“Considering the source” (Ancient aliens)


One of the points emphasized by ancient astronaut proponents is that cultures which had no knowledge of each other produced similar structures. This supposedly suggests a common source provided the technology and ingenuity to make wonders such as the step pyramids in Mexico, Egypt, Indonesia, and Iran.  

Ken Ham employs similar logic with dragons, pointing out there are similar tales, descriptions, and artwork of such creatures in different civilizations and times. He uses this to bolster support for his belief in flying, fire-breathing beasts. Blogger Nicole Canfield does the same with fairies, positing that stories of diminutive playful humanoids in disparate cultures attests to the creatures’ existence.

There’s actually quite a bit of difference in how fairies have been depicted in various cultures and periods. Some of the earliest fairies appeared in Roman myths, where they were female personifications of destiny. They exemplified wisdom and power, so were portrayed as being matronly or even ancient and were bedecked in standard fashion for senior women of the time. By the Middle Ages, fairies had gotten hold of Dr. Oz’s anti-aging cream and were usually thought of as resembling little girls in virginal white. Accoutrements like pointy hats, wings, and flower petal necklaces were creations of the Victorian Era. These instances of sprite evolution likely rile Ken Ham, so we’ll let him and Canfield bicker over the legitimacy of that occurrence; meanwhile we’ll focus on whether step pyramids that resemble each other indicate a common, extraterrestrial origin.

The key question is whether the similar features of the pyramids were necessary for function. If peripheral elements of the pyramids are identical, that likely would suggest that those constructing them were drawing from the same source. If those peripheral elements are different, the pyramids were likely independent inventions of each culture.  

Unfortunately for ancient alien aficionados, the step pyramids’ lone similarity is design. They are built in a logical way, with the larger, heavier steps supporting the weight of the smaller, lighter ones, which also allow the structure to be ascended.

Other than that, the structures differ. The number of steps, the height, the design at the top, and what they were used for all varied by civilization. That which was necessary for function is the same everywhere, but the aesthetics, cultural, and artistic underpinnings differ.

Steven Novella noted that many cultures have come up with similar living residences (“quadrangular structures with walls at 90 degree angles,” is how he put it). Yet there are no History Channel episodes suggesting aliens were constructing these homes in between finishing off the Moai and commencing with Macau Picchu.

Additionally, archeologists have studied and understand the evolution of pyramid design and construction. They started out as bench-like burial mounds for pharaohs and ended up as the massive structures that today are synonymous with ancient Egypt.

Since there’s no reason to believe ancient Egyptians, Persians, Mesoamericans, and Indonesians were drawing from the same source, the alien angle is even less relevant. And even if we had a reason to suspect homogony, we could stay Earthbound.

There is an Incan city wall that alien proponents consider to be beyond the abilities of primitive craftsmen. They maintain the Incans lacked the technology to shape huge stones to such precise degrees that a piece of paper cannot fit between them. However, retired architect John McCauley demonstrated how all one would need would be boards, ropes, sticks, stakes, bronze pounders, and flint scrapers. The tools were rudimentary, but the ingenuity was irreproachable, and the dedication unrivaled – this was a multi-year project.

There’s enough awesomeness in our universe that there’s no reason to fabricate any. It is, for instance, fascinating that there were a people without electricity, power tools, or motorized transport, and who were limited to indigenous resources, who still constructed grand structures that stand millennium later. But these civilizations also dreamt up terrible ideas that are long forgotten, and that is why the ancient alien notion is an instance of survivorship bias. This is when one focuses on the greatest successes of a group, idea, or object and consequently ascribes inflated abilities to it. Ancient alien believers consider the architecture far beyond the means of a primitive people, yet they never see the trial and error that led to the great successes.

Steve Jobs is an inspiring tale of a college dropout who started in his parents’ garage and built one of the world’s largest private employers. Yet we see only him, not the untold masses who attempted a similar journey and never made it out of the garage. While confidence, vision, and ambition are important, they are no guarantee of success or even adequacy.

During World War II, the Navy was trying to make its planes less susceptible to being shot down. Plans were developed to add armor to the plane parts that showed the most damage upon return from battle. But ruminating statistician Abraham Wald noted this approach only considered craft that had survived their mission. They had been hit in places they could be struck and still return safely. Therefore, the armor should be added to places not showing damage – places which aircraft that had not returned had likely been hit.

Alien enthusiasts see the pyramids, Moai, or Tholos of Delphi, and consider them evidence of extreme outsourcing done by advanced visitors. They never see the structures that were razed because of their impracticality, poor craftsmanship, or inability to weather attacks from a Ken Ham dragon.

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