Your antidote to cyber-twaddle and misguided research about the ancient world. Lots of people do research on the mysteries of antiquity. Some insights are valuable; others are insanely stupid. PaleoBabble exists because insisting that conclusions be drawn from data is a coherent idea, because conjecture isn’t evidence, and because appealing to conspiracy to validate ideas is intellectually lazy.Paleobabble RSS
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I leave tomorrow to film an interview with GAIAM TV, specifically the show Beyond Belief, with George Noory. Yes, that George Noory. Beyond Belief is a video/TV counterpart to Coast to Coast AM. It will be nice to see George again, along with other staff that I know (and don’t know).
For those of you who are wondering, I did indeed chat with the producer about my History Channel experience. He was appalled. I’ve known the producer for a number of years (he’s connected with Coast to Coast AM as well). He assured me that the sort of editorial dishonest perpetrated by Weller-Grossman studios on behalf of the History Channel won’t happen. I believe him, given my long history with Coast to Coast AM. They’ve always been gracious and professional.
We’ll film two half-hour segments. I’ve heard they do on-stream a week or so later, but I’ll likely learn more when I’m there. My topic is biblical astral prophecy. For those of you who’ve read The Portent, you know what we’ll be discussing. No blood moon nonsense. Just stuff that you’d find in peer-reviewed academic journals (and more fascinating). I’ll post something about the trip and the topic when I get back.
Jason Colavito has an interesting post on some recent research that damages the Solutrean Hypothesis. For those who haven’t heard of this, Jason explains:
Fringe history believers have long used the Solutrean claim as evidence for European primacy in the Americas, a belief that stretches back at least as far as the lost white race of Mound Builders the first European colonists imagined had been killed off by bloodthirsty Natives. As Scott Wolter told it on America Unearthed, the Solutrean hypothesis explains that white Europeans were the first Americans, long before Native Americans crossed over from Asia. White supremacists like John de Nugent, Kyle Bristow, and radio host Frank from Queens have gone still farther and proposed on these grounds that America was once a white cultural homeland, possibly the Garden of Eden, before “Beringians”—i.e., non-white Native Americans—crossed over and killed them all in a violent race war.
Jason then links to an essay in Science Magazine that discusses new findings in regard to the Solutream hypothesis — and the news isn’t good for “alternative historians.”
As Jason notes, what’s really a shame (or sham) here is the notion (common in the 19th century, but still around) that the “high” civilizations of North America (think the moundbuilders and the Incas, for example), really owe their technological skill to white Europeans of the distant past. Surely the native (non-White) populations were too backward and stupid to build anything that would impress anyone.
In the Old World (e.g., Egypt) the way “researchers” foist the same covert racism on us is the ancient alien hypothesis. Surely the Egyptians, for example, needed help from space to build the pyramids. If you don’t think racism is at the heart of that idea, then you need to start reading the theosophical literature from the 19th century — an endless pool of claptrap from which alternative historians get advanced civilizations and lost continents (Atlantis, Lemuria, Hyperboreans, etc.). Those advanced civilizations settled in the north and then migrated into places like India, Egypt, and Europe … from which their enlightened descendants migrated to North America. It’s really all aliens and their advanced white progeny.
In short, all the major elements of ancient alien theory can be found in the speculative literature (and its horror fiction) from the 19th-early twentieth centuries. The ideas that were “cutting edge” 150 years ago are the urce for the “alternative” perspective alternative historians and ancient alien hucksters present to their viewers and readers today. But for folks not familiar with that stuff, it all looks and sounds so “astonishing” that it gains an audience.
Robert Price is one of the few (very few) credentialed scholars who doesn’t think Jesus existed. His work (and work put forth by others in the same vein) has been debunked by scholars ranging from the evangelical variety to atheists. I’ve blogged about that before. (For those interested, there was a specific response book put out years ago to Price’s Jesus mythicism called The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition).
Price has since moved on to arguing that Paul never existed. His views are set forth in his new book, The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul. The book was recently reviewed in two separate essays on the Society of Biblical Literature’s book review site. Readers are encouraged to read them. They make clear how idiosyncratic and presupposition-drive Price’s work is. In other words, like his Jesus mythicism, his Paul mythicism isn’t going to win many hearts and minds among scholars (people familiar with the data and scholarly methods). But you’ll hear all about it on the web from breathless bloggers and other amateurs.
Jason Colavito posted an interesting essay today where he checks up on an alleged UFO account in a 1461. His post begins:
Let us stipulate at the outset that the famed ufologist Jacques Vallée is French, so we should expect that his translation from his native language should be among the most accurate materials in the 2009 book he co-wrote with Chris Aubeck, Wonders in the Sky. Therefore, when I went to check on what the two authors claimed to be a medieval French account of a silvery flying saucer on the night of November 1, 1461, I was frankly surprised that it appeared that the authors had not actually read the original text they claim to cite.
I reviewed Wonders in the Sky way back when and noted that it at times engages in some pretty uncritical thinking. But Jason does the grunt work here of learning some Middle French to check up on this account. What did he find? Give it a read.
That’s the title of this intriguing essay on the Piri Reis map — an early 16th century map that allegedly shows the coastline of Antarctica not covered by ice.
The image above of the Piri Reis map comes from this much longer and more detailed analysis, the effort of art historian Diego Cuoghi. It’s quite a piece of art-historical detective work. Honestly, anything Cuoghi produces is worth your time. He’s the fellow that has thoroughly debunked (I’d use the word “bludgeoned”) the “UFOs in medieval art” nonsense in a truly remarkable series of essays.
I don’t think I’ve blogged this site before. Anyone interested in Jewish Pseudepigrapha, Apocrypha, Josephus, Philo, etc. should be aware of this site.
As many of you recall, I attended the International UFO Congress in Scottsdale, AZ a week ago. The trip had three purposes.
The first was publisher business. I wanted to promote my novels, The Facade and The Portent. I didn’t sell much. You never do at an event like this when your aim is to give people real data (even in story form) that might lead them to rethink their UFO religion. But the good news was being able to re-unite with two members of Miqlat, “Ward” and “Clarise” (those of you who have read The Portent will understand). We had a lot of interesting conversations during the week, including some that dealt with Christianity (the real kind, not its gnostic new age caricature or its demonization that one often encounters at events like this). Several Christians came up to the table and thanked us for showing up.
For me the most interesting moment was the conversation I had with Byron Belitsos, one of the folks who were in the booth next to ours promoting the Urantia book (sort of the ET-alternative history Bible). I of course don’t put any credence in the Urantia book (it feels like warmed-over theosophical literature). Byron was in a doctoral program years ago and planned to do his dissertation on the Urantia book but couldn’t because its foundation refused to allow any citation of it in any documents. Things are different now since the foundation lost a lawsuit over that, but it’s too late for Byron. He said he was anti-Sitchin and told me he’d given a lecture critiquing Sitchin at a Contact in the Desert Conference. I haven’t been able to find any description of such a lecture, though (but I’ve only put a few minutes into that). But at least in our conversation he had no enthusiasm for Sitchin. My guess is that he “corrects” Sitchin at points (whereas my advice would be to just ignore anything he says about ancient astronauts). At any rate, it would be amazing that the Contact in the Desert conference tolerated anti-Sitchin material since 2015′s event features basically all the members of the pro-Sitchin / ancient astronaut nuttiness pantheon (Giorgio Tsoukalos, Jason Martell, Michael Tellinger, Erich von Daniken, James Gilliland). The amount of verified data/truth from primary texts and peer-reviewed research you’ll find in their collective presentations would fit on the back of a postage stamp. Byron offered to ask the organizers to invite me to speak at one of those events. I wished him luck. It was a nice gesture, but one sort of like when Art Bell tried to arrange a debate between me and Zecharia Sitchin. That of course never happened because Sitchin was no fool.
The second purpose was to chat with a couple serious ufologists (yes, they do exist) about a further round of testing for the Majestic documents. I got some encouragement, direction, and promises of data that will help frame the project. At some point in the future I’ll announce what’s up.
The third purpose was vacation time. My wife and kids were along. We had a lot of fun, on-site and off.
More generally, for those who’ve never been to a UFO conference, this one was pretty typical: lots of unsubstantiated claims (the session on the Allaghash abductions was a textbook sampling) mixed with mind-numbing nonsense (James Gilliland is the new master of that domain), with a dash of thoughtful material (Rich Dolan’s session is one example). Here are some links with pretty good synopses of the IUFO lectures by Robert Sheaffer of the Bad UFOs blog:
I’ve asked it before: Why do Christian “researchers” embrace highly suspect newspaper reports from the 19th and early 20th centuries so readily? The answer, of course, is to prop up a certain view of creationism with the flawed notion that finding a modern giant skeleton would do that. It wouldn’t. You’d need a village or mass grave or something from remote antiquity (at least 3000 years ago) that indicated a population (however small) of such people. The absence of such a find does not, of course, overturn that there were such groups in biblical times (and the biblical text doesn’t require great numbers, either). Basically, the skeletal remains of most every person who lived prior to the Israelite monarchy are gone — turned to fragments or dust. Why? It’s very simple. Canaanites didn’t embalm. It’s an event to find skeletal remains from the NEW Testament era, much less something another millennium or so older. The whole idea of finding a biblical giant to prove the Bible is as misguided as the assumption that finding an unusually tall skeleton from modern times would prove the Bible is true on this count.
This post also shows why researchers such as Carl Baugh or Kent Hovind cannot be trusted for sound thinking and verified data. It illustrates gullibility and academic laziness on their part to put forth a photograph that isn’t a photograph (from 1807 to boot – photography in 1807?) to defend the Bible. They obviously never looked into it.
Jason Colavito is doing all of us interested in the topic of giants a service with this page-in-progress on his website. It’s got a good number of entries/examples already. Check it out!
BBC Wants to be Even Less Worth Watching than American Main Stream Media – Hosts Debate Over Whether Jesus and Buddha Were Space Aliens
Jason Colavito has a short summary of this intellectual fiasco (on all sides, really).
Just more insanity from mainstream media. It’s hard to believe what actually passes for “serious” television these days. I guess the BBC is jealous of the way the Fantasy Channel in this country has padded its bottom line with ancient astronaut blather. It seems insulting the intelligence of viewers is now part of how programming is settled.