Posts Tagged “pseudoarchaeology”

'What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church ... such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.' -Martin Luther (PsiCop original graphic)This is the second post today where I’ve had to address something that was said at the Values Voters Summit in Washington. And it happens also to concern a lie that was told in support of Christianism. (I expect dozens of lies were told there, today … but I only have just so much time, so these two will have to do).

The liar I’ll discuss here is former Congresswoman (and current raging Christofascist) Michele Bachmann. As Right Wing Watch reports, she repeated the old fundamentalist canard that archaeology proves the Bible (Archive.Is cached article):

Apparently operating under her new anointing as pastor, Bachmann opened her remarks by celebrating the election of Donald Trump before dedicating a significant portion of the remainder of her speech to recounting the history of Christianity and the saving power of Christ.

“You know, the remarkable thing,” she said, “when you read the Bible, every archeology find that has ever come forward has only proved the authenticity of the Bible.”

This claim — while it’s widely repeated among fundies like Bachmann — is an out-&-out lie. Pure bullshit. A steaming load heaved right out the back of the barn. The cold fact is that archaeology has actually failed to confirm much of the Bible’s contents. For instance, there’s no archaeological evidence for a worldwide flood. There’s no evidence the Hebrews were captive in Egypt, nor is there any evidence of an “exodus,” the Red Sea never parted, nor is there evidence that Hebrews conquered the Levant in a military campaign.

I could go on, but it would be pointless. The number of Biblical events which have never been confirmed by archaeology is legion. It’d be easier for me to point out times they coincide; there are only a few. Among them is the Hittites, a people who were mentioned a few times in the Bible, and had been thought of as maybe-legendary, but hadn’t been encountered by archaeologists until a little over a century ago. But some ruins and tablets … and texts found in Egypt as well … confirmed that there had, indeed, been Hittites in the Near East.

So archaeologically speaking, the Bible got that right — but unfortunately for Bachmann and her fundie ilk, not much else.

Fundies tell this lie, and repeat it endlessly, because it reinforces in their minds the importance of their own strict and literal reading of the Bible texts. They’re so convinced of their mantra that “archaeology confirms the Bible” that they’ve run roughshod over the Near East, particularly Israel and the West Bank, desperately flailing around in search of stuff they think they can use to “prove” to the rest of the world that they’re right (cached). That they haven’t been able to do this, decades into their search, should speak volumes.

At any rate, I’ve added Ms Bachmann to my “lying liars for Jesus” club, where she’ll find many like-minded Christofascists.

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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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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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