I’ve always viewed the word ‘skeptic’ as it relates to one’s views on a specific topic. For example, “UKIP is Euro-skeptic,” or “I’m skeptical of the flat-earth theory.” But to be a skeptic in general strikes me as a very peculiar self-identification. It seems to be acting as a deterrent to innovation in a number of different fields. There is now an entire genre of bloggers, youtubers and even entire publications dedicated to the concept of skepticism. But what are the really skeptical of? Pretty much anything that deviates from mainstream science, such as religious beliefs, the paranormal, and (most relevant to this post) alternative views on history. My interest in this was piqued by a recent Joe Rogan Experience podcast in which the arch skeptic Micheal Shermer debated the more open-minded Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson.
Micheal Shermer is the editor of Skeptic magazine and a columnist for Scientific American. I don’t mean to attack either one of these publications in general because they have both done good work in the past. I only mean to cast doubt on Shermer’s intellectual honesty. Dailygrail.com did an insightful report on him way back in December of 2004 called The Shermer Sham . Among other questionable stances reported in the article, Shermer claimed that Rupert Sheldrake (of morphic resonance fame) had no evidence for the views he espoused in his book The Sense of Being Stared at, but when pressed for details, Shermer admitted that he had never read the book. When Sheldrake challenged him to a debate, he didn’t reply. Some other notable skeptics include Christopher French and the infamous Richard Dawkins, who produces a TV documentary series called The Enemies if Reason in which he is very misleading in his attempts to debunk superstitions and props up the scientific status quo.
On the JRE podcast, Hancock said he was misrepresented in a recent article in the Skeptic online version which says he “cons his readers” into believing fairy tails. The article’s author skyped into the podcast and said, “I just posted the story for my students to read,” and apologized for calling Hancock a con man. I would like to quote from the article, but it has been removed from the internet. So at least Skeptic does have the integrity to retract false claims when they are called out. I can only assume it would still be there if Joe Rogan didn’t bring this debate into the public arena. I did find this article in the eSkeptic from 2007 in which Tim Callahan accuses Hancock of claiming ancient astronaut involvement at Giza in his ’95 book Fingerprints of the Gods. I’m very familiar with the book and this is definitely not true. Hancock has always been critical of Erich Von Daniken’s theory.
Skeptic’s most recent attack article on Hancock concerns his controversial views on Gobekli Tepe – a very important archaeological site in Southeast Turkey. Here is the Ancient History Encyclopedia entry on the site. It is currently being excavated by a small team led by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt. To date, the excavation is only about 5% complete. It has been dated to no later that 9,500 BC. Since it is still archaeological dogma that advanced civilization didn’t occur until around 6,000 years later, Skeptic is forced to maintain the delusion that this patently post-neolithic site was built by hunter-gatherers. The site consists of many circles of “t” shaped stones weighing between 10,000 and 50,000 pounds. The stones were moved from quarries at least a quarter mile away and contain intricate, low relief sculptures of animals.
Apparently these nomadic people who scavenged and couldn’t domesticate animals found the free time and willingness to undertake a task that would be very difficult even today. As if this site wasn’t already interesting enough, the dirt the site was buried in isn’t layered, indicating that it was all placed there at once. So after these illiterate, primitives put an unspeakable amount of time into this place, they decided to bury it like a time capsule, thus protecting it from erosion, looters and vandals so we could find it some day. What foresight they must have had for people who couldn’t figure out how to plow a field.
There is evidence of the beginnings or agriculture just to the south in the Levant beginning in precisely this same period. It is Hancock’s contention that agriculture and monolithic architecture were brought to the area by some coastal, sea-faring culture displaced at the end of the Younger Dryas (I time of great polar ice melt and sea rise). For fear of opening himself up to even more ridicule than he is already the target of, he tries not to use the “A” word (Atlantis), but it is worth noting that the Younger Dryas (only understood by mainstream science for a few decades) matches Plato’s timeline perfectly.
If only there were other evidence of advanced civilization in the Near East/ North Africa from the same time period. In 1993, Boston University geologist Robert Schoch and alternative Egyptologist John Anthony West announced their theory (based on water erosion patterns) that the Great Sphinx at Giza is more that 10,000 years old in a BBC documentary called The Mystery of the Sphinx. Many other geologists have since corroborated the claim, and several well researched books have been written on the subject. The collective response from mainstream Egyptology was, “that’s impossible because there are no other examples of monolithic culture from that time period.” So I guess it’s time for Zahi Hawass and his ilk to issue an apology. I’m not optimistic.
I suppose it’s possible the site was built by hunter-gatherers. Schmidt theorizes that it was constructed by a priestly or shamanic class for ritualistic animal sacrifice and that hunter-gatherer’s would travel there on pilgrimage from up to a 100 miles radius and pay the priests in food, thus freeing up their leisure time. I’m not positive, but I think a we can see a similar societal structure in some San cultures of Southern Africa. It is the knee-jerk reaction with which innovative critical thought is rejected that disturbs me.
I understand that it is merely the nature of the human ego that causes science to be so slow to evolve. There are a multitude of examples throughout history in all scientific disciplines of orthodoxy attacking innovative ideas. When someone has spent their life writing books and has reached the status of tenured professor espousing a certain view, they are not going to want their position and reputation to be overturned. After all, it is their life’s work. But we need a responsible scientific community to hold their their feet to the fire. Most peer reviewed journals seen to be content with doing the polar opposite of that. Sadly, Micheal Shermer is just an attack dog for scientific orthodoxy.