Ancient Aliens of the Gaps
Both in my blog (godlessblogger.blogspot.com) and elsewhere on the net I've openly espoused my distaste for the idea commonly referred to as Ancient Astronaut theory. I thought, though, that it was finally time to made a hub regarding this hypothesis. I call it a hypothesis because unlike something like evolution or the Big Bang ancient astronaut claims have not achieved the status of theory in scientific terms. For this hub I will refer to these claims primarily by the term ancient alien hypothesis (abbreviated AAH).
In this hub, rather than an attempt any in depth debunking, I'm going to deal with several of the common claims and tactics which believers in AAH employ to convince people of the veracity of their claims. I hope to demonstrate that many of the fallacies involved are similar to those used by people arguing for God.
Arguments from Ignorance
One brand or argument made for the existence of these ancient aliens is an appeal to a mystery. Often times proponents of AAH will put forth something that historians or archeologists have not yet explained. The most well-known brand of this appeal to mystery involves the pyramids and how they were constructed. This is often accompanied by an appeal to incredulity that goes something like this:
"I can't believe humans did this on their own with the technology of the day, therefore ALIENS."
This statement is the root argument of every claim ancient astronaut proponents make in regards to ancient stone structures such as pyramids, the ruins of Macchu Pichu or Puma Punku, etc. The appeal to mystery comes in whenever there is a stone so large or a monument so precise that historians don't have a good answer for how it was built. Imagine for a moment that there were NO prevailing historical mainstream hypothesis on how the pyramids were constructed. AAH believers could then merely point to the lack of an answer from the mainstream as evidence that aliens did it.
For those who know a bit about the debate between atheists and theists in regards to the existence of god(s) this argument will likely seem very familiar. The same fallacious reasoning is used by some theists when an atheist admits that science doesn't have a clear answer to the origins of the Universe. Because the origins of the Universe remain mysterious theists will attempt to insert their God into the gap in our current understanding, this is a brand of argument known as a GOD OF THE GAPS argument.
AAH proponents are doing the same thing with their appeals to mystery, they are saying.
"We don't have a reasonable answer for X, therefore aliens."
But merely because we don't yet have a reasonable explanation doesn't mean we get to make shit up. The lack of an answer does not waive the requirement that the answer we're looking for have sufficient evidence backing it up. If we can't find an explanation for lightning that doesn't mean we get to say it's created by Zeus and then call it a day.
AAH proponents work with mythology on a level similar to what many religious apologists do, the difference is that what AAH proponents do is far more deceptive and dishonest (and that's saying something). Often times when discussing claims of ancient aliens I will be told by a believer that ALL mythologies are about gods that came down from the heavens to teach mankind. Except that this assertion of fact is actually complete horseshit.
Let's take the Bible for instance. The first chapter is actually about God creating the Earth (and the solar system), well that seems beyond the purview of an alien race and violates known scientific fact about the formation of the Earth and the solar system. The God of the Bible then creates a Garden and actually attempts to KEEP knowledge from his creation by creating Adam and Eve with NO knowledge of good and evil and forbidding them to eat the fruit that would open their eyes. So while yes the God of the Bible starts out in the sky he most certainly doesn't descend hoping to grant knowledge. There's also a talking snake in that story but my guess is that AAH proponents would merely claim the snake was a Reptilian alien race and the whole story is allegory. They will tell you that aspect of the story is allegory or symbolic but turn around tell you that Ezekiel's wheel within a wheel is to be taken literally.
In that way AAH proponents cherry pick stories from mythology that support their preconceived conclusion and discard any stories that cannot be re-interpreted as having to do with aliens. They'll mention Ezekiel a thousand times but never touch the story of Balam's talking donkey because only one of those stories can be re-interpreted in the context of modern UFO claims.
Which brings me to another fundamental deception, taking these myths out of their proper historical and religious context in order to place aliens where there are none. I actually watched an episode of Ancient Aliens where they claimed angels were aliens with jetpacks - I SHIT YOU NOT. There are many ways to interpret and re-interpret scripture however generally there are only two ways I see as legitimate. Either interpret it LITERALLY or within the contextual interpretation that religious historians put it in. No one should be inserting modern UFO lore into ancient accounts of angels and gods.
Back to the assertion about all gods coming down from Heaven, again this is nonsense. Many gods had domains, areas of the Earth that they ruled over or had power to govern over. Zeus was hurling lightning, Hades was in the Underworld, Poseidon was an ocean God. There were volcanic gods, island gods, gods that lived on mountains, etc etc etc. The point is that not all gods came from the sky so if claims about gods in mythology are actually depictions of aliens than why don't all gods fly around in shiny spaceships? And why are they always so anthropomorphized? If depictions of the gods were actually depictions of aliens why are so many gods depicted looking almost identical to mankind?
The History Channel LOVES its pseudoscientific horseshit
I'm familiar with lot's of religious claims to scientific foreknowledge. Plenty of believers like to claim that the Bible, or their preferred religious text of choice, contain scientific knowledge that couldn't have been known to the ancients of that region at the time the text was written. Pushers of the AAH are similarly inclined to find anything that can be construed as high-tech but rather than attribute it to an actual supernatural revelation they of course attribute it to their aliens. I hope everyone is familiar with this image:
The image is of a relic of some mesoamerican civilization often claimed to be proof positive that alien beings were on Earth. The amazingly broken leaps in logic it takes to arrive at such an asinine conclusion may even surprise the religious readers out there.
The assertion here is that this is a plane and therefore aliens were in contact with this civilization. Um... WHAT? Airplanes are a human invention, we invented them over a century ago. How would this being a plane prove EXTRA-terrestrials when the only examples of airplanes we have are terrestrial inventions of human beings? Wouldn't it just as easily suggest that the Inca's (the ones who made them) saw visions of the future?
So how did proponents of AAH prove that these relics are models of airplanes? They scaled up the relics and put modern day model plane engines in them and they turned out to be able to fly. WOW, how scientific, they made them larger, assembled them out of modern materials and then inserted a modern engine, clearly that means the ancients obviously were depicting airplanes. Never mind the questionable idea that aliens capable of interstellar travel would travel around in anything that even remotely resembled an airplane.
I've even heard the assertion that these couldn't be anything in nature. According to Giorgio Tsoukalos the upright vertical tail doesn't correspond to anything natural. I thought about that for about two seconds when I heard the claim on the History Channels disgustingly bad Ancient Aliens program... then I remembered - FISH. Sharks and fish both have upright tailfins and correct me if I'm wrong but these things also appear to have FACES and what can be construed as GILLS.
Not only is the assertion that these are planes wrong and unwarranted (given the number of more plausible sane explanations) but the leap in logic from airplanes to ancient aliens is even more ridiculous.
There are other artifacts touted as evidence of alien involvement, such as the Antikythera mechanism, the Baghdad battery, etc. However all of these have better more plausible explanations as being man-made examples of technology. None of them are too futuristic to have been invented in their own time period.
Tribal headgear or High-tech device?
UFOs In Art
Years ago during the height of my pseudoscientific hay day the thing you could catch me citing as honestly persuasive in regards to ancient aliens was the examples of UFOs in art. However the more I researched these claims the more I found them to be similar in nature to the other claims made by AAH proponents. People are taking works of art out of context and re-interpreting them to fit modern claims of UFOs. There is plenty of artwork of things and people that do not exist or scenes that never took place. Essentially every painting of Jesus ever is a good example. Even supposing that Jesus did in fact exist there's no way in Hell he LOOKED the way he is often depicted. Jesus was middle eastern, not white, and his disciples weren't pasty white Europeans either.
I could point to a superman comic book. He's an alien. There's a great deal of artwork depicting and talking about superman. Will people in 10,000 years make the mistake of assuming he was real? The fact of the matter is that, even if these UFOs in art were uncontested and were definitely depictions of unidentified objects in the sky that wouldn't be very good evidence for ancient aliens. It would merely prove that the ancients saw unidentified objects, inserting aliens as the explanation for those unidentified flying objects is just another ALIEN OF THE GAPS ARGUMENT.
But back to the religious connection -> what about a painting depicting one of Christ's miracles? If we're going to claim artwork as evidence of alien let's also claim it as evidence of everything that was ever depicted in artwork EVER. From statues of Athena to the painting of Kronos devouring his child.
Most claims of ancient astronauts are based on arguments from ignorance, appeals to mystery, arguments from incredulity and the baseless re-interpretation of myth. I'm aware that there are plenty of claims I didn't even mention. There are lot's of artifacts, monuments and works of art that supposedly prove ancient aliens. My question is - WHERE IS THE ACTUAL EVIDENCE?
Where are the warp engines from 2000 BC? The phaser guns? The alien DNA? Where is the hard scientific evidence? Simply declaring with incredulity that mankind couldn't have lifted a 20 ton stone block and moved it into place doesn't make aliens a viable explanation. In the end the claims supporting the ancient alien hypothesis are often just as hollow and logically bankrupt as those used by religious apologists.