Josh Gates Walks Back Endorsement of Ancient Astronaut Theory, But Claims Ancient Achievements Cannot Be Explained
This week’s episode of Expedition Unknown: Hunt for Extraterrestrials was really boring. It involved host Josh Gates listening to a group of Zimbabweans describe a mass UFO sighting that occurred in 1994, followed by a trip to Rendlesham Forest to listen to yet another iteration of the same routine set of mystery-mongering interviews with the UFO profiteers who have made a thirty-year career out of an alleged encounter with a spacecraft that has been debunked over and over again. We saw this a few months ago on Ancient Aliens (not to mention several times before), and the Science Channel, and Destination America, and some online articles, and practically everywhere UFOs are sold. Gates added nothing to the discussion except to give far too much credence to some fairly dubious claims, to the exclusion of reasonable explanations.
As you will recall, last week Gates surprised me by revealing that he is apparently a closet ancient astronaut theorist. And while he is no stranger to fringe media, I was surprised to see him appear this week on Jimmy Church’s radio show, surprising because Jimmy Church’s show plays host to some of the zaniest names in fringe, including Scott Wolter, Whitley Striber, Randall Carlson, and a raft of other opportunists, unqualified speculators, and fantasists. While this was more common in the days of Syfy’s Destination Truth, since the launch of Expedition Unknown, the Travel Channel had tried to position Gates as a serious and level-headed alternative to the History Channel’s pack of fantasists. But now that fringe is apparently the best way to attract declining audiences in the era of peak TV, all bets are off, and crazy people are the new normal.
For me, the most interesting part of the interview was Gates’s confession that he knows going in that he isn’t going to find anything on his expeditions. We all know this, but it is still surprising to hear him admit it out loud. He said that a Syfy executive told him at the launch of Destination Truth that the most difficult part of the show would be to “bring the viewer home” at the end—i.e., to craft an ending to a narrative that they know going in will turn up nothing. Gates said that viewers don’t often understand the purpose of his show. He said that he is often asked why he doesn’t ever find anything, and he said that this makes him “want to cry.” The purpose of his shows, he said, isn’t to find artifacts or solve mysteries—as he explicitly claims he will try to do—but rather to “move the needle” on the investigation by showing viewers something new. “It’s fun to pull at those threads and ask those questions,” he said, regardless of whether there are answers.
If you do not want viewers to feel disappointed that you turn up nothing, then maybe you should stop pretending like you’re going to find an answer.
Naturally, Gates also credits Indiana Jones for inspiring his interest in ancient mysteries and adventure. He said he had been “obsessed” with Indiana Jones since he was a kid, back in the 1980s. Gates is four years older than I am, and I was eight when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out, so the movies were for me never anything other than reruns on television. When I was twelve, Jurassic Park was all the rage, and the object of my youthful interest. Anyway, Gates said that as a child he would visit a supposedly haunted house and use a Ouija board to communicate with the spirit world. “I think that kind of laid the groundwork for me investigating the paranormal, too,” he said. “Places have an energy. There are places you walk into and say, ‘Ugh, this place feels weird.‘” He also attributed his love of aliens to being a childhood “sci-fi geek.” That’s something that I’ve never entirely understood. I love horror but have never been obsessed with serial killers or ghosts, and I love Greek mythology but have never built an altar to Athena. Why does science fiction spawn an obsession with space?
Gates said that his Travel Channel series has convinced him aliens are real, but in walking back his enthusiasm about ancient astronauts from last week’s after show, he claims now not to be a believer in alien visitation to the Earth. He said he believes that civilization would collapse if the reality of aliens were ever proved because it would damage the religious foundations of most Earth societies. He agreed with Church that archaeologists cannot explain the mystical alignments of ancient megalithic sites with one another, or similar symbols across cultures. He called the ancient astronaut theory “really compelling,” but confessed that he is sometimes concerned that the hypothesis “undercuts how really cool and badass” ancient people were by attributing their wonders to space aliens. “But if I was in a floor fight with someone saying ‘How do you explain X, Y, or Z about these ancient cultures, there is no question that there are big gaps in what we know and so there’s a lot of room to argue there. And that’s what makes it cool.”
Church pressed Gates on the question of ancient astronauts, and Gates tried to clarify: “I’m still in that kind of agnostic camp where I say, well, I love this stuff. I love … I would have no problem with, you know, believing that, but I need to see, you know, irrefutable evidence, and I haven’t seen that yet. There’s a lot of really compelling, interesting stuff in the margins, but for me, I just want to see more. So that’s where I come down on the ancient alien stuff. There’s awesome, compelling theories out there. I just don’t think any of them are airtight yet, and that’s kind of where I land on it.”
Church told Gates that he avoided the question, and he tried again to get the Gates to come off the fence and express his secret love ancient aliens. In response to a query about the best evidence for ancient astronauts, Gates conceded that he was fascinated by the idea that geometric shapes and simple figures, such as stylized faces, repeat across cultures, and he believes that civilization emerged in “massive leaps” using technologies they could not have possessed. He cited the Great Pyramid’s construction, using centuries-old fringe claims about its alleged perfection to argue that “the question is really valid” whether aliens or Atlanteans provided the technology. So, basically he’s amazed that humans draw simple shapes and prefers not to investigate the origins of ancient sites and instead attribute their creation to mysteries. Both Gates and Church laughed at archaeologists for suggesting ways that Egyptians could have carved statues from red granite, claiming that such sculptures are simply impossible for humans to produce.
10/19/2017 11:30:48 am
Should be interesting to see which way the pendulum swings with Gates. How long can he play both sides against the middle ? Will he go all in ?
10/19/2017 03:44:20 pm
Jump Josh, jump!
10/19/2017 11:57:03 am
It has always kind of made me angry that AAT's always come to the conclusion that ancient peoples were basically too stupid and lazy to construct anything of monumental size and complex design by themselves. They needed help from some alien visitors. If they hadn't had such help we would all still be sitting around in caves picking nits off ourselves.
Jonathan E. Feinstein
10/19/2017 04:49:23 pm
Back in the last Ice Age I had a college class that was centered on looking at the various claims of von Daniken (being the only one of that ilk generally known back then) and debunking them. In the end we came to the conclusion that in most, if not all cases, that if he was neither smart enough nor clever enough to figure out how to do something, he decided that no one else could either and therefore those friendly aliens dropped in for tea and while here built a few pyramids in Egypt etc.
10/19/2017 12:00:35 pm
"I love Greek mythology but have never built an altar to Athena"
10/19/2017 03:45:30 pm
Yet you managed to do it.
10/19/2017 01:26:15 pm
A bit off topic, but something you wrote made me wonder if any fringe writers who purport the perfection of the pyramids ever account for the missing casing stone.
Mary C Baker
10/19/2017 02:42:44 pm
LOL I had not thought of that one.
10/19/2017 03:49:05 pm
"Why does science fiction spawn an obsession with space?"
10/20/2017 03:45:39 am
But Jason's point is that you (and he, and the rest of us) are also in a world where unnoticed serial killers exist NOW!!!
10/20/2017 08:10:03 pm
No, Triple D, that's not his point.
10/21/2017 02:23:48 pm
I may be a psychopath, but I'm a very well brought-up psychopath.
10/25/2017 04:40:49 am
10/20/2017 11:18:31 pm
Looks like Jason can't take criticism at all! What a loser. Jason you are a sad little intolerant leftist douchebag.
10/21/2017 12:33:46 pm
Something you two apparently share.
10/22/2017 10:43:02 am
Not to defend Jason, as he can do that well on his own, but you just proved that you, Josh, are the Dbag. If Jason could not stand criticism, he would not allow you to post this very "criticism" you have posted. Jason, unlike many hypocrites that own their blog forums, who censure postings and posters that have anything in them that criticizes, or proves the forum owners' lies/BS, no matter what the subject is, does freely allow it. To wit, your "scientific" rebuttal: Looks like Jason can't take criticism at all! What a loser. Jason you are a sad little intolerant leftist douchebag."
10/22/2017 03:41:44 pm
What an imbecile. Another lame brained moron that has no fame. Such a sad little man like Jason.
Not the Comte de Saint Germain
10/22/2017 04:04:29 pm
It's not the real Josh Gates, just a long-term local nuisance.
10/22/2017 08:51:29 pm
Another Jason sycophant that doesn't even know me! I am Josh Gates Idiot
10/22/2017 09:17:58 pm
Nope, not buying it. Pretty confident that the real Josh Gates is fairly "leftist" too, or at least that collection of scarves he always wore screamed that.
10/24/2017 12:37:36 pm
I'm bad at grammar, but even I, dear Josh, or whomever you may be, I can say that, if you knew your grammar better, you could have used the casual "you" with a preceding comma, to make your point clear. For example. "I am Josh Gates, you idiot." As it stands, you leave those of us in doubt as to your identity, and additionally we can also be in doubt as to your being that very Idiot.
10/24/2017 01:20:32 pm
Of course, talking to a fake Josh Gates doesn't make you look like a moron...at all...
10/27/2017 05:22:51 pm
'I am Josh Gates Idiot.'
10/24/2017 03:42:46 am
I am a small pathetic tiny dick self absorbed hateful little man!
An Over-Educated Grunt
10/24/2017 10:27:15 am
Seriously, is this Scott Reaney?
10/25/2017 01:35:35 pm
10/26/2017 06:27:29 pm
Why do you people get your undies in a wad over this show? It does not pretend to be a doctoral dissertation, it is entertainment based on some history, with some silliness, some humor, some beautiful photography , and some adventure tossed in.
12/15/2017 06:02:24 pm
Sue@ why ARE YOU getting YOU crotchety grannie panties in a wad ? Maybe it bugs him that mindless fools believe this crap that is touted as " History" just because it is on the the "History Channel.
12/16/2018 12:36:12 pm
Am I the only one who is extremely disappointed to see Josh Gates descend to the lowest common denominator of the various dubious History and Science and Travel Channel shows with his new "Scooby Doo and the Ghostbusters" show (Destination Truth)? Josh at least once had a sense of wry self-deprecating humor and didn't take the various crackpot true-believers at their own word when they claimed to have uncovered the true secret to various mysteries. But in his new show he just apes the "Oooh, I heard a noise, I'm scared it must be a ghost!" (substitute Bigfoot, Chupacabra, Vampire, etc.) formula of the tired Ghost investigator unreality shows. The constantly darkened out scenes feebly lit with tiny flashlights, the faux paranormal detection devices masquerading as cutting edge hard technology posing as serious investigations. Most egregious is the obvious central casting of the blonde actress "assistant" with no apparent role other than to scream in terror every five minutes in her role as the Damsel in Distress the rest of the crew constantly races to rescue from being spooked by her own shadow.
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I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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