The Mayan calendar completes its 5,125 year cycle, on 21 December 2012. Is there any evidence they foresaw the end-of-the-world?
Contrary to popular opinion, the mayan calendar does not end in 2012, it merely begins a new cycle.
“There will be another cycle,” Andrews says. “We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.”
The Mayan calendar is based on cycles, that does not mean they thought the world ended at that specific point the cycle ends.
And regardless of what the Mayans thought, there is no evidence for any world-ending event happening in 2012.
Update: The world didn't end on 21 December 2012.
The whole 2012 thing seems pretty arbitrary to me. Not only did the Maya make zero prophecies about the end of the world, their calendar wasn't even that good. 2012 proponents say that the Mayan calendar is so accurate, they didn't need an intercalary day (extra day on a leap year) to keep their calendar in sync with the year. Except intercalary days are necessary since there isn't an integer number of days in the year -- and the Maya did deal with this. Not with an intercalary day, but with an intercalary month.
The Mayan bunk notwithstanding, all of the proposed ways in which the world is going to end is also spectacularly arbitrary. Everyone has a different theory, most of them having exactly zero to do with the Mayan calendar. Apparently, all of these things are going to happen at the same time next year:
- Pole reversal: the north/south magnetic poles are going to switch sides. This is going to happen because the earth is going to miraculously stop rotating, and begin spinning in the opposite direction
- Planetary alignment: the planets are going to roughly line up in one way or another and that's going to blow the sun up or something.
- Galactic alignment: the solar system is going to line up with the galactic plane. No word as to what effect this could have.
- Nibiru collision: some yet-unobserved (except by the Maya) planet/asteroid called Nibiru is on a direct collision course with earth, and although it's close enough to hit us in one year, and big enough to annihilate us, it can't be seen.
- Planet X encounter: the alien species that created us as dumbed-down versions of themselves for use as slaves is going to come back and visit/destroy us.
- Nemesis' return: the sun's companion star that we've never been able to observe is going to disturb the oort cloud and cause a rain of comets on earth.
- Betelgeuse supernova: Betelgeuse is going supernova and the resulting radiation is going to cook us
- Solar flare: a killer solar flare is going to destroy all of our technology and send us back into the dark ages.
There are many, many more. They are all either bunk from different sell-out pseudo-scientists, or they are heavily twisted astronomical events (such as the Betelgeuse supernova, which could happen at any time (probably not for millions of years, though), but is much too far away to harm us) which were conveniently re-scheduled for 2012.
If you didn't click on either of the two links in the first paragraph, check out http://www.2012hoax.org for more information on all the doomsday theories.
There is a brilliant visualisation from Information is Beautiful. Basically, there was no Mayan prophecy concerning 2012, and most of theories of a catastrophe occurring were created by taking a date that is somewhere around 2012 and shifting it to 2012.
I can tell you right now what will happen: none of the predictions will be right, or, if any are, they will be right for the wrong reasons or in different ways from what the predicters expect.
Even this prediction will probably be wrong in profound and unexpected ways.
EDIT: Citation according to personal account by Robusto:
Every prediction I have ever seen made concerning the end of the world has been wrong. Every prediction of the end of the world that I have ever heard of has been wrong. In fact, in spite of all of them, the world has not come to an end. So the track record of apocalyptic predictions, especially when made on religious or numerological grounds, has been dismal. In research for a book I wrote about the 11th century, numerous sources cited widespread fears that the world would come to an end in the year A.D. 1000, for no other reason than that this marked the millennial anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
EDIT: Link to first millenium doomsday prophesy:
In his book, The City of God, Augustine stated that the book of Revelations was to be understood as a spiritual allegory, that the millennium was already realized within the church, and had started with the crucifixion. This resulted in all subsequent millennial statements being viewed as unorthodox, if not heretical. Some modified their doomsday prophecies in the year 1000 A.D. When the end didn’t come, they changed the date to 1033 A.D., believing the new millennium had its beginning in the year of the crucifixion 33 A.D.
To date, 100% of the predictions about the end of the world seem to have been in error. This, of course, will not stop unscrupulous or misguided people from trying, or gullible people from believing.