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The Guardians of Dogma: Part 4 – Defenders of the New Religion
"It seems to me that existence -- at this point I have doubts about 'the' 'universe' -- is a lot like a Rorschach ink-blot. Everybody looks at it and sees their own favorite reality." -- Author Robert Anton Wilson from his 1991 book, The New Inquisition. (Scottsdale, AZ: New Falcon Publications).
Wilson goes on to state, "...their [science] dogmatic reliance upon already established ideas when judging new work." Among the targets of his examination is the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, CSICOP. He claims that they don't give a fair hearing to anyone they don't already agree with. He also feels that the reliance on the military-industrial complex for funding maintains the status quo. Wilson asserts that, instead of this dogmatic attitude, scientists should employ skepticism, or a sort of agnostic principle, when confronted with new ideas. Is Wilson correct in his charges? We'll examine the methods of the new inquisitors.
The "Priests" fire back.
In his piece, The Return of Ancient Astronauts; Zecharia Sitchin rekindles an old pseudoscience; Eric Wojciehowski (who I was unable to find anything on his credentials on the internet - which I must emphasize, means absolutely NOTHING one way or another) takes aim at the work of Zecharia Sitchin. While not a fan of Sitchin, I found nothing less that the same type of "here is my opinion and it is fact" that can be found in Sitchin's work.
Attempting to look at both the work of Sitchin and the response of Wojciehowski to Sitchin's efforts as objectively as possible, I can honestly say it is a "push;" both to me are unconvincing. Wojciehowski concludes his piece on Sitchin's work by stating:
"Although Zecharia Sitchin is an educated man in a different category from most authors promoting the Ancient Astronaut theory, he still employs the same faulty logic as the rest. Sitchin's work delves into astronomy, archaeology, anthropology, ancient history, geology, genetics, biology, mythology, linguistics and more. I have chosen to deal particularly with Sitchin's use of legend and myth and other texts because he quotes them extensively as "proofs" of his thesis.
The elements I have examined, specifically the lack of physical evidence to support Sitchin's claims, demonstrate the pseudoscientific nature of his work."
Wojciehowski seems to rely heavily on the time worn retorts of the mainstream academician, "show me the physical proof."
However, as we have seen earlier in this article, even when physical proof is presented — undeniable physical proof — it is either ignored or buried. Categorize this one under fighting fire with fire.
I shall move on to the biggest festering sore in the battle between the "ins and the "outs," the "clergy" and the "laity," the "scientists" and the "pseudo -scientists," the battle over the age of the Sphinx.
As might be expected there were a number of articles posted, and having read through them all, for the most part, all were well-reasoned arguments - some more convincing than others, opposing the idea put forward by John Anthony West and Dr. Robert Schoch that the traditional dating of the Sphinx is incorrect and that she is much, much older that believed by the mainstream.
I felt that each piece was well-written, and while refuting the reasoning of Schoch, I felt that they did so in a highly professional and respectful manner. That is, until we move on to a piece written by Dr. Mark Lehner. If you subscribe to the notion that science can be called the Church of Progress, then Dr. Lehner is certainly one of its Cardinals, by his own admission. "Dr. Mark Lehner is an archaeologist who teaches Egyptology at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. For the past twenty years, he has focused his field work on the Giza Plateau, where he has conducted surveys and excavations. He is regarded as one of the leading authorities on that site and its unique monument, the Great Sphinx."
Lehner writes of Schoch's work:
"CONCLUSION: By now it is clear that the West-Schoch hypothesis and its opposition is not a dispute between geology and Egyptology, as was trumpeted in the press a couple of years ago. If Professor Schoch wants to carry his argument forward, it is incumbent on him to show some evidence that he is comparing the same layers. It is not enough to say, "Harrell questions my stratigraphic correlations and analysis, suggesting that maybe I am comparing more resistant limestone layers to less resistant ones. I reject this argument and stand by my correlations and comparisons.
If West and Schoch want to re-date the Sphinx to older than Neolithic times, and build upon this dating the existence of an advanced culture that flourished and disappeared before Egypt's Predynastic Period, then they should understand why Egyptologists might want a little better documentation of the stratigraphic correlations, upon which they rest their case.
Professor Schoch obviously does not take our word about the Sphinx and Egyptian history simply because we are Egyptologists. He should not expect us to take his interpretations and correlations for true simply because he is a geologist and stratigrapher." (Emphasis his)
Interestingly one word is almost conspicuous by its absence - in most all the pieces I read and is nowhere to be found at the website's title page, amid its "statement of purpose" and that word is "Science."
This may well be because archeology in general and Egyptology is, according to John Anthony West, not a science.
According to John West, Archeology, and in particular Egyptology is actually not a science at all. "... and these guys are not trained scientists; the field is wholely interpretational, and they don't even know what science is supposed to be. The definition of science in the modern concept is that it has three parts, it has to be measurable, repeatable and it has to be predictable.
So, that leaves out archeology altogether." While it does adhere to the first tenant of science, "to be measurable," because it does adhere to a certain rules regarding the process of digging and such, West says it is an exacting methodology, "but then so Astrology." Sadly, west says that the "interpretation" involved in archeology, far too rapidly translates into "dogma."
West says that one of the basics rules of modern archeology is that if you cannot readily explain it, ignore it.
"All these "experts" with letters after their names, those who make their living on being right, can't handle something new. Something that will destroy their egos, destroy their souls."
One such "expert" that is particularly high on West's "least liked" list is Garret Fagan, assistant professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and History at Penn State University.
In my conversation with West, Fagan's name was mentioned several times and not in a favorable light. When I visited the Halls of Ma'at site I felt compelled to check this fellow out for myself.
Fagan is, as I mentioned above, an associate professor of Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and History at Penn State, he has one book (two if you were to include co-authorship) - Bathing in Public in the Roman World. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999. Paperback edition (with corrections), March 2002. It would appear to me, from reading several of his postings at that site that he has, either of his own volition or by some un-spoken appointment, taken up the task of defending the "faith." What is particularly unsettling is that he does so with a viciousness that, to me the reader, is highly uncomfortable. He has taken the path of character destruction. He critiques are loaded with barbs, rather than scientific fact. When he criticizes a particular theory or approach, he does so not by providing an alternate and proven view; rather he implies such evidence.
Recently, he reviewed Robert Schoch's new book, Voyages of the Pyramid Builders. All right; it is one thing not to like a particular work, or not to agree with the premise it puts forth, but to write,
"Anyone is welcome to formulate any opinion they want about the past. But it is quite a different matter to expect others to accept it when it is based on as flimsy, shoddy and willfully ignorant an analysis as is offered in this book. Lest there be any doubt: the subtitle of the book is "The TRUE Origins of the Pyramids …" it makes a claim to be an accurate and true account of the past. As such, it marks the end of Prof. Schoch's credibility as a serious scientist."
"With this chapter, we enter a favorite shopping mall of the pseudo archaeologist: myth and religion. The world's legends and religious traditions are as varied and colorful as humankind's unbounded imagination, so they offer rich pickings for the pseudo archaeologist.."
"However, I am neither qualified nor inclined to counter all the claims of similarity made in this chapter, as that would require dozens of pages. But it is worth noting, once more, how major and significant differences are glossed over, even in the foundational claim about mythic mountains underlying pyramid building."
"In the final analysis, what makes Prof. Schoch's book so utterly useless is that, like its predecessors, it asks and answers no significant question about the past. People can be wrong and people can be misguided, but there is no excuse for a professional scientist knowingly to ignore enormous amounts of data in the service of a silly, unoriginal and pointless speculation. Far from representing science, as Prof. Schoch claims it does (p. 6), this book makes a mockery of it."
Perhaps the most incredulous statement of all, given above is this; Fagan states, "I say this without any animosity toward Prof. Schoch, whom I do not know personally, but as a bald statement of fact."
Now what strikes me as interesting is that Fagan reminds me of a classic stereotype of a young "ass-kisser" who desires to be a part of the "inner circle", the young and upwardly mobile account rep, stockbroker, lawyer, or perhaps in this case, cleric of this new "religion." (You can take your pick) He feels to gain the favor of the "bishop" type - the big names in academia, he is becomes their knight, their warrior hell bent on bringing the banner forward.
Astride his steed, sword or pen (your choice of metaphor) held high, he is swooping down on the heretics. Also, let me point out, historically, his type are very, very expendable. Often they are too obsessed with their goal to see this, or perhaps they choose not to see.
As with the "real world" of corporate ladder climbing, to the "church hierarchy," the idea may well be, "Let Fagan do the ‘character assassination' and the refuting. If it is effective, that's great! Then, we accomplish our goal of protecting mother church. However, if these new ideas take root and solid evidence is presented, causing us to revise our view to hold our position, then we need someone to throw to the wolves, someone whom we can accuse of being a character assassin and about whose methods we can disavow having any fore-knowledge of. We can further say that we were shocked as to the level of his un-professionalism -- and can disassociate ourselves from him." In effect, Fagan will always be their potential patsy, the guy who can take the fall. Is this speculation? Absolutely, but the signs are there and the patterns are the same. Now let me also say, - I say this without any animosity toward Garrett G. Fagan, whom I do not know personally, but as a bald statement of fact. Wait; it seems that I have read that somewhere before.
In addition, John West was perhaps even less kind that I in his "read" of Fagan, I direct you to his website and in particular this page; http://jawest .net/hall_of_maat.htm for West's take on Professor Fagan.
If Fagan, Lehnerand others in that have seemed to have taken on the role as defenders of the word, guardians of dogma, as the inquisitors for the Church of Science, what of the church itself.
We'll open the doors and step inside the sanctuary of science, next time.