Before we begin, John J. McKay, whose work I’ve cited on this blog in the past, is asking for help on behalf of his ex-wife. Please visit his page to read her story.
As most of you know, I’m reading advance galley proofs of Graham Hancock’s new book Magicians of the Gods, which I will be reviewing when the book is released. I had an unpleasant surprise while reading the book last night: I’m in it! In a chapter on the megalithic ruins of Baalbek, Hancock discusses me, and it was… unusual. It was unusual both for the context and for what it says about Hancock’s research methodology.
Yesterday the skeptic Sharon Hill posted an article discussing her views on folklore and cryptozoology. These views take the form of a book review of Michel Meurger’s Lake Monster Traditions: A Cross-Cultural Analysis, a book first published in 1988 from a 1982 French language edition, which I believe was focused primarily on Quebec. The English edition is apparently different from the French original since the author, who was also the translator, rewrote the book as he translated it. That’s neither here nor there, but Hill asks a very interesting question: How do we decide which folkloric stories are likely to represent real, discoverable animals and which are too embroidered with fiction to be of any use? “Should we be using folklore, traditional native tales, and historical texts as ‘evidence’ of, in this case, the existence of lake monsters? I would add, should we be using today’s modern media accounts (instant folklore) in the same vein?”
Islamic State militants in charge of the ancient site of Palmyra in Syria beheaded antiquities expert Kaled al-Assad, 81, after he refused to disclose the location of ancient treasures from the city. ISIS militants are said to have wanted the treasures to sell or destroy. ISIS’s ongoing destruction of ancient artifacts in the name of battling “idolatry” seems to be gradually seeping into the popular construction of historiography. In his new book Magicians of the Gods (forthcoming), Graham Hancock speaks of the “Islamic hatred of history” that he blames for the destruction of Egyptian heritage from the Arab conquest on.
The media lit up today with claims that a “respected” Russian geologist had discovered the tracks of prehistoric tanks and heavy automobiles in a volcanic deposit in Turkey more than twelve million years old. But what the media left out helps to put into context a claim the media have reported based entirely on the perception that someone who carries an academic credential is necessarily making serious claims.
I often feel bad about asking for money to help support my website, so I try to be very honest about where the money goes. This morning I saw this segment from last night’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about the way televangelists shamelessly bilk the poor to amass enough tax exempt money to run a fleet of private jets, and have the nerve to demand their congregants praise them for spending their money on the preachers’ mansions and planes, and I stopped feeling bad.
There is an argument to be made that myths exist to help audience to understand in symbolic terms information that they aren’t able to process or deal with at the conscious level. This may be one reason that Atlantis theories keep making news even though not a shred of evidence for the reality of Atlantis has ever come to light. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Atlantis theories tended to reflect the concerns of colonialism and imperialism, focusing on which lands received influence from a superior culture, and how their colonial empire worked. In the middle twentieth century, Atlantis theories tended to reach for the mystical and the occult on one hand and space age techno-determinism on the other. Today, we see a renewed interest in climate change, particularly the role climate catastrophes play in destroying civilizations.
What exactly can one say about an episode of Ancient Aliens dedicated to theodicy, the problem of evil? The show covered this topic in their episode on “Aliens and Evil Places” as well as their episode advocating Satan worship. They have an unsophisticated philosophy that imagines the existence of a cosmic evil, even though there is no objective reality to good or to evil, only a relative morality. Rocks and trees don’t care about murder and rape, and it’s almost certain that aliens, should they exist, would have a very different morality than modern Americans.
First, I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who has donated so far in my summer fundraising campaign. I am awed and humbled by how many of you feel that this blog is worth something, and I deeply appreciate each and every donation, no matter how large or how small. Thank you all very, very much.
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I hate asking for money. I’m sure PBS and NPR hate it, too. The Center for Inquiry, publishers of Skeptical Inquirer, probably hate having to ask for donations, but that doesn’t stop them from sending me letters every week asking for cash. So, today I’m launching my 2015 fundraising appeal, for reasons I’m going to outline below.
This was a blog post I had hoped not to have to write. As many of you remember, last year I was supposed to release my book Cthulhu in World Mythology through Atomic Overmind, a small publisher specializing in Lovecraftian and gaming books. We had a contract and a revenue sharing agreement, and the publisher had big plans for marketing the volume. However, while the publisher released a PDF of the book, he never released the limited edition hardcover or the paperback as the contract required. The publisher also never paid me a dime in royalties. Over the past year, I have repeatedly tried to communicate with the publisher, and after initially telling me that the company suffered financial problems, he stopped communicating altogether. I have no idea how many PDFs sold, if any, nor have I been able to get an accounting of what went wrong, or the return of my intellectual property.
In lieu of a lengthy blog post today, I have a brief discussion of a new article about Pre-Adamites, and I’d like to direct you to The Afternoon Commute, where you can download my appearance on the podcast last night. You can also stream it below. We spoke for about two hours. The first hour was about ancient astronauts and fringe history, while the second hour went into philosophical questions about the origins of the universe and the reality of evolution. Apparently the show’s host is a creationist. I’m not entirely certain the second hour made a lot of sense since cosmology isn’t really one of my areas of expertise.
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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