Friday, July 24, 2009

Quist, Antarctica, and all that

I left a few things out of the previous piece because A) the piece was too long already and something had to be cut, B) I didn't want to digress too much, or C) I forgot.

I only touched on the geographic aspect of the ancient maps concept. Quist's version of it is even loonier if you look at the geologic aspect. For example, if the world was warm enough two thousand years ago for Antarctica to be ice free, sea level would have been a few hundred feet higher. Rome, Athens, Carthage, Alexandria and all of the other homes of his mighty ancient mariners would have been under water.

Antarctica would have looked completely different. Simply removing the ice, without changing sea level puts vast areas of Antarctica under water. If you add the rise in sea level caused by melting all of the ice back into the ocean, Antarctica becomes a chain of islands. If you allow for isostatic rebound, the rise in land when you remove the weight of all of that ice, a lot of the continent rises back above the waves, but the coastline would change into something completely different than today's Antarctica. Finally, a lot of the coastline that Quist points to is ice; if the ice goes away, the coastline goes away.

Though Hapgood only suggested the possibility, there is a whole school of hidden history buffs that believe that the iceless Antarctica was Atlantis. It's the Antarctica as Atlantis school of thought that keeps the ancient map idea alive. Some of the better selling authors who push this idea are Barbara Hand Clow, Rand Flem-Ath (yes, that's his real name), and Graham Hancock. Google around and you'll find thousands of pages on Antarctica as Atlantis.

Quist believes in dragons. No, really. He believes in dragons. This is something that comes out of the Ken Ham, of Creation Museum fame, school of creationism. Ham tells people that dragons are the dinosaurs that Noah took on the ark. They've been lurking around in the forests and other remote places ever since, though most of them are probably extinct by now. If anyone is going to the museum, take some pictures and blog it. Quist teaches this in one of home-schooling "Curriculum Modules."

I only looked at a couple of the modules, I'm sure there are lots of goodies hidden in there for any bloggers with the stomach to read through it all.

As a history guy, one of the things that really offends me about this kind of thing is that it postulates one super race that benevolently handed out knowledge and that all of the rest of our ancestors were too stupid to figure anything out for themselves. It doesn't matter whether the fountainhead of all knowledge was ancient astronauts, Atlanteans, Roman super-mariners, or Yetis with PhDs, it insults and diminishes all other human achievement as nothing more than imitation or plagiarism. Sailing techniques of Classical antiquity were impressive enough without this nonsense. The cartography of the Renaissance involved developing new mathematical tools, new navigational tools, and organizing enormous amounts of paradigm-challenging data the grew and changed with every returning ship. The Spanish and Portuguese sailors who sailed into the unknown were amazingly brave and innovative, to say they couldn't have done it with out a how-to manual is slanderous.

I'll have a couple of other posts someday that touch on various aspects of this. For now, we can argue with the Quists and Hams of the world, but the best tool for resisting them is mockery. It will be hard for others to take these types of ideas seriously if we can make the speakers look silly.

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