Countdown to 2012 Doomsday

By Keith Kloor | January 3, 2012 6:30 am

As you know, the world didn’t end last year, like it was supposed to. By now, this is an old story.

Yet many people continue to be drawn to doomsday alerts. 2012 promises to be another banner year for failed end-of-world predictions. But instead of arbitrary biblical interpretations, attention will shift to a supposed Mayan prophecy. As Mathew Restall and Amara Solari wrote this past weekend in the Washington Post:

What makes 2012ology different is the starring role it gives to the ancient Maya. Among numerous native cultures in the Americas, the Maya seem to have captured the popular imagination. They are cast as a mysteriously wise civilization, one that disappeared into the tropical forests of Central America, taking with it a sacred knowledge that has only recently started coming to light.

So the internet is rife with references to the Mayan Long Count calendar and Dec. 21, 2012 as the latest date of reckoning. As Stephanie Pappas reported in Live Science,

a number of predictions have attached themselves to Dec. 21, from the end of the world via collision with a rogue planet, to the ushering in of a new world era. But neither historians nor astronomers put much credence in these predictions.

Not that that matters much. In their WaPo essay, Restall and Solari ask:

If the evidence for Maya doomsday predictions is so flimsy “” if the impending Maya apocalypse is a mere myth “” then why are so many people so willing to believe it is true? Why do some seem to want Dec. 21 to be the long-awaited end of the world?

The authors, who teach history and anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, suggest a few reasons:

One explanation is the persistent power of ancient wisdom. All societies are drawn to knowledge that seems time-worn, mysterious, coded “” and to the magic of its decoding. That is partly why “The Da Vinci Code” has sold 100 million copies, why people listened to Camping’s predictions about Judgment Day and even, in a sense, why billions are attracted to religion.

That is also why we are drawn to ancient civilizations whose knowledge has been buried “” literally “” for hundreds or thousands of years. A century ago, ancient Egypt was in the limelight, as archaeologists excavated the tombs of pharaohs. In recent decades, the Maya have taken a star turn, as more of their ancient cities in Mexico and Central America have been unearthed and their hieroglyphic texts deciphered.

Another explanation lies deep within our own Western civilization and religious traditions, which include teachings about the end of the world. In stark contrast to the Maya, medieval Europeans generated a vast body of literature and artwork predicting and describing the world’s end. Nobody questioned that it would come; the issue was how and when. Some were willing “” then, as now “” to stick their necks out and predict a specific day. When Joachim of Fiore insisted that 1260 would be the end, many thousands in Europe listened. They listened, too, across the English-speaking world when William Miller in Vermont picked 1843 (and then 1844) as our final year. Likewise, Camping generated huge publicity for his 2011 predictions. Apocalyptic imaginings and doomsday gullibility are woven into the very fabric of Western society.

A final explanation lies in the comfort of belief, in the security of taking a leap of faith. The great revolutions in science, industry and technology have profoundly transformed life on Earth. But science has not replaced religion. Instead, the two have developed a complicated relationship. Science is a religion; religion has become a science. Anxiety and skepticism abound. The more answers science offers, the more questions we have. Overwhelmed by the evidence for a phenomenon such as global warming, some choose to believe in it or not

This last graph I find especially interesting (though I suspect some readers of this blog will key in on the last line) and fodder for much debate, such as the part about science and religion having an uneasy, complicated relationship.

A similar exploration of our End Days attraction can be found in this excellent essay by Daniel Baird in the current issue of The Walrus. After taking stock of the various biblical, New Agey and ecological prophecies of doom, he writes:

The difficulty with prophecies “” whether based on passages from the Bible or ancient calendars, on solid climate science and economics or the visions of the Mongolian shamans Lawrence E. Joseph visited while researching his books “” is that they are almost invariably wrong. Human beings are remarkably bad at predicting even relatively short-term, simple occurrences, such as the weather on Monday or the price of gold on Friday, much less something as vast and complex as the future of humanity.

I imagine that some will take offense at climate science being lumped in with the Mayan Calendar and the Bible. (The point Baird is making pertains not to the science, but the interpretations of it.) On what he concludes, however, there should be wide agreement:

The real problem with the future is that it doesn’t yet exist, and the forces that bring it into existence are too complicated, too subtle and volatile and fractal, for us to know in advance “” or ever.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: doomsday
  • huxley

    Most skeptics realized some time ago that environmentalism was the new religion for liberals, replacing Father-God and Mother-Goddess with Science and the Earth, in which humanity will be punished for its sins against the Earth.

    It’s an old story but liberals defend it with all the zeal and self-righteousness of the religious fundamentalists they despise.

    Of course, both versions of that story contain truth — humans cannot ignore moral or environmental limits without paying a price and ultimately risking self-destruction. But knowing those limits and prices accurately is as difficult as knowing the future.

  • ThePowerofX

    Who the hell is ‘Father-God’ and ‘Mother-Goddess’? You’re way out on the fringe with this claptrap.

  • Barry Woods

    My sister in law has left the Green party, and is now warning me against the illuminati, etc,etc

    very intellegent, 1st from Oxford, MA as well.. yet, willing to believe in consiracies about world control…  If ONLY we had climate change to discuss.. My wife isactually quite worried about her..

  • Keith Kloor

    @1 So where do believers in baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary fall in this continuum? Are they liberal or conservative? 

    Seriously, tho, I realize mother nature is a popular term, but I wouldn’t confuse the spiritual-new agey minded for the typical environmentalist.

  • huxley

    ThePowerOfX: Read some comparative religion or Joseph Campbell. Most religions provide versions of the God and the Goddess.

  • Anteros

    There is much of this that chimes in with my scepticism. We have a natural proclivity for imagining the future and an even more powerful one for imagining it to be terrible. The fact that there are millions of people convinced that the world is going to come to an end because of a small change in the composition of the atmosphere persuades me, primarily, that everything is as normal. It doesn’t prevent me from being open to genuine evidence, but predictions of doom and catastrophe have nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with fevered imagination.
    One aspect of this fear of the future seems to be merely a fear of change. Obviously, if everything stays the same, there won’t be a problem. However, somehow the human imagination thinks that because the end of the world necessitates change, therefore any change must be disastrous.
    This seems to be a fundamental difference between the climate-concerned and others. Most of those who are alarmed feel that change is likely to be bad – whatever it is. The unworried see change as essentially part of life and the Universe. I watched a BBC production last night on the Great Barrier Reef, and the programme focused on how the reef exists because of the 400 foot sea level rise and 6 degree temperature rise in the time since my ancestors walked into Southern Britain.
    A dramatic change certainly, but catastrophic?
     

  • huxley

    Keith: Try James Lovelock, “The Gaia Hypothesis.” Gaia = primordial Earth Goddess in Greek mythology. James Lovelock = environmentalist.

    My point is not that environmentalists explicitly believe in Earth as the Goddess — though some do — but that’s the religious template they are following, as in your quote lumping in climate science with the Mayan Calendar.

  • huxley

    Keith, WaPo, Live Science, and U Penn are late to the 2012 party. For all their sage chin-tugging, they are dissecting the corpse of a New Age belief. The 2012 eschatology peaked three years ago with the messianic fervor of the Obama campaign and Obama’s subsequent election.

    Here is a hilarious example from Richard Hoagland in 2009: The Hyperdimensional Election Of Barack Obama & 2012.

    Many New Age leaders, such as Caroline Myss and Neale Donald Walsch, put big public bets on Obama. Leaving politics aside, I think most people can agree Obama has failed to provide the leadership he promised. The seas have not stopped rising nor have our divisions been healed nor has America been fundamentally transformed, all of which Obama promised. Most things have in fact gotten worse.

    But I’m not here to argue the whys and wherefores of that. My point is that the New Age movement was tremendously excited by Obama and they invested their hearts and souls in the man. Now that Obama has proved to be a disappointment, they are confused and backing away from their certainty that humanity has reached a transformational inflection point, including the whole 2012 nexus.

    Today you will find few New Agers breathlessly counting the days and marking the signs until December 21. 2012 is dead.

    I can understand the attraction for pundits to do 2012 stories, especially the first week of this January. It’s always tempting to pose as the wise, dispassionate observer of human folly. In this case, however, it’s about as significant as adults discussing a teen fashion that has already come and gone.

  • Keith Kloor

    huxley (8), you are breathlessly conflating to score cheap political points. You’re not adding anything to the dialogue, just merely projecting your own anti-Obama political biases into a thread that has nothing do with liberal/conservative. Not an auspicious way to ring in the New Year, by pumping up the noise to signal ratio.

     

  • huxley

    Keith @9: You are breathlessly dismissing my points without providing any support for your position, which is typical when you and I get near politics.

    I wasn’t trying to be political. Again, my point was that for New Agers — a group you apparently know little about beyond stereotypes — Obama was conflated with 2012 and Obama disappointed New Agers (as well as just about all other groups according to polls). With this disappointment, New Agers have backed away from their expectations of Obama and 2012.

    I was something of a New Ager for years and I have continued to track that world from a distance. I also know people within that community. I just spoke on the phone with a relative in Santa Fe who is very deep into the New Age and he says, yes, since many of the prophecies for recent times haven’t come true and what with the unnerving real financial crises, the New Age channelers and community members have backed off prophetic expectations and are “choosing to live in the moment” instead.

    You are welcome to disagree, but please provide facts other than appeals to your own authority about what you think I am doing.

  • Keith Kloor

    huxley,

    You’re not making any point, just vague connections. So there were New Agers for Obama? What is that supposed to mean? He won in a landslide in 2008. Lots of people voted for him.  

    And speaking of support, what do you provide: a link to a whacked new age website that predicted Obama’s election? I’m supposed to take that seriously?

    As for Obama disappointing new agers, well, they probably have a lot of company on that bandwagon.

    So you know people in the New Age community, one who is a relative. Big deal. That tells me nothing, other than you want to argue from personal anecdote.

    Again, what is the point your are making and how is it related to my post?  

  • charlie

    KK is on target here.

    The appeal of climate science is an appeal to knowing the future.  Nothing, however, suggests they will do a much better job than anybody else.

    IN fact, that is the strangest part of the 20th century.  We invented both the past (dinosaurs, geologic records, Sumerians) as well as inventing the future (star trek, climate change and what not).

    I guarantee in 20 years we’ll look back at our climate models and wonder how people could be so stupid…..regardless of whether the future is cold or hot.

    Pollution always seems worse than carbon.

     

  • Dean

    So do very many people actually believe this, or do they just find it entertaining? The Maya left us some interesting architecture, and lived in the jungle, which folks in temperate zones tend to find intriguing.

    To me the most intriguing thing about the Maya is that they, along with the Anasazi and the Khmer and some others, were all long-lasting civilizations that quickly collapsed during a climate episode sometimes referred to as the Medieval Warm Period that some seem to think was both global and globally beneficial.

    Droughts have been postulated as connecting with the demise of all them, so climate may well have played a role. Maybe the 2012 mythology is just a standin. Btw, droughts in Central Asia in that time period may have also helped motivate the the Mongols to wander a bit as well.

  • hunter

    Keith,
    It seems clear to many casual and serious observers that AGW is the cult. The odd ritual of blaming skeptics, while at the same time dismissing their arguments, seems a weasely way for believers to extricate  themselves from the apocalyptic claptrap of AGW.
    To your credit, Keith, you have at least been willing to point out that the AGW emperor has some dubious tastes in clothing. Thisessay sums up very well, and obviously better than I have been able to convey, why I have been skeptical of AGW for many years. Not because of questions about CO2, but rather about how knowledge of CO2 is applied to predictions about the future.
       

  • Matt B

    Yet many people continue to be drawn to doomsday alerts.

    Why? It’s an ego thing. Easy reasoning:

    1. Who’s the most important person that ever lived? Me

    2. What is the most important thing that will happen to the world? Doomsday

    3. What are the chances that the most important thing to ever happen to the world occurs during the lifetime of the world’s most important person? 100% 

    Ergo, doomsday will happen in my lifetime. And if one crackpot prediction fails, don’t worry there are plenty more crackpots to bleat away anew…….and hey, just wait long enough and you can recycle the old moldy crappy predictions & pretend they were new! Anyone takers for floods? How about a straight shot of Armageddon? 

  • Dean

    @15

    I think that Keith had an interesting post a while back comparing doomsters with head-in-the-sand types. I do believe that there is a certain personality that is drawn to doomsday scenarios, and they are quite visible when doomsday doesn’t happen.

    But I think it is a much more common human trait to deny threats and just hope for the best, even when the signs appear after the fact to have been quite obvious. We can’t know what signs the Maya had that they ignored, but we have the example of the financial disaster of 2008, which it seems just about everybody except those who were in a position of preventing it, saw coming. 

    So on the whole I think that ostriches are more common than doomsters, and Keith’s post deal with how false doomsday predictions always fail before false predictions that we have nothing to worry about.

  • Anteros

    Matt B -
    I agree with you, but I think there is also the lure of being the prophet of doom – not just believing in imminent catastrophe but being the one who brings such news to all and sundry. Many people find it attractive to be the one with the hidden knowledge of impending disaster.

    Doomsayers find themselves rich and famous [Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown..] because of their doomstering, and amazingly, when their prophecies turn out to be complete junk, just as in demand as they were when they first started ‘raising the alarm’.

    A history of failed doomsday predictions has no effect whatsoever on the allure of new ones – disaster [imminent, preferably] always sells.

  • Alexander Harvey

    Some of the article comes over as naive, deceptive or perhaps just plain ignorant. I will look at that first and then try to figure out how it could be otherwise.

    “Another explanation lies deep within our own Western civilization and religious traditions, which include teachings about the end of the world.”

    “Nobody questioned that it would come; the issue was how and when.”

    “Apocalyptic imaginings and doomsday gullibility are woven into the very fabric of Western society.”

    These statements seem likely to mislead, aimed to encourage a prejudice in their audience, or simply excluding a broader picture.

    Anyone left with the notion that there is something Western about belief in an End Time would be wrong. Anyone who thinks that it relies on some “include[d] teachings” would not grasp that an End Time is core to the Abrahamic Faiths, which can count about half the population as adherents. For nearly that number the second commoning of Jesus is an article of faith, something that must be believed which is a level above what might be indicated by their reference to “include[d] teachings”.

    Hence use of the past tense “nobody questioned” might mislead if the inference is that widespread popular belief in an End Time is somehow less prevelent now than it was then.

    The notion that the End Time is a matter of “apocalyptic imaginings” or “doomsday gullibility” seems ignorant of the nature and origins of Abrahamic Faith. I realise that the authors have a book to sell and I wonder if they are playing to an expected prejudice in their likely readership without actually spelling out what they mean. If they mean that around half the world’s population is credulous or even deluded, perhaps they are wise not to say so.

    “End-times believers are also convinced that a carving made 2,300 years ago in Izapa, Mexico, depicting a caiman, a macaw and an elaborately dressed man is a cosmic map.”

    I think that the number of End Time believers who think that the Mayans received a prophecy is very very small, as a proportion.

    The authors teach anthropology, so I guess they ought to have some grasp of the major religions, so what could they mean. It is difficult to tell from the article. To me it is clear that belief in a Mayan prophecy of the End Time ought to be anathema to those with Jewish, Catholic, Orthodox, or Ismlanic faith, so who are the millions they speak of. They don’t say which is a pity, but perhaps wise. It would be interesting to know, whether they are refering to those who are say Protestant, Pagan, or even secular. It needs to be people who would make some sense of their references to Western cultural issues. Belief in an End Time is common if not quite the norm, so what is it so special about those who might adhere to some Mayan prophecy, I think we can probably rule out there being a few million of some Mayan faith. Perhaps they are people with lost or uncertain faith, those who could be termed seekers.

    If they do deal with such matters broadly and with some insight that might be a good thing. I judge from the article that they are either ignorant of or are shying away from obvious issues, or that they do not consider the broad popular belief in an End Time relevant. Personally I cannot see how one can address the issue of a belief in a specific date for the End Time without dealing with the common acceptance of the existence of an End Time.

    Alex

  • Anteros

    Keith – is there any particular reason my comment @ 16 has been sent to purgatory? Is Paul Ehrlich a family friend?
    If I have erred, do let me know..

  • Anteros

    @19
    Ah, synchronicity. It reappears the moment I mention it…. :)

  • Nullius in Verba

    #11,
    “Again, what is the point your are making and how is it related to my post?”
    Why does every comment have to have a point…? But for what it’s worth, I read it as just another example of a millenarian cult making predictions and citing prophecies of the end times, who were subsequently disappointed. It’s just another to add to the list, along with Joachim of Fiore and William Miller. It’s no more an anti-Obama point than people talking about asteroids failing to crash into Earth as predicted are anti-astronomer, or anti-asteroid. Or so I thought.

  • Keith Kloor

    Anteros,

    Don’t be so quick on the draw. Your comment was never in spam or in moderation. It might just require a few extra seconds to appear all on its own itty bitty self. 

  • Anteros

    KK -
    Apologies – after an hour, and the words “your comment is awaiting moderation” I feared the worst…

  • BBD

    Anteros @ 6

    It doesn’t prevent me from being open to genuine evidence, but predictions of doom and catastrophe have nothing to do with evidence and everything to do with fevered imagination.

    As I have said to you repeatedly: you do not have a clue what you are talking about. There is ample and convincing evidence. The problem here is that you deny it and claim a superior insight as the basis for your ‘scepticism’.

    This is delusional. The fact that you choose to spend an inordinate amount of time broadcasting your unsupported and nonsensical views only makes things worse. 

  • Anteros

    BBD -

    “There is ample and convincing evidence.”

    This is what all doomsters say [and believe] It always appears convincing, hence the need for great scepticism. Being surrounded by people claiming the end is nigh is just par for the course. And, as ever, they/you are utterly convinced of the certainty of the apocalypse.

    It’s actually quite a fundamentalist attitude to say that if someone merely doubts the apocalypse itself (as I do) that they are delusional and their views are nonsensical. That itself is patently absurd – doubting imminent catastrophe, given the frequency with which it is prophesied, is the opposite – eminently sensible.

    Is there a need for hysteria? And the embarrassing claim that evidence is being denied by people who disagree with you?



  • Vinny Burgoo

    KK, can we have a most-millenarian-quote-of-the-month competition? Here’s one to kick it off:
    ‘There’s a 50% chance that humans will be extinct by the end of the century because of climate change.’
    That’s an old one (Feb 2011) from Hugh Montgomery, a high-flying professor of medicine and co-founder the (mostly nuts) Climate and Health Council.
     

  • BBD

    Anteros @ 25

    Is there a need for hysteria? And the embarrassing claim that evidence is being denied by people who disagree with you?

    I’m not hysterical, nor embarrassed to state the facts. Always remember that it’s not me you are disagreeing with, it is the mainstream scientific view.

    I notice that ‘fundamentalist’ has cropped up again. It’s interesting that you regard those who prefer evidence-based reasoning to unsupported assertion as irrational dogmatists.

  • Anteros

    BBD -

    “It is the mainstream scientific view

    Well, you have a view but it is neither mainstream nor scientific. Witness how you vehemently disagree with Richard Betts statement that most climate scientists don’t support the ’2 degrees is dangerous’ meme.

    You continually cling to an argument from authority, but cherry pick your authority depending on their apocalypse rating – hence you miss the fact that James Hansen is completely clueless about things that constitute ‘disaster’. You just like the flavour of his feverish imaginings.

    I disagree with very little of the scientific mainstream, primarily because it has very little to say about the certainty of negative impacts. Perhaps you also remember Richard Tol’s view as expressed in the discussion with R. Betts? I agree with him too – eminently sensible (and non-apocalyptic)

  • BBD

    On a general note, it’s… unfortunate that the human predeliction for apocalyptic mythology is confused with the theory (not hypothesis) that RF from GHGs causes energy to accumulate in the climate system.

    Science is a religion; religion has become a science.

    This is puzzling and I suspect, nonsensical.

  • BBD

    Anteros

    Well, you have a view but it is neither mainstream nor scientific. Witness how you vehemently disagree with Richard Betts statement that most climate scientists don’t support the ’2 degrees is dangerous’ meme.

    Your first blatant misrepresentation of the year. That you can say this after on our recent exchange about Betts is nothing short of astonishing.

    It’s now almost impossible for me to believe that you are not being deliberately dishonest.

  • Anteros

    BBD -

    The things you find it almost impossible to believe could make a nice little book.

    Out of interest, nobody else has ever suggested that I am deliberately dishonest. Probably because I’m not.

    What we found out was that I wholeheartedly agreed with Richard Bett’s comments and he asked you why you queried his motives. I agreed wholeheartedly with Richard Tol too – does that make my beliefs nonsensical and delusional? Or are you in a little boat heading to the apocalypse on your own?
     

  • BBD

    Anteros

    I’m not repeating myself on this thread.

    We’ve been through your distortions of what Betts said already:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/12/21/what-climate-communication-sorely-lacks/#comment-93817

    The enduring problem here seems to be one of incompatible methodologies. I remember what I said and you apparently choose not to.
     

  • Anteros

    BBD -

    When you say you ‘remember’ we both know you have a history of ‘making things up’, which most people would call ‘fabricating’. We could go through it all again, but it would be tedious and would end again with you wimping out with “Its not worth arguing about anyway” which is is poor version of an apology but might be the best you can manage,

    What you need to remember is solely this, from Richard Betts -

    Most climate scientists don’t subscribe to the 2 degrees ‘dangerous climate change’ meme, (I know I don’t).

    Which had you spluttering so much, you spouted this -

    I absolutely do not understand what you are doing here”


    Well, what could Dr Betts do but ask why you were querying his motives and then proceed to ignore you. After all, it was a very busy thread with 285 comments and only one troll (you).

    I still find myself in broad agreement with both Richards, Betts and Tol – and with their sceptical methodologies too. How did yours get to be so different?

  • EdG

    Verily I say unto you. Ye shall know the end is nigh when the masses are distracted by minor blips in the temperature and the media covers every storm in Bolivia as proof of the impending apocalypse.

    It has all been predicted by Paul Erlich and the other High Priests of the Age of Aquarius. Indeed, we are all living in a dream because, as was foretold, the world already ended some years back.

    Max out the credit cards! There is no tomorrow!

  • Tom C

    Mr. Kloor -

    This article is incoherent and based on crude political stereotyping.  After surveying various doomsday advocates he compares them with skeptics of AGW alarmism.  Obviously this is backward.  The doosdayers share psychological traits with the alarmists, not the skeptics.

  • BBD

    Anteros

    The wonderful thing about blog comments is that they provide an unlimited supply of rope. Keep it up.


     

  • Keith Kloor

    On a related note, something everyone can look forward to every Tuesday:

    “Each week during 2012, when the Mayans tell us to expect the apocalypse, Danger Room will peel back a new layer of crazy to expose those oh-so-cleverly hidden machinations powering this doomed plane of existence. Welcome “” back “” to Tinfoil Tuesday.” 

  • BBD

    Anteros

    When you say you “˜remember’ we both know you have a history of “˜making things up’, which most people would call “˜fabricating’. We could go through it all again, but it would be tedious and would end again with you wimping out with “Its not worth arguing about anyway” which is is poor version of an apology but might be the best you can manage

    From now on, I’m not going to let you get away with this sort of thing. Apologies to others, but this is necessary. Hopefully it will not be necessary for long.

    Here, you have (for at least the second time) deliberately quoted me out of context in order to misrepresent my meaning. You obviously did so deliberately. That’s dishonest.

    What I actually said was:

    There is a strong confluence of evidence around a value of 3C. It might bit a bit higher or a bit lower, but not much and certainly not enough to be worth arguing over.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/11/23/the-meaning-of-climategate-and-its-sequel/#comment-89346

    Which is exactly what I have always said here. Your attempt to twist this into some sort of admission of inconsistency or defeat is dishonest and I reject it.

    Out of interest, nobody else has ever suggested that I am deliberately dishonest. Probably because I’m not.

    Yes, you are. And I’m going to makes sure everyone can see it. They will then be able to weight your assertions about the probable effects of CO2 on future climate appropriately.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    I for one appreciate your efforts BBD. Be warned though — if you continue to call out BS and mendacity you risk getting stuck with the ‘tribal’ branding around these parts…

  • Sashka

    If the evidence for Maya doomsday predictions is so flimsy “” if the impending Maya apocalypse is a mere myth “” then why are so many people so willing to believe it is true?

    Oh, that’s a simple one. You know how stupid an average person is? Half of them are even dumber!

  • harrywr2

    If the evidence for Maya doomsday predictions is so flimsy “” if the impending Maya apocalypse is a mere myth “” then why are so many people so willing to believe it is true?
    Because we frequently assign reasons to emotions rather then emotions to reasons.
    I.E. I am experiencing the emotion of anxiety, hence there must be a rational reason as to why I am experiencing the emotion of anxiety. If no rational reason exists my mind will create a reason.
    Many young children wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious at some point and their minds create a ‘boogey man in the closet’.
    Most of us like to believe our emotions are driven by reality which is only sometimes true.
    According to the US Surgeon General 16% of the population between 18 and 24 suffers from some degree of anxiety disorder.
    http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter4/sec2.html
    That’s a lot of people searching for a ‘reason’ that they are feeling anxious.

  • Anteros

    BBD -
    Are you deliberately being hilarious, or is it unintemtional? You’ve actually got to the point where you’re misrepresenting yourself! How about that!

    You’ve completely (and conveniently) forgotten what got you into this mess in the first place, which was your spluttering -and abusive – denial of my original statement -

    “Here’s a prediction solely but firmly from psychology and sociology – with Milikan’s oil experiment as an exemplar. The consensus estimate of climate sensitivity will fall over time.

    Yoy could have disagreed with it, asked some questions or just ignored it. You didn’t. You spent a long time, in many comments sneering and denying and saying ‘what have psychology and sociology got to do with it’ and so on. It was interminable. Of course, you hadn’t really understood what i was saying, which is why I suggested you read some Feynman on the subject. Evidently you haven’t bothered.

    The upshot, late in the day, was your change of tack which you self-quote above – that it it not worth arguing over. How the hell do you explain your vehement arguing over exactly that point?

    I think the misrepresentation is on your part. Remember saying how you recalled exactly the thread you were quoted from? More than a year ago? Talking to Marlowe Johnson? All false – and unacknowledged. Remember saying I believed that CS was between 1 and 2 degrees? False – completely made up.

    Veracity clearly means nothing to you. My beliefs about CS are as stated – the consensus estimate will fall over time. Unlike some people, I’m very happy to put my money where my mouth is.

  • BBD

    Anteros

    Your argument is amorphous, but one aspect of it is that the widely-held climate sensitivity estimate of 3C is too high.

    Sometimes you switch to claiming that whatever increase in temperature occurs it is basically just change and climate has always changed etc.

    You make no bones about your rejection of the mainstream scientific position:

    What is not even-handed about having your consensus view countered with a sceptical one ie that the consensus is wrong? I think the consensus is wrong ““ why should I not have my voice heard?

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/11/29/stuck-in-the-middle-with-them/#comment-89857

    When challenged over the incoherence of your position you start lying about what you have said, and much worse, what others said.

    You aren’t going to get away with it.
    Veracity clearly means nothing to you
    Veracity means everything to me. As you are going to discover.


  • BBD

    Anteros

    This is you:

    I explained to you in four separate comments that there are rational reasons from psychology and sociology ““ way beyond your understanding ““ that lead intelligent people to suspect that estimates of CS will fall. That is all I said.

    But it isn’t. As long-suffering readers here will know. What you say is that the consensus is wrong. That it’s all scare-mongering by the fundamentalist priesthood of alarmists (your terms).
    You endlessly repeat your unsupported belief that nothing much will happen. In some circles, this would be characterised as outright denial.

    What I am trying to illustrate is that your pose of reasonableness is a smokescreen. You are far from reasonable. In fact you are very much the dogmatist relying on a fundamentalist belief system (‘the consensus is wrong’). Which is why I find it interesting that you repeatedly characterise evidence-based reasoning as ‘fundamentalism’.

    You are an act, and far from a class one.

  • EdG

    If the evidence for Maya doomsday predictions is so flimsy “” if the impending Maya apocalypse is a mere myth “” then why are so many people so willing to believe it is true?

    Some people just have a higher sensitivity to doomsday predictions. The IPDP (International Panel on Doomsday Predictions) has determined an average Doomsday Story Sensitivity (DSS) in the range of 1 to 100, with a range of 40 to 60 considered to be the “very likely” average for those who are that sensitive.

    For those with average DSS, it is estimated that concentrations of only 5 National Geographic specials per year can cause increased food storage and firearms purchases, with any additional exposure to the MSM “news” increasing those and other related activities.
    DSS also appears to be a cumulative process for some individuals, particularly for those who believe what they see on TV.

    For individuals with high DSS, almost any suggestion of apocalypse can cause tipping points, with symptoms often including an unusual combination of euphoria, an unshakable embrace of their fate, and crusader zeal.

    Organizations with high DSS also exhibit these tendencies along with more aggressive and organized actions supporting their chosen salvation efforts. This is a result of a positive ‘fear sells, more fear sells more’ feedback mechanism combined with the ‘it will cost much, much more later’ model.

    Similarly, governments or other bureaucracies with high DSS – like the EU or the Aztecs - have a strong tendency towards totalitarian salvation remedies built on the sacrifices of the little people who they will save. Like other organizations with high DSS, they also aggressively publicize their messages to help the little people understand why they must comply and obey and how grateful they should be for their protection.

    On the other hand, individuals with low DSS tend to become increasingly less sensitive to DS exposure, often comparing it to the shouting of sheepherders or the threats of extortionists while alleging that ancient and recent history confirms their opinions. 

  • Anteros

    BBD -

    You have an extraordinary penchant for just making stuff up? What is the motivation?

    You create an outright falsehood when you claim that I say “it is all scare-mongering”

    What you can’t handle is that my position is indeed reasonable. It is very similar to that of Richard Betts which, incidentally, also drives you to spluttering hysteria.

    It seems to me that the unsupported belief is yours – that a 2 degree rise in temperature will cause catastrophes – or isn’t that what you believe?

    Did you ask yourself in what way I thought the consensus was wrong? If you did that you’d find something informative. But that would require you to be open-minded. And that isn’t exactly your style.

  • Stu

    I blame R.E.M.

     

  • BBD

    Anteros

    It seems to me that the unsupported belief is yours ““ that a 2 degree rise in temperature will cause catastrophes ““ or isn’t that what you believe?

    No, it isn’t. The problem lies with the near-certainty of going above 2C this century. We recently spent a long time discussing this and your misrepresentation of Richard Betts. Since you force a repeat:

    What Betts thinks about 2C is beside the point as he acknowledges that it is very likely that there will be >3C warming by the end of the century.

    I quoted extensively from Betts own published research When could global warming reach 4°C? to demonstrate this.


    See here:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/12/21/what-climate-communication-sorely-lacks/#comment-93802

    And a summary of your misrepresentations of Betts here:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/12/21/what-climate-communication-sorely-lacks/#comment-93817

    As I said earlier, the fact that you just keep on with the same misrepresentations over and over again indicates dishonesty. Either than or a very bad memory.

    In either case, people should be warned.

    What you can’t handle is that my position is indeed reasonable.

    No, it is unsupported and deliberately misleading. All this about 2C is just misdirection. You do it so you can claim – wrongly – that Betts ‘agrees’ with what you think. But what you think is this:

    The exaggerating and doomsaying will be forgotten and the recollection will be how close we were to disaster.


    That is not Betts’ position at all. You are being dishonest. And I’m going to keep on pointing this out for as long as necessary.

  • BBD

    Anteros

    While we wait for my last comment to clear moderation:

    Did you ask yourself in what way I thought the consensus was wrong? If you did that you’d find something informative. But that would require you to be open-minded. And that isn’t exactly your style.

    Impartial examination of the evidence convinced me that I was wrong about the likelihood of CS being low. I admitted being wrong, accepted new information and changed my view.

    Someone who argues the sorts of things you do, day in, day out here is in no position to accuse me of close-mindedness. This is the point here: you are the close-minded fundamentalist who prefers dogmatic belief to evidence-based reasoning. Not me. And I’ve already proved it by demonstrating that I can learn and overcome biases.

    You just keep repeating your misrepresentations. You will not be taken seriously.

  • kdk33

    Why do some seem to want Dec. 21 to be the long-awaited end of the world?

    To forestall climate change.

  • Menth

    Also an interesting pattern that I frequently see is Left/Right wing nuts who say society is doomed because it isn’t Left/Right wing enough.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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