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2012 In The News

Some Think 2012 Will Bring End Of World

Read complete story and see video at:
March 13 2009

CHICAGO (CBS) Ancient prophecies that the world will end in the year 2012 are creating quite a stir.

But is the hype about prophecy -- or profit?

CBS station WBBM-TV in Chicago's Susan Carlson asks the question, "2012: real or not?Nanci Flynn was intrigued when she first heard about predictions the world will end in 2012 and started her own research.

"When I see so many things across the board pointing to exactly the same time frame, it's something that we need to take seriously," she said.

She believes the financial crisis could be the first sign.

"There's talk that in the end of days, there will be economic chaos," Flynn said. "I think we're seeing that."

Books predicting disaster in 2012 are flying off store shelves, and the hype is only expected to grow. But when the dust settles, will 2012 go the way of Y2K?

"You cannot just pick and choose and interweave pieces of un-contextualized history together to sell a story that might help you sell books," says Gary Feinman, the Field Museum's curator of Mesoamerican anthropology.

Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of the 5,000-year Mayan calendar. Feinman says while many are attaching catastrophic significance to that date, for the Mayans, the date simply marked the end of a cycle, not the end of the world.

"Kind of like an odometer flipping over," he said.

But you wouldn't know that from surfing the Net. Googling "2012 disaster" results in more than 2 million websites. People are buying it, literally: everything from emergency supply kits to 2012 T-shirts. And right on cue, a blockbuster movie is coming out this fall.

Fueling the hype, Dec. 21, 2012 falls on the winter solstice. And it's supposed to be when the sun aligns with the center of the Milky Way galaxy. While that sounds impressive …

"That happens every year," said Mark Hammergren, astronomer at Adler Planetarium. "It was closer aligned in the past; there's no consequence to this."

Despite predictions of cosmic chaos, Hammergren says there's no scientific data pointing to anything unusual happening in the year 2012.

"A woman asked me if I thought Jesus was coming back soon," said Scot McKnight, professor of religious studies at North Park University. "And she was definitely impacted by the 2012."

Religious furor is also driving speculation the world is coming to an end. But according McKnight, some of that may be politically motivated.

"It doesn't surprise me one bit that with a new Democratic president, some evangelical Christians think the end of the world is near," he said.

The bible does reference the end of days, but there's no indication when.

"Date-setting was denounced by Jesus," McKnight said.

But Flynn, like many others, still won't shrug off the 2012 prophecies.

"Suppose it were real -- would you still ignore it?" she asked.

We questioned the main areas where the hype is coming from. Several ancient civilizations and many prophets, including Nostradamus, have been interpreted -- or misinterpreted -- with Armageddon predictions linked to 2012. On the other end of the spectrum, some spiritualists predict that that year will not bring disaster but instead usher in an age of enlightenment.

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