Erich von Däniken Poul Anderson

Start Your Free Trial

Download Erich von Däniken Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Poul Anderson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Here we go again.

It would be interesting and perhaps important to know why men have such a perennial fascination with the idea of wildly spectacular events and civilizations in the distant past….

The pattern is always the same: an omnium-gatherum of what myths, legends and historical records will fit the author's thesis, they being trimmed to fit if necessary while those that can't be so treated are ignored; a snowstorm of data either irrelevant or erroneous; page after page of rhetoric; and a repeated reminder that the dogmatic Establishment also persecuted Galileo. The trouble with refuting any of these books is not that it's hard—rather, it's unsportingly easy—but that to go down the line, point by point, takes more time and print than is worth anybody's while….

In justice, I should say that [von Däniken] seems quite sincere, and concerned with raising questions rather than erecting new orthodoxies…. His glorious culture of the past was not terrestrial at all; it belonged to visitors from space who, guiding and interbreeding with primitive man, gave rise to the religions, technologies and societies of early historical times.

Now it is orthodox these days to believe that probably many inhabited planets exist in the universe. The feasibility of interstellar travel is debatable, but equally good men are ranged on both sides of the argument. As reputable a scientist as Carl Sagan has wondered whether the nonhuman benefactors of man in Sumerian chronicles may actually have been visitors from another star. The point is that Sagan admits this is sheer speculation with no strong evidence to back it, while von Däniken claims he can demonstrate that something of the kind did in fact happen.

We can dismiss at once his notion that the Outsiders brought man into existence by contributing their superior chromosomes to pre-man. First, everything we know about genetics and biopoesis indicates that our genus could more readily be crossed with moose or tobacco plants than with any extraterrestrials. Second, Homo Sapiens does not suddenly appear in the fossil record; on the contrary, several early types like Neanderthal man have lately had to be put in the same species.

But might not the Outsiders have been remembered in stories about gods, fiery chariots, heavenly realms, rains of fire and the rest? Might they not have given the elements of civilization to our ancestors, who drew pictures of them for us to see today? For instance, how can the Piri Reis map show Earth on an accurate Cairo-centered equidistant projection, if it weren't copied from a photograph taken from orbit? Well, the Piri Reis map is interesting and admittedly somewhat puzzling, but it isn't that accurate. Besides, if you look down on Cairo, you don't see the the whole planet in equidistant projection. Try it with a globe.

The other "proofs" are even feebler. Thus, it is asserted that various...

(The entire section is 727 words.)