One of the benefits of writing so far in advance is that when you have a sleep you can alter the post before it goes up. The new Graham Hancock book was a bit of a bother when I wrote this yesterday (June 24) but today I think it could be amusing. I found this while working on a new toy, which launches tomorrow, when I looked up some common alternative authors.
It seems Graham Hancock has a new book out for the Christmas trade. Here’s the synopsis:
“Supernatural: of or relating to things that cannot be explained according to natural laws.” Less than 50,000 years ago mankind had no art, no religion, no sophisticated symbolism, no innovative thinking. Then, in a dramatic and electrifying change, described by scientists as “the greatest riddle in human history”, all the skills and qualities that we value most highly in ourselves appeared already fully formed, as though bestowed on us by hidden powers. In Supernatural Graham Hancock sets out to investigate this mysterious “before-and-after moment” and to discover the truth about the influences that gave birth to the modern human mind. His quest takes him on a journey of adventure and detection from the stunningly beautiful painted caves of prehistoric France, Spain and Italy to remote rock shelters in the mountains of South Africa where he finds a treasure trove of extraordinary Stone Age art. He uncovers clues that lead him to travel to the depths of the Amazon rainforest to drink the powerful plant hallucinogen Ayahuasca with Indian shamans, whose paintings contain images of “supernatural beings” identical to the animal-human hybrids depicted in prehistoric caves and rock shelters. And hallucinogens such as mescaline, also produce visionary encounters with exactly the same beings. Scientists at the cutting edge of consciousness research have begun to consider the possibility that such hallucinations may be real perceptions of other “dimensions”. Could the “supernaturals” first depicted in the painted caves and rock shelters be the ancient teachers of mankind? Could it be that human evolution is not just the “blind”, “meaningless” process that Darwin identified, but something else, more purposive and Intelligent, that we have barely even begun to understand?
That’s not my capital I in intelligent. I wonder if he’s surveyed the market and worked out where the spare cash is. Intelligent Design advocates have complained that they’re not taken seriously. Supernatural could be what they’re wishing for.
Intelligent Design is weak. It’s main line of attack is to try and take down Darwinism. This isn’t actually evidence for ID. Nevertheless ID seems to think that it will gain public acceptance as the only viable alternative. They also claim that ID says nothing about the nature of the designer, but it’s clear from their own documentation that they expect people to make the leap from Designer to God themselves because there’s no viable alternative. Say what you like about Hancock, he can write and he’s a master of propping up a story on hearsay. Now he seems to have a tale of multiple, non-theistic designers. I think he’s perfectly capable of philosophically mugging the Intelligent Design movement.
There’s an excellent paper “Why Creationists Don’t Go to Psychic Fairs” by John H. Taylor, Raymond A. Eve and Francis B. Harrold in Kendrick Frazier’s book Encounters with the Paranormal. It shows that the credulity and tolerance of ideas that exists in the New Age culture is anathema to the intolerance of the fundamentalists. The last thing a Southern Baptist preacher will want to say is “Some people believe in the Christian God, but you never know you might want to sling a few prayers Rama’s way too.” So far by trying to open up science to their ‘alternative’ the Creationist lobby have been beating the scientists with a New Age snake. I think Graham Hancock might be about to demonstrate why that is so dangerous. Can a Christian movement really promote a theory which seriously suggests that God was one of many beings that you can contact with powerful drugs and pagan rituals?
It’s not going to be any problem for archaeology any more than his other yarns were. So long as he skips the ‘reliable evidence’ thing I think there’s nothing to worry about, at least in an academic sense. I doubt the misinformation problems will be any worse than usual either. Only if your position isn’t based on reliable evidence would this be explosive.
Of course I should add that if Hancock has found actual evidence of trans-dimensional super-beings steering humanity then I’ll welcome his book. The Sign and the Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, Keeper of Genesis, Heaven’s Mirror and Underworld were all simplistic and hamfisted romps through antiquity. I’m a scientist, I’m supposed to be able to spot patterns. I think one is suggesting itself here.