Irreverent Skeptics Podcast Episode 6 – Ancient Aliens

Drake equation

  • A thought experiment on the variables of the chance of intelligent life in the universe

  • Variables are:

    • the average rate of star formation in our galaxy

    • the fraction of those stars that have planets

    • the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets

    • the fraction of planets that could support life that actually develop life at some point

    • the fraction of planets with life that actually go on to develop intelligent life (civilizations)

    • the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space

    • the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space

  • Why it doesn’t prove visitation:

    • All the values are not known, so with current data it can’t be solved

    • Even if we had the values for the variables we still wouldn’t know if they were capable of interstellar travel

Evolution and Ancient Astronauts

  • Some proponents claim that the life that exists now is so highly unlikely, that there must have been an intervention from the aliens.

  • The counter argument is that there was no goal. This is not the only outcome that could’ve come, so the probability of random events leading to this current state is very low.

  • Matt Dillahunty of AExp put it this way

    • Deal 5 cards out of a deck

    • Those cards are random and it is highly unlikely that you’d deal the same way again

    • But still it happened once, you can’t say that the first deal was impossible

  • Graham Hancock takes a different view. While his pet theory is that an advanced human civilisation existed before 10,000 – 12,500 BE  (12,500 – 14,500 BCE) at times he alludes to ancient aliens for some technology.

  • Archaeology professor and author of Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries, Ken Feder’s found three themes in von Daniken’s books: “The first one I called ‘the horny astronaut hypothesis’ because essentially what von Daniken was saying was extraterrestrials, millions of years ago … landed on Earth, they got out of their space ships and figured, you know, even at the speed of light, if they could travel that fast, it’s a big universe, they’ve been cooped up there a long time; they exit the space ship and what’s the first thing they do? They start cruising for chicks. In von Daniken’s hypothesis, they actually find females – the spacemen are always spacemen – they find female primates, they mate with them, and the mating results in the next step of evolution. … When von Daniken says that they mated with these critters, and that they kept coming back, and that every stage of human evolution that paleoanthropologists find – that that next stage was wrought by subsequent matings of ETs with these hominids, Earth got the reputation of kind of being a party planet, and they would arrive and start boinking the hominids.”

    • Sagan said about this: “as a human ancestor, you’d probably be more successful mating with a petunia than with an ET, because at least you and the petunia evolved on the same planet.” The idea that they have matching DNA and matching physical parts to the point that they could have fertile offspring is laughable.


Building With Stone

  • Machu Picchu

    • Tsoukalos says that the ancient stone shaping techniques are the “most tangible” piece of evidence we have.

    • Says that we would be unable to duplicate them today, but when they interviewed a modern stone cutter he completely contradicted that, and they just edited the clip to make it look like he was agreeing.

    • Actual quote from their stonecutter Roger Hopkins: “The precision on some of the work I’ve seen is just incredible.  It’s possible to do by hand, but it’d take an incredible amount of time, plus you’d have to have years of experience to be able to pull it off.”

    • The Ancient Aliens show featured the theory of mining engineer Michael Dunn, who believes that the granite at Machu Picchu was melted by alien technology and poured into molds. This theory was supported by Tsoukalos, who believes that a native legend tells of just such a technology.

    • The thing is that a little research shows that this is physically impossible. If you melt granite down to magma, it will melt all the mineral crystals inside. These crystals are what make granite granite. The only way for them to form again would be to cool the magma very slowly, over a period of thousands to millions of years. Otherwise the magma will cool and form a rock known as rhyolite, not granite.

  • Pyramids

    • Ancient Alien theorists like to say that since there are 2.3 million blocks in the Great Pyramid and it was constructed over a period of 20 years, that must mean that a single block had to be carved, moved to the pyramid, and put in place every 13 seconds. An impossible task.

    • – This is just an average though, and misses the fact that there were thousands of people working on the pyramid at the same time. Hundreds of blocks would have been completed, moved, and placed simultaneously. They didn’t do this one block at a time requiring a 13 second rush to complete each one.

    • Some people say that the pyramids appeared out of nowhere without any kind of precursors. This was just pulled out of somebody’s ass. Egyptians did build precursors to the pyramids. Single layer tombs known as mastabas. Then they started putting on an extra layer to the mastaba, the second layer smaller than the first. Then they made step pyramids. Then they started trying for true pyramids, even making mistakes along the way such as the famous Bent Pyramid.

      • Also, people were building ziggurats before the Egyptians built the pyramids.

    • Some people say that the ancient Egyptians were just incapable of moving multi ton objects using the technology of the time. That’s just not true. We know how they moved them, the ancient Egyptians left records. They used sleds on a lubricated track. We have the remains of the sleds they used, and there’s a 3,900 year old record of how they moved a 57 ton statue in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian named Djehutihotep. There’s nothing impossible or even implausible about the methods used, it’s just manpower.

    • There’s some derision about the standard theories for how they built the pyramids. It’s true that these theories have some difficulties, but expecting modern scholars to explain in complete detail how each step of building the pyramids was done, otherwise we must conclude that it was made by aliens, is a ridiculous stance.

    • There’s a new Internal Ramp theory about how the pyramids were built that’s getting a lot of attention and may explain a lot of the features of the pyramids and solve a lot of the difficulties with the other theories.

    • Monster Talk #38 – Ancient Alien Astronauts: Interview with Ken Feder – fantastically entertaining guy. Great primer on the actual non-pseudo-archaeology about pyramids.

      • von Daniken et al claim that the pyramids apparently appeared overnight from a culture that was barely eking out a living, tilling the land. Claim that we still can’t build a pyramid with our modern technology. Even when von Daniken wrote his books, we had a hell of a better idea about pyramid building than he suggests. Feder talks about we’re very capable of detecting if a technology was developed in situ or brought in from outside. We see, in the archaeological record, the signs of an incremental, error-filled evolution of the ability to build pyramids (and agriculture, and metallurgy): piles of stones without angled sides, a series of collapsed pyramids with much steeper angles, pyramids built on sand that shifted and collapsed, etc. – signs that pyramids are a developed human invention rather than a final product that was introduced to us by some other culture. Same signs found around the world wherever we see pyramids.

      • Feder discusses how he told his hairstylist that he was a college student studying archaeology and she mentioned the idea of ancient spacemen building the pyramids. He’d never heard of it before, and thought she was crazy. But then he heard a review of Chariots of the Gods (von Daniken’s book) and realized it was actually a thing. “It was like archaeological pornography – turn to any page and it’s amazing” – except that you turn to any page and it’s pure idiocy. “This is stuff that people have known was wrong for decades or even centuries.” von Daniken’s stuff was almost entirely cribbed from a book called Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pauwels. Nowhere in Chariots of the Gods did von Daniken credit Pauwels for being the source of his ideas, although they’re almost directly ripped from Pauwels’ book.

      • Feder summarized von Daniken’s ideas as “the archaeological record could only be understood as the result of direct, very personal influence by extraterrestrial aliens.” In the 1970s he taught a special class on archaeology where the students picked the topic and they all wanted to do ancient astronauts. So he thought, “All right. What is it about these books? What are the major primary themes? I was able to extract three fundamental themes … in von Daniken’s books.”

        • First hypothesis is above.

        • Second hypothesis: the ‘inkblot hypothesis’ – there’s nothing really there. It’s all in your mind. Whatever von Daniken saw on a cave wall – geometric patterns, strange ghostly images – all of those were the result of our ancestors hiding behind a rock, watching a rocket land, watching ETs come out and walk around and fly away, and our ancestors immediately painted what they saw. Archaeologists will say “this looks like a guy wearing a costume to make him look like a deer” or “this looks like a person who maybe is floating in the air because he’s a spirit” – in every case von Daniken interprets these as evidence of contact between our ancestors and ETs. Feder had his students look through von Daniken’s books, hide the captions, look at the photos, and tell him what they saw. “That looks like a robot” – okay, we’ve got ETs! “That looks like a ghost” – no, because maybe it’s an alien. “That one looks like an animal” – no no no, it’s an alien!

        • Third hypothesis: ‘Our Ancestors the Dummies’ – ancient humans were too dumb to achieve the technology they had. The ETs were like the Peace Corps, bringing advanced technology and training (agriculture, math, pyramids, etc.) to idiots. All the ancient human achievements were stuff we couldn’t do by ourselves; the aliens did it.

      • Feder got an e-mail from one of the Ancient Aliens producers inviting him to participate in the show. They knew he was a name associated with the topic but not where he came down on it. He wrote back “I’d be happy to be on your show, but you should know that I think that the ancient astronaut hypothesis is execrable bullshit.” He hasn’t heard back from them.

  • The Moai of Easter Island

    • In 1722, explorer Jacob Roggeveen marvelled at how the people of Easter Island could have fashioned and moved the Moai with no timber or strong ropes.

    • von Daniken believes that the only explanation is that some aliens got stranded and just decided to create them… you know, just for shits and giggles.

    • Fact is that they didn’t need timber, and their ropes didn’t have to be very strong. Evidence suggests that the natives moved the Moai by actually making them “walk”

    • The Moai are bottom heavy. They have a low center of gravity like a bowling pin. Ropes attached to their head could move them from side to side with very little effort, so they could be “walked” in the same way you’d “walk” your refrigerator in order to move it.

    • Turns out that the natives of Easter Island actually have a word which means “to walk by moving rigidly from side to side” in exactly this way.

    • The bases of abandoned statues show conchoidal fractures underneath, which is exactly the type of fractures you would expect to form from this kind of movement.

    • More than 20 miles of ancient roads emanate like spokes from the statue quarry of Rano Raraku. It’s likely that their only purpose was as paths to “walk” these statues along.

    • NOVA Online | Secrets of Easter Island – PBS

  • Göbelki Tepe

    • An archaeological site in the mountains of the Southeaster Anatolia Region of Turkey

  • Gunung Padang Megalithic Site

    • A megalithic site located in Karyamukti village, Cianjur regency, West Java Province of Indonesia


Pop culture

  • Stargate (movie and the TV series)

  • Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

  • Prometheus

  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

  • X-Files (not sure of episodes)

  • Futurama!! A Pharaoh to Remember


Murderous Gay Pastor…

Maryland Mom Kills 2 of Her Children in Attempted Exorcism

Indian Village Tribunal Orders Gang Rape of Woman
A Finnish Blood Service Claims It Can Measure Sin from Blood (in Finnish)
– Head of research for the blood service Droppi (droplet) Mikko Vapa claims that they can scan a dried up droplet of blood to test the health of a patient and the amount of sin.

Quote: “The idea is that sin shows as measurable inflammation. This idea is based on the Bible (surprise surprise), which claims that sinner’s blood will dry up white. The claim is that sin has a biological counterpart”

Quote: “The whiter the blood, the more tainted it is. Red blood is clean, but as the cleanliness goes down different symptoms appear.”

Associate professor of religious studies, Ilkka Pyysiäinen, writes the claim off as humbug in “Church and the City” Magazine, but Vapa claims the company is in it completely seriously.

Senior Physician from Oulu University Hospital’s laboratory Nordlab says that dry blood analysis is not a method they use.

Quote: “It sounds strange that this method would reveal anything from the blood, from which you could make conclusions about the person’s health. I would compare this to reading the future from new year’s tin.”

Droppi ltd has also got public funding for 22,500€ to improve the process automation of dry blood analysis.

Links and Attributions

Drake Equation

Graham Hancock

Bone calendar referenced by Dumbass

Ancient Astronauts in Pop Culture

Documentary: The World Before Her – about two women in India (one is a model and the other is from local Al Qaeda-like organization.)

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  1. Pingback: Virtual Skeptics #87 – 5/7/2014 | The Virtual Skeptics

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