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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Apocalypse now?

The world is ending on Dec. 21, 2012. Well, at least that is what popular culture and the media say. The supposedly scientific facts circulating the upcoming cataclysmic event sound believable, but there are quite a few skeptics.

“Generally, I think of it more academically, as an interesting cultural myth, rather than as a factual, imminent event. Consequently, I can’t say I really believe it. I’m a rather black-and-white person, and generally not given to much superstition or stories,” said senior English major Nicole Stark.

Religious studies professor Naomi Janowitz said that some of the current interest in apocalyptic thinking comes from an odd Hollywood version of these ideas that were made famous in the movie 2012. An apocalypse is a revelation of secrets about a future cataclysmic change that will include widespread destruction, and these ideas have been seen in some ancient Near Eastern texts, Judaism and Christianity, she said.

Professor of sociology John Hall said that there are multiple ways that people have derived a prediction about 2012. Some point to the Mayan calendar and others point to what they think will be dramatic events in the solar system.

“I think that neither one of those is important as a predictive for the end of the world. The Mayan calendar served Mayan civilization for as long as Mayan civilization lasted. The calendar has lasted longer than Mayan civilization as a civilization,” Hall said. “And so, they designed a calendar that worked perfectly well for them and the fact that the calendar ends a particular cycle is insignificant. I don’t think that events in the solar system or universe are significant for anticipating the end of the world. It seems to me sort of precious of us to think that the end of the world would happen just as we happen to be alive.”

Junior genetics major Stephanie Logia finds the whole 2012 end-of-the-world hype pretty annoying. She thinks that many people don’t believe in it, and for the ones who say they do, she thinks that they are probably over-killing the joke.

“I don’t believe it because it is the end of the Mayan calendar, not a prophecy. Plus, I’m not superstitious at all,” Logia said.

Hall said that there has been a long history of people making predictions about the end of the world. He referenced a prediction in 1843, 1844 and the third or fourth prediction by Harold Camping last year. All of them were inaccurate.

Instead of trying to set a date for an apocalypse, people should look to apocalyptic events that are taking place on earth that mean the end of the world as we know it, not the actual physical world, he said.

“Some scholars argue these ideas grow up when people are feeling politically and personally alienated from mainstream society, but sometimes readers encounter and revive textual traditions that highlight future change for their own reasons; the idea of major change, punishment of the wicked and rewards for the righteous can appeal to people for numerous reasons,” Janowitz said.

First-year biological sciences major Anna Mah said she doesn’t care too much about the 2012 prophecy, and does not let it affect her life. For her, the prediction seems unlikely just as all other prophecies, up to this point, have turned out to be untrue.

“People are afraid of the end-of-the-world prophecy because they fear not being able to complete all of their goals before they die, or they fear death itself,” Mah said. “I think people shouldn’t worry about the prophecy because there is a chance it might not come to pass; also, the present is just as important, if not more so, than the future and in building the future.”

First-year genetics major Kayla Wigley agrees with Mah that fear of the future and the end of the world cannot be allowed to interfere with one’s current life.

“It’s not that I agree or disagree; I just don’t understand why people worry about something that they can, in no way, affect. If it is real, nothing can be done and we are just wasting time by not enjoying life at this moment. If it is fake, joke well played,” Wigley said.

For Hall, people have a right to believe anything they wish. However, he advises those who do believe that the world is going to come to a physical end on Dec. 21 to not base their lives on this, to be cautious about spending their money on it, and to have a backup plan if the world does not come to an end.

Sophomore history and economics double major Chandler Hill said that he hasn’t heard any compelling scientific evidence that would make him believe that the end of the world is going to happen this year. Just like when 1999 turned into 2000 and nothing happened, this time will be the same, he said.

“Personally, I think everybody is hyping it up because it’s like gossip,” Hill said. “Fuck it, I’ve got better things to do. For me, it’s going to be an excuse to have a shindig. Come this Dec. 21, I will be partying like it’s 1999 all over again.”

PRISCILLA WONG can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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