In which I catch EVD recycling heavily from his old books…
As we open the second chapter, Erich von Däniken (EVD) gives us a blustery, rather unfocused discussion of stem cells, therapeutic cloning, and the potential for genetically engineering man-cow hybrids. He calls such practices “outrageous” and “alarming,” again reinforcing the conservative positions staked out in Chapter One.
Let’s begin by acknowledging that this entire chapter is largely a condensed and very lightly rewritten version of Chapter 1 of EVD’s Eyes of the Sphinx (1996), following nearly word-for-word in places, specifically borrowing from the Eyes sections starting at “Manetho and Eusebius—Two Witnesses” (p. 49ff.).
Exactly as in the older book, EVD claims that Manetho, the Egyptian historian, was a witness to ancient cloning techniques. He writes that “Manetho and Eusebius complement each other in their descriptions of the ancient records,” which is a neat trick since Manetho’s work does not survive except in quotations and summaries in Eusebius (and others), who used him as his source.
EVD compares Eusebius’ summary of Manetho with “ancient sources” also quoted by Eusebius, but which EVD fails to specify. It turns out it’s our old friend Berossus, the Babylonian priest, in his summary of the Enuma Elish as quoted by Alexander Polyhistor and preserved in Eusebius’ Chronicon. (The complete text can be found in my edition of Cory’s Ancient Fragments.)
EVD treats this as though it were independent of Babylon, probably because he doesn’t have a clue who Berossus was and never bothered to check. His only concern is suggesting—and nothing more than suggesting—that the monsters of ancient myth were the result of alien genetic experiments, experiments we as humans must not repeat. All of this is identical to Eyes of the Sphinx, right down to the quotations used. And since 1996, EVD has still failed to grasp that Eusebius was quoting Alexander Polyhistor quoting Berossus. This is made worse by the fact that we are reading an English translation of a German translation of Eusebius’ report of what Alexander Polyhistor said Berossus said the ancient Babylonian records, themselves derived from earlier Sumerian legends, first recorded.
We then get, sadly, yet another return trip to the fake cave in Ecuador where the aliens’ “metal library” (no longer gold) is supposed to exist. This is not from Eyes of the Sphinx but another book. In The Gold of the Gods EVD claimed to have actually visited this library, but when that lie was proved impossible, he changed his mind and claimed it was all “theatrical effect.” Now, in 2009/10, EVD asserts the reality of the library through the claims of a “witness,” Petronio Jaramillo, who was the original hoaxer whose claims EVD used in concocting the whole sorry mess in the 1970s! (Repeated expeditions to the cave, including one led by Neil Armstrong, turned up no metal library. This largely discredited EVD from that point until ABC-TV gave him a TV special in 1996 at the height of the “alternative archaeology” craze.) This section is a lightly revised version of material from Gold of the Gods.
Next, EVD takes on a brief tour of his greatest hits in the genetic experimentation theme, including highlights from the (as he reminds us time and again) “25 books” he’s written on the subject. (At this point “written” should be in quotation marks.) The aliens mixed and matched earth creatures into monsters, he says, so they could extract their DNA and clone them on “other planets.” Never mind the near impossibility of it, or why aliens who were able to build their own DNA had to come here to find good DNA to clone. He supports this theory with some speculation about why the Apis bull mummies of Egypt were artificially made out of bitumen and smashed bones (because the aliens needed to extract the DNA, of course) and, again, bits of Berossus that he mistakenly thinks were Eusebius about monsters.
All of this is again copied nearly word-for-word from 1996’s Eyes of the Sphinx, yet another instance of EVD’s “recycling” of his previous work, this time without acknowledgement.
He also makes much hay out of a translation error he doesn’t recognize. He quotes Ange-Pierre Leca as stating that one of the Apis bull mummies “must have had two skulls,” thus matching Eusebius’ description (via Berossus) of genetic hybrid creatures with two heads. But that isn’t what Leca said. Here is how EVD presents the quote, about the inside of the fabricated bull mummies, translated in Twilight from French to German to English:
But here is what Leca actually wrote in The Cult of the Immortal in the standard English translation of 1980:
And thus the mystery vanishes. The two skulls were filler in one these large pseudo-mummies. They were not two heads of one creature. EVD is simply a fraud who mixes and matches quotes to meet his agenda.
Bonus fraud: On the left is EVD in Eyes of the Sphinx (1996), and on the right is EVD in Twilight of the Gods (2012), supposedly not repeating himself in his completely original twenty-fifth book.
Even the outrage is copied! I think you can tell that the two different English translators have here rendered near-identical German passages slightly differently into English. The only difference is the inclusion of “our old friend” to describe Eusebius, an edit tying the copy-and-paste job to the rest of the chapter, most of which is a condensed version of the opening chapter of Eyes of the Sphinx, parts of which were also cannibalized nearly word-for-word for the last chapter of Return of the Gods (1999).
EVD concludes the chapter with a call for DNA testing of Egyptian animal mummies to prove they were genetically engineered. Go ahead. Give it your best shot.
Now, look, I’ve been known to present expanded or condensed versions of my own articles, incorporating the text into new pieces. My Origins of the Space Gods is an expanded version of “Charioteer of the Gods,” for example. But I acknowledge when material is reused. My general rule is that I will incorporate in their entirety revised versions of short works (like blog posts or articles) as sections of expanded longer work (with acknowledgement), but I won’t reuse only bits and pieces as if I were creating a mix tape of random sentences from my greatest hits. This conforms to the generally accepted practice for nonfiction authors, though some ethicists claim that any use of previously written text is self-plagiarism and therefore unethical. If that were the case, then Malcolm Gladwell would be in big trouble since so much of his work is revised versions of his New Yorker articles. Obviously, I don’t subscribe to that extremist view.
But I do draw the line at copying and pasting random paragraphs from earlier books and selling them as new work. Jonah Leher, for example, was reprimanded by The New Yorker for recycling sentences and paragraphs he had written for other publications as part of his New Yorker work and his books, without any clear relationship between the new pieces and the previous stories where the material had appeared. He did this without acknowledgement of the borrowing, and that was wrong. (He also admitted yesterday to fabricating quotes... why do people like him and EVD get so many chances to make money off fraud?)
So far, Twilight of the Gods isn’t just old ideas, it’s also a collection of old wording very lightly revised. What galls me is that EVD spends so much time telling us over and over again how many books he's "written" and how original they all are, as though he has so much contempt for his paying readers that he assumes they are so stupid that they can't remember his previous work. Is it too much to ask that if you’re going to make millions off of your lies, you at least present new lies in each book?
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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