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Apocalypse 2012: An Investigation into Civilization's End Paperback – January 15, 2008
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
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From Publishers Weekly
In New Age circles, the idea that some sort of world-spanning cataclysmic event will take place in December 2012 has been gaining traction for years, thanks largely to the calculations of ancient Mayan astronomers who pegged that moment as the end of a cycle of eons. Joseph uses that prophecy as a starting point, but claims that his interest lies in more substantial scientific threats to the planet—including cracks in Earth's magnetic field, the eruption of supervolcanoes and flareups of sunspot radiation. On the other hand, he also gives credence to planetary alignments and The Bible Code before veering into a rant about how the real problem is Christian fundamentalists who want to manipulate the Middle East into Armageddon. When he sticks to science journalism, Joseph is a lively tour guide, introducing readers to Mayan shamans and Russian scientists with equal aplomb. But when he encourages readers to start praying they survive the coming apocalypse, he comes off as exactly the sort of crackpot he claims to eschew. Still, there's less kookery than in other 2012 books, making Joseph a reasonably straightforward guide to the theory. (Jan. 23)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Fascinating . . . incredible research and an equally incredible sense of humor.”—Tim LaHaye
“Joseph is a lively tour guide, introducing readers to Mayan shamans and Russian scientists with equal aplomb.”— Publishers Weekly
“Apocalypse 2012 manages to be both lighthearted in tone and more than a little disturbing in content.” – Maclean’s
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Joseph's book is a mishmash that is part personal history and apologia, part mysticism, part religion--almost everyone's religion--and part science, ie. something for nearly all of us. By the same token it also has things that will almost universally confuse, irritate, even infuriate us all! For those selfsame reasons the book is a fun read; after all who doesn`t like to be amazed, scared, irritated, and informed all at the same time. Look at the popularity of roller coasters.
The author manages to range wildly in approaching his topic, but always hauls his narrative back to his original theme frequently enough that the book doesn't just totally fall apart. This style manages to give the story all the pull of a murder mystery. It's sort of a "who-dun-it" with the entire human race--oneself included--as the murder victim! In that vein, however, I wouldn't take it any more seriously than an Agatha Christie!!
While over half of the author's discussion is open to question--much being a matter of personal philosophy or religion--some of his scientific information is actually illuminating. I was particularly impressed with the Russian scientists he quoted. It has only been since the detent of the 80's that Russian scientific research has managed to reach the West, particularly the US. This new pooling of the world's information has even revealed new priorities in the discovery of certain theories and has necessitated a rearrangement in or shared acknowledgement for them. I consider this an actual cause for encouragement over the future of the human world, despite the author's pessimism. It was certainly interesting to learn something about them.
While one might point out in objection that some of these selected scientific sources are a little "off the mainstream," and into the "fringe," I should like to point out that much of the technology we enjoy today would have been considered black magic not all that long ago and still might be in some venues. That these individuals are a little off-the-wall from the perspective of mainstream science suggests an open mindedness and tolerance of which I approve, since these qualities are also hopeful for continued human existence.
Joseph's reference to these people and their work, however, was probably not innocently motivated, as the critical reader will no doubt be aware. He could easily have quoted more notable--let alone more accessible (he went to Siberia to interview some of them)--scientists, but the drama of the out come would not have been the same, and drama--and salability--was what was desired here. In short, he chose not to interview or mention those who might have disagreed with the thesis of his project. This silence introduces an unacknowledged bias, a technique so often condoned even in serious works that no one even notices it anymore--which is very naïve and credulous of us.
I found some of the author's ideas about an apocalypse in 2012 rather intriguing, not for the numerous reasons that he gave, but for one that he didn't. In the eminent cosmologist Carl Sagan's book Cosmos(1970s), a hypothesis regarding the end of human existence was cited. It graphed number of human deaths against a time line, starting with individual murders at time "0"--presumably when there were too few of us and these too scattered to indulge in anything like "mass" murder--and sloped upwards to asymptote and total annihilation at about 2012. The original of the graph, which Sagan had borrowed from a previous author, had been created prior to the atomic bomb. With its presentation in Sagan's work this lacuna was filled, bringing the "end of the world" closer in time. The proposed date was, as I recall, 2005 or `07. In either case, we are somewhat overdue! Perhaps Sagan's own pessimism ignored the possibility that, far from precipitating an earlier demise in our existence, Hiroshima and Nagasaki--as deplorable as the events themselves were--actually "knocked some sense" into our collective heads. We can only hope.
While the end of all human life has a low probability of occurring in any give life time, it can happen and probably--almost certainly--will happen sometime. It's predicting the "when" of the affair that is anybody's guess: perhaps tomorrow, maybe even 2012. Those interested in the anthropocentric hypothesis, will probably point out that more of us are living now than at any time in the past, and that we exist in an "average" time, which suggests none of us will live to see an event that is "extraordinary." Like the end of the world. This is true. But that doesn't mean it won't happen, only again that it is statistically unlikely to happen.
Human beings seem preoccupied with the concept of the "end of times." One has only to recall the anxiety over the end of the last millennium and the Y2K paranoia. Nor was Y2K the first of its kind. Historians will doubtlessly remind us that there was a similar phenomenon in the year 666 AD, and at the turn of the millennium in 1000 AD, while many people living at the time expected the end to occur just after the death of Jesus. The mysticism of the Gnostic gospels, now enjoying a belated renaissance, suggests as much, and this even more than Roman Catholic oppression may be why these texts ended up so neglected by mainstream theologians in later years. After all, if the Gnostics had been right, there wouldn't have been later years.
The author does make one very significant point, and it is chilling to contemplate. He notes that there are many, some in high places, whose devotion to a specific philosophy might pull the plug on the rest of us. Such individuals have the specific intention of precipitating a global disaster and bringing on what they see as retribution to the "wicked" and glory to the "righteous"--they themselves being among the latter, of course, and the rest of us considered among the former. While this smacks of conspiracy theory, it doesn't mean it couldn't happen; technologically it's certainly possible. It therefore behooves us all to keep a good close eye on our own extremists and fundamentalists, since we can do very little about the other guy's, and we owe it to that other guy--not to mention our own children and grandchildren--to at least do what we can in the circumstances.
Historians and archaeologists will also gladly remind us that dates are relative to some arbitrarily fixed event in time. Thus while a magic date like 666, 1000, 2000, or 2012 may have significance to some of us, it will be totally irrelevant to others. Moslems date their calendar to the flight of Mohamed from Mecca to Medina, so this year is celebrated as 1429 by their calculation. Based on their dating system, the year 2012 is still a long way in our collective future. Maybe to save the human race all we need to do is just switch calendars.
As fun as a roller coaster.
The author subtitles this book "A scientific investigation into civilization's end." Sounds important enough and certainly some of the material in the book is science-based. There are strains of superbacteria with enzymes that break down antibiotics. There is a hadron collider on the border between France and Switzerland that theoretically could create tiny black holes called strangelets that would then absorb our world like a malignant paper towel. And yes, opponents of self-replicating nanomachines point out such machines could create a science-fictionesque "gray goo" that would cover the planet in two days. It gets better, it is true we are vulnerable to "solar indigestion" where abnormal solar sun spots can threaten life on earth. What else? Well the magnetic field that protects us from the sun has "cracks" in it the size of California allowing deadly radiation into the environment and, while most Americans remain oblivious to this, Yellowstone - one of the largest super volcanos in the world - could (theoretically) erupt like it did 600,000 years ago spewing enough dust to cover North America in several feet of dust.
This is fascinating stuff and while Lawrence tells a good story about these scientific findings, linking them to 2012 is more than speculative but it is a good way to sell a book. Are there interesting correlations? Sure - like the prediction that for the first time in 26,000 years, our solar system will eclipse the view from earth of the center of the Milky Way. If energy streams from this center (thought to be a black hole) that stream should be interrupted on 11:11 pm, December 21st, 2012 (the Solstice for you non-Pagans). So what? Well, and here is the speculative part, the Mayans supposedly believed that this disruption would "throw out of kilter vital mechanisms of our bodies and of the earth" (Joseph, p. 33).
I think Joseph's greatest contribution in this book is about what Freud called the psychopathology of everyday life. The general nuttiness of our species, particularly where crazy religious memes have infected large numbers of people, results in hideous atrocities as other authors like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens have documented. What if some Islamic militant found a way to drop a nuclear device into Yellowstone? Theoretically it might cause the super volcano to erupt.
Various followers of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism (I note "various" because the diverse followers of these religions rarely agree on much) believe some type of messiah is coming. They also believe certain events will herald the messiah's arrival and they may be a little too anxious to help those events along. Examples? Many Shiite Muslims believe the Mahdi (the 12th Imam who disappeared in the 9th century at the age of 5) will return soon. He will make his appearance (according to Joseph's account - p. 191) after "a period of chaos, war, and pestilence" (what is it with Middle Eastern religions and pestilence?) and he may (depending on the version) claim Temple Mount which happens to be in the state of Israel. Now there's a recipe for disaster.
Whatever the prophecy (and there are many and they don't agree on the details) Joseph reminds us (as Howard Bloom did in The Lucifer Principle) that we have the choice to resist such things. As many authors have pointed out - stop the madness. The madness in this case of religious fundamentalism.
Overall Lawrence Joseph's book is well worth reading - not because I always agree with him or necessarily like his attempts at glibness - I don't. But who cares? The man has written a book packed with ideas that can help people defend the sanctity of their minds from religious babble. He has also written a book that gives fascinating general explanations of natural phenomena that may prove problematic for our species. Do I believe it is linked to 2012? Well, I'm still going to renew my magazine subscriptions in 2011.