In Major New Article, Graham Hancock Repeats Previous Anti-Scientist Claims, Defends the Search for Atlantis
I will confess that I am not a regular visitor to Graham Hancock’s website, so I am sometimes a few days behind on his latest postings. The last time he wrote an article for his site was in December, and frankly he had sort of fallen off of my radar so that I didn’t realize until now that he published a monumentally long new diatribe on April 30. In the new article, Hancock alleges that scientists “consistently suppress and marginalise new knowledge that conflicts with established positions.” The proximate cause of the article was the appearance of news pieces on the websites of National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine, which Hancock takes as proof that science is a conspiracy to impose dogma.
Hancock, of course, sees news accounts as the same as scientific journals, and both as arbiters of what is and is not “true” for dogmatic scientists.
The Smithsonian piece is actually a reprint from Hakai magazine, and it explores the reaction that Jacques Cinq-Mars faced in the 1980s and 1990s when his excavations suggested the presence of humans in the Americas in 24,000 years ago—before the Clovis horizon. The National Geographic news article retells the story of J Harlen Bretz (yes, “J” was his whole first name), who intuited correctly in the 1920s that certain geological features in Washington State were formed by a massive Ice Age flood, but who faced scorn from his colleagues because he could not provide a feasible mechanism to explain how this flood would have occurred, something that would only come to pass decades later.
Both pieces describe situations in which the most dominant personalities in a scientific field resisted new evidence and sometimes engaged in personal attacks against the claimant. In both situations, course correction was a long and slow process, occurring only when the weight of the evidence became overwhelming enough to overcome the previous paradigm and demonstrate that paradigm’s falseness. However, the cases are not quite as clear-cut as Hancock implies. The Cinq-Mars case seems to best support the claim that humans lived in Beringia for millennia before populating the Americas after the ice sheets melted. Hancock denies that the Bretz case is a “true” paradigm shift because, he says, the current consensus offers too many concessions to “gradualism.”
Hancock, instead of seeing a paradigm shift as evidence that even entrenched ideas can be corrected by the ruthless application of new evidence, prefers to read both incidents as evidence that elite scientists engaged in a massive campaign to reinforce outdated paradigms.
The largest part of the article is devoted to rehashing Bretz’s story from Magicians of the Gods. The short version is that geologists came to accept that the scablands of Washington State had been formed by a massive flood once they recognized a mechanism by which it could occur, specifically by the catastrophic draining of glacial Lake Missoula in one massive deluge. However, Bretz originally doubted this mechanism, believing that the lake held too little water to achieve the erosion seen in the landscape. Instead, he first thought the ice sheet north of Washington had partially melted, creating the flood. Hancock prefers this version, even though Bretz himself rejected it, because, following amateur geological speculator Randall Carlson, Hancock wants to claim that a comet hit the Earth and melted the ice. Hancock paints Bretz’s growing acceptance of the evidence that Lake Missoula had emptied catastrophically (and that it might have happened in up to eight stages) as a capitulation to “critics” rather than an adherence to evidence. In Hancock’s view, to propose a new idea is heroic, but to accept advice and feedback—or concede that anyone else might have a point—is weakness.
Thus, Hancock, even in celebrating Bretz, damns him for allowing the “uniformitarians” and “gradualists” to propose that the flooding occurred regularly, at intervals, perhaps, as modern geologists suggest, up to ninety times over thousands of years, rather than single-mindedly promoting a single catastrophic event, one that would conveniently help Hancock’s comet case. Hancock summarizes the modern view and then says:
This is all very reassuring, of course, but suppose that Bretz’s original insight was correct all along? Suppose that the “unique assemblage of erosional forms and glacial water deposits” that he invoked as evidence for his “Spokane Flood” can only be resolved “into a genetic scheme” if the time allowed for their creation be “very short, volume very large, velocity very high and erosion chiefly by plucking of the jointed basalt”? Suppose in other words that what happened in North America at the end of the Ice Age really was a single, sudden, cataclysmic flood – something unprecedented and unmatched since?
Suppose Hancock had evidence… He is happy to trash geologists but offers nothing against the modern consensus except for what-ifs. He argues that the heat from the comet impact would have melted the ice, but he chooses not to explain why this resulted in catastrophic, earth-changing flooding only in one spot. If the comet hit near the Great Lakes, shouldn’t similar flooding be seen elsewhere besides just the other end of the continent? Hancock says that one of four hypothesized comet fragments happened to hit the ice north of the scablands, and created unique destabilization there, but it seems that this is his own amateur conclusion and not a geologist’s expert opinion. He also fantasizes about how Bretz might have been a warrior for catastrophism to the end had the comet’s impact been known in his day. From this, he concludes the following about the supposed unwillingness of science to adopt hypotheses in the absence of clear evidence for them:
This is unfortunate and should remind us that all branches of science again and again repeat the same fundamental mistakes – elevating current hypotheses to the status almost of divinely-ordained truths, coming to regard those hypotheses as unchallengeable reference frames through which reality must be viewed, and marginalising, ostracising, humiliating and seeking to destroy the professional reputations of all those who propose alternative hypotheses.
Thunderous words, but to what end? After alleging that the team studying the alleged Younger Dryas comet impact is suffering from the same intolerance, Hancock lets loose the truth: “Meanwhile my own hypothesis of an advanced civilization of prehistoric antiquity obliterated from the face of the earth during the Younger Dryas ‘window’, is also strengthened by their work.” This gives him license to repeat much of what he has said about the comet over the past few years, and in excruciating detail, detail made all the stranger by the pointlessness of it. Hancock hopes, as we know, that readers will see the comet hypothesis as proof of a lost civilization that it allegedly destroyed; however, logically speaking, there is no reason to make this leap. If, for example, there were first evidence of an Ice Age super-civilization, then we might be justified in looking for a reason it collapsed and vanished; however, absent that evidence, the existence or non-existence of a Younger Dryas comet impact offers no evidence to support or refute the notion of a lost civilization. A destructive agent does not imply a civilization stood to be destroyed, and since we have plenty of human remains and archaeological material from before 10,500 BCE, logically we ought to find some trace of this vanished civilization, if only its tools and trash and grave goods. Hancock tells us that the comet simply incinerated it all, but would any comet whose impact left people and animals alive have truly consumed every last screw, button, or ornament? Indeed, Hancock himself quotes Antonio Zamora, a comet proponent, to describe the impact of the comet, and Zamora’s apocalyptic description says only that animals within 100 km of the impact were killed instantly, while debris and ice thrown up by the crash rained down catastrophically for 1000 km around the impact site. While horrific, this is not enough to wipe away a whole civilization supposedly centered somewhere on the other side of the world. His claim is stranger still when he tells us that Göbekli Tepe sprang up out of nowhere, with the implication that survivors of the lost civilization constructed it. They survived, but nothing else?
Hancock hopes to further muddy the waters of his core claim by devoting a section of his article to the question of who were the first Americans. He describes the process by which the Clovis-first paradigm collapsed, but he leaves out some very important facts. First, the Clovis-first paradigm began in the middle twentieth century and lasted less than fifty years before facts overwhelmed it—facts that began to come to light only about 20 years before the paradigm’s collapse began. Hancock’s lost civilization hypothesis is as old as Greece and Rome, but in modern form goes back to the late nineteenth century. Despite more having more than three times the amount of time that Clovis-first paradigm lasted, not a shred of evidence has emerged for an ice age super-civilization.
Therefore, Hancock’s words ring hollow when he says:
It’s high time for a change, indeed for a paradigm shift. When it comes I suspect it will reveal not only the true cause of the mysterious disappearance of the Clovis people but also vast and previously unexplored vistas of American prehistory. […] [I]t is intriguing, to say the least, that [the comet impact] coincides so precisely with the date that Plato gives us for the destruction, and submergence beneath the sea, of the lost civilization of Atlantis. As I hope I have demonstrated in this article, historians and archaeologists will go through Houdini-like contortions of reason and common-sense rather than consider the possibility that any aspect of their paradigm of prehistory might be wrong — so I am not surprised that they have never attempted to investigate at face value the Atlantis tradition of a devastating global flood 11,600 years ago.
It's probably worth noting that Atlantis was not destroyed in a global flood according to Plato. In the Timaeus, the Egyptian priests state specifically that no flood ever touched Egypt, and it is evident from the narrative that Athens and Greece were untouched by the waters that closed up over Atlantis—having had the Greek armies swallowed up in the Earth instead! “In a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea” (trans. Jowett). The connection to a “universal” flood came from later efforts to read Atlantis as a tale of the antediluvian Nephilim of the Bible.
I would like to think that geologists could identify the evidence of a global flood. Hancock, after all, concedes as much when discussed the Washington scablands and the geologists who recognized the remains of a flood there. Yet he seems to think that geologists have blindly chosen not to consider whether any geologically significant events happened everywhere on the face of the Earth around 9,600 BCE. He cites global “flood traditions”—i.e., Noah’s Flood—as reason to suspect the existence of such evidence, and yet he seems oblivious to how close he hews to the Flood geology of the creationists, and the early years of geology when Noah’s Flood was taken as a given, before the long and careful work of studying the Earth revealed no evidence such a universal disaster.
Hancock concludes the piece, as he did Magicians of the Gods, by warning that another comet is likely to hit soon, destroying us all. He seems to expect us to agree that the existence of comets proves that one destroyed Atlantis, even though none of this makes any logical sense without evidence of the existence of Atlantis in the first place.
5/11/2017 10:52:27 am
5/11/2017 11:52:18 am
"His claim is stranger still when he tells us that Göbekli Tepe sprang up out of nowhere, with the implication that survivors of the lost civilization constructed it. They survived, but nothing else?"
5/11/2017 12:27:59 pm
According to whyfiles.org, "At any moment, the atmosphere contains an astounding 37.5 million billion gallons of water, in the invisible vapor phase. This is enough water to cover the entire surface of the Earth (land and ocean) with one inch of rain." Since there is much less land area than ocean, if all this water fell onto the planet and the part on land drained into the ocean it would raise the ocean level less than two inches. Ergo: a "global flood" that covers everything is physically impossible.
5/11/2017 05:48:14 pm
A 2 inch rise in sea level would be a global catastrophy.
5/11/2017 07:18:58 pm
It's funny how the oceans stay in that sweet spot that's just 2 inches away from global castastrophe.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
5/11/2017 08:36:45 pm
It's funny how people choose to live so close to the water that a two-inch rise in the existing sea level would be a catastrophe.
5/12/2017 09:21:00 am
It might be a catastrophe but that's not the point. The point is that it is impossible for there to be a global flood, ala' Noah, that covers the entire earth (or even close to it). And, not to put too fine a point on it, it would also be impossible for the atmosphere to precipitate ALL its water.
5/12/2017 10:28:56 am
So Waterworld is out then?
5/14/2017 01:46:21 pm
It would only be "a global catastrophe" because human beings are stupid and arrogant enough to believe that it will never happen and thus have not prepared for it. You know, like how flooding after Katrina was a massive disaster in New Orleans, but plenty of other coastal settlements had significantly less damage because they actually listened to warnings and prepared for what was coming. It wouldn't be particularly catastrophic to most anything other than humans, really.
The claims and complaints of Graham Hancock are so insubstantial and superficial that you really have to consider whether it is worth to help him spreading his word. Discussing Atlantis under a non-historical-critical perspective is not very rewarding. Graham Hancock argues with natural science and neglects the philological questions totally, and this is a big mistake.
5/11/2017 03:00:14 pm
Kudos to Jason for a proper presentation of Plato's Atlantis story, a story about a story about someone telling him a story.
5/11/2017 07:13:23 pm
So, as I said, a story about a story about someone telling him a story.
5/12/2017 07:53:25 am
We also have a little book that Caesar himself supposedly wrote. Contemporaneous records (carvings in stone and statuary, as well as coinage) suggest he was an actual person who lived at a particular time in a real place and that place is known to us. So not like Atlantis at all.
5/12/2017 08:46:00 am
"please consider that all our knowledge of ancient history is of this quality."
5/12/2017 05:17:09 pm
[This went in the wrong place, probably my fault or the Atlanteans screwing with me.]
5/12/2017 07:26:53 pm
Plato to Adeimantus (Republic, Book 2):
5/12/2017 07:41:38 pm
"The burden of proof is ....
5/13/2017 05:34:33 am
In Book 3 of the Republic, the discussion about stories continues, considering both the suitability of particular topics, and the suitability of particular storytellers. The conclusion seems to be that storytelling should be a State monopoly, and the topics chosen to promote good behaviour.
5/13/2017 12:18:30 pm
"Plato's cave is an analogy."
5/13/2017 10:31:55 pm
Plato was all analogy, whether he said it or not. He didn't even have the stones to represent his own philosophy... but instead stuck Socrates with it. And yeah, like his dialogues were truly dialogues. Ever try reading one? Socrates would have his say and the other end of the conversation went something like this:
5/14/2017 10:43:39 am
"What a pity, you did not realize my arguments."
5/14/2017 02:21:15 pm
Okay, so...one quick question. Why does Plato have to have been "a very cynical liar" in order to have created a fictional place? Does that make JK Rowling "a very cynical liar" for creating Hogwarts? Does that make Tolkein "a very cynical liar" for creating Middle Earth? Does that make pretty much every writer who hasn't set their work in a strictly-researched real-life setting "a very cynical liar"? Isn't it just far more likely that as a writer of a fictional world, Plato expected his audience to know and understand that this was a fictional place?
5/14/2017 10:19:59 pm
@T. Frank :
5/15/2017 06:33:05 pm
I see you saying that in your opinion Atlantis is real (once someone actually checked your website) whereas before you said it was a _possibility_. I see you talking down and weaseling through the discussion. Someone points out that Julius Caesar was real? BUT WAIT!! HERODOTUS GOT FACTS ABOUT THE EGYPTIANS WRONG!!! LOOK, SOMETHING SHINY!!! When you get caught you always bring up Herodotus.
5/16/2017 07:42:52 am
BUT WAIT!! HERODOTUS GOT FACTS ABOUT THE EGYPTIANS WRONG!!! LOOK, SOMETHING SHINY!!!
5/16/2017 10:19:18 am
You mean the Hebrew scriptural timeframe? If you choose to assert that the Hebrews did not believe the timeframe of their own scriptures, that is of course your right.
5/16/2017 10:53:42 am
"With this approach, I argue for the possibility of Atlantis as a real place. Looking differently than the literal reading. This claim I can do now. It is a valid possibility. But only a possibilty.
5/16/2017 11:33:27 am
"No, your assumption that I would think that the Hebrews did not believe in their own time frame (what I do not) show me, that you still have not understood it."
5/16/2017 11:37:17 am
My error is in hoping you'd recognize your logical shortfalls as illustrated above. If your form is off, your substance is rendered meaningless. So I haven't even gotten to that latter part yet despite your belief otherwise; nor do I wish to. If pressed further, I'd only be cage-rattling.
PS to Americanegro:
5/16/2017 02:38:14 pm
"There would be a difference between Herodotus and Plato in presenting an "Egyptian story", if you could show that the one acted as historian, the other as inventor. But the latter, you cannot."
5/17/2017 10:42:47 am
Explaining anything to you has been shown to be a complete waste of time and bandwidth; by me and others. Go back to school and actually study these things which intrigue you, and learn the proper methodology for investigating them. Oh, and take a logic class as well. Actually, do that first.
5/17/2017 01:25:37 pm
"You should learn to openly admit when you lost a case."
5/17/2017 06:59:29 pm
5/18/2017 10:57:01 am
"And if you start to explain why the real Atlantis is not the literal Atlantis, 50% or more of the audience is not educated enough to follow such kind of thoughts. Truth is sometimes so complicated that the public cannot grasp it."
5/18/2017 11:00:07 am
Saphronia and Benadryl still be laffing they asses off. You are still an idiot who likes to talk down to people. HERODOTUS!!!
5/18/2017 04:05:39 pm
"I want to prove, that there is a possibility that it is meant to be a true story (distorted, then, of course)."
5/18/2017 06:27:08 pm
Jesus fucking Christ, you love to type!
5/18/2017 06:35:28 pm
Thorwald, you're being evasive.
5/18/2017 06:51:35 pm
Were the priests at Sais Temple clearly described as Egyptian (indigenous) cultured priests, as opposed to Mediterranean priests of a foreign sect?
5/19/2017 01:32:24 pm
No, Thorwald, I'm not confused. I'm also tiring of you misrepresenting what I've said.
5/19/2017 08:48:03 pm
Well, now. It seems someone can't handle valid criticism.
5/11/2017 07:32:25 pm
The Necronomicon is real. I saw it in several horror films. Ha. Real, I tells ya.
5/12/2017 12:30:33 am
There's one major problem with the theory that a comet destroyed Atlantis. The comet impact that Hancock is talking about occurred about 12,900 years ago at the beginning of the Younger Dryas period. But Atlantis was destroyed at the end of that period circa 9600 BC...there's actually no evidence for a comet impact at 9600 BC. And the sudden drop in temperature that took place at the onset of the Younger Dryas period is consistent with a comet impact, but the temperature rise that occurred at the end of the YD is not, as comet impacts almost always result in a temperature decrease.
5/12/2017 10:27:24 am
"But Atlantis was destroyed at the end of that period circa 9600 BC"
5/14/2017 02:24:25 pm
I think he meant to say that "Atlantis was allegedly destroyed...." which would be consistent with "Plato wrote this story that says--"
5/14/2017 04:36:26 pm
I don't think he meant that. Let me refer you to:
5/12/2017 10:56:46 am
It might very well be true that one or more of the North American glacial lake outburst floods, especially the 8200 BP event, may have submerged early settlements that could have been predecessors of what we now consider the first civilizations.
5/12/2017 05:13:57 pm
Burden of proof is on you Sir or Madam. "Well, it could be because we don't know" is a very weak argument.
5/14/2017 11:05:27 am
What a sideshow. The fact that these guys care what "academia" thinks of their hair brained theories is just crazy. Speculation is just that. It is not proof of anything. Next they will suggest the earth is flat. Just because there was a flood or comet strike does not mean it destroyed anything. Jason is right. There would be more material evidence if this were true. But oh wait the Smithsonian are covering it all up along with the "academics." He he. Call in Carlson to comment again.
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