In this episode, I make some new friends in the skeptical podcast and blogging community, I take a look at more claims from ancient aliens theorists, answer some comments, and recommend a book in the Dumbass Book Club
I came across this interesting looking show the other week, and it looked like it would be a great opportunity to record it to my computer so that I could analyze it at my leisure and see what I have to say about it.
The show is called Fact Or Faked: Paranormal Files
In concept, this is very much the kind of television programming I'd like to see more of. This is a group of six investigators gathered together by a former FBI agent in order to investigate paranormal claims. This stalwart band of paranormal sleuths is introduced during the opening credits as follows:
Ben: Former FBI Agent Bill: Lead Scientist Jael: Journalist Larry: Effects Specialist Chi-Lan: Photography Expert Austin: Stunt Expert
I'm a little concerned by the "Lead Scientist" designation for Bill. Without any more information, calling somebody a "Lead Scientist" is absolutely meaningless. What's his expertise? What are his credentials?
I've mused before about how to think about expertise. The experts are more likely to have their facts straight, so when an expert gives you a fact you should certainly take it seriously. But even when people have all their facts straight, they can still be wrong in their conclusions. That's why I don't have a problem with people questioning the experts. Even if you're wrong, I believe there's a benefit to bringing up these kind of challenges. It's just when people aren't willing to listen to the rebuttals and understand what's being said that things get out of hand.
I just came across a perfect example about how expert, in-depth knowledge of a subject, is no guarantee that your conclusions are in any way valid. I've transcribed a quote from Michael Heisser, who actually gave a very good speech debunking the claims of ancient alien theorist Zechariah Sitchin. Sitchin makes claims to be an expert on ancient languages and to have made some incredible translations. Heisser, who actually is an expert in ancient languages, shows quite clearly that Sitchin is just full of it. But that doesn't mean that Heisser doesn't have poorly thought out ideas about the subject himself, as shown by the following quote from the question and answer segment:
Tsoukalos announced on the 21st that the History channel has decided to order sixteen more episodes to make up season 3 of the Ancient Aliens series. Its' scheduled to come out in late spring of 2011. Wow!
Each time I do an analysis of the show it takes me several days of work just to cover all the claims made in one ten minute segment of the program. Most of it is stuff that people just pulled out of thin air, but unlike Tsoukalos, I actually believe in due diligence and getting all my facts straight.
So, of course, they've got all these claims floating out there unanswered, and nobody on the other side has the time or resources to tackle them all one at a time. I'm certainly not going to attempt to exhaustively analyze every single show in the series. Just the one is enough of a handful!
And it's extremely funny when you hear that the History Channel has rejected a documentary about the Kenedy's because it was counter-factual. Yep, that's a double standard alright! But what do you expect? More people are going to complain loudly when they lie about the Kenedies. When Ancient Aliens comes on, we just grumble and make smart-ass comments.
Not that we should get angry and complain more loudly, that will just make us look like we've got a stick up our collective asses. It's just disheartening to watch them continue to distort history willy nilly and get away with it scott free.
In this episode of The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge podcast, I do a little reflecting on my experience since creating this podcast, and I do some analysis on my interview with Karl Mamer on his podcast, The Conspiracy Skeptic. Then I read an article I wrote all about definitions and how they can be misapplied. Finally, I start up the Dumbass Book Club, and I take a look at visitor comments.
You've got to love the crystal skulls. They're little skulls that started showing up only in the past 100 - 200 years or so. They've never actually been discovered by any documented archaeological dig, they seem to just be sold to tourists for fun. But that doesn't stop people from claiming without any evidence that they're ancient in origin:
I'm not aware of these myths of crystal skulls among ancient people, I'd really like to know where that's coming from. But I love this idea that there are 13 skulls hidden in remote and hazardous areas of the earth waiting until mankind is ready to discover them. That's the plot of a movie right there!
They love to just make up stuff and hope that nobody notices. For example, they say that the famous Mitchell-Hedges skull was verified as being over 12,000 years old by scientists at the Hewlett-Packard labs. The skull was brought to the lab, but the scientists never did any tests to determine it's age. All they found out was that the skull was all made from the same piece of crystal.
So they can truthfully say that they took it in for scientific testing, then fib about the results hoping that nobody would look into it too deeply.
The crystal skulls are really one area where proponents really don't have a single shred of evidence to go on. All they manage to come up with is speculation. I mean, they claim that if you put them together they'll form a computer? That didn't come from any evidence, that's just something that some guy pulled out of thin air!
It's an entertaining theory though, so at least it's got that going for it. Good fiction should ideally be entertaining, after all.
So, for my second episode of the Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge podcast, I decided to go over the material from my first article on ancient aliens. Consider this to be the newly revised and updated version of that article, now with accompanying audio.
I think it turned out alright. Take a listen and judge for yourself:
I won't do all the ancient alien shows in a row. I'll intersperse them with my other articles. But I'm pretty happy with the way that my articles on this subject have turned out so I'll keep on coming back to it.
My analysis of the Ancient Aliens television show so far has garnered the most attention of anything that I've written. My thanks to everybody who's written in to encourage me in my efforts, and even to the people who've challenged me in the comment sections. I love all the feedback, even when it doesn't feed my ravenous dumbass ego.
I figured that it was high time that I rolled up my sleeves and tackled the next segment of the Ancient Aliens evidence show. This is my fifth article sequentially analyzing the show itself, and I've written several other related articles. If you're interested in seeing everything I've written on the subject, click on the "ancient alien theory" keyword above. Click here to watch the show, and you can decide for yourself whether I'm being fair in my analysis.
In this segment, we'll be talking about the art of ancient stone cutting, and the claims made by proponents of Ancient Aliens.
I would like to give special thanks to Yannis Deliyannis, a historian who has spent over a decade looking at Ancient Alien claims. I've mentioned Yannis' blog before, Chronicon Mirabilium, where he looks at ancient anomalous celestial phenomena and mysterious history. Yannis was nice enough to take the time to answer some of my questions and point me to some great resources that really helped me put this article together more quickly than would have otherwise been possible.
I would also like to thank Susan Johnston, archaeologist and anthropologist at George Washington University. Professor Johnston is the lecturer in a lecture series called "Myths and Mysteries in Archaeology", check out this podcast episode from Modern Scholar where she discusses archaeology and her new course. She was nice enough to take the time to talk with me over email and help me to consider different perspectives from which to tackle the claims that I've been looking at.
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