The Voice of Russia reported that a 300-million-year-old piece of aluminum machinery turned up in a piece of coal a Russian man was using to heat his home. News reports alleged that the artifact resembled the teeth of a cog wheel, even though the object itself is not curved, and Sharon Hill of Doubtful News quickly explained that the object is in all likelihood a natural crystal. Russian media have been promoting false “ancient alien” artifacts since Soviet times, so this bit of tabloid hype is nothing new or out of character.
Meanwhile, Ancient Aliens Debunked filmmaker Chris White gave an interesting interview to Skeptiko host Alex Tsakris about his film, the reaction to it, and his conservative Christian beliefs. Despite appearing on the controversial creationist and paranormalist Skeptiko podcast, the interview is interesting and well worth a listen or a read. White addressed the criticisms skeptics (including me) have raised about his film, particularly his discussion of Noah’s Flood as a real event and the Nephilim of Genesis as actual beings. In the interview, White explained his belief that Noah’s ark was real, and he suggested that post hoc rationalizations can bring the Biblical story into agreement with observable facts.
I could go into the details but I’m not sure that’s the direction we want to go here. But all these different things about the Ark itself, I think have very rational explanations. If one takes the time to look into those things, I think you’ll at least come to the conclusion that there is a rational defense of this.
According to White, Flood stories are consistent wherever they are found around the world:
What I defended was the idea that it was such a consistent story over virtually every culture in the history of humanity. And not just a flood story with various elements, whether it be eight people or animals and a boat and a dove or raven. Not just little details like that that are so conspicuous that we need to address them but other things. This flood and this whole boat situation was a result of some hybridization thing that happened and that was why the flood was sent. It goes even further than that. Beings that were a part of that hybridization that were locked in some sort of abyss. It’s these weird consistent things.
White, however, cited me as evidence in support of his belief that the flood myth is consistent in its details across cultures and through time, specifically the blog post I wrote criticizing Tim Callahan, writing in eSkeptic, for failing to consider Chinese flood myths when attempting to account for the stories of floods found around the world:
I was impressed with Jason Colavito who is also a skeptic and certainly an Atheist or Agnostic. I’m not sure where he stands but he’s certainly not a Christian. He wrote another article saying, “Look, Skeptic.com just totally blew over this ancient Chinese flood myth.” He pointed out that this really is a connection. You can’t just simplify this and say, “Oh, it’s just a flood. We don’t have to worry about it.” He was saying that there are really consistent things and it really did happen. And at the end of the article he’s essentially saying to the skeptic community, “Look, I don’t believe Chris in this regard or whatever but these things are real and we haven’t come up with a good explanation for them.”
(Disclosure: I appeared on White's Ancient Aliens Debunked podcast last week, but was not involved in the production of White's film.)
I think readers know my views on the Great Flood. There is no geological evidence it ever happened, and absent any such flood, we have no reason to speculate about the seating arrangements on the ark. That said, I did agree that some Chinese stories bear a resemblance to the Near Eastern flood myth, and I do not know why—but this shouldn’t be taken as evidence for a real flood. Such stories are found throughout Southeast Asia, an area with consistent cultural contact with India and through them to the lands beyond. Therefore, contact with Near Eastern, Hindu, Buddhist, Greek, Christian, or Muslim stories may well be involved.
White went on to discuss the similarities of ancient myths and their relationship to actual “hybridization” events. I hope to write more about this tomorrow.
However, I have repeatedly said that skepticism is an activity, not a belief, so White’s arguments about Noah’s Ark have no bearing on whether his Ancient Aliens Debunked offered sound criticisms of ancient astronaut claims. (By the same token, Ancient Aliens has to be taken on the merit of arguments, not on the dubious credentials and New Age spiritualism of its stars.)
That said, I do want to point out an undercurrent in the podcast. In the interview, Tsakris takes skeptics, including Skeptic’s Michael Shermer, to task for advocating scientific materialism and supporting mainstream, conventional beliefs:
I mean, Michael Shermer, great, he published your thing and did an article on his website and his magazine, but I find them to really just be Apologists, more or less, for scientific materialism which, let’s face it, is really a cover for Atheism.
Both Tsakris and White agreed that they saw organized skepticism as a front for atheism and the perpetuation of dominant power structures, mediated by the “status quo,” which the context of their conversation suggests means a secular, atheist, liberal agenda. Both expressed doubts about vaccines, and Tsakris suggested that there was a possible conspiracy on the part of scientists and skeptics to uphold the (liberal-atheist) status quo.
I will leave it readers to judge how secular they find our soceity. I’ve often criticized organized skepticism for falling too much into the trap of the iron triangle proposed by philosopher Paul Kurtz, which saw skepticism as one side of a triangle composed also of secular humanism and atheism. While there is significant overlap among the adherents of each, I’ve repeatedly argued that these three systems are not synonymous and need not be taken together.
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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