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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ancient Astronauts; That Old Fall-Back


What is it with conspiracy theorists and their authority arguments?  They’re almost as bad as religious extremists; dealing in absolute terminology and finding evidence for absurd ideas in all those empty spaces that our knowledge has yet to illuminate.
This isn’t to say that I disagree with all of their theories.  I’m actually somewhat of a believer in a great many of their speculations, but I wish they would realise that their ideas are just that, speculation and conjecture.  Take the History Channel’s hit show, Ancient Aliens, hosted by Giorgio Tsoukalos[1], David Childress[2] and George Noory[3]among several others.  They present some compelling arguments, though that’s really all they have; authority arguments.
Now, if all you’re interested in is producing a popular television show, then authority arguments will do you just fine, but if you’re looking for the truth, then you’ll have to delve a little deeper than terms like, “must have been”. “could not have been”, “impossible” and “had to have extraterrestrial help”.  The basic assumption made by pretty much everyone on the show is simply that ancient peoples (our ancestors), were incapable of doing any of the things that history records them doing; from the building of megalithic monuments and henges, to more complex construction projects (such as Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu).  I don’t pretend that I know any more than they do about these ancient sites, or about the people who built them, but my ignorance will not be punctuated by an acceptance that they could not have been built by our ancestors.
But I get ahead of myself too easily.
As most everyone should know by now, the Ancient Astronauts theory (or theories, as the case may be) is a collection of unanswered questions surrounding the origins of some of the world’s most mysterious places, artefacts and traditions.  It says, quite simply, that aliens are responsible for all things relating to those unanswered questions.  And to my own chagrin, they use the same straw men and authority arguments as creationists do.  The only difference between them is the name that they give to the mysterious being that fills our gaps of knowledge.  Instead of “God did it”, they offer “aliens did it”.
The Ancient Astronaut theory can be evoked any time there is a mystery presented throughout our history, but some make more sense than others.  There are too many different theories and questions to cover in this forum, but they tend to break down into a few manageable categories: buildings, legends and art (cave art and petroglyphs).
The theories surrounding buildings pretty much all maintain that ancient humans could not have built the things that they did without the assistance of greater, alien technology.  The problem enters where the absolute terminology these theorists use crosses paths with examples and demonstrations of simple construction techniques that can prove that those peoples would most definitely have been able to undertake and complete such projects, without help from aliens or gods.
The legend theories tend to be an attempt to replace God with extraterrestrials, and as Arthur C. Clark put so eloquently “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, this is the basic premise of the ancient alien theory in this regard.  The theorists typically point to any angelic or divine interaction noted in either the bible or in other religious texts as evidence not for God, but for the interference of aliens on our ancient ancestor’s development.
The art theories, which admittedly tend to comingle with the legend theories, are largely finger pointing exercises.  The theorist simply points to any disc like object found in any ancient artwork, and says “see, there they are!”
Though as I said above, I’m on board with a lot of what they say, these theorists, I’m just uncomfortable with the language they use. Absolutes are unforgiving, and when dealing with places, artefacts and ideas that are so old, absolutes have no place in the discussion.  If there is even the slightest chance that our ancestors could have done the things that were done, without the help of an other-worldly or divine power, then we must give them the benefit of our doubt.  Consider the advances in technology that have been experienced since the mid 19th century up to present day.  Our world has changed so much that it would be unrecognizable to our ancient ancestors, and yet we know that all this technological savvy is the product of our own ingenuity and perseverance.
In any event, I would be prone to accept an ancient astronaut theory over a divine theory pretty much any day, but that’s just me, the decision is really for you to make, not me.


[1] Giorgio Tsoukalos is the Producer of Ancient Aliens, the show, as well as the publisher of Legendary Times Magazine.
[2] David Childress is an American author and conspiracy theorist, specialising in ancient history.
[3] George Noory is host of the popular radio show Coast To Coast AM.