The meaning of life. The reason that I exist, anyways. And that’s how I found myself walking through Barnes and Noble, following my nose to the delectable aroma at the end of the rainbow. Who needs gold when I’ve got caffeine?
Spaz? Is there a point to this ranting about coffee on an archaeology blog?
Be quiet! I’m getting to that.
Blasting my way to the B&N Cafe, I walked past the New Age section, where I saw the name of mine old nemesis and court jester (all in one): Erich von Daniken.
For those of you who fail to recognize the name of mine ole nemesis, Erich von Daniken is the man who proclaimed, in a world renowned best seller, that the remains of every culture could be interpreted in a manner that would prove that aliens were the reason for our current existence.
I was amazingly shocked to see his name on anything other than Chariots of the Gods (I’d actually thought he’d died by now. At the very least, you have to applaud his persistence.). As it turns out, he’s alive and still writing.
His newest book, History is Wrong, is a look back at religious belief structures as he tries to explain how each one can be reinterpreted to show that it was actually alien beings who are described in each doctrine. That’s what I got from the back of the book as I pulled it down from the New Age section (note, not Science, Archaeology, or Non-fiction). The back also goes on to explain that the book breaks sharply from the religious analysis and returns to his works from Chariots of the Gods, explaining how artistic renditions cross-culturally are really the work of man trying to tell future man (us) that it wasn’t really them that did the work, but instead aliens.
Once again, for the record, I have not read this new book, yet. I’m actually still sitting in Barnes and Noble with my laptop right now. I have read Chariots of the Gods, and let me tell you, I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
Allow me to explain my problem with von Daniken’s theory. Erich von Daniken is a pseudoscientist. A pseudoscientist is a person who comes up with a theory (ie: my dog is a god) and then takes established facts uses them to justify their position, usually omitting large quantities of disproving facts (i.e.: my dog is a god because the word dog is an anagram of god, therefore it must be true). Therefore, when I giggle when I hear von Daniken’s name, its not because I don’t believe that its possible that aliens might have aided our development at some point, its just that I’m not going to say “Yes, they did,” until I have slightly more definitive proof than the explanation that elaborate head dressing in artwork must actually be space helmets (actual proclamation by von Daniken).
Pseudoscience is one of the big destroyers of archaeology, right up there with black market trade and the closing of fedora shops in a bad economy.
Why is pseudoscience so bad?
That’s right, its fun, and therefore evil.
Aliens built the pyramids? Slaves built the pyramids? Which one sounds cooler? Its alright, you can answer truthfully. You probably already have, since his first book Chariots of the Gods is an international best seller. Aliens are cool. Aliens rock and we all love the way the whole idea sounds.
The problem comes from Archaeology’s main purpose: Educate the public. If you tell 50 million people that slaves built the pyramids, and that same 50 million buy a book that tells them aliens did it, there’s going to be a good chunk of the populace that has an easier time remembering the cool story with aliens instead of the not as cool story about slaves.
In many ways, pseudoscience of this type can also be seen as a form of racism.
Ahh! You said the R word!
I know, but think about it this way. When von Daniken claims things such as aliens built the pyramids, he specifically states that it must be true because ancient Egyptians couldn’t have done it (he actually says that, read Chariots of the Gods, or watch the movie, or visit the theme park that’s in production…). He says that when, in television such as Digging for the Truth, they show exactly how it could have been done with some chisels, straps, four guys, and a few levers. (That sounds like a hit new TV show: “Stay tuned for Chisels, Straps, Four Guys, and a Few Levers.” Nevermind, said like that it sounds more like some really weird porno…moving on…)
I’m all for finding out the truth, but lets not make blind allegations until we’ve got some proof.
That being said, The Spaz is going in.
Stay tuned for the next few days…weeks…I dunno how long it’ll take…
Shouldn’t take long. As I’m flipping through the book the type is freakin’ huge…
Anywho: Stay tuned for the next (insert unit of time) and expect a cool book review of mine ole nemesis’ newest work, History is Wrong.
Heck, maybe in 41 years he’s actually got some real proof and I’ll join the dark side.
PS: Contrary to what it may sound like, I actually encourage you to at least pick up Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, no matter how much richer it makes him. We should all know what we’re up against.