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, November 27, 2011

Book Report of the Gods

Just when you thought it was safe to go into Barnes & Noble, now we have news that Erich von Däniken has released a new book.

Von Däniken, you may remember, is the bestselling author of Chariots of the Gods, Gold of the Gods, Signs of the Gods, The Return of the Gods, The Arrival of the Gods, The Miracles of the Gods, Twilight of the Gods, and Home Repair Tips of the Gods.

Okay, I made the last one up.  I doubt The Gods know anything much about home repair, given that most of the ancient temples I've seen are pretty much ruins, and very few have flush toilets.  You'd think, being The Gods and all, they'd have seen fit to equip their houses with a few simple amenities, but generally, they seem to have been content with the Large Chunks Of Rock Piled Up style of architecture.

In any case, the new release by von Däniken isn't exactly new, it's a revised edition of his earlier book Odyssey of the Gods.  However, given that we're talking von Däniken here, it probably doesn't matter.  It's not like he's notorious for new ideas, or anything.  In this particular book, von Däniken argues that the Greek gods were real, and were extraterrestrials.  However, you probably remember that this was basically what he argued about Ra, Osiris, Kuan Yin, Quetzalcoatl, Thor, Shiva, and virtually every other deity that humans have ever come up with.  So my general reaction was:  *yawn*

Until, that is, I read an interview with Philip Coppens, who has himself released a new book (The Ancient Alien Question) and was interviewed by Linda Moulton Howe about his ideas, which largely were inspired by von Däniken.  The interview is itself worth reading, because it's hilarious.  For one thing, Howe's questions are PRINTED ALL IN CAPS, and Coppens' answers aren't, so it sounds like the interview went like this:

Howe (shouting at the top of her lungs): SO, PHILIP, TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK.

Coppens (meekly):  Well, Linda, it's about the idea that extraterrestrials...


Coppens: ... actually, that's what I was just about to say to you, that Erich and I...


Coppens:  ... there is considerable evidence that the deities worshiped in Ancient Greece were...


Coppens:  ... yes, those are the ones.  We believe that they may have been...


The other thing that strikes me is that Coppens goes to great lengths to state (in between Howe's screaming at him) that he doesn't believe that Plato and Aristotle and so on were extraterrestrials; no, that would be ridiculous.  He believes that Zeus and Hera and all were extraterrestrials, and they were the ancestors of the Greeks, including Plato and Aristotle.  As proof of this conjecture, he points out that the royal lineages of many of the ancient Greek kingdoms lead back to some god or another, and when you look at the ancient Egyptian lineages, they do too.  And so, in fact, do the Celtic royal genealogies, and the Japanese ones!  

Well, q.e.d., as far as I can tell.  

You might be asking yourself at this juncture, what about the fact that each of these mythologies are different, and therefore mutually contradictory, and therefore presumably couldn't all be true simultaneously?  Well, neither Coppens nor von Däniken ever answers that directly, but they are clearly pointing at the idea that ancient humans saw these extraterrestrials in their ships, and the extraterrestrials accomplished a few things, namely:  (1) building lots of big stone monuments without running water; (2) convincing the humans that they were gods; and (3) having lots of sex with human women, thereby "improving" the pathetic human gene pool and giving rise to the Golden Age of Civilization.  Then the extraterrestrials took off, and haven't been back much since, not even to pay child support.  And the humans then told stories about their noble godlike alien ancestors, and human memory being what it is, they variously misremembered what they'd seen as a half-naked guy with a trident (Poseidon), a one-eyed giant who rides an eight-legged horse (Odin), or a giant feathered snake (Quetzalcoatl).  

You can see how that confusion could occur.

And based on this, we are supposed to buy that everything the archaeologists have said is wrong.  In Coppens' words:
I think the most important thing and what Erich would like everyone to take with them is that history as we know it is wrong! We have compressed way too much into an all-too-short timeline and also we have excluded so many things from our history books because we felt they were anomalous and we assumed they were made up, science fiction.
In fact, one of von Däniken's books is called History is Wrong, which is notable not only for the immense chutzpah evidenced in the title, but also for being the only book he ever wrote whose title doesn't mention The Gods.

Anyhow, that's our book report for the day.  Myself, I think I'm going to pass on the second edition of Odyssey of the Gods.  For one thing, I'm waiting for my copy of von Däniken's 2010 release Twilight of the Gods: The Mayan Calendar and the Return of the Extraterrestrials, which is due out in paperback soon.  For another, I'm more concerned about the impending attack by aliens from the planet Gootan, which you can read about here.  You'd think that if Zeus was real, he'd at least give some thought to protecting his progeny from angry Gootanians.  It's the least a parent can do.

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