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Erich Von Daniken’s Extraterrestrial Hypothesis: An Optimistic Attempt to Prove the Existence of Extraterrestrials or Pseudoscience?

written by: Anurag Ghosh•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 5/24/2011

Questions about the link between ancient civilization and extraterrestrials have always intrigued the human mind, especially when books like Chariots of the Gods claim to have substantial evidence to support this theory. Are these claims true or plain humbug?

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    Extraterrestrial - Have They Been Here?

    Oldest Image of an Unidentified Flying Object The truth behind extraterrestrial sightings on Earth has sparked an intense debate between conspiracy theorists and scientists. Any strange UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) sighting or an alien visitation video gets embraced by UFOlogists, but abandoned by serious researchers because of “inconclusive evidence".

    With so many false claims about extraterrestrial sightings and manipulated videos being circulated over the internet, it has become very difficult to ascertain the truth behind ETs. However, there are even stranger claims about extraterrestrial visitations in prehistory. This looks even more sensational when such claims are backed by ancient structures and artifacts as evidence. But, do these ancient ruins really provide the much needed evidence of extraterrestrials visitations in the remote past?

    Questions about connections between ancient civilization and extraterrestrials have been raised by some, including Erich von Daniken in his controversial, yet thought-provoking books like Chariots of the Gods.

    [image, left: Oldest image of a UFO photographed in 1871? Truth or Hoax? image courtesy http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1871UFO.gif ]

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    Erich von Daniken’s “Ancient Civilization and Extraterrestrials" Hypothesis

    Khafre_North Pyramid According to Erich von Daniken’s book Chariots of the Gods, ancient relics, religious texts and ancient structures serve as evidence for extraterrestrial's visits on planet Earth in the distant past. Daniken gives the examples of the gigantic stone structures of the Easter Islands and ancient pyramids of Egypt, as evidence of extraterrestrial visitations. He believes that no human beings could have performed the feat of building these huge structures without modern tools. The blocks of stones used to build pyramids weighed more than 2 tons and, according to Daniken, only “giants" from outer space (extraterrestrials) could have lifted it with advance machines and tools to build such wonderful structures.

    The book also reveals that some ancient cave drawings depicted space travelers dressed in strange suits. These drawings of Val Camonica_Cave Painting humanoids dressed in strange attires looked similar to a modern astronaut. But, the most controversial claims were based on biblical texts and ancient religious scriptures of the Sumerians. In his book, Erich von Daniken asserts that the Holy Bible and other religious texts contained detailed accounts of extraterrestrial visitations.

    [Image Top Left: An ancient pyramid: Ancient Wonder or an Extraterrestrial Marvel? photograph courtesy: Jon Bodsworth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:01_khafre_north.jpg Egyptian Pyramids]

    [Image, Right: Rock engraves from Val Camonica, Italia: An ancient evidence of a space traveller descending from a spacecraft or just a simple artistic cave drawing? source: Luca Giarelli image courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Incisione_foppe_nadro.jpg]

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    Von Daniken’s Extraterrestrial Theory Versus Today’s SETI Views

    Many scientists, skeptics and historians regard Erich von Daniken’s claims as pseudoscience. Notable American astronomer, Carl Sagan, insisted that more extraordinary proof was needed to back Daniken’s claims. Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute and host of the SETI Institute’s weekly podcast, “Are We Alone?", refutes such claims as mere tools to attract public attention.

    He says:

    “The evidence cited by von Daniken does not convince scientists; even if the public finds it appealing. What artifacts are so compelling that can be found stacked up in museums and labeled "evidence for alien visits to Earth"? Which ones are being studied by academics today as proof that our not-so-distant ancestors hosted beings from other worlds? The answer is "none". It's such a shame that these putative beings didn't leave any bits of technology as a "gift" proving their other-worldly origins."

    Dr. Shostak also adds: “We've been here for about 200,000 years, and the aliens decided to visit us only during the last few thousand, which is a tiny slice of that. Too bad they couldn't wait a few more millennia, and come when their presence could be taped for YouTube."

    To conclude, most scientists and historians do not take Daniken’s ideas seriously. It also seems very surprising that Daniken underestimated the technological prowess and intelligence of our ancient civilizations. Many skeptics believe that some evidence of extraterrestrials were fabricated or were based on illogical premises. Still, there are some questions about ET's left unanswered.

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    Conclusion

    Innumerable Galaxies The fact that we are alone in this universe seems hard to believe because there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the cosmos and each galaxy has hundreds of billions of stars and countless earth-like planets. Alan Boss, astronomer at the Carnegie Institution and author of The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets says:

    “Our Milky Way galaxy, one of the billions of galaxies, has more than 100 billion Earth-like planets or one Earth-like planet for every sun-type star."

    With the possibility of so many earth-like planets in our own galaxy, the possibility of an intelligent civilization outside our planet cannot be ignored. That’s why research institutes such as SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) was established to detect any existence of alien civilizations on other planets. The Center for SETI research develops various signal processing technologies and uses these technologies to search for signals from advanced civilizations in our galaxy. From the first modern SETI experiment “project Ozma" in 1960 (by Frank Drake) to the famous Ohio State University SETI Program, SETI’s contribution in the field of extraterrestrial research is immense.

    SETI follows a more viable approach in its attempts to prove the existence of an alien civilization, compared to the baseless assertions about the links between ancient civilization and extraterrestrials and the findings.

    There might be some strange claims about extraterrestrial visitations in the remote past, even stranger ancient relics to prove their existence, but unless an extraordinary solid proof is provided, these claims will always remain science fiction to the scientific world.

    [Image, Top Left: Are we alone? An image of the universe with innumerable galaxies, Photo courtesy: NASA and the European Space Agency, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hubble_ultra_deep_field_high_rez_edit1.jpg]

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    References

    Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past by Erich von Daniken, Translated by Michael Heron (Souvenir Press, 1999)

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/02/25/galaxy.planets.kepler/index.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_von_D%C3%A4niken

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariots_of_the_Gods%3F

    http://www.seti.org/Page.aspx?pid=1241

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SETI