There are few good skeptical books for kids. But there are a shit-ton of terrible books promoting mystery and pseudoscientific nonsense aimed at kids or those getting started exploring a paranormal topic.
I often peruse the 001 section of Juvenile Literature in the library. Mostly, I’m sickened. Occasionally, I’m surprised. There is a need for better quality, more critical books on the paranormal and “mystery” topics aimed at non-specialist at middle-reader levels.
Here is an example of such a book at my local library, which is where I obtained it and had a look.
The Young Investigator’s Guide to Ancient Aliens was published July 21, 2015 by History Channel/A&E Network. It lists NO actual authors because no one would want their name connected to this tripe.
There is NO WAY I would purchase such a book, so thank you, libraries, for providing access. It’s important to view media that is out there and consider if this is what we want to be published. However, its presence in the library lends an air of credibility to it. I suspect that the publishers made an effort to get it into libraries by using the HISTORY Channel brand as leverage. Because it’s there, it will get read. This is unfortunate because this book is a piece of garbage.
You might have guessed as much being that it’s based on the TV show Ancient Aliens which is also garbage. I don’t watch the show but know enough about it to justify why I refuse to watch. So, I am coming at this book knowing enough of the names and fantastical speculation behind pseudo-archaeology and pseudo-history topics, but I honestly have not delved deeply into this genre. I was a bit shocked at how awful it is.
I can just call this book “garbage”, but it deserves a bit more explanation because it’s kind of important to explain why such garbage is harmful.
The framing of the book is to promote the TV show. That is blatant. Both presentation outlets sow doubt about the body of knowledge derived by the scientific process. The book states “What we know COULD BE WRONG!” It never tells us why that “could be wrong”. The text never includes what the standard, scientifically-supported explanations are for their stated “mysteries” such as the construction of the pyramids, Puma Punku, Stonehenge, and Coral Castle. They treat Atlantis, King Arthur, and a Hollow Earth as reasonable possibilities. The authors outright ignore the solid explanations for crystal skulls and the “Montauk monster”. The goal of this book is to keep people ignorant and to promote absurd explanations that make no sense and aren’t at all helpful in understanding the real world.
The Ancient Alien (or Astronaut) theorists (they can’t call them scientists, they are more like pundits) are said to examine historical events for signs of ancient alien contact missed by archaeologists and historians throughout history. They “look for obvious connections between our civilization and those of other worlds”. Gee, they really think poorly of scientists and historians to assume they missed such incredible connections the first time around. THEY know better.
Conspiracy is one of the themes used in the book to help explain items that are inconvenient to them.
The methods they use in the book are unimaginative and foolish such as the appeal to the popularity: Millions of people believe; what if its true? And, they bank on the argument from ignorance with a twist – we actually know how megalithic monuments were made but that info isn’t provided since that would take effort. Apparently they can’t consult actual sources, or they just refuse to because finding out the truth is NOT their goal. They reference movies like “Signs” or “Cowboys and Aliens” as if to subtly suggest these had a basis in fact. And they add smiling green cartoon aliens throughout. It’s all so MYSTERIOUS! Wooooooo…
“Whether the ancient Egyptians’ knowledge of the stars, and their beliefs about their gods came from genuine contact with extraterrestrials remains one of history’s most perplexing unanswered questions.”
They misuse legitimate concepts like Fermi’s paradox and the “goldilocks zone” to erroneously support their speculation. Otherwise, they have NO support except that of the fringe researchers they prop up. Opinions of their “experts” are given undue credence; no scientific sources are cited.
By page 70, I stopped making notations. I’d been overwhelmed. I’d concluded this publication had more than earned the “garbage” label. So I skimmed the rest about monsters from space and other fiction might call supposables – “suppose this is true” – presented as plausible. The ridiculously unintelligent tone of this book can be encapsulated in this quote from Tsoukalos on page 88:
“If today we are able to create a two-headed dog with six legs, is it possible that a similar creature existed thousands of years ago? I say ‘yes’”
I say, this is one of those things that isn’t even wrong; it’s beyond stupid, it’s stupidiocy.
Here are more zinger supposables from the book:
- Grey aliens were described in ancient times, ancient art shows them,
- Christopher Columbus may have seen UFOs in the Bermuda Triangle,
- Stonehenge was an alien landing pad,
- Pyramids are power plants for alien ships,
- The builder of Coral Castle in Florida moved material by reversing gravity,
- Nazca lines and large native mounds act as “billboards for the sky gods”,
- There was a worldwide energy grid for the alien spaceships,
- The garula and the thunderbird were not mystery animals (if only) but flying vehicles for space people,
- Goliath from the Bible was a Bigfoot,
- Aliens created ape-man hybrids.
Yep, this is insulting to the cultures that achieved these feats of art, architecture, and civilization. The supposable claims are insulting to credentialed scientists, and are travesties of history, archaeology, anthropology, cosmology, and geology.
The age level for this book is stated at 8-12. It’s my opinion that “juvenile literature” should not be childish and naive but should be enlightening and educational. This book only spreads serious misconceptions and embarrassing ignorance. It’s stupefyingly bad.