Ms. Sammi Soutar responded to my column in the Columbus Dispatch entitled “13 skulls nonsense detracts from real Mayan achievements” with the claim that it was equal parts narrow-minded and objectionable and that I had singled out one group’s hopes and cherished spiritual ideals for ridicule. She also suggested that my comments were neither informed nor scientific.

Ms. Soutar is entitled to her opinions about what she finds objectionable and she can believe a commitment to a scientific understanding of the world reflects a kind of narrow-mindedness, but her accusation that my comments were uninformed and unscientific is woefully misguided. These were precisely my criticisms of the folks claiming the crystal skulls in question were either ancient or Mayan. The facts, not my opinion, demonstrate they are neither. Moreover, my deeper concern, not addressed by Ms. Soutar, was the association of Serpent Mound with these recent, non-Mayan artifacts, and the fear-mongering apocalyptic hysteria surrounding 2012. It is my feeling that the implications of this association trivializes Serpent Mound and the real achievements of its ancient American Indian builders and lends the fraudulent crystal skulls an undeserved halo of authenticity.

Hunbatz Men and his followers certainly are entitled to their beliefs. Yet when those beliefs are brought into the public arena of large events at sites such as Serpent Mound with newspaper stories promoting their claims without the clear thinking accuracy and fairness that Ms. Soutar argues are fundamental to good journalism, then I believe it is my responsibility to provide an informed response from a scientific perspective.

Since the publication of my original column and blog post, the 11-11-11 event was held at a Los Angeles hotel. According to Hari Jiwan, a yoga teacher in Hollywood, who was quoted in an article in the Los Angeles Times, it was to be a day of shifting cosmic direction, which already had brought the asteroid 2005 YU55 hurtling close to Earth and dumped the most autumn snow on New York City since the Civil War. Mr. Jiwan claimed that during the last period of similar intergalactic tumult, Atlantis fell into the sea and Noah had his flood. These ridiculous statements illustrate a broader concern with such claims that make them legitimate targets of informed criticism. If enough people are persuaded that real threats to our continued existence, such as asteroid impacts and global climate change, have a supernatural origin and can be addressed simply by gathering together a critical mass of crystal skulls, then it will be more difficult to achieve the political will to pursue real solutions solutions based on a scientific understanding of the world — to these looming problems. Such ideas are not simply wrong; they are dangerous.

Here is a link to Ms. Soutars entire letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch: “Column insulted believers, journalism”

Here is a link to the Los Angeles Times story: “Heavens! It’s 11-11-11”

Brad Lepper

Note: In my original post here I incorrectly referred to Ms. Soutar as “Mr. Soutar.” I apologize to Ms. Soutar for my sexist assumption and have made the appropriate corrections in the above post.

Posted November 20, 2011
Topics: Archaeology

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