Last night the CBC’s Toronto-set period detective drama Murdoch Mysteries featured H. P. Lovecraft. It was … different. Set in the early 1900s, when Lovecraft was a young teenager, the episode imagined Lovecraft as a Goth youth spending a season with his Canadian aunt. In Toronto, he became something of an autistic necrophiliac (presumably in the manner of the story “The Loved Dead”) who had an obsession with a rotten corpse. The show also implied that he had the psychic power to project monstrous fantasies into women’s minds. While it was not the be most accurate depiction of Lovecraft, it does lead me to today’s topic.
Countdown to "Sekret Machines: Gods": Peter Levenda Claims a New Approach to Ancient Aliens, While Jacques Vallée Attacks Knowledge Itself
Next week ex-Blink-182-member Tom DeLonge and occult historian Peter Levenda release their book Sekret Machines: Gods, the first in a nonfiction trilogy focused on examining questions of alien encounters in human history. This first volume takes inspiration from twentieth century ancient astronaut books, going so far as to repeat specific material done first and better by Erich von Däniken half a century ago. For example, the book opens with Levenda offering a novelistic description of how Stone Age people would have understood the arrival of ancient astronauts, a close copy of von Däniken’s opening gambit in Chariots of the Gods imagining how the primitive residents of another planet might interpret human astronauts’ advanced technology. This is followed by yet another retelling of the story of the cargo cults of the Pacific, which we last encountered just last week in Erich von Däniken’s new book Astronaut Gods of the Maya, and which has appeared on Ancient Aliens and in Giorgio Tsoukalos’s preface to von Däniken’s Twilight of the Gods, but is best known from its appearance in the NBC-TV documentary (and the German original it dubbed) In Search of Ancient Astronauts, an adaptation of Chariots of the Gods. Originality is not Sekret Machines’ strong suit, but then it never was for von Däniken either; he borrowed the cargo cult claims from their inclusion in the movie version of his own book!
Why Did Betsy DeVos Attack College Education at CPAC? Creationist Anti-Education Tactics Might Provide the Answer
Expertise is a devalued commodity in today’s world. Once again Fox News got caught using an expert with exaggerated credentials, this time an immigrant with a criminal record whom they identified as a “Swedish defense and national security advisor.” But that’s par for the course on cable TV, where anyone can be an “expert” if the chyron on the screen says so. After all, you know it’s true since both Giorgio Tsoukalos and I have been equally identified by cable TV as experts in ancient history. But this is only part of the general degradation of expertise. At the Conservative Political Action Conference this week, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued a cri de coeur for college students to rise up against elitist professors. She could be a talking head on Ancient Aliens! “The fight against the education establishment extends to you too,” DeVos said to the college students in the audience.
Mystic and Artist Warlock Asylum Claims Lovecraft Had Secret Messages for Followers of Crowley's Thelema
Sensei Messiah’el Bey is an artist who operates under the name Warlock Asylum. He claims to operate in a variety of shamanic and religious traditions, including ancient Mesopotamian cults and Shintoism. His spiritual journey would be of little concern to me if he hadn’t written a strange blog post yesterday attempting to prove that H. P. Lovecraft was an occultist operating with secret connections to Aleister Crowley’s Thelema.
Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Praises Racist Lovecraft Essay, Says Lovecraft's Immigration Views "Cannot ... Be Surpassed"
I’d never heard of Joseph Cotto before this morning, and probably for good reason. He’s a bottom-tier conservative columnist with aristocratic sympathies. He’s the kind of person who emphasizes in his biography that he received a knighthood and barony from the deposed titular king of Rwanda. Anyway, Cotto wrote a syndicated column earlier this month that was rather shocking in its outright rejection of pluralistic democracy in favor of essentially a monarchist vision of America. To do so, he quoted H. P. Lovecraft, whose racist vision he celebrated as the true spirit of America
Good news, everyone! Erich von Däniken has another new book out! It’s called Astronaut Gods of the Maya: Extraterrestrial Technologies in the Temples and Sculptures (Bear & Company, 2017), and it was translated by Aida Selfic Williams. The title should probably give you a good indication of what to expect in the book. The original German version was published in 2011, but it is now appearing in English for the first time. You might not expect the elements of casual racism, such as describing the Aztec as “coffee-brown, stark-naked natives,” but you probably expect the claims that various artifacts look to our author like pieces of modern technology.
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.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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