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:
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.
The story is that Alexander came across a group of "flying shields" during the siege of Tyre. The story apparently originated with Frank Edwards, who I've run across before when looking for the source of a story about a psychic detective.
The guy never bothered to list any of his sources, and I get the feeling that at least half the time he just pulled stuff out of thin air. That certainly seems to be the case here, because there's absolutely no historical account that backs up Edwards' story as he described it.
It still amazes me how many of the stories and claims that I've looked into are based on absolutely nothing. When I first started writing this blog I expected that most such stories would at least have some kernel of verifiable truth that has been taken out of context and exaggerated beyond all recognition.
But contrary to my naive expectations, it seems like a good deal of the time, perhaps even most of the time, there's just nothing there. Somebody pulled the story right out of thin air, and that's all there is too it.
It makes the whole endeavour just a little bit anti-climactic. But I guess that's the way things go.
The last three segments dealt mostly with flight, but we're finally moving away from that. Now we're talking about construction techniques, and this is the topic that I see most frequently brought up in support of Ancient Aliens theory by theorists and laypeople alike.
Everybody knows that the pyramids are seriously big-ass buildings, made up of big, heavy stones. Many people wonder, if the ancient Egyptians didn't have modern machinery, how the hell did they do it?
Back in February I read an old book of supposedly true tales of the Paranormal called Nightmare Island:
It provided me with some good blog material, such as the title story, and the story of the Ghost Cavalry. It also provided me with an interesting story about a psychic detective that, in spite of having no details I could verify, was at least fun to talk about.
Many of the rest of the tales are even more nebulous than that, and don't have even as much substance to them to warrant a full blog post. So I've decided to pick out a few of them to analyze here:
You've gotta love this Ancient Aliens stuff. It's time to take a look at the third segment of this episode, where they talk about the evidence for an ancient worldwide communications network.
We might as well just label this segment "Ancient Flight Part 3", since they're just talking more about what they consider to be evidence for ancient flying ships.
You can view this episode here, Each segment corresponds roughly to one of the ten minute YouTube entries. So this third segment begins in the third YouTube video, beginning at 2:57. The segment ends in the fourth video at 3:32.
You can see my reviews of the first two segments here and here.
So, let's get our hands dirty and look at the new claims being made here.
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