Defining Mythicism: Parallelomania, Luxor, and Acharya S

This is nothing new for those who read this blog, but Richard Carrier has posted an excellent example of a problem that plagues the case for mythicism: Parallelomania.  I’ve stated over and over (and over and over) again that correlation does not equal causation.  Here is a snippet from his blog on the subject:

Parallelomania is the particular disease of Jesus myth advocates who see “parallels” everywhere between early Christianity and all manner of pagan religions. Many of those parallels are real; don’t get me wrong. Some are even causal (Christianity really is a syncretism of Judaism and paganism, which point I will soundly prove in my coming book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ). But most parallels are not real, or are not causally related (remember that basic rule in science: correlation is not causation). Some don’t even exist (and here bad scholarship becomes the disease: see my cautionary review of Kersey Graves’ Sixteen Crucified Saviors).

One important example of a “non-parallel” is the Egyptian nativity narrative at Luxor. I reviewed this claim years ago (Brunner’s Gottkoenigs & the Nativity of Jesus: A Brief Communication). Acharya S (aka D.M. Murdock) responded to that by claiming I was reading the wrong text (and also not reading it right), but she’s mistaken. She also claimed that the meaning of “immaculate conception” is up for debate; it is not. She simply cites other people making the same mistake she did, as if a mistake many people make ceases to be a mistake, which is a non sequitur. It would have been better if she had not doubled down on her error and just corrected herself. But that’s her own look out. What concerns me more is her poor treatment of the details of Egyptian history and the texts in the Luxor case.

That Luxor Thing | Richard Carrier Blogs.

His conclusion is too good to simply quote here out of context.  Do read on.

South Park on the History Channel, Ancient Aliens, and the Public Understanding of History

South Park spoofed the History Channel’s series Ancient Aliens and I have to say, it was both hilarious and scary.  South Park has always been on the front lines (so to speak) of social commentary and satire.  Spoofing silly beliefs is nothing new for the show.  A few years ago it spoofed Scientology and before that it spoofed Mormonism.  Both episodes were extremely entertaining but it showed a side of humanity that frightens me.   In both of these earlier episodes, it explained what these two groups actually believe (and what they believe is just nonsense; see for yourself and watch the videos and then do a little research to verify).  Needless to say, the show Ancient Aliens has decent enough ratings and a large enough following to scare me as well.

But this particular episode is interesting.  As I’ve said before, those who believe that there were ancient astronauts from outer space who came to earth–and that there is evidence for this–are just nuts.  It’s a new form of maximalism, whereby nonexperts pretend as if they know what they are talking about by making up ridiculous conspiracy theories and connecting the dots which can’t exist anywhere but in the fabric of their own imaginations.

To quote from Giorgio A. Tsoukalos (the guy pictured on the left):

“The Great thing about the ancient aliens theory is the fact that we can compare modern acheivements with stories from our ancient past.”  (source)

He goes on to argue quite absurdly that if we can create a two headed dog today, this allows for the possibility that two headed dogs existed in the past, created by ancient aliens.  Yes, that is exactly what he is saying.  Watch the video.

This is either a space suit or a scuba suit. We await the next History Channel series: 'Ancient Deep-Sea Alien Dive Teams'

And then compare this sort of illogical position with that of, say, the Zeitgeisters, who are just as crazy with their theories about astrotheology and the stars.  They say, for example, that the stars line up a certain way and on certain times of the year they do such and such and that is where the ancients get such and such an idea.  It’s all crap.  When you punch in the data to an astronomy program that maps the stars and can tell you about their positions in the past, they just don’t line up the way the Zeitgeist movement claims.  And when you start to factor in that some constellations are fixed and have no bearing whatsoever on the ancient Near East, it collapses the whole argument because the thread of links they correct are so fragile. For example the ‘southern cross’ constellation.  The movie Zeitgeist argues that the southern cross has bearing on the fabrication of the Gospel narratives.  But this just doesn’t work once you do a little fact checking:

The stars of the Southern Cross are just visible above the southern horizon in Alexandria, and in Jerusalem in antiquity although I don’t think it is visible there now. The constellation was, however, not recognized in antiquity, and its four bright stars were included by Ptolemy in Centaurus, which sort of surrounds it11 (bold emphasis is mine).

Why wasn’t the Southern Cross constellation recognized in antiquity? Dr. Swerdlow explains:

That Crux, the Southern Cross, was not recognized as a separate constellation in antiquity is probably because, as seen from the Mediterranean, it is low on the southern horizon and is surrounded on three sides by stars of Centaurus, which is a large, prominent constellation, and the four bright stars of Crux are included as stars of Centaurus in Ptolemy’s star catalogue. It is only when you go farther to the south, so that Crux is higher in the southern sky, that it becomes prominent as a group of stars by itself, so its recognition had to wait until the southern voyages of the sixteenth century.12

In other words, the “Southern Cross” (Crux) constellation could not have served as a basis for the Gospel account of Jesus, because it was not distinct enough for any of the ancient Mediterranean inhabitants to identify it.

(source: read all of it and judge for yourself)

To add to this, the movie tries to suggest that the Crux is visible in April, around the time of Easter.  This is only true, however, for anything at or less than the 25th parallel north.  None of the relevant cultures of the ANE would have been able to witness this (Egypt, Palestine, Italy, Asia Minor, etc…).  Only those locations in the far, far southern hemisphere see the Crux year-round.    But facts mean nothing to the Zeitgeist movement and its most ardent followers (of whom this author has had many encounters and none of them have been remotely interesting or cordial–they don’t take well to dissonant perspectives).  The same can be said for those who believe in ancient aliens.

I’m glad to see that the creators of South Park laid out all the glaring problems of the series Ancient Aliens in an entertaining way.  For those who want to see more about what I and others have to say about this series, check out this link after you watch the clip below.

South Park: Ancient Aliens Thanksgiving

A Third of Russians Think Sun Orbits Earth?

Oh, Russia…. A Zeitgeist mythicist probably told them this…

In a survey released this week, 32 percent of Russians believed Earth was the center of the solar system; 55 percent said that all radioactivity is human-made; and 29 percent said that the first humans lived when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.

via A third of Russians think sun orbits Earth? – Technology & science – Science – msnbc.com.

Journal Publishes 8-Year-Olds…But Not Acharya S

It amazes me that children can publish academically…but Zeitgeist mythicists cannot.  Read on, it’s a pretty good way to educate people about the value of peer review and the methods that scientists use.

It came with wobbly writing and hand-drawn diagrams, but an elementary school science project has made it into a peer-reviewed journal from Britain’s prestigious Royal Society.

Biology Letters published a report Wednesday conducted and written by a group of 8- to 10-year-olds from an English elementary school investigating the way bumblebees see colors and patterns. The scientific organization — which is more than three centuries old and includes some of the world’s most eminent scientists — said the children reported findings that were a “genuine advance” in the field of insect color and pattern vision.

via Science journal publishes study by 8-year-olds – Technology & science – Science – msnbc.com.

A Great Blog Post Debunking Zeitgeist and ‘Zeitgeist Mythicism’

I found this blog post to be exceptionally well-written and had to share it with my readers.  Since I have been on what is becoming more and more like a campaign against such rubbish, I have had the pleasure of some excellent conversations with colleagues on the subject of pseudoscience and its continued success in the social world of our contemporary age.  The biggest drawback to real science/history is that conspiracy theories propose faux ideas about Academia and this blog article not only shreds such perceptions, it tears into Dorothy Murdock’s books and credibility.  Here is an excerpt from Part 1 (aptly named ‘How Academia Really Works’):

First, the groundwork.  Conspiracy theorists and fringe believers generally think that academia and the world of experts is a small, close-knit, elitist club where an “official” orthodoxy is rigidly enforced and extreme peer pressure maintains order.  In this ivory tower that conspiracy theorists think academicians live in, the slightest deviation from the “official line” is a career-destroying move for any expert.  He or she will be blacklisted, unable to publish, drummed out of faculty departments and brutally ridiculed by his or her former colleagues.  In the world of conspiracy theorists and fringe believers, this orthodoxy holds fast even if the facts it is based on are demonstrably false—comparisons are often drawn to the geocentric view of astronomy that Copernicus challenged in the sixteenth century, or the (actually incorrect) assertion that “before Columbus, everyone thought the world was flat.”

There’s just one problem with this view.  It simply isn’t true.

I am formerly a lawyer, but I now work in academia.  My colleagues and superiors are well-trained and respected historians.  They have put in years of research and are well-versed in the methodology of history in everything from medieval Japan to U.S. nuclear policy in the 1960s.  But getting them to agree on anything is impossible.

Academics have a reputation for being idiosyncratic and curmudgeonly.  Sometimes that is true.  Anyone who’s ever attended a faculty meeting, though, knows immediately that trying to drive academicians in any particular direction is like trying to herd cats.  You just can’t do it.  So the idea that there is some sort of rigid orthodoxy, especially one that’s artificially imposed by a government or other “Establishment” actor, is simply laughable.

It is quite an enjoyable read.  I can’t recommend it enough.

James McGrath is Right: Why Creationists and ‘Zeitgeist Mythicists’ are Comparable

James is right about the current (what I call and distinguish as) ‘Zeitgeist mythicists’–at least the ones I have encountered so far.  Just like creationists, they use shoddy scholarship from incredible sources, dated sources (we’re talking over two hundred years in some cases!  A lot has been learned and discovered in that amount of time people!), and play on ‘God of the Gaps’ where, in place of their (quite an abundant amount of) ignorance, they fill it in with ‘astrotheology’ or ‘aliens did it’–something many of you might find surprising.  But, apparently, it’s convincing enough for some.

To wit: I have been having a long (and painful…very, very painful) discussion on this thread (see comments).  First, you should know Robert comes to us from Dorothy Murdock’s forum (and fan base–the fan base which is surprisingly cult-like and neopaganish–you will soon see what I mean when I am attacked in the comments section of this blog post mere minutes after I hit the ‘publish’ button.  I swear it’s like a swarm of locusts that consume all sanity in its path).  Now, not only is this individual (Robert) defending the possibility (he thinks he has at least  a circumstantial case–a statement he makes himself) that the aliens might have guided the construction of the pyramids, but that they actually could have built them.  Why?  Because they are an enigma, he writes, ergo (his logic) aliens did it (this is essentially his point–we can’t understand it, nor fathom it [even though we can, and we know how the pyramids were built] so it had to come from….the outer limits).

His sources?  Well, for one, try this guy.  Yes, that’s right.  He believes that a civilization existed 12,500 years ago which is identifiable with the lost city of Atlantis.   But wait, there’s more!

We can’t forget about Graham Hancock, the guy who writes about Earth Crust Displacement and was the key inspiration for the movie 2012 (which I don’t think is supported by any credible science, actually).

Also this guy (John Anthony West, not to be confused with this John West, though they are quite similar since the latter is an intelligent design proponent) who, in his biography, claims to have discovered all sorts of interesting links between astrology and antiquity (which is why ‘Zeitgeist mythicists’ buy into this sort of horse crap–it’s not that different than what Dorothy Murdock proposes in her books).  Here is one such discovery (for all of my colleagues reading this who hold real degrees in related fields, you might want to get a brown paper back in case you get sick):

The ancient Egyptians themselves attributed their wisdom to an earlier age going back 36,000 years. West set out to test the hypothesis that the Sphinx was much older than its conventional date of 2500 BC. His findings provide the first hard evidence that an earlier age of civilization preceded the known development of civilization in the Nile valley.

So clearly everything every archaeologist and Egyptologist over the last fifty years have been completely wrong and this “scholar” and “expert” (according to his site–anyone who has been to my lectures and heard me say that placards with these titles are used too frequently by people who don’t deserve them, this is what I mean.  Watch out for this!  I don’t even call myself a scholar or expert [and I am about to be published]; be wary of people who do without the proper paperwork) figured it all out.  How can anyone accept, even as possible, anything any of these individuals has to say about antiquity, science, history, and the universe?   Following the logic of Robert, they must all be aliens, clearly, because it’s an enigma to me.

The Lost City of AtlantisWhat this goes to show is that if someone wants to believe something, they will find any hypothetical, whimsical opinion of one or more authors and use them as support, as if the very fact that they wrote something is substantial enough to count as evidence for what they believe.  It isn’t.  And people who support this sort of pseudoscience will not be swayed by reason, or logic, or evidence to the contrary–they will come at you (and they have come at me).  And unlike those who take time to think through their conclusions, these sorts will just attempt to character assassinate you (in pathetic ways) in order to coerce you into shutting up–you shouldn’t dare speak out against their pseudoscience!  What is wrong with you!

Let this be a reminder for those who have wondered why I so strongly discourage people from putting too much stock in such hypotheses; once you start down this dark path, the end results can only be Atlantis, Earth Crust Displacement, 2012 disasters, astrotheology, intelligent design (by aliens or God…does it really matter?  Same thing), and aliens building giant pyramids at the geographical center of the earth.  Afraid?  I sure as hell am.  I’m scared that these people might actually persuade those lay-individuals who have no reason yet to doubt or question what they are being told because, after all, they all claim to be experts and scholars and archaeologists and all sorts of fancy things.

 

Sites of Interest:

Council for British Archaeology
www.britarch.ac.uk

Frauds, Myths and Mysteries – Dr Kenneth Feder
www.anthropology.ccsu.edu/fraudsweb/frauds.htm

Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
www.csicop.org/si/

Atlantis – Fact, Fiction or Exaggeration?
www.activemind.com/Mysterious/Topics/Atlantis

 

(FYI: Tomorrow I will write out a more extensive blog on some of the problems with films like Zeitgeist.  I have been unable to devote any real time to it, but tomorrow I will get it done.)
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