. As anyone who looks into it even a little can tell you, courts operate on opinion. The conclusion of a court is always based on opinion, and lawyers are trained in shaping other people’s opinions. This has little to do with the search for truth about the real world.

    Irrespective of your opinion or my opinion, the world’s climatologists have concluded that AGW is real and is a serious issue. I have yet to see even one argument that gives me reason to question that their conclusion is anything but honest science.

  110. Nigel Depledge

    Shunt1 (70) said:

    Do I not get attacked almost daily on this blog, because I refuse to believe and follow the dictates of the official religion of “catastrophic global warming” that will destroy the Earth in the next 100 years?

    No.

    BTW, who said that AGW would destroy the Earth – in the next 100 years or otherwise – , when and where did they say it?

    Or are you making a strawman argument?

    Am I not attacked almost daily because I have refused to obey the official religion as express by you and others on this blog?

    No. I have never seen anyone attack you on this blog. Instead, I have seen people attack the fallacious and irrelevant arguments that you make. If you cannot tell the difference, then that is – at least partly – your own problem.

    Once again, what is the difference?

    What’s the difference between what?

    If you refer to AGW vs mediaevel Catholicism as in a previous comment, let’s think about this for a bit.

    1. Does the AGW conclusion arise from the interpretation of a human document, or from interpretation of hard data?

    2. Does the AGW conclusion arise from what one (or a very few) person (people) claim, or is it a consensus of thousands of opinions?

    3. Is the AGW conclusion an arbitrary declaration or a logical conclusion?

    In each case, the answer is the latter, whereas mediaevel Catholicism is the former. What’s the difference? The world. Did you even bother to think about that question before posing it?

  111. Nigel Depledge

    Shunt1 (73) said:

    With FAKEGATE, it is now rather obvious. It does not matter what happens with climate related science, as long as it agrees with the currently accepted religious doctrine.

    Anyone can lie, cheat and steal as long they agree with it.

    Once again you vaguely accuse climatologists of unspecified nefarious activities.

    Do you have any evidence at all that what you claim is actually occurring anywhere?

    While we’re at it, how about you get a bit more specific in your claims. Who exactly is perpetrating this massive scientific fraud you allege? Who is coordinating the effort? Who gets to decide what is and isn’t doctrine? Who started it, and how did they get all the other climatologists on board?

    Be specific or shut the hell up.

  112. Nigel Depledge

    MTU (52) said:

    I recall 2000 and the Y2k bug panic

    That did not come to pass because a lot of people worked very hard to prevent it. Please don’t tell me you think it was a fabrication, or a massive exaggeration.

  113. Nigel Depledge

    @ Neil Haggath (109) -
    OK, thanks, that’s a bit clearer.

  114. mrG

    William S Burroughs was fond of reminding us that language was a virus, that reasoning lines of thought unfolds around language and rhetoric just as the progressing and process of cell growth dances to the DNA of the biological virus, and as such we can rightly say that such people died of viral infections. Most suicides I think would fall under this category, as might many politically motivated actions. In fact, a quick scan of television or the news media will show that perhaps language-infection is an exceedingly dangerous hazard to humanity.

  115. E.P. Grondine

    “they are loathesome scummy immoral mind-parasites, not caring how they affect people as long as they get money or fame”

    Great summary, but you left out sex as a motivator. Its their pathologies and techniques that are interesting.

    They do lack empathy for their victims, but the strange part is watching how they convince themselves.

    But another thing is their lack of empathy for innocent bystanders.

    And what goals motivate them?

    Also, there are the victims, and their predispositions.

    If you go over to NAFPS, you’ll find that the Maya themselves think of all of this as gringo craziness. What is happening is that mysteries of the past are being exploited – lacking an explanation and understanding for Maya practices, some people make up ones, and then sell them. Make people afraid, and sell them their fears.

    Perhaps what we’re looking at is displacement mechanisms – people are afraid, and either don’t know or can’t face or can’t talk about what and why, and thus look for some other reason to be afraid.

  116. Messier Tidy Upper

    @114. Nigel Depledge – February 27th, 2012 at 5:51 am :

    MTU (52) said: “I recall 2000 and the Y2k bug panic..”
    That did not come to pass because a lot of people worked very hard to prevent it. Please don’t tell me you think it was a fabrication, or a massive exaggeration.

    Good point I guess – I do think the extent of the problem was somewhat exaggerated but NOT massively so.

    @105. Nigel Depledge :

    MTU (102) said: “The Islamic nations are forever attacking Israel in an attempt to wipe it out and forever failing and haver been ever since the Jewish state was declared back in 1948. I wish they’d stop but they just never seem to learn.”
    Well, maybe they will stop, after Israel gives back the territory it occupied by force ..

    Yeah, they’ve already tried that. Israel handed back Gaza after a long, painful internal struggle – the Palestinians responded to this by voting in Hamas and firing rockets into Israel.

    They also handed over parts of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) to Arafat’s corrupt, slightly less extreme bunch of thugs and again got an intifada in return. Pretty easy to understand then why they’re not keen to repeat those errors & will take a lot of convincing to try swapping “land for peace” again when the Jewish state keeps getting neither.

    (its current area is far larger than it was in 1948),

    Israel’s territory in 1948 was even more unsustainably, indefensibly small than that tiny nation is today. Remember Jordan was already created as an Arab state out of the former britsih ruled mandate – and they handed the Sinai peninusla back to Egypt in the late 70′s-early 80′s.

    .. and stops treating Arabs as sub-human, don’t you think?

    Isreal treats it as Arab minority far better than most most Arab nations treat their own people. It is an erronous false & offensive assertion to say that Isreal treats its enemies as sub-human.

  117. Nigel Depledge

    @ MTU (118) -
    Hmm, seems some of my info is out of date.

    However, this bit:

    Isreal treats it as Arab minority far better than most most Arab nations treat their own people. It is an erronous false & offensive assertion to say that Isreal treats its enemies as sub-human.

    contains a logical fallacy.

    How Arab nations treat their citizens is not relevant to the stratification of Israeli citizenship. Arabs are and have been treated as, at best, second-class citizens for a substantial portion of Israel’s existence.

    While it might be true that Israel treats Arabs better than some Arab nations treat their own citizens (and I am not accepting this as demonstrated), that does not excuse the way Israel has treated its Arab citizens in the past and today. If we have issues with the way Middle-eastern nations are governed, that is separate from the way Israel treats its Arab citizens.

    In fact, it is not very long since nations that we consider “enlightened” democracies – including Australia and the USA – treated a substantial portion of their own populations as second-class. There was no excuse for it when we* did this, and there is no excuse for Israel to do it, or to have done it.

    * By “we” here, I refer to all western nations that pretend or aspire to democracy.

  118. #115 Nigel:
    You’re welcome. Sorry I didn’t make it clearer in the original comment, but I thought it was a pretty well-known argument.

  119. 114 Nigel, #52 MTU:
    One of the most idiotic comments I’ve ever read, by a so-called “journalist”, concerned the Y2K problem. Sometime in 2000, someone in a British paper wrote that “the dreaded date came and went, and nothing happened, so what was all the fuss about?”. He then went on to claim that all the billions of dollars which had spent on preventing potential disasters had been wasted!
    It apparently didn’t occur to this imbecile, that “the dreaded date came and went, and nothing happened”, precisely because all those billions of dollars had been spent, to ensure that nothing would happen! DUH!!!
    What amazed me, however, was that so many companies and organisations left it so late to start thinking about Y2K compliance. I’m a software engineer, and was thinking about it in 1991; the system on which I was working then stored schedule information up to five years ahead, so we realised that unless we fixed the problem, the system would go belly up in 1995.
    And before that, the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke described the problem in one of his novels, written in 1989!

  120. Dead Alaric

    “Israel’s territory in 1948 was even more unsustainably, indefensibly small than that tiny nation is today. Remember Jordan was already created as an Arab state out of the former britsih ruled mandate – and they handed the Sinai peninusla back to Egypt in the late 70′s-early 80′s.
    .. and stops treating Arabs as sub-human, don’t you think?
    Isreal treats it as Arab minority far better than most most Arab nations treat their own people. It is an erronous false & offensive assertion to say that Isreal treats its enemies as sub-human.”

    Hah. This would be REALLY funny if it weren’t so tragically mistaken. Just goes to show that unfounded, irrational beliefs can be held “on all sides.” I’d like to know what Arab state has the power to respond to Israel in kind–you know with hundreds of nukes and a massive military protector. Imagine the uproar if our citizens were clandestinely killed by a foreign state entity…oops, unless it’s Israel who destroyed the USS Liberty.

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