Giorgio Tsoukalos Shocks the Philippines by Saying Ancient Humans Developed the Banaue Rice Terraces with No Alien Help
At the beginning of August, the Institute for Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, California hosted the 61st Annual Convention of the Parapsychological Association, and one of the featured speakers was Jacques Vallée, who delivered a speech about the role of psychical research in the creation of the internet. Vallée, whose day job was in computer science for most of his life, generously credited himself with creating much of the architecture of the modern internet. He alleged that the research he and Hal Puthoff and others in their group worked on at the Stanford Research Institute in developing protocols for psychics to “locate” information they’ve never seen paralleled how computers learned to access non-local information stored elsewhere—the basic architecture of the internet. Frankly, I’d want to see a bit of proof before believing that.
More important, however, was Vallée’s announcement that he is planning to retire from ufology. “I want to go out to do something else,” he said, blasting ufology as “too superficial” to truly grasp the depths of the “problem” of UFOs. By this, he apparently means that ufologists have been too slow to grasp his longstanding hypothesis (first proposed in the 1970s) that flying saucers are really psychic projections akin to poltergeists from another dimension and can only be understood through psychical rather than physical research. Basically, if I may summarize perhaps too much, he is another spiritual quester looking for something beyond the material. This makes it all the stranger that he has decided to leave ufology for greener pastures only months after dumping on us weird claims about extraterrestrial metals that were alleged to have fallen off flying saucers—the exact opposite of his usual claim that UFOs are not nuts and bolts spaceships.
Meanwhile, this past weekend the History Channel’s Asia branch threw Asia’s version of Alien Con, known as History Con after the network’s name. It’s an annual event in the Philippines, and most years the stars of Ancient Aliens are the featured attraction. This year was no different, and Giorgio Tsoukalos was again the star of the convention. As part of the promotional efforts for the convention, Tsoukalos delivered a Facebook Live session on History Channel Asia’s page and conducted interviews with Philippine media. But middle age must be starting to mellow Tsoukalos, who declined an opportunity to claim alien intervention in the archipelago.
PhilStar.com, a Philippine news outlet, asked Tsoukalos if the Banaue Rice Terraces, an ancient stepped set of terraces used for the growing of rice, were the work of space aliens. It was evident that the outlet fully expected the Ancient Aliens front man to agree. He did not. “You don’t need extraterrestrial technology to do this. In my opinion, there is nothing extraterrestrial about this. It’s not really difficult to do. This takes a lot of time and a lot of people but definitely possible,” Tsoukalos said.
What is the world coming to?
But lest you think that Tsoukalos is suddenly going sane now that he’s north of forty, he followed up the question by announcing that he believes the Maranao epic known as the Indarapatra contains evidence of space alien technology because it refers to various magical events, such as a gong that made pregnant women go into labor and a magic cloth that granted wishes. He had the gall to cite Arthur C. Clarke to justify his belief that mythological magic is really alien tech: “‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable for magic.’ Any other type of magic is not real magic; it’s a trick, it’s technology,” he said. It’s interesting, to a degree, that Clarke’s efforts to explain why it is so hard to conceptualize technology and predict its development has retroactively become a justification for back-forming imagined alien technologies from fictitious acts of magic. I suppose it’s to be expected; after all, Clarke’s maxim, written in 1973, is simply a pithier version of a claim Charles Fort first made in 1932, referring to “a performance that may some day be considered understandable, but that, in these primitive times, so transcends what is said to be the known that it is what I mean by magic.”
It is perhaps also testament to the presumed education and understanding of ancient astronaut believers that Tsoukalos felt the need to remind the PhilStar audience that magic isn’t real and that David Copperfield and other stage magicians do not have real paranormal powers. “They don’t actually have divine or spiritual powers. They know how to trick people, they know how to create illusion and that is done with the help of technology,” he said.
This was a big week for Tsoukalos. In addition to headlining Alien Con, he also just finished a five-day stint as a McDonald’s spokesman. From August 10-14, Tsoukalos appeared in McDonald’s advertisements directing consumers of fast food to a treasure hunt of sorts to win cash and prizes. Tsoukalos appeared in online videos and made social media postings to promote the giveaway. In turn, McDonald’s promoted Tsoukalos’s Twitter handle and apparently assumed that their customers would understand what an “ancient astronaut theorist” is. Reader, I’ve been to McDonalds, and I’m not sure that was a safe assumption.
I have to say that while it was depressing to see a second fast food chain hire Tsoukalos—he previously appeared in a Taco Bell Super Bowl commercial—frankly, they deserve each other. Tsoukalos is to history what McDonald’s is to dining, the overly processed, fatty simulacrum of the real thing, cheapened for a mass audience that either doesn’t want, doesn’t know, or can’t afford better.
The good news, however, is that the ad didn’t gain a lot of traction. A Google search find virtually no discussion of the campaign beyond a Twitter thread blasting the fast food giant for endorsing pseudoscience.
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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