Graham Hancock is a British writer and journalist. He is known for his pseudoscientific theories involving ancient civilisations, Earth changes, stone monuments or megaliths, altered states of consciousness, ancient myths, and astronomical or astrological data from the past.
Normally when I watch a master magician or mentalist weaving their spell over the audience, my mind is sharply focused not on the outcome of the act but rather the manner in which the performer is duping the audience. For me, Graham Hancock is no exception.
Main picture: Graham Hancock
By nature I am a cynic of the supernatural. Be it is the occult, the paranormal, the psychic or any forms of UFOs or the aliens, per Erich von Däniken, who periodically visit the earth, I am sceptical.
Their disciples – I refer to them as apologists – claim that they are deserving of attention as they challenge conventions but do the arguments that they provide constitute compelling evidence. Superficially yes, but have they been subject to independent verification.
Herein lies my conundrum. Much like the magicians, they are deceiving the eye and brain but like the most purveyors of pseudoscience, they proffer their claims with the righteous certainty of a charlatan.
As a non-endearing trait, I do not suffer fools or charlatans graciously and hence I have an animus for their brand of fakery. More likely than not, they will con some unsuspecting individuals to part with their hard-earned cash to pursue these phantoms.
Be that as it may. The tantrum throwing is over.
Accuracy or the Devil’s in the Details
You may well ask why after 20 years this issue has yet again raised its head. Well it was an innocent email which was being forwarded around my circle. Its content was a video depicting Graham Hancock making claims about the supposed accuracy of the pyramids of Egypt pre anno domini.
The rebuttal to this video came in the form of an articulate response from my brother, a world-renowned rebutter of note. This is what his weighty refutation stated:
It’s very impressive how he divines these cardinal earth dimensions from the very dimensions of the pyramids but let’s interrogate them a bit closer.
1. Depending on the source Egypt has 100 odd pyramids and Sudan has 220. Do all these pyramids conform to these cardinal dimensions or other significant dimensions or are the Giza pyramids unique. If so, why would the Great Pyramid be singled out? I don’t buy it.
2. Looking at the heavily eroded outline, how do you determine it’s dimension with the degree of accuracy that he ascribes to it.
3. Furthermore, in determining the height and the base perimeter, where did they start given the amount of sand blowing around Was the site levelled up to that degree of accuracy.
4. Generally he gilds the lily with his over accurate dimensions because he claims that they are significant. He claims that the base is 755.9ft per side. Measuring that length on Google maps makes you wonder how he can claim that to the accuracy of 4 significant figures (an accuracy of ±0.1ft = ±30mm) – likely. Furthermore he claims an alignment accuracy of 1/360° which is 11.2 mm over the length of one side. Now it seems as if he has determined the theoretical original side dimensions to a 3x greater accuracy.
The precession of the Earth is 71.59yr/° x 600 = 42953.
This yields a 1.2% error on the length of the base or 9.1ft and 1% error on the height or 4.8ft.
Conclusion: These are fun coincidences but that is all.
The Role of Coincidence
The thing about this stuff is that people see patterns and relationships where either none exist or, if they do, are purely coincidental.
In the 2nd case, people do not realise how common coincidences actually are. The famous one is in soccer, there are 23 people in the field of play. What is the probability that any 2 people share the same birthday? Surprisingly, it is 50%. If you don’t believe it, take the example of the 32 teams taking part in the 2014 soccer World Cup. Each squad has 23 players so the maths predicts that 16 teams should have at least a pair of people who share the same birthday. It is indeed so and some had multiple pairs: The list is: Spain, Colombia, Switzerland (x2), USA, Iran (x2), France (x2), Argentina (x2), South Korea (x2), Cameroon, Australia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Russia, Netherlands, Brazil, Honduras and Nigeria.
If you increase the group size to 70 the probability increases to 99.9%!
In the 1st case, patterns sometimes exist otherwise there wouldn’t be science. However, with people who wish to create a new conspiracy or religion or a proof of UFO’s or create some psuedoscience and so on, they detect a pattern while blithely ignoring that that same set of facts can support many other patterns. To illustrate this I played aroiund a bit.
What you are looking at is a confusing bunch of spots. Each spot could represent a fact or a data point. By being selective, one can discern at least 6 different patterns that I purposely encoded into those dots. There are probably a whole bunch more if you wish to smoke you socks or some hallucinogenic substance.