The Sophists argued in such a way, that they either presented a theory or point that could not be proven or disproven, and then went on to attack anyone who opposed their views. With great success, I might add. See, they were trained in the art of speaking, reasoning and rhetoric. Their greatest skill came from poking whole in the oppositions arguments (in philosophy or religious matters, this is of course not hard to do), instead of coming up with their own ideas. The onlookers would then percieve the opposition to be faulty, or wrong, since the Sophists could poke holes in their reasoning, which in term had to mean that whatever the Sophists meant, had to be right.
We see the same kind of rhetoric from a number of the most famous conspiracy theorists in the world. Most notably, David Icke. He reasons that since he has called members of the Royal Family, high ranking officials, celebrities etc "malicious, conniving lizards from outer space" - and they haven't pressed charges, it must mean that he is correct. In other words, labeling someone something, and then having a lack of response, must simply mean that the labelling was correct.
This is, of course, a highly moronic way of reasoning. By using the same way of logic, one could argue the most bizarre things. If I say Barack Obama is a martian, and he does not come forward to disprove this claim or press charges, that doesn't mean it's true. Also, this is the same logic one could use to "prove" every type of religion. "You cannot disprove Ganesha, Reincarnation, God, Allah, The Great Pink Elephant etc, therefore they must exist"?
Conspiracy theorists rely heavily on this flawed logic. They present thesis and theories which are built upon evidence they claim someone is hiding. Hence, since the evidence is "hidden", the public can neither prove nor disprove these allegations. For the conpiracy theorists, this then, is presented as evidence to back up their story. And it's almost as silly as the famous witch hunts that took place all over the western world at one point. Since there was no way to disprove you were a witch (other than fatal ones), there was simply no way you could win.
People like David Icke, who has also mastered the skill of public speaking, are a threat to the feeble minded, those who don't think very far, or demand solid evidence for theories being presented to them. He hurls out all kinds of things, which of course, seem to make sense when he says them. And because the world ignores him, he then proclaims this is solid proof that he is right. Which leads to todays situation, where probably tens of thousands actually believe that the Queen of England is a lizard in a human costume.
It's the same reasoning behind the 2012 scare (or 2011, October). Lots of theories are presented as facts. when they are in fact, not. Take Planet X for example. Disregarding the most moronic of the claims about this unknown planet, and grabbing hold of the only one that matters - the fact that it's going to crash into earth or the moon in 2012 - is easily disprovable. For a heavenly body to have such a mass as to be a threat, and a course that would hit us withing that timeframe, the planet would actually be visible with the naked eye already (allthough only as a slightly larger dot in the sky), and very visible with a hobby telescope. It's not there.
Secondly, the whole mayan thing. It is claimed that the mayas predicted the end of the world in 2012. First of all, Mayas thought the world had been created 3114 years B.C. They count in baktuns (400 years), and there are 13 baktuns in a cycle (or are there?). 2012 is then the cycle starts over, according to some. However, consider this when putting too much emphasis on the mayan culture: they thought the earth was flat, with 4 corners, resting on the back of a crocodile. There are also several refernces in Mayan texts to dates set after 2012, among them the celebration of several kings ascencions. The mayan calendar actually makes a cycle in 4772, which is when the Pictun cycles (20 baktuns). Furthermore, there are no mayan texts mentioning any doomsday or apocalypse.
So, where does it all come from? Well, doomsayers, movie makers and writer who want to make money.
Don't believe the facts I've presented? Have a look at these sites, and just generally use Google and remember to check what source you're using. Is it someone having an opinion, or is there several peer reviewed experts? It's up to you. Of course, there are bound to be conspiracy theorists who will answer this blog post with "science is lies" or "these sources are no more credible than X" or "it's just a cover up for the truth!". Well, good sirs, you believe the fear mongering stuff you read, I'll just enjoy my life and know that we'll still be here in 2013.
http://www.2012hoax.org/mayan-prediction This site has several external links to actual reserachers and factual works.
http://news.discovery.com/space/the-2012-mayan-calendar-doomsday-date-might-be-wrong.html A decent article that also lists sources that are credible.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/11/091106-2012-end-of-world-myths.html Also very factual, and based on actual science.
http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ask-an-astrobiologist/intro/nibiru-and-doomsday-2012-questions-and-answers A site that rounds up some of the most notorious theories and debunks them.