The episode of Ancient Aliens that aired last night (September 22, 2011) was devoted to “Aliens and Deadly Weapons”; however, at this point in the show’s run—more than halfway through its third season—the deadliest weapon of all is the boring sameness of the program’s many episodes. Last night’s edition was no different, featuring a mixture of absurd claims unsupported by evidence, leading questions, and a few outright lies. The big news is that some of my critiques of David Hatcher Childress’s and Giorgio Tsoukalos’s “evidence” must have hit home as the program contorted itself to avoid directly citing a famous and fraudulent quotation about nuclear bombs in the Mahabharata. But more on that anon.
The first dumb claim this hour is the idea that world mythology contains many separate tales of fire being stolen from the gods because aliens gave humans fire. No, the myth of fire from the sky most likely comes from the obvious source of the first fire—lightning. You know: that fire in the sky.
The ancient astronaut theorists then argue that the ancient myths attributed to blacksmiths—myths forbidding the public to gaze upon them, myths making them suspect and magical—prove they were aliens. This is not true. Blacksmiths were considered powerful and magical, but also suspect and unclean, because they could transform lumps of ore into useful weapons and tools—a process that seemed magical. If this does not seem logical to you, remember: The ancients also considered menstruation to be a mythic, magical event that rendered the menstruating woman taboo and unclean. Unless you’d like to argue that the aliens invented menstruation, there is nothing alien to read into the myths of outcast blacksmiths.
There is really no way to argue for or against claims that Hephaestus, the Japanese gods, the Archangel Michael, or other figures were actually aliens who interacted with characters like Joan of Arc. “Could Joan of Arc have been given her sword by extraterrestrials who had an interest in the future of France?” the narrator asks. Well, no. But the burden of proof here is to show this sword was made by extraterrestrials, not to disprove a wild allegation. I could very well say the sword was made by angels (as indeed Joan claimed), but to accept the reality of angels would require a bit more evidence than the testimony of an ignorant medieval peasant, or an ignorant ancient astronaut theorist.
Next up we have King Arthur and the sword in the stone, which Giorgio Tsoukalos calls a “biometrical security system.” Excalibur, Arthur's second sword, is of course an alien laser super weapon. Never mind that the story of the sword in the stone is neither unique nor original to the Arthur tale, nor are miraculous swords uncommon (they probably are related to the pagan thunder god's weapons, like Thor's hammer and Zeus's thunderbolt--symbols of lightning, not lasers). When we’re making things up, we can write our own rules.
Following this, we are treated to speculation that Greek fire and gunpowder were alien inventions, the formulas bequeathed by extraterrestrials. These claims come entirely from the argument from ignorance. Just because ancient astronaut theorists don’t understand how to make a chemical doesn’t mean no human being ever could. Alfred Nobel managed to invent dynamite without alien help.
Then we had a segment about the alleged deadly weapons of the Mahabharata. Unfortunately, as I have demonstrated not once or twice but three times on separate grounds, these claims are completely false and based on fabrication and lies. Criticism such as mine must be having some impact, however. Ancient Aliens at least refrained from using the completely fabricated quotation that is a standard part of ancient alien theorists’ repertoire. Instead, they contorted themselves to talk around the false quotation, avoiding any direct citation of the Mahabharata. Instead, the talking heads simply asserted that the book contained tales of nuclear bombs and heat-seeking missiles, without ever citing actual passages. This is because those passages, when read in full, bear almost no resemblance to their alleged modern equivalents.
Then it was on to Archimedes and his lasers. This is a problem, of course, because Archimedes invented a mirror to focus sunbeams without the help of aliens. Galienus writes in De Temperamentis 3.2: "It is in this way, at least I think so, that Archimedes burnt the enemy's vessels. For, by the help of a burning mirror, he may easily set fire to wool, hemp, wood, &c.; and, in short, to any thing dry and light" (source). Zonaras and Tzetzes confirm Galienus' account. This is neither a laser nor extraterrestrial, according to these ancient texts.
That didn't stop Ancient Aliens! “Ancient lasers were probably being used, and that technology probably came from extraterrestrials,” said David Hatcher Childress, who in 2006 blasted me in print for claiming he was an “ancient astronaut theorist,” an allegation he denied, claiming he did not believe in alien intervention. That’s a laugh. Last night he continued: “Extraterrestrials may well have given man these weapons. They want us to be able to defend ourselves, to advance, and to ultimately to [sic] be like them.” So, no aliens, right? Childress is an opportunistic fraud, and each appearance on Ancient Aliens shows how easily he transforms his “research” to match whatever “theory” will give him the most publicity.
The best way to sum up this episode is with a quotation from the lead ancient astronaut theorist: “I refuse to think our ancestors came up with these stories out of thin air,” Tsoukalos said. Fine, but I refuse to believe these stories record alien intervention unless and until someone can present actual evidence of extraterrestrial presence on earth. It seems we are at an impasse. But only one of us has the burden of proving aliens were really here. I’ll wait with baited breath for any real evidence.
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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