Tag Archives: Rant

Caution and Certainty in Archaeology and Pseudoarchaeology.

Caution and Certainty in Archaeology and Pseudoarchaeology.

Well, I finished reading America Before by Graham Hancock.

I know there’s already been several reviews about this book, and I’ll be getting around to a much more in-depth one. (Because as I keep telling people, this is part of my thesis, and I may as well kill two birds with one stone). But if you followed along with my tweets as I’ve been reading this book, you’re probably aware of most of my thoughts at this point.

And yes I did finally get to the part about the psychic technology.

As stated earlier, my biggest issue with America Before and other books like it isn’t the idea about psychic lost civilizations that somehow could harness the ability to control the weather and predict space phenomenon but couldn’t somehow survive the Younger Dryas. My biggest issue about them is the subtle and inherent racism of the theories.

What’s most disconcerting though is that explaining why these ideas are racist, tends to be almost as difficult as bailing water with a sieve.  The major reason for this seems to be that people don’t understand what is racism is. I’m pretty sure that is well outside the scope of this blog, but I refuse to let that stop me from pointing this crap out when I see it. Maybe it’ll stick and dawn on someone eventually. 

I had a recent comment about my opinions on these issues with alternative history and alternative archaeology. It’s clear from the comment that for this person simply stating “I-am-not-a-racist” is enough to negate all inherent racism in the ides of Hancock’s major idea of a lost civilization that predates all Native Americans, and then cultivated “primitive” peoples to create the cultures and tribes in the Americas.

Which is not what I want to focus on here, really. That’s for my Thesis and is probably a whole chapter on its own. 

What I really wanted to talk about is Uncertainty in Archaeology and how it’s different from the Certainty of PseudoArchaeology  

Interestingly, Hancock is paying attention to some of the developing discoveries in archaeology. 

He cites some fairly recent papers and attempts to follow the conversations that are going on around them. The problem is, he doesn’t have the context or the training in archaeological theory to understand the conversation that’s occurring. So all of these assumptions that he’s making are happening without the benefit of that knowledge. 

Archaeology can take some small portion of the blame for this.  Archaeology as a field is notorious about keeping things to itself, especially when it comes to developing theories and things we’re not 100% sure about yet. Archaeology as a field is incredibly cautious, we don’t like to put things out to the public that we are not completely sure are defendable or accurate. 

It’s good science because we’re trying not to confuse people with too many ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’. The problem here is is that being cautious is somehow seen as being wishy-washy, and too many people in today’s day and age want definitive answers, and they want them now. 

This is where presenters and writers like Hancock come into play. 

Throughout his book, Hancock constantly speculates about what he thinks his lost civilization would be like and they would look like culturally and scientifically. There are several places in the book where he straight says he will not try to defend these ideas of his or try to provide evidence. Then a few chapters later, the things that he speculated about in earlier chapters, he lays out in words that show that he has now moved these statements from speculation into solid facts without the benefit of defending them or trying to validate them with facts and evidence. 

But because Hancock uses definitive language, and emotionally charged language at that, it feeds that need in a lot of people to have solid answers to questions. Solid answers that science is not willing to provide because we are taught to be cautious, we are taught to doubt, we are taught to follow the evidence when evidence is provided, and if there isn’t enough evidence we are taught to wait.

The contrast between this certainty and uncertainty is really where the conflict occurs.

Pseudoarchaeology is confident that it is correct, it is confident that it’s evidence points where it needs it to, it is confident that it has solved the mystery. Archaeology, by contrast, isn’t so confident, even when we know we have the evidence and it points one way or the other. We are still cautious about our language. We are unwilling to put definitive words down, because we know that with the presentation of new evidence that even our most solid theory can change. It’s why we put so much weight on evidence, and why we are so picky about what we will accept as evidence and why we argue with ourselves over what is the correct interpretation of the evidence. 

We are cautious by nature because we have been taught to doubt, something pseudoarchaeology does not teach. Pseudoarchaeology tells you that if you see something and it looks a certain way to you, then that must be the Truth, and that all you have to do to prove the truth is find evidence that agrees with you. Pseudoarchaeology teaches you to ignore anything that is counter to the evidence that you need. This is not how science works.

You can call your ‘assumption’ a ‘hypothesis’ all you wish, it does not make it a hypothesis. If you are not applying the scientific method you are not working with a hypothesis, if your hypothesis cannot possibly be proven false, it is not a hypothesis. 

Too often pseudoarchaeology presents an idea and call it a hypothesis. Then, as Hancock does several times in his own book, states that they are not going to attempt to provide evidence. 

This is not science, this is not a hypothesis, this is not how the scientific method works.

It is unfortunate that this statement will upset a few people. It’s unfortunate that this statement makes people think I’m being exclusive. But we have standards in science.  We have doubts at every step. We test everything, evaluate everything, and yes, we argue. 

If all we were really doing is forming our own opinions based on our own observations, whether or not they are true or accurate, and then arguing with each other about who’s fantasy is better, we would not be doing science. 

We would be doing Pseudoscience.

 


We’re on YouTube again!

If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

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Pseudoarchaeology is Aware of Racism, aka Let’s Talk about the R-Word.

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I repeat, Pseudoarchaeology is aware of racism.

They’re not entirely sure when something is racist, or why archaeologists call them out on it constantly, but they know it’s a thing that exists and it’s probably bad.

Why do I say this? The two most visible personalities in alternative archaeology/history right at this moment are probably Scott Wolter and Graham Hancock. As many know, I watch and read their shows/book and review them critically. It’s actually part of my thesis, so I guess they both get what they claim they ultimately want, recognition by the academic community. Just not the way they wanted.

To be clear I am not calling Wolter or Hancock (or anyone here) a Racist. What I am saying is the things they write/say/do are racist, probably unintentional, and need to be examined and criticized.

Both Wolter and Hancock have had their claims about archaeology/history critiqued and the racist parts pointed out to them over the years. I’ve watched both men develop their ideas, reacting to the criticism. Of course, there is the initial outrage (“I’m not Racist!”), who wants to be called a racist? But then, both of them tried to adapt their theories to make them less racist, and both have completely missed the point.

I’ve watched both carefully police their language over the years to not mention color or nationality as much as possible. But the mentioning of Blacks or Whites isn’t what makes what they say and sell racist. It’s the implications of what they’re trying to push as correct history. Both men have an idea about how culture got to and developed in America. Granted Hancock’s is a little more world-encompassing, but it’s still the basic, “Super Father Culture brings civilization to lesser people, mostly non-whites.”

For Wolter, it’s his strange Celtic-Viking-Templars, for Hancock it’s his psychic lost civilization of all-gods. It doesn’t matter who they are though, because the idea is the same, this mysterious group came to America and bequeathed all culture and society to the unfortunate clueless people already here, who then worshiped them as gods/heroes. Both theories completely ignore or erase native accomplishments and reassign them to the father race. And if you don’t see the issue there, we need to talk.

What’s been most interesting to me over the years is watching these two, and others like them, try to correct for the racism of their ideas, without changing their actual ideas. They think just changing the words they use will erase the implications, but miss the greater issues with their arguments. Then, when called out on it, they both do what can generously be called Virtue Signaling to try and show that *they* aren’t racist themselves.

The thing that struck me the other day reading Hancock once again get upset over his misconceptions of Native American and Archaeologist relations (there are issues, just not the ones he’s on about), is that they don’t see or understand their own racism. We can point it out to them all day, it won’t matter. Neither man thinks they are capable of being racist. Wolter even goes as far as to do the whole “I have Native American Friends” thing and Hancock just constantly tells us how angry he is for Native Americans (then dismisses their whole history in a handwave).

I don’t doubt that Wolter has friends in various tribes, or that Hancock is really upset. But that isn’t a pass to then turn around, treat all Native Americas as one amorphous group of people, or break them down into “advanced” and “primitive” societies based on arbitrary traits that really just reflect how little either man understands about archaeology and culture.

The only good thing about this is that it opens up the discussion of racism in and around archaeology.  Archaeology and anthropology have very dark origins and history. It’s ugly sometimes, and those of us in the field not only learn about this, we’re taught to counter it as much as we can. The sad truth is, we’re still very white, male-dominated, eurocentric fields.

Are things getting better? Yes, definitely. Could they be a whole lot better than they are, Absolutely!

Reading Hancock and watching Wolter, as frustrating as it is, opened my eyes to the reality that is both the public perception of archaeology and reminds me of the issues we still have to correct for in our own field. It also reminds me that we as professionals can’t have these discussions in the dark, away from public eyes. That’s how we got here in the first place, checking out of public discourse and letting pseudoarchaeology take control.

We need to take our narrative back, we need to be real, and we need to counter things when we see them.

Now I’ll get off my high horse and go get ready to watch Wolter tell me how the Phoenicians were the first Europeans in America.


We’re on YouTube again!

If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

Question all the Pseudoarchaeology!

Would you believe I get asked a lot of questions?

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A lot of them kinda fall into the category of repeat things. “Have you seen X? What about Y lost civ? I found Z, is it real?” and “XYZ religion believes this thing, is it true?”

There’s always outsiders, but these are the categories for the most part. Normally I have seen/hear/read something about most mainstream fringe topics (didn’t think you’d see that phrase eh?) But every now and then I get something I haven’t, and I have to look into it.

The most challenging questions are the religious ones. I just want people to understand, you can’t debunk religious (or really any) beliefs.  I can’t tell you that your connection with ‘god’ or whatever isn’t valid. You wanna commune with nature, go for it. Honestly, as long as you’re not hurting anyone/anything or breaking major laws, I really don’t care what you believe.

What I do get testy about though is the use of archaeology and science to try and ‘prove’ religion. When I was first starting off as a YouTube channel, all them years ago y’all, I would constantly get pushback to my videos by Creationists, and well Mormons who wanted to use archaeology to either prove the earth isn’t as old as science says it is, or wanted to prove that there were advanced (white) Indians (Lost Tribes of Israel) in ancient America.

There are lots of problems with these claims, and I do question the purpose of such religious beliefs, but my point is, once you start to drag reality and facts into the discussion, you better bring evidence to back it up.

I’ve recently began looking over a new-ish religion using imagery of the Sacred Sun as an ancient, all-encompassing father cult that predates all other religions, and therefore spawned all other religions. They draw heavily from writers like Graham Hancock and his constant attempts to connect all ancient site together.

There’s a lot of underlying issues that are social and cultural in nature here, but the ones I really want to drive home is, there’s no archaeology to support such claims. In all reality, archaeology documents that cultures developed independently of each other, and connected with each other via trade, marriage, warfare, and diplomacy. Yes, we can see cultural traits passed down and adopted by others, but again, this only supports the idea of independence. Adapt, teach, learn. I harped on that in the last post.

Most importantly, we don’t see unifying cultural traits that we would expect to see if all religions/cultures were connected and decent from one super group. Seeing similarities between one group or another (the Maya and Egyptians for example) is often in the eye of the beholder and usually doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

Does this invalidate personal religious beliefs? No. Personal religious beliefs are personal. Does that make them good/right/virtuous? Again, up to the person/society, you’re in. Do I have to believe what someone else does? Hell no. Do I have to put up with it? Often times yes.

But when said group wants to try and drag archaeology into their beliefs and use it to further/support their beliefs (I’m looking at you Ancient Aliens and Hancock), you’ve moved out of the realm of Personal and into the realm of Facts. I can meet you there, you can show me your evidence and we can discuss it, and If you’re making some weird ass claim about super races and father cultures, it’s not going to be a fun meeting for you.


If you’d like to support the Podcast or site, consider donating to us on Patreon or buy us a  Ko-Fi. Either option helps us out.

Check out Jeb Card’s new book Spooky Archaeology :
Myth and the Science of the Past

And Ken Feder’s new book Archaeological Oddities: A Field Guide to Forty Claims of Lost Civilizations, Ancient Visitors, and Other Strange Sites in North America

Grab a t-shirt or coffee mug from our Swag Store on Zazzle.

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on the blog and like and share us where ever you can.

You can follow us on twitter @ArchyFantasies, or look us up on Facebook. You can reach us by email at ArchyFantasies@gmail.com.

Contact us below or leave a comment.

ArchyFantasies’ 2017 in Review

I’ve been told these are a hot item on the blogosphere. But it’s been a slow year here on the blog. We’ve focused a lot of effort on the Podcast over on the APN, and in August I went to Grad School for a masters in CRM. Things got busy.

Yet, I owe you all something for sticking with me this year, so perhaps rather than dwelling on the negative things that happened over the last year, maybe let’s look forward?

Next year, We’re going to try some new things with the Podcast, and here at the blog. We’re also leaving several thing in place. Check the blog for updates, and keep listening to the podcast to find out more as we go forward.

Mainly I want to play around with merchandise and new formats for reaching out. We’ll experiment with Audio-blogging, YouTube (again), and with guest blogging and podcasting.

Also on the list: Not going insane from grad school and getting my work done.

So, there it is, My round up. Like I said, not a lot there right now, but probably more to come.

Happy New Year everyone, let’s hope 2018 is less of a dumpster fire that 2017 was.

Why it’s Hard to Debate the Scientifically Uniformed.

*Another catch-up article for me. Enjoy!”

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I’ve been wanting to write this entry for a while, since it’s a growing area of concern for me, I am of course talking of the decline of Scientific Literacy in America, and specifically the Midwest, since that’s where I’m from. I feel that we as a country are racing towards a dark age of our own, where ignorance is seen as a virtue, and education is look down upon. I see this in the rejection of “Elites” and “Scientists” and the constant attacks on legitimate scientists by people who barely understand the concepts being discussed. I see feelings and beliefs trumping facts and evidence, and I see misunderstandings of facts and evidence being used as attacks against scientific fields.

This is a hard article to write because of the people I know who will read this and feel that I am speaking directly to them…which I am…but what I have to say isn’t really friendly.It is difficult to have discussions about scientific fields with people who are not educated. The reason is because those who are not scientifically educated can’t understand the basic concepts of science. This becomes very aggravating when these same people insist that Scientists and science are wrong.The knee jerk reaction is to be unpleasant to these people, and as rewarding as this may seem, it’s not the best reaction. So what is the alternative? How do you discuss things with those who can’t understand? How you debate the merits of a theory, when the other party doesn’t understand what a theory is? This is my dilemma.

We could spend time educating our opponents. We could lay information at their feet, send them videos, talks, books, papers, but it won’t matter if they can’t understand what is being said. We could attempt to go back to the basics with them, but personal experience has shown that this usually upsets people because they view this as talking down to them. It seems like a huge waste of time, but something must be done, so what?

A few sites on the web have attempted to address this problem. Some are aimed at making science accessible to the general public, some are more like support groups. Richard Dawkins and the Amazing James Randi both started educational foundations, Dr. Jeff Goldstein created a blog to be used by teachers to help with student education on the Universe, Hank Campbell, has created a site to promote what he calls Science 2.0, and there are several forums like the League of Reason and Science Blogs that give individuals a space to create a scientific dialogue. Whatever the reason for going to the sites, I think anyone can start to delve into the world of science and self educate. I am a big supporter of self-education, not only does it show that a persona has recognized a weakness, but they’ve taken action to fix it.

Still, many will not go to these sites for one reason or another, but still feel they have a right to be part of the dialogue. What then? How do you debate with the willfully uninformed? I offer Dawkins’ solution, he simply doesn’t.

Cold? Yes. Necessary? Yes.

I wouldn’t go to my mechanic and argue with him on the ways to repair my car. I wouldn’t go to a construction site and tell them how their building is wrong be cause I feel it is so. I don’t understand why so many feel they can enter a scientific dialogue as an equal, when they have no idea or education in the topic being discussed.

Where does this idea that by simply reading a half-assed synopsis of an elaborate scientific paper now gives someone all the knowledge they require to challenge career scientists come from? Just because we live in the Information Age, doesn’t mean you can now know everything just by googling it. Some things require focus and education. Things like advanced concepts, require study before they are understood completely. Sometimes things will never be entirely clear, and often the ability to distinguish those from things that are clear needs to be learned as well. Some theories are not up for debate, and some are. Unless you understand how theories are made and tested, you can’t distinguish between the two.

The point here is not to tell those who don’t know how to talk about science that they can’t ask questions, or attempt to learn. The point here is that you should take the time to become educated in the topics you wish to discuss. Some will be easier to learn than others, the Scientific Method is a pretty simple concept, as is the formation and testing of a theory. However, like Chess, it’s easy to learn and hard to master. Some topics will take years, and hours and hours of study just to begin to understand the basics. You may need to read books, watch videos, and talk to experts in the field. This is the process of education, and education always leads to better understanding.

However, reading a brief synopsis off a news blog, or non-scientific website (I’m looking at you NPR), doesn’t mean that now you’re all ready to go toe to toe with someone who has dedicated their whole life to the study of a topic. Trust me, this will lead to many uncomfortable and embarrassing arguments, that will probably end in name-calling and ad-hominen attacks.

So, to end, I want to leave with a few suggestions:

1) Do the research first, and don’t just stop with one source. Look up as many as you can find. Read them all and take notes. Also, keep track of your sources, people will ask for them and evaluate them for validity.

2) Understand the difference between a good source and a bad one. Do they cite? Are they qualified to talk about the topic? Are they on/in a reputable website/publication? Do they have a reputation for being a good source or not? If you craft your argument based on bad sources, it’ll show.

3) If you have questions about something, find someone to ask. It’s been my experience that professional and experts love to answer questions, as long as you come to them openly and not in a hostile manner. It might take them a while to get back to you, but most of the time they will when their schedule allows. I mean, they do have jobs too.

4) Don’t assume that you know everything about a topic after reading one article, or had a friend tell you about it, or you heard it on Coast-To-Coast. Pretty much every-time you’re  not getting all the information, it’s colored by personal opinion, or they’re just trying to bamboozle you to boost ratings. Don’t fall for this, see #1-3 and repeat as necessary.

If you follow these few suggestions, in time, you’ll find your conversations will become more productive, informed, and result in less logical falsies (I hope).