Friday, February 10, 2012

History Channel must change its name to Comedy Central

It is a funny thing when the single most trusted source of news in the country (and quite possibly the most trustworthy source in the world) is Jon Stewart.  In some ways, it's all but inevitable, because as a comedian, it's part of his job to tell it like it is.  He also comes off much more impartial than most people because he is just as prone to rip on the likes of Obama for double-talk bullcrap to hide a failure as he is to rip on the likes of Rick Santorum for...  being Rick Santorum.  So all of a sudden, you find the comedy on Comedy Central to be worthy of note not simply because somebody said something funny, but because somebody made a point which is just so true.  It's something you tend not to find on other channels. 

Once upon a time, I rather enjoyed the History Channel.  Though the schedule was largely dominated by the show Modern Marvels at the time, I would still have categorized that as "history" since it at least addressed how various industries have progressed over the years.  Some time after that, though, it degraded from the History Channel to the History-of-World-War-II Channel.  I'll admit I was fairly impressed when they apparently displayed rare color footage of Nazi rallies.  That at least was a significant find.  Nonetheless, it more than slightly saddens me what has become of it.  It's become a sea of pointless reality shows about the mundane lives of blue-collar rednecks and bizarre competitions.  Sure, there's Top Gear, but the American version still pales before the Brits.  I suppose I could say the same for all the networks out there -- Discovery has also become a sad collection of meaningless reality shows...  TLC went from Discovery Lite to being all about home improvement and psychics...  G4 was once a channel about gaming, and the most frequent show on there now seems to be Cops.  Lately, when History Channel does show something to do with history, chances are 50-50 that it's going to be about the last stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.

History Channel, however, still has a saving grace for me in the random noise that makes up its content that makes the channel worth watching -- and that's the series titled Ancient Aliens.  Don't get me wrong;  I don't find it thought-provoking or worthy of consideration in a serious academic sense.  It's just outstandingly hilarious.  It's like a never-ending Monty Python sketch, except these people are actually dead serious.

The way these people draw their conclusions at times is just incredible.  The nice thing is that they take you through the interpolation step by step, and each and every time, you find yourself in utter awe as to what sorts of psychotropic drugs these people must have been consuming in order to think this way.

At one point, Chief Crazy Hair (aka Giorgio Tsoukalos) proposed that the Biblical tale of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was actually the result of aliens dropping a nuclear warhead.  His evidence of this?  You'll absolutely love it.  You see, when you are at a nuclear testing range to witness a firing (we've all been there, haven't we?  I go to one every day!), they tell you not to look at the flash, but to look away.  This is just like what Lot's family was told -- i.e. "look away; do not look back"...  and because Lot's wife dies as a result of looking back, it must be a nuclear explosion!

Ummmm...  right.  So because you can draw an analogy to something modern, they are therefore the same thing!

BTW, I'm not just being snippy here.  This man actually states that the strength of the ancient alien "theory" is that you can compare modern achievements with ancient folklore and stories.  He likes the fact that if you can basically say that if something ancient people talked about can be defined in modern terms, then the ancients must have described modern ideas!  This admittedly makes sense if you assume that aliens visited Earth thousands of years ago, as they would understandably have insane technology compared to our current level to even be able to make it here in the first place.  So in that light, it's not inconceivable that anything we come up with might seem like old hat for those aliens.

But that's only valid IF you can safely say that aliens visited in ancient times.  You can't start from there and work with a series of if it's true in order to show that it's true.  That's a form of argument I term as "Plantinga-class Circularity", named after the lord and master of this type of masked circular argument -- Alvin Plantinga...  someone who I will have to deal with in some later entries.

Sometimes, you clearly realize these people are mixing up their references.  One of the stories put forth by the horrifying Erich Von Daniken claims that people stated that Merlin was one of the aliens and he was the very same one who constructed Stonehenge.  Really?  Considering that Stonehenge is dated a few thousand years before the earliest known record of Arthurian legend, I wonder what his sources are.  Some of them, like David Childress, have claimed that the Mahabharata not only contained descriptions of flying vimanas, but also gave blueprints, measurements, and specifications for these vehicles including part of the secret to its anti-gravity engine...  Where is this?  It's certainly not in any draft of the Mahabharata I've ever read.  How is it that only he seems to have heard of this?  What the hell is his source?  How was it uncovered?  Could it be that "archaeologists" pulled it out of your ass?

At other times, you just have to wonder what the hell sort of things are going through these people's minds.  At one point, a reference was made to a legend involving a mystical sword of fire...  Well, mystical weapons in legendary folklore aren't rare.  King Arthur had his Excalibur, Arjuna had his Gandiva, Yamato Takeru had his Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi...  So Tsoukalos asks the question, "Does a sword of fire really exist?"...  and he answers the question by saying that it does, if you think of it not as a blade of fire per se, but "as a sort of lightsaber."

Oh...  right...  I completely forgot about those.  How could it have slipped my mind?  I keep forgetting that those things already exist, and Star Wars was a documentary.  That and 2-headed 6-legged dogs.
It seems that there's a common vein within these people's minds that there can be nothing written in ancient literature or folklore that can simply be made up, imaginary, or flights of fancy, but necessarily must have been reports of real things, even though reported in some wrong way which is a result of primitive minds unable to comprehend what they were seeing.  The idea of a tale being entirely fiction is apparently a modern invention.  Though using their same logic...  if we developed fiction today...  could it be possible that the aliens also invented the concept of fiction long before and taught it to our ancient ancestors thousands of years ago so that they could pass down their fictions to us?  And I say "yes."

These guys seem to think that everything that ancient people talked about was not merely a story or an extrapolation or a glorification...  they think everything actually happened.  So when the Ramayana talks about Ravana flying aboard Pushpaka, they would say "Well, people couldn't have made that up.  There must have been a flying chariot!"  Why?  Why couldn't it have been something to add a flair of mysticism to a tale?  I mean, the Ramayana also says the Dasaratha ruled Ayodhya for 60,000 years.  Is it more plausible that someone actually lived for 60,000 years, or that he (if he existed) simply ruled for 60 years, and the extra zeros were added to glorify those years as if to signify that they were prosperous or that he was powerful or something?  According to these people, the former is more plausible, because you can safely presume that Dasaratha was an alien who had cracked the secret of immortality.

The idea that Stonehenge was built using the power of levers, pulleys, oxen, and manpower, is apparently less plausible than the idea that Stonehenge was built using "acoustic levitation" technology.  It's much more likely that Noah's Ark was a "floating DNA Bank" that has been misunderstood than to say that it was merely a mythological fable written to teach a lesson about obedience and fealty to the god of the Bible.  It's much more likely that Garuda was an actual flying cyborg with mechanical wings birthed as a half-breed between an alien and a human than that he's simply a made-up character created to craft tales for the hell of it.

Technically, these people are also atheists because they believe that "gods" existed, but were actually "godlike alien creatures" rather than actually being divine celestial beings per se.  The difference between the atheists who fall into a category like myself and these people is that I see the lesser development of ancient peoples and societies as an indication that they would come up with very wrong ideas to try and explain the things they don't fully understand...  like sunlight...  or the seasons...  or wind...  Ancient Astronaut believers think instead that ancient people didn't dream up ideas, but simply failed to properly explain what they saw.  People didn't just say that a sun god made the sun move, but rather they saw a guy move something as bright as the sun and called him a sun god instead.  It's an interesting interpretation...  as the basis for a comedy program that would grow tired after 2 or 3 episodes....  and yet the Ancient Aliens program on History ran for 3 seasons, apparently with a 4th season to begin next week.

How on earth do people like this get an audience for a television series?  This is what now passes for history?  Is there really a television producer somewhere out there who thinks that this is a serious branch of archaeology?  If so, the human race is just so very doomed.  Egad... Maybe that was the aliens' plan all along!