The Curse of Oak Island had its season (and possibly series) finale last night, and after big promises about a major discovery, nothing much happened. The team found some colonial era materials, including a gold button, and that was that. No evidence of pre-Columbian expeditions came to light, and with that my interest faded to nothing. It’s what I expected. A real discovery would have prompted news coverage long ago. Such is life.
Several years ago, I wrote about the Soviet search for ancient astronauts, and how the Communist government endorsed the ancient astronaut theory as part of a propaganda campaign aimed at undermining Western science. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Soviet science and Soviet media published a baffling range of ancient astronaut claims, which spilled over into Europe and helped to give the aura of officialdom to ancient astronaut claims, which in turn filtered into America in the 1970s. I learned from a Russian correspondent, Grigory Nekhoroshev, that there is some additional evidence that should be added to what I had uncovered before, and it is fascinating.
Massimo Pigliucci Advocates for Virtue Epistemology in Skepticism, Seems to Accidentally Justify Using Ad Hominem Attacks
Since I discussed some of the articles on skepticism in the current issue of the Skeptical Inquirer yesterday, I thought it was worthwhile to mention one more, which I saved for a separate post because, while it is on a similar topic, its approach is very different. Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci has a piece on virtue ethics in skepticism and asks whether skeptics should be experts in the topics they discuss. It’s an interesting argument, and I think one that skeptics as a group need to come to terms with, but which Pigliucci fails to take to its logical conclusions in a couple of different directions.
"Skeptical Inquirer" Tries to Defend Scientific Skepticism, Slides into Secular Humanist and Atheist Political Advocacy
Over the years, I have been critical of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly CSICOP) and its parent organization, the Center for Free Inquiry. As a result of the particular interests of its founding generation, notably philosopher Paul Kurtz, CSI has routinely conflated scientific skepticism with secular humanism, going so far as to ostracize those who aren’t atheists from the skeptical movement. This tendency will only grow worse now that CFI has officially merged with the Richard Dawkins Foundation, another group that is officially dedicated to science and reason but is informally an atheist advocacy group. I think that it is a mistake to claim skepticism as a cadet branch of atheism.
Sure, It's Funny That Ken Ham Is Planning a Nephilim vs. Dinosaurs Exhibit, But Did You Read the Revealing Tweet-Storm That Followed?
Creationist Ken Ham is a holy hypocrite, at least as far as his claim to follow only the strict text of the Bible goes. Ham is the founder of Answers in Genesis and the brains behind the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter theme park. The last of these is a partially taxpayer-funded religious indoctrination center in the shape of a replica of Noah’s Ark. In this Ark, Ham happily twists both history and the Bible to create a Bible-adjacent pseudo-historical fantasia of what he imagines life was like before Noah’s Flood. In the latest affront to history and to reason, Ham released photos yesterday on Twitter and Facebook of a new diorama he plans to add to the Ark. It features Nephilim giants fighting humans and dinosaurs inside an amphitheater.
David Wilcock Claims an Evil "Cabal" of Aliens and Democrats Are Trying to Stop Trump from Defeating Evil, Revealing Truth about Atlantis
It’s been a couple of weeks since we last had Atlantis news—back when National Geographic turned the lost continent into a proto-Jewish paradise—so we are about due for more Atlantis claims. This week we have two of them. The first, and less bonkers of them, comes to us via Ancient Origins, where Phil Flambas tells us that he believes that Atlantis was located in the Caribbean, in the parts of the sea floor that were above water during the last Ice Age. We’ve heard this claim before, and there is really nothing new to it except that Flambas wants us to believe that he reached his conclusion by taking Plato literally. “I have spent six years researching all of Plato’s descriptions in the Timaeus and Critias as being true and precise.” That’s great, but Plato said that Atlantis had elephants in it, and the Caribbean, so far as I know, has no evidence of elephants, or even mammoths and mastodons, in it. I assume he would argue that we simply haven’t found them yet, or that Atlantis extended into the mammoths’ Mexican range, but it would be helpful for there to be some sort of evidence for a lost city in the area c. 9600 BCE.
Thursday Odds and Ends: A Blow to the Younger Dryas Comet Hypothesis, Lovecraft among the Alt-Right, and More!
Do you remember back in December when I described the cheap Chinese mechanical watch I bought on eBay? At the time, I had expected that it would last six months before crapping out, but it turns out that I was being overly optimistic. The M. G. Orkina brand mechanical watch died this week. I went to wind it, and the winding stem fell off, followed by several small gears that disengaged from the movement, stopping the watch. The watch lasted just about eight weeks. It was a learning experience. Apparently it is possible to make crap that is so cheap that it fails to meet even my lowest expectations.
Why the Icelandic "Dracula" Adaptation Is Probably Not Evidence for a Lost Original Version of Bram Stoker's Classic Vampire Novel
Yesterday I discussed the “lost” Icelandic version of Dracula that was recently translated into English by Hans de Roos and published as Powers of Darkness. I was curious enough about the claims made by de Roos in his lionization of the 1900/1901 Icelandic adaptation of Dracula--that the book was based on early drafts of the novel and contained Stoker’s abandoned first ideas—that I ended up going to check out Bram Stoker’s notes (in facsimile) in order to evaluate whether de Roos is right that Stoker’s notes must be the source of some key details in the Icelandic adaptation called Makt Myrkranna produced by Valdimar Ásmundsson. When I first read de Roos’s claims, I wanted to believe them, and as you can tell from my blog post yesterday, I was more or less happy to go along with de Roos because the subject was so interesting and, with decades of Dracula scholarship under his belt, de Roos seemed like a credible scholar. But like the art historians who sensed the Getty Kouros was fake before they knew exactly why, my unconscious mind kept telling me something was wrong even before I knew what. The particular claim that caught my eye was the allegation that the mute housekeeper in the Icelandic version of Dracula must have come from Stoker’s abandoned notes for the novel. Once I started digging, everything fell apart.
"Dracula" Scholar Publishes Translation of "Lost" Version, Investigates the Mystery of "Dracula" in Iceland
Last night Rick and Marty Lagina appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to discuss The Curse of Oak Island. It was … I almost said interesting, but it wasn’t. After 52 years (!) of interest in Oak Island, neither Lagina was able to articulate the Oak Island story in anything resembling a concise or even interesting way. At one point Colbert needed to remind the brothers that while he knows the story of Oak Island, his audience contains many people who do not, so they need to actually explain why anyone should care about its supposed buried treasure. The closest they came to providing a reason was when Rick said he got interested in the idea in 1965 when he read about it in Reader’s Digest, with a close second coming when the brothers explained that there were lots of logs and rocks and stuff underground. Sadly, that was just about a perfect summation of The Curse of Oak Island.
Would You Believe Yoga Can Prove the Olmec Came from Vedic India? This Man Does, and Graham Hancock Wants You to Meet Him
After a week of heavy political material, I imagine we can all use a break with a case of classic ridiculousness. No, I’m not talking about Scott Wolter’s bizarre tweet in which he speculated that the light fixtures around the U.S. Capitol are secret copies of the Ark of the Covenant, or the one later in which he imagined that the Lincoln Memorial, modeled on a Doric temple, is also the Ark. Instead, I am talking about the special guest article by Bibhu Dev Misra on Graham Hancock’s website in which the Hindu nationalist speculates that the Olmec are in fact secret descendants of Vedic Indians because of yoga!
I'm an author and editor who has published on a range of topics, including archaeology, science, and horror fiction. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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