Posts Tagged “pseudohistory”

When the Fail is so strong, one Facepalm is not enough / Picard & Riker / based on HaHaStop.ComI’ll grant that Dr Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and current Republican candidate for president, is probably a very smart guy in many ways. Correction: Make that “he must be” a very smart guy in many ways. You can’t do the sorts of operations he’s done without being intelligent. It’s just not possible.

That said, being smart doesn’t make one impervious to stupidity on occasion. Even the smartest people are known to be stupid, once in a while (WebCite cached article). For better or worse, that’s just human nature.

And Carson is no exception. Recently, Buzzfeed reported on an ancillary remark Carson had made during a 1998 commencement speech about the Egyptian pyramids having been used for grain storage (cached):

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told graduates during a commencement address in the late ’90s that he believed the pyramids in Egypt were built by the biblical figure Joseph to store grain, and not, as most archeologists contend, as tombs for pharaohs.

At the 1998 commencement for Andrews University, a school associated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Carson also dismissed the notion that aliens were somehow involved in the construction of the pyramids.

“My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,” Carson said. “Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves.”

Let me be clear before we go any further here: The Egyptian pyramids were not built as warehouses — to hold grain, or anything else. They were, instead, tombs. They had some interior chambers, as well as tunnels or shafts to access those chambers which were usually filled in once the late pharaoh was interred, but overall, they weren’t hollow. This has been known for a very long time, and — aside from occasional wild, unsupportable claims by various cranks and pseudo-archaeologists — there’s really no question about it. Yes, even though Carson explicitly dismissed everything archaeologists have to say about them.

One wonders why someone smart would come out with such a demonstrably pseudohistorical claim … but one needn’t look far for an explanation. As Carson himself said, it was the Old Testament hero Joseph, Jacob’s favored son, who built it while he’d been in Egypt and had worked his way up from slave to pharaoh’s vizier due to his magical dream-interpretation ability. Joseph’s story takes up a significant portion of the book of Genesis (chapters 37 through 46). His dream interpretations told him there’d be seven years of plenty followed by seven more of famine; pharaoh put him in charge so he could prepare and allow Egypt to get through the famine without trouble.

Christian fundamentalists like Carson (yes, I’m aware he’s a Seventh-Day Adventist, but that sect is essentially a Protestant fundamentalist one) are convinced the Bible’s contents are historical and accurate, therefore, the patriarch Joseph actually did save Egypt (and subsequently his own people) by stockpiling large amounts of food. Having made this assumption, they further conclude that this event must have left some extant impression on Egypt … which is exactly what Carson said as he continued in his comments at the time:

“But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.”

Yes, it’s bizarre logic. But it’s precisely what I expect of fundamentalist Christians. They can’t help themselves, because they simply can’t imagine anything else! To them, everything that exists points to their Bible’s literal veracity, without regard to whether or not it actually does. They relentlessly intone the mantra that “archaeology confirms the Bible” even though, in fact, it does not do any such thing.

One thing I’ll give Carson credit for: He did disparage other crank theories that the pyramids had been built by extraterrestrials. That’s been widely claimed by “New Agers” and other assorted nutcases, because they simply can’t imagine the ancients had been capable of building anything so big, and because they keep saying no one knows how the pyramids had been built. In fact, though, the Egyptians really did build them, and we do know precisely how they were built … from primary sources, no less!

Now, Carson might have said this back in 1998 — 17 years ago. So it wouldn’t seem very relevant now. And I wouldn’t have blogged about it. But with the passage of time, Carson hasn’t relented. Having been asked about the Buzzfeed story, CBS News reports he’s sticking by his weird Christian-literalist theory (cached):

Ben Carson stood by his long-held belief about ancient pyramids in Egypt, that they were used to store grain, rather than to inter pharaohs.

Asked about this Wednesday, Carson told CBS News, “It’s still my belief, yes.”

Yes, folks, this is a man who wants to be president. Either he genuinely believes this, in which case he’s clinging to an erroneous notion in order to back up his own irrational metaphysics, or he’s just saying it in order to appeal to Christian fundies who make up a large proportion of GOP primary voters so that they can back up their own irrational metaphysics … but either way, it’s not good.

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When the Fail is so strong, one Facepalm is not enough / Picard & Riker / based on HaHaStop.ComBy now anyone who’s read my blog knows that Glenn Beck is a lying Christofascist ignoramus of the highest order. It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about his insanity, but I just came across something he said which is so colossally stupid — not to mention absolutely and totally false — that I can’t help but point it out. What he has done is to establish his own version of American-Israelism. The report comes from World Net Nut Daily, which I don’t normally use as a third-party source of information, but they provide video, so brace yourselves (WebCite cached article):

Radio and television host Glenn Beck is now going public with his belief the United States is among the famous “Lost 10 Tribes of Israel,” and America today is suffering calamaties just as ancient Israel did due to its disobedience to the laws of God.

Echoing the conclusions of some experts who have delved deeply into what’s known as the theory of “Anglo-Israelism” or “British-Israelism,” Beck took viewers of his TV show into a biblical history lesson dating back to the time after King David of the Old Testament, when the once united Kingdom of Israel became divided.

For someone like myself, who studied actual history in college and who knows a thing or two about Biblical times, I groaned involuntarily. I know that misinformation is coming … and it did … but I couldn’t have anticipated how stunningly bad it would be. You see, among the many ahistorical claims Beckie-boy made, is this:

Beck went on to note that when the Assyrians [who’d conquered the northern kingdom of Israel] were finally defeated by other powers, they and the Israelite captives fled northward.

“And they fled out of captivity through the Caucuses Mountains,” he said. “The Caucusus Mountains are where you hear the word ‘Caucasian.’”

Glennie goes astray here by making too much of the word “Caucasian.” He’s suggesting that everyone who’s a “Caucasian” is a descendant of these Assyrians and their Hebrew captives. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. First of all, even before the Assyrian nation came into existence there were many nations, populated by people who would later be called “Caucasian,” already in Europe and in western and southern Asia! Second, Glenn errs by taking the term “Caucasian” too literally. Its etymology is actually mistaken. German anthropologist Johann Blumenbach, in the late 18th century, erroneously thought that the Caucasus mountain region had been the original homeland of the Aryan peoples. We now know he was wrong about that … and about a lot of other things, too, especially his “racial degeneration” theories. In any event, serious scientists no longer view the racial term “Caucasian” as being meaningful. That the Glennster does, and connects it literally with the Caucasus Mountains, betrays his ignorance.

But having spewed that lunacy, Beckie-boy wasn’t done. He reeled off even more lies:

“What’s interesting is the Assyrians, who were very good, meticulous record-keepers, and who were just brutal [people], they settled in Italy and in the Germany area and the Russia area where facsism comes from. But the Israelites, the Lost 10 Tribes, they went north and they started to scatter [in another] direction, and they went to the coastlines, generally in the area where the Pilgrims came from.

To this I can only say, “What the fuck!?” He offers no evidence the Assyrians went to Italy, Germany or Russia. He directly connects those Assyrians with fascism, a political movement that didn’t emerge for two and a half millennia after their state had vanished. And their Hebrew captives, whom the Assyrians had supposedly taken with them, somehow escaped, at some point Glenn never discloses, and settled in “coastal areas” (I guess he forgot that Italy has lots and lots of coastline, and Germany and Russia have some, too).

Lastly, the Glennster goes on at length about how America’s various symbolic associations with the number 13 — such as in the presidential seal — just can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the country was founded as a federation of 13 former British colonies. Oh no! It comes, instead, from the 12 tribes of Israel.

Yes, that’s what he said. That 12 equals 13. Glennie-boy even rationalized this idiotic formulation:

As far as why 12 tribes of Israel would be represented by the number 13 and not 12, Beck stated, “The tribe of Joseph split into Manassah and Ephraim, and those were in northern Israel. That’s the northern kingdom of Israel. That’s the thirteen tribes.”

The WND article continues with a whole lot more of Beckie-boy’s insipid and fact-deprived drivel, complete with his usual long chains of associations. It also cites a “historian,” Steven M. Collins, who supports Glennie’s insane ramblings, however, I can find no record of this Collins having any credentials in history (either by virtue of being awarded a history degree, or having authored an article in a peer-reviewed history journal). I can only assume the guy is no more a “historian” than another of Beckie-boy’s Christofascist friends, David Barton.

In any event, what the Glennster outlines here isn’t really that strange, if you see how similar it is to a movement known as British-Israelism. It, and other related wingnut hypotheses (such as the Khazar myth) are all basically anti-Semitic notions, cooked up in order to rob Jews of their own spiritual heritage and award it to some other group or nation instead. It’s all very irrational, not to mention hateful, and it has no place in the 21st century United States.

Nevertheless, the Glennster is sticking to it. Hmm.

Ordinarily I’d have embedded the video of Glenn spewing his ignorance, distortions, exaggerations, and lies … but somehow I can’t bring myself to put his face on my blog any more. Something about it just turns my stomach. You’ll just have to go there for yourself if you care to see this insanity.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: HaHaStop.

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2008-08-29_a_Imhoff-Schokoladen-Museum-24The fraudulent “Maya Apocalypse” is just under two weeks away as I type this. As one would expect — with humanity being a collective mass of ignorance and stupidity — this lie has touched off panics in various places around the world. The (UK) Telegraph reports on several of these (WebCite cached article):

Ahead of December 21, which marks the conclusion of the 5,125-year “Long Count” Mayan calendar, panic buying of candles and essentials has been reported in China and Russia, along with an explosion in sales of survival shelters in America. In France believers were preparing to converge on a mountain where they believe aliens will rescue them.

The article cites panics in places like Russia and China. But it adds:

Meanwhile in Mexico, where the ancient Mayan civilisation flourished, the end time has been seen as an opportunity. The country has organised hundreds of Maya-themed events, and tourism is expected to have doubled this year.

I say, good for the Maya in Mexico! Go ahead and take advantage of the “Maya Doomsday” fraud, and milk the idiots who subscribe to it for all you can get. When December 22 dawns, laugh at the fools all the way to the bank!

As I always do when I blog about this, I’ll make the situation as clear as possible. The Maya “Long Count” calendar will not “end” on December 21, 2012. All calendars are cyclical and perpetual. They never “end.” The Maya calendar can no more “end” than our own can. What will happen on that date, is that we’ll go from the 13th baktun to the 14th. That’s all. As for Nibiru, it doesn’t exist, it never has, and it will never collide with the earth. It’s a fantasy spun by a crank who claims to be the world’s only expert on Sumerian and Babylonian texts, but who actually knows nothing about them. Put bluntly, it’s a lie.

NASA has a very useful page explaining everything you need to know about the so-called “Maya Apocalypse 2012.” There’s also an excellent compilation of “Maya Doomsday” bullshit — and a thorough refutation of it all — at 2012hoax. I suggest going to either site and being educated about this presumed doomsday.

Photo credit: pakitt, via Flickr.

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InscriptionsOver the last couple of years, I’ve blogged a few times about the so-called “Maya apocalypse.” That’s the assumption that the Maya prophesied that the planet would be destroyed — or the universe grind to a halt — on December 21, 2012 because (supposedly) that’s the day their long-count calendar will “run out.”

Since this whole pseudohistorical and pseudoscientific scenario is predicated on Maya astronomy, the folks at NASA have, over the last several years, been barraged with questions about it. In response, they’ve periodically released information intended to calm the fears of many who actually believe all of this bullshit. As December 2012 arrived, they published an article on their Web site explaining the nonsense (WebCite cached version):

Dec. 21, 2012, won’t be the end of the world as we know, however, it will be another winter solstice.

Contrary to some of the common beliefs out there, the claims behind the end of the world quickly unravel when pinned down to the 2012 timeline.

Here’s a Newsy video report on NASA’s latest debunking effort:

They address a number of claims that have been made about what will happen on December 21, 2012. Among them is the wild-eyed claim that a planet Nibiru will collide with the earth. (That particular aspect of this lunacy owes its origins more to the laughable spew of Zechariah Sitchin than to anything the Maya left behind.)

That said, I have no doubt this will not actually calm the fears of the “Maya apocalypse” true-believers. Rather, they’ll decide that NASA’s efforts to debunk their delusions and lies are merely further evidence of their veracity (for instance, they’ll ask, “Why would a federal government agency spend so much time debunking ‘nonsense,’ unless there was something to it in the first place?”). The backfire effect is a powerful psychological force and it will certainly infect many, as the next couple of weeks go by.

As I’ve done previously, I’ll point out a few simple, obvious facts that explain how this whole “Maya prophecy” is pure bullshit:

  • The Maya calendar can no more “run out” than our own can. Calendars are by nature cyclical and perpetual. You always go from the last month of one year, to the first month of the next, over and over again, without letup. The Maya calendar works no differently, in this regard. December 21, 2012 will be the transition between the 13th baktun and the 14th. That’s all.
  • The idea that the Maya had any special knowledge of the future is laughable on its face. This is especially true when one realizes they never foresaw the collapse of their own civilization, which happened back in the 10th century. The upheaval the Maya experienced in the 10th century — a time in which they did not all “disappear” or “die out” as sometimes has been alleged, although many of their city-states declined measurably and in many cases precipitously — ought to have concerned them immensely, had they seen it coming.
  • Modern Maya (yes, the Maya still exist as a people!) don’t buy any of this bilge, themselves. Since they’re in a better position than the rest of us to know what the classic Maya thought and said, it’d behoove us to pay attention to them.

The bottom line is that the so-called “Maya apocalypse 2012” is a flat-out lie, cooked up by an assortment of New Agers and cranks who have precious little knowledge of the Maya; they’ve taken that little bit of knowledge and extrapolated it to ridiculous proportions. It’s time for them to just fucking stop their lies.

Previously, I issued a challenge to the Maya-apocalypse-promoting cranks, and I’ll repeat it here: Will you state in advance — right here, right now, without reservation — that, once December 22, 2012 arrives and there’s been no “Maya apocalypse,” you promise to issue an unqualified apology for having lied to people, and without delay or equivocation donate the proceeds of your doomsaying to charity?

My guess is, none of them are sincere enough in their (crazy) beliefs to accept this challenge and make this pledge. More’s the pity.

Photo credit: selkie30, via Flickr.

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Thomas Jefferson MemorialI’ve already blogged about the militant Christofascist pseudohistorian David Barton … whom the Right continues to call a “historian,” even though he is absolutely no such thing. That’s to be expected; Rightists generally have only a very loose grasp of history in the first place, so they’re hardly able to tell the difference.

But Barton was drawn up short today — by his own publisher — because, as NPR reports, his most recent book contains demonstrable fabrications and lies (WebCite cached article):

Citing a loss of confidence in the book’s details, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson is ending the publication and distribution of the bestseller, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson.

The controversial book was written by Texas evangelical David Barton, who NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty profiled on All Things Considered Wednesday [cached]. The publishing company says it’s ceasing publication because it found that “basic truths just were not there.” …

“Mr. Barton is presenting a Jefferson that modern-day evangelicals could love and identify with,” historian Warren Throckmorton, a professor at the evangelical Grove City College, told Hagerty. “The problem with that is, it’s not a whole Jefferson; it’s not getting him right.”

The book’s publisher came to the same conclusion.

Religious Rightists have had more than a little difficulty, over the past few years, with Jefferson. He’s one of the best-recognized Founding Fathers, but was also openly disdainful of religiosity and dogmatism. While they revere the Founding Fathers, Jefferson’s decided lack of piety is something the R.R. apparently can no longer stomach. Rightists in Texas, for example, have purposely skewed the public-school curriculum so has to downplay Jefferson and the Enlightenment as a movement. Barton’s book appears to be a reverse of that effort, intended to make Jefferson’s impiety and irreverence go away.

I expect Barton and his fans to portray him as a martyr to the faith and complain that Thomas Nelson caved in to “political correctness.” They will refuse to believe that Barton’s books are full of lies, and will instead convince themselves that everyone who tells them so, is the real liar. That Thomas Nelson is a Christian publisher, and that critics like Throckmorton are evangelicals themselves, will not matter to them one iota. They will still refuse to believe Barton has lied to them. Communal reinforcement is a powerful thing and it can lead to delusional thinking; Barton’s popularity is proof of that.

I should conclude this post by giving Thomas Nelson credit for this action; it surely has cost them a great deal. I also have to give props to Barton’s evangelical critics like Throckmorton; I’m sure their flocks will be none too happy they’ve sided with “the Enemy” against the great “historian” Barton.

Photo credit: chadh, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

P.S. You gotta love the irony of the title of Barton’s book. He obviously intended it to refer to “lies” being told about Jefferson by other folks … particularly those evil “secular humanists” … but in truth, the “lies” are Barton’s own, and they’re contained within the pages of the very book that pretends to debunk them. How contemptible!

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When the Fail is so strong, one Facepalm is not enough / Picard & Riker / based on HaHaStop.ComThe Religious Right is relentless in its determination to rewrite history so as to place themselves — and their current political causes — back in time, even though most of their efforts, such as promoting Creationism and stopping abortion, are all decidedly contemporary notions. Their anachronistic views reveal their ignorance and expose them as liars. Two recent examples of this phenomenon follow, although they’re hardly unique.

First, I’m sure you heard about Sarah Palin’s NRA-propagandized version of Paul Revere‘s ride to warn the Massachusetts militia about the movement of British troops; Here, for example, is a CBS News story on her lies, which were compounded by a Wikipedia war to make it appear she was actually correct (WebCite cached article):

Dozens of changes were made to the Revere page on the Internet site Sunday and Monday after Palin claimed Revere’s famous ride was intended to warn both his fellow colonists and British soldiers.

Palin claimed, among other things, that Revere had been trying to “warn the British”; that he was firing shots into the air as he rode; and that he was ringing bells as well. Not one of those things is true, at least not in the Charlton Heston style that Palin told it. While he did end up warning the British about the militia, that was only after he’d warned the colonials — who’d been the intended targets of his warning ride — and had been picked up by British troops. By then, the cat was already out of the bag, so to speak, so he was able to tell them little of any value (and they eventually let him go). He absolutely did not fire his musket into the air as he went; secrecy had been his goal, he needed to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were on their way to arrest them. (Not to mention, loading and shooting a musket while on horseback is not exactly a simple feat.) Revere also did not ring bells as he rode, for the same reason.

Politifact and FactCheck have weighed in on her idiotic and anachronistic comments. The best either of them can say is that Palin was “barely truthful” … and that’s being generous.

Even after caught lying, and putting NRA words into Paul Revere’s mouth, Mrs Palin irrationally insisted she was correct. That also is quite in line with Religious Right practice; no Religious Rightist ever concedes error. Ever. Not for any reason, no matter the facts, and no matter how idiotic they sound. Hence, the campaign by her supporters to make Wikipedia back up her version of Paul Revere’s ride.

My second example of the Religious Right’s ignorance of, and lies about, history is from David Barton, the man whom the R.R. hails as a historian, when in fact, he is not, and never has been a historian (either by virtue of having a degree in history or having published an article in a peer-reviewed history journal). Right Wing Watch reports (video included) on his claim that the Founding Fathers supported Creationism and dismissed evolution (WebCite cached article):

Naturally, Barton says that the Founding Fathers “already had the entire debate on creation and evolution,” and sided with Creationism.

The problem with this, of course, is that evolution wasn’t really known until the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, nearly a century after them. The liar Barton went on to make an even more absurd and factually-incorrect claim:

“That’s why we said we want to separate from Britain, so we can end slavery,” Barton said.

Yes, folks, according to pseudohistorian Barton, the Revolutionary War was fought not to gain independence from Great Britain, but to free the slaves! The problem here, of course, is that the Constitution those same Founding Fathers wrote after that war, contained provisions allowing for slavery in the new country, and slavery wasn’t abolished until the end of the Civil War, again, decades later.

I have no idea what it is that Palin or Barton are smoking. But they’re hardly alone. The R.R. continuously represents itself as modern-day Founding Fathers, even though the R.R. is predicated on a form of fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity that did not exist in the F.F.s’ time. They apparently just can’t help themselves. In any event, whatever their motives might be, Palin and Barton’s lies place them squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

Photo credit: Based on HaHaStop.Com.

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Pseudohistory Channel' Logo (modified from 'History Channel' logo)I’ve blogged before about the bullshit that’s continually beamed by satellite from the History Channel Pseudohistory Channel. Most of it is just stupid and laughable. But I happened to see one of their specials, which was not only wrong, it was demonstrably wrong, and in fact was so demonstrably wrong that they have no viable excuse for having aired it.

Their claim was that the Knights Templars sent an expedition to the Americas in the mid to late 14th century. They supposedly landed at what is now Nova Scotia, then ventured west overland and left behind the Kensington Runestone in what’s now Minnesota. Here’s the link to the only page the History Channel Pseudohistory Channel Web site offers on this show, a DVD purchase page … but I urge you not to buy this pile of shit because it’s not worth anything.

Now, why do I say that this “documentary” is full of crap? It turns out to be easily proven.

I could point out that the Kensington Runestone is — outside of the Kensington MN vicinity — almost universally viewed as hoax. I could, too, point out that there’s no evidence the expedition’s leader, Henry Sinclair, had ever been a Knight Templar, or that there is any evidence the Templars ever sent an expedition of this sort.

I could even point out that any solitary early European expedition to the Americas would have been foolish to have left the coastline and bolt a couple thousand miles overland (note that all the early post-Columbus colonies were coastal, as was even the failed Viking Vinland colony). I could point out a lot of things about this so-called “documentary” which are leaps of reasoning or logic, or otherwise insipid or idiotic.

But I don’t need to offer any of these things as proof that this “documentary” is pure bullshit. There are two simple, irrefutable, easily-discovered facts, which — taken together — accomplish this, and they are:

The Knights Templars were officially suppressed by 1312 and had ceased to exist as an organization, by then, its members mostly all having been arrested and its properties seized, beginning in 1307. Henry Sinclair, on the other hand, was born in 1345.

That’s right, folks. 1312, and 1345. Neither of these dates is in dispute. It’s chronologically impossible for Sinclair to have been a Templar, or to have led an expedition under the auspices of that order. In short, it never happened, because it cannot possibly have happened — and this is chronologically verifiable.

Really, nothing more needs to be said about this. The History Channel Pseudohistory Channel’s airing of this putative “documentary” is inexcusable, since the refutation of the entire documentary’s content could have been found in any encyclopedia.

It’s long past time this fucking joke of a television channel pulled the plug on itself and put me out of my misery. It’s one thing to broadcast bullshit; it’s another to broadcast bullshit that any fifth-grader in any library could easily verify is bullshit.

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