Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - June 10, 1972, Lethbridge, Alberta
Saturday, June 10, 1972 THE IETKBRIDGE HERALD 5 Robert II. Barron 'Chariots of the Gods'-fraudu ent On this page today there are three articles dealing with The Chariots ot the Gods. First there is au article by Robert H. Barron, a Calgary lawyer, tkaiitt from The Alhertan TV Diary. Below Is a reprint o( a book review hy The Herald's hook review editor. Its origin- al publication proceeded the second showing of the TV special and may have been missed by a number of read- ers whose interest in the sub- ject had not been aronsed by then. A third feature will bo found below the university column. II is written jointly by an archaeologist and an- thropologist and was tkaen from the letters to the editor columns of The Winnipeg Free Press. TT Is remarkable that a pro- gram as patently fraudulent as Chariots of the Gods should not have been denounced by many scientific a u t horities. However, one does not have to be a scientist to recognize a canard especially as this pro- gram had all the earmarks ot a pscudo scientific hoax calcu- lated to appeal to the gullible. At the outset of the program, the author understandably felt it necessary to convince the viewer that there are scientists who support his claim of intelli- gent beings from distant planets having visited tha earth. Inasmuch as he relied on only two Russian scientists, it follows that the author was un- able to locate a single English, American, French, German or other recognized authority who had even the smallest brief for this absurd fantasy. One may also conclude that there are a couple of Russians who are to- day rollicking in laughter se- cluded behind the Iron Curtain, It is not possible to disprove every conclusion advanced by the author unless one is pre- pared to immerse oneself in a major library for several weeks. It is sufficient to select just a few glaring examples of deliberate falsity and then to rely on the well known maxim falsus in uno falsus in omnibus (false in one thing, false in As our example, let us take the astonishing claim that the Abu Simbel temple must have been erected with the help of supermen from galactic space because it cost hundreds of mil- lions of dollars and the use of (he world's greatest cranes to move this temple to higher ground a few years ago. Tha fact, is of course, as the author well knew (but preferred that his listeners should not know) that this temple w.-j carved out of living rock on the very site where It was found. In other words the ancient Egyptians did not move it to that location but merely took advantage of an existing outcropping rock, In much the same way as ad- vantage was taken of Mount Rushmore to carve gigantic faces of some U.S. presidents. Following Abu Sirabel, we were shown the Great Sphinx and again it was clearly implied that it was moved to its present site. Actually it, too was simply carved from a solid block left in the middle of a stone quarry. Next, let us examine the re- markable claim that it was im- possible for the Egyptians by themselves to build the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Surely tha author knew perfectly well that every authority that has in- vestigated the subject, includ- ing the ancient historian Hero- dotus, had no hesitation in con- cluding that an intelligent peo- ple such as the ancient Egyp- tians working with their primi- tive tools would have had no difficulty in building it wlihin about 20 years. Modern experts believe that only a few thous- and seasonal laborers were em- ployed. By taking advantage of the annual flooding of the Nile to ship the blocks of stone on barges and by the use of levers, sledges and ramps, the work was childishly simple. The Egyptians even left drawings in stone showing some of the methods used by them but the aullior did not think it neces- sary to mention this fact. The raising of the obelisks, which the author wants his viewers to believe was impos- sible without giant modern cranes, would not even stump a 10 year old who is familiar with the fact that if you first make a mound of earth and then haul the block to the ton, all you have to do is excavate the earth at the base and Uie object will then drop into place guided by ropes. Every hoaxer knows that he is reasonably safe as long as ha sticks to matters of opinion. It is only when he commits the fatal error of misstatement of fact that it becomes possible to demonstrate his deliberate in- tention to fabricate and de- ceive. In his enthusiasm, cur author r.tumbled into this error twice. The first time was his flat statement that tha base of the Great Pyramid multiplied by Pi equals twico its height, and the value used by the Egyptians for Pi was so precise that it was not again known until the 16th century. Now, the official measurements of the pyramid made in tha 1920s by tha Egyptian govern- ment, which are available to anyone who wishes to examine the many scientific treatises on the subject, show that the value of Pi used by the builders was 3.1399, which was indeed an, excellent try. However, Archi- medes came much closer to tha true value in the 3rd century B.C. without the aid of super- natural denizens of outer space fact he even wrote a short book on the sublect and showed how he arrived at the result. 1 might mention that in working with the official figures, it is necessary to use an average value for the base as no two sides are the same length. There is a difference of some eight inches between the long- est and the shortest sides, which is a rather competent ac> complishment for the ancients, but a shockingly poor show in- deed for creatures who were apparently able to navigate un- countable trillions of miles to earth. Perhaps one should be charitable and regard this as a venial error on the theory that the oxygen of the earth's atmosphere may have beea a little too heady for them. The other flat deception con- sisted of the use of a modern map of the world to compare with an alleged 15th century Turkish map showing the conti- nents of the worfd as they would appear to a space ship located high above Cairo. The modern map of the world which was dis- played briefly showed all of the continents and oceans of t h e world, yet even our 10-year-old knows that no matter how high you get above Cairo, or indeed anywhere else, you cannot see more than half of Uie globe. The projection used in the mod- ern map of the world bore a suspicious resemblance to the special purpose Briesemeister Elliptical Equal Area Projec- tion found in many atlases, but which is a distortion and exists only in the imagination. It is perfectly obvious that II one had the lime it would not be difficult to demolish every inference of fantasy made in the program. Major libraries have texts which unquestionab- ly discuss and explain in au- thoritative detail every one ol the many subjects dealt with in the program without it being necessary to invoke supersti- tion. However, it is apparently much simpler for the credulous and naive to believe tliat intelli- gent life from many light years away (incidentally bearing a striking resemblance to mod- ern man) repeatedly visited tha vanced technology, and solers earth for the purpose of help- ing the Egyptians build funer- al depositories for their deceas- ed Pharaohs, the Athenions to build their magnificent temples devoted to the worship of their pagan gods, the Aztecs and the Incas to build their pyramids and temples devoted to their own special varieties of gods, etc. It is indeed a pity that our helpful visitors could not in- stead have taught the peoples of the earth something a little more useful such as the correct value of Pi, the alphabet, deci- mal numerals, medicine, ad- forth. Lest anyone think that they might in fact have done so but that the knowledge so gain- ed was carelessly lost over tha millennia, consider the fact that a visitation, we are told, occurred in Yugoslavia as re- cently as the 15th century A.p. as witness the "spaceships" in the church painting shown at length in the program. Either we must conclude that the his- torians of that day (and there were many) were criminally negligent in failing to record that fact, or else so many visi- tations had been made by that time that the medieval chronic- were too bored to mention the subject. It is shocking commentary on the morals of television that as yet the CBC and the sponsor of the program havo taken no steps to rectify and apologize for the potentially lasting harm that has been done to children and other innocents by the de- liberate debasing of knowledge in putting forward utter clap- trap with the trappings of truth, I would urge that if the program is to be shown a third time, It should be broken into segments and sandwiched into the Laugh-In series in order not to mislead the viewers. Focus on the University By MICHAEL SUTHERLAND Death in the dump by Walter Kerber Doug Walker Theory in book utterly unconvincing A SOLUTION is offered by Erich Von Daniken for a variety of unsolved mysteries of the past: unknown space travellers in some undeter- mined prehistoric period brought their genes and genius to the planet earth. It is a theory that has evoked keen in- terest on the part of many who have read this book or have seen the TV special based on it. Yet the support marshalled for the hypothesis is flawed and sometimes fatuous. I find it utterly unconvincing. The theory really doesn't solve the mysteries. How an- cient peoples in various parts of the world performed prodigi- ous engineering feats lemains unexplained. In a sense the path taken by Von Daniken in oppo- sition to human creativity leads through infinite regression to an jltimate mystery. The visi- tors from another heavenly body must have learned their skills from still other visitors ar.d so on, Actually there is a sort of ex- planation of how the great stone monuments were erected giants who came from the stars could have heaved the enormous weights around and into place. This may be an im- provement over the medieval belief in the magic performed by Merlin at Stonehenge but I fail to sec it. Besides, if the author is correct in stating that the technical resources of every continent today would be inadequate for building the pyramid of Cheops, the giants would have had to be un- imaginably huge posing problems for travel in space capsules and for mating with earth women! One of the chief evidences adduced for the hypothesis that there were space visitors long ago is the frequent reference to "sons of God" in ancient litera- ture, especially the Bible. This is very flimsy evidence indeed; it is an arbitrary interpretation that ignoies literary and his- torical criticism. That it is an extremely unlikely interpreta- tion is indicated by the way the New Testament writers John and Paul speak of becoming sons of God through faith and not by birth. Von Daniken (and a host of other people) could profit from First U.S. defeat "To The Yalu" by Jamel McGovera. (William Morrow and Co., 204 pages, dis- tributed by George J. Mc- Lcod Douglas thur was a military genius and a hero of the United States. But he attempted to usurp the decision-making pow- ers of the presidency. He was dismissed by President Harry S. Truman, who feared that the limited war in Korea could de- velop Into a major war with China or the Soviet Union, or both, To The Yalu Is worth read- ing both as a dramatic his- torical account and a totally en- joyable story. The lesson two decades ago still holds true for the war in Vietnam today. In Korea, it was the United States which forced Chinese in- tervention. Having repulsed North Korean aggression, Mac- Arthur drove his forces to the Chinese border in the hope for a united Korea, only to invite Chinese retaliation and Ameri- ca's first military dffeat. JOE MA, reading some historical criti- cism of the Bible. It would have been a good thing for him to have become more familiar with the text of'the Bible and the use of a concordance as well. This could have saved him from some glaring errors and foolish assertions. The proposal that the Ark of the Old Testament was elec- trically charged strikes me as absurd. Von Daniken writes, "Without actually consulting Exodus, I seem to remember that the ark was often sur- rounded by flashing sparks and that Moses made use of this 'transmitter whenever he needed help and advice." There are no references to sparks in Exodus or in other parts of the Bible where the ark is written about. Nothing remotely sug- gests that the ark was a trans- mitter used by Moses or any- one else. Support for the notion that Uzzah was electrocuted when he reached out to steady the ark is absent, too. What happened to Uzzah is veiy un- clear. In Hebrew the verse in 2 Samuel 6 reporting the inci- dent is much more obscure than our translations suggest. The exegesis in The Interpre- ter's Bible points out that the Hebrew could mean that Uzzah slipped on oxen droppings and struck his head on the bare rock of the threshing floor which killed him without any contact being made with the ark. In all the versions of the Bi- ble with which I am familiar, Lot's wife didn't fall dead when she looked back at the destruc- tion of Sodom and Gomorrah, BS Von Daniken slates; she was transformed into a pillar of salt. Since nothing in the story really tells what happened to the old cities, Von Daniken seems at liberty to propose a nuclear blast. This is more im- probable, however, than the usual theory that in a region where there is a major land Why V of "THE 1972-73 calendar for The University of Lethbridge refers to September 14lh and January 17th as "the last date by which full-time student study lists may bo filed with the registrar's office" It fur- ther indicates that the 7th and 10th of those months respectively, are the first days of classes. Before this becomes any more con- fusing I should point specifically to the one- week period of difference which is the very manifestation of the flexibility spoken of so often in our academic philosophy. The seven days in question represent what has become known as the "shopping around" aspect of registering for a particu- lar semester at this university. It allows students to select a number of course cards usually more than the regular five per semester and take part in several lec- ture sessions of each before deciding what their course programs will be for that se- mester. The advantages of the system seem rath- er obvious it provides each student with the opportunity to find out the basic intent of certain courses; it permits the student and the faculty member to determine the nature of the learning process likely to de- velop as part of the instruction in the course; it provides the flexibility neces- sary to the student attempting to struc- ture his personal timetable effectively; and so on. The system offers several ad- vantages to the university in that it al- most criminates the course changes that al- ways seem to pop up in more structured systems. By the time each person files his study lists he is fairly certain of that par- ticular program for the duration of that semester. If, because of personal difficulties or un- anticipated work load, an individual finds it necessary to drop courses, he has two months after registration to do so, without prejudice. The latter phrase is of major significance in that it means a person can bow out of courses that may be having an undesirable effect on his grade point average, without penalty academically, up to one month before finals. This is truly a system designed to the advantage of Btu- dentS; without any sneaky little traps at- tempting to catch people off guard. Ob- viously, people are encouraged to try differ- ent kinds of courses other than their ma- jor, with a registration and grading system working for them to ensure they are not penalized for trying new things. This is of course an extension of the innovative admissions system adopted by the university intended to ensure the avail- ability of university programs for as many eligible students as possible. Once involved in the programs of either faculty arts and science or the student encounters an extremely diverse selection of courses, to a total of some 500 listed in this year's calendar. In the faculty of arts and science the only "restriction" is that one must complete enough courses in a study area to be able to declare a major, or even more than one major by the multidisciplinary major program. This is a favorable contrast to programs at the Universities of Alberta and Calgary which have 'X' number of com- pulsory subjects. At the U of L there are no "compulsories" within the guidelines mentioned above. The faculty of education is similarly open in its programs but for obvious reasons there are a few required courses which are essential to qualify for teacher certification. Otherwise students in this faculty also enjoy a great deal of free- dom in designing their programs. It does become apparent that students are confronted with many alternates as to course selection, degree fulfilment, timeta- bling and so on and the point must be made that one of the main features of tha operation of this campus is tlie ready availability of faculty members for advis- ing students. People currently in grade 12 'considering The University of Lethbridge for Septem- ber or sometime in the future can take ad- vantage of this assistance at anytime, to ensure the decisions they make are the, right ones so far as selecting a university and specific academic studies. Believe me, experience with this system and others In the province, or elsewhere for that mat- ter, clearly points to the advantage of the "open door" policy for faculty-student-ad- ministration co-operation. Fascinating., but false idea By Ronald J. Nash and E. Leigh Syms. In The Winnipeg Free Press fault an earthquake could have occurred that set off explosions of accumulated gas. Ezekiel's visions have long tempted people to see far more in them than is warranted. Von Daniken finds in them precise details of space vehicles and tliinks the description are as- tonisliingly good. He is easily pleased; most readers of Ezekiel's visions can't make head or tail of them. They are best read as the ecstatic utter- ance of a visionary in which symbolism associated with Yahwism as well as that en- countered in the religion of Babylonia, where Ezekiel was in exile, is evident. I am not competent to criti- cize most of the other "evi- dence" advanced by Von Daniken but I strongly suspect that it is as flimsy as that which he has attempted to draw from the Bible. Qualified scholars will have to deal with that though I very much doubt if they will. Von Daniken seems to anticipate that Ms hypothesis will be ignored by them too and snipes at scien- tists for having closed minds. While scientists have some- times been unduly stubborn about examining unorthod o x views they cannot be faulted too strenuously for ignoring a hypothesis as vaguely enunci- ated as the one that unknown intelligences at some unknown time in the past may have in- vaded the earth. It is akin to the hypothesis that unidentifKd flying objects are to be explain- ed as evidence of extraterres- trial intclb'gence. As the Con- don report on UFOs made clear, it cannot be denied or af- firmed because it is not test- able. Von Daniken says people to- day are less credulous than their fathers. If his book is an international bestseller as stat- ed on the cover of the paper- back serious doubt is cast on his assertion. Ronald J. Nash Is curator of archaeol- ogy, Manitoba Museum of Man and Na- ture. E. Leigh Syms Is member of the department of anthropology, Uni- versity of Manitoba. TN response to popular demand, the program, Chariots of the Gods, was recently repeated for Canadian television viewers. In this program and in his best Felling book, Erich Von Daniken presents Ms case for the earth having been visited in the past by extraterrestrial beings who were instrumental in the biological evolu- tion of man as well fs In his cultural achievements. Some historic sources and a greater num- ber of impressive prehistoric artifacts are given as evidence of the visitations. These ideas have generated considerable enthu- siasm and interest but limited criticism to date, so that while not denying the prob- ability of life on other planets, we present! a more analytic point of view concerning; past life on this planet. First, it is poor scientific logic (as well as arrogance) to take a number of the more advanced accomph'shmenls of va- rious prehistoric peoples in different times and places and invoke extraterrestrial be- ings to account for the presence of thesa accomplishments. This is mystical thinking and does not constitute an explanation. If we view these things not as isolated wonders easily related to our own culture but rather objectively nnrf in the context of specific cultural traditions, we will he in a better position to seek explanations. The pyramids, like the appearance of homo sapiens, are not mysterious occurrences to archaeologists and physical anthropologists familiar with antecedent developments and evolutionary principles. Again, it is usually tha case that tha best explanation for something is the sim- plest one. Understanding the history and mortuary practices of the Egyptian and Surnerian kings becomes absurdly compli- cated if, as Von Daniken suggests in his book, pharaohs were put in suspended ani- mation, then periodically reactivated, for chats with spacemen, while the Sumerian kings were in fact spacemen. It is not necessary to look for such complex "explanations." A case by case analysis Is beyond the scope of this Utter and in any event would be difficult since Von Daniken does not usually cite his sources; however, a few specific comments can be made. The film referred to the monumental architecture of Teotihuacan (near Mexico City) arid sug- gested that its pyramids were shrouded in myth and their construction beyond earth- ly capabilities. Accompanying the discus- sion of Teotihuacan were film sequences showing modern local peasants. In fact, the chronology and cultural de- velopment of Teotihuacan have been inten- sively studied by archaeologists. The social complexity of this ancient city Is quite in keeping with its architecture. Von Daniken could have photographed a modem Italian peasant community and then attributed tha Horn an architecture to space creatures if the Homan ruins were not so well docu- mented by historians. Surely it is unrea- sonable to deny the same skills to other past cultures such as Teotihuacan (or Tia- huanaco in South America which dates in the 200 BC-600 AD period) simply because there is less historical documentation. Chariots of the Gods also discusses as- pects of the Mayan culture and we learn in the film that the sacred cenote or at Chichen Itza was probably the result of a rocket blast. These holes are in fact geological features caused by the collapse of sink holes in the limestone of the Yucatan Peninsula and there are many such features in the Maya lowlands. The putative Mayan astronaut on the sepulchre slab was not photographed for the first time by Von Daniken. Moreover, there are in fact two figures in conven- tional, alljcit stylized Mayan apparel, al- though this would be difficult to notice owing to the way the photograph was pre- sented. Readers who would like a good portrayal of Mayan civilization are advised to read Michael Coc's book "The Maya" in the Pelican paperbacks. Erich Von Daniken's hypothesis of visitors in the past is a fascinating idea, but his efforts to prove it have produced a facile synthesis more properly at on TV's Saturday night Chiller Thriller. Limited truce By Dong Walker TVTEL5 KLOPPENBORG was fascinated to see Anne McCracken and me to- gether in the narthex of McKillop United Church prior to appearing in the pulpit to do a dialogue on the meeting of Alberta Conference. "Don't get Anne said to Niels, "the truce is only going to last th: dura- tion of the service." If Florence Wilkinson, the minister, thought she had devised a way to re- conciliation she will be disappointed to read about Anne's intransigence. It was not all loss, however. Anne was reasonably civil during the two sessions we had for preparation.