Friday, February 7, 2014

For Every Hubble, a Dozen Hapgoods

New ideas are almost always met with resistance, especially when they threaten to uproot the deeply-held beliefs of others. Theories which are widely accepted as fact today were greeted with denial and hostility when first proposed. Copernicus, Darwin, Galileo, Kepler, and Hubble all faced resistance. The lucky ones lived to see their ideas vindicated; the unlucky ones were persecuted, ridiculed, or shunned.

Scholars who practice the "hard sciences"--math, physics, chemistry, etc.--are more likely to overcome the resistance of their peers because they operate within a shared paradigm. They agree on a set of basic rules which provide a means for testing hypotheses. Hubble was able to convince his peers that nebulae are distant galaxies by using a set of laws which were verifiable to anyone who understood them.

But what about history, anthropology, philosophy, sociology, archaeology, and the other soft sciences? These disciplines depend on subjective methods and interpretations. Take history, for example. When a historian comes across a radical new theory he cannot test it via some objective method. He must look at the historical records and see if his new theory fits where it should. Never mind that historical accounts are penned by humans, the most notorious liars on the planet. If the new theory doesn't fit then it is discarded without further consideration.

This leaves us in a predicament. How are we to test the validity of existing models if all ideas that question their validity are rejected without genuine consideration?

For every Edwin Hubble there are dozens of scholars whose theories never see the light of day or whose otherwise successful careers are destroyed because they dared suggest something unorthodox.

Charles Hapgood is such a scholar.

Hapgood was a well-respected academic. He earned his masters in history, worked for what would become the CIA, and went on to teach extensively at various colleges. He enjoyed regular correspondence with Albert Einstein, who penned the foreword to one of Hapgood's books.

Hapgood's theory goes as follows. There existed in prehistory a civilization advanced enough to map the entire globe with extreme accuracy; this civilization was located in Antarctica which was either completely or partially ice-free at the time; a cataclysm destroyed this civilization; a few survivors escaped with their lives, scattering to the Americas and Africa where they proceeded to educate the local hunter-gatherers in matters of agriculture, engineering, writing, and metallurgy.

He didn't come straight out with all of this right away. His theory came together piecemeal, one discovery at a time, starting with the enigmatic Piri Reis map.


Compiled in 1513 by a Turkish admiral named Piri Reis, the map appears to chart the northern coast of Antarctica, a landmass which was only discovered in the 1800's. Thinking he had misread the map, Hapgood sent his findings to the U.S. Airforce. Hapgood received the following response:
Your request for evaluation of certain unusual features of the Piri Reis World Map of 1513 by this organization has been reviewed. 
The claim that the lower part of the map portrays the Princess Martha Coast of Queen Maud Land Antarctic, and the Palmer Peninsula is reasonable. We find that this is the most logical and in all probability the correct interpretation of the map. 
The geographical detail shown in the lower part of the map agrees very remarkably with the results of the Seismic profile made across the top of the ice cap by the Swedish-British-Norwegian Antarctic Expedition of 1949. 
This indicates the coastline had been mapped before it was covered by the ice-cap.
The ice-cap in this region is now about a mile thick. We have no idea how the data on this map can be reconciled with the supposed state of geographical knowledge in 1513.
A second response followed shortly after. This one came from the chief cartographer of the 8th Reconnaissance Technical Squadron and further supported the original reply:
...Antarctica appears to be truly represented on the southern sector of the Piri Reis map. The agreement of the Piri Reis Map with the seismic profile of this area made by the Norwegian-British-Swedish Expedition of 1949 [...] places beyond a reasonable doubt the conclusion that the original source maps must have been made before the present Antarctic ice cap covered the Queen Maud Land coasts.
And of course:
We are convinced that the findings made by you and your associates are valid, and that they raise extremely important questions affecting geology and ancient history, questions which certainly require further investigation.
Here then is a genuine mystery which, according to the chief cartographer of the 8th Reconnaissance, requires "further investigation." Was such an investigation ever conducted in earnest? Of course not. Mainstream historians scoffed at the idea. No civilization prior to the modern era possessed the know-how to map the globe, let alone outline the Antarctic coast beneath a hundred feet of ice.

Rather than re-evaluate the current narrative, mainstream scholars chose to ignore Hapgood's findings. They proclaimed that the Piri Reis map had been misread by Hapgood and his friends in the 8th Reconnaissance. They gave the theory no consideration. Hapgood was left to continue his search on the fringes, without the support of the academic world.

No matter. Hapgood's work was only beginning. What he proposed next is terrifying and plausible and could explain how an advanced people were pushed to near-extinction. It could explain how portions of Antarctica were ice-free between 13,000-4,000 BCE and also what caused the sudden change in temperature.

Best of all, Hapgood's second contribution receives a glowing endorsement from Albert Einstein himself, who says that Hapgood's "idea is original, of great simplicity, and–if it continues to prove itself–of great importance to everything that is related to the history of the earth’s surface."

BOME. To be continued...
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