The Mysterious Origins of Man
| Our Feature Presentation|
Films and TV
| Fiction over fact|
|How it didn't happen|
The Mysterious Origins of Man is a TV special that first aired in 1996 on NBC. It was hosted by Charlton Heston and was a bit similar to the show Ancient Aliens as it made some rather whackjob claims about the origins of humanity, going so far as to claim modern humans have been around for tens of millions of years. Predictably, the show featured prominent creationist cranks and other "experts" who all took turns to cite their dubious evidence to support the undeniable fact that humans lived and walked with dinosaurs and have basically been around forever while not evolving at all.
Men walking with dinosaurs, scientists as conspirators and other bullshit
The show cites the following evidence to support its crazy assertion that humans have been on Earth for tens of millions of years:
- The Paluxy River tracks: humans walked alongside dinosaurs!
- The Klerksdorp spheres: "man-made" objects in Pre-Cambrian deposits.
- Tiwanaku's original dating by Arthur Posnanski (using astronomy), which indicates that humans were present in the Americas long before mainstream science says they crossed the Bering land bridge.
- Similarities between monuments of the ancient world: pyramids, pyramids everywhere.
- The Piri Reis map.
- Evolution is just a theory. (You didn't think they'd forget this one, did you?)
- Scientists have been covering up the truth and suppressing evidence.
Why it is all bunk
The Paluxy River Tracks, which caused a bit of a sensation back when they were first discovered, turned out to be a hoax. Thus the "astounding" nature of the "discovery" finds itself discredited right from the start, and puts good old Carl Baugh, one of the Young Earth Creationists featured on the show, in the loony bin. The Klerksdorp Spheres have been explained as concretions made in volcanic sediments, and many of the claims made by the show regarding the spheres (that they are all perfectly round and made of an alloy which does not occur naturally) are false: none of the "spheres" have the same shape; they are also imperfect in shape and are most definitely not made of any kind of metal.
Tiwanaku has been dated several times using carbon dating, and Arthur Posnansky dated the site before the discovery of that method. The site also underwent much destruction and vandalism, and in order to accurately date a site using astronomy, the site must have remained undisturbed for a very long period. This is definitely not the case at Tiwanaku, where many of its structures were destroyed and even moved during the Spanish colonial period.
The pyramids in Central America and Egypt are different in both design and use. Egyptian pyramids were tombs and were made to have smooth sides whereas their American equivalents had a step structure and were used as temples. There is also no written evidence in any of these cultures (the Mayans, Aztecs and Egyptians all had writing systems) indicating contact between the two civilisations and/or an original source for either culture. Pyramids are also unremarkable architecturally, as they're a logical, easy way to construct monumental buildings. It would be much more impressive if the Egyptians and Mesoamericans had both constructed identical steel-and-glass skyscrapers than big conical mounds of stone.
The Piri Reis map, which shows Antarctica free of ice, is definitely not accurate in its portrayal of the land mass beneath the Antarctic ice (as the show claimed it was). The area shown (and that its so-called "expert" Graham Hancock claims to be Antarctica) could simply be a fanciful addition of a terra incognita, which was a common thing back in those days.
Familiar faces and dirty tactics
The show features many guests, many of whom are easily recognisable or members of well-known fringe movements frowned upon by mainstream science. Graham Hancock, renowned Atlantologist and hyper-diffusionist crank, is there to expound his views of an ancient, vanished super-civilisation whose people taught primitive humans everything they know (because, y'know, ancient humans were so damn stupid). Michael Cremo and his Vedic Creationist cronies are also featured talking about Lucy (who is "just a monkey" according to our good friend Cremo). Also included on this show is Richard Milton, a British journalist and writer mostly known for writing The Facts of Life: Shattering the myth of Darwinism as well as making the claim that the Earth is only 175,000 years old. Richard Dawkins described Milton's book as "twaddle that betrays, on almost every page, complete and total pig-ignorance of the subject at hand".
The show also only mentions these men as "archaeologists" or some other scientific profession so as to give more weight to their batshit claims. This is a technique oft seen in such shows and its sole objective is to confuse the viewer by making a false argument from authority: "these men are scientists, therefore they must be right". The show also makes the shallow, but common, claim that mainstream scientists and scholars have suppressed and are suppressing evidence that clearly contradicts orthodox views regarding the origins of mankind. The claim that Darwinism has become something akin to a rigid religious dogma is also made. The show also completely omits any opposing views by orthodox scientists, since a rational, skeptical view of the artefacts shown as evidence by cranks such as Cremo could easily make the show's weak arguments collapse.
The show is of course highly selective in the evidence it uses, picking only isolated artefacts and making extraordinary claims about their origin whilst ignoring the wealth of evidence that shatters their claims like a hammer being applied to glass (or just the fact that many of these objects are either fakes or are the product of nature).
Selected quotes from the show
In order to apprehend the whackjobbery of the show, one must look at some of the things said in it:
|—Michael Cremo on why all his treasured anomalous artefacts have not received wider attention.|
“”Basically, what you find is something we call a 'knowledge filter'. This is a fundamental feature of science… people tend to filter out things that 'don't fit'.
|—"Doctor" Richard Thompson on pretty much the same matter as his fellow crank, Michael Cremo.|
“”…can be explained by a cataclysmic geological view of the past, where rather than geological events taking place over millions of years they take place more quickly, and what is a million years on a geological time scale is in fact, say, only a thousand years.
|—David Hatcher Childress on why dinosaurs and humans walked together at Paluxy River and why God is watching you.|
“”But the answer is far from decisive. In fact, this representation is an interpretation of the fossils, an interpretation by one group of scientists. There are other interpretations, but you won't find them in this museum or in any other museum in the world.
|—Richard Milton on the Natural History Museum and why evolution is just a theory.|
|—Graham Hancock on how Atlantis did everything.|