NASA, PaleoBabble, and the 2012 BS

I just wanted to alert readers to this page on the NASA astrobiology website.  It’s a Q&A regarding the 2012 hysteria. The page answers the questions that the more conspiratorially-minded think are “gotchas” that really aren’t.  Very worthwhile. (Thanks to Guy for the heads up!)

You’ll notice that one of the links the NASA people refer people to is my site debunking Zecharia’ Sitchin’s Nibiru nonsense.  Nice to get the love!

More on the New Talpiot Tomb

Lots of material being generated pretty quickly.  Here is a worthwhile overview from Mark Goodacre’s NT blog. The post that Mark directs us to by Tom Verenna that serves as a collection of response is here (just in case you don’t click through to the Goodacre post).

And alas, the archaeo-nitwits in the mainstream media are doing their level best to distort the material to create headlines and garner readers. Goodacre notes:

Meanwhile, there are plenty of reasons for dismay in the media headlines over the last twenty-four hours.  If you did not read carefully on the subject, you would have no idea how tenuous these headlines are — the Telegraph says Christ’s disciples’ remains ‘discovered’ in spite of the fact that there is no mention of “Christ”, his “disciples” or their “remains”.  Or in the case of the Daily Mail, even the reference to the disciples drops out with ‘Divine Jehovah, raise up’: Does discovery of coffin lid prove the resting place of Jesus is under Jerusalem tower block?

Always be wary of newspaper headlines that ask questions.  The answer is almost always “No”.

This is the sort of reason I do not trust Jacobovici. For those who read the comments, James Tabor and I have had a brief exchange. I just don’t understand why he doesn’t drop Jacobovici like a bad habit. Using the clueless archaeo-media to introduce new discoveries is only about generating cash, and that’s what Simcha does. If by “professional” James means the book, then I can say I’m willing to think that will be worth reading and demonstrate some careful thought — at least his credentials give me hope there). But if “professional” refers to endorsing the use of a popular journalistic army of willful or witless distorters to filter the material for the public, I’m not on board. Any good work will get lost in the nonsense. This approach invariably generates a lot of bad thinking and erroneous conclusions that will, to many, become their truth. Since I’ve spent my share of time trying to inject sanity into the world of paleobabble, I have seen many times over that this cycle is very real. I know how it works and the effects it has.  It is in no way responsible.

And in any event, even if one could remove the method of announcement and everything was very professional, at the end of the day, non sequiturs professionally put forth are still non sequiturs. I know that peer-reviewed material isn’t immune from that problem, but review cuts down on it, and allows the writer the kind of input that helps sharpen thinking before things filter down to the uninitiated but interested non-specialists. By this method non get flagged until consumed and absorbed (and purchased) by the populace. It’s the methodological equivalent to using mainstream media connections to announce a cure for cancer without clinical trials, or presenting one’s off-the-radar conspiratorial theory (the academic word would be avant garde) about Zionism instead of getting critical feedback from field experts first. But that’s boring and doesn’t generate sales.

Again, I need to know how this is responsible. It’s a simple, reasonable request.

Keeping Up with the Jacobovicis

The blogosphere is already heating up with responses from scholars to the new “discoveries” of $imcha Jacobovici and James Tabor. Those interested can keep up with the responses of professional scholars via the ASOR blog, which seems poised to become a clearing house of sorts for this topic (ASOR = American Schools of Oriental Research, a scholarly society focusing on archaeology, epigraphy, biblical studies, and the ancient Near East).  Here are some posts already on the site:

Eric Meyers’ review of “The New Jesus Discovery”

  • Eric Meyers is an archaeologist at Duke University

Brief Reflections of an Epigrapher on Talpiyot Tombs A and B

  • This post is by Christopher Rollston, a specialist in Northwest Semitic epigraphy (inscriptions). Since this latest Jacobovici and Tabor effort goes back to the Jesus Family Tomb, building on that monument to the non sequitur, Rollston revisits the inscriptional material of that tomb.

And other posts by scholars from other blogs:

Robert Cargill

Antonio Lombatti (on the “Jonah and the whale” image in this new tomb)

Jim West



Just in Time for Easter Cash Flow: The Tomb of Jesus’ Disciples

$imcha Jacobovici has busy. And amazingly, Easter is just around the corner (again). Oh, the irony.

The man who brought us the error-plagued Jesus family tomb, then the nails from the cross, now claims that he has found a tomb which held the remains of at least some of the disciples of Jesus. Granted, the article at the link is just a preliminary news leak to garner interest for an upcoming press conference where the world will get to see what $imcha has discovered.  Still, this announcement isn’t encouraging. Here’s what we learn that supports the new discovery, at least in part:

  • This cave is nearby the alleged Jesus family tomb (I read in another article that the site is considered pre-70 AD; by whom I don’t know).
  • There is a Jonah and the whale symbol in it (a “Christian symbol” the article notes)
  • An inscription with the word “God” in Greek, the Tetragrammaton (the four-consonant sacred name of God: YHWH), and the word “arise” or “resurrected” in Hebrew
  • Apparently the Tetragrammaton is on an ossuary, something that (according to the article) has never been found on an ossuary. That would suggest a Christian, not a Jewish, burial

My first question was whether the site bears any name of a disciple. If not, why conclude it is connected with them? The feeling I get is that the only “evidence” for this is its proximity to the alleged Jesus family tomb, in which case we have a nice illustration of drawing a conclusion based on something one presumes to be true.  But even if the Jesus family tomb was really that of Jesus (which I do not believe, for reasons noted by many scholars since its announcement), do we have anything else in this new site other than walking distance to link it to the disciples?  If that is the basis of the argument, this is a disappointment. It’s not like the disciples were the only Christians before 70 AD who died and were buried. But in $imcha-land, that sort of thinking seems possible. I just have to think he has more than this. Otherwise, it’s just plain embarrassing. In fact, if this is all he has, I’m going to award him this blog’s second Ph.D. in Non Sequitur Thinking.  I hope there is more, since the alternative would mean James Tabor, a genuine scholar, will have sullied his reputation by association with someone establishing a track record that seems fundamentally bent only toward publicity and self-aggrandizement. That would be a shame.


Doctoral Degree for Ancient Astronaut Theorists

I saw two items today that have convinced me that the PaleoBabble blog needs to begin awarding the PhD in Non Sequitur Thinking for ancient astronaut theorists.

The first is this wonderful post from the Skeptophilia blog. Please read it. It is an uncannily accurate accounting of how ancient astronaut conspiracy theorists think (and it’s entertaining).  I loved it since I’ve lived it (too many times). I hereby infer, with all the authority invested in me by virtue of the possession of a sound mind, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Non Sequitur Thinking on the student referred to in Gordon Bennet’s Skeptophilia post. May he wear the mantle well. My thanks to professor Bennet for recommending his student for the degree.

The second item comes from my comments page. Karku asked my thoughts on one Maximillen de Lafayette, whom the commenter is apparently having trouble tracking down in terms of credential verification (what a surprise). Basically, de Lafayette seems to want to be the heir apparent to Zecharia Sitchin’s gold train, and so claims expertise in about everything pertaining to the ancient world, along with authoring hundreds of books and thousands of other items worth reading (!). After yawning and chuckling, here was my short response:

1. It matters not how many publications one has if one is writing only for the uninformed. Rather, when one subjects one’s views to experts in the relevant fields (i.e., subjects one’s work to peer review) and they determine that such writings pass muster, THEN and only then should we care.

2. If Mr. de Lafayette lacks real credentials from real universities, then he is a liar when it comes to his credibility for saying anything about any ancient language. I don’t know if he’s lying. I’m giving you a chance to defend him.

3. Who cares if he “takes Sitchin further” when Sitchin’s material is bogus?  Taking ideas that do not exist in ancient Mesopotamian records is like taking the anatomical study of unicorns “further.”  Caring about his work would therefore be a waste of time.

My guess, of course, is that Lafayette knows even less about ancient languages than Sitchin did, which wasn’t much, as I have noted elsewhere. But maybe he studied something somewhere and can prove it. All this before we even get to the non sequitur nature of his work.

Antikythera Mechanism Report

Thanks go to Charles Jones at Ancient World Online for posting this “pre-print” article, “The Cosmos in the Antikythera Mechanism” (due to the size, it is best to right-click and “Save File As”; you will also have to re-size the file in Adobe Reader, since the images do not scale with the font size). It is far and away the most detailed report on the Antikythera Mechanism I’ve seen.  It is basically a full analysis of the mechanism, and ancient celestial calculator, that I’ve seen. It has many X-Ray photos and graphical reconstruction images. If you’re interested in this amazing piece of ancient HUMAN technology, this is a must-read.

Since the link for the article is not permanent, I have converted the page to PDF. But be advised, all the images in it make the file large (30 MB), so give it time to download.  The permanent URL for online access to this paper is not active yet, but will be:

And for those who will insist the mechanism is another example of alien technology, either given to humans or “reverse engineered” by the ancient Greeks, think again. As amazing as the mechanism is, it didn’t work that well. From section 3.10 of the report:

We compare the positions of Mars, as reconstructed by NASA with the Mechanism’s predictions over the middle seven retrogrades of Mars in the 1st Century BC—a period of about 13 years.(86) Serious error spikes can be seen, amounting to nearly 38°—more than a zodiac sign—at the retrogrades. The deferent and epicycle theories, on which the mechanisms depended, might be regarded as an adequate first-order approximation but were completely inadequate for accurate prediction at the retrogrades, particularly for Mars. More accuracy would have to wait for more sophisticated theories such as those employed by Ptolemy in the second century AD. Added to these inherent theoretical errors were significant mechanical inaccuracies because of the way that the rotations were transmitted through the gear trains.(87)

In short, the Antikythera Mechanism was a machine designed to predict celestial phenomena according to the sophisticated astronomical theories current in its day, the the sole witness to a lost history of brilliant engineering, a conception of pure genius, one of the great wonders of the ancient world—but it didn’t really work very well!

Noah’s Ark Fraud Report

Dr. Amy Beam was kind enough to email me her report entitled, “The Kurdish Guides and the Noah’s Ark Discovery Fraud.”  Please have a look. It’s a first-hand accounting (from Beam’s perspective, naturally) of certain individuals involved in the hoax.

And for those of you who will reflexively conclude that such exposure of the fraud is about insulting faith, it isn’t.  So please take a breath. From the concluding pages:

A Facebook group was started in September 2011 to investigate the NAMI/MEDIA discovery and demand an audit and accounting from the NAMI/MEDIA leadership. Many church leaders and members worldwide have posted reminders that religious belief is based on faith. It is not necessary to find Noah’s Ark as proof of one’s faith or morality.

There are several film-makers backed by TV stations making documentaries in 2012 of the search for Noah’s Ark and the hoax. Hopefully, some guides will speak publicly so that finally, all of the guides who were innocent victims in this fraud may be relieved of the burden of silence and secrecy.

The Google Earth Atlantis Conspiracy

Two years ago I blogged about alleged “structures” detected under the waters of the Caribbean via Google earth. Naturally, the paleobabble lobe in the brains of many people began throbbing away, directing them to the “truth” that Atlantis had been found. Fortunately for me, I had someone in one of the college classes I was teaching who knew something about imaging. She said right away that the “structures” were imaging quirks — something Google later proposed as well. I can now direct readers to this short post on the images from the Skeptophilia blog. Google re-imaged the areas and guess what? No structures.

Let the “cover up” conspiracy-speak begin!

Archaeology and the Queen of Sheba

I’ve seen a couple news items in the last several days about the possible discovery of a gold mine that archaeologists suspect may be associated with the biblical story of the Queen of Sheba. Examples include this story and this post from the Bible Places blog.

This doesn’t look like paleobabble. That said, it looks like it will be some time before the true nature of the discovery is known. The presence of a Sabean inscription is certainly promising.  If the site turns out to produce more textual material it would be especially interesting. I’m not expecting anything that would shed any light on the Ethiopian legend of Menelik I (the presumed child of a presumed liason between Solomon and the queen). That would be beyond cool.