Authors of extraordinary claims have two modes when under attack for their false claims. They either lash out wildly like a cornered animal, or they retreat into their shells to ride out the storm like a tortoise or a snail. I have previously documented how alternative authors like Erich von Däniken, Robert Temple, and Graham Hancock have imagined conspiracies to suppress the truth of their claims. Even Philip Coppens this week accused me of a hate-filled “obsession” with him because I dared criticize but a single claim of his.
Robert Temple, who sometimes complains that the CIA and the “hypnosis community” are sabotaging his career, tends to be more of a tortoise. In his 1998 edition of The Sirius Mystery, he failed to acknowledge that the very center of his work—the claim that the Dogon tribe of Africa possess anomalous knowledge of nature of the Sirius star system that only aliens could provie—had been proven untrue by fieldwork conducted with the Dogon by Walter E. A. van Beek in 1991. To this day, he has refused to acknowledge the existence of van Beek’s work.
Temple derived his claims about the Dogon from Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, two anthropologists who had written Le Renard pale (Temple's primary source) about the Dogon. The whole story is rather long and complex—and laid out here—but the gist of it is that Griaule convinced himself of mythologies and facts that were not external to him, and Dieterlen embraced these same views after working with Griaule among the Dogon for many years.
So, when Van Beek discovered no factual support for the claims, he courteously let Dieterlen—who died in 1999—see a copy of his findings before he published them. Her reaction—and she was an actual, credentialed academic—was just like that of any other alternative theorist: suppress the truth to protect the lie. Van Beek sat down with Dieterlen in Paris to discuss his article:
That pretty much says it all.
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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