You’ll remember, I’m sure, the initial post I did last week about Jim Vieira’s claim on Facebook that the Smithsonian was covering up the existence of giants. I wrote a post in which I discussed the origins of this claim, and Vieira has chosen to respond on Facebook (post of Friday, August 2) by attacking me for what I did not write. As you’ll recall, the post focused on the origins of the Smithsonian cover-up claim, but instead Vieira has taken it as some kind of global debunking of the existence of skeletons taller than 6’6”. As I discussed yesterday, there is nothing abnormal or supernatural about certain individuals reaching above-average heights.
So let’s see what Vieira has to say.
I have been waiting for one of the defenders of the status quo to take aim at my efforts and first up to bat is Jason Colavito. Mr. Colavito is a professional skeptic who writes for Skeptic Magazine and operates along the lines of Ken Feder and Stephen Williams. An individual on a crusade to save the world from bad science.
At least he spelled my name right. I’m flattered that he considers me a “professional” skeptic, but since I don’t get paid for it (and have an actual job and career outside of this), I can only claim to be a recreational skeptic. (Note: Vieira claims you know he is honest because he does not get paid to talk about giants, either.) I’m pleased to be lumped in with Ken Feder, whom I know and respect, however. I hardly think, though, that pointing to flaws in alternative history arguments will do much toward saving the world from bad science.
However, the professional skeptic makes no attempt to evaluate evidence in an open minded fashion, trying to explain anomalies, rather chooses to enter the debate with a preconceived and unbending view of reality based on academic consensus and other filtering mechanisms.
Really? Somehow I’ve never tried to explain anomalies? I’ve gone to the trouble of tracking down the ancient sources for the Chupacabra myth, found the secret NSA and CIA files that explain the Spitsbergen UFO hoax, and discovered the real story behind the Betty and Barney Hill abduction. I even translated acres of “ancient texts” to find what stands behind idiotic claims. The trouble is that 6, 7, or even 8 foot skeletons are not supernatural anomalies but entirely consistent with normal human variation.
Vieira, however, wants these to be anomalous—why I’m not sure. If we assume they are somehow anomalies, it implies that these bones are not Native American, and then we get to the heart of the matter: Such claims represent an attempt to carve out room for Biblical Nephilim, Atlanteans, lost white races, and other such imaginary entries in the canon of “true” discoverers of North America. But if we play along and pretend these bones are somehow proof of superhuman visitors from the Aryan home world or remnants of the Great Flood or whatever he thinks they are, where do we find the evidence?
These sources include The New York Times, The Washington Post, LA Times, Scientific American, American Antiquarian, Popular Science, hundreds of town and county histories, archaeological bulletins, hundreds of newspapers and finally the Smithsonian's own ethnology reports. […] Do you think if the local newspaper were reporting a fake story about a giant human skeleton being found on the property of a prominent citizen that there would not be a huge backlash?
We’ve seen the Smithsonian reports and their 7-foot skeletons. You know why I don’t trust newspaper accounts without some sort of independent substantiation? Nineteenth century newspapers were notorious for making stuff up. Here are some of the other amazing “facts” papers of the time reported as absolutely true:
As Mark Twain pointed out in creating his “A Petrified Man” hoax of 1861, stories of bizarre skeletons, petrified corpses, and other ancient anomalies were both wildly popular in regional newspapers and completely false. Using real (or realistic) names was part of the “fun” of Victorian journalism, which was closer to entertainment than the mid-twentieth century “objective” model we unconsciously assume is and has always been journalism’s goal. But again: 6 or 7 foot skeletons aren’t really “anomalous,” or “giants.”
It's odd we never hear the skeptics world view. We never hear the skeptic trying to explain an anomaly. Never will you hear an attempt at a logical explanation for these reports. So, over a thousand reports from all over the country, from many respected publications, from respected historians, archaeologists and anthropologists and spanning a 150 year period are all hoaxes and mastodon bones. Childish.
Well, over the past few days (including pieces written before Vieira wrote his) I’m pretty sure that I tried to explain that humans vary naturally in size, and I also offered up some thoughts on misidentified mastodon bones (which Vieira rejects as a valid hypothesis on the grounds that he doesn’t think anyone could mistake mastodon bones for human, despite thousands of years of evidence to the contrary) as well as how freeze-thaw cycles of ice crystal formation can distort buried bone sizes. Is that good enough? Apparently not.
But here’s the kicker:
Colavito drops words and phrases like "extant" and "prima facie" like he is going to intellectually bully someone around. This overcompensating and arrogant behavior is as transparent as Saran Wrap. It smacks of a freshman writing student trying to pad an essay in a test he didn't study for. So in conclusion, for Mr. Colavito or any other troll who would attempt to offhandedly dismiss these 1000+ reports, before I answer any of your questions answer mine. Explain how over one thousand individual unique reports of giant human skeletons, giant skulls and jawbones found their way into all of these respected publications. Show your math.
And now we get to the whole point: Vieira, a stonemason and student of Edgar Cayce’s psychic readings, doesn’t like people he perceives as more intellectually qualified and/or educated than him. Seriously? My vocabulary is bullying? Let me tender my most sincere and humble apologies for having the gall to use the right word in the correct place; far from “padding,” the words I choose pack extra meaning into fewer words, which is the purpose of those nasty pieces of vocabulary that are so troubling to our plainspoken hero.
So plainspoken, in fact, is Jim Vieira that his TEDx Talk on giants and (sigh) the Smithsonian conspiracy to hide them had to be removed from TED’s YouTube channel for failure to adhere to basic levels of scientific accuracy. Here’s a few choice problems with Vieira’s speech, according to TED:
At 4:05 — You claim: “The moundbuilders who built all kinds of structures.” All evidence for the moundbuilders’ architecture suggests that they built with sod packets and wood.
And on it goes. TEDx’s fact checkers also noted that any skeleton under 9 feet tall is not prima face (oops… that phrase again!) evidence of supernatural or superhuman giants as these heights were recorded for living people, including in pre-modern historical contexts. They might also have noted that “Mound Builder” is an obsolete and biased term implying a separate race of people from the Native peoples of the United States.
That’s the trouble with avoiding the type of language needed to make points clear; you end up with broad and unsubstantiated claims that don’t make sense. But when you are out to prove Edgar Cayce was right about Atlantis and ancient civilizations, you will not let anything get in your way.
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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