Last night Graham Hancock and fringe geologist Randall Carlson sat down with Joe Rogan for a three-and-a-half-hour podcast. It wasn’t terribly different from the pair’s first appearance on the podcast just about exactly one year ago. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was a rerun. Most of the interview recapitulates material from Magicians of the Gods, usually point for point and often in the same words as the book. Since I have already covered this material in my review of his book, I won’t bother to repeat all of my criticisms of Hancock’s claims about the monumental Neolithic site of Göbekli Tepe, the Roman temple site of Baalbek, and the rest of his usual stock of claims. My previous discussion of last year’s Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Hancock and Carlson offers still more evaluation. Therefore, I will focus my discussion here on material that is different. Sadly, the new material is mostly a sustained attack on skeptics.
The video of the podcast is not available yet, but the audio can be heard here.
Rogan and Hancock engaged in an argument about skeptics and their presumed expertise about prehistory, saying that “nobody knows that” and therefore speculation is as valid as archaeology. Rogan said that after announcing Hancock’s appearance he had a dispute with Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine, about Atlantis—sorry, the “lost civilization,” since we’re back to that terminology again. Shermer apparently declared that there was no civilization 10,000 years ago but wasn’t aware of the existence of Göbekli Tepe and therefore had no immediate answer to Rogan’s suggestion that it was evidence of a lost civilization. Therefore, Rogan and Hancock, along with Carlson, concluded that skeptics are ignoramuses who offer “knee-jerk” criticism absent facts. Michael Shermer is no expert on ancient history and makes for a convenient straw man because of his tendency to offer simplified dismissals of bad claims for popular consumption, but I have become an expert on Hancock’s specific claims about ancient history and I dare them to try me instead.
“They just try to explain away the new evidence,” Hancock said, repeating his claim that elitist academics refuse to accept any evidence that contradicts their model. Hancock and Rogan both deny, incidentally, that Göbekli Tepe could have been built by hunter-gatherers because, as Hancock put it, “you can’t pay for someone to become an architect” in a hunter-gatherer society, which lacks money or trade goods to pay people for their time. This is an astonishingly short-sighted view of anthropology and history, and it represents both a Victorian view of the sliding scale from savagery to civilization as well as a distinctly Western view that the only reason to engage in labor is to acquire material resources. For a man who champions a return to pagan spirituality, Hancock seems incapable of considering what feats faith might inspire in the hope of reaching the gods. Archaeologists say that monuments around the world, from the mound city of Poverty Point in Louisiana to the 11,000-year-old Tel Jericho tower were built by hunter-gathers. It is rare for hunter-gathers to build monumental structures, but far from unprecedented.
“What’s fascinating to me,” Rogan said, “is that people who consider themselves to be or—I mean, he’s a skeptic professional—but many people who don’t question anything that’s outside of what they’ve been told, as soon as they hear any theory that’s outside of the what they’ve been told, they immediately call quackery.”
Rogan said that it was “weird” that skeptics offer only “knee-jerk” criticism of Hancock’s hypothesis that an asteroid or comet destroyed all evidence of a prehistoric Atlantis-like civilization. He bases this on a logical error. He wrongly believes that because asteroids exist and hit the Earth from time to time that therefore it is logical to conclude that a specific asteroid hit the Earth at a specific time and destroyed a specific lost civilization of high technology and spiritual enlightenment. One could accept every claim about the asteroids and comets and even when they hit the Earth without accepting the existence of Atlantis. One does not follow logically from the other, and Hancock’s assertion that no evidence of Atlantis will be found because the asteroid or comet destroyed it all is an argument from ignorance.
Hancock claims that scientists have a “vested interest” in promoting specific hypotheses designed to make human beings into the villains of history. According to Hancock, scientists want to promote uniformitarianism to deny the reality of Noah’s Flood, and want to emphasize the role of climate change to create a political consensus for regulation, and want to say humans killed off the mastodons and mammoths rather than a comet to make people into villainous destroyers of the environment. Hancock allows that many scientists aren’t aware that they are doing this, but he claims that their ideological refusal to accept that history is controlled by sky rocks leads them to villainize humanity instead of the random horror that rains from the sky.
Hancock bemoans that “scientists” have “the ear of the media” and are preventing catastrophists from warning the public about the importance of asteroids. Rogan repeated again that Michael Shermer “highlights the natural inclination (of skeptics) to poke fun at something he’s done absolutely no research on.” Here it’s worth repeating again that Rogan and Hancock are making a terrible logical error: Even if you accept that asteroids are a major danger to humanity, both now and in the past, it does not follow that Atlantis existed. Shermer may be wrong to dismiss Rogan’s concerns without facts, but the logic that connects asteroids to Atlantis is astonishingly illogical.
Carlson tries to offer some evidence for it, and it is that myths and legends seem to sound like comet or asteroid impacts. He is essentially paraphrasing Ignatius Donnelly in Ragnarok: The Age of Fire and Gravel, where those same myths, like that of Phaethon, were put to the same purpose. He adds an odd claim, with Freemasonic overtones, that when the Pleiades reach “the keystone of the Royal Arch” (here the Masonic arch is now the zodiac) in the sky, every culture on Earth celebrates the Day of the Dead, around Halloween time. This material Carlson takes directly from Robert Grant Halliburton, a Victorian anthropologist who proposed the “Year of the Pleiades.” In the 1860s, he had found that “primitive” cultures celebrated a feast of the dead in early November, which he connected to the rising of the Pleiades 12,000 years earlier, and his work was published, against his wishes, by Charles Piazzi Smyth in his book on the mystical measurements of the Great Pyramid. Halliburton’s error was mistaking the contemporary celebration of the dead for the historical one; for example, the Mexican Day of the Dead was originally a summer festival before assimilation with the Christian All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day moved it to November. Similar effects occurred wherever Christianity spread. This does not concern Carlson and therefore not Rogan, who envision an Atlantean origin for the holiday, which they feel commemorates the day that a space rock destroyed Atlantis. “Right now, our science is closing its eyes to this!” Hancock says. “We are dealing with a hidden hand in history. […] But the skeptics hate it. They can’t bear it!”
Hancock declares humanity to be “fucked up,” and he blames our current state on being unaware of the “real” history of a lost ice age civilization.
Rogan, who praises Hancock for his “courage,” said that doing drugs convinced him that the supernatural is more interesting than space aliens. Hancock, who denies being a “guru” and says that he is an “outsider” who’s trying to take down the power of the elites, said that while skeptics denounce visions seen while high on drugs as generated by the brain, he believes that being high lets the brain phase into a different dimension populated by supernatural beings. Space aliens, he said, as “dull by comparison” to the gods and monsters encountered while tripping on DMT.
Hancock and Carlson both claim that as “outsiders” they are looking for people of opposing views to debate about their issues, but this is a disingenuous lie. They are looking for straw men they can set fire to, not knowledgeable experts who can make mincemeat of their speculations.
As the show ground on through its many hours, the conversation tried to return to the same claims and the same themes over and over again. Similar ideas kept popping up, and similar themes returned. It was pretty much a retread of Hancock’s first appearance on Rogan’s podcast, and again a retread of Magicians of the Gods. The last hour was basically a retread of the first, and I waited through the whole podcast for the “breaking news” that Hancock had promised he would share when he promoted his appearance on the program. The only “new” material was the request for cash that Hancock made multiple times on behalf of the Comet Research Group, which is crowdsourcing cash to look for evidence that a comet destroyed Atlantis. Well, not really. Technically, they are researching the role comets play in human history; Hancock identifies this with Atlantis. I think the Comet Research Group is currently focused more on mammoths.
“Myths are the memory banks of humanity,” Hancock said. “We should not call them myths. We should call them memories.” First and foremost, he said, is the myth of the Great Flood, which he believes proves that “something” happened in the past.
Great! Do I get to pick which ones are “memories” and which are just made up? I’ll be happy to give you a half dozen myths and legends that contradict Hancock’s preferred narrative. What criteria does he use to distinguish between them? The myth of the Flood, for example, is not quite universal, but a clear rival is the myth of giants. Must we therefore conclude that humongous humanoids once existed but that the comet similarly vaporized all their bones? The logic is equally sound.
But if Hancock wishes to put his money where his mouth is, he might profitably launch an expedition in search of the Pyramid of Doom located on an island in the Atlantic Ocean. If myth truly is memory, he must be interested in the Arabian story from the Akhbar al-zaman that says that there is an Atlantic “island in the middle of which is a large and shiny black stone pyramid; who knows what it contains, but around it are the dead and vast ossuaries. A king once came to visit the island. When he went down into it, drowsiness seized his companions; they fell into a stupor, lost their strength, and could not move. Those who saw this returned to the ship in haste, and all those who stopped or lingered perished” (my trans.). So where is our shiny black pyramid?
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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