This episode of Ancient Aliens rehashes claims about DNA and human genetics that the series has covered many times before, including “Alien Evolution” from 2015 and “Project Hybrid” in 2019. DNA also happens to be one of my least favorite ancient astronaut subjects.
The show opens in the now-familiar Ancient Aliens orange conference room with an all-star panel of talking heads speculating from Biblical texts that aliens genetically modified human beings because they saw one primate species “had potential,” thus creating anatomically modern humans. The narrator proceeds to attack evolutionary theory, claiming science proved that Charles Darwin was “incorrect” about some claims he made in 1859, and Giorgio Tsoukalos, resurrecting Victorian anti-evolution arguments, says that Darwin’s mistakes leave us in search of the “missing link” to humanity, something that can’t be found because aliens, not nature, created us. There’s a lot to unpack there, from the show’s refusal to understand that science corrects and builds on ideas rather than fossilized them (so Darwin’s small errors are not dogma but rather hypotheses that didn’t pan out) to the show’s very obvious efforts to reenchant the world and restore a supernatural origin story to humanity by finding a way to make “modern science” support the Bible.
A lengthy segment discusses alteration of DNA using CRISPR, and Tsoukalos says that DNA technology existed in ancient times, with aliens. He falsely claims that Erich von Däniken said in Chariots of the Gods that the proof of aliens would be found in our DNA. Point of fact: Neither DNA nor genes is mentioned in Chariots. Indeed, in that book von Däniken thought aliens created humans by having sex with primates, a position he maintained until Ancient Aliens finally changed his tune in the late 2010s. It’s not good that I know more about Chariots of the Gods than von Däniken’s own “protégé.”
“We don’t believe anything is a coincidence”—such is the mantra the talking heads all agree to. That’s a fair assessment of their conspiratorial mindset.
The second segment talks about so-called “knots” in DNA and how the looping shape DNA can take impacts gene expression. The talking heads, admitting to not understanding DNA, assert that aliens must be responsible for any structures or functions that are beyond their knowledge. This leads to another explicit effort to try to rescue the Bible from mythology by casting the Eden narrative of Genesis as a story of aliens genetically engineering humanity. Weirdly, they attribute the genetic manipulation of Adam and Eve to the Serpent, not to God, and therefore recycle old material about snake and serpent myths from around the world. They introduce false material from Zecharia Sitchin in order to use a pan-Babylonian interpretation of Genesis that makes the Mesopotamian god Enki into the Bible’s Serpent. Don’t ask. It’s not worth it. They also claim that ancient art depicting geometric shapes represents a DNA double helix, even though circles and spirals are a fairly basic pattern.
The third segment quotes geneticist Gary Nolan—the alien researcher, yes, him—claiming that DNA doubles in complexity every 600,000 years and therefore must be twice as old as the Earth. The show says this means it came from the stars, but it’s more likely that Nolan is simply wrong. The show goes into questions about panspermia based on DNA discoverer Francis Crick’s 1970s speculation that DNA is too complex to have evolved naturally on Earth.
Confusingly, this somehow folds into discussion of various Homo species, including Neanderthals and Denisovans and the survival of bits of their DNA in ours. Tsoukalos can’t understand why there could have been similar related species (apparently he has never met coyotes, foxes, wolves, or dogs), and the show asserts that “Darwin” was wrong because humans have fewer chromosomes than other primates, and therefore could not have evolved from them naturally—even though the show itself acknowledges that earlier primate chromosomes (they wrongly call them “chimp” chromosomes—we didn’t evolve from chimps but from a common ancestor) fused to form human ones. William Henry says this process cannot be natural but must be an “upgrade” made by aliens. He provides no evidence for this assertion.
The fourth segment opens with a discussion of alien abductions and the aliens’ supposed interest in creating alien hybrids. As mentioned above, they have covered this before in a whole episode whose spare parts they have recycled for this segment. This particular segment about Dhyanne Swanson claiming an ET stole her fetus, and the footage used, are copied and pasted from a 2014 episode, “Alien Breeders.” Swanson is wearing the same clothes, so I assume it’s a direct repeat of the previous material. I did not bother to watch old episode to confirm this.
The fifth segment repeats material from another 2014 episode, “The Star Children,” claiming that ETs hybridized some human children to give them genius intellect and psychic powers. According to my notes, the taped segment is verbatim from the episode, and the show adds to it promotional footage from talking head Caroline Cory’s direct-to-video, credulous documentary Superhuman (2018), with Cory now alleging that psychic powers are really aliens communicating information to us through our DNA. No, it did not make sense when she said it. How can the aliens read minds or guess playing cards from the other side of the universe and then instantly inform Star Children? Basically, magic!
The talking heads bash “Darwinian evolution” some more, demonstating their complete lack of understanding of all of the scientific developments in evolution biology since the 1960s. Their cartoon version is straight out of early twentieth century textbooks, before even punctuated equilibrium and other modificiations of Darwin’s ideas. The various talking heads and the narrator keep repeating the question of whether aliens could have altered human DNA to evolve us toward the aliens, as though repetition will somehow make an evidence-free claim true. The end result is that the talking heads agree that aliens are good and that their “end goal” is to “usher in a new era” where humans transcend to “angelic” status by eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge and becoming genetically like alien gods. It’s a weird heresy, worshiping the Serpent, but what’s a little Satanism in the age of QAnon riots against cannibal Luciferians?
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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