Last month I gave a presentation about the significant problems with the ancient astronaut theory (AAT) and the people that promote it, and I am reasonably happy with what I put together. However, to really get at these folks that live and breath AAT, it would take a product with higher visual standards than a PowerPoint and one guy talking for an hour or so.
But also last month was the release of Ancient Aliens Debunked, which is a three hour(!) documentary that shows the claims from the Ancient Aliens TV show on the History Channel (or H2), along with a thorough debunking of those claims.
The video comes with a website that for each section comes with a transcript and references. You can also watch particular pieces of the documentary, so if you are only interested in, say, the Pyramids or Ezekiel’s “spaceship”, you can jump to those discussions rather than watch the whole things. That is vastly superior to what a standard documentary could do.
The video production itself looks reasonably good (probably better than what I can do), and it has interview clips with Mike Heiser, a scholar of the Ancient Near East (ANE) and the Old Testament. Jason Colavito also provides sources for the video, but issues came up that made it impossible for him to be seen in the documentary. With one or two people to interview, that is a limitation, and I don’t think you could say the documentary is as high-quality as the BBC Horizon examination of Atlantis and the claims of Graham Hancock (video here). Nonetheless, the organization of the information by the creator of the video, Chris White, is superior for those that want to check things for themselves.
Which bring me to the critical part of the review, and why even good productions must always bring about skepticism. The information and argumentation throughout it good up until we get to the biblical portions. The discussion of Ezekiel’s wheels within wheels covered in eyes is examined and shown reasonably well to have nothing to do with spacecraft, let alone particular ones drawn from odd readings of the text. It doesn’t examine the evidence on the same points I had done, but it didn’t have to in order to argue the point. Moving on later we come to the Annunaki. But then the documentary goes off the rails talking about how the Bible is not dependent on Sumerian legend and all the flood stories around the world are a memory of an actual event, and the Bible has the most accurate memory of that event.
It’s only at this point do we realize that Chris White is a creationist, a Christian fundamentalist, and he believes his book literally. And to support his premise he has some real howlers. He mentions how Sumerian poets changed their narratives and contradicted one another, so their recollection of the ancient past is not trustworthy, but the Bible is perfectly consistent about the Flood. Has he not heard of the Documentary Hypothesis, the multiple authorship of the Pentateuch, most notable by the two versions of many stories, including the Flood, that contradict one another? That there are flood myths all over the world is also explicable by two factors: floods happen all over the place (and the various flood stories differ greatly around the world), and many of the stories most similar to the biblical one are due to missionary activities.
Looking at his sources at this point, you can see a major downturn in quality. No longer being supported by respected scholars on the subject, he jumps to creationist material, something I must poo-poo since creationist proponents are demonstrably dishonest. It shows when, for example, White cites scholars saying how the biblical story is not dependent on the Sumerian version of the Flood story, therefore they have a common source, when in fact the biblical authors were not directly influenced by the Sumerians but the Babylonians and Assyrians (and the Egyptians and Greeks perhaps as well, the on latter see Argonauts of the Desert). The resources on the construction of Noah’s Ark are also crazed since such a structure couldn’t even float in calm water (it would fall apart due to hogging, meaning it would bend, fill with water, and collapse), let alone in the greatest catastrophe in history.
If one looks away from these flaws, there is still a very good resource against AAT. If you look at the flaws, you can, in fact, see the same flaws as AAT itself has: relying on poor resources to get to a preferred conclusion and avoiding years of research to the contrary. What this also means is that no one can just point to a particular book or webpage and say “all is proven here”. We all have to do our own legwork and be skeptical, even of our fellow skeptics. It means we should also double-check what is said in other parts of the documentary to find any errors or points to expand upon. It will makes us better researchers and skeptics, and hopefully we will learn a lot along the way.
I think Christ White’s Ancient Aliens Debunked is a great resource overall; not perfect, but one of the best one-stop sites for undercutting the particular claims of the AAT. I hope he continues to do more videos in the future. (Another review by Jason Colavito can be found here.)