Weekend Update: CNN Talks Ancient Aliens, Shatner Babbles about Mysteries, and More!
On Thursday, CNN’s website ran an article on the ancient astronaut theory by Jen Rose Smith. The piece frames questions about the origins of UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Giza pyramids and the Nazca lines in terms of Erich von Däniken’s version of the ancient astronaut theory. It then devotes most of the article’s space to describing how “mainstream scientists” reject the ancient astronaut hypothesis, with lengthy quotes from archaeologist Sarah Parcak.
More or less, the article is fine, though framing it around the ancient astronaut theory without speaking to an ancient astronaut theorist or describing the popularity of the theory outside of von Däniken’s 1960s book sales seems a little strange. I might have included some statistics about the number of people who claim to believe in ancient astronauts, for example.
Smith interviewed me for the article, but I didn’t make the final cut. I discussed many of the controversial aspects of von Däniken’s claims, but the worst of von Däniken’s sins got condensed down to one sentence from Parcak about how the ancient astronaut theory is racist.
Overall, the article lacks a certain quality and depth, and it reads a lot more like a commercial for UNESCO than it does an informative exploration of the challenges of doing science in an age of unreason.
Instead, let me direct you to Cracked, where Cedric Voets much more succinctly and honestly summarized the problem in the headline: “Saying Aliens Built Ancient Monuments Isn't Only Crazy, It’s Racist.”
Voets is summarizing the CNN article, but he brings out the important point that CNN buried at the bottom of the article. A key paragraph repeats an important point I’ve made many times before:
But alien construction theories are a lot more sinister than they let on. Pull up a random article listing the most likely ancient alien monuments and chances are none of these edifices are located inside of Europe. Many archeologists, like Sarah Parcak, have observed that the (white) historians and conspiracy theorists peddling these hypotheses almost always tend to "focus on places home to black, brown and Indigenous people.[”] They'll also often not dwell on the fact that these marvels aren't actually that old. The Moai are dated between 1250 and 1500 CE, while the impressive Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman was constructed around 1100 CE. And if the idea that Europeans by then could build aqueducts and grand castles while aliens had to show non-Europeans how to put stones on top of each other sounds racist, that's because it is.
Fortunately, Ancient Aliens is out of commission while COVID-19 keeps TV production to a minimum. Unfortunately, William Shatner’s The UnXplained is coming back tonight, and he shared his incoherent ramblings about the mysteries of life and death with Pop Culture:
We're surrounded by mystery. Everything is mysterious. We know nothing… Floating stars, things that come into being when you examine them, all disparate phenomena and yet, you know that all of nature is a whole, it's just, we humans can't see it, even with our instruments. One day, maybe it'll be revealed, and maybe it's revealed when we die, but we want to be conscious to see the solution, and every so often, we find the answer to some mystery and that answering that mystery only reveals another mystery.
Shatner added that at his advanced age, he has been contemplating death and considering where the “energy” in humans goes when we die. Once again, as with every other mystery-monger, the underlying theme is always a return to faith and a hope the real world isn’t so real after all.
7/11/2020 09:19:10 am
"Smith interviewed me for the article, but I didn’t make the final cut."
7/12/2020 11:59:12 am
Always the first to jump on anything that doesn’t fit your conservative view, aren’t you Joe? It’s tiresome and boring, and it says more about your prejudices, privilege and pillockry than it does about the article. It’s like you’ve got nothing better to do.
Cruel to Be Kind
7/12/2020 01:43:42 pm
Joe is a tedious one-trick pony who regularly whines about commentaries on racism that are well-supported by facts and research. He reminds me of pseudoscientists who constantly complain about the fact that they are criticized rather than addressing the substance of the criticism.
7/11/2020 02:30:14 pm
At least CNN had the sense to include Dr. Parcak's input. If you're going to have someone speak for ancient Egypt, she's an excellent choice. It could easily have been worse.
7/11/2020 03:44:25 pm
“the impressive Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman was constructed around 1100 CE.”
7/11/2020 08:41:24 pm
Poor Bill Shatner, like Joe Biden it’s time to give up the public eye and enjoy a quiet, well-earned retirement. Too many “slips of the tongue”, incoherent streams of consciousness and poor choices due to the mental infirmities of advanced age. No shame in that, it will happen to most of us if we live long enough. I hate to see the reputations of these men tarnished in their twilight years....
7/11/2020 08:47:03 pm
"home to black, brown and Indigenous people."
Not Not Kent
7/12/2020 11:48:30 am
The Greeks and Romans never came up with something like the Great Pyramids and the most impressive obelisks in ancient Rome were imported from Egypt where they had been built 1000 or more years before. At least tap the brakes here Minimus. Based on superior technology and architecture Nazi civilization was arguably superior to many developing nations in the present. Pump the brakes here Pizzaro. By modern standards and without context the list of great works of the past that could be considered as follies is endless. A century from now Trump Tower may well be considered as such. Slam the brakes there Schoch.
7/12/2020 04:41:19 pm
Indeed. It was a common preconception that the true arch (with a key stone) was invented by the Romans, because early Greek architects didn't build with arches. But in fact pre-Roman arches, both corbelled and with key-stones, are attested both in Egypt and in Mesopotamia from the time of the earliest rulers.
7/12/2020 09:04:36 pm
So the Egyptians had superior piling-up-rocks technology. Gotcha. Still, it's no Stonehenge.
7/13/2020 10:28:28 am
7/13/2020 02:30:05 pm
7/13/2020 07:21:06 pm
Since Stonehenge predates the Pyramids, yes.
7/14/2020 04:44:30 pm
Egyptians also buried preserved bodies in large and elaborate underground tomb complexes in the Valley of the Kings. I'm not sure if there are any significant numbers of better examples of mortuary architecture of the Greeks and Romans that could be viewed as superior.
Jr. Time Lord
7/15/2020 02:26:41 am
7/15/2020 04:51:04 pm
"There's another interpretation of the "Hanging Gardens". While I have no doubt a massive garden once graced Ninevah, the Northern Stars around the pole ...blah blah ..Lohengrin the Swan Knight(Cygnus). Guinevere is Virgo.... lbah... The Celestial canopy ...."
Jr. Time Lord
7/16/2020 06:37:04 am
So... You're not the expert on languages as you've claimed. Too bad. The mysterious name "Albireo" refers to a double star in the Cygnus constellation marking the beak of the Swan. In another guise as Beak of the Hen. This same double star "Albireo" marks the base of the Northern Cross. Sometimes the star is depicted as a fish in the beak of a swan. This is the sharp-nosed fish or "Oxyrhychos". Remember how Isis sent a swan to catch the sharp-nosed fish responsible for eating the tip of Osiris's penis. This is Albireo and ties together many mythological tales. Judging by the Dendera Zodiac the Swan connotation hasn't changed in over 2000 years. The most recent morphology being the King Arthur Myths as the Swan Knight Lohengrin. "Hen" in "Lohengrin" seems to suggest an Islamic influence.
7/17/2020 02:14:00 am
Sorry Ant'ny, I'm not here to service your Older Woman fetish. If you don't see how the intersection of four frozen pizzas and a [n imaginary] date is weird, I don't know what to tell you. You sound like a spectrum guy.
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