This week, Graham Hancock posted to YouTube video of a ninety-minute lecture he gave at a rented hall at University College in London in which he repeated arguments from his previous books and offered his usual bevy of attacks on archaeologists and what he sees as a nefarious conspiracy to suppress his claims about a lost Ice Age civilization. Because the majority of the lecture is simply a rehash of his past books, there is little purpose in going through it point for point (see my reviews of Magicians of the Gods, America Before, and Ancient Apocalypse for more detailed breakdowns). However, I do want to highlight a few key points in the evolving arguments Hancock uses.
A couple of weeks ago, the Wiley journal Archaeological Prospection raised eyebrows by publishing a paper by Daniel Natawidjaja, the geologist who wrote Plato Never Lied: Atlantis in Indonesia, and his team claiming that the volcanic hill of Gunung Padang was a 27,000-year-old pyramid. Natawidjaja did not provide any evidence that the radiocarbon dates he took from organic material within the hill were deposited by humans, or that there had been any human occupation beyond the relatively recent surface structures. Now the journal and its publisher have launched an ethics investigation into the flawed paper, according to a report in Nature:
In a new piece for the Debrief published yesterday, Chris Mellon offered an incoherent set of thoughts on UFO disclosure that accidentally revealed more than he probably meant to about the campaign behind the scenes to pressure government to embrace space aliens and also repeated the utopian fantasy that undergirds the UFO mythos.
In a blog post this week, Harvard astronomer and alien-hunter Avi Loeb completed his metamorphosis, achieving the final form of pop culture ufologists: He’s now into ancient mysteries and prehistory’s lost civilization secrets. Loeb announced that UFOs may be a technological relic of a lost prehistoric civilization destroyed by a geological catastrophe, with only their orbiting spacecraft to mark their passage:
UFO journalist Ross Coulthart expanded his conspiracy theory repertoire in a new direction this weekend when he produced a special for NewsNation about JFK assassination conspiracy theories. As is inevitable, association with one conspiracy theory leads down the primrose path toward the broader conspiracy culture. It's also a savvy move for the ambitious Coulthart, who saw his stock rise in the U.S. after a series of controversies had damaged his reputation in his native Australia. Parlaying success in one conspiracy theory into a more general role as a conspiracy journalist for a second-tier cable news network allows him to keep building an audience, even during downturns in the UFO story.
Several online retailers posted what they say is the promotional copy for UFO celebrity Lue Elizondo's long-delayed memoir, apparently titled Disclosure. Elizondo signed a deal two years ago with William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins, to write an account of his time hunting UFOs on the government's dime, and the book has had a couple of potential release dates that never happened, the most recent being October of this year. The new promotional copy suggests that Elizondo won't be bringing much new to the table since the promo copy has nothing to plug but hoary old chestnuts and familiar favorites:
A year ago, Netflix sent the media into a frenzy of consternation with the release of Graham Hancock’s series Ancient Apocalypse, one of the most-watched shows about ancient mysteries in a generation. Dozens upon dozens of articles decried Netflix for producing a one-sided argument for pseudoscience and Graham Hancock for attacking archaeologists and educators for an alleged conspiracy to suppress Hancock’s belief that Atlantis seeded ancient cultures. I was one of the writers who produced a think piece on the series, for the New Republic.
Two weeks ago, Danny Hilman Natawidjaja and his team in Indonesia published a paper online claiming to have radiocarbon evidence that Gunung Padang was an Ice Age pyramid complex and not, as geologists commonly believe, a natural volcanic formation that humans built atop around 1,500 years ago. The reaction from both archaeologists and geologists was swift, with calls for the journal in which the paper will soon appear, Archaeological Prospection, to retract it because of its deeply illogical reasoning. While Natawidjaja and his team performed real science that dated soil from within the hill of Gunung Padang, they neglected to complete an obvious step before claiming the dates as evidence of human activity—they did not provide any evidence that the soil was associated with human activity.
Note: This post also appears in my weekend newsletter.
This week, the new Speaker of the House, Christian conservative Mike Johnson, came under fire for his past comments on homosexuality, notably his claim that gay marriage is a cancer that would lead to the collapse of Western civilization. But more humorously, CNN unearthed a 2008 clip this week that revealed that Johnson believes that “rampant homosexuality” was responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire: “Many historians, those who are objective, would look back and recognize and give some credit to the fall of Rome to, not only the deprivation of the society and the loss of morals, but also to the rampant homosexual behavior that was condoned by the society.” The Roman Empire fell, of course, when it was officially Christian and had Christian laws.
Meanwhile, Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, the Indonesian government-affiliated geologist who claims Gunung Padang in Indonesia is a prehistoric pyramid complex that coincidentally makes Indonesia the oldest civilization on Earth, published a new paper repeating the claim, to the delight of Graham Hancock, who claims it is “vindication” of his speculations. However, Natawidjaja only provided radiocarbon dates for organic material buried within the hill of Gunung Padang without providing evidence of human occupation at the time or of human deposition of the organic material.
Finally, the Daily Mail reported that Sean Kirkpatrick, the head of the Pentagon’s UFO office, will resign in the coming weeks following months of attacks from ufologists in the mainstream media and on social media that he is too closed to witnesses’ extraterrestrial claims, is hiding the “truth,” and is too willing to work with alleged conspirators hiding UFO evidence. He is rumored to be replaced with a candidate more open to space aliens.
Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever
Matt Singer | Putnam | Oct. 2023 | 352 pages | ISBN: 9780593540152 | $29
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert spent so long reviewing movies on television that, when Siskel died in 1999, I could not remember a time when I hadn’t watched them. They started their first review program six years before I was born (I’m 42), and as far back as I can remember, I can still picture my parents tuning in to hear about the newest movies—movies that, for the most part, they would only see on rented VHS tapes, months later. I tended to prefer Ebert to Siskel, not for any dramatic reason except that my local paper carried Ebert’s print reviews but not Siskel’s, so I felt like I understood his thinking more. Even when I was a teenager, Siskel & Ebert was still appointment viewing, and I recall setting extra time on the VCR to record the show when the local ABC affiliate’s sports coverage pushed it to odd hours of afternoon or overnight and we weren’t sure exactly when it would start.
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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