How Humanity’s Need to Be Certain Is Holding Us Back from Evolving Our Society
Blockchain Consultant @PwC / Content Marketer / Obsessed with Crypto, AI, the Future, and the Past
As I get older, something that becomes abundantly clear is that no one has any clue what the hell is going on.
I was listening to an interview with Graham Hancock
last night. Graham wrote a book called Fingerprint of the Gods
in the ’90s. It highlighted elements of human history that challenged the traditional narrative.
Graham wasn’t taken very seriously by the boys club that is modern archeology, and much of his findings were brushed off as the results of pseudo-science. If you look Graham up on Wikipedia, it says he practices “pseudo-archeology”.
Yet, as I researched Graham and the evidence he cited, I found myself taken aback. It didn’t seem as if his hypotheses were unfounded conspiracies, they seemed almost as probable as what we currently consider as scientific fact.
Our current understanding of human history is that the first form of modern-day civilization appeared about 5,000–6,500 years ago. Around 4,500–3,000 BC with a group called the Sumer
. From there, modern history tells us; we started to work together, established norms and values, eventually started to map out the world; travel and explore; and finally, develop into the medley of trauma-driven; coffee chugging; biological mood-rings that we are today.
The only problem with believing that human civilization only existed 5,000–6,500 years in the past, is that recent evidence doesn’t agree with it.
Gobleki Tepe proved that history is wrong, but no one cares
A temple called Gobleki Tepe
in Turkey was estimated to be around 11,000 years old. Graham Hancock believed this to be evidence that despite popular belief, there were organized civilizations in that period. How else would they put together a temple with organized and intentionally placed 7-ton pillars?
The response from modern historians and archeologists was, “Well how do you know hunter-gatherers couldn’t have done this?”, “If there were advanced societies at the time how come we don’t find old plastic bottles or other signs of advanced life?”…
I’m the highest form of the current evolved human and I can barely get a screen protector perfectly aligned with the screen of my iPhone. How the hell did a bunch of “hunter-gatherers” who had no form of civilization and community pull this off?
“To carve, erect and bury rings of seven-ton stone pillars would have required hundreds of workers, all needing to be fed and housed.” — The Smithsonian
This is a really big deal, but I get how it didn’t receive a lot of media attention. It doesn’t prove or disprove any assumptions we have, as much as it begs the question; how much do we know about human history?
However, this story and the lack of attention it had when first published shows us how modern historians and archeologists examine new information and decide whether or not to add it into the greater narrative of human history: they don’t.
How a mastodon changed history
I’ve excitedly called friends about this subject only to find that they don’t care about it. So, I’m going to try and over-explain this to make sure we’re all understanding the potential gravity of this discovery.
An archeologist in America dug up fossilized remains of a mastodon that were found to be 130,000 years old
Big deal right? Who cares.
the mastodon’s bones had been cracked by tools that could have been man-made. The bone marrow had been extracted from one of its tusks, similarly to how early humans used to perform the same act. There is some debate on whether or not the tools used to break the bones were made by humans, but check out the evidence yourself
and form your own opinion.
I don’t understand how more people aren’t talking about this, why it isn’t front-page news on every media outlet that exists. This means, potentially, that our understanding of human history isn’t just a little off, it could be completely wrong.
Here’s a professionally illustrated timeline, I spent hours on to help show how big of a deal this is.
“Human Existence Timeline in French” — Reza Jafery, 2019
As you can see, the timeline above displays the current understanding of human history.
That circa 5,000 years ago our ancestors formed the first civilization; Sumer, and that this first form of civilization eventually turned into the society we all struggle to function within today. It’s believed that at this point, homo sapiens had never stepped foot in the Americas. Which makes the fact that the mastodon fossils were discovered in California, a really big deal.
In that minuscule section of the timeline between “5,000 years ago” and “Today”; we invented cars, planes, trains, the internet, guns, democracy, communism, basketball, figure skating, space ships, sex toys, Dance Dance Revolution, Harry Potter fanfiction, memes, and the profession of being a mime.
We also discovered gravity, learned the general nature of our solar system, how to navigate using the stars, machine-learning, self-driving cars, what plants you could eat and not die, what plants you can eat and get high, that you can light stuff on fire and smoke it, and that women don’t like being objectified.
All of that happened in that tiny space between the professionally illustrated line at “5,000 years ago” and the present day. We were only able to make these discoveries because we formed civilizations. Civilizations allowed us to diversify our time and talents as a society, to focus on aspirations beyond “survival”.
Which brings me to my next illustration.
“Viva La Existance!” — Reza Jafery, 2019
This is the same timeline (and one of my eyelashes), but now that we’ve thought about how much humans have accomplished in the past 5,000 years, imagine what our predecessors accomplished with all the time they might have had.
If we’re to assume for a moment that Graham Hancock and the archeologists who discovered the mastodon in California are correct, and the remains do imply that humans were in the Americas at this time: what does that mean for history?
For one, it’d mean that we have to rethink how uncivilized we think a lot of our ancestors were. Humans existing in the Americas at that time would mean that they traveled 1,000’s and 1,000’s of miles over the ocean; in a period when we didn’t believe people could collaborate for much more than group hunts.
How long would it take these humans to form a civilization — given how much we’ve accomplished with our share of the timeline?
The problem with Graham’s theories was that they completely upended the timeline of human history that everyone currently breathing was taught. They showed how difficult it is to ruffle the feathers of history.
Humanity’s need to be certain is holding us back from evolving our society
My biggest takeaway from listening to Graham’s interview wasn’t astonishment at the thought of ancient civilizations pre-dating our current knowledge. It was disbelief, that the world of science and academic research is so broken and dis-incentivized that it pressures scientists and archeologists to find and publish research that supports already established theories and scientific “facts”.
If you’re a scientist, and you want to make a living pursuing academic research, your income and ability to obtain grants largely depend on the number of times you’ve been published in widely recognized academic journals. Academic journals have been around for a long time, and typically don’t like to publish things that challenge findings they’ve been large supporters of in the past.
This leads to a cycle of cognitive bias and to be completely blunt, academic circle-jerking; where the evidence brought to attention is rarely framed as anything but further proof of assumptions we already have.
It’s mind-blowing that this research wasn’t taken seriously, and that we, as humans, haven’t put more time and effort into finding out what our ancestors 130,000 years ago were doing.
How advanced could a culture have gotten in 130,000 years? Did they exist for the majority of that time? Did they have the same values as us?
Did they also like watching videos of people building houses underground at 3 AM?
I’ll probably never get answers to these questions, not in my lifetime.
The cold truth of the situation is, although there is solid evidence that our understanding of human history is wrong, it’d be a lot of paperwork to write that into all of our history books; and it would require authority figures to admit that they’ve been wrong for a very long time.
I’m not saying I don’t understand why people have taken such a hard stance of “certainty” around things. Whether it be religion or human history, it’s hard to get people to care about something that you’re not 100% sure about.
Do you think Jesus would have been able to convince his disciples to follow him if he only thought there was a god?
Could history teachers get kids to pay attention if what they were learning was “maybe-sorta” what happened?
Subscribe to get your daily round-up of top tech stories!