Yesterday I started reviewing the new book from Jim Vieira and Hugh Newman, Giants on Record, and today I’m going to continue the agonizing slog. I will likely surprise none of my regular readers if I offer a couple of spoilers: the book is chock full of bad research and contains several obvious instances of cut-and-paste plagiarism from the internet.
Jim Vieira has made a career out of imagining that old newspaper stories about giants are true, and Hugh Newman has done just as well by attaching his name to other people’s fringe theories, whether it be the ancient astronaut theory on Ancient Aliens or gigantology on Vieira’s History Channel series Search for the Lost Giants. The pair have teamed up for Giants on Record: America’s Hidden History, Secrets in the Mounds and the Smithsonian Files, a book that is nearly identical in form and content to Richard Dewhurst’s Ancient Giants Who Ruled America (with one notable exception discussed later), and it made me wonder who exactly would need more than one collection of similar newspaper reports about giants interspersed with conspiracy theories about the Nephilim and Atlantis.
This week Graham Hancock appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience for a three-hour discussion of fringe history, which is the length of two feature movies. If you made it through the entire three hours in one sitting, you have much more patience than I do. It’s a mind-numbing slog through Hancock’s id, and it was one that came complete with his now-frequent claim that attacks on his work hurt his feelings. “I’m human,” he said, “and it hurts.” Over the course of the three-hour discussion, Hancock discussed attacks on him and how archaeologists are working to discredit him almost a dozen times that I counted—and I skipped over some parts. The pity party overshadowed pretty much everything else in the discussion.
Regular readers of my blog know that I don’t think much of the research prowess of Ivan Petricevic, the proprietor of Ancient Code, an ancient astronaut “news” site. This week Petricevic recycled an old ancient astronaut and UFO claim and in so doing started yet another round of reader excitement over what is almost certainly a lie.
History Channel Releases Official "Ancient Aliens" Guide for Children, Teaches Kids Aliens Are Behind Everything
I don’t always get outraged by the terrible choices that cable TV makes. Cable channels have always done terrible things in the name of profit, but yesterday I learned of a horrible new product that flew under the radar when it was released a few months ago. Just seeing it made my blood boil, and I hope you’ll agree that it symbolizes pretty much everything wrong with American education and popular history in the twenty-first century.
That product? The Young Investigator’s Guide to Ancient Aliens: Based on the Hit Television Series, a book tie-in to the Ancient Aliens TV series, which carries the History Channel’s official endorsement and authorship and was released by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan, one of America’s largest book publishers. The volume is aimed at readers aged 8 to 12, though after skimming the book I’d think it’s perhaps a bit too ambitious for an 8 year old. (I wonder if grades 8-12 was what was meant instead.)
I regret to inform you that after I posted my review of the first half of Alan Butler’s and Janet Wolter’s America: Nation of the Goddess, the publisher, Destiny Books (an imprint of Inner Traditions), deleted the galley proofs from their online review copy page on Scribd. As a result, I lost access to the text before I had a chance to finish writing my review of the book. (The text was only accessible online and could not be copied or saved, as per the publisher’s security settings.) However unlikely a coincidence it is that review copy access was revoked the moment a bad review was posted, the galleys may have been taken down because the book was about to go on sale. Unfortunately, that means that I am not able to go back to the book for specifics in reviewing the sections I had previously skimmed in preparation for writing about the book in sections.
The following discussion is based on some notes I made and my skimming of the chapters. If it should happen that I get access to a copy of the book sometime in the near future I may revisit this with additional details, if any of the claims deserve further discussion.
Yesterday I began my review of America: Nation of the Goddess, the new book by Alan Butler and Janet Wolter that accuses the Grange of being a pagan cult dedicated to suppressing the truth about Jesus and worshiping the Earth Goddess. I must admit that I am having difficulty reviewing this book because it contains no source notes, and the bibliography contains virtually no sources, meaning that the book is simply a series of opinion-based assertions predicated on the reader’s familiarity with and acceptance of Alan Butler’s earlier books and Scott Wolter’s TV show. As I continue my review, I’m going to need to be a bit more selective in my coverage since I realized that the book has 21 chapters, and yesterday 2,000 words covered only three.
America: Nation of the Goddess is the new book from Alan Butler, with whom I have history, and Janet Wolter, the wife of Scott Wolter, with whom I also have history. This makes the book somewhat interesting in that Butler’s onetime writing partner, Christopher Knight, once threatened legal action against me for reviewing one of their joint books without permission, and Wolter’s husband’s TV network once threatened legal action against me for publishing a book criticizing his TV show without their permission. Anyway, the lesser halves of these teams have teamed up to explore what Scott Wolter, in his introduction to the volume, calls the “greatest coup d’état” in history, in which the descendants of Jesus—the “Venus Families”—took over the world. And they did it, the authors claim, with the help of the Grange. Yes, the farming organization. They came to this conclusion, as they say in the acknowledgements, with the help of Committee Films, whose writers shared their research for America Unearthed with the authors.
Ancient Aliens in Bulgaria! Plus: A German Interview with Jens Notroff on Pseudohistory at Gobekli Tepe
Earlier today the website of the Daily Express carried a disturbing article about yet another attempt to pass off a child mummy as an alien. According to writer Jon Austin, who made an unusual number of typos, indicating the seriousness with which the Express took he story, several UFO “experts” at a conference in Sofia, Bulgaria displayed the body of what skeptics say was a human child. They identified the 50-inch mummy as an alien being stolen from a Mayan tomb in Mexico. (Note: The linked article does not have photo of the actual mummy.) After admitting to what would, if true, seem to be several violations of Mexican and international law, the so-called UFO experts claimed that the lack of ears on the mummy proved it was a Grey alien. Bulgaria has been a hotbed of alien activity for years, with Bulgarian government scientists claiming to be in contact with aliens via crop circle Q-and-A sessions, Bulgarians capturing Greys on camera, and Bulgarians seeing aliens in the woods.
Were Bible Writers High on Mushrooms? Matt Kaplan Thinks So: My Review of "Science of the Magical" (Pt. 3)
Over the past few days, I’ve been reviewing Economist science writer Matt Kaplan’s new book Science of the Magical (Scribner, 2015), and as I noted yesterday, I’ve been having a hard time describing exactly what it is supposed to be. As I try to make my way through the last part of the book, the best I can say is that it is an attempt to make the audience experience some of the wonder of science that the author feels by paralleling scientific advances of the present to ancient stabs at magic from the past. But even that isn’t quite right since the author freely mixes myth with history and science with euhemerism. The best I can say is that the author wanted to write about subjects of interest to him and visit a bunch of ancient sites in Europe, and he found someone to pay him to do so. That would be the Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT, a nine-month paid residency at MIT and Harvard which he was awarded last year.
The biggest surprise of all came in the acknowledgements: that Harvard University’s faculty and students in Folklore and Mythology assisted the author in developing his ideas. Wow. Just, wow. He literally got paid to study mythology, had an entire Harvard University team helping him, and still produced this. I feel bad about not liking the book, particularly since it really should be the kind of thing I enjoy, but it was just so… thin. When I think about how much money was spent on the research and how many advantages he had in being able to travel anywhere and talk to anyone, I can’t help but think that the book should have been much stronger than it is, and perhaps even more insightful than the Jason and the Argonauts through the Ages investigation I literally assembled on a budget of $99. (That was my big outlay; my other books were done for $50 or less.)
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.
Enter your email below to subscribe to my newsletter, The Skeptical Xenoarchaeologist, for updates on my latest projects, blog posts, and activities.