This book was a doozy. Seriously, I had to finish a liter of vodka just to choke this stuff down. Heck, that was after taking the pound and a half of cocaine.
Erich von Daniken started his research asking a couple of cousins and waiters if they knew what the Voynich Manuscript was. As expected, their answers were all in the negative.
Heck, I’m a professional archaeologist and I don’t even know what it is!
But I digress…
After Erich von Daniken asks about a 100 of these goobers he explains that everyone’s lack of knowledge on the subject is indicative of the lack of knowledge of the subject in academic circles. This, and only this, is the only point in this entire book in which I will agree with Erich von Daniken.
The purpose of archaeological studies (as I’ve stated repeatedly) is to enlighten and educate. The Voynich Manuscript is a 15th or 16th century, currently untranslated, document. Shy of a press release dating and marking its provenience, the public wouldn’t have heard anything about the manuscript until it has been interpreted. Instead of jumping on the sane train and saying what I just said, Erich von Daniken instead decides to state that the lack of public knowledge on the subject is instead part of some plot to hide what most academics are too close minded to admit: we can’t decipher it because it was written by aliens.
Fact: the Voynich manuscript is written in an, as of yet, undeciphered script.
Fact: the Voynich manuscript has detailed star/sun charts.
Scientific conclusion? An as of yet undetermined culture had the mathematical and observational skills to plot star/sun charts.
The Erich Von Daniken conclusion? Our inability to interpret the foreign language implies no failing on our part but instead implies that beings much smarter than us wrote it. Also, the detailed star charts are obviously contrived from mathematics too complex for early man to decipher and are indicative of beings who have grander perspectives than early man.
The Erich Von Daniken conclusion that I just gave you is basically all of “History is Wrong” pertaining to the Voynich manuscript. You’ll also find that when reading this book you come across, repeatedly, two signature pseudoscience tools:
The first of these tools is the “piece it together yourself” questioning. Pseudoscience is opinion based over factual. For this reason, after a pseudoscientist makes a claim he/she will usually follow it up with a question instead of a factual explanation. This is a con man slide. It chooses to engage you in hopes that while contemplating related conclusions you’ll not question the lack of cited evidence. When asked to answer a question, you’re usually too busy answering to take the time to say “Woah…wait a second…that doesn’t make sense.”
Politicians use it too…a lot.
The second, and probably slightly more annoying, tool in the pseudoscientist toolbox is one I like to call “Look at my big friend…” This method is the presentation of proof that you know someone famous instead of proof to your claims. Its a means of von Daniken to say “I must be right because this famous person wrote me a letter.” The major example in this book is the letter from Neil Armstrong, also known as the first man to step on the moon.
In short, von Daniken claims to have been part of an excavation that discovered a metal library within a cave system in Los Tayos, in South America. After the supposed discovery, he claims that the press had covered it up and wouldn’t believe him, he also takes this moment to point out that documentation that would prove his point (photographs, journal entries) are simply missing (at one point, even saying “(my archive is missing)”[page 130 opposite the letter from Armstrong]). He then claims to have just surrendered until he heard that another crew had visited the excavation and brought along Armstrong.
Von Daniken mails Armstrong a letter asking for his take on the alien library in the caves and Armstrong states: “I understand that there have been magazine articles in Germany and Argentina which reported on the excavation and related it to your theories…I was asked in Ecuador whether I had observed any evidence of highly developed societies having been in the area, and I answered that I had not.” He continued the letter stating that he appreciated the offer to accompany von Daniken on an excavation but would have to refuse.
So…Armstrong said no aliens. Pretty clear cut, right?
Erich Von Daniken instead states that the letter is proof that he has been victimized by the media and that Armstrong had given him his full support. Very simply, a celebrity contacted von Daniken in response, and von Daniken is using it to drum up popularity.
This of course follows Erich Von Daniken’s refuting of the comments in the media that he admitted to never actually being in the caves in Ecuador.
I shall answer this one from personal experience.
I, Matt the Spaz, have actually watched the interview in which Erich Von Daniken states that he had never been to the caves. Back in college, in Riddles of the Past 101 with Dr. Marqusee, we watched the whole video and not only does he say that he’s never been to the caves, but also that half of the Nazca lines that he claimed were landing pads for alien beings he had never actually visited. He ended the interview saying that, when he writes his books, he knows he’s writing for an audience and that he brings a large portion of poetic license into each book he writes.
For those of you new to literary parlance, poetic license is “make-believe.”
Finally, the book ends weak. Erich Von Daniken falls into a lull and must have noticed, because he quickly starts just repeating stuff from his other books, all of it can be found in his original, “Chariots of the Gods?“
His book ends on a quote, pleading with the audience one last time to view him as the victim.
“Those who cannot attack the thought, instead attack the thinker.” (Paul Valery 1871-1945)
In response: Erich Von Daniken I don’t see you as a victim of the media or of “mainstream archaeology.” I see you as a person who completely ignores the Scientific Method. I love your “thought.” I think its awesome. Aliens rock. The purposeful bending of scientific evidence to your theories is what I attack. Read the evidence as it is, don’t make it fit your beliefs.
Pseudoscientists are either people who failed to correctly learn the scientific method, or snake-oil salesmen.
I encourage everyone to ignore this book, go out and buy Chariots of the Gods? and laugh your butt off reading that one. In forty years, he has come up with nothing new to write.
1 star out of 5.
This post was originally written back in 2009.