Earlier today ancient astronaut theorist Philip Coppens posted a comment on my blog post from Sunday about his claim that the ancient Egyptian architect Imhotep received alien help in building Djoser’s Step Pyramid. Coppens was upset by the post and felt that I unfairly labeled his statement a “lie” when he did not “deliberately” foster an untruth.
I have taken him up on his offer and requested that he forward me his analysis for publication on this blog. I stipulated that there was only one condition: I asked him to use primary sources to support his contentions. I look forward to seeing what primary sources state that “non-human intelligences” gave Imhotep the “knowledge” to build the Step Pyramid.
Let me also make the same offer to any alternative historian or ancient astronaut theorist: If you are unhappy with how I have criticized your work, you are welcome to send me an article (not to exceed 1,500 words unless otherwise arranged) laying out what specific primary sources and/or testable evidence demonstrate the truth of your claim. I will not accept assumptions, references to other ancient astronaut theorists’ work, psychic revelations, appeals to ignorance, or secondary sources as evidence. I will run such articles unedited and in their entirety; however, I reserve the right to offer critical commentary on any such piece I run.
You may send your articles to JasonColavito@outlook.com. Articles are run at my sole discretion, and by submitting you grant me permission to publish your piece in perpetuity on my website. You retain all other rights.
But to return to Coppens for a moment: The crux of Coppens’ complaint is the word “lie,” which Coppens feels unfairly suggests that his intention was to deceive. This becomes a philosophical question; does a lie have to be intentional? According to standard dictionary definitions, the verb “to lie” can refer either to making an intentional false statement or to a false and deceptive act without specific intent. Similarly, the noun “lie” can have the meaning of a false statement that is either intentional or unintentional. While the intentional meaning is generally the first definition (and the only one offered by Wikipedia), the unintentional meaning is also standard. (Conversely, one can also deceive by telling the truth, or by telling only part of the truth. For example, Coppens accuses me of "contradicting" myself by stating Manetho both did and did not mention Imhotep. This accusation is only part of the truth since, while I do make those statements, I also explain that seeming contradiction within my piece.)
Checking my older dictionaries dating back to the Victorian era, I find that intentionality is not consistently listed as a trait of lying; the primary criterion is the falseness of the statement. A century earlier, Dr. Johnson considered a lie a “criminal falsehood” (intentional) or merely a “fiction” in general; whereas the translators of the King James Bible considered a “lie” to be either a criminal falsehood or anything which deceives, while the act of lying could be either an intentional falsehood or any exhibition of false representation, especially when morality requires a fair representation.
That said, in the actual article I wrote, the only appearance of “lies” comes at the end, when I use the word as a noun (i.e., false statements), which follows the second standard definition of a lie and is supported by the facts of the article which demonstrate that Coppens’ statement on Imhotep is an untrue assertion at odds with a plain reading of the ancient texts on which it is putatively based. Coppens is upset about the headline, which says he “lies” about Imhotep. I fully admit that my headlines are sensational; they are meant to attract readers.
However, in order to be completely fair to Philip Coppens, who on Saturday accused scholars of intentionally lying about history to serve conspiratorial ends, I have changed the wording of the headline and the post to remove any implication of intentionality. I have replaced it with "falsehood," whose primary definition is "an untrue statement" but without the implication of intentionality. I still believe what he says is false, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he believes it to be true.
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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