The Ongoing Controversy:

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority,
it's time to pause and reflect."

Mark Twain

In The Hall of Ma'at


The Hall of Ma'at (Egyptian goddess of Justice, law and -esoterically- Cosmic Equilibrium) is the name rather inappropriately bestowed upon a website set up about a year ago, intended as a counter to the various websites (including this one) devoted to 'alternative' interpretations of history. On the positive side, though championing orthodoxy effectively across the scientific/scholarly spectrum (not just Egypt) Ma'at is happy to post unedited any and all opinions on the subject, so in principle it provides a useful forum for an (often acrimonious) exchange of opinions.

On the negative side, since anyone and everyone has an opinion, anyone and everyone chimes in -- which results in an unmanageable volume of material both pro and con the various issues raised. A quick search through the Ma'at messageboard reveals that there are a dozen or so stalwarts on either side of the overriding 'Lost Civilization' theory, some of them knowledgeable. But since not many of them represent heavy hitters on either side, up to now, after occasional visits to the site, I'd not taken time out to respond.

Recently, however, for a variety of reasons, I decided to put in my two cents. What follows are those responses, collated into two long posts, which I hope will be largely self-explanatory to readers new to Ma'at. If you find what follows of interest, but confusing, you might find it worth your while (if you have lots of while to spare) to pull up the Ma'at url, do a search under my name, and wade through the controversy in detail.

Visit the Website.

Author: John Anthony West Date: April-23-02 14:10


My jump into the Hall of Ma'at arena several days back seems to have provoked considerable attention; and a a proliferation of threads, sub-threads and sub-sub-threads all intertwined and entangled. For me, trying to locate any given post, including my own, in this chaos is like trying to find my way through a tapestry woven by Jackson Pollack on a binge.

So (since the subject, or subjects touched upon have aroused such heated response) in the interests of both clarity and sanity, I have gathered together here under a single head what seem to me the salient issues, not necessarily in the order posted, and have edited my own posts a bit here and there; again, for emphasis and/or clarity. And I have added a number of comments not previously posted to avoid their instant submergence into the Pollack archives.

1. Symbolist vs. Orthodox Egyptology

ANTHONY asked me to describe the distinction I made between 'the Egypt of the Ancient Egyptians and the Egypt of the Egyptologists'; that is to say the difference between the 'symbolist' interpretation developed by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz and the orthodox (i.e., academically accepted) interpretation.

Rather than even attempt this daunting task in a few paragraphs, I referred Anthony back to my book SERPENT IN THE SKY: the High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt and to Schwaller de Lubicz's TEMPLE OF MAN. This was not exactly fudging my out, but it demands A) that Ma'at readers have these books and B) that they've read them. This is admittedly asking a lot. There is however a newer and much more accessible way to plug into these radical opposed interpretations.

Pull up: This is the new website designed as the trailer to a series of interactive, virtual reality DVD/CD-ROMs that we have been working on for over a year. 'We' is myself and Chance Gardner. He's an award-winning animator and interactive author. For the past 15 years Chance has produced animations and broadcast graphics for entertainment giants such as 20th Century Fox and Fox Broadcasting, Paramount Studios, UPN, Real Networks, music industry clients include The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Green Day and many others. But his actual interests lie in metaphysical/esoteric/hermetic realms and he came to me a couple of years ago, proposing a Virtual Reality tour of 'symbolist' Egypt. This is what that URL introduces. The website itself provides only a taste of the many hours of material on the DVD/CD-ROMs but that should be more than enough for anyone even peripherally aware of the symbolist/orthodox conflict to see the difference between these two interpretations. So, Anthony (and whoever else may be so inclined) over to you.

1a. GARRETT FAGAN takes issue:

I had maintained in the post to ANTHONY that in no other scientific/scholarly discipline did the same set of data (pyramids/temples/tombs/texts/art) produce two such diametrically opposed interpretations.

Fagan demurred:'I would reply "science." Many, many areas of science interpret the same evidence in widely variant, even mutually exclusive ways: quantum as opposed to Einsteinian physics would be glaring example; the dispute between Darwinian and"punctuated equilibrium" scenarios in evolutionary theory(which you reject as a whole, right?); the dispute over what killed the dinosaurs (at least three main contentions based on the same evidence); the dispute over what happened to the Maya; the dispute over why the Roman Empire fell, or even if it fell; shall I go on? There are hundreds of examples. In fact, genuine research invariably leads to dispute and divergent interpretations.

This is because unlike the fantasyland you foist on your fans, genuine science and scholarship is not some sort of monolithic authority that dispenses the Truth. It's a shifting body of interpretation, ever changing with newevidence and modes of investigation. So there will,naturally, constantly be disputes and debates.

But some people don't like living with such a degree of uncertainty That's why they look to Truthspeakers like yourself, who sell daydreams as if they were fact.

JAW responded (some of this new):

This, coming from you Garrett, is amazing: You talk about 'genuine science and scholarship' and 'genuine research' But your invariable modus operandi (proven above) is to brand anyone and everyone a charlatan, quack or 'pseudoscientist' who dares suggest there might be flaws to orthodoxy; you, who blew out a planned debate at your university with your intemperate, incendiary and deeply unprofessional language --not just in private and in passing, but published in a brochure and website designed to attract the public to the event. (You may remember that even your own University authorities --Vice President in Charge of Public Events or some such title-- acknowledged in writing the inappropriateness of your language. And here you are again championing 'genuine science and scholarship' and the nobility of science yet hurling verbal insults at me and those of my colleagues with the temerity to challenge your authority. You act -and write- in exact defiance of your own words -- as though science were indeed a 'monolithic authority'.

Le style est l'homme meme! Have you any idea how you come across? In your state of permanently exacerbated high dudgeon? Don't you get it? Our evidence has been presented at prestigious geological conferences. (of course the attending and overwhelmingly supportive geologists knew nothing about your own specialty, public bathing in Rome, and were therefore unqualified to pass judgement on the matter. But you are.) We have successfully exposed the fatal flaws in all opposing arguments to date. This does not necessarily mean we're right. It does mean we've not been proved wrong. And if ever we should be, it would only mean our science was wrong, not 'pseudo'. This is not a 'fantasyland.'

We shall let that evidence speak for itself. OK? (BTW: our evidence doesn't come in 'shreds' as you suggested elsewhere, maybe that's why you can't see any of it?: It tends to come in 200 ton blocks.) But your responses follow normal debunker protocol: when challenged, ignore unwelcome evidence if possible; if unavoidable, then get out the red herring barrel, top with fudge and set it alight. The ensuing smokescreen produced may well take in the gullible and the uninformed.

2. THE FLAKING THEORY (exfoliation)

JIM LEWANDOWSKI asked about this theory, initially put forward by geologist K. Lal Gauri. He claimed that ground water, leaching up into the bedrock limestone, produced flakes on its surfaces, very visible today inside the Sphinx enclosure and elsewhere, which, he suggested, was responsible for the extreme weathering found on the Sphinx itself and on its enclosure walls.

My post:

'Mark Lehner supports the 'flaking theory' as well. He is an Egyptologist and can be excused. There is no excuse for Dr. Gauri.The argument is geologically untenable. The flaking follows the contours of the walls, it does not and cannot of itself create the kind of weathering profile we find on the Sphinx and its enclosure wall. Though this has always been self-evident to us, it wasn't until I was there with Schoch in the summer of 2000 that we were actually able to prove our case categorically. High up on the western wall of the enclosure, there are a three Late Kingdom (ca 600BC) tombs cut into that wall. The entrances to these are fully exposed to the elements, and there we can see the actual results of some 2600 years of 'Lehner flakes'. Effectively there is no weathering at all. Yet the tell-tale flakes are there, and presumably have been forming all along.

All they've done since 2600 BC is to slightly blur the still-clearly visible marks made by the masons' chisels when they first cut these tombs out. (This is very clearly photographically documented, you can see the flakes going in and out of the chisel marks). Double that negligible amount of flaking (to give you roughly the putative date for the carving of the Sphinx) and you get 2 x nothing. Mathematically astute readers will be able to solve this equation. The flaking theory has been laid to rest and in honor of that occasion, the most representative of the Late Kingdom tombs has been renamed "Lehner's Tomb" for there the flaking theory lies. We presented this (and other) evidence before the Geological Society of America's Annual Meeting in Nov. 2001.

The western third of the southern enclosure wall has sustained some ten feet or more of water weathering since it was first exposed to the elements. The Sphinx itself has had some three feet of limestone evenly eroded away from its original contour. Only rain water, vast amounts of rainwater falling over long periods of time, can possibly account for this phenomenon. Two English geologists, David Coxill and Colin Reader, independent of each other and of ourselves, have traveled to Egypt specifically to examine our theory; both corroborate the rainwater weathering hypothesis without reservation. The dating is still up for grabs of course, though Reader tries rather desperately to preserve a dynastic dating (rather like Tycho Brahe accepting the Copernican heliocentric theory, but still insisting upon excluding the earth from the equation ... couldn't be done!) Neither can Reader's attempt to place the Sphinx in the 1st or 2nd Dynasty.

The same applies to all other objections put before us to date. All, in one way or another, have been answered. Interested parties should pull up the (admittedly) long winded 'Egypt the (Half) Truth' posts archived on my website particularly the last few posts, you'll find Schoch or me systematically demolishing these opposition arguments.

The overwhelming positive reaction of geologists at our two GSA presentations speaks for itself. The uninformed arguments being posted on this site usually merit no response. The only straw left (barely) floating for opponents to grasp is that the assenting geologists at the two GSA meetings had not examined the evidence in situ for themselves. This, at best, is a reservation, hardly a rebuttal. It is, however, a valid reservation. And that is precisely why we are now putting together our panel of geologists to get over there and see for themselves and report back. Again, refer to the latest update on my website for more on this'.

3. In the Hall of the Double (Standard) Ma'at. Joanne Conman asked why proponents of alternative theories were held to different standards than orthodox academics.

Garrett Fagan responded: ' I would agree with most of what Joanne writes here, save that alternative writers are not held to different standards as real archaeologists. They are held to the precisely same standards. What archaeologists ask of alternative writers is exactly what they ask of themselves all the time: "What's the evidence for your proposition?"'

JAW responded in turn:

Alas, the very homepage of Halls of Ma'at (proud champion of orthodoxy) provides apodictic proof to the contrary. Alternative writers are held to VERY different standards. For the home page quotes with evident relish Carl's Sagan's fatuous and manifestly fraudulent observation: 'Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.'

This is the website Ma'ato and it represents an obvious and incontrovertible double standard.

For who is to judge 'Extraordinary claims'? Members of CSICOP, our self-appointed Paradigm Police? Katherine Reece? Garrett Fagan, after 20 years as an academic, an Assistant Professor of Classics at Penn State University (the equivalent of 20 years in the army and the rank of Private First Class) with a single published work to his credit, a book on public bathing in Rome? Are these fit to be the judges?

Proving ESP might be an 'extraordinary claim' to a High Priest of the the Church of Progress; it would be an utter waste of time for a Bushman of the Kalahari, who uses this faculty on a day to day basis. Yet if Randy Johnson throws a 100 mph fastball to a Kalahiri Bushman and insists it can (on but rare occasions, admittedly) be hit, that Bushman will likely regard it as an 'extraordinary claim'. He can't hit it. He probably can't even see the ball go past his bat. But it is not an 'extraordinary claim'. It is just not part of his living context.

Sorry. Evidence is evidence, as long as it is gathered according to ground rules (which do shift for you whenever that evidence verges on the uncomfortable). The evidence for alien abductions needs to be no better than the evidence for the latest new baby step in genetics, or, say, natural selection ... actually the evidence for alien abductions is much better than that for natural selection, for which there is no evidence at all in the strictly scientific sense, and the very name is an example of flagrant if unwitting linguistic chicanery ... but this is quite another matter...anyway... (I may get back to this in due course).

Note: Unless his response is buried somewhere in the Jackson Pollackian tapestry and I missed it, it would appear that Fagan has failed to respond to the demonstration of the academic double standard prevailing at Ma'at.

4. On evidence or the lack of it:

RE: Of the entire 'Lost Civilization' hypothesis, John Wall wrote, or more accurately sneered, How was it then that the Sphinx was only piece of evidence we cited in defence of this notion. (Note: I seem unable to clear the background color out of the following. Sorry - JAW)

JAW pointed out other pieces of supporting evidence: :JAW: Take lower courses of Khafre and the paving stones surrounding it are architectural stylistic evidence to that effect. The core bedrock of the so-called Tomb of Khentkaus is water-weathered similarly to the Sphinx but subdsequently smoothed off, and then covered with Old Kingdom casing stones. At the Northwest corner of Khentkaus, a single vertical row of casing stones is missing. Behind the missing row, pressed against the backs of the casing stones the PRE-WEATHERED, unmistakably quarried bedrock is exposed.It was weathered, deeply weathered, BEFORE the Old Kingdom casing stones were applied. Comprende? There are two deeply WATER-WEATHERED shafts at Sakkara, in the midst of many other shafts whose walls show effectively no weathering at all.

JOHN WALL: And you have demonstrated the strata these are in and when they date from ? Oh, and what their "history" is in terms of sand coverage.....

JAW: This is utterly irrelevant. All the shafts are approximately at the same level. The so-called Southern Tomb of Zoser dates from the 3rd Dynasty. It is effectively unweathered.The history in 'term of sand coverage' is unknown and unknowable. It does not matter. Two of these shafts are water weathered from top to bottom. They are cut into the same bedrock as all the other shafts. And if they had been kept swept clean from Zoser on they still would not be evenly water-weathered (apparently) from top to bottom. ('Apparently', since we'd need ladders placed to be able to examine the bottom, but that's what it looks like from the top). ... Oh, and hey! you forgot to rationalize away the Khafre paving stones and the Khentkaus corner cited above

WALL: As the strata are rarely level it is totally relevant ! Unless you can demonstrate that it is precisely the same rock you're wasting your time. And sand coverage also matters.

JAW new This is gibberish. 'Approximately' the same level is quite good enough for now. 'Approximately' the same rock is also good enough, since it is all limestone within a limited area at approximately the same level, and we are talking here about drastically, incontrovertibly water weathered rock in one case, and effectively pristine unweathered rock in the other. The only argument I can see in opposition would be that the two weathered shafts served as wells, and were kept filled to the brim for thousands of years with buckets of water hauled up from the flood plain This possibility will probably appeal to you.

JAW The Oseirion does not date from dynastic Egypt either, but this is not easily proved. It is cut into what appears to be crumbly bedrock, but is actually impacted Nile silt from tremendous floods that seem to have occurred prior to 10,000 BC (some dispute on the dates). The silt could be carbondated, but that would not actually PROVE the Oseirion was built prior to deposition of silt by the flooding, but would add considerable credence to that hypothesis. In other words the Oseirion is not actually cut into a hole in the ground but originally stood on the flood plain like a kind of more sophhisticated Stonehenge which was then subsequently buried beneath the silt, only to be re-discovered by Seti I while building Abydos.

WALL Nope, it's unambiguously dated to Seti I. We hope to have an article here that'll address that. Considering the generally"archaising" characteristics of his reign it's not unexpected.

JAW Ah well, if you have an article coming out, that must settle the question once and for all. I suspect that your idea of unambiguity will not correspond to mine.

WALL The article isn't prepared yet but I seem to recall that Seti's name was found "inside" the structure. The references, etc need checking.....

JAW The south-west corner of the bedrock supporting the Citadel (opposite the Mokattam quarries) shows deep water weathering similar to that of the Sphinx enclosure wall, though without the marked vertical fissuring.

WALL And which strata are these from ? It still rains in Egypt nowadays - there are records of very heavy downpours.....

JAW More irrelevance. Then why doesn't the rain produce the same kind of weathering wherever there is this kind of rock?

WALL Because different strata of the same "kind of rock" weather differently. The Sphinx is all limestone but the different strata (members) were laid down at different times and under different conditions; therefore they have different characteristics and weather differently.

JAW The recently discovered megalithic stone circle at Nabta (ca 4500BC) is astronomically oriented which demonstrates observational astronomy going back at least to this date.

WALL You read any Richard Rugeley ? Nabta has, of course, no evidence for stone working, just stone moving.

JAW In case you didn't notice, I was talking about astronomy, not stone moving.

WALL: If it's some sort of "legacy" why didn't they possess both "skills" ? In any case alignments aren't that difficult to do. There are megalithic structures with astronomical alignments in the British Isles; Stephen Tonkin will tell you how his children came up with a simple method to achieve this......

JAW The interior so-called 'plundered tomb chamber' of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur is probably not a tomb chamber at all, nor has it been plundered.

WALL: Oh yes, the not-a-tomb business....Y-a-w-n..... Have you read Batrawi's report on the remains found in the Red pyramid ?Obviously not from reading SITS p 13. Similarly, I note no mention of Lepre's analysis of the sarcophagus in the Great Pyramid.

JAW What is SITS? Nope, haven't read those reports.

WALL: SITS - "Serpent In The Sky" ! It was totally obvious to me that you weren't aware of those..... If you were you wouldn't make the erroneous claims you do.

JAW new : Doesn't matter for the argument I was raising. As usual, you stray from the issue. WALL: No, I demonstrate your lack of knowledge about the discipline you are attempting to overturn.

JAW new: Hardly. What I wrote was:That issue is: The stones comprising that chamber have been exposed to the elements for an undetermined but long period of time BEFORE the pyramid was built around them ... unless of course the builders just happened to find a handy stock of quarried but weathered blocks lying around on the ground and decided to construct this particular chamber from these, while using finely polished limestone blocks for the other two chambers.

WALL Were they ? I see a hacked about chamber....

JAW The roughly dressed, megalithic-looking blocks that comprise it are incontrovertibly weathered and they cannot have weathered inside the pyramid. In other words, this curious chamber/construction was there FIRST and the pyramid was built around it. Got it?

WALL: I've seen it and looking at the pictures (from Guardians):

JAW: It also doesn't matter what you've seen since you don't know what you're looking at. You're not a geologist. And you weren't looking at the blocks with weathering in mind.

WALL: And your geological credentials?

JAW (new): Informal of course, but not bad. I single-handedly developed Schwaller's observation of water weathering to the point that it intrigued the initially skeptical and highly credentialed Robert Schoch who subsequently endorsed it without reservation. It subsequently passed muster at two GSA conferences, and was reported upon (generally with astonishing fairness, given the profound implications of the heresy) by the scientific and mainstream press. In fact your Ma'at website exists largely due to my geological credentials -- for Hancock drew heavily upon them for his FINGERPRINTS OF THE GODS. (Bauval's Orion Theory was developed independently, but that in itself would never have provoked the ongoing controversy or this website.) .So you should thank me for providing this forum. Without it, no one would pay any attention to you and you would be relegated to a life in total obscurity, perhaps devoted to breeding your totem animal, the Toothless Junkyard Dog,.

WALL(re: the chamber in the Red Pyramid) I see a hacked about floor, looking for extra chambers.

JAW Somewhere in these posts recently someone cited the delicious joke about Holmes and Watson camping out and looking at the stars. Watson sees only stars, but Holmes sees that someone has stolen their tent.

JAW The floor is assuredly ravaged. But plundered? This is an interesting question. Much of the broken rock is missing. Did these wonderfully neat tomb plunderers haul big chunks of broken rock up the 80 meters or so of constricted passageway to leave it all nice and cozy? It might have been the neater Egyptologists, of course, but it's an interesting question. Not to you, needless to say, since there are no questions that need asking unless the answers correspond to your preconceptions. That's why we have James O'Kon, the forensic engineer on our geology panel; to see if he can address this question of putative plunder, among other questions...

WALL Considering that a piece of one of the granite portcullises from outside the King's Chamber in the GP ended up down the well shaft, nothing surprises me; that's also in Lepre btw.......

WALL I see you're still peddling the pi, etc in the Great Pyramid business in SITS - there's an article coming to this site on that soon !

JAW Goody! I'm sure it will prove definitive, especially if you agree with it. I'll see how it matches up with, say, Alexander Badawi's HARMONIC DESIGN AND PROPORTION IN EGYPTIAN ARCHITECTURE and John Neal's ALL DONE WITH MIRRORS.

WALL: I presume you're aware of how the AEs found the area of a circle ? It's in the Rhind Mathematical papyrus.....Re: the weathering. WALL had asserted that many geologists disagreed with Schoch - implying that therefore the water weathering theory was invalid. JAW then asserted the numbers meant nothing and that all published opposing theories purporting to explain the weathering to the Sphinx had been decisively rebutted.

WALL: Strange, I haven't seen any of them accepting defeat.....

JAW Ah yes, so that is the criterion for the validity or otherwise of their views, is it? They have not acknowledged defeat, therefore they are right even though they all disagree with each other.

WALL: They agree on one thing.... You and Schoch are wrong; although to differing extents....

JAW: You have, here, Wall, displayed to one and all the level of your scholarship and your ability to reason. No, of course they have not acknowledged defeat, nor will they ever, no matter what the evidence,. Nor will you. This is a foregone conclusion. The Fundamentalists of the Church of Progress are no different from the Fundamentalists of other religions;the only difference between you is that the other religions are degenerate and vitiated while yours is just bogus.

WALL: Au contraire. I have demonstrated how I as a mere amateur - and I have no Egyptological qualifications - can find the holes in "alternative history". I have quoted references that directly refute your assertions. Reference after reference that you, as somebody seeking to "rewrite history" - isn't that the subtitle of your forthcoming book; "The quest to rewrite history" ? - are unaware of. You quote antiquated, cobwebbed and long-superseded references (SITS is full of that) in order to try and prove your "case" and your answers to those such as myself who are - easily - able to contradict these is abuse.

Game, set and Ma'atch !

JAW new: Sorry, you emphatically have not 'demonstrated how' you 'as a mere amateur ... can find the holes in "alternative history.'

The references you cite are without exception irrelevant; your arguments are infantile. There is not one worth considering. Above, marked '(new)' I've responded to some of the sillier ones. But all are blatant evasions or distortions of what I wrote to you. You simply refuse to examine the evidence. E.g., The bedding planes of Khafre have nothing to do with the anomalous style of the cyclopean masonry of the lower courses. It does not matter a damn what burial remains Batrawi found in the Red Pyramid. I was talking about megalithic-looking blocks that were already weathered when the pyramid was built. A single Seti inscription inside the Oseirion hardly establishes him as its builder. If it did, then Rameses II would be acknowledged as the builder of everything in New Kingdom Egypt. Etc., etc. etc.

You have found 'holes' all right, Wall, but they are bullet holes; and they are in your foot, not in the Sphinx theory.. And there is also one great big hole in your front yard, it's about 6 feet long x 4 feet wide, I reckon. You dug this deep with your comments about the dissenting geologists over the course of several posts. Remember? No? Let me recapitulate for our readers.

First you stated that there were many geologists who disagreed with Schoch. I pointed out that whatever their numbers, there were in reality but five competing published arguments. They all disagreed with each other; their arguments were mutually exclusive: thus if one was right the others were wrong. Still more important, I told you that Schoch and I had systematically and incontrovertibly demonstrated the inability of each of those theories in turn to explain away the unarguable weathering on the Sphinx.

Rather than try to defend any of those opposing theories or provide a better one of your own, your response was: ' They agree on one thing.... You and Schoch are wrong; although to differing extents.'*

With this (quite incredible!) assertion you have finished that deep hole in your front yard. In it lies buried forever any claim you might make to serious consideration, by me or anyone else.

So I will now extricate myself for good from this utterly futile exchange with you. There is some joy, but little profit in it.

However, since I know in advance (debunkers are approximately 100% predictable) that this will be taken by you (and doubtless by your like-minded colleagues on the Ma'at site) as a cop-out on my part, I'll tell you what I will do.

When we get our planned panel of geologists over to Egypt to examine all the pieces of our weathering evidence in situ, I will present them with copies of this correspondence so that they can examine your arguments first hand, rather than through any interpretation of mine. I suspect that once they stop laughing, they will decline to pursue the matter any further, but I will nevertheless provide them with that opportunity. Surely you can ask no more than that. It is your one chance for vindication.

* This reminds me of another good and appropriate joke.

During the Cold War an American journalist is visiting Russia and his guide takes him to see the brand new Moscow metro. The American is duly impressed, but after a long wait, he turns to his Russian guide, 'It's great.' he says. 'But where are the trains?''Oh yeah!' snaps the Russian. 'And what about the blacks in the south!'

5. Conclusion ... and a promise

If our geo-panel, after examining our evidence, reports back negatively on the water-weathering I will, with no little regret, admit defeat, drop the Lost Civilization hypothesis for good and go back to writing the novels, plays, screenplays and the like that started me off on this journey all those years ago.

On the other hand, if they report back positively, then I will see to it that you and all those who play the game the way you do (one standard for you, another for us, and the playing field never, ever level) are obliged to eat so much crow that by the time you've finished, crow will be an endangered species.

6. Bon appetit!John Anthony West

My 'Recapitulation' provoked well over a hundred responses on the Ma'at messageboard, many of them hostile-- which was of course in part the objective of the exercise. It's good to know the enemy intimately and there's no better way to learn than to goad them into dropping their guard. I've selected the response from Duncan Edlin (profile unknown), a consistent Ma'at contributor and defender of Egyptological and other academic/scientific orthodoxies as 'typical'. What applies to Edlin, applies with greater or lesser pertinence and accuracy to all others in his camp. I've copied and pasted Edlin's response in its entirety, addressing his various points. Readers should have no trouble following the argument. And anyone wanting to do a reliability check on the many responses to my Recapitulation (highly recommended but it's long, tough slogging) through the incredible tangled mass of threads and subthreads should do a search under my name on the Ma'at website, and take it from there. So this response is

The Sphinx - a Re-recapitulation

To Duncan Edlin:

1. Language Considered or: Considered Language?

You wrote:
>Nice post...

I thank you for the compliment., Duncan.

> however I think it could have been improved by the removal of the inflammatory language.

I appreciate the constructive suggestion. Several other respondents voiced the same. Well, these things are judgement calls. You could be right.

My take on the matter is: some fires must be fought with fire; with others, smothering with a wet blanket works; still others are best left to themselves to eventually burn themselves out. It seemed to me the first option was appropriate, especially given the level of abuse, invective, sarcasm, sneers and the like posted on this site both prior to and after my first posts to it a week or so back.

Garrett Fagan (especially), Martin Stower, John Wall, Mikey Brass, to name the principals,. seem particularly given to one, another, several, or all of these scholarly methodologies. (I sometimes wonder if Fagan is capable of writing a dispassionate laundry list.) Anyway, I'm grateful for the suggestion, but judging from many of the 102 responses so far posted on Ma'at, am disinclined to change my own ways. However, I do wonder if in the past you've voiced the same objection to those who share your views on the controversy but who routinely indulge in no less 'inflammatory language'.

2. Pseudoscience at PSU

Re: The aborted debate at Penn state University.

You wrote:

>For those unfamiliar with the circumstances surrounding this event Garrett had organised a conference at PSU involving Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, John Anthony West, Robert Schoch, Garrett Fagan, Ed Krupp, Clair Ossian and Donald Redford. The website used to promote the event referred to the event as a debate between "science and pseudoscience". Offence was taken within the alternative camp at the suggestion (Note: that was not a 'suggestion' Duncan, it was a statement. JAW) that they had been labelled "pseudoscience" before the event had taken place, however it was up to the audience to judge whom the labels science and pseudoscience referred to. The event was later cancelled by PSU due to poor ticket sales.<

I should like to add a bit of inside information that might be of interest to Ma'at readers. I (alone of the four of us) did not take offence

When that brochure/website first went up, Schoch was furious, and was ready to cancel out unless he had an apology in writing from Fagan. I talked him out of it, counseling him to bide his time and wait till we had our audience in front of us. As you note Duncan, 'it was up to the audience to judge whom the labels science and pseudoscience referred to.' I am in rare agreement with you on that -- though the language Fagan employed was hardly conducive to the reasoned debate Ma'at promotes. For example, if the website/brochure had been left to me, imagine the ruckus from our opponents if I had 'suggested' in print to our potential audience that they attend a debate to 'Witness proponents of an alternative view of history with an arsenal of evidence at their command challenge a panel of smug, obdurate pedants bent upon upholding a demonstrably shattered paradigm.' No, I would not have said such a thing. Certainly not!

Anyway, I had noticed that the Penn State University website url and email address contained > (whatever)< within it. This seemed remarkably appropriate. And so I planned to design and unfurl behind the podium at the opening of the debate, a huge banner telling our audience they would be witnessing Pseudoscience vs Psueduscience. And, as you suggest, Duncan, it would then be up to the audience to distinguish between us.

You see, I reckoned that would tend to level the playing field, and perhaps provoke a bit of a giggle. Schoch, once he simmered down, agreed to this strategy, but I neglected to get in touch with GH and RB in time. They demanded an apology, and hinted darkly at unspecified legal action for the slur, and the damage was done. (For the record, GH and RB afterwards told me they wouldn't have gone along with my strategy anyway. Ma'alesh! - 'Too bad' in Arabic.)

At the time I regretted my counsel had not prevailed. I was looking forward to debating Donald Redford, whose work I respect, on Symbolist vs. Academic Egypt. Ed Krupp is on the masthead of the Skeptical Inquirer, which speaks ill of his principles, but does not necessarily impugn his science. He would prove a worthy opponent. While having Fagan and Clair Ossian (who shares Fagan's penchant for gratuitous invective and abuse -- you should see his emails!) in the same room had me feeling in advance rather the way I imagine a cannibal chieftain must feel, watching a boatload of missionaries approach. (Missionaries of the Church of Progress, but no less edible for that.). However, since the debate would have taken place two weeks after 9/11 it is obvious in hindsight that it would not have been giggle time and the entire event would have gone largely unattended and would have been anticlimactic at best. So just as well.

Even so, canceling out six weeks in advance of the scheduled debate (long before 9/11) certainly did not strike me as a valid reason to cancel. One of my friends (I cannot remember who) did a bit of sleuthing and found out, I'm not sure how, that the PSU authorities did not take kindly to the veiled threat of legal action and that was the actual reason for the cancellation. I pass this on for what it may be worth. I don't actually know. And it doesn't matter now.

(new) My account of the PSU debacle drew a characteristically furious counter from Garrett Fagan. Apparently, the University laid the blame for the incendiary language, not on Fagan, but on the marketing people responsible for putting the brochure together in the first place. There was an interesting, if heated exchange of Ma'at posts between myself and Fagan, and a search will reveal those as well. Incorporating still more of this into the website update just takes me too far from the central issues, which are of course the Sphinx and Egypt, though I must say that I do personally enjoy the spectacle of observing academics in these objective modes, and actually consider it important. It's good to know what goes on behind the scenes. ____________________________________________________________________
I had written previously re: the Ma'at Double Standard:
'For who is to judge 'Extraordinary claims'? Members of CSICOP, our self-appointed Paradigm Police, etc.... '

You responded:
'In a similar vein should an amateur Egyptologist who runs coach tours be considered an appropriate judge of extraordinary claims?

Christopher Ash has responded to that question admirably (thanks Chris!) and I have little to add. My language was lucid enough. I was pointing out the unarguable double standard trumpeted on the Ma'at masthead itself via Carl Sagan's unfortunate contention, not setting myself up as an 'alternative' judge for initiating so profoundly unscientific an approach.

Nor do I mind your labelling, though think it meet to point out that 'amateur' carries a number of connotations. My Shorter Oxford Dictionary gives two meanings:"1. One who loves, is fond of, or has a taste for, anything. 2. One who cultivates anything as a pastime; hence occas. = a dabbler." In an earlier post, John Wall had added a new wrinkle, when he spoke of how he, a 'mere amateur' had found holes in our water-weathering theory. 'Amateur' here represents a covert glorification of the dabbler as an authority on his pastime.

Ah well, definition 1. certainly applies. I like to think definition 2. is remiss, but am confident you had definition 1. in mind when you assigned that description. Even so, judging from your method, Winston Churchill would have been 'an alcoholic who is also a Sunday painter' and Mozart 'a womanizer who is also a piano teacher.' You can't please all of the people all of the time, can you? 'Amateur Egyptologist who runs coach tours' will have to do

3. Re: The Darwinian Delusion

In conclusion I wrote:
>...actually the evidence for alien abductions is
> much better than that for natural selection, for which there
> is no evidence at all in the strictly scientific sense, and
> the very name is an example of flagrant if unwitting
> linguistic chicanery ...

jaw (new)
Well, Duncan, I do this sometimes ... chum the waters with a bit of anti-Darwin bait, just to see who bites. And sure enough, you did.

You wrote
'Nice to know that creationism is in safe hands.'

It is like that; any slur on the sanctity of St. Darwin invariably draws the same knee jerk response. Anyone suggesting the great man had it wrong is immediately a Creationist. Following the same logic you might say that any woman who is not a virgin is a whore. Or: Erich von Daniken is a pseudoscientist. He opposes the academically accepted view of history. Therefore anyone who opposes the academic view of history must be a pseudoscientist.

The literature contesting the Darwinian Delusion is extensive and hardly confined to goofy Fundamentalists insisting the world began in 4004 BC when God went 'Zap' and everything was created exactly as it is. The anti-Darwin literature is replete with books by eminent biologists, chemists, physicists, geologists, scientists of all stripes, lawyers, writers, eminent in their fields, and as thoroughly conversant with the controversy as the Darwinians. Presumably you are acquainted with this literature? Or would you like a selected bibliography?

Evolution is most assuredly a Fact. That it is sped along its merry way by blind chance is by no means a fact. That is the central issue. The conclusion that accident is the Primal Cause is the result of inductive and inferential reasoning, not of scientific evidence.

Poor old William Paley is consigned to the rubbish heap (by St. Darwin of course) for his famous 'watchmaker' analogy. But had he only to extend it to a vertically integrated 'watch manufacturer' and he would have been much closer to the mark (not his fault, there were no watch manufacturers in the modern sense in his time.) The watch manufacturer is forever improving his product. His business is affected by competition and by advances in technology. Old watches and still older time-keeping devices still have their uses and therefore have technological 'survival value'. The primitive hour glass still times eggs. The cuckoo clock has it place among kitsch lovers. The atomic clock serves other purposes. If the factory burns down, or the whole country is destroyed in a war, our watch manufacturer may have to start from scratch all over again (Christopher Ash raised a similar cogent argument on a Ma'at post recently talking about the 'evolution' of the automobile). But no watch manufacturer, no watches. Period. Or, in England, full stop.

This is the rule in our human world. But in the Darwinian never-never land, ours is a special case; intention and design only operate here, not in the greater universe that accidentally produced us. There, accident reigns supreme.

And Natural Selection explains it.

Now, I am not sure if I have anything original to add to the extensive and commanding anti-Darwin literature, but at least I don't remember reading what follows anywhere else. As I said above, ' the very name (Natural Selection) is an example of flagrant if unwitting linguistic chicanery.'

'Natural' is used as a synonym for 'accidental'. But everything 'natural' from the atom to biological forms to ecosystems to galaxies exhibits the most fabulously ordered design; hierarchies of organization within more complex hierarchies of organization. We know this scientifically; we feel it emotionally and intuitively. Thus 'Natural', in the Darwinian sense, seems at best an inappropriate word to use for an accidental process.

Ditto for 'selection', which presupposed choice or intention. The roulette wheel does not 'select' a number; the lottery winner is not 'selected'. Players are 'selected' for the NBA draft; candidates are 'selected' for scholarships or officer training. So 'Natural Selection' as the words selected to describe/explain that process of organization-by-accident is by definition doubly inappropriate. It is, in fact, a con job. But, as Lincoln observed: 'You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, etc...'

Our Darwinians should be upholding 'Accidental Agglomeration' perhaps, or 'Haphazard Accretion' or some such rather less misleading terminology to describe the manner in which the dead, accidental, purposeless and materialistic universe was created ... that for some perverse reason gives them solace. But this would somehow, at least intuitively, be rather less convincing.

Everything changes, 'evolves' if you insist. Change is observable, but Natural Selection is not. Accident is by definition impossible to prove. It cannot be measured, replicated or predicted. It is, in plain terms, unscientific.

Natural Selection is to Science precisely what Santa Claus is to Christmas: an indispensable marketing gimmick with no basis in observable reality.

Design, intention in the world outside ourselves also cannot be proved (actually, scientifically, it cannot be proved even in our sphere), it also cannot be measured, replicated or predicted, though some think it legitimate to extend what prevails in our human world to the world outside us.

You wrote:
'You may wish to reconsider your views on natural selection by acquainting yourself with the evidence of natural selection in viral diseases (eg flu and AIDS). I'm sure that anybody that disputes evolution is already familiar with the abundance of evidence that supports evolutionary theory. One wouldn't like to think that that someone as well educated as you would pass comment on something that you know very little about.'

You might be surprised how much -in my amateur way, of course- I know about it. Yes, I am acquainted with the evidence for change in viral diseases.

No doubt you've read Lamarck's Signature : How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm by Robyn A. Lindley, Robert V. Blanden, Edward J. Steele?

Anyway, for the benefit of Ma'at readers who lack your erudition and might not have read it, let me quote the book review posted on Amazon.
From Book News, Inc.
Steele (biology, U. of Wollongong, Australia) and company show molecular genetic evidence of acquired immunities developed by parents in their lifetime, then passed on to offspring. Such evidence, the authors claim, breathes new life into the Lamarckian heresy--the inheritance of acquired characteristics. Topics include clonal selection, somatic mutation and soma-to-germline feedback. The book is geared toward an educated-to-professional readership. Includes a glossary.Book News, Inc.®, Portland, OR

Book Description
This explosive book challenges the very foundations of accepted thinking on the genetic mechanism of evolution.

"[This book] will represent, indeed, one of the landmarks in the history of biology. I have no idea what the outcome will be but I hope Steele is right."-Sir Peter Medawar

What if Lamarck, whose theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics was blown apart by Charles Darwin over a century ago, was partly right after all? In this daring book, Steele and company reveal their ground-breaking research that has uncovered strong molecular genetic evidence that aspects of acquired immunities developed by parents in their own lifetime can be passed on to their offspring. The book gives new life and scientific credibility to the Lamarckian heresy-the notion of the inheritance of acquired characteristics.

About the Author
Edward J. Steele is Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales.

Robyn A. Lindley is Director of the Technology Innovation Research Centre at the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Robert V. Blanden is in the Division of Immunization and Cell Biology at the John Curtin School of Medical Research in Canberra, Australia. _________________________________________________________________

I should emphasize here that the authors are staunch Darwinians, and themselves shy away from the notion that anything resembling intention or design is at work here. But there you have it: confronted by a threat, at least these organisms find ways to not only negate that threat but pass that power to their own genes for future generations.

Hmmmm? Is it 'accident' that provokes these favorable 'mutations'? Ah yes, it's 'Selection Pressure', in operation. Eeek! More linguistic chicanery. The struggle for survival! Why should there be a struggle? What in the structure of the hydrogen atom leads to the desire (unmeasurable, unobservable, unpredictable) to survive? It's accident of course? Most scientists agree! (Good John Wall logic!) OK, if so, prove it. It sounds suspiciously like intelligence/intention/will at work to me. But then I can't prove it either.

Lamarck's Signature of course relates only to changes and variations within species. Trying to account for the actual origin of those species via accident is an even more monumental task. And so we have 'Punctuated Equilibrium' 'Neo-Darwinism' and the like; all biological equivalents of Ptolemy's epicyles.

Both the Argument from Accidental Agglomeration and the Argument from Design must be regarded as articles of faith; the former representing the foundation, or Credo of the Church of Progress, the latter, the Credo underpinning all the other religions and philosophies that ever were. -- no matter how ludicrous these appear in their current forms. What can you expect from doctrines formulated to weather out the Kali Yuga?

Richard Dawkins declared: ''Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.''

That is one way to look at it. But since the intellectual argument is a sham, I would be more inclined to say: 'Darwin provided a refuge for the emotionally defective and the spiritually dyslexic -- a security blanket to keep them cozy, at least until that blanket is pulled away.'

John Anthony West

Conclusion: (for the moment).

The Re-recapitulation provoken another spate of responses, many of them predictably negative, and also predictably devoid of academic substance. The Darwin button proves to be the easiest to press, and for good reason. As Dawkins noted above, Darwin 'makes it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.' In other words, expose Darwinian Evolution as the delusion it is and atheists become intellectually unfulfilled. But this raises a number of interesting questions in its own right. In a Darwinian world it is hard to see why atheists or anyone else should require intellectual fulfilment. After all, in this materialistic, accidental universe there are, by definition, no values -- except of course 'survival value' (which is just another example of linguistic chicanery, that I won't go into just now). But disputing Darwin certainly does not threaten the biological existence of Darwinians, and since, in the Darwinian universe, nothing else is of consequence, why should they get so contentious? It's not rational. Nor is it scientific. (But more on this anon ...).

If you have time to spare, and sufficient interest in these matters to explore the various exchanges in detail, you should pull up the Ma'at url and work your way through the tangle of threads and sub-threads.

In response to the posts provoked by the Re-recapitulation I've again selected one I consider 'typical' and am preparing a detailed response to it, and have also excerpted a few others I think of interest to respond to. I'll be posting this in the near future.







































































































































































































































































































































































































  J.A.W. Credentials   © John Anthony West 2002