Friday Roundup: Dodge Promotes Fringe History, Noah's Fossils in Texas Front Yard, and More WV Giants!
It’s been an interesting, if disappointing, week in the world of fringe history. Robert Sheaffer of the Bad UFOs blog finished his review of the 25th annual International UFO Congress yesterday, and he described Jacques Vallée’s talk about premodern UFO sightings. It turns out that it’s exactly what you’d expect: A giant commercial asking UFO believers to give him money to pay him to correct all the mistakes I caught him making in 2009’s Wonders in the Sky. But that wasn’t the only cash grab in the fringe history world…
If you were watching Vikings last night on the History Channel, you would have seen the network’s latest effort to endorse fringe history outright. During a commercial break, the network provided an enhanced content sponsored segment which ostensibly was meant to provide additional information about the work of the Vikings while also promoting the sponsor’s product. To do so, History chose Scott Wolter and let him assert, without contradiction, that the Kensington Rune Stone is evidence that the Vikings traveled to Minnesota. This assertion appeared under the Vikings banner and the History Channel logo, in service of selling the Dodge Ram 1500.
History purposely chose to give Scott Wolter a platform to promote conspiracy theories that even Wolter himself professes to doubt—he thinks the makers of the stone were Knights Templar, not descendants of Vikings—and exposed viewers of a scripted drama to false historical claims. (Wolter explained that since some Norse were among his imaginary Templars “it still works.”) At best, one might argue that people watching a show like America Unearthed know what they’re getting into, but to inject that into a drama and its very different audience is disturbing. It’s to be expected from History, but Dodge should be ashamed of itself to associate its brand with false information.
Speaking of bad ideas, there was a depressing story that came to us yesterday from Tyler, Texas, where a local man has become firmly convinced that some fossils in his backyard are fossil remains from Noah’s Flood. He claims he was spreading dirt in his front yard when he found unusual stones. He immediately suspected that he had uncovered proof that God’s wrath had settled in his front yard, so like anyone would, he called a creationist museum to discover whether he had proof of divine judgment. He spoke with Joe Taylor, a Primitive Baptist creationist who owns the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton, Texas, who confirmed through photographs that the rocks were in fact antediluvian fossils.
“From Noah’s flood to my front yard, how much better can it get,” Tyler resident Wayne Propst told KYTX-TV. His aunt added: “To think that like he says that we have something in our yard that dated back to when God destroyed the earth. I mean, how much better could anything be.”
The fossils in question appear to be standard issue fossils of the kind you’d find most anywhere: snails, small shells, etc. They are much less impressive, for example, than the fossilized sheets of shells that ended up in my childhood backyard thanks to a fortuitous unearthing of an old, and shattered, slate sidewalk that had once been a subaqueous floor. I keep a chunk of it on display in my office. Propst, however, is so excited that his fossils allegedly date from Noah’s Flood that he and neighborhood children spend their days digging through his yard in search of more.
The story would hardly be news if it were reported correctly: Local man find typical fossils. It’s only a story because a creationist imposed an ideological belief onto the discovery, and the owner of the house, who professes a literal belief in the Bible, took it as proof that God had touched his yard.
Speaking of those touched by magical thinking, I should follow up on yesterday’s discussion of “giants” in West Virginia. The two authors posted a second part of their investigation into the giant, and in it they correctly note that Ernest Sutton’s measurement formula would underestimate the size of the alleged giant. But rather than recognize that Sutton was likely incorrect in his measurements in 1929, they instead believe that because he seemed to have learned how to measure by the 1960s that this implies accuracy three decades earlier.
This is because the authors believe that in 1960 a third giant had been unearthed in the mound during a secret excavation Sutton conducted. They allege that the West Virginia state archaeologist destroyed Sutton’s records of the “giant” in order to suppress the truth. Sadly, though, the authors fail to back up their claim. While they uncovered a notebook of Sutton’s describing the excavation, in contains no suggestion of any “giant,” or that the burial found within was anything other than normal. The authors believe the skeleton was an eight-foot giant whose bones were stolen by one of Sutton’s assistants and sold to a wealthy Western buyer, but they only believe this because an “anonymous source” claimed to have remembered seeing this happen 56 years ago.
The authors use this to suggest that they have proof that the giant skeletons are part of a larger conspiracy involving America’s wealthiest families, but they offered nothing in terms of evidence that would challenge my conclusion from yesterday that they are over-interpreting the evidence due to their own paranoid and conspiratorial world view. They offered no documentary evidence, no proof of conspiracy, and no information to let us judge whether their witness—who cannot be less than 70 years old—is either correct or even has any proof of what they fail to show is more than hearsay and rumor.
3/18/2016 11:29:41 am
Immediately, I face a series of potential questions: Why did Scott Walter opt to do the commercial knowing the information was being portrayed incorrectly?
3/18/2016 11:41:03 am
3/19/2016 01:09:54 pm
re: giants: That depends. If you mean human beings who are more than 6.5 feet tall, then yes, there is ample evidence of giants, ranging from the Guinness World Book of Records to professional basketball to the movie The Princess Bride. If you mean an ancient separate race of overly tall human-like beings who had enormous sociopolitical power and/or were the unholy offspring of deities, then, as DaveR said, NO. If you mean more specifically "in Sutton's mounds," then not only no, HELL, no.
3/18/2016 11:55:45 am
It's funny how on some of these fringe "theories" there's a pattern of "the dog ate my homework". There's always an excuse when they are pressed for evidence.
3/18/2016 01:14:24 pm
The amazing mental gymnastics fringe adherents perform is mind numbing. They ask for evidence while producing none of their own, or explain lack of evidence is proof of a conspiracy, all the while rejecting evidence or offering wildly divergent conclusions from that evidence.
3/18/2016 12:23:59 pm
I once worked for as an accountant in the tax department of a bank and told one of the secretaries about having first majored in Geology in College. Her oldest son was in the Boy Scouts at the time and she brought in some rocks he had found during a camping trip. She had been told by the troop leader that they were unrefined emeralds. I looked at them, knowing they were not. They were from an area of Utah called Topaz mountain, so they were, not emeralds, but Topaz and very common in that area.
3/18/2016 12:39:51 pm
Considering that the majority of the western population for the past couple of millenia has been bible-believing Christians you'd think that a huge amount of physical evidence for giants should have been preserved in Christian universities & churches - other, that is, except for what was and has been univerally shown to be megafauna, giant salamanders, just plain rocks, etc.
3/18/2016 12:54:37 pm
Where's Goliath's skeleton !!
3/18/2016 01:01:46 pm
3/18/2016 01:21:57 pm
Yes, it would be interesting to see News Reporting done a la Biblical style - everything would be depicted as God's judgments and full of historical moments revised in the form of miracles.
3/18/2016 01:32:25 pm
3/18/2016 01:45:58 pm
Feel better now, totally mental ?
3/18/2016 02:51:16 pm
Love that whiff of ozone after it strikes
3/18/2016 03:57:13 pm
A History of the 20th Century, written in Biblical style.
3/18/2016 01:08:36 pm
"“From Noah’s flood to my front yard, how much better can it get,” Tyler resident Wayne Propst told KYTX-TV. His aunt added: “To think that like he says that we have something in our yard that dated back to when God destroyed the earth. I mean, how much better could anything be.”"
3/18/2016 01:24:25 pm
What did the Flood story originally symbolise, that's the key question. Nobody to date has managed to provide an answer.
3/18/2016 01:31:08 pm
A return of the earth to the state of the first times, before there was sin, when "darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters"--a "hard reset", if you will?
3/19/2016 01:12:02 pm
Most likely? FLOODS. Flood myths are everywhere because floods are everywhere. Duh.
3/19/2016 03:33:49 pm
>> Flood myths are everywhere because floods are everywhere<<
3/19/2016 05:34:16 pm
I think V is saying that flooding exists everywhere, not that a single monster flood inspired every deluge myth.
3/20/2016 05:48:41 am
The flood myth pretty much proves that even thousands of years ago, people made up stories and tried to make money from them.
3/18/2016 01:50:29 pm
Just another thought about Scott Wolter and his commercial. This could be a new source of income for him. I think a perfect fit would be Viagra.
3/18/2016 10:22:06 pm
But if your resolve hardens for more than four hours, call a psychiatrist.
3/18/2016 02:13:44 pm
I guess that's what they mean when they say Trump has giant skeletons in his closet.
3/18/2016 03:13:58 pm
Giant skeletons with short fingers.
3/20/2016 06:05:01 am
Where is Goliath's skeleton?
4/5/2016 02:51:16 pm
One of my coworkers found a beautiful conch shell in his pasture abutting a playa. I'm convinced he's unearthed some form of currency or bartering good from the Native Americans in the area who made a stopover by the playa or one nearby. I've offered him cash for it, but he, a creationist, is unwilling to sell. He hasn't said as much, but I'm sure it's proof to him of the flood. Frustrating.
4/5/2016 08:18:03 pm
If your neighbor had found a spent shotgun shell he'd prolly think it was proof that Noah hunted ducks.
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