Sometimes we need warning signs to help us get through life. Some signs are provided for us. Dante tells us that the management of Hell has been good enough to put up a sign at the door that says, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." When an animal makes all of its hair stand on end, bares its teeth, exposes its claws, and makes a funny noise in its throat, nature has provided our mammal brains with the sense to realize that this means, "do not snuggle." The FDA and other regulatory agencies require the placement of various labels and international symbols on household cleansers and prescription drugs to let us know that, despite the cheerful colors and attractive packaging, these things are not candy.
Unfortunately, the powers that be don't provide warning signs for all of the perils we might face in life. We have to discover some warnings for ourselves. This is especially true for intellectual perils. Some books contain madness. Each of us must learn the warning signs of our own madness. In Umberto Eco's novel Foucault's Pendulum, Casaubon and Belbo learned that mention of the Templars was the warning sign. They failed to heed their own advice and were thus doomed.
When I was in junior high, I discovered books on the esoteric, as many males of that age do. For about two years I consumed books on Atlantis, UFOs, Soviet telepathy experiments, prophecy, mental powers of the ancients, secret societies (including the Templars), government conspiracies, and Nazi occultists. One day while reading an ancient astronaut book, I realized that I seen every single piece of evidence in the book before. The same sets of evidence were routinely shuffled together as proof positive of a dozen competing theories. That was the end of my esoteric years. After that, I concentrated on reading honest science fiction.
Pseudoscience and conspiracy theories are products of a similar mindset. Both are highly mistrustful of the conventional intellectual establishment, who, they are sure, are either dogmatically resistant to certain truths or deliberately hiding those truths. In either case, these "researchers"--as they inevitably style themselves--know that they are the only possessors of the Truth and the only straight-talkers who will tell us the Truth. The first warning sign, even before any evidence appears, is the researcher comparing his suffering at the hands of the learned establishment to that of Galileo at the hands of the Church. As soon as I see "me and Galileo," I put the book back on the shelf and run for the door.
Researchers share another trait; they are compulsive recyclers. No evidence is ever discarded; it is endlessly reused to support new Truths. Researchers borrow complete sets of evidence from each other and put it into the service of new and different causes.
I call those sets of evidence "the usual suspects." Like Galileo, these are my intellectual warning signs. The first set of evidence that I discovered as a teenager was the ancient monument set. Most of you know this one. The author points with amazement at the Great Pyramid, the Valley of Mexico Pyramids, Stonehenge, the lines at Nazca, and the Easter Island heads. All of these, we are informed, are impossible for primitive people to have built. Our ancestors were too stupid to move big rocks, pile them on top of each other, carve, or line them up with any precision.
The condescension of the esoteric writers directly echoes that of amateur archaeologists during the imperial nineteenth century. Faced with the sight of "primitives" inhabiting megalithic structures--like the Shona at Great Zimbabwe--the imperial mind invented lighter-skinned ancients who built the structures (Phoenicians, in the case of Zimbabwe) only to lose them to later migrations of dark skinned savages. The racial contempt of the imperials has been replaced by a temporal contempt in the esoterics. Our ancestors were too stupid to stack rocks. They needed white guys from outer space to show them how to do it.
Lately, I've noticed that frozen mammoths are an important warning sign.
Here's how frozen mammoths fit into a few esoteric world views.
- Noachian flood - Regardless of religion or lack thereof, everyone in the English speaking world knows this story. In 2800 BC, God ordered Noah to take one pair (or seven) of every animal and bird onto his ark. God flooded the world and killed everything that wasn't on the ark. All current terrestrial life has spread from the ark's landing place in Armenia, and all known history is the story of the human passengers of that famous boat.
Mammoths are not a separate species of elephant according to some Ark-eologists. They are a normal tropical elephant. During the Biblical flood, the elephants left behind were all drowned. Their carcasses were carried north by the flood waters and deposited in Siberia where they froze.
- Velikovsky - In historical times, the planets Venus and Mars ricocheted around the solar system like billiard balls. Whenever they passed by the Earth, their gravitational fields caused the disasters that are recorded in history as the Old Testament miracles (Noah's flood, the plagues of Egypt, the sun stopping in its tracks).
Mammoths may or may not be a separate species of elephant. While disasters were happening in the Middle East, floods and freezes were happening in other parts of the world. Frozen mammoths are just one casualty of all this.
- Hapgood's polar shift - Ice collects at the poles every year. This weight makes the Earth unstable. Every couple thousand years, the centrifugal force of the spinning Earth on this weight causes the entire crust of the Earth to slip sideways. The heavier poles move to the equator and a previously temperate region moves to the pole where it begins to collect ice.
Mammoths are not a separate species of elephant. They are a normal tropical elephant. When the poles shifted, their tropical home was moved north and they flash-froze in mid chew.
- Hollow Earth - The Earth is a hollow ball with openings at or near the poles. Life, similar to ours, lives on the inner surface of the sphere. A tiny sun at the center of the sphere lights this inner tropical world.
Mammoths may or may not be a separate species of elephant. But they are a tropical animal. Periodically, one wanders too near the opening where it freezes to death, falls into the ocean, and is carried to Siberia by Arctic sea currents.
- WEL (Welteislehre) - Even though this one had the personal endorsement of Hitler, you don't see many WEL followers anymore. The entire universe, except the Earth and the sun, is made of ice. The Earth has had many ice moons. These spiral inward. When they get close to the Earth, tidal forces draw all of the water to the equator. Giant tides, miles high, sweep around the planet. Eventually the ice moon gets so close it explodes. As ice fragments crash to Earth, the seas resume their previous positions. Mars will be our next ice moon.
Mammoths are not a separate species of elephant. They are a normal tropical elephant. When the last ice moon broke up and the seas swept north, destroying Atlantis, thousands of elephants were killed, frozen, and swept into Siberia.
These are by no means the only theories that use frozen mammoths for proof or the only versions of these theories. Most new theories, true to the recycling principle, are combinations and variations on these themes. All of these theories--with the exception of the Hollow Earth--share the idea that frozen mammoths were all created in a single, cataclysmic event of global and geologic proportions. They all think that frozen mammoths are proof positive of truth of their narrative, and of the perfidiousness of mainstream science.
In part two of this series I'll look at the development of one theory over the years and demonstrate how the frozen mammoth came to be incorporated into their narrative. In part three I'll examine the actual evidence that frozen mammoths supposedly provide for that theory. I'm still working on securing an interview with a frozen mammoth for part four. So far, all I get to my enquiries is a chilly silence.