Today I have a grab bag of a few newsworthy items to share.
First, as many of you already know a new study published today in Nature provides yet more evidence confirming that the earliest people to reach the Americas came from Asia, not from Europe. The research by Morten Rasmussen et al. analyzed the genome of human bones from an infant found in conjunction with Clovis artifacts in western Montana, as a site called Anzick, and date back to approximately 10,600 BCE. According to the abstract:
We sequenced the genome to an average depth of 14.4× and show that the gene flow from the Siberian Upper Palaeolithic Mal’ta population into Native American ancestors is also shared by the Anzick-1 individual and thus happened before 12,600 years bp. We also show that the Anzick-1 individual is more closely related to all indigenous American populations than to any other group. Our data are compatible with the hypothesis that Anzick-1 belonged to a population directly ancestral to many contemporary Native Americans. Finally, we find evidence of a deep divergence in Native American populations that predates the Anzick-1 individual.
Taken with the study published recently in Nature showing similar results from genetic testing of a Siberian skeleton, it is looking more and more like the first Americans were a genetically diverse group of people from northeast Asia who had migrated from central Asia, picked up new members along the way, and kept on moving into the Americas. While this does not categorically exclude European intervention, it is yet another instance where the European genetic contribution suggested by the Solutrean hypothesis failed to turn up.
Noah’s Ark Movie Controversy
The new blockbuster movie version of the story of Noah and the Ark will be coming to theaters soon, and The Hollywood Reporter has an interesting behind the scenes look at Paramount’s efforts to massage conservative Christian perceptions of the film after test audiences and religious leaders complained that it is not scripturally accurate. The film features six-armed fallen angels, so I’m going to bet that Nephilim theorists like L. A. Marzulli will be championing the film as propaganda for their creationist claims.
But what I found interesting was the exasperation of the studio executives when self-described “significantly conservative” Christian audiences complained about “inaccuracies” that were actually in the Bible:
In some cases, [Paramount vice chair Rob] Moore says, "people had recollections of the story that weren't actually correct." For example, there was Noah's ability to open and close the door to the ark. "People said the door to the ark is supposed to be so big that no man can close it. Well no, that's not actually what it says. What it says is that God ultimately shut the door of the ark when the flood comes, so it wasn't Noah shutting the door on the rest of humanity -- it was God making a decision."
And then there's the scene -- which actually is in the Bible -- in which Noah, back on land after the flood, gets drunk by himself in a cave. "But most people do not remember or were never taught the fact that after Noah's off the ark, there is a moment in the story where he is drunk," says Moore.
It’s an interesting balancing act: Does an entertainment cater to its audiences’ prejudices and beliefs, even when they are wrong? What is the right choice when self-described believers don’t know or don’t want to know what is in the texts they want to see accurately translated to film? Also: How can you be offended by a depiction of a story you don’t actually know?
Aliens vs. God
Finally, I’d like to point out that in this week’s eSkeptic, reprinting a chapter from a recent book, Michael Shermer seems to have come most of the way toward adopting my analysis of developments in the ancient astronaut theory, though for a very different context. (Disclosure: Shermer has published many of my articles, and I know him slightly.) Riffing on Arthur C. Clarke’s famous maxim about technology being indistinguishable from magic, Shermer writes that technologically advanced aliens are therefore indistinguishable from gods. He describes the potential for advanced technology to lead to the ability to create planets, engage in quantum computing to the level of near-omniscience, and even the ability to use collapsing black holes to generate engineered universes:
What would we call an intelligent being that could engineer a universe, stars, planets, and life? If we knew the underlying science and technology used to do the engineering, we would call it ET; if we did not know the underlying science and technology, we would call it ID [intelligent design]; if we left science out of theology altogether, we would call it God.
This is probably as good evidence as any that the cross-pollination between ancient astronaut theorists, Nephilim-theorists, and creationists—most recently seen in Brien Foerster’s use of a Bigfoot-Nephilim creationist researcher to test Peruvian bones for alien DNA—is no accident but the logical consequence of ideas that converge at their extremes.