Faulseit is a visiting scholar at Southern Illinois University
Carbondale with a specialty in the political decay of ancient
civilizations, focusing on the Mayan culture. He is coordinating a
conference for March 2013 at SIUC to address this subject. Faulseit
received his Ph.D. from Tulane University.
The Mayan civilization existed in southern Mexico, Guatemala and
Honduras from 200 A.D. until approximately 800 A.D., the so-called
ascendency of this culture. The following 200 years, until 1000
A.D., saw a rapid decline in the political structure of the Mayans.
The people of the Mayan culture still exist in this area and still
have a distinct language and customs.
During the ascendancy of the Mayan culture, this sophisticated
society had a written language based on hieroglyphics, complex
architecture and a system of numbers. They also were keen observers
of the heavens, developing an extensive knowledge of astronomy.
The current concern in some quarters for the end of the world on
Dec. 21, our solstice, comes from the Mayan calendar and their
knowledge of the heavens. Except, this interpretation of the
calendar is not true. Yes, the Mayan calendar ends on or near Dec.
21, but so have previous editions. It just starts over.
In fact, a recent archeological dig in the old area where the
Mayans lived uncovered an unknown tomb of a ruler from that era. One
of the objects unearthed was a tablet referring to a significant
event that the Mayans say will occur in the year 4772. Faulseit's
comment was: "Why would they predict the event in 4772, when their
calendar predicts the end of the world in 2012? The answer is they
Faulseit, after showing the false interpretation of the Mayan
calendar, attributed the predictions to junk science, written by
nonscientists such as John Major Jenkins and the ever-popular Erich
von Daniken. These are writers of popular pseudoscience books with
no background in the area about which they write. Why they are
popular is anyone's guess. There is absolutely nothing in the Mayan
calendar that predicts the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012.
Faulseit's lecture was about the rise and decline of the Mayan
political culture, but before launching into this area, he addressed
other prophecies about the end of the world. While he destroyed all
of these predictions, he did say that this is now a serious subject
for historians, astronomers and political scientists because of the
wide acceptance of junk science, especially among younger teens.
He stated that "the scientific community needs to do a better job
to destroy these ridiculous notions of the end of the earth, because
there is such a widespread belief in them by segments of the
population." He referenced some of the questions on the Ask an
Astronomer website from concerned parents and others who are frantic
about these end-of-time predictions. One person asked when she
should put her pets down because she did not want them to suffer
when the end comes. Faulseit challenged the scientific community to
address these concerns in an approachable and respectful manner.
The next prophecy Faulseit addressed was the prediction of an
alignment of planets with earth that says this phenomena on Dec. 21
will pull the earth apart. He presented an astronomical chart for
Dec. 21 that showed there is no alignment of the planets with earth.
Further, he stated that the earth's moon and the sun have the most
impact on the earth gravitationally, rather than any of the seven
other planets. (Poor Pluto has been evicted from the planetary
society.) When the moon and sun align with the earth, a phenomenon
that happens often, the tides on earth increase by about 3 feet.
Venus, the closest planet to the earth, has a gravitational effect
on the earth that is almost unmeasurable, well less than a tenth of
an inch. If all of the planets were in perfect alignment with the
earth, the effect would be negligible, let alone capable of pulling
the earth apart.
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The next earth-shattering event that is now popular in the junk
science world is the switching of the polarity of the earth's
magnetic poles. There is some truth to this, in that the earth's
magnetic poles do switch polarity from time to time. It has happened
before, but it is hardly an overnight phenomena. It is not as if the
polarity of the earth's magnetic poles is going to change from Dec.
20 to the next day. It takes about 3,000 years for this to happen,
and the result is not the destruction of the earth. It has happened
before and will happen again. At most, you might have to buy a new
compass to find your way around.
Lurid covers of some books show a flaming planet hurtling toward
earth, the terrifying Planet X, with earth in the bull's-eye of its
sights, highlighting the next in the earth destruction predictions.
Destruction will rain down on earth when this juggernaut impacts our
planet. Except, there is no Planet X. Conspiracy theorists hold that
the government is keeping this a secret to avoid panic in the
populace. Faulseit pointed out that if a planet was on a collision
course with earth that would end on Dec. 21, it would outshine the
moon and would be clearly visible during the day, matching the sun
in the sky. It is not there, and this is not going to happen.
Finally, the sunspot theory of earth's destruction has reared its
head yet again. Junk science says that sunspot activity will
increase to such an extent as to destroy the earth this year. While
sunspot activity is increasing this year, this astronomical event
goes in 11-year cycles, and the current level is only half of what
it was in the 1950s. It is just not a big deal, unless you are a
solar astronomer. It has happened before and will happen again. Here
again, we can wad up this end of times junk science and deposit it
in the trash, where it and all of the others belong.
Real science is much more fascinating and useful -- well worth
studying. Our universe is a sublime neighborhood in which to live.
After destroying all of these junk science predictions, Faulseit
went on to discuss his extensive on-site experience in the Mayan
environment. Their knowledge of science, architecture in the form of
magnificent pyramids, and language are truly amazing, given that
this era existed well over a thousand years ago.
On a lighter note, Faulseit suggested not putting off sending
Christmas cards and gift shopping this year because of all the earth
destruction predictions. Dec. 22 will come along just as always,
perhaps bringing with it the prediction of a white Christmas.
The Illinois State Museum programs and activities can be accessed
on the museum website,
www.museum.state.il.us. The Paul F. Mickey Lecture series is a
[By CURT FOX]