July 2009

Summary: Update on Solar Cycle 24 from NOAA, NPR's bizarre treatment of 2012, Aztlan posts resulting from the Penn & Teller program on 2012, the deception of the 2012 deception

1. Update on NOAA estimate of Solar Max; sent email to Earth Changes Radio / Mitch Battros

Sometime in July, before I was interview by FOX news for a 2012 segment on the Sean Hannity show, I was alerted to a new, revised report on the solar sunspot cycle. This phenomenon has been tracked in plant growth and follows, on average, an 11.3-year cycle. In practice, the solar max sunspot cycles can vary many years off the average, and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration in Colorado has concerned itself with gathering data and projecting, or calculating, trends in this phenonenon. In 2006 they release a report that stated the next solar max (Solar Cycle 24) was going to maximize in late 2011 and 2012, and it was projected to be more energetic than average (but not as large as the one in the 1950s). Alarmist doomsday writer Lawrence Joseph has taken this data and, with its apparent connection to 2012, has linked it up to the Maya Long Count cycle ending date in 2012. It's been his mainstay in many interviews. He never explains the rationale behind his unfounded supposition that the ancient Maya were somehow tracking solar max phenomena and how it is that they intended their 2012 date to target an alleged big one. The variable factors which effect solar max are so ambiguous that even NOAA frequently revises its projections. Joseph conveniently avoids addressing Maya cosmology, and avoids providing evidence that they were tracking sunspots (because there is none), and just repeats the specious connection between the Maya's 2012 cycle ending and the 2011-2012 solar max found in the 2006 NOAA report. Earth Changes radio personality Mitch Battros has also utilized this data, and reports it as a standard truism in his frequent email releases.

In July I was alerted to a new report from NOAA, published in May 2009, which revised its projections based on recent data. It is online here. As one can see, the projected maximum arc of solar flare activity in now located in mid-2013. Importantly, notice that it is significantly LESS intense than the solar max of 2001-2002, meaning that it will have less an effect on satellite communications than in 2001-2002. This is the centerpiece of Joseph's alarmist refrain. So, will Joseph revise his talking point? I doubt it. In fact, he was still quoting misinformation in his interview on the Montel Williams show in late May 2009. And Joseph is still considered the go-to guy by the media for these kinds of sort-of-science statements. In this regard, observe what happened when I was interviewed for the NPR piece on 2012 on "All Things Considered." (see next section)

2. National Public Radio, All Things Considered: "Mayan Calendar Spurs End-Of-The-World Debate" by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.
Location online: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=111341700&ft=1&f=2100608 (includes audio and comments from listeners)

A very disappointing and revealing thing happened when I was pre-interviewed by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, reporter for NPR, in late July. It was somewhat reminiscent of the Newsweek interview I did with Lisa Miller in May. All seemed to go well; I answered all questions, I framed the topic properly within what we know about Maya tradition, calendars, and cosmology. I've been emphasizing the importance of Tortuguero, because Monument 6 from that site provides clear evidence for how 2012 was being conceived and utilized by at least one site in the Classic Period. I deduced and confirmed that she had also interviewed Lawrence Joseph. Knowing that the scientific data with which Joseph hangs his rap on 2012 was recently revised by NOAA, I said to her something like "the scientific data that Joseph uses is now obsolete, and if you use his info in your piece you must include the correction." Obviously, if this was not offered, then NPR would be consciously deceiving its listeners. Barbara didn't call me back the next day as promised, the piece ran the next day, and nothing I had said was used. As you can hear for yourself by listening to it, NPR indulge in a childish and clichéd portrayal of 2012, emphasizing silly associations with "the dawning of the Age of Aquarius." They had John Hoopes on as the scholarly voice of reason. However, John Hoopes is not very interested in the ongoing work to reconstruct what the ancient Maya actually thought about 2012. He is mainly concerned, much like Daniel Pinchbeck, with the modern use of the date. Hoopes has been active on Wikipedia, defining "Mayanism" as an umbrella term that corrals all the popular books and theories on 2012. So, NPR failed to provide one iota of information on how the ancient Maya would have thought about cycle endings, and the specific info on Tortuguero that I had offered. Even at NPR, 2012 is just a carnival distraction, presented to busy Americans to chuckle about. And even when handed the facts, such as the revised NOAA data that renders Joseph's position untenable, they chose to ignore it and place Joseph's words as the lead-off for the piece. Amazing.

As usual something good emerged, as there were many comments added by readers to the end of the piece online. I registered my own observations thus:

John Jenkins (John_Major_Jenkins) wrote:
I’m disappointed that NPR couldn’t do better justice to this topic. The recent NOAA data, released this year, revises the projection for Solar Cycle 24. These things are always being revised, and although alarmist author Lawrence Joseph enjoys continuing to cite the now obsolete 2006 reports of solar max in 2011-2012, the new revised data projects solar max for May of 2013, and IT IS EXPECTED TO BE LOWER THAN AVERAGE INTENSITY. I shared this with Ms Hagerty during our pre-interview for this piece, the factual basis of which she apparently decided was not worth sharing with NPR listeners. This piece also states that "The Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012" - another falsehood that the media, including apparently NPR, likes to propagate. As I also explained to Ms Hagerty, the Maya's Creation Mythology is cyclic in nature and depicts cycle endings as times of transformation and renewal. So, score another one for media misconception. That 2012 is a true artifact of the Maya calendar tradition, and the ancient Maya had something interesting to say about it, apparently is something that even NPR has no interest in portraying accurately and honestly. Finally, Google "What is the Galactic Alignment" for the real truth.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 8:06:59 PM

David Stuart commented:

As a specialist in Maya archaeology and glyph decipherment, I'm compelled to offer a number of corrections to this story and to a few of the comments posted.

The ancient Maya never, ever stated in any ancient text that anything would end in 2012. There's only one reference to the date in a damaged stone fragment, but its reading is highly ambiguous. Also, the "true" end of the Maya calendar, if we must define it, will not come in 2012 or in 4772 (as someone has stated here), but rather many octillion years into the future (that gives us some time). The 2012 date is the end of 13 full Bak'tun periods, basically an anniversary or recurrence of the Maya "creation" date of 3114 BC.

Simply put, any claim New Age or otherwise about the significance about 2012 has no firm basis in Maya culture or religion. But that doesn't seem to matter to many people. It's too bad, because the reality of how the ancient Maya saw the world and time's structure is truly stunning, and one of human history's great achievements.

- David Stuart, Mayanist, UT Austin
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 8:05:00 PM

I pointed out a conceptual contradiction in David Stuart's post in a private email to John Hoopes. David wrote, in his post, that "The 2012 date is the end of 13 full Bak'tun periods, basically an anniversary or recurrence of the Maya "creation" date of 3114 BC." And then, in the next sentence, he wrote "any claim New Age or otherwise about the significance about 2012 has no firm basis in Maya culture or religion." Weird. Didn't he himself just say that it would be the anniversay or recurrence of Maya creation date of 3114 BC.? But then he says that ANY claim about the significance of 2012 has no firm basis. What this reveals is that he probably believes the 2012 cycle ending to merely be a mathematical happenstance, defined (accidentally) by the zero date in 3114 BC but not intentionally placed. This view is seriously challenged by Compelling Fact Numero Uno, which I have been presenting to scholars for twenty years, that December 21, 2012 is a solstice. This strongly suggests that it was an intentional artifact of the calendrical, astronomical, and mathematical operations that the Maya were engaging in when they inaugurated the Long Count over 2,000 years ago.

Robert Sitler (4Kiej) wrote:

Prof. Stuart's comments sum up the solid evidence from the ancient Maya regarding 2012, and as he makes clear, it is almost non-existent. John Jenkins' core idea about the "setting" of the Long Count on the 2012 date is an intriguing one and too easily brushed aside by many academics, but without more evidence, it will be difficult for him to prove his thesis. One missing aspect of the 2012 phenomenon is the involvement of contemporary Maya and their prophetic traditions. Please see http://www.stetson.edu/~rsitler/13PIK/ for comments by Maya on the date. Whether academics like it or not, and in spite of the New Age nonsense on the topic, Maya awareness of the date is growing quickly and may have unexpected consequences. For instance, we might see the first Maya president of Guatemala in 2012 if the general population in the country perceives that the time for radical social change has arrived.
Friday, July 31, 2009 1:38:41 PM

I appreciated Robert's words of support but also felt a quick correction was necessary:

John Jenkins (John_Major_Jenkins) wrote:
A correction is in order regarding Robert Sitler's summary of what my work is about. It is more accurate to say that I believe the 13-baktun cycle ending was intentionally placed; that is, it is an intentional artifact of the Long Count. For newcomers, the merit of this perspective as an initial working hypothesis should be obvious, because the cycle ending falls on an accurate December solstice (December 21). Robert himself is well aware of the Tortuguero inscription, and how it was used for a building dedication. This tells us something about how the Maya were thinking about 2012. The misleading dismissal of Maya epigrapher David Stuart is not surprising, as he and other scholars insist, despite the evidence, that "any claim New Age or otherwise about the significance about 2012 has no firm basis in Maya culture or religion." How can that be, David, when we have inscriptional evidence from Tortuguero for 2012 being used as a reference point for a building dedication? Scholars all too often feel they must denounce all the New Age silliness, but they have not done their jobs to investigate the evidence for 2012 being a true artifact of the calendar tradition, and how the Maya thought about it. In fact, they ignore it.
Saturday, August 01, 2009 3:22:10 PM

John Hoopes wrote:

Let's not forget that Barbara Hagerty is reporting on *religion*. Is the 2012 mythology any "sillier" than the stories at the heart of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or more recent traditions such as Mormonism, Christian Science (Hagerty's original faith), Scientology, Rastafarians, Raelians, etc.? For me, the issue is not whether 2012 has anything to do with beliefs of the ancient Maya (few Mayanists think that it does), but why there is an emergence of yet another mythology that a certain segment of the population finds credible and inspiring. You can poke fun at Creationists, Ufologists, Scientologists, or Republicans, but the reality is that some people will always believe and be motivated by mythologies that non-believers find to be extremely odd (and laughable). It's been that way for millennia and will undoubtedly be that way long after 2012 has come and gone. Religion just is. Does better education help people to explore the differences between myth and fact and choose what they believe? I sure hope so. Will the 2012 hype generate more interest in critical academic scholarship on the Maya and other Pre-Columbian cultures? That's usually how it works.
Thursday, July 30, 2009 12:14:56 PM

John Jenkins (John_Major_Jenkins) reponded:

John Hoopes's posted comment is revealing of how the mind of scientism perceives "myth." He wrote: "Does better education help people to explore the differences between myth and fact and choose what they believe?" See how that works? Facts are real and myths are not real. How revealing it is, then, that the Maya themselves perceived their myths as doorways to transcendent truths, much as in Joseph Campbell's wonderful words: "myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestations." This is just another example of how the conceptual biases of professional Maya scholars distort their interpretations of Maya culture and religion, and are therefore unreliable - unless you simply want your own similar prejudicial biases reinforced.
Saturday, August 01, 2009 3:32:58 PM

Another reader named Ken Burns (THE Ken Burns?) chastised NPR for its diversionary emphasis on the pop culture side of the 2012 discussion and encouraged, as I have encouraged, an honest treatment of Maya tradition and teachings:

Ken Burns (atheisst) wrote:
Lisa Buie wrote (in a previous post): ... You have spent way more of your precious time leaving elaborate comments about it. I personally think it is interesting to hear about how past cultures thought the world would end.

---While it may be interesting to hear how past cultures thought the world would end, I don't see this "news story" as having been about this at all. It has a quick intro that makes a (probably inaccurate) statement about a Mayan belief and then moves on to talk about solar flares and a John Cusak movie. Then, under the subtitle "Skeptical Scientists," there's a scientist debunking the plot of said movie. ALSO under the "Skeptical Scientists" subtitle--and given more space--is a bunch of humbug from Daniel Pinchbeck about "a shift in spiritual consciousness" and the "Age of Aquarius." Daniel Pinchbeck is NOT a scientist--he's an author who likes to drop acid. Look him up. Finally, the Mayans are mentioned again at the end of the "news story" as an inspiration for a new religious movement.

This isn't a report about the beliefs of an ancient civilisation, it's a hodgepodge of woo-woo ideas for the sake of... well, honestly, I don't know what it was for the sake of.

Please, NPR, don't run stories like this again.

Hooray! Finally, someone out there who sees the problem I've been dealing with in my 10-year stormy relationship with mainstream media. Thanks, Ken. Indeed, please, NPR, let's raise the bar and give the National Enquirer a run for their money.

3. Penn & Teller: Gary Coleman and 2012

Well, the NPR piece was saintly compared to the hilarious goofball shenanigans of Penn and Teller.

It's online somewhere, details below. The thing about it that struck me is that they focussed on Patrick Geryl's doomsday fantasies. He's the perfect poster boy for ridiculous doomsday rhetoric and alarmist survivalist activities that boost someone's bank account. One of the more hilarious anecdotes in Penn & Teller's "Bullshit" program was their send up of the "Black Hole" material. The now distant and obscured intellectual origins of their treatment, I'd suggest, is found in the dark-rift imagery and the hieroglyph translated as "Black Hole" in Maya Creation Texts. In the review-essay piece I wrote in 1995, which became an appendix in my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, I pointed out that these "black hole" glyphs are found in Creation Texts and most likely referred to the dark rift in the Milky Way as a Creation Place. It was therefore compelling that the solstice sun aligns with the dark rift in era-2012. I also wrote that it was curious that the southern terminus of the dark rift was co-spatial with the visible nuclear bulge of the galactic center, which hides within itself the astrophysical singularity that scientists call a "black hole." Somehow Penn & Teller picked up on some of this terminology but presented it in the context of the future death of our sun, which would occur in the remote future when the sun exploded and then collapsed, like the way black holes form, into a singularity. A certain gravitational mass is needed to form a black hole; but our sun would not quite make the grade and would become a mere "brown dwarf." Enter Gary Coleman. Yes, they paid Mr. Coleman to make an appearance as a menacing "brown dwarf" to harrass and harrangue our sense of humor. It was pretty funny, but it also revealed how the profound central image of the 2012 solstice-galaxy alignment (the dark rift in the Milky Way) could be twisted in the hands of modern comedians into a day-job for a child actor from the 1970s. The end is certainly nigh.

Maya scholar Mark Van Stone was enlisted by Penn and Teller to be on their program, and he made an announcement on Aztlan of the impending showing of the program:

Aztlan post July 7, 2009
Subject: [Aztlan] 2012 show featuring someone you know

Dear Friends, (And I had forgotten how rich I am in friends, till I started making that list of "Oh *they'll* want to know" people above...),

Well, the Penn & Teller 2012 episode on Showtime cable network will air, they say, on 16 July. I am supposed to be at the end, explaining patiently that the Maya never predicted an apocalypse at all... etc., etc. They call that role "the hero," but I expect as always happens when media people try to explain complex (or even simple) intellectual ideas to the masses, they'll find a way to embarrass me. (Thanks, Sandy for siccing them on me!) Now, I know nearly NOBODY out there subscribes to Showtime, but maybe you know someone who does... Anyway, they promised me a DVD when it airs...

Penn & Teller: Bullshit!: The Apocalypse

In episode 704, Penn and Teller follow investigators to Mexico where they probe the mysterious, doomsday "Mayan Prophecy" that the world will end on exactly December 21, 2012.

Rating: TVMA
Duration: 28 Mins
Showtime Advisories: Nudity, Graphic Language, Adult Content
Audio Format: Stereo / CC / ESP

Ways to Watch:
On Showtime
07/16/09 at 10:00 PM (More Airings: click here)
On Demand Available from 07/17/09 to 10/06/09

I responded with a challenge to the good people of the Aztlan community:

Hi Mark,
Congratulations on your prime-time appearance! Personally, I avoided Penn & Teller like the plague, but since you were selected for the "hero" role, your job is easy. All you have to say is "the Maya never predicted apocalypse in 2012." It's kind of ironic that I've been saying the same thing for some twenty years. It's true: the conflation of apocalypse with 2012 is a humongous piece of disinformation foisted upon the public by a stupidity-reinforcing mass media and an exploitative marketplace. However, a second layer of disinformation exists in this discusion, one that Penn and Teller don't care at all about, one that most Maya scholars have proven unwilling or unable to address. This is the unwarranted subsequent assumption that "the ancient Maya had no concept at all about 2012." As Penn & Teller would say: "bullshit!" This viewpoint assumes that we, as modern thinkers, cannot possibly reconstruct or encounter any evidence in the inscriptions or other Maya traditions that tells us anything about how the ancient Maya would have thought about 2012. This identifies the unenviable place that I have held in this discussion (for longer than there was even a discussion!), as "a researcher who has found evidence that the Maya referenced 2012 (a.k.a., the end of the current 13-baktun cycle) in ways that were meaningful to them." I sincerely hope they don't make you seem like a fool; luckily for you this is unlikely as you have been selected to say the obvious and to correct the silliest and most simplistic misconception that exists in the 2012 discussion. I've been handing the same thing to the media repeatedly for years: apocalypse is a concept from a linear time philosophy, and the modern mind tries to jam it into a cyclic time philosophy (2012) --- a place it doesn't belong. "Apocalypse in 2012" is a projection of our own culture's greatest fear onto the Maya's 2012 date, a projection of a cataclysmic scenario onto a tradition that saw cycle endings as times of transformation and renewal. Of course, this way of phrasing it probably strikes a little too close to home for the media -- it also uses too many polysyllabic words for the expected low-grade demographic of their viewers or readers.

So, I guess my question to you, Mark, is, do you currently believe that 2012 had absolutely no meaning to the ancient Maya, to the creators of the Long Count, and to the Classic Period Maya, such as those who inscribed Tortuguero Monument 6? My own view is that, at the very least, the Maya would have thought about 2012, as they thought about all cycle endings, big or small, as a time of transformation and renewal that required sacrifices. In fact, a modern ethnic Maya scholar, Victor Montejo, thinks of it in this way. There are scholars who do suggest ways to think about 2012. David Freidel, for example, encourages the public to think of 2012 as a vehicle's odometer resetting. Perhaps we can have a vote from the numerous people on this e-list: shall we subscribe to the Maya concept of transformation and renewal in 2012, or should we think of it with the modern mechanical metaphor of a gas guzzler's gear-clock resetting? I invite everyone to please return your responses, A or B, directly to me. Maybe we can improve the integrity and cogency of this discussion and move it forward a little:

A: The ancient Maya thought of 2012 as a vehicle's odometer resetting to zero.

B: The ancient Maya thought of 2012 as a time of transformation and renewal requiring sacrifices.

Best wishes,
John Major Jenkins

As I've mentioned elsewhere, many of the responses opted for the vehicle odometer. Lord save us.


4. The deception of the 2012 deception

Among the many debunker-type sites out there, all of which exhibit facile misconceptions on the galactic alignment, 2012, and the Maya cosmology and calendar, one called the2012deception.net is the classic example of stupidity, lack of good research, and aggressive attempts to render the entire 2012 discussion meaningless. A reader in the Netherlands alerted me:

From: Daan
Sent: Aug 31, 2009 4:37 AM
To: John@alignment2012.com
Subject: True/false

Hello John,

In a reaction to my articles on 2012 a reader pointed me to this video. Now I'm wondering: who is right and who is wrong? What is your take on http://the2012deception.net, I wonder.


However, I had already responded to the feature piece in the site's comment section. I took the opportunity to contextualize for Daan the main probelm with sites like this:

Hi Daan,

If you click on the first "comments" option on the 2012deception.net website you linked to, you will find my response to this page that I posted last July (also pasted below). The main problem is that the conveniently anonymous person who wrote it has embraced the incorrect notion of what the galactic alignment is. I cannot curently access the video, but I suspect it is the one that, like the above website, confuses the galactic alignment with the orbital cycle of our solar system above and below the galactic midplane. This is a common error. I addressed the distinction between the two phenomenon many years ago, and offer added clarifications in my forthcoming book, The 2012 Story. The debunker mentality, however, will continue to aggressively minsinform people with inaccurate assessments. Best wishes, John Major Jenkins

John Major Jenkins wrote (in the comments section of the piece at http://the2012deception.net):
July 18th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Is there a name connected with the writing of this piece? First off, I find you indulging in error #1 in how the galactic alignment is conceptualized. With this error in place, the critiques you offer are the same ones I offered against superficial stupidity in the 2012 discussion over ten years ago. The galactic alignment has been defined with scientifc clarity. Try typing in “Galactic Alignment” into Google. The FIRST page that comes up is the page I posted many years ago on my website, called “What is the Galactic Alignment?” The precessional basis is defined, the galactic alignment is defined and illustrated and the various details of the alignment parameters are discussed. You might also try reading the one and only book titled Galactic Alignment, written by myself and published in 2002 with international distribution and translated into several foreign languages. If you can’t rationally engage the primary material on how the Maya incorporated the alignment of the solstice sun with the dark rift in the Milky Way into their cosmological traditions, then please try to avoid misconstruing my pioneering research and misleading your readers. It is true that 90% of the b.s. that floods the marketplace today is a joke, but you might try to stretch open that mind a little and acknowledge the simple fact that all cycle endings, including the one in 2012, had meaning to the ancient Maya who devised the Long Count calendar (and it had nothing to do with doomsday). And before you spew opinions to the contrary, you might want to do a little research into Maya traditions. Start with the material I studied in the writing of my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, as listed in the bibliography: http://Alignment2012.com/bibb.htm


Daan responded:

Dear John,

Thank you for your reply. I passed it on to the group of readers who contacted me.
Looking forward to reading your book and seeing the new documentary.

Daan de Wit