Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Ancient Aliens

Ancient Aliens Debunked

with 3 comments

puma-punku

I saw a fascinating show the other day. Well, part of a show. Ancient Aliens Debunked. It was a far more interesting show than I had imagined. I not only recommend it for people who have seen Ancient Aliens, but also for people who haven’t. Ancient Aliens Debunked can be watched at the link I provided. Well, at least for people who have some interest in the ancient aliens theory or just an interest in the ancients. I found the show fascinating for a number of reasons. (Quelle surprise.)

OK, background and refresher for noobs to the topic. The ancient aliens theory is a theory that in the past humans had contact with aliens. Erich von Däniken would be the most well known proponent of this theory, from his 1968 book “Chariots of the Gods.” The History Channel came out with a series about the theory called … Ancient Aliens. It’s inspired at least two blog posts on my part, here and here. Basically the series was very disappointing to me. It played fast and loose with the facts, and was clearly meant to give credence to the ancient aliens theory without actually examining it critically.  In other words, anyone who was seriously interested in the ancient aliens theory is going to be disappointed by the show. However, the same people should like the Ancient Aliens Debunked show, since at the very least it separates the wheat from the chaff. If you’re gonna promote a theory widely regarded as a crank theory, wouldn’t one want to examine the actual facts in evidence?

And that’s what Ancient Aliens Debunked does. I leaned a number of things I didn’t know. Always good. The one segment I watched was on  Pumapunku. Or Puma Punku. This is a large pre-Incan temple complex or monument group in Bolivia. It was built by the Tiwanaku civilization, and surrounded by city and farmland where as many as 400,000 people lived. Around the year 1,000 the civilization abruptly collapsed, possibly due to environmental change. The Incans believed Pumapunku was built by the Gods and was where the world began. Ancient aliens theorists believe Pumapunku was built thousands of years before the conventional dating, and required the use of advanced technology. Evidence for this is that the stones used to build the complex weigh as much as 800 tons, they were made of granite and granodiorite, and carved with incredible precision. The Tiwanaku civilization simply could not have moved such stones, nor carved these stones with the copper tools they had. Not to mention they didn’t even have a written language, how does one coordinate and plan such a massive construction without writing?

All sounds pretty convincing, or at least difficult to explain, right? Not really. It’s easy to make things sound mysterious if one picks and chooses one’s facts, and makes up facts if the real facts don’t fit. Let’s start with the purported age of Pumapunku. The conventional age dates the Tiwanaku civilization the the few centuries prior to 1,000 ad or so. How did ancient alien theorists come up with an age of over ten thousand years? Simple, one “researcher” decades ago calculated the age of Pumapunku by looking at celestial alignments, and concluded that it was built more than ten thousand years ago so that the stars would match the alignments. The problem of course is that any “alignments” in the ruins are purely subjective, and using this method one could “prove” Pumapunku is any age one wants.

OK, the Tiwanakuans didn’t have a written language. Um, so what? They did have language, and they most certainly can draw pictures. It’s not like they had to come up with modern blueprints, we are talking stacked rocks here. But wait, how about the amazing precision of the cut blocks and how they were put together? Again, easy. The idea that these blocks were cut and fitted with fabulous precision is simply … a lie. The blocks exhibit  great variety, no two are alike, and their rather crude precision is exactly what one would expect for blocks carved with stone tools.

Wait, how could granite and granodiorite have been carved with stone or soft copper tools? Well, for one thing, the blocks at Pumapunku are not made of granite and granodiorite, they are made of sandstone and andesite. And both of these are relatively soft and easy to work stones. Not to mention that the quarries where these blocks were made have been found, with partially made blocks. And while copper is very soft, Tiwankua was a Bronze Age culture, IE they had discovered how to make much stronger copper alloys by adding other metals to the mix. This isn’t just speculation, archeologists have found many examples of the stone working tools the Tiwankuans made.

Lastly we come to moving these giant 800 ton blocks. Oops, another lie. While some early estimates of the blocks had numbers as high as 800 tons, modern more accurate measurements place the largest block at 113 tons, and the vast majority of blocks are much smaller. And on many of the blocks grooves and other structures have been carved that are clearly meant to attach ropes to the blocks. The illustration at the top of the page shows one such carving. Obviously if one had some sort of alien levitation device, one wouldn’t need to go to the trouble of carving slots and holes for ropes. As a final blow to the levitation idea, all of the blocks clearly have drag marks on one face.

In other words, almost everything that ancient alien theorists say about Pumapunku is a lie, and their “conclusions” are not only unsupported by the evidence, they are contradicted by the evidence. Does this mean that the ancient aliens theory is balderdash? Pretty much. At least until actual evidence of contact with aliens in the past is discovered. So far, no luck. However, I still recommend the Ancient Aliens Debunked series because I learned a lot about history and how ancient stone structures are made from just this one episode. In fact I saw a picture of Stonehenge the other day and I could clearly see the distinctive ripple pattern made when shaping a stone with stone tools. So I not only learned something about Pumupunku, I learned something applicable to any megalithic structure.

Was there any purpose to the is post besides sharing my enthusiasm about a TV show? Not really. I do find it fascinating that people can cling to and promote beliefs that are, well, silliness. It seems to be the nature of humans. As many have observed, this may be why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet, there’s no intelligent life down here. Next up, ten ways atheism is a religion. Or maybe something else.

(The above image came from Wikipedia: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License. For those interested in ancient stone cutting techniques, this seems to be a good link: Ancient Egyptian Stone Technology.)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2012 at 11:41 am

The Peruvian Stargate: “La Puerta de Hayu Marka”

with 8 comments

8

Yes, there it is, the Peruvian Stargate. It’s known as “La Puerta de Hayu Marka.” Or “The Gateway To The Gods”, “Aramu Muru”, and “The Doorway of the Amaru Meru.” I know, I said Bolivian Stargate in yesterday’s post. That was to throw off people who might be tempted to cheat and google it. (You know who you are.) I found out about it on the Ancient Aliens program. “La Puerta de Hayu Marka” was reportedly located in a remote area of Peru, and was only discovered by westerners in 1996. The local natives have all sorts of colourful stories about it, and the Ancient Alien theorists have even more colourful stories about it. There is a small depression in the centre of the doorway (which is about 5 feet high by the way) that reputedly was the place where a “key” was inserted to activate the doorway.

Well, I thought, this is curious. I began a search online to see what else I could find out about “La Puerta de Hayu Marka”, and well, pretty much nothing but the various Ancient Alien sites happily copying and pasting the exact same story a million times. I was a little surprised, I would have guessed that a new and mysterious carved structure in the mountains of Peru would have merited a least some archaeological interest, even if to just point out that it is a known Inca structure of no interest. Even the skeptic sites didn’t mention it, how could this be? Is it so mysterious that they can’t explain it and are even afraid to try? Queue Twilight Zone music.

Alas, after way too much time wading through various sites, I finally stumbled upon the truth. And was profoundly disappointed. In this case, a picture speaks a thousand words, here is another image of “La Puerta de Hayu Marka:”

OK, it’s not the best photograph, but the “stargate” is visible in the shadowed area at the lower right. Note the stunning remoteness of the location. That’s Lake Titicaca at the upper left. Not visible are the locals hanging around the site to sell trinkets to credulous westerners. Buying trinkets is optional, paying the local in the hard hat who will show up to collect “admission” is not. For more money one can even see locals perform some sort of magical rite. Just don’t listen too closely to what they are chanting, because it’s likely something along the lines of “More money from gringo suckers, ha ha ha.”

Sigh. In conclusion, there’s nothing remote about this gateway at all, the conquistadors no doubt saw it. The idea that westerners first saw it in the nineties doesn’t pass the laugh test. And it’s no wonder no archaeologist has paid much attention to it, it was no doubt picked clean and destroyed by looters before there even was a science of archaeology. (Grave robbing is the world’s second oldest profession.) In fact, I would bet the farm that this was a little known Inca ruin until some guy in the nineties noticed its superficial similarity to … drumroll… a certain prop in a certain science fiction show. And the rest is history, if made-up turista trap tripe from the nineties can really be called history.

I’m really pretty disgusted by this one. At least with the things like the Nuremberg UFO woodcut, there is at least some mystery. This is just a previously unremarkable Inca ruin dressed up with story for the modern UFO crowd, no more mysterious than the various “Mystery Spots” along roadsides in the USA. And this was hyped on the History Channel? For shame.

(Welcome new and old readers. I hope you enjoyed this post. As of January 2018 I have resumed regular blogging on my new Patreon version of Doug’s Darkworld. Science, history, current events, and posts about a certain president who can hardly go a day without inspiring a blog post.)

(The top image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is the best darn picture of the stargate I could find. Credit and copyright: Erin Irkun. The second picture is also claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit. Credit and copyright Darren Alff. The fine travelogue of his journey to the Peruvian Stargate, with many other photos, can be viewed here.)

1561: UFO Battle over Nuremberg

with 12 comments

A famous UFO case from 1561, illustrated above. And the text below it, the best translation I could find:

In the year 1561 on the 14th day of April in the morning between … [difficult special time phrase] … and … [difficult special time phrase], that is in the morning between 4 and 5 on the little clock, a very horrible vision showed at the sun when she rised and was seen at Nuremberg in the town and in front of the gate and at the countryside by alot of male and female persons. First the sun showed and was seen with two bloodcolored, halfround strokes like the diminishing moon right through the sun, and in the sun, above, under and on both sides stood bloodcolored and partly blueish or ironcolored, also blackcolored round orbs. The same on both sides and in circled plates around the sun – there were such bloodcolored and the other orbs in great numbers, standing three in a row, sometimes four in a quadruple, also alot as singles. And between such orbs alot of bloodcolored crosses have been seen, and between such crosses and orbs were bloodcolored strips, thick behind [“streyme hinden dick”] and to the front a bit smoother than … [ ? “hocken rho[?]”]. Mixed in between together with others stood two big tubes, one to the right and the other to the left [hand’s side], in those little and big tubes were three, four and more orbs. This alltogether began to fight [“streyten”], the orbs first in the sun moved towards the ones standing at both sides, so the ones, which were outside, moved together with the orbs out of the small and large tubes into the sun.
Also the tubes moved towards each other like the orbs and everything fought and battled [“gestritten und gefochten”] with each other nearly one hour long. And after the battle, which moved for a while into and again out of the sun from one side to the other most violently, exhausted itself by each other, everything (as drawn above) fell from the sun and the sky down to the earth like burning alltogether and vanished [“vergangen”] down on the earth gradually [? “allgemach”] in a big smoke. After such events something like a black spear, the shaft from sunrise [east] and the head towards sundawn [west], has been seen with big thickness and length.

[It follows a lengthy phrasal standard passage from a typical christian viewpoint of that time, about warning signs of Godfather, the sin of the non-believers and the awaited day of judgement etc. Not very related to the event as such, but there is a hint by Hans Glaser, that the “signs” in the sky were significant in quality and numbers in the recent time.]

And that’s that. What to make of this? Well, Ancient Alien theorists have all sorts of ideas about it, all revolving around UFOs battling it out in the skies. Google “Nuremberg UFO” and any number of theories pop up. Some sort of time slip and people witnessing a WW2 aerial battle have also been proposed.

What do I think? Granted I didn’t have time to fly to Germany and comb local archives, but from what I can tell the material is believed to be authentic. IE it really was a broadsheet from the times, and the woodcut made by Hans Glaser does depict the event in question, although it was made some four or five years after the fact. There also exists a second woodcut by an unknown artist apparently depicting the same event:

It doesn’t really add much to the story. And that’s the first problem, there isn’t much of a story. From two images and a broadsheet (newspapers hadn’t been invented in 1561) there isn’t enough information to come to any firm conclusions. Speculation is all well and good, but it’s just speculation.

Which brings me to my first point. Since it’s not much of a story, the first thing that needs to be done if for an archivist who specializes in the era to start going through records and see what else they can find. 1561 was awhile ago, but it wasn’t the Middle Ages, and there are buildings full of contemporary archival material. And there most definitely are Ancient Alien Theorists, Däniken comes to mind, with the money to hire someone to do just this. An event this spectacular should have left other records, and even one more contemporary account might shed light on the matter. That no one has done this is both a shame, and a sign that people like Däniken are only interested in making money off the topic, not actually researching it.

So in conclusion, no real conclusion can be reached. 1561 was not exactly an educated age, in fact it was very much an age of credulity and faith. “Miracles” such as this were not uncommon, this was by no means a one-off event. Only the fact that someone made a woodcut of this particular event is why it is so big in current Ancient Aliens theorizing. There are any number of spectacular and unusual atmospheric/weather/optical phenomena that could have inspired this sighting, confounded by the fact that people had no clue what they were seeing and thus interpreted it as they did. The fact that the second half of the broadsheet is a Christian warning very much leads one to suspect that people’s faith and belief in miracles may have influenced what they saw, and very much influenced how they remembered it. (It should also be noted that modern Ancient Alien theorists are clearly influenced by their beliefs as as to how they interpret this event.)

I keep hoping for an Ancient Alien or UFO story that is more than just anecdotal, but this one wasn’t it. An interesting story, I would love to know what people saw in the sky that day, but I suspect we will never know.

(The above images are still Public Domain under US copyright law, their creators having been dead some four centuries. Hans Glaser doesn’t even rate a Wikipedia entry, though some of his other woodcuts can be viewed here. Coming next, the Bolivian Stargate. Yes, it’s real.)

Written by unitedcats

March 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

Age of Unreason II

with 3 comments

Well, sure got some interesting comments on my “Age of Unreason” post. So I am going to address them, well, at least the ones that deserve a reply. I deliberately omitted the authors because this isn’t personal. Comments are in italics, spelling errors corrected:

Been awhile since my last post… As always Doug the person defining the rules wins the match. Ancient astronauts? Earth only 7 k years old? Please… Absolute stupidity. How about the ‘Karen Silkwood’ conspiracy? Valid? Or the holocaust– Germans were solid fact checkers, and even calculated the lifespan of each fire-brick in each oven used to dispose of human remains. When one adds up the number of firebricks actually used, its pretty obvious that 10 million bodies couldn’t have been disposed of… A lot of bodies? Yes absolutely, but not the numbers universally agreed as true and irreproachable. Don’t get me wrong- the Nazi Regime was one of the darkest stains on humanity, but compared to Stalin or Chairman Mao– they were pikers!

 Well, the holocaust was certainly muddied by Stalin and others for propaganda purposes even before the war was over. I’m not going to go into the details of why I (and virtually all historians) look askance at holocaust denial, there’s plenty on the web for people to look at. The question I would ask is this, why then have none of the people charged with holocaust era crimes claimed “It didn’t happen?” I might do a dedicated post on the holocaust and holocaust denial some day, especially since some new information has come to light recently. I might look also into Karen Silkwood someday, I have no opinion currently.

I think you have to look at any of these “conspiracy” theories with an open mind. History is defined by the conquering force. If Hitler would have took over, I doubt there would be any mention of the Holocaust. As for the ancient astronauts, the history channel has a really informative series regarding this conspiracy, worth watching if you are curious. The moon landing, well I guess we will find out if the Americans where there if the Chinese or Russians get there in the next decade.And the young earth creation. Well I think way to many geologists and archaeologists would have way to many examples of older artifacts and rock samples to prove that conspiracy wrong. At any rate it is a great post Doug. I try to keep an open mind, then I realize that we as humans are hardwired to chose, either right or wrong.

I look at all theories with an open mind. As for Hitler hiding the holocaust, Mao and Stalin won … yet were unable to hide their crimes. In the past with far more limited travel and communication, it was most certainly possible for winners to rewrite history.  Increasingly in the twentieth century historians have such a  wealth of sources, and global communication and travel are so prevalent, that rewriting history has become far more difficult. Captive populations like North Korea might be fooled, brainwashed populations might be propagandized into believing nonsense, but historians are much harder to fool these days, especially on a global scale. On a related note, “Fatherland” is an interesting movie with just that as a premise, Hitler won and concealed the holocaust.

So, somewhat related.. are we to just ‘take the governments word’ and believe Bin Laden was captured and thrown in the sea? Or is it ‘OK’ to have another view, in light of who is telling us to ‘believe it’ ? Just asking.

I have always maintained that everything governments say is suspect, a government’s statement has zero intrinsic  prohibitive value. It is frankly kind of annoying that I have been repeatedly accused of blindly believing what the government says, simply because I register disbelief at someone’s theory. Because I say I find the 9/11 Truther’s theory or any other theory unconvincing does not mean that I believe the government’s version of events. If that’s not clear enough, I’ll spell it out with shorter easier to understand words next time, because it’s a very simple concept. Sheesh.

As mentioned earlier – history is defined by the winners and text books are re-written continuously. Reality is relative.

• CONINTEL

• J. Edgar Hoover hides the existence of the mafia.

• Operation Mockingbird

So how much is a belief in “conspiracies” and how much is the willingness to admit we have been repeatedly lied to by media and government so it may be best to keep an open mind.

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

~Aristotle

I am about half-way through “The Creature from Jekyll Island” – a historical look at the Federal Reserve written from a “conspiracy” perspective.If we agree that alchemists and illusionists exist – then we can ask what is it they want us to see (or not see) and why is it important that we see it (or not see it)? The “Expando Earth” theory is interesting – but is it considered a conspiracy?

No, history books are relative, reality is what actually happened. I am perfectly aware that much of what we were taught as history in the USA is a lie, and other countries to a greater and lesser extent are the same. Because I express disbelief in a  theory does not mean I have a closed mind, it means I examined the evidence presented and currently find it unconvincing. Again, a simple concept that I shouldn’t have to repeat.

As for the Expanding Earth Theory, I am perfectly happy to accept the scientific consensus that it is not a viable theory.  At least it’s a real theory, some papers were published on it. As for the claim that scientists are afraid of a theory because it upsets so many apple carts,  what a load of horsecrap. Scientists have repeatedly throughout history accepted applecart upsetting theories when the evidence in support of them became conclusive. The Big Bang Theory, Plate Tectonics, and Relativity being three excellent recent examples.  Frankly, when someone claims that science refuses to look at their theory, they might as well hang a sign around their neck that says “I am a crackpot.” Prove your scientific case, don’t claim there is a conspiracy against you.

And that’s that. I’m glad I didn’t blog about anything sensitive or taboo, that would really get me skewered. I apologize for being a little snarky in some of my replies, but I think I made a good case why I was so inclined. Next, maybe a nice safe uncontroversial post about atheism.

(The above image is in the Public Domain, and may be reproduced freely. This particular WW2 submarine was indeed involved in some highly mysterious activity that to this day has never been explained. Conspiracies happen, sometimes they get exposed, sometimes they don’t, not arguing that point. It’s kind of a cool story so I will blog on it, and it’s why I am not identifying the submarine at this point. Yes, I know, tech savvy readers can no doubt identify the image and the submarine within minutes, if not seconds. Please don’t spoil it for those who want to wait for the blog post on same.)

The Age of Unreason

with 13 comments

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought, as inspired by some recent events in my life and my blog. Specifically, conspiracy theories. There’s a lot of them, especially if one uses the term conspiracy theory loosely, which I am doing. I see some commonalities in these theories, and have some speculation about them. I have picked four theories for purposes of discussion. First, I’ve tried to pick theories that are reasonably well defined and have a definite body of supporters. Secondly, I’ve tried to pick theories that are generally well known, for clarity and to forgo as much explanation as possible. And  I’ve lastly tried to pick theories that hopefully most readers of Doug’s Darkworld don’t subscribe too, but if I failed, well, bear with me, maybe we can both learn something. In no particular order:

  1. Holocaust denial. These are the people who claim that the holocaust either didn’t happen or was wildly exaggerated.
  2. Moon Landing Hoax. The theory at the Moon landings were faked by NASA.
  3. Ancient astronauts. The theory that aliens visited Earth and interacted with humans thousands of years ago.
  4. Young Earth creationism. The theory that the Earth is only about 7,000 years old.

There are any number of others, but these will do for what is a very rough analysis. I see several commonalities in all of these, as follows:

  1. There is enormous amounts of good, solid, empirical evidence showing that these theories are at best, wildly unsupported. In fact all of these theories have alternate scientific/historical explanations that are generally accepted among experts in their relative fields.
  2. The only evidence presented by advocates of these theories is interpretive, IE they look at evidence that the vast majority of people not only would find unconvincing, in many cases they would see it as evidence of the opposite. There is no direct empirical evidence for their theories.
  3. The followers of these theories are firmly convinced of their veracity, refuse to accept even the possibility of alternative explanation, and may very well perceive experts who disagree with their theory as “conspirators” deliberately acting as agents to deny the reality of their theory.

Interesting, nu? Now for the purposes of the following, I am assuming that the above theories are indeed poppycock. If a gentle reader feels differently, politely indicate in a comment, and I will write a future post (or even posts) dedicated to your particular theory and it can be commented upon at length. As my recent 9/11 Truther posts demonstrate.

I see a number of things going on here. (No, no more lists.) The first, and this isn’t original, is that the human brain is explicitly hard wired for pattern recognition. It’s what humans do, and more than anything else may be what separates us from the beasts. The fact that the gentle reader is able to effortlessly translate the black squiggles on this page into words, and then recognize the concepts being expressed by these words is proof positive of this. Pattern recognition is the default option, even if there is no possibility of meaningful patterns, like the shapes of clouds, humans can nonetheless recognize patterns in them. The fact that some humans might recognize conspiracy patterns where others don’t is perfectly understandable in this context.

Secondly, an this is where it gets interesting, as Seneca said: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” In other words, there are plenty of smart people perfectly happy to promote these theories for their personal gain. Be it monetary or otherwise. Some of them are sincere adherents of the theory, others are clearly laughing all the way to the bank. Worse, modern communication like the Internet and modern science coupled with propaganda/advertising has made it easier for people to promote and promulgate a theory. I don’t think there’s any question that modern conspiracy theories have achieved far greater penetration than such theories in decades past because of modern social media. Partly by just allowing their spread, partly by making it easy for people to reinforce their beliefs with confirmation bias.

Lastly, and this is conjectural, I think people belonging to some “select” groups satisfies seem deep human psychological urge. The people who believe in these conspiracies often seem to take great satisfaction that they are privy to some special understanding that others lack. They often put it far less diplomatically though. Maybe it’s a need to identify with some tribal entity. Maybe it’s like advertising, and people are programmed to express their identity through brand loyalty. Maybe it’s the same thing that makes people fans of particular sports teams,  don’t know. There’s definitely some psychology going on here and no doubt sociologists are working on it as I  type.

And on the gripping hand, let me conclude with the observation that people who subscribe any of these theories aren’t stupid. They may be annoying at times, but frankly when certain skeptics roll their eyes and make nasty comments about “believers,” they are pretty much exhibiting a lot of the believer characteristics they claim to deride. Not helping. No other real conclusion, this post is most emphatically primarily designed to stimulate discussion.

Discuss?

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law, as it was produced by a federal employee in the course of their duties. Credit and copyright: NASA. I used it because it’s a perfect example of the sort of “evidence” that believers claim is “obvious” proof of their theory. See the flag, it appears to be waving in a breeze. And since there’s no breezes on the Moon, it’s obvious proof that the picture wasn’t taken on the Moon. Of course why the people faking the Moon shots would have a fan going on their set making the flag wave is never explained … or even asked.)

Written by unitedcats

February 8, 2012 at 8:26 am

Ancient Astronauts Revisited Again

with 8 comments

Here it is, proof that aliens visited the Middle East thousands of years ago, a Sumerian clay seal depicting the Sun surrounded by all eleven planets, with visiting planet Niburu by itself in the next open space to the right. Yes, proof positive that aliens have visited earth in the past. OK, yes, I’m being facetious. Even a little insulting and sarcastic, sue me. At the behest of reader’s comments, I reviewed online what is touted as the best evidence for alien visitation in human history. I was not impressed.

This Sumerian seal is claimed to represent ancient knowledge of our Solar System having more than the traditional five visible planets (Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn.) I suppose it could be interpreted that way, but eleven planets? Assuming it is even supposed to be the Sun and planets, how people explain the depiction of eleven planets quickly gets too torturous to bear repeating. Suffice it to say we don’t know much about ancient Sumerian astronomy, but I couldn’t find any serious references to the ancients having any knowledge of the Solar System beyond the visible planets. Nor did the idea of a Sun centred Solar System appear until thousands of years after the Sumerians were dust. I don’t know what was being depicted above, but Venus in a field of stars is as good a guess as any. My point is that there is nothing definitive about the above image, so one can make any interpretation one wants.

The Nazca Lines were mentioned. These are huge outlined figures in scraped soil in a  desert in Peru made some 15 or 16 centuries ago.   They were rediscovered, or at least weren’t brought to the world’s attention, until the advent of modern aircraft revealed their extent. Yes, they are very curious. Yes, we have no idea, only speculation, as to why these ancient peoples went to all this trouble. However, and it’s a big however, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about their construction. It didn’t take that many people to make them, nor were any particular arcane skills involved. Ancient peoples did all sorts of stuff that seems pointless to modern people. Because we don’t know why they made these figures isn’t evidence of anything. They wouldn’t have been to only people in history who thought the Gods were looking down on them from the skies.

A lot is made about how ancient people’s moved such huge rocks around. Again we have a number of problems with this as evidence of alien intervention. First of all, a lot of progress has been made understanding ancient engineering. So right off the bat we have a line of argument that has been steadily weakening the past few decades. And it wasn’t a strong argument to begin with, and was often exaggerated to make it stronger. No, the blocks making the pyramids weren’t so finely cut that a piece of paper can’t be slid between them. Gaps between them are often big enough to stick one’s fist into them. The pyramids were an amazing accomplishment, and there is no doubt lots we still don’t know about them, but the mysteries they still hold don’t require any alien intervention to explain.

Then there’s the ancient Sanskrit writing in India. I can’t even be bothered to look up the reference, because a decade ago I read a book on same. If the gentle reader doesn’t know what I’m talking about, they’re not missing anything. Long story short, in this huge body of ancient mythical literature, there are a few passages that could be interpreted as descriptions of flying machines or space flight. There’s also passages in the Bible that could be interpreted as same. And other references too I am sure. The problem here is the same ol same ol retrofitting problem. If one has a theory, and searches for evidence that supports the theory, one can find evidence that “fits” the theory. Um, so what? Unless the evidence of alien visitation is so clear that every other interpretation isn’t viable, it’s not really evidence. Yes, this is setting the bar rather high. That’s because when one theorizes that leprechauns invented human civilization, anyone with a brain is going to require powerful arguments and strong evidence.

As one more aside, a lot of people don’t seem to understand that at least some of the people promoting alien visitation claims and similar such are doing it for the money! Gasp, would people simple make stuff up to sell books and make buckets of money? Yes, yes they would Virginia. I have a hard time grasping how  someone can fervently believe the claims made by say Von Däniken, but not believe that he might be simply lying? Alien visitation is more likely than a human being lying to make a buck? No doubt some adherents of radical theories are serious, but a huge amount of nonsense gets injected into the debate by charlatans. And then repeated as fact by the credulous. Sigh.

On the plus side, pseudoscientific nonsense aside, there is really good news in the search for ancient aliens. Since it’s entirely possible that aliens not only exist and have visited the Solar System, there are sound scientific reasons for looking for evidence of same. Any empirical evidence of alien technology would be fascinating and informative for any number of scientific disciplines, and even the search for same has interesting scientific aspects, so mainstream science is indeed moving beyond looking for alien radio beacons in the stars. There are  a number of promising avenues of investigation in the search for ancient alien visitors to earth.

That’s my next post. Or some future post. I think the next post is on the frightful rise of elder immolation in the USA.

(The above image is so ubiquitous on the Internet that a copyright notice seems pointless, still, it’s claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, yadda yadda yadda. I chose this image because it’s as far as I can tell the best proof the informal ancient astronauts theorists can come up with. I see.)

Written by unitedcats

November 8, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Ancient Astronauts, has the Earth been visited by aliens?

with 6 comments

Yes, I am deliberately writing a fluff piece because I don’t want to write about the nightmare that is Libya. OK, fluff piece is a bit unfair, let’s just say this is a fun post. In the spirit of “any topic should be taken seriously,” some people are convinced that aliens have visited Earth in the past, and claim there is evidence purporting to support said conjecture. What are we to make of this? In no particular order …

First off, the theory is not absurd. Humans exist, therefor it’s undeniable that tool-using interstellar travelling aliens are a possibility. IE if tomorrow someone found the equivalent of an alien Viking lander sitting in the Gobi desert, it wouldn’t overturn any current scientific theories. At least there’s no extent theory I am aware of that precludes that possibility. OK, so the concept of ancient aliens passes the laugh test. It goes mostly downhill from here though. Sigh. And I loved “Chariots of the Gods” as a kid.

For one thing, there is no known artifact of alien origin extent or in the historical record. There are a few hints here and there in the historical record, none of which rises above anecdotal hearsay level in terms of empirical veracity.  If aliens have visited Earth, they were few and far between, and they were careful not to leave anything behind.

Secondly, there are no mysteries in the historical and archaeological record that require an unknown alien contribution to explain. In the nineteenth century things like the Egyptian pyramids and Easter Island statues were head scratchers, those days are long gone. There is no need for nor is there any evidence of non-human intelligence in any ancient construction, archaeologists are agreed on this. And modern archaeology is an amazing thing.

As a codicil to the first two, it should be noted that it would be relatively easy for aliens to leave more or less unmistakable traces of themselves if they so desired.  Artifacts  made out of alloys only modern technology could produce for example. In the information realm it’s even easier. A map of the far side of the Moon, or a map of the Solar System showing Neptune and Uranus would do the trick in spades. No such item exists to the best of my knowledge.

Now I could take a look at a lot of the purported evidence for alien visitation in more detail, but frankly none of it is really much to get excited about. Some rock drawings of people with what could be construed as space helmets on. (As illustrated above.) Some figurines and such that bear a superficial resemblance to jet aircraft. Nothing that rises above the “well, it sorta looks like” level.

Well, almost nothing. There are three items that bear a little more comment. The first is the Tunguska Event in 1908. This was a nuclear sized explosion in remote Siberian, I’ve blogged about it. At one point it was somewhat mysterious, and it has been half seriously proposed that it might have been an exploding alien spaceship of some kind. As with the pyramids and Easter Island, that was then, this is now. Modern science, while it doesn’t understand everything about the Tunguska event, is now sure it was caused by a large rocky asteroid that overheated and exploded when it plunged into Earth’s atmosphere. Poot.

Secondly, the Dogon people Sirius mystery. The Dogon people are a people that live in Africa, Mali to be exact. It is claimed by some that the Dogon possess astronomical knowledge that wasn’t known until the modern era, to wit that the star Sirius has an invisible (to the naked eye) companion. Sadly, what the Dogon don’t possess is a written language. So even if we believe that some Dogon wise man told a western anthropologist about Sirius’s invisible companion star in the 1930s (and even this is subject to a lot of doubt,) that’s still nearly a century after modern astronomers discovered Sirius’s companion star. That’s a lot of time for the information to have made it to the Dogon people long before the anthropologist got there in the1930s, the Dogon are not some obscure tribe living in the hinterlands, they are a large tribe in well travelled areas that have had contact with westerners for centuries.

Lastly, the author Johnathon Swift in his satire Gulliver’s Travels written in 1726 mentions Mars as having two small moons similar in size and orbit to the Moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos … which weren’t discovered until 1877! Pretty amazing coincidence, eh? This has led some to suggest that Swift had access to information that had to have come from aliens. Alas, the reality is more prosaic. For some time before Swift it had been conjectured that Mars might have two small moons. Small because they couldn’t be seen with the telescopes of the day. It seems more than likely that Swift was just using an astronomical theory of his day when he wrote about the two moons of Mars. Poot again.

So basically, when it comes to ancient astronauts, there’s no there there. It’s a nifty idea, it’s not impossible, but none of the evidence so far lacks alternative prosaic explanations. Personally I think that the people who believe in alien visitation should take a more scientific approach to the problem instead of searching for evidence that supports their belief. Any moron with a theory can find evidence that supports their theory. The scientific method was invented to weed people like this out of serious discussion. It needs to be appled more rigorously.

(The above image is public domain under most copyright law since the artist has been dead some 10,000 years. It’s a rock drawing in Italy, one among hundreds of thousands. Yes, it could represent people wearing space helmets. It could represent idle stylized graffiti. It could represent whatever one wants. What it doesn’t represent is proof of anything.)