Posts Tagged “akkadian”

One of the most notorious pseudohistorians currently living, Zechariah Sitchin, has made the big time … in the form of an interview with none other than the venerable Gray Lady, the nation’s “newspaper of record.” If you don’t know who Sitchin is, don’t worry, the New York Times covers his wingnut theories in a quick fashion, although it hardly does justice to his pompous wordiness (WebCite cached article):

Origin of the Species, From an Alien View

WHERE did humankind come from?

If you’re going to ask Zecharia Sitchin, be ready for a “Planet of the Apes” scenario: spaceships and hieroglyphics, genetic mutations and mutinous space aliens in gold mines.

It sounds like science fiction, but Mr. Sitchin is sure this is how it all went down hundreds of thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia. Humans were genetically engineered by extraterrestrials, he said, pointing to ancient texts to prove it.

Sitchin deeply imbues every sentence he writes with an obnoxious certitude, as well as the implication that he’s the only human being who’s ever actually read the ancient texts he claims he’s read. He insinuates that there are no Sumerologists or Assyriologists other than himself. The Times sums up his expertise, as well as his so-called “argument”:

Starting in childhood, he has studied ancient Hebrew, Akkadian and Sumerian, the language of the ancient Mesopotamians, who brought you geometry, astronomy, the chariot and the lunar calendar. And in the etchings of Sumerian pre-cuneiform script — the oldest example of writing — are stories of creation and the cosmos that most consider myth and allegory, but that Mr. Sitchin takes literally.

In his kitchen, Mr. Sitchin pulled two Danish out of a Zabar’s bag and began to explain. It starts with the planet Nibiru, whose long, elliptical orbit brings it near Earth once every 3,600 years or so. The planet’s inhabitants were technologically advanced humanlike beings, Mr. Sitchin said, standing about nine feet tall. Some 450,000 years ago, they detected reserves of gold in southeast Africa and made a colonial expedition to Earth, splashing down in what is now the Persian Gulf.

Mr. Sitchin said these Nibiru-ites recruited laborers from Earth’s erect primates to build eight great cities. Enki, who became the Sumerians’ god of science, bestowed some of the Nibiru-ites’ advanced genetic makeup upon these bipeds so they could work as miners.

This is how Mr. Sitchin explains what scientists attribute to evolution. He says the aliens’ cities were washed away in a great flood 30,000 years ago, after which they began passing on their knowledge to humans. He showed a photograph of a woodcarving from 7,000 B.C. of a large man handing over a plow to a smaller man: Ah, the passing on of agricultural knowledge. Anyway, he said, the Nibiru-ites finally jetted home in their spacecraft, around 550 B.C.

There are a number of glaring, obvious flaws with Sitchin’s scenario, not the least of which is: If these aliens were so advanced that they could pilot spacecraft and engineer humanity, how could their cities have been destroyed — to the point of driving them off the planet entirely — by something as prosaic as flooding? I mean, had they no means to deal with it?

Sitchin makes the same mistake many pseudohistorians do … which is to confuse the speculation and mythology of the ancients, and their metaphorical expressions and various metaphysical suppositions, with fact. For instance, he assumes that because ancient Near Easterners — such as the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Hebrews — wrote about a “great global flood,” the only possible conclusion is that there absolutely must have been a great global flood! He cannot conceive that there may have been a single localized (yet devastating) flood, which eventually morphed in the telling into something much larger and even more devastating. Oh no. Couldn’t have happened! The presumption that “the Ancients” never, ever wrote fiction, never exaggerated, never repeated unfounded rumors, never leaped to conclusions, and never misrepresented or misstated facts, is of course totally ridiculous … yet Sitchin, for all his apparent intelligence, is by no means the only person to hold this idea.

Sitchin’s leaps to conclusions and pseudoacademic arrogance are all just too asinine for words. Unfortunately his pablum is widely believed, though, and he’s a best-selling author, many times over. Sigh.

Hat tip: The Skeptic’s Dictionary.

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Has the Discovery Channel become the Religion Channel?

Tonight I saw listed as airing on Discovery Channel a show called Noah’s Ark: The True Story. Folks, there is absolutely nothing “true” about Noah’s Ark. There never was a global flood, there was no ark that contained two of every species on earth, humanity was not saved and preserved by 8 people led by the righteous Noah. It never happened. Nothing about the story is true. Not one speck. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Nichts. Nijako.

Of course, the Hebrew scribes who wrote about “Noah” in the 6th or 5th century BCE did not really make the story up, as might be claimed given the story’s ahistorical nature. They actually had a source, that being a story that had been told in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) for perhaps millennia already. The best-attested prior version of this story is found in the Epic of Gilgamesh; we know it from 7th century BCE tablets which in turn were based on legends dating back as far as the 14th century BCE, and were written in Akkadian, the language of Babylon (once ruled by the famous Hammurabi). The flood tale in Gilgamesh is a story-within-a-story, told by the man who survived the flood, named Utnapishtim. But even the ancient Babylonians didn’t make up their flood story … they, too, had a source, which we know from a few fragments in the Sumerian language, as well as mentions of the tale from Greek authors who heard it in classical times. Its hero is Ziusudra, priest-king of the city of Shuruppak.

Nothing about the Noah-Flood story as found in Genesis is a “historical” record. It was, rather, a very old legend even in the Hebrews’ time, which their priesthood used for its metaphorical value — and we have every reason to suppose that previous versions of the story, as told among the Babylonians and Sumerians before them, also had been used for its metaphorical value.

Humanity desperately needs to get over its compulsion to confuse these morality-tales with actual history — because they are not history, they never were intended to be history, and they never will become history, no matter how ardently anyone looks for the Ark. It’s a story, nothing more. Just a story.

We certainly do not need the Discovery Channel — known for its science content, including the excellent show Mythbusters — to provide us with documentaries pretending to tell us “the True Story” about something that never fucking happened!

If you wish to believe that Noah existed, that YHVH saved him and his family from ruin; that he, his wife, his sons, and all their wives gathered aboard an ark, along with two of every animal on earth; and together they all survived a global flood lasting 40 days — well, you go right ahead. Just don’t expect me to accept it as true, and for cryin’ out loud, stop telling everyone else that they should, too, just because you do! Your belief, no matter how deep or sincere, does not equate with veracity. It just doesn’t.

And we sure as hell don’t need television channels usually dedicated to scientific content, to be peddling religion, of all things!

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