So I was watching the National Geograpic Channel last night, and I wound up catching a special on Atlantis.
I have nothing against people searching for mythical places. It’s this kind of dreaming that led to the eventual discovery of the actual city of Troy.
My problem is with leaps of logic that were featured on the show.
Leap #1: Atlantis can be found because Plato wrote about it as a real place. Sure, and John Milton wrote about Heaven and Hell as real places, but that doesn’t mean that we can dig our way to Hades or fly a spaceship to Heaven. And let’s not forget that, although the classic Greek and Roman thinkers were pretty smart, they weren’t always right. Cases in point: believing bees come from dead bulls and art should be censored if it doesn’t instill positive morals (Aristotle and Plato’s Republic).
The launch-point for this disasterous base jump is that Plato’s name is on it. Certain names are given carte blanche to pretty much say anything and have it interpreted as fact. For instance, when Mr. T says he pities fools, we automatically assume said fools are pitied. However, we’re ignoring the overwhelming evidence that, while they are pitied, they are not exempt from a pitiless ass-whooping. While Plato certainly stated a lot of “facts,” the proof is often lost because we don’t have YouTube videos of him contradicting himself in real life (from which no one is exempt).
Leap #2: Hieroglyphics depict a helicopter, submarine and flying saucer. Hieroglyphics are a written language that was only translated as recently as 1822. Any attempt to interpret these symbols without understanding how to read them is akin to looking for pictures in the phone book. “Look! There’s curious dots hovering over certain characters in this book! They look like spaceships over the Washington Monument! That must mean Americans got their government from space aliens!”
Leap #3: Atlanteans left evidence of their existence that we haven’t found yet. The people looking for Atlantis keep describing the ancient Atlanteans as a superintelligent race, yet they couldn’t leave a single record anywhere? Why would displaced survivors of a continent-ending catastrophe not want to leave a historic record somewhere? And if they did, why would they hide it? The answer is simple: they wouldn’t. If fourth-graders are smart enough to create time capsules, these people should have done better.
Leap #4: Aliens or displaced Atlanteans must have taught the Egyptians and Mayans how to build pyramids. This last one is pretty much veiled racism. In the mostly white, all western eyes of Atlantis hunters, brown people can’t build monumental structures out of stone. This, of course, ignores their own contributions to (read: our patent stealing for) our own culture: rockets and gunpowder, pasta, math, writing, money, and Jesus.
And what is their smoking gun on this suicide plunge? It’s a sculpture on a Mayan pyramid that depicts a slightly elongated face with a big nose and lip whiskers. Not only is it incorrect to assume all Mayans were round- and flat-faced and couldn’t grow facial hair, but it doesn’t account for the one universal presence in all cultures: bad artists. Even if we use their (ignorant) evidence, how many bad sculptures have we seen that do not capture their subjects?
It’s okay to believe in places that aren’t proven to exist. That’s the fun part of beliefs: nobody can tell you what you can or can’t believe. But beliefs are not hypotheses, theories or laws. Once you try to apply those to a belief, then you have to wonder why you believed in it in the first place. The results of such attempts result in the entertaining and often insulting leaps in logic listed above. Take it from Snee: just like women and seamen, beliefs and science don’t mix.