2012, Pseudoscience, and Conspiracy Theories

I don’t know why I bothered to stay up the other night to watch 2012. (Oh, yeah. John Cusack.)

With no real explanation—although the world powers have been building arks in the Himalayas for years—the Earth’s core turns to goo and the crust destabilizes.  Amidst the chaos, John Cusack must get his family from LA to China (by way of Yellow Stone National Park) post haste to get on one of those arks. The erupting, crumbling landscape nips at his heals all the way there as the poles shift and land is engulfed by tsunamis.  More monuments and landmarks bite the dust than in Independence Day or War of the Worlds combined.

The movie was engrossing—highly improbable, laughable at times, but still engrossing—but it was purely the special effects that propelled the movie along. Literally. The plot was all about staying ahead of the next cataclysm.  And it was rather obvious who was going to die along the way – mostly because they were sucky human beings.

And this Apocalypse didn’t even happen on 12/21/12.  What’s the point of a movie called 2012 if you’re not going have it happen on that date? (There was mention in the movie that things started happening earlier than the powers that be anticipated. Still.)

For those of you not familiar with this particular Armageddon, according to Mayan prophecy (allegedly), a great cataclysm or some kind of transformation will happen on December 21, 2012.  This is the last date in the 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mayan Long Count calendar. 

I would venture to say most actual Mayan scholars say this is pure crap.  There are no such prophecies, and the end of the calendar doesn’t mean the end of everything. (The ancient Mayan’s had to stop somewhere with their calendar.)

For more on the pseudoscience and general quackery behind the 2012 apocalypse, check out Penn &Teller's take on it: (may contain some offensive language):

Pseudoscience and conspiracy theories can make for good stories. (Notice the can part.)  Dan Brown has made a mint on the Da Vinci Code. Can you guys think of any other good examples?


Matthew Rush said...

Very funny! I think you make a great point though, even pseudo science can still make great stories. Just like pseudo history. I read Holy Blood Holy Grail, which the mystery behind The Davinci Code was based on, and it was really cool, even if it turned out to be a hoax.

Bittersweet Fountain said...

My sister is an archaeology PhD student who specializes in the Maya area of the world. Whenever people bring up 2012, she throws a fit. It's actually really amusing.

As an engineer, I postulate that most Science Fiction movies are pseudoscience, but that doesn't mean I don't love them. Where would this world be without movies like the Core?

Angie Smibert said...

Too true, Bittersweet. Most sci-fi movies don't have a firm grasp of actual science.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

It's funny that you mention this movie because I just watched it with my husband a few nights ago. Very engrossing. Yes. I get so caught up in the disasters and the lack of humanity that I don't think about whether or not any of it is fesible (or, at least, I know it isn't but really don't care). I think it's a good example, though, of how to push a plot forward. There were no uncomfortable jumps to future events, and no lagging. It all flowed nicely. And even though it was obvious who would die, I still ejoyed the sequence of events.

What I most compaired this movie to this time around was the reference to the Titanic in the end (at least to me it was a similar occurance) where the people had more than enough room on their 'boats', but didn't want to let the stragglers on. And even though they did pick up some of the people, some died in the process.