Few things are perfect in this world and just about anything can be improved upon. You may be the type of person who thinks everything is better with chocolate, or if you’re like me you think everything is better with zombies. Some people however think everything is better with aliens. A quick perusal of what is in the offing on the so-called History Channel will show endless amounts of programming about people who buy other people’s garbage (“pickers” they’re called, instead of hoarders as that might infringe upon the rights of another show). Also available are shows about a bunch of ragged misanthropes who live and work in swamps (unimaginatively called “Swamp People”). The presence of such shows on a channel about history is an enduring enigma. But every week I’m treated to an hour of – for lack of a better word – “theories” regarding the persistent meddling of Extra-Terrestrials throughout human history. “Ancient Aliens” regularly gives me a lot to think about; which is to say I think a lot about how stupid it is.
Nothing is safe from the curious notions of those who refer to themselves as “Ancient Alien Theorists”. If it can’t be explained by normal means (or if the mundane explanation is too dull) you had better believe the aliens did it. From the Pyramids to Nazi scientists, these strange visitors from beyond the stars have had their hands (tentacles?) in just about everything. It should go without saying that these theories are not hindered by such inhibiting factors like evidence or proof. If nothing else, dismantling their theories is a wonderful way to exercise one’s powers of reason and logic, of which this show is sadly bereft. For the record, a theory is defined thusly: “a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena.” The History Channel won’t let that stop them. “Coherence? Correct? Principles? Sounds like the aliens have got to you!” But let’s take a quick look at what passes for logic over there, far from the merciless edge of Occam’s razor. One past episode breaks down like this: In human mythology there are griffins (agreed), half lion and half eagle, pretty awesome (so far so good). Ancient people did not simply make up things; they wrote about and drew only what they actually saw (wait…what?). Therefore there must have really been griffins. That this is being said with a straight face is an indication that you may be watching a sociopath. Next they do us the courtesy of bringing on an actual scientist who probably has no clue what he’s being used for. In this case an evolutionary biologist is brought on to explain that in nature eagles and lions are unable to mate and produce offspring. I’ll pause for a moment to let that sink in (the idea, not the image). They brought in a scientist to explain this. Needless to say if you need this explained to you then you probably shouldn’t be allowed outdoors unsupervised. I believe the idea is that you will be distracted by the actual science (so rarely seen on this show) and forget how awful their reasoning was before the biologist started speaking, since they bravely soldier on afterwards to reveal that the only explanation left is that aliens cooked up these griffins in one of their space labs. Still with me? It’s simple logic! Since griffins can’t just happen, the only way there could be griffins is if aliens made them. I’d grant them this if they weren’t insisting that there actually were real live griffins. Similarly we can all agree that Sauron made the One Ring, but if you’re going to claim that you’re actually wearing it, there’s a padded room waiting for you. Most of their shows follow a certain pattern. There’s something weird that was done/built thousands of years ago. At the moment we’re uncertain how or why exactly this particular thing was done or built (or we know precisely how and why but who cares?). Then they play the “what if” game. And the more they play it, the more it becomes obvious – to them – that there’s only one possible explanation. On this show “what if” is semantically equal to “of course”. Most people don’t lose sleep over things like how the blocks of the pyramids were put in place or why people used to believe in dragons (or griffins for that matter). They go about their lives and assume that sooner or later we’ll figure it out. Or we won’t, and we still won’t lose sleep over it, or there is just nothing to figure out. Still others are driven by the mystery and need to find out what really happened, and that’s great; if there weren’t people like that we wouldn’t have CSI shows or Indiana Jones movies. But there are long leagues worth of difference between archaeology and going through the mental acrobatics required to conclude that the Nazi’s had alien allies (seriously). No one asks the obvious question that if that were the case, how the heck did we win? I can only imagine what alien intelligences might think of us if they were watching our world. The notion that they have nothing better to do than help us heap up stones on the Pyramids (and elsewhere), as well as give tech tips to Nazi rocket scientists, and screw around with the genetic makeup of everything might strike them as more than a little insulting. Just as we humans should be more than a little insulted at the idea that we could not accomplish any of these things without little green men helping out. The truth is out there, but not on the History Channel.