Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Christ Conspiracy: Evidence of an Ancient Global Civilization (pt 1)

Chapter 24 is maybe the crowning achievement of delusional thinking in The Christ Conspiracy. To some extent, it will be excluded from the second edition though, so there is apparently hope. (However, she apparently intends to publish a separate book that develops these hypotheses further.) This will be a thorough review of the chapter, leaving nearly no stone unturned. Because of the scope of such a review, it will be split into several posts.

The chapter starts out with a quote that should be pretty obviously wrong to any reader of sound mind:
Civilizations have been born and completed and then forgotten again and again. There is nothing new under the sun. What is, has been. All that we learn and discover has existed before; our inventions and discoveries are but reinventions, rediscoveries. 
Col. James Churchward [1, p 391]
James Churchward - whose books are referenced a dozen times in The Christ Conspiracy - was an occultist. He is mainly known for popularizing the fabled 'lost continent' of Mu - using no evidence that would pass scientific muster whatsoever, he wrote a whole bunch of books about it making all kinds of outlandish claims about its supposed (magical) inhabitants - the Naacals - and whatnot. An utter nutter, in other words. Churchward wrote his books around the onset of the 20th century, and was convinced that the ancients had even more advanced technology and science than his contemporary civilization. (By the time the above quote was published, quantum mechanics already had been developed to some extent. In other words, Churchward must have believed the Naacals had quantum mechanics or something even more impressive, if you want an idea of what scientific understanding had been attained when Churchward wrote this.)  
As has been seen, it is virtually impossible to determine which nation is the progenitor of western culture and, therefore, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and we are left to ponder the idea of another source, such as the Pygmies, who claim to have been a global culture many thousands of years ago.[1, p. 391]
This is a weird line of reasoning. If it is impossible to determine a single progenitor, maybe it is because several cultures have contributed? Maybe it is because some of the contributing cultures - northern and eastern European paganism, for instance - are not known in sufficient detail? Further, what questions are she even trying to answer here? What parts of western culture does she try to account for by finding a progenitor-culture? Why the pygmies, and which particular pygmies at that? Several groups that go under that designation exist, and many seem not to have any close genetic links - in fact, some Asian pygmies seem to have genetical components from the extinct Denisovan species of human, which places their divergence fairly early (20000 years ago at the very least). Further, those African pygmy groups that are related seem to have some very old divergences - they probably split dozens of millennia ago. The question she asks seems to be a loaded question with little actual use except to lead into cloudcuckoolander-worthy speculations.
The fact that the standardized mythos and ritual are found in detail around the world begs the explanation of at least one such global civilization long ago destroyed by cataclysms but preserved in both story and stone.[1, p 391]
The attempts to show that such a 'standardized mythos and ritual' are 'found in detail' around the world rely on sources that Murdock did not even read first-hand. A much closer evaluation of the sources is called for - and such an evaluation is almost certain to demonstrate a significant amount of problems in the sources. I will provide a few such examples below.
Indeed, attempts to trace this commonality to India and/or Egypt do not suffice to explain how the same tales and rites came to be known and practiced in Mexico and in such remote places as Polynesia.[1, p. 391]
In a previous chapter that I have not reviewed yet, Murdock tries determining whether European culture (and the Jewish and Christian religions) are ultimately Egyptian or Indian. The similarities to Polynesian culture are described later in the chapter, and turn out to be pretty weak.
Nor do they explain the enormous archaeological remains found around the globe, which serve as mysterious and inescapable reminders that at some ancient time so-called primitive men were able to do what, according to evolutionary and creationist theories alike, they were not supposed to be able to do.[1, p. 391]
This is a fascinating example of Murdock rejecting evolutionary science without making sure to know exactly what it says first. Evolutionary scientists place the main significant biological changes - i.e. the transition to 'modern humans' at several tens of thousand years ago. (If memory serves, anatomically modern humans appeared >150 000 years ago, whereas behavioral modernity varies; if we go by when language appeared, guesses vary from 100 000 to 50 000 years ago. As for the appearance of more general behavioral modernity (as opposed to just the appearance of language), a quick survey of unscholarly sources (wikipedia and the like) suggests a span of hypotheses ranging from before anatomical modernity to as recently as 40 000 years ago. Nevertheless, all of these predate the building of the pyramids by more than 30 000 years. Anyways, all these evolutionary theories agree: essentially, humans were supposed to be able to do exactly that which Murdock claims they could not. Murdock here engages in a fallacy known as strawmanning (with regards to evolutionary theory). Her fallacy is further propped up by a weird fallacy where she has to assume something along these lines: evolutionary theory* is wrong, because archaeologists are wrong, without ever establishing the latter claim. Thus far, she has demonstrated neither.
Such similarities between cultures around the planet can be found in religion and mythology, customs, rituals and symbols, language, astrological and astronomical knowledge, and archaeological/architectural remains. In investigating such cultural commonality, it would reasonable to conclude that our current global civilization is not the first. The further we delve back in time, naturally, the more difficult it is to discover solid ground and the more speculative is the discussion.[1, p. 391]
The last sentence here is a good point, and one you would hope Murdock herself would have understood to appreciate. She doesn't. Alas, the previous sentence is pure delusion and shows just how she disregards what she is about to say about the difficulty of finding solid ground.

* I do not get the impression that Murdock believes evolution not to be a fact, she rather seems to believe that our current understanding of when (and possibly how) mankind has evolved is significantly flawed.

[1] The Christ Conspiracy, D.M. Murdock, Adventures Unlimited, 1999

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