Posted by: Harold Knight | 06/15/2010

Nostradamus, the “Rapture,” Galactic Alignment, and British Petroleum

In Baptist Sunday School we learned Jesus would return in glory (the Second Coming). The second New Testament letter to the Thessalonians assures christians (but, according to American fundamentalists, only those christians who hate gay marriage, abortion, illegal immigration, and health care reform) will get the best deal when it happens. “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:17). Otherwise known as the “rapture.”

Good old Saint Paul believed the Second Coming (he never used the word “rapture”) would happen during his lifetime. One of the great end-of-the-world fantasies.

Revisiting end-of-the-world theories is not how I intended to spend my hypergraphia time today. However, I looked at my “blog stats” for some reason. According to the stats, my posting that gets the most Google hits is the one on last December 3 titled “The Third Person Effect: Nostradamus and other nonsense.” Let me tell you, it’s a bunch of hits every day. That means people began finding the posting (by searching for Nostradamus?). The more people check it out, the higher it moves up in the list of sites Google finds for “Nostradamus,” and the more people see that and click on it, the more “hits” the posting gets, and the more “hits” it gets, the higher up in the Google list it moves, and the more people click on it. . . .

You get the picture.

Should I remove that post? No. The more traffic this blog gets, the better I like it (see my last post about narcissism). I hope people other than conspiracy theorists and doomsday freaks read my blog. But I’m not likely to become a reference for the 2012 end-of-the-world theory because what my December 3 posting says, in brief, is if you believe the world is going to end on December 21, 2012, you’re nuts.

If you believe in the “Rapture,” you’re nuts, too (at least the “Rapture” folks don’t predict a date—they only want to be sure they’re ready and you’re not). And, as I said a couple of days ago, most of what most people think about British Petroleum is nuts, too. Turns out, I think lots of people are nuts.

People who believe Nostradamus prophesied the end of the world on December 21, 2012, think some sort of “galactic alignment” will happen that day. This theory posits some center spot in the Milky Way. A place that we can see? can find with electronic telescopes? can know because God and Nostradamus told us so? I don’t know. The theory says on December 21, 2012, the sun will align itself between us and that center spot, and all hell will break loose. Literally. The gates of hell will prevail against us. This nonsense is—as everyone who watches the Discovery or History channels knows—confirmed by the Mayan calendar, which ends on that day. The Mayan calendar does end on that day. But the new Mayan calendar begins the next day.

Unless you’re reading another version that ends a year later.

The gates of hell will open in the form of a planet (Nibiru) that’s floating around like a loose canon in the universe, headed directly towards us. It will crash into earth on December 21, 1012. This is the fictional creation of the insane Zechariah Sitchin who claims to have unearthed and translated ancient Sumerian documents about Nibiru and the aliens who live there who’ve come to earth before and are responsible for the Great Pyramid and other wonders. The Egyptian Pyramids (and Stonehenge and the statues on Easter Island and Machu Picchu—any monumental structure built before the Caterpillar Corporation was founded) must surely have been built with extra-terrestrial help.

I’m not interested in his absurd theories. If you are, you can go to NASA’s website (1), the section titled “Astrobiology: Life in the Universe,” and read NASA’s scientific discussions. By the way, “astrobiology” is not nuts; it’s a legitimate scientific field. NASA’s Astrobiology Program “addresses three fundamental questions: How does life begin and evolve? Is there life beyond Earth and, if so, how can we detect it? What is the future of life on Earth and in the universe?” (2)

My pointing out the NASA website is useless. If you use your brain instead of your viscera to think, you already know Nibiru is absurd. If you believe Sitchin and Nostradamus, you will undoubtedly think the NASA material is part of the conspiracy to cover up the “truth.” (3)

My interest is not in the idiocy, but in understanding how such idiocy takes root in the fertile soil of people’s minds. There’s a huge difference between “gullibility” and “open-mindedness.” Gullible people are everywhere. You don’t have to be stupid to be gullible. One of the most important people in my life, a person of far-above-average intelligence, was a devotee of Sitchin. She believed his stories about Sumerian hieroglyphs as pictures of spacemen and pictures of the sun from ancient ruins as pictures of Nibiru.

And other nonsense.

Her intellectual seduction by Sitchin came after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Clinging to his theories was part of her desperate struggle to understand “the meaning of life” so she could somehow be in control of the cancer killing her. If believing in aliens from a non-existent planet helped her struggle, I’m not going to judge her. I am not in any way belittling her. She did what she had to do to live out her last days on this earth.

But most people I know of who believe Winter Solstice in 2012 will be doomsday base their belief on their own interpretation of “evidence.” They don’t have cancer. They’re gullible. That’s intellectual and spiritual suicide.  It might even mean physical suicide. Remember “Heaven’s Gate” and the Hale-Bopp Comet?

It’s a dangerous (nutty?) proposition because belief, as Professor William Hare says, “requires more than purely subjective rationality. It is not enough to take into account what one personally regards as evidence since one may hold distorted views about what counts as relevant evidence.” (3)

The History Channel and the Discovery Channel incubate this absurdity. Last night the History Channel once again broadcast their “Ancient Aliens” nuttiness. This nonsense is replacing the “Rapture” as the dominant end-of-time story. Alan Hale, co-discoverer of Hale-Bopp said in 1997, that his discovery became “tied to the ongoing belief among a significant fraction of the public that Earth is being visited in large numbers by extraterrestrial aliens. (As one radio host recently and appropriately described to me, this seems to be the ‘new mythology’ that is replacing the older religion-based myths.)” (4)

People believe this stuff because it gives them a sense of control over their lives, which they see as spinning out of control. After all, if you know the exact day the madness of humanity is going to end, if you are one of the cognoscenti who understand this certainty, British Petroleum’s destruction of the ecosystem of the entire Gulf of Mexico comes into perspective. It’s part of the end-time predictions. It’s a short leap from British Petroleum to the “Rapture” to the Winter Solstice, 2012.

Then the third angel sounded; And a great star fell from Heaven,
burning like a torch, and it fell upon a third of the rivers and
on the springs of water, and the name of the star is called Wormwood.


The sky will burn at 45 degrees latitude, fire approaches
the new city. Suddenly a huge, scattered flame leaps up,
when they want to have verification. . . .
Nostradamus C6 Q 97

Wormwood, the deadly star of the christian apocalypse, becomes Nibiru .
(2) If you want to read some really fascinating stuff, find the latest volume of the International Journal of Astrobiology,a Cambridge University journal online)
(3) Below is a paragraph from the Astrobiologist who answers questions about 2012 on the NASA website.
(4) Hare, William. “What open-mindedness requires: if we are to steer a course between being obstinately defensive and wantonly credulous, it is important to understand what open-mindedness requires. Here are ten aspects of being open-minded.” Skeptical Inquirer 33.2 (2009): 36+
William Hare is professor emeritus in the faculty of education at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. His books include In Defence of Open-mindedness (1985).
(5) Hale, Alan. “Hale-Bopp comet madness.” Skeptical Inquirer 21.2 (1997): 25+.
“Of course, Nibiru does not exist. A large planet (or a brown dwarf) in our solar system would have been known to astronomers for decades, both indirectly from its gravitational perturbations on other objects and by direct detection in the infrared. The NASA Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS) carried out the first all-sky survey in 1983, which, along with several subsequent surveys, would have seen Nibiru if it was there. However, the Nibiru proponents have asserted that Nibiru was hiding–that it remained behind the Sun for several years or that it could be seen only from the South Pole. Both of these are geometrically absurd statements. Most of the so-called Nibiru photos on the Web are lens flare produced when a camera points at a bright source, an artifact also responsible for many UFO photos. As it approaches Earth, of course, Nibiru should be increasing in brightness. In fact, if it were going to be inside Earth’s orbit in three years, it should have already reached naked-eye visibility, and tens of thousands of astronomers, both amateur and professional, would be tracking it.”
Morrison, David. “Update on the Nibiru 2012 doomsday.” Skeptical Inquirer 33.6 (2009): 57+.
David Morrison is the senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and a recipient of the Carl Sagan Medal of the American Astronomical Society for his contributions to public understanding of science.


  1. […] Nostradamus, the “Rapture,” Galactic Alignment, and British … No Comments 1165 […]



%d bloggers like this: