A Revealing Exchange with an Astronomer, May 2004

In late April, 2004, Berg Vigor alerted me to a website by an astronomer named Stephen Tonkins, who attempted to debunk the Galactic Alignment in 2012, but he used a typical misconception about the alignment. I addressed his mistake with clear diplomacy, in the following letter.

From: John Major Jenkins [kahib@ix.netcom.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2004 4:04 PM
To: Berg Vigor
Cc: webmaster@astunit.com (email for Stephen Tonkin)
Subject: Mr Tonkin: Galactic alignment error on your webpage; please address

Dear Berg (and Mr. Stephen Tonkin),

I'm not sure if I've seen this critique before from this specific website (http://www.astunit.com/astrocrud/2012.htm), but I have addressed the critique. See, e.g., my page: http://www.alignment2012.com/5misconceptions.html. This particular critic, Stephen Tonkin, first cites Hancock's book, and then mentions other researchers who have "looked at planetarium programs" and note that the sun is in the dark-rift in 2012. (I hardly think that my five books and many articles constitute glancing at a planetarium program.) He then states "What these people fail to recognise" is that the sun aligns with the dark rift for some 100 years. However, I actually emphasized this in my first book on the Maya calendar end-date alignment, a book called The Center of Mayan Time, that was written in 1995.
 
In subsequent writings I continued to emphasize that precession is a slow process and drew attention to the galactic equator as a more precise target for the solstice sun to align with. Tonkin then goes on to say: "An alternative bit of related nonsense, e.g. here, states that the winter solstice Sun is in conjunction with the galactic equator in 2012. Not quite. This conjunction has already occurred in 1998." The link that Tonkin cites here is to an abbreviated paraphrase of an article I wrote in 1995, on a website that does not credit me as the source, so Tonkin's misreading of my work, and his inability to track the piece to its more contextualized source, perhaps leaves him blameless. But he does jump the gun, and at any rate the real problem is that he overlooks the fact that the sun itself is one-half of a degree wide, and will in fact be touching the galactic equator on all winter solstices between 1980 and 2016 (which is 1998 plus/minus 18 years; 36 years = one-half a degree of precessional movement). So, with a smugness borne of the superiority complex of many scientists, he says something with authority that is actually completely wrong! For I am correct in stating that the sun, on the winter solstice of 2012, will be in conjunction with the galactic equator. What he is doing is invoking a precise level of accuracy that is inappropriate to the real situation. Scientists often mistake their abstractions for realities. Also, I should say that I have also been writing about the 1998 calculation since 1995, and after 1997 cited Jean Meeus's book Mathematical Astronomy Morsels (1997) as a reliable source of the precise calculation. The 1998 calculation (which I had originally estimated in 1995 with data in ACS Publications' ephemerides) is also discussed in my books Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 (1998) and Galactic Alignment (2002), so I've never avoided or attempted to bury the facts.
 
The deeper and more important issue here is my argument that the ancient Maya astronomers intended their 2012 end date to target the precessional alignment of the sun and the dark-rift in the Milky Way (with Galactic Center nearby). My work makes a wider interdisciplinary synthesis of many traditions within Mayan science and religion, the most important of which has been my examination of Izapa, the site that invented the Long Count calendar - the calendar that gives us 2012. If we gesticulate wildly at a 14-year error (between 1998 and 2012) in the ancient Maya's ability to calculcate precession, the truth is that probably an even larger 'calculation error' would not disqualify my thesis - 14 years is less that 1/5th of a degree of precessional movement. A very very brief, but cogent, summation of my work on this point can be found at: http://www.alignment2012.com/openletter.htm. Much more can be found in my two books that are still in print (especially Maya Cosmogenesis 2012) and in a 2-hour presentation DVD that can be ordered from my website (http://Alignment2012.com). Thank you, Berg, for bringing this to my attention. I will cc this to Mr. Tonkin, and see if he has a response. At the very least he should properly update and contextualize his statements and point readers to my website for better, more in-depth information on the question. Best wishes,
 
John Major Jenkins
Denver, Colorado
http://Alignment2012.com

 

Mr. Tonkin responded on April 29th, quickly and simply:

"Thank you for your email. Its contents are noted."

My comments. As of May 8th, his mistaken notion on his website has not been corrected. So, I'm sending him a reminder and a simple illustration of why his statement is in error. If it remains uncorrected, it will mislead his readers about the veracity of my work. The image is this:

To reiterate, Tonkin writes that I [the author of the cited material at his "here" link] state "the winter solstice Sun is in conjunction with the galactic equator in 2012." And this is a true statement. But Tonkin replies: "Not quite. This conjunction has already occurred in 1998." As the diagram above clearly reveals, Tonkin has misconceived the reality of the situation. It is my hope that he will correct this error on his "debunking" page so that my work will not continue to be mistakenly maligned on his "Astrocrud" webpage.

The full email that I sent to Tonkin on May 8th is as follows:

Dear Mr. Tonkin,

I'm very interested in setting the record straight on the issue I brought up, regarding the alignment of the solstice sun with the galactic equator. First, I want to direct you to the original piece I wrote in 1994 (at:
http://www.alignment2012.com/fap2.html) that was plagiarized on the "greatdreams" website, which is apparently your source. Please note the diagrams from my original article that were plagiarized as well as some of the text. Also note that nowhere in my article do I say the solstice takes place at 11 AM, nor do I note the importance of the sun being on the ecliptic at that time (which, of course, is a given), so when you say "The author of this nonsense also seems to find it noteworthy that the Sun is on the ecliptic at this time (!!!), and erroneously gives the time of the solstice as "exactly 11am GMT"" - it reflects badly on me (indirectly, but people do recognize the information that was plagiarized and misconstrued as deriving from my research - in fact, the article I've directed you to was published in a magazine called Spectrum in 2000.) Unfortunately, greatdreams has not responded to several emails, and whoever muddied my original words has not been forthcoming. I realize you're sort of caught in the middle on these points, but the following point should be taken to heart and carefully considered in the interest of clarity and truth:

Your statement/demonstration that the solstice sun is not in conjunction with the galactic equator in 2012 is factually wrong. I've gone to the trouble to create a simple image that illustrates my point, which I explained in my previous email of April 29th:

(can you view the image?)

If you could please update your page I'd very much appreciate it, as it seems you are interested in debunking misinformation and in upholding truth. Also, much more contextual info can be found if you direct your readers to my website at http://Alignment2012.com

I know it might take a few days for your webmaster to fix the error, but if you could give me an estimate on when it will be done, I'd be grateful. Feel free to use the image above to clarify the point. Thank you,

John Major Jenkins

Tonkin responded the next morning:

John Major Jenkins <kahib@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
[...]
>I want to direct you to the original piece I wrote in 1994 (at:
>http://www.alignment2012.com/fap2.html)

At the moment I do not have the time to review/critique additional
material. IF, in the future, I am able to do so, I will add it to the
existing page.

>that was plagiarized on the
>"greatdreams" website, which is apparently your source. 

#1. There is no "apparently" about it. It is absolutely clear from the
hyperlinking that the "greatdreams" website *is* the page on which I was
commenting.

#2. It is none of my business if, as you claim, someone else has
plagiarised your writings -- I suggest that you take it up with the
person concerned.

[...]
>Also note that nowhere in my article do I say the solstice takes
>place at 11 AM, nor do I note the importance of the sun being on the
>ecliptic at that time

Please note that I have not read your article and was not commenting on
it. I was commenting *only* on what was written on the page to which I
linked.

>Your statement/demonstration that the solstice sun is not in conjunction
>with the galactic equator in 2012 is factually wrong.

Astronomical (as opposed to astrological or pseudo-archaeological)
conjunctions refer to the *centres* of the bodies concerned. My
statement about the 2012 winter solstice conjunction is therefore
entirely correct. If you or others wish to redefine words in order to
force-fit them to your theories, that is a distinct issue and is one
that I have neither the time nor inclination to discuss at present.

> If you could please update your page I'd very much appreciate it,

I will add a note to the effect that you have objected to it.
--
Stephen Tonkin

And I responded:

Very revealing and as I suspected, you resist being corrected on a simple point - the sun is half a degree wide and therefore your statement is factually wrong. So it is you who are doing the force-fitting. You should use the more accurate term "solstice colure" (or winter solstice "point") and that would accurately reflect your intention, but if you use solstice "sun," - as I am careful to distinguish - then the reader concludes you are referring to a measurable object that occupies space in the sky, rather than an abstract scientific concept. It's a question of linguistic accuracy; or, in your use, a misleading misuse of a term.

I'm disappointed that you are unwilling to correct your role in maligning a page that reflects poorly on my research, for reasons I previously explained. Truth will not be served. However, thank you for adding a note of objection; if you are unwilling to link to my website (http://Alignment2012.com), at least use my full name, so potentially interested readers could find me via search engine: "John Major Jenkins". Take care,

John

Tonkin's correction, which I discovered later that morning, amounted to the addition of this disclaimer:

"2004 May 09 I have received a couple of emails from a "John Major Jenkins" who asserts that he is the original source of this 2012 stuff, and who alleges that the author of the immediately preceding nonsense has plagiarised him, albeit inaccurately. Jenkins objects that my comments above reflect badly on him. Jenkins (and anyone else) should be aware that (a) I was commenting on what was actually written on the site to which I referred, not to Jenkins' writings (I do not comment on stuff that I have never read) and (b) objections to alleged plagiarism should be addressed to the alleged plagiariser, not to a third party."
(http://www.astunit.com/astrocrud/2012.htm)

Note: Unfortunately, Tonkin refused to address or correct his misuse of terminology regarding the solstice "sun," which is really the primary point of misleading disinformation on his website. I even offered him a simple way to save face by suggesting he replace "solstice sun" with "solstice point," but in this case, obfuscation wins over truth.

— John Major Jenkins, May 9th, 2004.

To my surprise, Tonkin responded that afternoon to my latest comment:

John Major Jenkins <kahib@ix.netcom.com> wrote:
>Very revealing and as I suspected, you resist being corrected on a simple point -

Possibly this is because the point is already correct.

> the sun is half a degree wide and therefore your statement is factually wrong.

If you ever learn to read and understand what is actually written (e.g. in my previous email) you will find that the moment of conjunction of bodies is defined by the *centres* of those bodies. However, my previous experience of your kind leads me to suspect that you will prefer to stick with your falsehoods than to correct them. Your problem, not mine.

[...]
>You should use the more accurate term "solstice colure" (or winter solstice "point")

Unless they restrict their communication to the functionally ignorant, people who use astronomical terms tend to appear less foolish if they first ensure that understand what the terms mean. The galactic equator *always* passes through the solstitial colure.

Clue for the clueless: A colure is not a point; it is a great circle.

[...]
>However,
>thank you for adding a note of objection; if you are unwilling to link to my website (http://Alignment2012.com),

If I ever choose to review your web articles, you may be sure that I will link to them.

>at least use my full name,

Again, if you ever learn to read and understand what is actually written (in this case, on my web site) you will find that I have used your full name.

Enough! I have already wasted too much time on your drivel. Please do not email me again.
--
Stephen Tonkin

My comment (JMJ): Clearly, he was getting upset, which wasn't my intention, but that seems to have resulted from his resistance to accepting that, at the very least, he had mis-applied his terminology. Since he cleverly avoided actually responding sensibly to my call for making a distinction in his mis-use of the terminology (and since he had taken an offensive and annoying ad hominen approach, I felt one final response was in order:

[Mr Tonkin,]

One final comment, then I'm out of your hair forever...
It's always easier for debunkers to indulge in soliloquies, rather than dialogue with those whose ideas they arrogantly presume to debunk. You can dish it out but you can't take it. I've been diplomatic, patient, and clear (and the issue isn't the greatdreams plagiarism). Now your true colors show and you're casting aspersions and stereotyping me into your preconceived category of "my kind." That's quite unprofessional and immature. I'm aware of the definition of colure, but we've been discussing the colure where it coincides with the solstice point (that is why I said "solstice point"). Seems like you're grasping for red herrings. Your error, which you continue to evade addressing, is the difference between "solstice sun" and "solstice point." I guess the debate is whether it's appropriate to apply astronomical abstractions (assumed measurement from centers) when the terminology used indicates an actual physical body with a size measurement. Your debunking applies to one phrasing of it (a phrasing not found in the quote you cite), but not to the other.

Listen, why don't you just admit you were vague in your language, eat crow, and correct your terminology? Is that really so hard? True statement: "The solstice sun is in conjunction with the galactic equator in 2012." I've already qualified this statement in my previous email, basing the veracity of the statement on the fact that the "solstice sun" is half a degree wide. (Even functional idiots can understand the picture below). This is a reasonable caveat. Also, you don't have to be so mean and vindictive; you know nothing about me personally. I'm sorry if I upset you.

Adios

[Note: this last response was sent to Tonkin, but was blocked and returned to me unread.]

Postscript. For a reality check on my contribution to how this exchange unfolded, I decided to ask Jonathan Zap for comments. His interpretation was, as always, insightful and on target: Zap's Comments are here.