Ok, so we are not completely sure whether already-legendary kook Giorgio A. Tsoukalos is actually formally qualified – he seems to be Greek – but his (significant) contributions to lunacy has been made primarily in the US, so we’ll count him in, mostly because we want to cover him. Tsoukalos is the publisher of Legendary Times Magazine, a magazine occupied with searching for evidence to support ancient aliens, and has long been the Director of Erich von Däniken’s Center for Ancient Astronaut Research (Tsoukalos is also “Erich von Däniken’s official representative in the United States and the rest of the English-speaking world). Most famously, he is the star and consulting producer of History Channel’s cargo-cult-scientific drivel Ancient Aliens – The Series, and according to himself Tsoukalos “is the real-life Indiana Jones.” He has, of course, no qualification in history, archaeology or any field that would make him even minimally qualified to assess, well, any kind of evidence whatsoever (or distinguish it from non-evidence), a lack of qualification he amply and proudly displays in his writings and shows.
Tsoukalos believes that practically everything in the ancient world has something to do with aliens, to the extent that it has made him into some sort of official meme (you can try the Tsoukalos meme generator here). Did, for instance, the Babylonians have nuclear weapons? Oh yes, they did.
To give you a sample of crazy in Tsoukalos’s own presentations:
- Here is his breathtaking inference from ancient mythological creatures to aliens.
- Here is Tsoukalos presenting his view on Atlantis – “I don’t think that Atlantis sank. I think it was lifted off.”
- Here he claims that the rocks of Stonehenge “were transported by way of levitation by none other than Merlin the wizard.” (After all the rocks are there; clearly they must have been transported there by magic. It could be suggested by the Disney cartoon The Sword in the Stone that Merlin would be capable of such feats. Therefore Merlin did it.)
- Here he weighs in on the idea of an “alien goldrush” (the “ancient astronaut’s home planet needed gold for their atmosphere”).
- Here he concludes that “we’re half-human, and half-extraterrestrial. We’re hybrids;” an incoherent (think about it) conclusion drawn from the fact that common depictions of the DNA double helix looks strange (to him). A quick discussion of Tsoukalos’s take on genetics can be found here.
He has also claimed that the streets of D.C. (a well-known source of conspiracies) were laid out in the shape of a five-pointed star to communicate to the aliens that we “respect” them. (He seems to be unaware that real stars don’t have points and that the convention to depict them as such would make no sense to a foreign culture).
According to himself his study of the Ancient Astronaut Theory is “scientific”, though he doesn’t seem to have much by way of the faintest grasp of what that might mean. Apparently the fact that his “study” includes analyses of ancient scriptures, drawings, monuments and artifacts using pareidolia and motivated reasoning as their sole methods of assessment, somehow makes it scientific (plenty of the items featured are demonstrably hoaxes). A Tsoukalos argument that is rather telling (from a March 2012 episode) was, roughly:
1. People worship “Gods”
2. But people only believe in things they have evidence for.
3. They had written/drawn evidence for these “Gods”.
4. Written/drawn evidence is always realistic and never abstract, imaginative, or metaphorical.
5. But “Gods” don’t actually exist.
6. Therefore these ancient gods were actually aliens.
Notice the second premise. It really sums up Tsoukalos’s approach to everything – by virtue of beliving in ancient aliens, it follows that he has evidence for it. Here, by the way, is an account of an interaction with Jason Colavito, who are – shall we say – reasonably skeptical of Tsoukalos’s ideas. Tsoukalos was unhappy with the results, arguing that “[j]ust the fact that you so desperately attempt to dismantle our theory proves that we are on the right track. Otherwise you would not feel so threatened by our theories!” Which is also rather telling (there is a discussion of Tsoukalos’s approach to evidence here). As is his response to the question of whether ancient astronaut claims have been presented in peer-reviewed journals (imagine it read by Michael Scott/Steve Carell): “And because YOU haven’t seen any articles THAT means the articles don't exist, right? Wow. Oh wow. UN-real. What a glaring display of RAMPANT egotistical ignorance.” I think that means “no”.
Diagnosis: Tsoukalos has no idea what evidence is, or why it is needed, and is somewhat confused by the fact that people ask for it – which makes him precisely the kind of guy e.g. History Channel want. Though he has quite a media presence, it is hard to imagine that Tsoukalos’s helps rather than harms the conspiracy movement – even dimwits seem to find his claims and assessments of evidence rather … weird. But who knows; we may be overestimating people.