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!
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.)
Hidden signs of ancient alien astronauts!
Ancient archeology evinces visiting aliens!
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.Yours,
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?