Why Conspiratrial Thinking Is So Often Utterly Incoherent

I just blogged this over at UFO Religions, but it’s equally applicable here given the sort of pablum that I deal with so often in the world of paleobabble.

You just HAVE to watch the video below (7:00). It’s clear and to the point, and you’ll no doubt have a laugh or two – a video on how Luke Skywalker’s destruction of the Death Star was *really* an inside job. It’s very well done and has almost two million views on YouTube.

The value of the video should be obvious. Every fact presented in it is indeed a fact from the movie. And every connection drawn is “reasonable” in the context of the narrative created. But the conclusions are absolutely wrong. This is precisely how so much conspiratorial thinking works … and fails horribly. Conspiracy is all about narrative interpretation, not “facts”.  Once one part of the narrative fails, the whole thing crumbles. The beauty of the video is that the viewer already knows the narrative is wrong, but can see how that bogus narrative is created using nothing but factual data.

In short, it’s not about the data dots; it’s about how the dots are connected — and that usually (nearly always) happens in the theater of the imagination when it comes to conspiracy theory.

Ancient Aliens Debunked: Some Impressions on the Documentary

I just finished watching the whole (free) three-hour Ancient Aliens Debunked movie on YouTube. Took me quite a while, as it’s hard to find three hours of free time. But it was worth the here-and-there effort. I’m not going to write a full review, just share impressions.

I’ll start with some mild criticisms. There were a few points where I would have aid things differently, or added a different perspective, that would have taken a different trajectory than the director (Chris White). One was the nephilim segment toward the end. While filming there were things I added that got edited out. But so what? It wasn’t not my film (and any film I’d make would be unwatchable). There was also one place where Giorgio Tsoukalos has “Moses” being shown the “roundness of earth” by God in an effort to (I guess – it’s hard to tell what Giorgio is thinking sometimes) say Moses went to space or something. This “verse” is not in any translation I can find, and I’ve done software searches through dozens of them. Giorgio (like his mentor Zecharia Sitchin) gave no actual verse reference. Moses was never vaulted above the earth in the Bible. Basically, he made this up. Christ should have called him out on that, but didn’t. Lastly, Chris should have credited Jason Colavito more prominently. Jason has done a lot of work in this area, and it’s all good stuff.

All in all, though, this is a terrific video. Chris did a lot of research for this and was able to make it digestible to the average viewer. He also (unlike the Ancient Aliens crowd) makes his sources accessible and gives actual citations of ancient texts.

I’d only seen a few pieces of Ancient Aliens on TV. I don’t watch much TV as it is, and spending any of my valuable time on that would be a true waste of time. Having seen a good number of scenes now via the Ancient Aliens Debunked documentary, I know that decision was the right one. This documentary demonstrates that the Ancient Aliens material is not only pseudo-scholarship, but borders on the simply stupid. The researchers presented on the show (I speak here of the people presented as authorities: David Hatcher Childress, Jason Martell, Erich von Daniken, etc.1) are some of the poorest thinkers I’ve ever heard. It’s disturbing that so many people can be persuaded by “researchers” who can’t apply simple rules of coherent thought or logic to what they do. The claims are absurd, and their defense is inept. Katy Perry thinks Ancient Aliens is “thought-provoking,” so here’s a suggestion: cast her as a researcher in future episodes. None of the present ones are any smarter. She’d at least be easier on the eyes.

Those who had a hand in making the series are even more blameworthy for the deceptive nature of the material. I lost count of the times when Tsoukalos would talk about “ancient texts” with visuals of some odd artifact or wall painting appearing, creating the impression that those artifacts SAY what the narrator is claiming, as though they were inscribed with the words. This is sheer dishonesty that goes beyond ineptitude. The textbook example is the Anunnaki material. The images of winged creatures and reptoid artifacts used to talk about the Anunnaki have nothing to do with them. They either come with no text at all (like those from the Ubaid period in Sumer) or texts near the images (the “winged men”) are well known and contain no content at all about the Anunnaki (and originated centuries after Sumerian culture had died out). The show repeatedly deceives the viewer in these ways. It’s about milking the audience for cash in DVD purchases.

I’ve often said that NONE of the ancient astronaut “evidence” is persuasive to anyone in the relevant fields. It is only persuasive to amateurs, people who don’t know the material. Chris White has demonstrated how the Ancient Aliens’ series claims are easily overturned and shown to be the nonsense they are with a little bit of serious research.


  1. I’m excluding people presented as curious inquirers brought into the show for variety and interest. Curiosity and asking questions are virtues. It’s just too bad people often base their beliefs on material that is demonstrably wrong because they depend on “researchers” instead of real scholarship.

Review of Ancient Aliens Debunked

Jason Colavito recently posted this positive review of the 3-hour documentary. I haven’t watched it yet, even though I’m in it. It’s hard for me to find three hours to do anything. I’ll get to it eventually, likely in bits.

My Favorite Science Fiction Movies

In the wake of my review of the dismal Prometheus (the word still prompts that “I feel a yawn coming on” feeling), a reader asked for my own Top Ten list of favorite science fiction films. Below is a list of more than ten, in no particular order. A few notes are in order: (1) I have excluded super hero films (e.g., The Dark Knight, Avengers, etc.) and fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings, Princess Bride), since those aren’t science fiction. (2) inclusion on the list means I have watched them all multiple times — the sort of movie that, if I see it while someone is channel surfing (I rarely watch TV), I’ll feel the urge to make them stop so I can watch at least some of it. (3) I like these movies for different reasons — a clever premise, several great scenes, imagination, that sort of thing. (4) Ancient Aliens isn’t a movie, or that would be on the list. Here they are:

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Matrix
Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek (2009)
Star Wars
Empire Strikes Back
Super 8
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Jurassic Park
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Independence Day
X-Files: Fight the Future
The Boys from Brazil

Prometheus: A Colossal Waste of Time

I saw Prometheus last night. Instead of enjoying the drive home with my head filled with appreciation for a provocative, inventive retelling of the ancient astronaut myth, my mind busied itself on how many ways I could mock this under-achieving, unimaginative bore of a film for my PaleoBabble readers. In one sentence: the History Channel produces better science fiction than this movie. Or perhaps: Prometheus: In Space, No One Can Hear You Snore.

It’s honestly difficult to express how poor of an effort I consider this film. It’s kind of like reviewing a Sitchin book:  I can find see problems everywhere, so where to begin?

Let’s start with some generalities. While I was in line I overheard someone who had just seen the movie say, “It was good, but it was no Alien.” I only agree with the second half of that assessment. This was not a good movie. There were no surprises at all; predictability in a sci-fi movie is unforgivable. After all, if you are at liberty to detach yourself from reality and you still manage to be banal, you’re project is a failure. Given the hype, this was an historic entertainment FAIL. Let me go back to this year’s box office mega-implosion John Carter (but not the last Indiana Jones movie — that was criminal; Prometheus was merely inept). Honestly, how can anyone fail to be stimulating in any way when it comes to the ancient astronaut mythology? But that is Prometheus: one groggy, dull ride. Basically the problem is that the movie begins with the core Sitchin / von Daniken nonsense talking point, that humans were created by aliens, and just stops right there. It adds nothing. No development of the idea into a clever meta-narrative. If you already have had the thought that human life was created by aliens planted in your mind (thinking it stupid or not), there’s no need to see the movie. It literally doesn’t take you an inch farther. Just a two-hour reminder of the one basic point that everyone going to the movie already had in their head because of the internet, the Ancient Aliens sitcom, or Coast to Coast AM. A quintessential example of what it means to be uncreative. Sort of like the cinematic antonym to either of the Sherlock Holmes movies.

But the real insult was to the Alien franchise. Was it worse than Alien 3 or 4? Hard to say. Those misguided sequels just enraged viewers or made them say to themselves, “Thanks for destroying the best things about the first two movies.” This one doesn’t ruin anything because it doesn’t convey anything. It’s just an intellectually stultifying bore. The first two Alien movies were great because they were filled with clever surprises and truly edge-of-the-seat suspense. This offering had neither. It didn’t even try to surprise. The film unfailingly tipped viewers off to what (I guess) were supposed to be later revelations (the old gazzillionare was on the ship and the “remind us why this character is in the movie”  played by Charlize Theron is his daughter; one of humanity’s alien creators is still alive on the planet; the cavernous structure the crew discovers is a spaceship; the ship is filled with the alien muck that spawns the killing machine alien in the original film; etc. I don’t consider these plot spoilers, because unless you’re still thinking about the commercials you were forced to watch before the film started, you can’t miss these “plot” elements. They are transparent and completely expected.To give a specific example of how Prometheus does something badly that Alien would have done more more cleverly, the robot (David) plops some of the alien DNA/egg-stuff into the drink of a crew member, knowing that the unfortunate guy will become host to the alien. I say “plop” because there’s actually a loud plopping sound in the film after David pours the drink and leans his finger over the edge of the cup. It sounded like a large ice cube was tossed into the glass. If the moron who took the drink couldn’t hear that like the rest of us, he deserved what he got. Alien would have found a far more sinister and surreptitious way of infecting the guy — and not letting it be known to the viewer until much later. It would have been something you felt in your gut but couldn’t figure out how it was done. The whole movie was like that (Ridley Scott: “The audience needs to understand what happens in the scene after this one, so we’ll drop a breadcrumb the size of a Toyota in their path since we can’t think of an adroit way to keep moving”).

You get the idea. This film has sucked enough of my life away, so the review stops here. I need to move on.