science, conspiracy or psychology
To all the wonderful independent and academic researchers, intent on discovering the true origins of humanity, excuse me for butting in.
As a writer and philosopher with a special interest in psychology, I have been following your progress with fascination, but there are some aspects I would like to draw your attention to.
In the field of psychology, we are dealing with a similar situation as the one you are in, namely that there is a community of independents with a massive amount of research and evidence to support a different perspective than that which the academic establishment upholds, and we are running into a similar wall of resistance.
Although I am sure you’re not interested in the psychology itself, I would like to briefly discuss how different people approach archaeology, investigation and new ideas, because that can help in understanding where we stumble over assumptions and dogma, or end up in endless arguments, animosities or dominance from one discipline over another.
First things first: psychology is non-judgmental. It acknowledges the natural differences in people and considers no one personality or no one person’s interests as better or worse than those of others; they are simply different and that is a good thing.
I have two personal premises, which I uphold when assessing or creating a theory:
- That people are not all identical (psychologically) and therefore that we cannot all agree, notice or believe the same things, and consequently, that these psychological differences need to be taken into consideration in research and theory, because they colour what people accept, and people in the same discipline tend to have a similar psychology.
- That every theory needs to be internally consistent, comprehensive (it needs to show that what is proposed is both necessary and sufficient to explain what is observed), supported by complementary theories in other disciplines, and supported by empirical evidence. In any case, empirical evidence has to have a theory to be evidence for; just observing something, even repeatedly, is not sufficient for explaining things.
As it is becoming more and more clear that another intelligent humanoid species inhabited the Earth before the end of the last ice age, and that most of the stories we had so far considered myth, rest on facts, the academic and general public is forced to change its mind about where we came from. Some do that easier than others.
There is a growing community of independents studying archaeology and human origins, who are gathering information, usually paying out of their own pockets and spending many hours creating podcasts and doing research, because it is their passion and without any doubt, they are doing their research with the greatest possible care. Yet, the academic establishment upholds the traditional view, which is what we all learned when growing up, that the Egyptians (or the Mayans and Aztecs) built the enormous structures found around the world and that this was done to bury their kings and worship their gods. The independents hold the view that these structures are way older than that and that one of the main interests of the builders was astronomy, while their demise came with a global catastrophe that happened at the end of the ice age. Mostly, their views are dismissed, officials do not want to cooperate, and evidence has disappeared in several cases.
If it were only that easy…
Of course, it seems like a conspiracy, because those in power all dismiss the independent thinker, and, as an ignored independent myself, I totally understand the anger some of you express – some more than others – but it goes both ways, because the Egyptologists also feel anger.
Yet most of that anger is a result of misunderstanding each other’s motives.
And I am not denying that some governments deliberately withhold information (or destroy it), especially where they take advice from those who by their very nature are not intellectuals, but military servants whose objective is protecting the status quo.
And yes, there is no doubt some political motive, because those countries, like Egypt, base their identity (and often their income from tourists) on their heritage, and here come some people who try to declare that identity worthless (in their eyes).
Countries, like people, have identities and they will do whatever it takes to protect that, because without, they cannot exist. In people, wilful ignorance is not possible for psychological reasons, but institutions can deliberately keep things from their members, although, as we know, with You Tube and the internet, this has become a lot more difficult.
But we need to remember that the intellectual community – that is academics and independents alike – are here to try and understand our origins. Their conflict is psychological.
Independents bring information together across disciplines; they provide the connections the academic specializations cannot. Independents, by their very nature, tend to the multidisciplinary view, because it allows them to speculating possibilities, seeing connections and gathering information from many places and they tend to feel confined in academia. Academics, in this day and age certainly, tend to be specialists, some because their nature directs them that way, others because the institution gives them no choice. So, we’re talking different types of people, with different natural talents; specialists dig deep, independents look wide, but we need all of them.
Independents share their knowledge via podcasts and the internet, and so, naturally, involve all the people with an interest, regardless of their location or education. Consequently, they have to take each contribution at its own merit and decide whether it makes sense.
Where academics share knowledge, they do so in peer reviews, and the rest of the population is excluded (at least from commenting), which makes theirs a small and elite community, usually made up of people with a similar background, education and a similar personality, and hence, they are likely to come at an idea from the same basic assumptions, those that are prevalent in their field at that time. If that basic assumption turns out to have been wrong, whole edifices of knowledge can come crashing down. Obviously, if somebody has their career built on that view, they are going to resist that.
And that is why somebody from another discipline can sometimes see something they all missed, which seems to be the case in archaeology, where geological evidence was not noticed because archaeologists have no training in that field; they were not specialists. But don’t forget that every field has such situations; geology, physics, astronomy, biology, you name it; they have all had a “paradigm shift”.
And what would you feel or do, after all, if a wave of outsiders invaded your topic and started pointing out how wrong you were? Just like independents feel angered when ignored, so those in the field feel anger when their self-worth is attacked. Just like countries, we are talking about a person’s identity, and often their existential beliefs; beliefs one bases their life, livelihood or self-esteem on, and nobody gives up their existential beliefs, no matter what the arguments, the logic, the reasoning or the evidence. This, of course, is an unconscious process.
However, today’s Egyptologists may also choose to ignore the independents, because they have to navigate through the avalanche of new information into their field and distinguish between serious independents and those who shout conspiracy or the end of the world, or are simply repeating what they hear for reasons of popularity. Is it a wonder that the people who so far relied on credentials and peer reviews, do not know where to start? They don’t know who to believe, so they stick with what they know.
You could ask why some people do that and others not. That is where the psychology comes in, the details of which go beyond the scope of this post, but can be found in my books and on my psychology blog, but the gist of it is that different people use their information filters differently, which leads some to sticking with tradition and others to venture to new places, which leads some to rely on material evidence and others on possibilities, which leads some to understand people and gravitate to the humanities and others to prefer hard data and the exact sciences. New ideas, new information, spreads one person at the time, usually between like types, so that, depending on the topic, new ideas start in different fields and take a long time to reach everybody. This is a good thing or else we’d live in perpetual chaos.
But these differences also influence whether somebody is more likely to accept the word of an authority or the idea they encounter, and it influences how people go about doing their investigations and what kind of methods they use. More importantly, it influences whether somebody feels that their project is something that stands outside of them (object) and for which they gladly accept critique, because the goal is to make this impartial object better, or that they consider their projects a part of their self, and therefore, when somebody critiques their work, they feel it as a personal attack. And I am sure that every one of you has some experience with somebody of the opposite type, if not at work than certainly at home. “Don’t take it personally” will not help, because it is personal to this type and these type differences are inborn.
Having a completely different mindset, therefore, those who gravitate toward the soft sciences automatically and instinctively, include the people aspect, the understanding of human motivations and that they can be many. This helps them in the soft sciences, where truth is not as important as understanding; they do not need truth tables to know if somebody is sincere; they feel it. Likewise, the exact scientists instinctively search for a truth and therefore eliminate and deduce until one answer is left, which of course, is very important in the hard sciences – you wouldn’t want me coming in and generalize the calculations for space flight, after all – but it can turn into a disaster elsewhere, as we have seen when the rules of the hard sciences came to impose on psychology.
In short, there are different ways of doing research and different fields require different methods; the approach used in the hard sciences will bring no or very weak results in the humanities and soft sciences and vice versa.
Additionally, because of the heavy reliance on statistics nowadays – statistics is a mathematical tool, and hence mostly favoured by the hard sciences – we need to understand that such data never stand on their own as long as people interpret them. We need to understand that it is not just the case that people in the humanities are weak at dealing with numbers, but that those with mathematical skills tend to lack the natural insight in people motivations.
So why is that important?
Most independents are cautious in how they present; they don’t push their opinion, but a more recent influx of academics from the hard sciences into this topic has brought expectations as to which method should be used.
Now, the multidisciplinary approach is vital, but if you are simply going to translate the approach of one field and impose it on the other without understanding the differences, you are not helping. The constant references to “the scientific method”, “science is objective” and “deduction” with the implication that archaeologists do not do their science properly, is trying to force the methods of the hard sciences onto them. But this is missing the point that “the scientific method” no more exists than “the scientist”. Those are not one entity; a geologist is not an archaeologist and a chemist is not a psychologist, and so, the hard sciences, which work with inanimate data and objects that cannot respond but only react, and consequently always produce a similar reaction – cannot impose their methods on fields that deal with people, where the subjects do respond and have a story of their own.
Now, archaeology is not quite as people dependent as psychology, but it is still a soft science and interpretation, storytelling and induction are way more important than analysis and deduction – and get better results. So, let’s not get big-headed. We live in a society that favours the hard sciences and their methods (reductionism, materialism, empiricism, categorization and analysis), a society that holds on to a steadfast believe in objectivity (despite the evidence to the contrary), and that, too, is an academic bias.
Sometimes, even the independents use this terminology when starting a podcast, often when they are talking about or introducing somebody from a different discipline than the one they are criticizing. For example, all academics working in Egyptology are meant when mentioning that they don’t accept the geological evidence. The implication is that having academic credentials in that field is being narrow-minded. Then they introduce a geologist or physicist, quoting his university and PhD or some other fancy title.
But is that independent thinking or is that doing the same as the archaeologists do: accepting what somebody with a degree says, because they have the degree?
By all means say they are a geologist or that they studied geology, like you are studying those topics, but we need to be consistent; we need to quote individuals based on their ideas and the research they have done (regardless of whether they did that in or out of university), but leave the social status out of it.
In short, “the” scientific method does not exist; there are different methods appropriate for the hard sciences and for the soft sciences, the earth or life sciences, the humanities, and not following “the scientific method” is not equivalent to accepting things on faith, which is also a bias ingrained in most people. As I explained before, belief is a necessity, dogma is not, but academia and church are equally dogmatic, and science and religion depend on each other.
The other misconception is that if one person says something it is subjective, but if many say it, it is objective, and therefore, if many people agree then that is scientific and leads to reliable facts. That is actually acknowledged as a logical fallacy in academic philosophy, and it should be, because, after all, the Egyptologists were many and shared everything in peer reviewed papers, hence they used science, which means their conclusions must have been objectively true.
But even academic psychology is starting to admit that most people follow the lead of others, which makes agreement no more factual or objective than the view of an insightful loner. Again, this is applying the measures of the hard sciences where every object is identical.
And, how many times do not two theories oppose each other, one trying to debunk another, and each presenting the opposite result, both based on extensive (and expensive) research with credentials. That is because nobody can find what they are not looking for and every experiment is set up with a certain belief in mind. The scientific method begins with an assumption, a speculation – even if you call it a hypothesis or axiom; a different word does not make it objective.
Objectivity is giving more power to the object or the impartial data than to the relative viewpoint, and again, people have no choice in this; it happens as a natural result of the way they filter information, and therefore, those who are naturally drawn to the hard sciences and to empirical evidence will deny this statement.
Therefore, objectivity is possible only in the hard sciences, where the subject is inanimate, physical and non-responsive, but archaeology is not a hard science, and you cannot “make” something objective if it was made and inspired by people, as long as people are not clones of each other. We cannot take for granted that the few artefacts, inscriptions and paintings we have today, are representing the thinking of all the people who lived then. Maybe there was much more; maybe all their people were literate and writing like we are today. The surviving structures (except the Great Pyramid, which is clearly mathematical) are no guarantee that all they made was on the same topic. Maybe Gobekli Tepe was built in response to the disaster; maybe they only inscribed the stone then; maybe it was not in response but because they were predicting it; maybe it was the prediction of a doomsayer. My point is that we are dealing with people and there is no one answer. All of the above could have influenced it and we will never know. The statistics are just that; maybe they provide a likelihood, but that is not the point here; the numbers are irrelevant if the rest is interpreted.
There is no truth to be found in this field, because we cannot go back to ask them; we can only speculate and come up with most likely propositions. Objectivity does not span tens of millennia when we cannot even understand each other today. Even with a much smaller global population – and I do accept that it was a global civilization (but so are we) – we cannot assume that what we find in one location also applies to the others, or that only one or two expressed their ideas in stone or cave paintings. They were no more one unit of identical personalities than we are now; they had different interests and expressed those differently. In the soft sciences, you cannot rely on small samples and statistics. People are not all identical.
Having been “peer reviewed”, having objective status, having statistical data based on “random sampling”, having been found by way of “the scientific method” are all nice phrases, but they guarantee nothing. You cannot equate objectivity with scientific, you cannot find proof (which is a mathematical term), only evidence. Deduction can bring validity to an argument, but it cannot make the speculation valid. Science cannot ever find what it is not looking for; science is investigation.
All change stumbles on resistance; that is the nature of change; if it didn’t, we’d live in compete chaos. Nobody is free of biases, and we need to work together to find out who those people were, who lived before us, survived a massive cataclysm and gave us all their wonderful monuments and myths. They are the ancestors of all of us.
You can, of course, dismiss my perspective and ignore the overwhelming amount of evidence brought in by the independent psychological community, because traditional, academic psychology says differently. They dismiss the possibility of different personalities based on their research, which did not include that possibility. Science only finds what it is looking for.
We all belong to the mob in some fields, meaning that we follow the popular views, because we can, none of us, study every topic. For example, Robert Bauval in one of his brilliant lectures, quoted a popular physicist on how the human mind works – he was quoting Michio Kaku, who, in turn, only took the word of academic neuroscientists. In this way, we are building edifices that will come crashing down. The pyramids still stand, because their foundation is solid.
So, accepting academia, just because it is that, is not a necessary and sufficient reason for accepting a theory. And let’s not forget Carl Sagan’s notion that the “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.
Appreciation helps open doors
Although knowledge always changes and we move from one accepted truth to the next, it does not always come in such big strides as the internet is allowing to happen today, and it is true that the foundations of many beliefs need to be reconsidered. That, however, does not only apply to history and archaeology but to science as a whole, including the way we seek and accept data.
The key is that the academic who rejects the new ideas does not do this to be difficult; we are all here to discover humanity’s past, but we need to first understand how humans work, so we stop accusing each other. The best chance you have to get the archaeologists on your side, is to make them feel valued, not berated.
So, let us remember that archaeology is not an exact science. Any science that deals with people cannot be an exact science, but that does not make it subjective or unreliable, but simply a science that measures according to other standards; the standards of those who understand people better than impartial data.
Thank you for reading.