Be careful what you wish for: Here comes Graham Hancock

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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.