Skeptical Tuesdays: Ancient Aliens Edition | Vol. 2 / No. 16.1


I was trying to decide what to cover this week, bogged down as I am under the weight of this insufferable cold that’s going around, and I seriously considered doing a bit on self-proclaimed “food babe” Vani Hari’s new book, which honest-to-god-I’m-not-even-exaggerating-this is called (deep breath) “The Food Babe Way: Break Free from the Hidden Toxins in Your Food and Lose Weight, Look Years Younger, and Get Healthy in Just 21 Days!” Yes, that 26-word monstrosity of a title may tell you all you need to know about the latest money-making venture by the craziest science denier since Ken Ham, but if it’s not enough, here’s a couple of reviews that say it all better than I ever could: “The Food Babe: “There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever”” over at Respectful Insolence, and “The Food Babe is a Raving Lunatic” over at Kitchenette.

So instead, I figured I’d talk about one of my favourite things ever, in an attempt to cheer myself up: Ancient Aliens.

For those of you who are unaware, this is a “History” Channel show that purports to show the connections between the pyramids, Nazca lines, Machu Picchu, Nazis, dinosaurs (and so forth), and, you guessed it, aliens. The show’s shtick is that all these things can be explained through a liberal application of something called the “ancient astronaut hypothesis.” In a kind of prometheus myth for the modern man, the idea is that anything that looks too hard to imagine a pre-machine-age society doing (stonehenge, for instance) was actually done with the help of beneficial extra-terrestrial visitors in the distant past.

Think Stargate (great movie, and shows, by the way) and the way the pyramids were actually combination palaces and landing pads for the spaceships of ancient Egyptian “gods” (who were, of course, actually aliens). But for every. single. thing. in history that’s even a little bit mysterious.

Case in point, the “Dendera light.”

The "Dendera light" depicted at the Temple of Hathor; Photo: Flickr user A Rancid Amoeba
The “Dendera light” depicted at the Temple of Hathor; Photo: Flickr user A Rancid Amoeba, CC BY 2.0

What are we looking at here? A pair of snakes coming out of flowers? Giant fertility symbols? How about ancient Egyptian light bulbs? Well that latter suggestion is one followed by a camp of people who believe the ancient Egyptians had a working understanding of electricity, despite not having mastered things we typically think of as coming first, like wheels. But the Ancient Astronaut theorists take it a step further: not only did they have electricity, it was given to them by extra-terrestrial visitors.

You can apply this line of thinking to anything you don’t understand that happened in history. How did the ancient Britons move the stones to Stonehenge? How did the ancient residents of Easter Island sculpt and move those giant stone heads? How did the people of ancient Peru make the Nazca Lines without being able to fly above them to see them more clearly?

At its root, though, it all comes down to one thing, and that’s what bothers me the most: a lack of faith in humanity.

It’s not that their logic is bad (it is) or that their ignorance is willful (also true), it’s that deep down they believe these things are too wondrous for humans to have done them. It’s like the people who think the moon landings were a hoax.

We did go to the moon. We did built the pyramids. We did make Stonehenge and the Nazca Lines and the seamless stonework at Machu Picchu. That was us.

Humans are pretty awesome.

That said, it doesn’t mean the show can’t be a lot of fun to watch. Especially if you like drinking games. And so, without further ado, I shall end this post with one of my favourite group activities: Ancient Aliens the Drinking Game.


Ancient Aliens: The Drinking Game

(Note: I take no responsibility for the things you do when drunk, and for how much you drink. Please only give yourself access to a safe amount of alcohol. Only you can prevent forest fires, young grasshopper.)

Step One: Load up an episode of Ancient Aliens (it’s on Amazon Prime instant right now, I think).

Step Two: Obtain (low alcohol content) drinks (you’ll thank me).

Step Three: Pick which rules you and your friends are going to follow (don’t pick all of them, trust me, you’ll black out).

Rules List (drink whenever…):

  1. You hear three hypothetical questions asked in a row (Who weer they? Where did they come from? How did they get here?)
  2. You hear the word “mainstream” (e.g. “mainstream archaeologists,” “mainstream historians,” etc.).
  3. You see any use of computer graphics that can be described as “egregious” (you’ll see).
  4. The show jumps more than a thousand miles or a thousand years without justification (this happens a lot).
  5. You see Erich von Daniken (a.k.a. the Werner Herzog of Ancient Astronaut Theorists).
  6. You hear Giorgio (the guy with the hair) mispronounce the words “extra-terrestrial” (alternate pronunciations include “extwa-tewwestwial” and “exta-tewwestwial”).
  7. You hear the words “Ancient Astronaut Theorists” (again, this happens a lot, so choose which rules you’ll use judiciously!).

Step Four: Hit play. Have fun. Don’t hurt yourself (please).


That’s all for today.

Edit: Added rule 7.