I’ve purposely avoided Ancient Aliens up until now. We had a hunch that if we watched the program—which popularizes improbable, unsupported nonsense about how extraterrestrial visitors have shaped human history—my brain would wriggle its way out of my skull and prowl the planet in search of a gentler host. Or, at the very least, viewing the show would be about equivalent to a weekend binge in Las Vegas in terms of brain cell death. But then we learned that dinosaurs were the subject of the History Channel’s avalanche of pseudoscience. We prepared ourselves for the suffering as we sat back and observed the insane events.
Actually, I’m relieved that my editors forbid me from using foul language on this site. If they did, my review would essentially consist of swear words. we can only attempt to summarize the glossy, documentary-format garbage in a more logical and reader-friendly manner given my limitations.
The fact that my editors forbid me from using foul language on this site makes me happy in fact. If they did, my entire review would consist mainly of foul language. Given my limitations, we are forced to make an effort to summarize the glossy, documentary-format garbage in a more logical and reader-friendly manner.
The Ancient Aliens program contained so many errors that we could spend the entire week refuting them all. The Gish Gallop, named after young earth creationist Duane Gish, is a typical tactic used by cranks and self-styled science detractors. Gish quickly spouted off a succession of misunderstandings and lies to bury his opponent under an avalanche of fictions and distortions when making public speeches regarding evolution and creationism. Even if Gish’s opponent made an effort to free themselves, they would never be able to move far enough forward to be able to confront Gish head-on. The same strategy is used by Ancient Aliens—the fictions come thick and fast.
Contrary to what certain basic cable cranks would claim, aliens did not exterminate Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. (Photo shot at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, courtesy of the author)
While the main plot of the episode is that dinosaurs were wiped out by aliens to make room for our species—a sci-fwe scenario supported by some hilarious, spliced-together dinosaur footage running from strafing alien craft, perhaps a preview of Dinosaurs vs. Aliens the movie—the various ancient alien experts do little more than assert that such a thing must have happened. Surprise, surprise—they don’t actually support their allegations with any facts.
Instead, they use circumstantial evidence from extreme Christians who are never called that. Creationist Willie E. Dye is acknowledged as a biblical archaeologist without mentioning his young earth creationist beliefs, and creationist Michael Cremo is simply named as the author of Forbidden Archeology. The makers of Ancient Aliens obviously didn’t care about the credentials or subject matter knowledge of the talking heads they used—all that mattered was that someone spoke the proper things in front of the camera.
The creationists didn’t let us down either. Cremo explains, “Some researchers observed human footprints alongside the footprints of dinosaurs,” about halfway through the program. The quotation, which is a remark taken out of context from Cremo’s interview, is heard in a segment when it is claimed that Roland T. Bird, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, discovered human footprints beside dinosaur tracks near Glen Rose, Texas.
Such a thing wasn’t discovered by Bird. He discovered numerous dinosaur tracks and footprints—one of which he and his team anachronistically positioned behind the AMNH’s “Brontosaurus”—but no human footprints. Strangely enough, though, Bird’s choice to go to the track locations at first was influenced by fake human footprints.
The sale of sauropod and theropod tracks was a cottage industry in the Glen Rose area before Bird discovered the dinosaur footprints. Additionally, a few locals engraved phony human footprints into the same stone. Just before he departed to study the site firsthand, Bird actually observed two of these forgeries at a trading post in Gallup, New Mexico, together with dinosaur tracks removed from the Glen Rose region.
The frauds failed to deceive Bird. He recognized them for what they were and took a considerably greater interest in the authentic dinosaur footprints found in the same stone. However, some dogmatic creationists have placed their faith in fakes and even dinosaur tracks that they have incorrectly interpreted as being real.
A bit later in the episode, Dye makes another appearance to lend his backing to another example of creationist nonsense: the Peruvian Ica Stones. This time, Dye adopts the typical creationist stance that humans and dinosaurs coexisted. These well-known fakes are stones with engravings of people and dinosaurs interacting. Basilio Uschuya, a farmer, and his wife used popular culture portrayals of dinosaurs in novels as inspiration for their creation. Nevertheless, Dye and the Old Aliens program describe the stones as though they were genuine ancient artifacts that document the existence of dinosaurs like Triceratops up until virtually the present.
Dye claims that because the stones are so accurately etched, ancient people must have known a great deal about dinosaurs, even though we know that the precision was achieved by Uschuya diligently replicating mid-20th century dinosaur art. Our narrator just mentions that scientists are dubious about the stones’ provenance.
There are a couple additional terrible gems in the show. Even though our narrator spends a lot of time discussing how carbon-14 dating is problematic for determining the age of dinosaurs, paleontologists do not utilize carbon-14 to make such estimates. Only carbon-bearing materials that are less than 60,000 years old can be accurately dated using radiocarbon. Instead, to constrain the history of non-avian dinosaurs, paleontologists utilize several radiometric dating methods. Geologists can calculate the age of the rock from which samples were taken by looking at the relative amount of uranium and lead, the element that uranium decays into.
Different dating methods are employed for rocks of various ages, and these methods have produced time estimates for the existence of dinosaurs. The secret is identifying layers, such ash beds, that are above or below layers containing dinosaurs and contain radioactive elements. Geochronologists use the age of the rock beneath or above the dinosaur’s bones, which can be properly dated, to establish how long ago the dinosaur lived. Because it relies on stale creationist talking points, Ancient Aliens criticizes a process that its creators obviously don’t comprehend.
My favorite rambling, however, is on what will ultimately happen to the dinosaurs. Even its own story is difficult for the show to maintain. fringe television character The coelacanth is used by Franklin Ruehl to argue for the contemporary or recent existence of non-avian dinosaurs. Before a live one was discovered in 1938 off the coast of South Africa, these ancient lobe-finned fish, which Ruehl correctly notes were extant long before the first dinosaurs emerged, were believed to be extinct. Since then, a small number of fossil coelacanth discoveries have closed the gap between living examples and those that existed 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period.
The coelacanth is a red herring, as paleontologist Darren Naish has repeatedly noted. Coelacanth fossils are uncommon and challenging to detect, at least in strata from the last 66 million years or more. The fact that their fossil record seems to have plateaued is not at all surprising. However, the bones of non-avian dinosaurs were far more distinctive. In fact, when we study time periods that are getting closer to the present, the resolution of prehistoric ages improves. Large, distinctive animals like Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus would have appeared in the fossil record by now if they had survived for millions of years following the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact.The evidence is clear—with the exception of avian dinosaurs, all other dinosaur lineages went extinct about 66 million years ago.
But shortly after Ruehl declares, the software completely forgets what he stated. The narrator speculates that aliens altered dinosaur DNA to transform the imposing giants into smaller, less deadly species like the coelacanth near the end of the show. Never mind that more than 360 million years ago, more than 130 million years before the earliest dinosaurs formed, coelacanths were already present in the world’s oceans. The suggestion is just nonsense (as is the whole show, really). Giorgio Tsoukalos, an alien nut with wild hair, then offers up another thought. He claims that although the coelacanth actually did become extinct, millions of years later it was brought back by a “direct assurance from extraterrestrials.” Why? Tsoukalos seemed unconcerned. And most of his fellow talking heads mutter something about aliens paving the path for our race.
The program can’t seem to decide whether dinosaurs somehow survived to the contemporary era or whether aliens wiped them off 66 million years ago. What kind is it? Did aliens exterminate dinosaurs so that humans could survive? Or did some dinosaurs manage to avoid going extinct? Throughout the entire show, conflicting thoughts bounce around like ping-pong balls. Grandpa Simpson’s tales are more logical.
A few actual scientists participated in the program. Throughout the program, paleontologists Luis Chiappe and Mark Wilson, for instance, make an appearance. We can’t help but feel sorry for them, and we wonder if scientists ought to just stop participating in such initiatives. Programs like Ancient Aliens merely take advantage of scientists, even while we believe it is important and desirable to expose incorrect claims made in the name of science, such as intelligent design and the fiction of living dinosaurs. Responsible scholars are frequently misrepresented in order to promote the unfounded fictions spread by the extraterrestrial fan club.
It would appear that programs like Ancient Aliens, MonsterQuest, and Finding Bigfoot have little to no interest in really discussing science. Speculation that is the most startling will always win. These programs simply do not favor scientists.
Some of the most toxic filth on television may be found in Ancient Aliens. Fanatics are given free rein while real experts are called in to deliver soundbites that are misinterpreted and taken out of context. We can only assume that the program is purposefully deceiving viewers because fiction is presented as fact and real scientific information is so egregiously misrepresented. It is abhorrent of the History Channel spinoff to offer the program as a documentary on a network that airs non-fiction programming. Technically speaking, Ancient Aliens airs on H2, a History Channel subsidiary. If the network and the show’s producers want to portray Ancient Aliens as a brief examination of radical concepts and make it obvious that the concepts aren’t meant to