In which I’m asked to promulgate woo

January 19, 2016 • 8:30 am

I got this email yesterday; the name of the sender is redacted to protect the odious. I’ve added links to the email, and my comments are in brackets:


My name is [redacted] and I’m an associate producer at Prometheus Studios in Los Angeles. It’s nice to meet you!

I’m writing because I currently work on a docuseries that airs on the History Channel, the show Ancient Aliens.  In our upcoming 9th season, we are looking at the evolution of man [no women?] and the variations found in homo sapiens [sic] now. Some of the variations we will be looking at include the RH [sic] negative blood line found in the people of the Basque region, as well as the X lineage found in some Native Americans. We are looking for a geneticist to speak on these variations.

I was curious if you would be willing to arrange a phone call to discuss this topic sometime this week.  Please let me know what works best for your schedule and the best number at which to reach you.

I am under a tight deadline, so any help you can give on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your time and have a good day!

[name redacted]

I was instantly alerted by the name “Ancient Aliens,” and, sure enough, a minutes’s Googling found that the show, in its ninth season, is based on the premise that aliens visited our planet aeons ago, leaving traces that are ferreted out by the show’s crack woo-detectives.

Wikipedia’s entry for the show says this:

Ancient Aliens is an American television documentary series that premiered on April 20, 2010 on the History channel. Produced by Prometheus Entertainment, the program presents hypotheses of ancient astronauts and proposes that historical texts, archaeology, and legends contain evidence of past human-extraterrestrial contact. The show has been criticized for presenting pseudoscience and pseudohistory.

One of those criticisms was Brian Switek’s scathing takedown of the show in a 2012 issue of Smithsonian magazine, “The idiocy, fabrications, and lies of ancient aliens.” An excerpt:

I’m actually glad that my editors don’t allow me to cuss a blue streak on this blog. If they did, my entire review would be little more than a string of expletives. Given my restrictions, I have little choice but to try to encapsulate the shiny, documentary-format rubbish in a more coherent and reader-sensitive way.

The episode is what you would get if you dropped some creationist propaganda, Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods and stock footage from Jurassic Fight Club into a blender. What results is a slimy and incomprehensible mixture of idle speculation and outright fabrications which pit the enthusiastic “ancient alien theorists,” as the narrator generously calls them, against “mainstream science.” I would say “You can’t make this stuff up,” but I have a feeling that that is exactly what most of the show’s personalities were doing.

Looking at the show’s website, I see that they haven’t upped their game in the last three years.  Here are three episodes from the last season. The show (and I emphasize that it’s on the HISTORY CHANNEL, is a bizarre mixture of conspiracy theories, distorted evidence, and “mysteries”—almost theological in its confirmation bias and blatant ignoring of alternative explanations. We know now, for instance, that all the crop circles were simply fakes. Yet Ancient Aliens continues to tout them as signs of aliens:

Crop circles! Could it BE that they’re not really hoaxes? (Of course, people have admitted to making them and even done so under the eyes of reportrs.)

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.27.05 AM

Hidden signs of ancient alien astronauts!

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.27.29 AM

Ancient archeology evinces visiting aliens!

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 7.27.48 AM

Note how, in the program descriptions, the woo is hedged by posing questions: “Could it be that a sophisticated culture existed here on Earth—thousands and even tens of thousands of years earlier than we believe?” [Correct answer: “NO!”] “Could the stories of a time when gods and otherworldly beings inhabited the planet be more than just mythology?” [Correct answer: “NO!”]

I had heard that the History Channel promulgated this kind of nonsense, but I see that Ancient Aliens has been going on for a long time despite its dissimulation, appeal to woo, and ignoring of alternative evidence. It’s not history at all, but an attempt to lure viewers with mental pablum. What’s next: “Did the Holocaust really happen?”

I despise this kind of stuff, and so I wrote back to the show declining politely (well, not so politely):

Dear Ms. [name redacted],

I have looked at the Ancient Aliens site and read some of its online materials. You should be ashamed of not only asking a genuine geneticist to support this kind of nonsense, but also of working yourself to propagate the myth that our planet shows suggestive traces of alien visitation. How a reputable “History Channel” can present such nonsense for nine seasons is beyond me. This is not history but a blatant appeal to prejudice and conspiracy theories among your viewers: a venal attempt to attract attention.
No reputable scientist would lend their efforts or name to your endeavor, and neither will I. What you are doing is foisting lies—or planting ideas that are false—in the heads of your viewers. I can’t be part of such an reprehensible program.
Jerry Coyne

Now why do you suppose they want to know about the Rh blood types of Basques and the X chromosomes of Native Americans? Could it be that these are signs of genes contributed by BREEDING WITH ANCIENT ALIENS?

161 thoughts on “In which I’m asked to promulgate woo

  1. I like that middle graphic of Saddam Hussein with an ancient alien.

    I am glad you told them off. They would have taken what you said out of context and made you look dumb.

  2. No reputable scientist would lend their efforts or name to your endeavor, and neither will I.

    Did you just admit to them that you are not a reputable scientist? Just kidding. 😉

    Am glad you gave them the smackdown. That we have a “History Channel” that has turned into the WWII & conspiracy BS Channel makes us a laughingstock. They need some serious blowback for their pandering to the idiots of the world.

    1. I guess it depends on your definition of ‘reputable’. According to my research, Ancient Astronaut Theorist Giorgio Tsoukalos is a 1998 graduate of Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York, with a bachelor’s degree in sports information and communication.

      1. That is rich! 🙂

        I’m sure Giorgio has many fascinating insights regarding the Mayan pelota court at Chichen Itza. It has been said that the stones there are so perfectly-fitted, that you cannot even insert a credit card (nay, a RAZOR blade!!) between them. (it’s true… I’ve been there!) No way humans could’ve done that. Especially a bunch of backward ancient Mayans.

      2. That is rich! 🙂

        I’m sure Giorgio has many fascinating insights regarding the Mayan pelota court at Chichen Itza. It has been said that the stones there are so perfectly-fitted, that you cannot even insert a credit card (nay, a RAZOR blade!!) between them. (it’s true… I’ve been there!) No way humans could’ve done that. Especially a bunch of backward ancient Mayans.

      3. How coincidental! One of Ithaca College’s main claims to fame is that Rod Serling was on the faculty there for quite a while.

  3. If the History Channel had any sense of decency it would change its name. It is an embarrassment to history lovers everywhere. Its lineup of shows is about anything but history, mostly silly reality shows. The only show that comes close to dealing with history is the drama “Vikings.” This show is great entertainment (I love it) and highly acclaimed, but so little is known about the
    Vikings that the show is 99% fiction.

    There are a couple of other history channels available on cable, but from what I can see the bulk of their offerings is World War II documentaries.

    1. I was also going to comment that a bulk of their actual history showings was on WWII. I can understand a bias toward wars in general, but sheesh, there were other conflicts.

        1. Here’s some of their current “offerings”:

          “Seven New Signs of Apocalypse”

          “Atlantis Found”

          “Bible Secrets Revealed”

          “Hangar 1: The UFO Files”

          and, the old “tried and true”-

          “Nostradamus 21st Century Prophecies Revealed!”

    2. For a while, History lead the race on my “most disappointing programming choices” list. Then Syfy topped the list when it started showing wrestling. Then I found out that that was a corporate decision made above the pay grade of the channel programmers – the same company owns both Syfy and WWF, and the parent company basically ordered them to do it. So now I’m back to being most disappointed in History. Syfy is pretty close to #1 though. Could still be #2 or #3, due to all the ghost hunting type shows.

  4. I think the X referred to is a Mt haplotype not the chromosome. Not that it makes much difference. It’s not that different from the worst forms of theism-if you don’t have an immediate explanation concoct a superior being and a conspiracy, all the while pretending open mindedness.

    1. Yes, I have friends who believe in space aliens and even attend woo conferences which deal with UFO’s (and everything else.) The fantasy of this making them and/or signaling that they are “open minded” and/or “receptive to possibilities” seems to be a huge motivation. What WE consider “being pig ignorant of the basics of the field” THEY translate into “being capable of thinking outside the box.”

      My own dear father fell for this crap. He belonged to Von Daniken’s Ancient Astronaut Society back in the 70’s. I don’t think he was impelled by an inflated ego — more like the opposite. The narrative which appealed to him was that of the “little guy” who comes up with something truly intriguing but he’s ignored, mocked, and dismissed by the “experts” because he’s not a member of the right social clubs.

      If he were alive today he’d probably look at Jerry’s letter and read snobbery into it. Did Professor Coyne watch all the programs? Did he go out himself and investigate? Well, then. How can he be so sure?

      A slow, careful, and reasonable explanation of how one can be so sure would not be welcomed, no matter how politely and respectfully couched. Trust me on that.

      1. Well, I found ‘Chariots of the Gods?’ very convincing when I first read it – but I was about twelve years old at the time.

        I do remember that theme of the book: that it presented truly amazing facts which “orthodox science” had either ignored or “polished” until they could be made to fit into the orthodoxy without rocking the boat, but the outsider whose mind was not constrained by the straitjacket of conventional science could see there was something inexplicable, blah blah.

        I can’t recall whether von Daniken ever compared himself to Galileo…

        But I do recall that his books became steadily less convincing as the series progressed – or perhaps that was just because I was growing up.

        1. van Daniken’s books (well, one of them) was instrumental in solidifying the education I had already gotten from my father, _Scooby Doo_ and _The Bloodhound Gang_ about skepticism …

          1. I remember him being mocked when I was a kid, and my thoughts were it made more sense than being fashioned from clay, being made out of a rib etc. I wondered why that was seen as okay but his theory wasn’t.

            I also remember when Ancient Aliens first started. I thought it might be interesting, as I thought it would be an exposition of the so-called evidence. I started watching the first show and soon realized they were actually accepting the “evidence” and mocking alternative explanations. I got about a third of the way through the first show and haven’t watched it since. I continue to be disgusted every time I see it in the listings.

            There is good stuff on the History Channel, but it’s interspersed liberally with crap.

          2. “I wondered why [being made out of a rib] was seen as okay but [Von Daniken’s] theory wasn’t.”

            Because the rib theory was first propounded millennia ago when society as a whole was too clueless to know any better.
            Von Daniken’s theory was propounded when most people did know better.
            (But of course you knew that)

            Oh, and Velikovsky probably deserves a (dis)honorable mention here, too.

            “There is good stuff on the History Channel, but it’s interspersed liberally with crap.”
            I’m unlikely ever to see it; I never fancied being a tosher. 😉


          3. Yes, I did know that, though I didn’t when I was a kid. 🙂

            I never fancied being a tosher either, but I found that really interesting! Each to their own I suppose, and at least that was accurate! 🙂

          4. Personally, I find more wonder and dignity in the notion that I am related to every other living thing on the planet than the dogma that I am descended from an animated pile of dirt. I also find it weird that so many people find it more satisfying to believe the opposite.

          5. I do too.

            I remember that moment as a kid too – finding out that we were all related. I thought all we had to do is make sure everyone knew that and it would mean there’d be no more racism, xenophobia etc and we’d all get along better.

      2. “The fantasy of this making them and/or signaling that they are “open minded” and/or “receptive to possibilities” seems to be a huge motivation. What WE consider “being pig ignorant of the basics of the field” THEY translate into “being capable of thinking outside the box.””

        Well put. In my own experience I think the emphasis should go on “signaling”, but of course ymmv.

        Their interpretation of ignorance as an ability to think outside the box reminds me of Jerry’s “making a virtue of necessity (or brute fact)”. Often when the see people embrace woo (today one of my FB friends announced there will be no more toothpaste; it’s oil pulling from here on out), it’s not so much that they have ideas about how and why the woo is supposed to work, rather, it seems to be more that they don’t understand or at least appreciate how the scientifically sound methods/treatments work and why that makes them hard to beat. Any mention of fluoride would be taken as an aggression.

        1. I also suspect they’re trying to signal not just an “open” mind, but a different identity. Natural, simple, sensitive, ancient, non-western, and, of course, “spiritual” — anything which distances them from what they see as a fast-paced, acquisitive, and power-driven world. I do not belong here.

      3. I saw the Chariots of the Gods movie and I was disdainful of the whole thing, but for me the real kicker came when they showed a piece of what they claimed was ancient Aztec jewelry* and superimposed an image of a printed circuit board and the patterns were identical – couldn’t be a coincidence, right? Except that my father worked for a company that made printed circuit boards, and I knew full well that you could make one with any pattern you wanted.

        *It was one of those turquoise and silver inlaid pieces that I always thought were of Navajo make.

  5. My youngest son, now 14, has occasionally watched this series over the years. This is only because the History channel sometimes does real ‘history’ and he is interested in that subject. At first he was absolutely baffled about the show, but he quickly caught on that it was total b.s. I recall feeling a pang of remorse as he worked out that a television channel that espouses factual history would also show pure malarkey as fact. Innocence was lost.

    1. Does the History Channel even do real history anymore? Back when it was the Hitler channel, at least it was real history, even if WWII after WWII documentary got a bit old. But I’ve quit checking the channel in recent years. After so many shows on ancient aliens, Nostradamus predictions, and Bible secrets revealed, I just gave up. On the slightly plus side, at least their Bible documentaries don’t treat the Bible as inerrant sacred scripture. But their alternate explanations aren’t much better.

      1. Looking at their current program lineup, I would have to say that they have a sprinkling of shows about history. They also do have shows that are interesting & educational, I will give them that. Shows that I watch regularly are American Pickers and How the Earth Was Made.

      1. At that age I became obsessed with the Kennedy assassination, and started reading various conspiracy theory books that had me completely snowed. But it later turned into an important lesson for me. My best friend recorded a television documentary about it, and it included the Zapruder film. We could slow the tape down, and watch the gruesome head shot over and over. What I saw was that the shot played out completely differently from what the conspiracists were saying! It came from the rear, like the Warren commission said, and not from the front (as in from the grassy knoll). That was an important lesson to me that some ‘authorities’ are completely delusional.

        1. But aliens might have invented a projectile that makes it look like it came from the rear!

          Don’t dismiss it! Remember there are people who think there are people living amongst us who are lizards in human body costumes.

  6. Just a few days ago I got a letter asking for permission to use one of our foundation’s Black-and-chestnut Eagle pictures in a textbook. All was fine until I noticed the name of the company: “Christian Light Publications”. They specialize in homeschool texts from a Bible literalist perspective. I wrote them a nasty note accusing them of lying to children. To my amazement I got a letter back from them asking me to help them fix the problems. This is going to be fun!

    1. “I got a letter back from them asking me to help them fix the problems.”

      I don’t see this ending well.

      1. Depends on how you define “well”. I would anticipate a few amusing email exchanges before the other side just goes silent. I’d call that “well”.

        1. That’s what I anticipate too. But perhaps their technical staff (the one who wrote me, at least) is sincere and simply might not realize how badly her employers have lied about science.

          1. There is every chance that they are sincere and don’t have any idea. You never know whose eyes you will open, maybe not even now but down the road, by quietly telling the truth.

    2. I suggest you edit the Bible as River Tam did:

      Bible’s broken. Contradictions, false logistics – doesn’t make sense…So we’ll integrate non-progressional evolution theory with God’s creation of Eden. Eleven inherent metaphoric parallels already there. Eleven. Important number. Prime number. One goes into the house of eleven eleven times, but always comes out one. Noah’s ark is a problem….We’ll have to call it early quantum state phenomenon. Only way to fit 5000 species of mammal on the same boat.

  7. That’s pretty funny. And yeah, they probably are going to imply that the Rh factor and X chromosome differences are either the result of breeding with aliens or alien genetic manipulation of humans for whatever the purpose du jour is.

    There’s a reasonable debunking documentary.. but it’s only reasonable until you reach the point where the person who’s doing the debunking gets down to why Ancient Aliens is bunk: because it conflicts with his preferred Biblical interpretations of history. It’s kind of an entertaining bit of crank on crank violence.

    1. Yeah that reminds me of the guy who was debunking flying saucers being spacecraft from other worlds because they were obviously demons!

      1. From what I recall the documentary was pretty solid with countering Ancient Aliens’ claims up until it hit that turning point where it treated Biblical claims as being true. At which point I turned it off. Watching it further might have been a case study in cognitive bias.

  8. History Channel, Discovery Channel and even National Geographic (at least here in Canada): all junk filled with reality TV shows. This is one (of the many) reason I cancelled by cable subscription!

    1. Exactly the same thing I was going to say. All of these channels have essentially done the same thing that the regular channels did. It’s all juvenile entertainment and reality TV. The race to the bottom is on to find the show that is more revolting than Duck Dynasty.

      And I will repeat again — the so-called news on the tube has gone down the hill as well.

      1. And I was saddened to learn that Al Jazeera, the only channel in the US that pays major attention to international news, is stopping broadcasting soon. Real ‘mericans don’t need no international stuff.

        1. WHAT!?! Are you saying that all the other channels in the US do NOT show international news items? I’m both amazed and appalled.

          How does the average American citizen stay aware of what is going on in the rest of the world? Is it through newspapers / the Internet? How do they form their opinions on US foreign policy? (I know I’m going to regret asking that last question…)

      2. “And I will repeat again — the so-called news on the tube has gone down the hill as well.”

        To the point where people who only watch comedy news are better informed than the people who watch “the news”.

    1. Prometheus Press is the name of a well-known freethought/atheist/skeptic publisher. I really hope this production company wasn’t trying to trade in on the resemblance.

      1. I was planning a Prometheus theme for an upcoming birthday bash (since Promethium is the 61st element and I will become 61 shortly) but Prometheus productions isn’t going to be part of it.

      2. Actually, both uses of Prometheus make sense.

        The production company is working off of Prometheus creating humanity,
        but the freethought publisher is working off of Prometheus bringing fire to humanity, and being punished by Zeus for so doing.

        1. I’ve always felt that Christians give Jesus too much credit. The guy had a bad weekend as payment for ALL of humanity’s sins, then got to be immortal and all powerful for eternity. Prometheus, on the other hand, would STILL be getting his liver carved out daily just for giving us fire if Kevin Sorbo hadn’t shown up.

          1. Not sure whether that explains why Kevin Sorbo is now doing Christian movies after his Hercules career.

          2. That was (google google) actually an episode of the spinoff Xena (about which Sorbo later got all bent out of shape when it out-rated Hercules).

            But listen to this: “the two [Herc and Xena] join forces to free Prometheus by battling a horde of lizard men who have hatched from huge eggs encircling the god’s chained body”
   if you really want to know.

            Lizard men? Aliens! What more proof do we need?


  9. Maybe our ancestors were breeding with all those green-skinned aliens that Kirk kept getting off with?

    Altogether now “What is this kissing?”.

  10. This reminded me of the books they used to sell in schools when I was a kid, back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. As an avid reader with a big imagination, I was always buying books from their catalogues that included books on Bigfoot, ESP, human spontaneous combustion, aliens, etc. I believed a lot of it right into high school.

    I think it is only because I studied Science in university that I realized what uncritical garbage they were, and am angry at what was being ‘fed’ to kids. I can only assume that others like me who didn’t study Science are not regular viewers of Ancient Aliens.

    It also seems to be the modern version of that old “In Search Of” tv series.

    1. Nothing says scientific integrity like a Rod Serling voiceover.

      Remember the early 70s Life-Time Science series? Despite a few gaffes (like breathlessly reporting the efficacy of acupuncture as a surgical anesthetic), they at least tried to make their books scientifically defensible.

      By the 80s, I remember them remaking their scientific offerings into mystical, crystal-ical, illuminazi and alien-inspired garbage.

      Their science offerings all disappeared, to be replaced by mysteries of the universe. That’s about when the scales started dropping from my eyes regarding what was happening to our culture.

    2. I had a book like that myself back when I was in elementary school in the early 90s. It mentioned the “wheels” vision from the beginning of the biblical book of Ezekiel and speculated that Ezekiel may have encountered extraterrestrials.

      1. The Spaceships of Ezekiel (1974) by Josef F. Blumrich.

        The engineering was quite intriguing.

        I’d actually say it was one of the things that led to my apostasy. To atheism via woo!


    3. I got pulled into “In Search of …” as a preteen, in part because I had just discovered Star Trek and was a big fan of Leonard Nimoy, who lent his name and voice to the show (I wonder if he ever regretted that?).

      Coming across it recently on YouTube, I noticed that they prefaced every episode with a mealy-mouthed disclaimer: “This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer’s purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones, to the mysteries we will examine.”

    4. Ah, spontaneous human combustion, whatever happened to that?

      (I think it started in Victorian times, I recall an impressively gruesome description of the death of Krook in Bleak House, the only bit of Dickens’ writing I ever thought was worth reading)

      Actually, I think SHC got explained away by a combination of drinking and smoking (on the part of the victims), smoke asphyxiation (in the ‘locked-room’ cases), and the wick effect.


      1. I trust if aliens were voting things would be better. After all, they traveled light years to get here… obviously they have their shit together compared to us.

  11. I’ve occasionally watched the show. It can be a good laugh in the same way farts are funny.

    They have talked about genes before. There was something interesting about the FOXP2 gene. The clip is only 54 seconds.

    “FOXP2 is a gene that was found in our nucleotides and is it something that sets us completely apart from any other animal… and scientists have suggested that that gene alone is responsible for language, and there is absolutely no evidence of origin or that this thing somehow mutated from the animal kingdom towards us.”

    Therefore aliens must have done it, they created us.

    1. Their research department must have never heard of Wikipedia. “FOXP2 orthologs[5] have also been identified in other mammals for which complete genome data are available.”

  12. “Eminent biologists have referred to our groundbreaking work over the past decade. For example, Professor Emeritus Jerry Coyne, of the University of Chicago, told us that he has looked at the Ancient Aliens site and read some of its online materials.”

        1. Or they’ll quote your letter as proof that “mainstream science” is closed-minded

          No reputable scientist would lend their efforts or name to your endeavor, and neither will I.

    1. 🙂

      On the back cover of the eminent street artist Banksy’s book, ‘Wall and Piece’, is this:

      “There’s no way you’re going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover” –
      Metropolitan Police spokesperson.


  13. I once saw a programme about the Sphinx the basic premise of which, as far as I can recall was that the Sphinx was much older than the other structures in the neighborhood and that this was very ‘mysterious’. The first part seemed credible as an associate prof from one of the more prestigious US universities talked about differential erosion rates and that sort of thing. At this point the ‘reporter’ asked something along the lines of could it have been created by aliens. The “there goes my career” look on the prof’s face was priceless (although probably not to him). Not sure which would be worse, no career or one which would be marked by this being brought up at regular intervals.

    1. I would have loved it if the Prof. could’ve managed a completely deadpan response to the question along the lines of: “there is no evidence of there being Jewish slaves at work on any of these monuments”.

      ‘reporter’: “I mean, aliens from outer space.”

      ‘Prof.’: “The alleged Jewish slaves most certainly were not a space-faring people. At least not back then.” etc., rinse, repeat…

    2. I once saw a programme about some self-taught “Egyptologist” who claimed that Howard Carter had found a concealed back entrance to Tutankhamun’s tomb, and used it to loot all the most valuable treasures from the tomb, before he “officially” discovered the tomb.

      His “evidence” for this was that the tomb contained a chariot whose axle width was greater than the width of the passageway leading to the chamber in which it was found; and his reasoning was:

      1) the chariot could not have been moved through that passageway;

      2) therefore there must exist another entrance to the tomb through which it was moved;

      3) therefore Carter must have found that entrance;

      4) therefore Carter must have used that entrance to loot the tomb.

      My immediate thought was “so the Egyptians took the chariot into the tomb component by component, taking the axle lengthways down the passageway, and assembled it in situ – d’oh!”.

    3. I preferred the documentary about how they found that ring in Egypt with a bunch of constellations on it that let them travel across the galaxy and discover the pyramids were actually docking ports for bigger pyramid ships flown by the gods.

      Wait. That wasn’t a documentary, was it?

  14. [Sarcasm mode: ON]
    Could it be that there are aliens living among us? If so, then they would be careful to conceal the truth, and to deny it should the matter come up.
    Professor Jerry Coyne, a famous evolutionary biologist from the University of Chicago, was recently asked to comment on evidence that aliens live among us, perhaps occupying positions of influence and power. Dr. Coyne vehemently denied that there were aliens, and that any investigation into the possibility was a complete waste of time.
    Could it be that his denial was an effort to cover up the truth about Roswell, and the recent sightings of UFOs over Chicago?? What of the matter that on the day of these sightings over Chicago, Professor Coyne was known to be living in the very same city, transmitting mysterious messages over the internet about cats?

    1. What many people don’t realize is that the movies, “Men in Black” was a DOCUMENTARY- remember that in it, the galaxy was in Orion’s (a cat) bell- that’s GOT to mean something!

  15. How Ancient Aliens keeps going is beyond me.
    I would have thought Chris Whites demolition job (ignoring his own demons)
    would have put paid to the series long ago.
    Jason Colavito has also severely mauled the whole idea and shown how shallow is the “scholarship” behind it.
    Also here is a demonstration of how really thick the production company is stupidly approaching Jerry Coyne like a lamb approaches a hungry tiger not realising the inevitable consequence.
    What on earth did they expect?

  16. Maybe Jesus was an alien! The star over bethlehem was his mothership. Mary was abducted earlier and, after her genitalia were examined, a baby alien was implanted in her womb. How else can you explain all those miracles he did? And after we earthlings crucified him, he was taken back up into the ship. Soon he will return, pissed as hell, leading a battlestar battalion. It all makes sense now.

    1. One of the meanings of alien is “a creature from outer space; extraterrestrial” There can be no doubt — Jesus was an ancient alien.


    Actually, I prefer to breed with 40-year old-ish, divorcee aliens; pole dancing expertise optional.

    As for the “History” channel, it’s been a disgrace for, well, ever. I stopped watching it very soon after I started.

    It’s a wise move to stay away from these guys. Dawkins didn’t fare so well when he got roped in to a dishonest production interview.

    Finally, I am reminded of this scene from Star Trek – the Next Generation when Riker does what Riker does best!

    “No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: A nurse named Lanel agrees to help Riker escape, but only if he’ll make love to her, as she’s always dreamed of having sex with an alien. Riker is reluctant, which would be a lot more convincing if a) it wasn’t Riker (remember “Angel One”?) and b) Lanel wasn’t played by Bebe Neuwirth (two words, both of them “hubba”). Apparently Riker acquiesced, since Lanel does help him (after a discreet cutaway) — for all the good it did him, as he was caught in about six-and-a-half seconds.”

    1. The expression on Riker’s face at the end of this exchange is priceless.

      However, given that when he was admitted to the hospital he was suffering from serious injuries, one would have thought that his libido would have been a bit on the low side.

  18. It’s a shame. The History Channel, A&E (Arts and Entertainment), TLC (The Learning Channel), etc. all had such noble goals when they started. I guess single topic channels don’t have the viewership to sustain them. Even SciFi (or SyFy as it is now) doesn’t have the viewership to support their standard dreck eighteen hours a day. It’s been a rush to the bottom for years now.

    1. “SyFy” has been recently trying hard to salvage what’s left of their reputation, like with their new show The Expanse.

      1. The Expanse is based off a popular book series, so its hard for me to give SyFy much credit for it – these days it seems like any popular book(s) will end up being made into film.

    2. The Onion did this article: Science Channel Refuses to Dumb Down Science Any Further. In it they talk about the show Punkin Chunkin being the Science Channel’s final bid to dumb science down to a level viewers would watch. I laughed and laughed at that article. Then I found out that Punkin Chunkin was a real show on the Science Channel, and not a satirical invention of The Onion. Then it wasn’t funny any more.

      1. Well, if the history channel fails to satisfy you can always turn to the new and improve National Geographic.(or rather don’t)EPCC has already commented on this. It’s a conspiracy! I tell you!

    1. Yes, that is an excellent meme. And since appreciating the meme means you have to appreciate the absurdity of the show, perhaps that is a good sign that the some of the show’s popularity is not from true believers.

  19. Their fallacy here is that they talk about ancient aliens.

    The reality is that there is cross breeding to current aliens. They hide under the misnomer “Republicans”.

  20. “How a reputable “History Channel” can present such nonsense for nine seasons is beyond me.”
    It’s been a very long time since the “History Channel” was reputable.

  21. What a hoot!

    I’d love to read your response if the producer of Animal Planet’s “Finding Bigfoot” (also in its 9th season!) requested something similar. They may ask you when you think the Bigfoot lineage diverged from Homo sapiens. A close genetic relation to Neanderthals perhaps? LOL!

  22. “Could it be that a sophisticated culture existed here on Earth—thousands and even tens of thousands of years earlier than we believe?” [Correct answer: “NO!”]

    Yes: Gobekli Tepe

  23. I was totally into Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods, Bigfoot, Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories, and other “mysteries” after I gave up religion as a kid. I wonder how common this phase is among atheists/skeptics. It seems fairly common to me, at least among the godless I know personally. We also seem to be disproportionately fans of science fiction. I suspect we’re looking for “real” magic, and fantasy once we abandon the idea of raising from the dead, and talking snakes. Once I stopped believing in God, and Santa the world seemed pretty dull.

    1. I *like* science fiction (subject to Sturgeon’s Law, of course).

      It just pisses me off when the marketing executives who masquerade as producers try to pass off watered-down, dumbed-down snippets of sci-fi as possible fact.


  24. Those who are not interested in the real world find it boring. Hence the popularity of shows about aliens and ghosts and such ilk (gods).

  25. Hmmm…my mother, my sister, and I had no idea of our Basque (being rh-) heritage (despite our mostly Scottish/northern European ancestry). I’m going to have to devote much more time watching cable TV. My education is horribly bereft, it seems. 😉

  26. The ‘History’ Channel. But of course, what would you expect?

    And by the way, the name ‘Prometheus’ in anything is a fairly sure indicator of woo.

    (Since the topic of crop circles was specifically mentioned, I hope Prof CC will forgive me repeating my comment of a day or two ago)
    I’m just reading ‘The Field Guide’, one of only two non-wooish books I know on crop circles.
    (The other is ‘Round in Circles’ by Jim Schnabel. There are all too many books that attribute them to all manner of weird phenomena, from ley lines to aliens to strange electromagnetic fields, but never to a couple of middle-aged guys called Doug and Dave 😉

    I love the inventiveness shown by the various circlemakers, many of their designs are elaborate and quite beautiful. (See – Exhibit A – Top of the Crops for many striking examples)

    The interesting point is how attached the ‘investigators’ were to their pet theories. No matter how the ‘circle’ designs transmuted, the ‘investigators’ theories adapted to accommodate them. This was a matter of bemusement to Doug and Dave, who kept trying to think of some new design that the theorists could not account for, in vain. The question became just what would be required for the penny to drop.


    1. Oops! I take back my crack about ‘Prometheus’, I was wildly over-generalising. A reference in a comment above caused me to google Prometheus Books, to which my comment obviously does not apply. (They even got sued by Uri Geller, which is pretty good bona fides).


  27. Gentle comment on your sentence construction, Professor Coyne. By using an ‘and’ between ‘reputable scientists’ and yourself, you have inadvertently excluded yourself from the ‘reputable scientist’ group. We know this not to be true. Probably better to have left it as ‘No reputable scientist would lend their efforts or name to your endeavour’. Would have said it all.

  28. Of course aliens have visited here – they probably want to borrow money. Haven’t you ever seen the Venus of Willendorf? On the front of that ancient statue are two early twentieth-century doorbells, proof that modern technology was somehow known to our stone age predecessors. Now that pot is legal in four states, we can undoubtedly expect more visitations.

  29. I guess the one channel that still offers a steady diet of real science programs (in the US)is PBS. Nova is their premier product but they also offer frequent science specials and short series. Nature is another top notch science series that has been around for decades.

    With that said, one can still occasionally find excellent science series on the cable/satellite channels. NGC did rebroadcasts of the Cosmos series (originally on Fox) in 2014. But that’s gone. The one other channel (I am aware of) that occasionally features real science is The Science Channel. One recent series that occasionally airs is: How the Universe Works. That show features real scientists whose names you recognize doing real science. However, much of what is offered is what I call “filler material.” There is so much of that, though, you might wonder if they actually offer any real science programs.

  30. Should be an interesting series if its ever made – Phantasmagoria is better than fact. …. and who doesn’t want to breed with aliens?

    1. Well of course it’s fake. Did anyone ever imagine that one second of it was genuine?

      It’s ‘reality TV’ ffs! You know, just like a soap but the plot is non-existent and the acting sucks.


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