Click on the link to read a brief article:
Believe in Atlantis? These Archaeologists Want to Win You Back to Science
(Links to an external site.)
Review the Tips for Assessing the Validity of Extraordinary Claims (below).
Select one of the following pseudoarchaeology case studies to debunk and conduct a bit of internet research to learn more about it:
Ancient Astronaut/Aliens “Theory”
Nazca Lines & Alien Spacecraft
Stonehenge Ley Lines
2012 Maya Doomsday Prophecy
Using what you have learned from this week’s readings & lesson, write a 2-page composition that debunks the pseudoarchaeology claim.
Provide an overview of the case study – what does the belief involve?
What “evidence” is used to support the claim?
Who is involved with promoting the idea – individuals, organizations, belief groups, etc?
What is the historical background and/or social context of the claim?
How have you determined the claim to be false? Build a solid case against the claim using concepts from this week’s unit, such as the archaeological inquiry model, characteristics of the scientific approach, the scientific method, validity tips (below), etc; in addition to any scientific evidence/interpretations you came across that counter the claim.
Format: The document must be typed in 11-pt Calibri font, with 1-inch margins, and double-spacing. A minimum of 2 pages is required.
Citations: Cite your sources both (1) within the text, and (2) in a separate References Cited page, using either MLA or APA format. More information is available here: https://libguides.pasadena.edu/citing
Tips for Assessing the Validity of Extraordinary Claims
So, how can you assess the validity of an extraordinary claim about the human past that appears in popular media?
Do some background research and ask yourself the following questions:
Where is the particular claim or discovery presented? Is it in an article in a peer-reviewed journal, where other scientists in the same field have had an opportunity to appraise its validity? Does the story appear in a widely respected magazine with science advisors on its staff, in a newspaper article written by an experienced science writer, or in a series produced by a science-based organization? These are all sources that we can feel confident in. Of course, they are not perfect, but they usually check their facts and apply the scientific method. On the other hand, is the report about the human past found on an anonymous website with no attributed source, in the informal discussions of social media, or in a presentation prepared by an individual affiliated with a political or religious organization with a particular axe to grind? In these cases, it is wise to be skeptical about the objectivity of the source and the accuracy of the claim.
Who is making the claim? Is it a trained scientist? Just as important, is it a researcher trained in archaeology, anthropology, or history? Remember, a scientist skilled in an unrelated field may be no better prepared than a nonscientist to assess an archaeological discovery or interpretation. Certainly, researchers with graduate degrees in archaeology or history make mistakes in their chosen fields, but they are less likely to make mistakes on issues related to the human past than are people with little experience or study in those fields.
In assessing the validity of any assertion about the human past that appears in popular media, you need to ask yourself this question: How does the person announcing the discovery, making the claim, or interpreting the results of a study “know”? Does the discussion or claim seem to follow standard scientific thinking as explained in your unit readings or other books that explain how science works? Are hypotheses based on observations? Are hypotheses tested with independent data? Among a series of explanations offered for some phenomenon, is the simplest one (with no other unsupported assumptions) presented as the most probable? Or does the claimant instead assert that their knowledge is simply the result of revelation or intuition and that no more proof is needed?
Are other experts consulted, and how do they respond to the claims being made? Are other scientists convinced? Are other scientists uncertain, skeptical, but intrigued? Are other scientists quite certain the claims are unfounded, and on what basis are they so skeptical? Are alternate points of view offered; are other interpretations presented? Accepting the authority of scientists just because they have diplomas is a mistake. When experienced researchers working in the same field are universally skeptical, it’s a pretty good idea for you to be skeptical too – unless and until supporting data are forthcoming.
Are confirming data present? Are the “mummified giant”, the “alien-like cranium”, the Hebrew tablet found in Ohio”, and other archaeological “mysteries” unique, one-of-a-kind objects, or are scientists able to confirm the validity of these by finding additional examples?
Is enough information presented for you to make an informed decision concerning the legitimacy of what is being asserted? Or, instead, are you left with important questions that the report simply does not address?
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