Changes to My Home Page and PaleoBabble

Those of you who have gone to my homepage in the last day or two have already noticed the changes, but I need to make an official announcement.

For the past year a professional designer has taken my site on as a gratis project (Joseph Fioramonti of POSTMORTAL Design). He’s streamlined the site and blogs on the back end, put together some original art work, and made the blogs look like they belong to the homepage. I like the look and

What does this mean for readers? For now, you can still get to this blog (and the others) from the new homepage, or use the redirect I’ve had for several years: paleobabble.com. But there will be changed to that …

Over the next week:

  • I’ll be posting a note on my old homepage directing people to the new one
  • I’ll be populating all the posts on this blog to their new homes on the new blog site that lives within the new homepage. Most of that is already done, but I have a couple months of copying and pasting to do. That means that, right now, the new blog sites will NOT have the most recent posts (I think they have up through this past January).  I’ll announce something when the copying is done.
  • Once the copying is done, I will put a sign on the front of this blog (a “last post”) directing people to the new blog location.

Longer Term:

  • I will cease looking at or interacting with this old blog page.  I may just take it down after several months. Not sure. Same with the old homepage.

Have a look at the new site and its pages — especially the blogs. Let me know if something is missing, or you can’t find something. The layout is different, but we’ll all get used to it.

New Book Critiquing Jesus Mythicism

Another bad day for the Zeitgeist crowd.

Prof. Larry Hurtado (Emeritus, University of Edinburgh) alerted his blog readers to a new book by Prof. Maurice Casey (Emeritus, Nottingham University). The title is Jesus: Evidence and Argument or Mythicist Myths?

Hurtado writes:

It will be apparent from the title that Casey (along with practically every scholar who has considered the matter) doesn’t buy the “mythicist” case.  He is a long-time acquaintance and a well-published and noted scholar in NT.  Because identifying a person as a traditional Christian is sometime invoked (by self-styled “sceptics”) as an excuse to ignore whatever he/she says about Jesus or anything to do with Christian origins, I’ll also mention that this hardly applies to Casey.  He doesn’t argue with a view to trying to protect Christian belief or believers.  Whatever the strength of his arguments, he’s not doing apologetics!

 

From the publisher’s website:

Did Jesus exist? In recent years there has been a massive upsurge in public discussion of the view that Jesus did not exist. This view first found a voice in the 19th century, when Christian views were no longer taken for granted. Some way into the 20th century, this school of thought was largely thought to have been utterly refuted by the results of respectable critical scholarship (from both secular and religious scholars).

Now, many unprofessional scholars and bloggers (‘mythicists’), are gaining an increasingly large following for a view many think to be unsupportable. It is starting to influence the academy, more than that it is starting to influence the views of the public about a crucial historical figure. Maurice Casey, one of the most important Historical Jesus scholars of his generation takes the ‘mythicists’ to task in this landmark publication. Casey argues neither from a religious respective, nor from that of a committed atheist. Rather he seeks to provide a clear view of what can be said about Jesus, and of what can’t.

 

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The Myth of the Smithsonian Archaeological Conspiracy

I’ve directed readers to Jason Colavito’s blog many times before, but I don’t believe I’ve included this specific essay: How David Childress Created the Myth of a Smithsonian Archaeological Conspiracy.

Jason makes a good case for the modern origin of this oft-repeated point of conspiracist dogma. I’m not claiming (and neither would Jason, I presume) that Childress is the explanation for every thread along these lines, but it seems pretty clear he’s a major fountainhead.

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The Paracas Elongated Skulls: More Boneheaded Nephilim Claims

If you’re interested in phony DNA research to prop up ancient alien hybrids and alleged nephilim skulls, you’re in luck. Two recent posts came to my attention today. They’re both long, but well worth the time.

First, there’s the essay by Frank Johnson at the Ancient Aliens Debunked blog: “Another Bone to Pick…With Peruvian Nephilim/Alien Hybrids.” It’s a good survey/refutation of the alleged evidence. It’ll get you up to speed on the claims and personalities involved.

Next we have (drum roll, please) a real archaeologist weigh in on the skulls – Keith Fitzpatrick Matthews on the Bad Archaeology blog. Keith’s essay, “The Paracas skulls: aliens, an unknown hominid species or cranial deformation?” is nothing short of devastating. In particular, pretend anthropologist Brien Foerster, a participant in the upcoming “Nephilim Skull Tour” comes out looking very bad, even dumb. (Just read it). This essay deals a bit with the DNA issue, but focuses more on the forensics of the skulls themselves.

Where’s the verse in the Bible again about nephilim having elongated skulls? (crickets chirping)

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The Starchild Skull and Its DNA Testing: No Proof of an Alien Hybrid

Frank Johnson of the Ancient Aliens Debunked (AAD) blog recently posted this lengthy essay concerning alleged DNA evidence that the Starchild Skull was that of a human0alien hybrid child: “A Bone to Pick with the Starchild Skull.”

It’s well worth the read, and you should follow the links that relate to the testing itself. The post not only goes into the selective use (and discarding) of DNA evidence, but also its misinterpretation. The post features comments (which have been public for some time) by Dr. Robert Carter. Carter’s PhD is in marine biology, but he’s knowledgeable about the interpretation of DNA evidence.

I’ve been holding some email comments for years from my own go-to expert in genetics (PhD in biology whose doctoral work was DNA-related) about the Starchild skull’s DNA testing and Carter’s own comments. I was waiting for the Starchild’s keeper, Lloyd Pye, to go through with his promise of further DNA testing. In the wake of Pye’s recent passing, I doubt that will happen.

I’ve decided to post excerpts of the comments below, without identifying the geneticist. There’s no point unless we get further testing. My resource thinks the alien claims for the skull and its DNA defense are bunk. Interestingly, he has bones to pick with Carter’s analysis (my guy is a real geneticist, so he’s bound to see flaws in Carter’s analysis). He also knows Carter. I’ve taken the liberty of inserting a few editorial remarks of my own (MSH) that have a bearing on what my guy says and what the AAD essay says.

Mike,

I skimmed over the links you sent, and here are my thoughts for what they’re worth:

1.  Based on the description of the mtDNA results, the normal skull is not the mother or sibling of the abnormal one.  They have different mtDNA types, and mtDNA is (nearly) always maternally inherited.  So they cannot be maternally related.  Could be father/son though.

[MSH: This strikes me as important since, as the AAD post points out, initial Starchild DNA tests had the child as a male. These results were set aside by Pye because of “contamination” – more likely, because they didn’t support his ideas; see the AAD post for that discussion.]

2.  The description of the “shotgun” sequencing [in the Starchild report – MSH] is very crude, obviously written by someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Assuming that they’re describing real sequences from the abnormal skull, the conclusions they reach do not follow.  In particular, this statement is totally false: “To have recovered a string of base pairs 342 nucleotides long with NO reference in the NIH database is astounding because it means there is NO known earthly corollary for what has been analyzed!”

All it means is that we haven’t encountered that particular nucleotide sequence yet.  It happens all the time.  Usually, with every genome of a new genus or species that we sequence, some measurable fraction (10-30%) is DNA sequence we’ve never seen before (i.e., has no match in the public database).  In the case of the skull, the novel DNA is probably just contamination from bacteria or fungi or some other critter that
participated in the decomposition of the body.

[MSH: Note the contamination issue again – and make sure to zero in on that in the AAD post.  Pye’s claims of contamination were self-serving. He used that as an excuse when something didn’t suit his alien hybrid view, but ignore that possibility in other contexts.]

3. … Yes, the description of the shotgun sequencing is incompetent (for the reasons [Carter] cites), but I see no reason to suspect that the description is intentionally deceptive.  Not only that, but from my perusal it looks like Carter entirely missed the issue of contamination, which is the probable source of the novel DNA sequence.

[MSH: In other words, my source chalks this up to incompetence, not deliberate deception. Who knows?]

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Were the Ancient Gnostics Great Intellectuals?

Here’s one New Testament scholar (Larry Hurtado, recently retired, Univ. of Edinburgh) who laughs at the idea. I’d agree with him (and I like reading western esotericism).

If you think they’re intellectual elites, you’ve been watching too much on the Fantasy Channel (aka, History Channel) and reading too many pages by modern new agers. Go to the primary sources, like Prof. Hurtado suggests.

[Addendum: 2/24/2014. Prof. April DeConick was apparently put off by Prof. Hurtado. It didn’t take her long to respond. I’m with Hurtado on this one. I’ve read enough esoteric material and western esotericism to know that the short path to sounding intellectual is to spout streams of barely intelligible ideas. That way, you come off as the possessor of elite knowledge: “If you were as brilliant as I am, you’d understand what I’m saying.” Gnostic literature is filled with that sort of thing. Just read it. My point is not that they were dumb or on acid. It’s that calling them leading intellectuals of the ancient world is silly. In terms of the New Age crowd, it’s hard for them to take reasoned discourse and make it sound like mystery and mysticism to convince you they’re deep. It’s easy to do that with Gnostic material, and many have done so. That ought to tell us something. (And readers will know I’m not in the ecclesiastical box of the “historic” church in several respects). Yes, I can be accused at this point of assessing that material through “western logic.” But tell me — when we debate the subject, are we going to use the rules of western logic for discussion or not? Will we evaluate the soundness of argumentation using rules of western logic or not? We all know the answer, and that tells us something as well.]

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Another “Stone Age Atlantis”

Here’s a report about the discovery by some Swedish divers of “an ancient underwater site” deep in the Baltic. Since it’s in the Nordic region, it’s being dubbed as the “Swedish Atlantis.”

(Sigh).

Have you ever wondered why every time some evidence like this is discovered it’s always an Atlantis? Answer: it’s archeoporn. They need web traffic.

What we have (if the remains have been interpreted correctly) is a culture capable of building simple stone dwellings. That isn’t exactly Atlantis. But it makes for a good headline.

The issue is the age of the apparent settlement. From the link:

Buried 16 metres below the surface, Nilsson uncovered wood, flint tools, animal horns and ropes. . . . Among the most notable items found include a harpoon carving made from an animal bone, and the bones of an ancient animal called aurochs.

I can see why archaeologists would be excited about this. But honestly, I don’t see it as an “Atlantean” culture. A very old Nordic culture that used stone to build and harpooned sea creatures for food isn’t Atlantis.

 

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Progress on the Voynich Manuscript

This new report about a recently *peer-reviewed* article on the Voynich Manuscript isn’t paleobabble. It’s pretty interesting. Looks like some real progress that could lead to decipherment.

Voynich_Manuscript

Image source: Wikipedia

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The THEOI Project

This looks like a useful, growing, resource.

THEOI means “gods” in Greek. According to the site, it’s purpose is:

. . . exploring Greek mythology and the gods in classical literature and art. The aim of the project is to provide a comprehensive, free reference guide to the gods (theoi), spirits (daimones), fabulous creatures (theres) and heroes of ancient Greek mythology and religion.

Check it out!

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