Before we begin, John J. McKay, whose work I’ve cited on this blog in the past, is asking for help on behalf of his ex-wife. Please visit his page to read her story.
As most of you know, I’m reading advance galley proofs of Graham Hancock’s new book Magicians of the Gods, which I will be reviewing when the book is released. I had an unpleasant surprise while reading the book last night: I’m in it! In a chapter on the megalithic ruins of Baalbek, Hancock discusses me, and it was… unusual. It was unusual both for the context and for what it says about Hancock’s research methodology.
Here’s what he says about me, keeping in mind that galley proofs are not the final version of a text, and the wording may change before publication:
Sceptical author and self-styled ‘debunker of fringe science and revisionist history’ Jason Colavito, for example, claims that ‘archaeology and engineering can explain all of the individual aspects of the Trilithon’ and that there is therefore no need for an alternative perspective. Rather than do the work to back up this assertion himself, however, he refers us to the ‘wonderful’ writings of another self-styled ‘sceptic’, physicist Aaron Adair. [Adair’s explanation] sounds reasonable, wholesome, and convincing. But actually, like so much else in the sceptical literature that is passed off as fact, it turns out, on close scrutiny, to be speculation, opinion, and bias masquerading as objectivity.
In the notes to the section, Hancock directs readers to my biography for my “claim to be a debunker of fringe science and revisionist history.”
Whew! Where to start?
The weirdest part of the entire thing is that Hancock cited me at all in this context since I did not write an article debunking fringe claims about Baalbek. As you can clearly see from the April 26, 2013 blog post Hancock quotes out of context, I wasn’t making any assertion at all; I was simply summarizing Aaron Adair’s blog post on Baalbek:
I’ve managed to fall behind on work today, so in lieu of a lengthy blog post, I’m going to recommend that anyone who hasn’t done so click over to Aaron Adair’s blog and read his wonderful discussion of how the massive trilithon stones—among the largest ever moved by humans—at Baalbek were moved into place under the Romans. The most important takeaway is that archaeology and engineering can explain all of the individual aspects of the trilithon, so there is no need to posit a supernatural or paranormal cause to explain the massive stones as a whole.
Now, I ask you, of all the things I have ever written, and all the work I’ve done examining fringe history claims, is it even possible to accidentally confuse my recommendation of another person’s work as good reading for some sort of conspiratorial effort not to “do the work” to investigate Baalbek? Oh, and incidentally: In the chapter Hancock goes on to agree with the last part of the above paragraph, which he declined to quote. He tells his readers that the Romans could very well have constructed Baalbek all on their own, but that he chooses not to believe they did because it “feels” older, looks weird to him, and is associated in myth with the Nephilim-Watchers. He then devotes a good chunk of text to debunking claims for construction by aliens or giants. So, again: He is criticizing me for recommending a blog post and attacks me by selectively quoting out of context material that he himself agrees with.
Let’s recall that Graham Hancock himself recommended 5/5/2000 by Richard Noone to his readers, calling the book about Inca riding dinosaurs and the imminent end of the earth on May 5, 2000 “an extraordinary treasury of knowledge, hard facts, brilliant intuition and formidable research.” Did Hancock “do the work” to confirm the reality of the Inca riding on dinosaurs, or the imminent destruction of the earth on May 5, 2000 before he recommended the book? No answer to that question will make him look good.
But what’s worse is that he plays the same game in the first “quotation” from me that he uses. It’s almost but not quite right. Hancock has changed one word and in so doing turned a statement of fact into a claim of identity. Here is the sentence from my biography he is misquoting: “Colavito began debunking fringe science and revisionist history in the web-based magazine Lost Civilizations Uncovered in 2001.” To my mind, that is not the same as a positive claim to identify as a “debunker of fringe science and revisionist history.” The first is an activity, and the second is an identity, implying one is more interested in proving others wrong instead of searching for truth. In his own biography, Hancock describes his work as an “intellectual journey.” The equivalent corruption would be for me to describe Hancock as “a self-styled ‘intellectual.’” Nouns, adjectives, and verbs are not interchangeable, at least not in quotation marks.
So why did Hancock take the time to single me out for unusual attacks on a subject on which I have written almost nothing, Baalbek? That’s a question only he can answer, but I am utterly baffled that he bothered to mention me at all, much less attack me for a sentence that he agrees with—that there is no need for a paranormal explanation for the Trilithon! Then, for the cherry on top, Hancock goes on to tell us that Zecharia Sitchin was most notable in developing the claim that Baalbek was a space port for alien rocket ships. If he had read even one sentence farther down in my blog post, he’d have seen that Matest M. Agrest invented that claim in 1959, and Sitchin stole it.
I don’t mind Hancock criticizing me. I’ve written quite a bit about him and his bad ideas. It just would have been nice to be attacked for some actual analysis I did!
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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