Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pyramid scheme

Another of the stories that will never die is the ridiculous notion that aliens built the Egyptian pyramids.

I bring this up because of a story describing events that occurred late last year, which was nevertheless posted only a few days ago by some woo-woos connected with the site UFO Blogger.  Titled "Egyptian Archaeologist Admits Pyramids Contain Alien Technology," it describes an alleged statement by Dr. Alaaeldin Shaheen, the Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at Cairo University.

The story goes that in December of 2010, Dr. Shaheen was speaking to an audience about Egyptian archaeology, and stated, "there might be truth to the theory that aliens helped the ancient Egyptians build the oldest of pyramids, the Pyramids of Giza."  A reporter from Poland, one Marek Novak, then questioned Shaheen further, asking if there might be evidence of alien technology within, or perhaps buried under, the pyramids.  Dr. Shaheen responded with the mysterious pronouncement, "I cannot confirm or deny this, but there is something inside the pyramid that is 'not of this world'."

There are a variety of problems with this statement, besides the fact that anyone who believes it has been spending too much time watching Stargate-SG1

The most important problem, and the one I'd like to analyze in this post, is that the event never happened.

Which apparently didn't matter, because nobody much bothered to check.  The idea that a respected archaeologist would even waffle on the question of aliens being involved with the building of the pyramids caused multiple orgasms throughout the the woo-woo world, and began to spread through alien-conspiracy blogs without anyone even verifying the story.  One of the first to make the claim was noted wingnut Andrew Collins.  Collins has been into pyramid-lore for some time, and has also delved into the crop-circle nonsense, the Atlantis nonsense, and the Holy Grail nonsense.  Not content to stop there, he has developed a whole new branch of nonsense all his own, the "Cygnus theory," which is that the constellation of Cygnus has been a "guiding force in human evolution" and will be the place where the "new sun" will be born following the events of 2012.  He also thinks that the fact that Cygnus is vaguely cross-shaped is why the cross is an "important symbol in Christianity."  (I can think of at least one other plausible reason, can't you?)

In any case, Collins did an extensive post on the Shaheen/pyramids/aliens story, basically claiming that this was the "smoking gun" of the alien conspiracy world.  Then, however, the whole thing came to the ears of Dr. Shaheen himself.  Shaheen wrote to Collins, and his response said, in toto, "Kindly be informed that I did not give such stupid statements about aliens and Pyramids.  As I am an Egyptologist, I would not say such stupid words and ideas."

Well, that sounds pretty unequivocal, don't you think?  Even Collins had no choice but to print a retraction, although he did end it by wistfully stating, "I would still love it if a super crystal of Atlantean or alien origin were to be found inside the Great Pyramid, or anywhere else on the plateau for that matter." Okay, Mr. Collins, if we find any "super crystals," you'll be the first to know.

Now, remember that this whole thing happened last December.  You'd think that with one of the most prominent pyramid woo-woos backing down from the whole story, it would just fizzle.

You'd be wrong.

The claim is still popping up on sites today, and the amazing thing is that even now, hardly anyone bothers to check whether it's true or not.  The UFO Blogger article referenced at the beginning of this post treated the story as if it were breaking news, and stated that it supported earlier allegations that the KGB had discovered an alien mummy inside the Great Pyramid. 

It's a little ironic that, given that the motto of this crew is "The Truth Is Out There," they're so willing to play fast and loose with the facts.  One site I looked at even went so far as to insinuate that Dr. Shaheen's exasperated email to Andrew Collins was a belated attempt to cover up for what had slipped out at the conference!  Of course, the same site contained the following statement:
The Great Pyramid is a geophysical computer showing the half-life of our local universe within the geophysical foundations of the Earth’s biophysical, geophysical, and astrophysical meridians.  It is connected with Orion which is the region for positive programming in our local universe.  It is an amplifier for the natural energies of the earth that run along, inside, and celestially.  The vibration of the King’s Chamber, in the key of F# (the fundamental mode of vibration in quantum mechanics physics and string theory) is meant to create an open channel with higher consciousness and the human soul.  It is a model for the light continuum of the many universes connected with the earth.  Think of a doorway for consciousness which allows it to connect with Orion and regions of higher intelligence.
Which narrowly edges out J. Z. Knight's "What the Bleep Do We Know?" as being the most highly distilled example of bullshit I've ever heard.

All of this serves to point out, once again, a few key concepts.  First, most people believe what they want to believe, facts be damned.  Second, the same people referenced in #1 generally prefer elaborate, mysterious nonsense over simple, prosaic, factual claims.  Third, despite how simple it now is to check on the facts of a story, very few people bother to do so.

And fourth, once ridiculous claims become entrenched on the internet, they will never die.

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