Ancient Apocalypse? You can’t be Sirius…

In other words: Hancock’s claims now have to be both ‘scientifically provable’… AND also ‘logically plausible’. So without further ado… let’s look at a few of them, shall we?

Right, let me get one thing clear. I don’t entirely begrudge Graham Hancock for indulging in his own private fantasies about the ‘alternative origins’ of human civilization.  Nor do I necessarily blame him for being so openly sceptical about the ‘orthodox’ version of history, either.

Heck, I’d even go as far as to say that this kind of speculation, and scepticism, is not just a perfectly ‘legitimate’ response to the scientific worldview… but, up to a certain extent, it may even be healthy to occasionally raise this kind of doubt; or to advance this sort of hypothesis.

Because let’s face it, folks: our world would be a rather boring place to live, if human beings didn’t occasionally push the boundaries of imagination beyond the narrow confines of ‘scientific orthodoxy’. It would be a world utterly devoid of writers such as Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, HG Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov … and I’ll stop there, because I can literally fill this entire newspaper with the names of classic sci-fi/fantasy authors: none of whom would ever have written anything at all, had they limited themselves only to the realm of the ‘scientifically-possible’.

And while that might sound like I’m dismissing Graham Hancock as ‘just another sci-fi author’… well, that’s because it’s perfectly true (I for one, see little difference between Hancock’s theories, and the basic plot of novels such as Rice Burrough’s ‘Tarzan and the Lost Empire’). But then again: what’s so ‘dismissive’ about comparing pseudoscientists like Graham Hancock, to authors like Verne, or Wells… whose work has inspired untold millions of readers – myself included – for well over a century?

No, indeed. To me, there is something admirable about a work of fiction that encourages people to ‘think the unthinkable’, and ‘imagine the unimaginable’. Such world-views are, in fact, part of the ‘mythology’ of our time. And as someone who was brought up on Classical Mythology, in all its myriad manifestations: who am I, to criticize a pseudoscientist for trying to create a whole new one of his own?

But… well, there are a couple of basic problems, with applying this approach to Graham Hancock’s ‘Ancient Apocalypse’ series. One is that – tragically – Hancock himself passed up the opportunity of a lifetime, to write the ‘sci-fi novel to end all sci-fi novels’. Rather than present his spectacular theories as ‘fantasy’ – in which case, he would have probably won the Hugo & Nebula award (and we’d have to add his name to the above list) – he chose to masquerade the hypothesis as ‘fact’.

And… well, that’s where the problems all start (and end too, as far as I’m concerned). Not just because Hancock’s theories now have to stand up to the same sort of rigorous scientific scrutiny, that we apply to all other (conventional) scientific proposals… but also because his ‘Lost Civilisation’ idea is no longer ‘protected’ (as it would have been, in fantasy-form) by the all-important proviso of ‘suspension of disbelief’.

In other words: Hancock’s claims now have to be both ‘scientifically provable’… AND also ‘logically plausible’. So without further ado… let’s look at a few of them, shall we?

Starting with the basic premise, with which ‘Ancient Apocalypse’ actually opens. In Episode One, Hancock outlines his belief that:

a) Archaeologists are all lying to us (for what motive, exactly, he never quite explains) about the true chronology of early human civilization;

b) the human societies that are credited, by modern archaeology, with having developed agriculture (and later complex megalithism, such as we see at Ggantija Temples) were too ‘simple’ – in his own words – to have conceived of such innovations themselves… so…

c) therefore, they could only have been taught how to farm, and build, by… um… an even earlier civilization…

Hmmm. See what I mean?  There would be absolutely nothing at all wrong with that, as the basic plot of a sci-fi novel. Yes, yes: we’d all instantly recognize that there is a major – but MAJOR – logical fallacy, embedded somewhere in it; but it’s precisely the sort of thing that we’d all be happy to overlook, in the pursuit of ‘escapist entertainment’.

But… as the premise for a ‘serious’ scientific hypothesis, about the origins of human civilization? I mean, come on! It’s bollocks… and even a small child would be able to instantly see why (without the need for any ‘Lost Civilisation’ to explain it to them).

Let’s stick with the example of Ggantija temples, for now. If the Neolithic farmers who inhabited these islands some 6,000 years ago, were so very primitive, and backwards, that Hancock finds it ‘inconceivable’ that they should have ever learnt how to farm, or build complex stone-structures – without the benefit of an ‘earlier civilisation’ to actually teach them…

Then… well, how did that ‘earlier civilization’ originally learn those same techniques, itself?

Now: as far as I can make out, there are only two possible answers to that question (not counting, of course, such instant explanations as… ‘Aliens!’). One is that they could only have been taught by an ‘even earlier civilization’: which, in turn, could only have learnt those things from other, even earlier civilization that existed before it… and, well, on it goes: ad infinitum, all the way back to the dinosaurs (and beyond)….

The second answer, of course, is that this ‘earlier civilisation’ must have somehow possessed all the human intelligence, and cognitive facutlies, that are required to develop such skills as agriculture, and architecture… all on its own. In other words: WITHOUT the need for any instruction from an earlier civilization (or from anybody else, for that matter).

Do I need to go on? If at least one human culture, at any point in human prehistory, was - by Hancock’s own argument – perfectly capable of achieving that level of cultural sophistication, alone and unaided… then why the bleeding hell is it so utterly ‘inconceivable’, that another human civilization would be capable of doing EXACTLY the same thing, at a later stage in history?

But that’s just the start. Another problem is that Hancock’s premise rests on the assumption that the ‘hunter-gatherers’ - who led a largely nomadic existence in Europe, throughout the last Ice Age - were, in fact, the ‘primitive, backward simpletons’ that they were believed to be, until the early 20th century.

In a nutshell, Hancock simply disregards all the archaeological discoveries, made since around the 1920s (and in particular, from the 1970s onwards) that have totally revised our perception of Paleolithic people, from top to bottom.  Not only were these ‘simpletons’ capable of constructing large, complex megalithic structures such as Gobekli Tepe, in present-day Turkey… but in places like Jericho, they were already living in cities, as long ago as 9,000BC!

None of this, by the way, has exactly been ‘hidden’, or ‘covered up’, by archaeologists (who, as a rule, are only too happy to inform the public of their own discoveries: whether the public actually wants to hear of them, or not).

But then, along comes Graham Hancock, who casually informs us all that (to continue the hypothesis):

‘Agriculture’ itself can only be explained by the ‘earlier civilization’ hypothesis, because it ‘appears too suddenly’ in the archaeological record… as though there was no trace of any farming activity at all, anywhere in the world, before the sudden appearance of complex agrarian civilisations like Sumer, or Ancient Egypt, around 6,000 years ago…

Again, however: this is simply untrue. The earliest known indications of agriculture (that we know about, anyway) can be traced to a people we today call the Natufians: who lived (and farmed) in the Near East… a staggering 14,400 years ago! (I.e., well before the end of the last Ice Age, that supposedly ‘wiped out Atlantis’…)

And these facts alone (to which many more could be added) are already enough to ‘sink’ the whole Atlantis hypothesis, once and for all. For what need is there to even conjure up ‘Lost Cities’, and ‘Forgotten Empires’… as an explanation for a phenomenon that is already perfectly explainable, as it is? When we already know of real cultures - that actually existed - which somehow managed to work out all those ‘mysterious technologies’, all on their own… and also, leave an entire archeological ‘footprint’, to tell us exactly how they did it?

This brings me to the last logical fallacy I’ll be discussing today (Note: depending on feedback, I might write a follow-up article). It would appear that this ‘Lost Civilisation’ was so pervasive in its global dominion, that it was somehow capable of ‘enlightening’ peoples who lived as far afield as: Malta; Indonesia; Meso-America; the Fertile Crescent; the Caribbean, and-  last but not least – Antartica (during the last Ice Age, no less... when that continent was around 10 degrees colder, than it is today.)

All of which, I suppose, would make Hancock’s ‘Lost Civilisation’ the single largest, most technologically advanced, and most culturally influential superpower, this planet has ever seen: leaving the Romans, the Ottomans, the British, and even today’s United States of America, far, far behind.

And yet, somehow, this superior civilization managed to do all of the above… without leaving a single trace to show that it ever existed at all. Not an archaeological site; not a single tool, or artefact of any kind; no evidence of a written (or spoken, for that matter) language… and – most implausible of all – no trace of genetic descent, in any of the peoples who still inhabit the world today.

I don’t know. Even as a lifelong aficionado of all things ‘sci-fi/fantasy’… I’d say that’s stretching incredulity levels just slightly too far.