Tonight’s episode, “A Spaceship Made of Stone,” focuses on the Ishi-no-Hōden (“Stone Treasure-House”) megalith in Japan, a large roughly cubic rock carved out of the side of a hill between 500 and 700 CE, and it is said to hold the spirit of the deity of the Jinja Shinto shrine in which it sits. It weighs about 500 tons, and its most impressive feature is the clever way its base was carved into a narrow pedestal to give the illusion that it floats above the water atop which it sits. The monument has been known to the West since at least 1832, when Philipp Franz von Siebold, a German who disguised himself as a Dutchman in order to sneak into an isolationist Japan, published a picture of it in the first volume of his Nippon. The monolith appears on tonight’s show because last year, when the current batch of episodes was being planned out, an article and video about the cube made the rounds of the fringe history message boards and spam sites, where Ancient Aliens gets all its ideas.
Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. When Ancient Aliens started down the path of saying that all human genius was the result of human brains tapping into an alien internet signal, it stood to reason that eventually they would deny that even our own sense of self, our consciousness, belongs to us but rather is a projection from another realm, thus accounting for reincarnation and psychic channeling. This is similar to the New Age idea that the brain is really a receiver for consciousness from the spirit world—i.e., that consciousness is a projection from a realm beyond the physical into the material world. They just bastardize the idea down to its grossest level, which, frankly, is what Ancient Aliens always does. This is New Age religion for dummies, dummies who aren’t quite ready to commit full on to faith and still want to pretend that this is all either entertainment or science.
The title of the episode, “The Replicants,” suggests that the episode will focus on mind-control, soul-cloning, or something like that. The actual content never addresses the episode title at all. What a missed opportunity.
It’s been a good ten seasons since Ancient Aliens had an original idea, so it goes without saying that we’ve heard much of the material in tonight’s episode before. In this episode, the show is looking to go beyond its typical claim that humans were genetically engineered by aliens to extend the aliens’ plans to animals. We’ve seen elements of this in the past, from the time when Giorgio Tsoukalos alleged that space aliens made a peace treaty with coelacanths to protect them from a dinosaur-killing asteroid to the time that the show claimed that Bigfoot arrived on Earth in a flying saucer. But the real purpose of this episode is to cast doubt on evolutionary theory, a disturbingly common theme that the show has been pushing since its decision to adopt creationist claims and rhetoric.
Ancient Aliens has been working hard to find ways to refresh its old formula, and this season the producers have struck upon twin strategies. First, each episode is now framed around a field piece starring one of the show’s most important talking heads, and, second, the show has made its peace with creationists, nationalists, and other unsavory types, gleefully adding their claims to the core ideas of the ancient astronaut theory. We saw this when the show embraced creationist claims about “OOPARTS,” and in “Voices of the Gods” producers embrace the extreme claims of Hindu nationalists, melding together old claims about India from UFO literature with bonkers efforts by the government of Prime Minister Modi to celebrate India’s supposed prehistoric technological past based on dubious readings of Sanskrit texts. The show also leaves aside the vexing problem that so many of these claims originate not among native Indians but rather among white Europeans of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who sought to celebrate Aryan heritage by looking for the “oldest” Aryan myths, legends, and sciences among the oldest layers of Indian civilization, a layer then presumed to be a “pure” representation of ancestral Indo-European culture.
Almost twenty years ago, biologist E. O. Wilson published Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, in which he postulated that the various fields of human knowledge can be linked at a deep level and that one day we will unify the sciences and the humanities. But what about false forms of knowledge? Do they have a deep connection, too? Is there such as think as Collusion: The Unity of Anti-Knowledge? If there is, then Ancient Aliens represents collusion at its worst. Tonight’s episode plunges us to new lows when New Age guru Deepak Chopra brings his carnival of crazy claims about quantum consciousness to a program ostensibly, though rarely actually, about space aliens. All of this occurs in service of an episode dedicated to the Akashic Record, a name that should sound familiar since Ancient Aliens has already covered it several times before. The Akashic Record is a modern pious fraud, an alleged ancient Indian concept of a universal record of all past, present, and future knowledge accessible by psychic power.
Wednesday Roundup: History Channel "Investigating" "Earhart" Photo; Plus: Gaia Claims New Alien Mummies and Marzulli Claims Demons Pretend to Be the Virgin Mary
According to a new poll from Pew Research, a clear majority of Republicans, 58%, now view higher education as bad for America. While the poll did not distinguish between Republicans who view education itself as bad and those who are angry at colleges and universities for being too “liberal” and therefore bad, the results are overall disturbing for anyone who cares about education and scholarship.
Almost anyone who has an interest in ufology knows of the Majestic-12 documents, a cache of alleged U.S. government documents outlining the government’s secret involvement with space aliens in the middle twentieth century. The first of these documents began circulating in 1984, with a second set of papers released in 1994, and all but diehard true believers understand that they are fake. That did not stop Ancient Aliens from devoting an entire hour to them. I’m not sure whether it is an improvement that the show is now being honest about its willingness to accept any lie that can be spun into entertainment, or whether it should be considered a further diminution of the History Channel brand. Considering History is currently promoting a blurry undated photograph showing either a teenage boy or a mannish woman as alleged proof of Amelia Earhart’s fate, I’m not sure they can really fall any further.
I remember reading the Majestic-12 documents online back in the 1990s, when it seemed like a big deal and an exciting thing that the internet had given me dramatic access to. I remember thinking they were pretty stupid back then, and I don’t feel any different now. However, I still lack a passion for modern ufology, so it was something of a slog to sit through an hour-long discussion of a topic that bored me back when I still cared about UFOs.It is for that reason that I also had no interest in watching the two-hour UFO documentary that followed this episode.
Another Celebrity Endorses "Ancient Aliens"; Plus: A Newspaper Explores the Show's Connection to Orange County, Calif. and the UFO Movement
In the ongoing parade of celebrities who have enthusiastically endorsed the History Channel pseudo-documentary series Ancient Aliens, we can add yet another entry: former Glee star Chris Colfer. In an appearance on The Tonight Show this week, Colfer said that during the grieving process following the death of his mother, he spent long nights watching Ancient Aliens marathons. “I got like really, really into it,” he said. “They just kind of talk about things in history that might have been influenced by extraterrestrials. And I bought every word of it.” While Colfer might not buy “every word” today, he is still entranced enough with the show to have recently visited Peru in search of ancient astronaut evidence. “Peru is one of the extraterrestrial hotspots. So I was like I have to go, and see if I see something. And I didn’t.”
For a TV show that attracts between 1 and 2 million weekly viewers, it commands an absurdly large number of celebrity viewers.
“What’s the frequency, Kenneth?” That was the nonsensical question that a mugger asked former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather back in the 1980s. Before that, hippies asked about the “vibe” and the Beach Boys sang about “Good Vibrations.” For a long time now there has been a New Age belief that vibrations and electromagnetic frequencies have a secret occult meaning connected to the underlying architecture of the universe. Without getting into unnecessary detail, the modern version seems to be a sort of marriage between modern scientific notions of the constant state of movement of subatomic particles with the ancient idea of the music of the spheres, the resonance through which the cosmos produced mathematical harmony, just as a vibrating string produces a note.
Ancient Aliens offered its own discordant hour of musical meltdown in an episode, “The Alien Frequency,” devoted to the “discovery” that monuments around the world all vibrate to the same imaginary frequency, a signal that they attribute to the operation of space aliens.
My son was none too happy trying to sleep last night, and so my review probably has extra typos this week because of my tired eyes. I am sure I probably missed a few crazy claims as well. Oh well. This week’s episode of Ancient Aliens, “City of the Gods,” is devoted to the city of Teotihuacan, which is not terribly original of them since they have been claiming the city to be evidence of alien involvement since the first season of the show. On the other hand, we had a Maya specialist and a (sort of) UCLA physicist on to trade their intellectual credibility for TV air time.
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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