Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Von Daniken is Wrong

After having failed to pick up a book from the library I'd put on hold due to having had it sent to the wrong library, I had a look at the new books that they had on display and one caught my eye. The title "History is Wrong" sounded intriguing, although upon seeing that the author was Erich von Daniken my expectations changed a bit. I still borrowed the book, more to see how hard it would be to find holes in the arguments it presented than to find out what historical facts I might have been wrong about.

As it turned out, finding holes in the arguments presented was pretty easy. The hard part turned out to be finding the arguments. Wild claims, check. Connections from out of nowhere, check. Hypotheses galore. Arguments and evidence, I'm still looking.

The book covers a few different topics. The first is the story of Enoch (Adam's great great great great grandson in case you didn't know) and the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Von Daniken claims that the Book of Enoch tells a story of a primitive man visiting a spaceship and bringing back books of knowledge beyond his time (and allegedly ours). He suggests that the Voynich Manuscript is one of these, and that others might be hidden in the great pyramid and a massive cave complex in South America.

Next we get the story of the cave complex in South America. This cave complex was said to contain a library written on gold plates, thousands of golden animals, and was miles deep and spanned the continent, if not the earth. Von Daniken wrote about this in a book decades ago, and was generally criticized for his coverage of it. This is I think where the book gets its title, as this section is really nothing more than von Daniken trying to clear his name. This doesn't work however. First he admits that when he wrote the chapter on the caves, he had not seen the caves nor any of the artifacts from the cave. He had only spoken to the man who claimed to have found the caves and his lawyer. The only evidence the provided were some photos taken at a cave entrance, and a letter on some official looking letter head written to the Ecuadorian government claiming the treasures contained in the caves. Apparently this was enough to convince von Daniken, as he offered to assist in setting up expeditions and so forth with the pair. And when he was pressed for evidence and asked the pair for some, they become hostile and refused further contact. Somehow I wasn't too surprised. Today von Daniken pins his belief in the caves to a different man who has his information from another man who went into the caves that are at a different location and saw all the stuff, but didn't bring any back and died a decade ago. Also, the mormons are involved since they got their special knowledge

The final few chapters then provide a bit of info about the Nazca plains.

Ultimately it must be concluded that it is not history that is wrong, but Erich von Daniken. While many of his claims are way out there, he does make a few specific claims that are easily proven, he has not done so, which only raises the question "why not?".

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