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DEFINING ARCHAEOLOGY | 21

Ancient Aliens is an American television show currently running on the History Channel. It’s presented in a pseudo-documentary style and presents the ideas of popular ‘ancient astronaut’ theorists. Generally the main idea proposed is that extraterrestrial beings made contact and helped shape prehistory civilizations, whether through advanced technology, interbreeding with humans, or a number of other theories that, as the show claims, ‘mainstream science’ refuses to acknowledge. The show has been widely criticized by many reviewers stating that many of its claims are hugely speculative or far fetched, yet remains immensely popular with over 1.3 million viewers tuning in regularly. What makes Ancient Aliens so entertaining, while at the same time almost universally criticized as pseudoscience and pseudohistory? After reviewing the series, it becomes clear that Ancient Aliens is either ignorant of key archaeological, scientific, and critical thinking principles and techniques used to determine the validity of information, or is intentionally disregarding evidence so as to preserve their claimed validity in the eyes of the audience watching the show. Much of the source material Ancient Aliens uses for their episodes comes from Erich von Däniken. Author of Chariot of the Gods? and many other books, von Däniken claims that there is definitive proof found throughout history of beings from another planet coming to Earth and directly influencing its inhabitants. Von Däniken makes many appearances on Ancient Aliens to discuss his views and gives insight on how aliens could have shaped human civilization. Many of the other speakers on the show share Erich von Däniken’s opinions, sometimes repeating verbatim his words on how a particular event transpired. While some of his claims cannot be proven one way or the other, many of von Däniken’s explanations for extraterrestrial intervention have been found to be riddled with flaws. Tampering with evidence, lying and confirmation bias, favoring evidence that supports a held belief and disregarding evidence that does not, appears to be von

Däniken’s forte. In multiple interviews von Däniken has been presented with evidence against his claims, evidence which was easily available at the time when he first made his claims, and then proceeded to retract those original claims. He’s been presented with accounts of his archaeological visits never happening, and admitted to fabricating scenarios in order to sell more books. This is the same person whose work Ancient Aliens has based their series on. Where its speakers not only believe von Däniken’s work, but will regurgitate verbatim his unsupported, often false claims to the millions of people watching.

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Origins Scientific Research Society

Profile for Origins

Origins | Summer 2013  

Why is Sci-Fi so popular and good at creating fringe science?

Origins | Summer 2013  

Why is Sci-Fi so popular and good at creating fringe science?

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