Last night, my brother-in-law Mark and I watched the first half of the first episode of the new “Ancient Aliens” series on the History Channel. It’s an expansion of the documentary that came out a little while ago.
Not being a scientist, as my friend George P. can attest, I watched the program solely with my logical reasoning skills and historical research skills in mind, which I feel I am qualified to use, having completed a BA and an MDiv, and written over 100 papers during that time. I also feel that my exposure to ancient religious texts and how to interpret them, skills I also obtained during my days at seminary, qualified me to assess the claims. In other words, I was not paying attention to the scientific details at all–since I am wholly unqualified to comment on science (Mark is a college student studying chemistry and has taken several classes on physics, so he is, though)–I was simply assessing the soundness of the arguments, and looking at the background of the texts cited.
Well, I expected the program to be a little kooky. I have to say, it was a total joke. A sick joke, and a waste of my time. I could only watch 30 minutes of it!
Analysis of the Arguments Presented
1) Statuettes that look like planes are proof of ancient aircraft. Yes, they did not have a regulator device on the back (a rudder for planes?). But we see there is a marking on one of those statues, where something fell off, so we can assume there used to be one (even though that part was not found in the intact tomb…)
2) A golden statuette that looked like an insect to me was discounted as an insect because “insects don’t have wings in the front.” Yet it didn’t look like it was in the front to me, as much as in the middle. Mark remarked that it looked like the statue had eyes, and that they were holding it on the wrong side anyway. Still, this was proof to these “researchers.” On top of that, they “proved” that this was a viable plane, by making a model to scale and putting it in a wind tunnel. This is “proof” that alien aircraft visited, according to these “scientists.”
Could the Ancients have produced gliders? Why not? Even though I still maintain the thing looked like an insect, even accepting it is a glider, how does that prove anything? Does it really take that much brain power to look at say a dragonfly and say, “hmmm, well it obviously flies somehow. Given this is 2500 years before they figured out anything about physics, I have to go on my hunches here. And what I see is it has these wings and it has a a proportionate body and it does something with that tail” etc etc and try to recreate that? It doesn’t seem that much of a stretch to me. I guess it’s just too disappointing to believe that Ancient Egyptians invented a prototype hand-glider and then didn’t do anything with it. Alien visitations make so much more sense.
3) Historical text analysis starts here: they mentioned this “ancient text” called the Vaimanika Shastra. They said it was an ANCIENT TEXT. That this ANCIENT TEXT had aerodynamic instructions.
They didn’t mention that in fact, it was produced by a Hindu guru in a trance in the 20th century: “based on the linguistic analysis of the text, the review concluded that it came into existence sometime between 1900 and 1922” and that “A study by aeronautical and mechanical engineering at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in 1974 concluded that the aircrafts described in the text were “poor concoctions” and that the author showed complete lack of understanding of aeronautics.”
Sources listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaimanika_Shastra
4) One participant said (paraphrased): “Can we really say all this is a coincidence? And don’t coincidences after awhile seem to be more than coincidences?” (No, that is why they are called coincidences.)
Another participant used the logical fallacy “argument from ignorance” (also called “negative evidence”) when he stated (paraphrased): “Some people say there is no proof these are models of alien spacecraft….but do we really have any valid argument that they are not?” Excuse me, but anyone with any training whatsoever in any discipline knows that that is a logical fallacy and that it is NOT POSSIBLE to make such an argument to “prove” ANY idea!
Some of the participants in this program:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Cremo : Convert to Hindu fundamentalism. No academic degrees completed.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hatcher_Childress : No academic degrees, and no formal training in archaeology
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Greer : Is a licensed physician in NY, but based off of medical training he obtained from the Maharishi Intl Univ, which anyone who was alive in the 1960’s knows is highly questionable.
1) Just because someone does not have an academic degree, does not mean he is unqualified to comment on things, on a certain level. One can become a master of a topic without a terminal academic degree, and sometimes these people can teach in universities, even. Knowledge is knowledge. However, having at least ONE degree proves that someone has the diligence to stick with a program that is monitored by people outside himself. It shows a certain credibility. So I would not immediately discount someone without a degree, but I would be suspicious until proven otherwise. When these people have their own publishing houses, and state things that are VERIFIABLY FALSE, then I start questioning the real reason they don’t have a degree.
2) There is no proof that aliens did “not” visit earth, but this is a logical fallacy to claim that this means something. There is no proof my dog does not talk when I leave the room. There is also no proof that these ancient aliens are not really demons. That is actually my personal take as an Orthodox priest, that if such aircraft are present in ancient texts or ancient paintings, they could be the product of demonic visitations (which I believe modern UFO abductions are–the stories are similar to demonic apparitions as described in the Church Fathers’ writings). That being said, I would never try to “prove” that such things are demonic as I have no way to measure it. Science doesn’t address that question. These apparitions could just as much be the result of schizophrenia, being high on some hallucinogen, mass hysteria, fantasy, or a productive imagination. Investigations by a religious official into cases of demonic possession are obtained by observation and spiritual analysis, which is impossible on ancient cases. It also makes about as much sense as some modern mental health professionals writing books about what disease might have affected various figures in historical texts that acted strangely.
That being said, whether one believes these alleged apparitions are aliens, demons, or hallucinations is irrelevant–none of us can prove it. This is beyond the scope of scientific or religious investigation, and is an abuse of our training. A discussion of these apparitions with reference to scientific or religious theories might be valid in some humanities field, cultural studies, etc., but the way this program was presented was as science, and that was very troubling to me.
3) The fact that a modern text was presented as ancient with no explanation struck me as deceptive.
Bottom line: 30 minutes of the program did not convince me that aliens visited Earth 3000 years ago. “But you should have watched the whole program!” might be the response. If after 30 minutes I was able to come up with the above analysis, do you really think it would be worth it? Again, I watched the program with no claims to know the science. I only responded to the logic used and how the evidence was presented. It was presented inaccurately, with fallacies, and deceptively in some cases.
If someone else comes up with a better quality program, I’ll watch it. But this was a travesty. Shame on you, History Channel.