Micah Hanks replied at great length in the comments to my previous blog post about the alleged Smithsonian conspiracy to hide the truth about the existence of giants, and I feel his thoughtful reply requires a longer follow-up than a single comment. Hanks conceded that he understood how I read his article on the subject, though he feels that I misread his article. He includes this information amidst a paragraph preemptively suggesting that “many” (though I hope not me) would attack his friends at Anomalist.com and Doubtful News (and thus him) for insufficient skepticism; this, of course, is a red herring since the advocate is not synonymous with the claim, and anyone—of whatever stripe—can contribute productively to an investigation provided that the evidence is sufficient to justify the claim.
Anyway, Hanks feels that I did not present his views fairly, and I am sorry that he feels that way. I don’t mean him any animus, and his article is honestly written and fairly presented. However, I think, though, it’s worth pointing out the reasons that I read it as I did. The first and most obvious is that Hanks does not present any clear views. Filed under the topic “Conspiracy,” Hanks’ essay presents a variety of information, some of it skeptical and some less so, and attempts “balance” in describing the “believer” and “skeptic” camps, as though faith without facts and doubt without reason were somehow coequal methods of discovering the truth.
Here is where I began to read Hanks as catering to the “believer” camp:
Colavito is correct in asserting that there are no indications in the historic record where large “anomalous skeletons” have gone missing from the Smithsonian. However, as we shall soon see, this does not mean that such gigantic remains were never found at all.
But just paragraphs later, referring to the Sunset Cave “giants”:
Had the folks on the receiving end of this odd shipment to the Smithsonian simply been exercising extreme incompetence, or was there some other reason for the “loss” of certain parts of the shipment? This case wouldn’t have to involve human remains of large stature in order call into question why the Smithsonian would misplace portions of the batch shipment, while maintaining others for display. In other words, the mystery has as much to do with the misplacement of a discovery as it does the claims of “giant” bodies being what were actually uncovered.
So, yes, Hanks is right that he said there was no conspiracy. And I was right that he also insinuated that there was. This is because “balance” is not equivalent to “fairness” and neither is equal to truth.
To better explain this, let me give a hypothetical. Let’s say that Georgina A. Succotash of Prehistoric Time Travelers says that the Civil War never happened and that time travelers faked it to cover up their activities. Let’s say 99.9% of historians dispute this, but Succotash and Erin van Ramekin say it is true, while two or three professors of comparative basket weaving aren’t sure.
It is “balanced” to say “Controversy exists over whether the Civil War happened, with believers stating that the war occurred between 1861 and 1865 and skeptics asserting it never occurred at all but was in fact a time travel conspiracy.”
It is “fair” to say “A very few advocates now claim the Civil War never happened, while nearly all historians agree that the conflict happened between 1861 and 1865, and these historians offer a wealth of documentary and archaeological evidence to prove it.”
It is “true” to say: “The Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865.”
The “balanced” view suggests the two sides are equal. The “fair” version still discusses a claim almost no one believes, while the “true” version fails to inform the audience that any wacky ideas were ever proposed. Each is a legitimate way of exploring an issue, but they all have a different effect on the audience.
Hanks concludes his article (since updated) with a balanced paragraph that offers no real conclusion:
Regardless, do such discoveries of giant bones that are known to have existed, as the 1894 report seems to indicate, further lend to the claims of the conspiracy theorists? Or do they merely point to a deeper level of the mystery that has yet to be explored… and something which may contain new keys to life in ancient America?
Ending this way leaves the impression that the two positions are coequal, which, of course, grants additional legitimacy to the extremely minority conspiracy view. It also leaves out the most parsimonious conclusion, that such giants are simply rare tall individuals who were genetically gifted.
As I see it, the first question’s answer is “No.” The second question does not follow because it is based on a false assumption that I think needs to be addressed. The trouble, of course, is that none of us has defined our terms, so we are actually talking about two different things without realizing it. What do we mean by “giants”? Hanks, to his credit, recognizes the problem, but he does not address it directly, leaving it up to the audience to choose the definition they prefer.
The plain reading of “giants” would be, as per the dictionary, “An imaginary or mythical being of human form but superhuman size.” However, that is not how most discussing the subject are using it. They are asserting that any skeletons of above average height are “giants.” When I use the word “giant,” on the other hand, I am thinking of the superhuman aspect, of skeletons beyond the recorded range of human height. For me, a 6’6” skeleton, or even one 7’ tall, is not superhuman and falls within the normal genetic variation of human beings. Therefore, these skeletons, while interesting, are not anomalous in any real sense except insofar as Native cultures afforded elite status to the rare individual of above average but not supernormal height. Native Americans were, prior to Columbus, among the world’s tallest people, and the occasional outlier above 7 feet is just not either unusual or unexpected. Living humans with heights from 7 to almost 9 feet have been recorded consistently for centuries (including periods before modern medicine and nutritional standards), and are therefore within the human range.
But this confusion is fairly old, and the definition of what makes for a giant has changed over time. Notice, for example, that the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint give the height of Goliath as a tall but not superhuman four cubits and a span (a shade under 7 feet), while the “traditional” Bible as given to King James gives his height as six cubits and a span (nearly 10 feet!) (1 Samuel 17:4). So, if you prefer to see “giant” as simply anything above average, then those 6 or 7 foot skeletons are really interesting; but if you are looking for superhuman giants worthy of Genesis 6:4 (“There were giants in the earth in those days…”), they just don’t make the cut. Therefore, when I say that I just don’t see these 7 foot skeletons as evidence for supernatural or demonic giants, you can see why. In the second question of his conclusion, I imagine Hanks was trying to suggest that it is interesting to learn that some Native people were tall; if not, I do not know what he meant.
A similar problem with definitions led to the other mistake for which I was criticized, in which I (apparently) incorrectly concluded that Hanks’s book on the UFO Singularity (which I have not read) had something to do with the “singularity” as it is typically used in science writing, to refer to either the technological singularity where machines achieve superhuman intelligence, or to the singularity of physics, which refers to infinite mass increasing without limit. His book description after all reads, “What is the singularity, and how does it relate to UFOs?” Instead, Hanks has an apparently unique definition of singularity, which refers to a time when human technology catches up to the perceived advances of UFOs, which he does not choose to define as either alien spacecraft, time travelers, or whatever, at least according to this interview from earlier this year. But this is still more frustrating because in the same interview, he uses “singularity” in at least two other ways, including the technological singularity described above and a “psychic singularity” when technology gives us ESP. But then, balanced as he is, he concludes by saying that he isn’t sure any of that will ever happen.
I trust you can see how the combination of definition trouble and a lack of conclusions made it difficult for me to intuit Hanks’s actual beliefs. Hanks has now clarified that he sees no conspiracy, so now that we are all on the same page, we can live happily ever after.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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