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Archive for January, 2013

starpeopleA recent book about “star people” legends has been getting some play in the blogosphere recently: Encounters with Star People: Untold Stories of American Indians. I tried to order it but it was temporarily out of stock. I’ll revisit it later since I want to review it. I’m not holding my breath for reasons that will become clear below.

The author of the work is Ardy Sixkiller Clarke, professor emeritus at Montana State University. Although I have no doubts about her university affiliation and that she has a doctorate in something, her credentials are actually hard to identify.1 Wanting to know her background is just a point of curiosity for me. I’d like to know if it’s in something other than education — some content-oriented doctoral degree like anthropology or folklore studies. Educational doctorates are more about (educational) theory, method, administration, etc. But I’ll assume she knows what she’s talking about with respect to indigenous lore. And that’s really what I expect to find in the book … lore, not facts.

Readers can find a description of Clarke’s book here. I should warn readers that the blog post at this link is misleading. It has a picture of “alien” rock art that has nothing to do with Native Americans — it’s rock art from Australia.  I suppose that’s supposed to add weight to the content of Clarke’s book, but it’s misleading. But it’s not as bad as what you’ll find on other sites that make it sound like Native Americans have stories about genetic manipulation of homo sapiens by aliens and advanced astronomical knowledge. (What’s the ancient Cherokee word for DNA? … seriously, ancient people knew nothing of DNA). I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that this book will be interesting and useful as a reference, but ALL that it will be is legends and stories, offering no hard data for experiences with beings whose extraterrestrial (i.e., from other physical planets) reality can be proven. But I’ll wait to say more after I read it, presuming it’ll be available.

  1. Clarke was Professor of Educational Leadership and the Director of the Center for Bilingual/Multicultural Education. She was also American Indian Professor of Educational Leadership and the Director Center for Bilingual/Multicultural Education.  Various websites also note that, “Dr. Ardy Sixkiller Clarke a Professor Emeritus at Montana State University has dedicated her life and career to working with indigenous populations. She has been adopted and given traditional names by three Northern Plains tribes.” The Montana State University site doesn’t have her listed as faculty, though her name does appear on the site. That tells me she must have retired from teaching a while ago. I’m just surprised I can’t easily find a degree for her. Her name also does not appear in the JSTOR database which covers scholarly journals in anthropology, folklore, and indigenous studies. I have to presume then that she hasn’t published anything under peer review, at least in terms of indigenous content. I’m guessing she has published in education journals.

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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 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 Alien 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.

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facade_ipad_140x185The Bellingham Herald, the local newspaper in my neck of the woods, ran an article on me today (you have to love the rocket behind me in the picture). The interview with Michelle Nolan was a lot of fun. It was fascinating — she’s a veritable walking encyclopedia on the history of comic books and science fiction. We tried to focus on several of the ideas in The Facade. I actually got several good trajectories for the sequel, The Portent, from the interview.

I hope readers will check it out!

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Not mainstream scientists, as this article documents.

Contrary to what the “paranormal community” loves to insist (especially the ancient astronaut theorists, whose thinking is anything but clear), there is actually a good deal of peer-reviewed material devoted to testing both paranormal claims and the sorts of subjects with which the paranormal deals.  Humanities scholars and nuts and bolts scientists have devoted a good bit of time to studying claims about parapsychology, Bigfoot, UFOs, PSI, NDEs, etc.  They don’t fear it. Anyone with access to a good journal database could show that paranormal claims do get addressed in just a few minutes.

The problem, though, as I see it, is that very little of that peer-reviewed material ever filters down to the lay person or non-specialist — the person the most likely to be imbibing the wackier claims in all these areas. Scholars and scientists (and I’ll grant there is some merit to the statement, though it becomes an excuse) consider such an exercise as a waste of their time (they could be publishing real research for their peers — and in some case, tenure requirements). And given my own experience with things like the Fantasy Channel (er, History Channel), the media types who pimp the paranormal for DVD purchases and advertising dollars aren’t interested in true rebuttal or confrontational engagement. The Ancient Aliens series is Exhibit A here. They want to produce *a show* (it’s entertainment, people!) and so the producers of these programs *want* to titillate the audience with that sort of nonsense. It sells.

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I saw this essay from TIME Magazine pop up on Twitter today: “Dabbling in Exotheology.” The date of the essay was 1978 (unless that’s a typo). The essay opens with this question: “Can the “image of God” survive in extraterrestrial life?”  An understandable one, but an ignorant one, nonetheless. Anyone who has followed my work knows I’ve lectured on this many times. The answer is “yes” (if what is meant is the survival of the doctrine). It’s “no” if what is meant that ET also has this image.

Lest I be misunderstood, I’m not saying TIME is guilty of theological ignorance. The question really is to be expected. The ignorance is to be found among the many millions of Christians and Jews who would be spooked about the confirmation of ET life because they have fundamentally misunderstood the image of God as some sort of (heretofore) human attribute, like intelligence, sentience, speech, etc. This is the way the image gets talked about all the time, but that notion is not at all coherent.

I won’t take the time or space to rehearse the content of my lectures here. The best I can do is the twelve-page essay on the image of God that I recently wrote for a study Bible published by my employer, Logos Bible Software (the article was for the Lexham Bible Dictionary, also our product, but accessible through the study Bible). Look for the section on the meaning of the image. I could have devoted twelve more pages as to why the “traditional” (attribute-based) view undermines a pro-life ethic and fails because of research in fields like artificial intelligence and animal cognition (and the theoretical study of intelligent ET life), but this will have to do. People who have a high view of Scripture and its teaching about how humans are God’s imagers (to know why I use the verbal phrasing, read my essay), an intelligent ET ought not to be any theological threat. And yet it would be, due to theological ignorance.

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