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Creationism and Cremo -

braja - Thu, 01 Sep 2005 09:02:09 +0530
Salon is carrying a long article on creationism and "alternate archaeology" that features ISKCON's Michael Cremo (Drutakarma) and is worth a read:

Alternative archaeology and creation science converged spectacularly in a notorious television special called "The Mysterious Origins of Man," which aired on NBC in February 1996. Hosted by Charlton Heston, the show presented an incoherent farrago of mutually contradictory hypotheses from "a new generation of scientific researchers," as Heston soberly intoned.

Hancock appeared to announce that the pre-Incan archaeological site of Tiwanaku in the Bolivian Andes might be 12,000 years old and a remnant of his lost civilization; creationist Carl Baugh held up molds of egregiously phony human footprints found alongside dinosaur footprints in a Texas riverbed. Pseudoscience researcher David Hatcher Childress discussed the alleged plesiosaur dredged up by a Japanese fishing boat in 1977 (probably a rotten shark carcass). Cremo and Thompson explained that archaeologists have ignored or suppressed evidence that the human race has been on this planet for millions, perhaps billions, of years. Nowhere was it mentioned that these people have vastly different ideas about the age of the earth and the origins of human civilization. The only thing they shared -- and the program's only plausible goal -- was a desire to damage the credibility of science with a mass audience.

If there were a smoking gun linking creationism to alternative archaeology, Michael Cremo would be holding it. A soft-spoken man who radiates calm and measured intellect, Cremo is a singular figure on the scientific fringe. He is friendly with mainstream archaeologists and with Graham Hancock. He has delivered papers at the World Archaeological Congress and been cited as a "fellow-traveler" by creation evangelists. His 1993 "Forbidden Archeology," written with mathematician Thompson, has become a canonical text for both New Agers and fundamentalists.

This is especially remarkable when you consider that virtually all those people would agree that Cremo's central contention -- that anatomically modern humans have existed for billions of years -- is ludicrous. His genuine intellectual achievement in "Forbidden Archeology," a dense 900-page discussion of "ooparts" and other anomalous findings, is the development of a meme that's now ubiquitous in creationism and alternative archaeology. Mainstream science, he argues, has become a "knowledge filter" designed to keep the most challenging ideas out of the discourse. His explorations of this question -- how scientific consensus can become a kind of groupthink, and how contradictory evidence then becomes unacceptable -- have gained him the grudging respect of at least some scholars.

"I've had some degree of recognition from mainstream academic circles that what I'm doing makes a contribution," Cremo says from his Los Angeles office. "I think I've gotten a fair hearing; it's not like on one side you have Michael Cremo and on the other side you've got mainstream science."

This is true, but only up to a point. "Forbidden Archeology" was favorably reviewed in a few specialized academic journals. But even Cremo hastens to explain that those reviewers don't agree with his underlying belief system. His entire posture as an almost respectable historian or sociologist of science (he doesn't claim any scientific credentials) and a bridge between fundamentalist Christians and New Agers is only possible because no one agrees with him.

Cremo is a follower of the Western Hindu sect founded by the late Bhaktivedanta Swami -- in layman's terms, he's a Hare Krishna. According to the Vedas of ancient India, Lord Krishna created the human race at the dawn of time, roughly 2 billion years ago. (Which is pretty close to the accepted emergence of life on earth, as it happens.) Cremo's research, as he freely admits, is an effort to buttress this faith with hard evidence. Like Christian creationists, he believes that humans were divinely created in our present form and did not evolve from lower life forms; like the alternative-archaeology crowd, he accepts scientific arguments that the earth is billions of years old, but believes ancient humans may have possessed wisdom and technology beyond our understanding.