Guilty Television Pleasures: Steve Wiley's Defense of Ancient Aliens
Hmm... television guilty pleasures, eh? The trick is that I'm more adept at talking guilty pleasures with music than with TV. I've got a whole host of critic-hated albums at home, but with TV, I'm generally pretty solid. So I had to think a while. Then I sheepishly remembered Ancient Aliens on the History Channel.
Why do I dig it? Above all, I find Ancient Aliens intriguing and informative. As a close second, I marvel at its paradoxical nature. It's tough to find a better mixture of science and speculation.
Would I call myself an Ancient Astronaut Theorist, as the show describes its minions? No. But that's mainly because I don't really "support" anything along those "how it all works" lines. Over the years, I've come to accept that I have never, nor will never, understand the mystery of God/life/whatever. This leaves me to leave open the possibilities of just about anything... including far-out theories of Ancient Aliens.
Could we humans (and, according to the show, just about everything else) be the spawn of some alien? Who knows (surely not me)? But the theories presented by this group of characters are intriguing, and wondering about the Grand Scheme is a lot funner now that I'm not constrained by a belief.
Creating Scientific Art
When I talk about "leaving open the possibilities for anything", Ancient Aliens is a case study in how to do it. These guys have built a TV show around pure speculation, and have provided a blueprint for how to make what I lovingly refer to as "Scientific Art."
Here's how they do it.
First, they start with big time experts. Super smart cats from MIT and UC Berkeley. These actual scientists fill us in on all the amazing stuff (let's call them facts) that we know about the subject in question, including drawings, paintings, photos, and journals.
Then they switch from scientists to "experts." My favorite is the crazy-haired guy. If you've seen it, you know who I mean. If you haven't, you'll know instantly. His actual name is George Tsoulakos, and he's from Legendary Times Magazine. I'm not sure if he's what you'd call a scientist or not, but let me tell you, that boy seems to know how to passionately link aliens to just about everything.
Anyway, George and his fellow experts then tie the facts from the real scientists to aliens by interjecting every sentence with a dubious qualifier.
Listen carefully. Nearly every statement includes some sort of disqualifying-it-from-actual-fact jargon. "What I maintain is", or "Witnesses claim that", or the age-old classic "Many people believe". These qualifiers pretty much allow them to say anything, yet nothing, and still sound credible.
Even the statements without qualifiers need to be approached with cynicism. Here's my favorite example: "Wormholes are an accepted element of theoretical physics".
Yeah, and my stack of gold is an accepted element of my theoretical fortune.