I’m scheduled to appear this evening on a podcast called The Afternoon Commute at Hoaxbusterscall.com. I’m supposed to record the show at 6:30 PM ET (3:30 PM PT), though I’m not sure if it is broadcast live or only released as a recording. While the host represented himself as a skeptic, it appears from the website that the show has its fair share of unusual beliefs, ranging from the New World Order to moon landing conspiracies. This will be interesting...
One of the things that constantly amazes me is the anger that fringe figures feel toward scientists, historians, archaeologists, and generally anyone who produces knowledge. I used to think that it was an affectation, a sort of rhetorical device designed to give weight and credence to their arguments by casting the fringe writer as the oppressed heretic wrongfully denied his glory. When Erich von Däniken wrote about the potential for oppression in Chariots of the Gods, I assumed that it was simply rhetoric: “Because its theories and proofs do not fit into the mosaic of traditional archaeology, constructed so laboriously and firmly cemented down, scholars will call it nonsense and put it on the Index of those books which are better left unmentioned.” But half a century later, fringe figures seem to be much more emotional about their hatred of academia.
We see that quite clearly with America Unearthed host Scott Wolter, who rails against academia and archaeology with venomous bile, and genuinely feels anger that his fanciful notions about Masonic conspiracies dating back to the Sethites and the Cainites at the dawn of time are not taken seriously. But consider Graham Hancock’s equally rabid rant against archaeology on his blog this week, after the announcement that a Mesolithic monolith had been discovered off the coast of Sicily. Hancock believes this monolith’s existence confirms his claim that a highly advanced global civilization was destroyed by a comet at the start of the last Ice Age.
CRASH! BANG! RUMBLE! Do you hear those sounds? Faintly? In the distance? Just audible over outraged yells and howls of protest? Those are the sounds of the house of history collapsing and the furious yells and howls are from the archaeological establishment trying to drown out the truth with their noise.
Who is exactly is howling in protest? The monolith’s discovery was reported in an academic journal—which Hancock acknowledges but, in his blind fury, claims is an anomalous embarrassment to an otherwise censorious archaeological establishment trying to hide the truth about antediluvian civilization. He claims that an unnamed archaeologist declared the find to be “whimsical and void of scientific meaning,” but he gave no source and I can find no archaeologist who is angry that the stone was uncovered. He says that “the establishment is doing it utmost to shout-down this extraordinary discovery”—by publishing it in a journal and talking about it in most major newspapers; you know, hiding it.
Hancock speculates that the monolith was built by the same culture that constructed Göbekli Tepe in Turkey and possibly also Gunung Padang, the likely medieval Indonesian hillside stone site nationalists in that country have claimed is actually an artificial pyramid that predates all other human structures on earth.
Hancock has long conducted a war on science. He has picked fights with former Egyptian antiquities official Zahi Hawass, Egyptologist Mark Lehner, NASA, and others he accuses of conspiracies to hide the truth. It’s almost predictable at this point that he’s crying suppression just in time for the release of his new book in the UK next month and America in November. But there seems to be a genuine anger underneath the self-glorification of himself as a history hero.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have the more milquetoast Micah Hanks, who in recent articles has superficially called for more collegiality and civility in debating fringe topics, but beneath the surface nevertheless is upset with those who reach conclusions rather than simply promote inexplicable and ineffable mysteries. “I would,” he wrote a couple of months ago, “like to observe here that, generally, the attitude conveyed by many within the modern skeptical movement toward those who propose such ‘fringe’ ideas tends to be one not only of dismissal, but also ridicule.”
Hanks called out skeptics for being too mean in dismissing even the most obviously untrue of fringe claims, such as the belief in a flat earth: “Somewhere along the way, we seem to have lost the idea that discourse in relation to such ideas can occur in a civil fashion, and without having to rely on heavy cynicism and ad hominem attacks to get our points across.” But Hanks directs his upset only at skeptics, not to the fringe advocates who cry conspiracy, accuse scholars and officials of nefarious deeds, or criticize those who agree with the scientific consensus as closed-minded, blinkered, or evil. Indeed, Hanks engaged in just such name-calling himself this week when he wrote about those skeptical of the existence of Bigfoot, decrying efforts to investigate the legendary monster because for skeptics such efforts yield “just another way to fulfill their confirmation bias… This, in place of actual logical deduction, amounts to just being lazy skepticism.” And here I thought we weren’t supposed to rely on “heavy cynicism and ad hominem attacks.”
Hanks takes issue with what he calls “denialists,” whom he sees as people who reject evidence in order to preserve outdated paradigms. For him, the rejection of a fringe hypothesis means that we should look for a different fringe hypothesis lest any potential anomaly be ignored. He illustrates this with UFO sightings, arguing that “denialists” are wrong to dismiss UFO sightings just because there is no evidence they are extraterrestrial:
Conversely, the problem with those “denialists” among us is that they suppose that since there isn’t evidence to support an ET element to any of this using hard data, that this means there is simply nothing to UFO reports at all. I would argue here that many hardened skeptics may, at times, overlook the logical extremities that their argument presents. Also, perhaps their argument is largely against an ET hypothesis, rather than merely attacking ambiguous reports of unidentified flying objects that could be any number of things, based largely on the misinterpretation in the modern era that “UFO” means, without exception, “extraterrestrial.” Here again, I find little in the skeptical argument against an ETH that I differ with, but this may not rule out various observations of aerial phenomenon that appears to be of an unconventional nature.
Here Hanks’s argument is partly right and partly wrong. He’s right that in the realm of human knowledge as a whole, investigating the actual origins of UFO sightings—be they misidentifications, hallucinations, military test craft, etc.—is useful and important for examining data. But if you are interested in whether aliens visited the earth, once you determine that was not the case, it no longer matters to those investigators whether the UFO was a military test or one of Karl P. N. Shuker’s proposed flying invisible jellyfish. The issue isn’t “denial” but rather what question are you asking them to answer? If the question is “Did aliens visit earth?” then the answer is clear: No such evidence exists. If the question is “What are UFOs, really?” then you are on to a different subject.
If we accept Hanks’s own views in their “logical extremities,” he ends up arguing that no question can ever be answered because there are always endless possibilities, that no mystery can ever be ignored or dismissed because some new speculation can generate a new round of investigation. What about time travelers? How about interdimensional beings? Visitors from a hollow earth? Flying invisible jellyfish? Projections from our collective unconscious? Demons in flying chariots? Hanks would like to place the burden of proof on skeptics, but that isn’t how science works, and it isn’t even how the rules of argumentation work.
By the way, a word of disclosure: After Hanks challenged me to appear on his radio show, I accepted his offer (twice) through his producer. Neither Hanks nor the producer ever contacted me again.
8/11/2015 05:03:11 am
Evidence does not support their conclusions. Without evidence they're left with conjecture, assumption, and outright lies as the basis for their theories. With only theories and claims of some vast conspiracy thwarting their efforts as the foundation of their arguments, they're ignored by most, if not all, scientists, archeologists, and historians. They're angry because they're not taken seriously by the very establishment they claim is corrupt and withholding evidence.
8/11/2015 05:14:17 am
You should change "the burden of prove..." to "proof".
8/11/2015 05:23:08 am
What's outdated about bible giants? That's cutting edge progressive stuff right there!
8/11/2015 08:24:59 am
Biblical giants will never be out of date because there is no real official theological explanation for them.
8/11/2015 05:24:21 am
Angry racist is what I call them.Crybabies.Playing victim.
8/11/2015 06:02:00 am
Hancock in his fake pseudo documentary from the 90's about his Alantis cult idea made a statement about the Olmecs.He stated that "these are clearly black africans" and others were "bearded caucasians".From my reading of this guy he also believes Egyptians were black.Completely ignoring the modern Egyptian people who are a North African people who are the direct descendants of their ancestors.Hancock is married to a black woman so you can see where his biases comes from.
8/11/2015 06:07:14 am
I am of the opinion that what makes fringe advocates so angry is less that true scientists less consider that their theories have no real scientifc merit, but that they are ignored. Scott Wolter seems to have this attitude more than many of the others of the fringe. He rails against the scientific community for not paying any attention to his theories. He now feels that his "evidence" should only be looked at by those that he feels are "qualified" to judge it. That excludes most, if not all, of the real scientists who have expertice in geology, archeology, ancient languages and runes.
8/11/2015 08:27:21 am
Fringe advocates are so angry because boring explanations are continuously accepted in opposition to their colourful and exciting alternative explanations that have high entertainment value.
8/11/2015 08:42:09 am
It's true, fringe theorists survive solely on entertainment value and not on demonstrative evidence.
8/11/2015 06:44:10 am
Why is the idea that Main Stream Scientists might be blinded and unwilling to think outside the Box so absurd to you? When history shows all through History that has been the case, it's always only the establishment of the Present it's considered absurd to question.
8/11/2015 07:11:55 am
"Remember, there was a time when believing the Earth revolved around The Sun was a Fringe theory."
8/11/2015 08:30:07 am
The important thing here is to realise is that science eventually accepted the fact that the Earth revolved around the sun. Science is open-minded, it's the fringe-theorists that are not open to change.
8/11/2015 12:25:47 pm
Actually, Jared, history rather proves the opposite: that people who think outside the box are accepted ALL THE TIME. As soon as they can present evidence that can be verified and replicated. Yes, if you go back FIVE HUNDRED YEARS, you can find a religious empire refusing to accept evidence because Religion. But you know what? In the community of the Renaissance, it was accepted pretty quickly, not at all slowly. And the Catholic Church probably would have accepted it sooner, too, if Galileo hadn't been so quick to make personal ad hominem attacks on the Pope of the time--just gonna say.
8/11/2015 08:11:18 am
8/11/2015 08:43:49 am
I have a really amazing theory about why that's happening.
8/11/2015 09:29:40 am
You haven't been banned from the reply button. It seems that the last round of browser updates has made the reply button incompatible with some browser/operating system combinations. It will likely correct itself in the next round of updates.
8/11/2015 08:33:54 am
>>>there are always endless possibilities, that no mystery can ever be ignored or dismissed because some new speculation can generate a new round of investigation<<<
8/11/2015 12:28:08 pm
On the contrary, I think they fear answers because answers mean new questions, which means change, and fringe thinkers are TERRIFIED of change. Look at the scare language they use and how they present these things as "earth changing paradigms" all the time. They want things to stay precisely the same as they are, and completely ignore that such is an impossibility and deadly besides.
Mike Bara sure is angry. Here's a very entertaining exchange I had with him in 2013:
8/11/2015 01:06:47 pm
Looks like Bara gave a backseat to research because all he needed was the edge.
8/11/2015 01:10:49 pm
You have to admit Mike puts up a compelling defense of his position. lol
8/11/2015 01:30:38 pm
I just can't get over how much Bara looks like Tom Green in Freddy Got Fingered.
8/16/2015 02:26:30 am
He seems nice. ;-)
8/11/2015 09:09:56 pm
Though it's no defense of Graham Hancock, from the few times I've seen Dr. Hawass on TV, I've had the impression it wouldn't take much effort to pick a fight with him :o
8/12/2015 02:58:34 am
Ego probably plays a huge part in all this. People who take "appeal to authority" as meaning that their own ignorance on a subject (or disinformational eduction on the subject) is equal to (or better than) what any authority on the subject has to say about it, are simply driven by ego. The anonymity of the Internet might exacerbate it.
8/12/2015 03:02:45 am
Typo: "known" should be "knows"
8/12/2015 03:58:19 am
Well if NASA would just consult with Jesus/TheSecretMasters (depending on your religio-political persuasion), we wouldn't have the problem, now would we?
8/12/2015 05:58:01 am
It was Wendy's hamburgers, and it was 'Where's the Beef?'. Wendy Peller commercial, circa 1984. Arby's at the time was 'hot and juicy'. The original jingle was a slight at McDonald's and ever since their burgers are shaped to appear larger.
8/12/2015 07:15:14 am
But I didn't say "Where's the beef?" dear. I said "Show us the meat," which is from a recent string of ARBY'S commercials that PLAYS on the Where's the beef? campaign. This is a thing that is done all the time in advertising. They are, however, two distinct campaigns and need to be recognized as such. I don't know who designed each campaign, but whether they're the same people or not, conflating them is kind of like saying there was only one Beatles album, or possibly that the Monkeys and the Beatles were the same band just because the Monkeys spoofed the Beatles.
8/12/2015 07:37:54 am
8/12/2015 11:19:33 am
Actually the commercial slogan is "has the meats"
8/12/2015 11:44:38 am
Sorry slightly incorrect. The slogan is "we have the meats"
terry the censor
8/12/2015 03:32:18 pm
> Why Are Fringe Science and History Writers So Angry?
1/19/2016 04:57:03 am
8/12/2015 08:31:19 pm
I wonder if some fringe authors like Hancock, Childress, et al actually believe what they write though. Hancock doesn't name an archeologist because one doesn't exist, so he knows what he wrote isn't factual. Childress constantly flip flopping his theories to match what is popular in the media, surely can't believe that what was once made by Atlantians is now alien, then vice versa.
8/13/2015 04:54:58 am
"<Scientists> talk amongst themselves and their own journals, but the outside world hardly hears a peep. Only once in a while something pops up in the news by chance. . . . If they want to drown out the nonsense, be louder."
2/25/2016 04:19:52 am
Thank you, Uncle Ron. I seek All Content, No Drama. Glad you do too.
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