I often receive complaints that I shouldn’t bother wasting my time reviewing fringe history TV shows because they are just entertainment and no one could believe them. The World News Daily Report hoax article about giants that went viral yesterday should put to rest that fallacious complaint.
I received dozens of notices and questions about the report, which ran on the “satire” website, whose name is often confused with the real news site World Net Daily. The article claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court forced the Smithsonian to admit to destroying tens of thousands of gigantic human skeletons in the early 1900s as part of a campaign to maintain the integrity of Darwinian evolution. The badly written article claimed that the Smithsonian sued the non-existent American Institution of Alternative Archaeology for defamation over claims that the museum destroyed the bones, and that dramatic testimony unveiled a century-old conspiracy. Supposedly, the Court ordered the Smithsonian to release classified documents, which is also silly since the Smithsonian is not a U.S. government agency and does not have the power to classify anything.
Not only is there no suit by the Smithsonian, the photograph accompanying the World News Daily article comes from a web presentation by Steve Quayle on the Coast to Coast AM website. The photo of so-called “giant” skulls shows skulls of perfectly normal size, to judge by the quarter provided for comparison. The quarter scales about perfectly to the cast of a human skull I keep in my office, and there is nothing “gigantic” about it. Quayle, though, is a very interesting figure. On his website we see the raw id of gigantology laid bare: Quayle explicitly ties gigantology to the Nephilim and Fallen Angels, and he uses both to make open appeals for readers to buy precious metals from him and to turn to him for advice on doomsday prepping. In sum, the giants are of interest because they prove the Bible true, justify conservative ideology, and guarantee the promise of the Apocalypse to come. Quayle is also the operator of Genesis 6 Giants, a crappy website about Bible giants.
He also has a section (co-written with Sue Bradley) devoted to scare-mongering about the coming zombie apocalypse, which combines (a) zombies, (b) Biblical prophecy, and (c) Helena Blavatsky’s root races. It’s a combination I’ve never seen before. In Quayle’s version of Christianity, ancient pagan mythology describes the wars and horrors of the earth before Genesis 1, and he sees myths of ancient cataclysms as reflecting the events that cause God to make the earth “without form and void.”
This assumption explains the catastrophic nature and judgment contained within many of these stories. Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu, Shamballah, and Shangri-La — all are legendary great civilizations that are undoubtedly based on events in pre-Adamic time. These civilizations all display advanced design, technology, and/or health and medical advances only now seen in our modern age. And each tale contains an unbelievable day of reckoning which fell upon them because of their wickedness.
This is the most unusual reading of fringe history and Genesis I’ve encountered recently, since it essentially strips Genesis of its role in describing the special creation of the earth. Traditionally, fringe historians like Ignatius Donnelly or Helena Blavatsky or the ancient astronaut theorists have sought to tie the destruction of these (imaginary) civilizations to the Great Flood of Noah. It’s certainly an interesting way to try to merge the arguments of young earth fundamentalists with the scientific evidence for a much older earth.
However, when Bradley and Quayle begin writing that “Recent scholarship suggests the Easter Island statues memorialize a prehistoric zombie outbreak” and started citing fictional sources like the Zombie Research Society and the Federal Vampire and Zombie Research Agency, I began thinking that whatever the misbegotten mess of an “article” was meant to be, it wasn’t intended to be taken seriously. And yet, after reading part 2, I’m not entirely certain that the authors don’t mean for their audience to take this seriously as an investigation of the role played by zombies in world history as a counterfeit of the resurrection of the flesh promised in Scripture. Are they hoping the audience doesn’t notice? Or are they mistaking fiction for fact themselves?
Quayle’s eclectic style of throwing anything and everything into long incoherent collages that lack a clear thesis of connecting analysis makes it virtually impossible to figure out what he’s really trying to say. His websites mix together giants, UFOs, ancient astronauts, angels, zombies, prophecy, and various flavors of paranoia in equal measure. In fact, like Charles Fort, his assembly of seemingly disconnected material becomes a sort of Rorschach test, allowing the reader to see in it whatever the reader wishes.
On the opposite extreme, our friend Scott Wolter leaves very little up to the reader. He stopped by archaeologist Brad Lepper’s blog earlier this week to comment on a year-old post about the Newark Holy Stones, nineteenth century fakes that Wolter wrongly believes are evidence that Jews colonized Ohio in pre-Columbian times. Wolter returned to his favorite sub-theme, arguing that experts’ opinions are worthless (except for his own, of course) according to the standard of evidence used in U.S. law courts:
Think about it this way, what admit able (sic) evidence would you have to support your position if asked to present your case in a court of law? Remember, the other side would shoot down the unsupported speculation of your PhD witnesses. Bottom line is you can shout “fake” and “pseudoscience” as a way to try and discredit me from the highest hilltop as loud as you want; but that doesn’t make you right. A responsible academic should take the obvious and correct position that the stones remain an open question.
In a few sentences Wolter manages to discredit all of his own findings without realizing it, for he has rejected the very concept of expertise, logic, and reason. By rejecting the idea that experts can draw conclusions and that these conclusions have validity as a representation of truth, Wolter ends up destroying his own ability to suggest that his conclusions have any weight since they, too, require logic and reason (I know… work with me here) to draw conclusions from observations he claims as objective science. For example, his observation (disputed by experts) that the Newark Holy Stone “look” old does not imply that Jews came to America in pre-Columbian times even if we accept it, since dozens if not hundreds of alternatives could equally explain the observation. Wolter almost becomes a postmodernist in rendering truth unknowable.
Lepper responded to Wolter as logically as one might expect: “My arguments against the Holy Stone are not merely conjectures and unsupported opinions. And science is not a court of law.” He goes on to explain to Wolter the concept of burden of proof, which Wolter seems to have missed in his law lessons, and he schools Wolter on the difference between a mere opinion and a conclusion drawn from evidence. Lepper’s co-author, Jeff Gill, answered Wolter on the flaws in the Hebrew on the Holy Stones and offered some very thoughtful comments, which you should read in their entirety, on the way Wolter’s acceptance of the stones at face value misses out on the more fascinating story of how these artifacts played an important social role in the run up to the American Civil War, “the event everyone could see coming, and that everyone wanted to forestall, at whatever cost.”
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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