Not to be outdone by New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, a California archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story in the LA Times read: “California archaeologists report finding of 200-year-old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than New Yorkers.”
One week later a local newspaper in Tennessee reported the following: “After digging as deep as 30 feet in his pasture in Meigs County, Bubba Hampton, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Bubba has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Tennessee had already gone wireless.”
This joke, I received from a friend, made me laugh. It also made me think. As funny as that punchline is, I wondered if the same people laughing at old Bubba are also laughing at the archaeologists who publicized their conclusions. After all, none of them had any sound basis for making such ambitious assumptions based on a single item.
Such theories, based on little or no evidence, are not uncommon if you watch the news. Take reports that scientists announced the discovery of artificial megalithic structures found among released NASA photos taken by the Mars Global Surveyor.
UFOTV studios said “These artificial structures are stunning proof that Mars was once inhabited by an intelligent civilization.” Viewers were invited to see “remarkable monuments, T-shaped craters, gigantic glass tube systems, ancient forest remains and grand edifices that will leave you speechless.”
If you’ve ever seen the NASA photo of what appears to be a huge human face on Mars — some two miles from end to end — on a planet that has never had human contact on it, you might wonder if these assumptions are true, or could there be another explanation?
According to NASA, as reported on http://science.nasa.gov, “The huge rock formation which resembles a human head was formed by shadows, giving the illusion of eyes, nose and mouth.”
This illusion was said to be “a good way to engage the public and attract attention to Mars.” The report added, although few scientists believed the “face” was an alien artifact, “photographing it again became a priority.”
“We felt this was important to taxpayers,” explained Jim Garvin, chief scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “We photographed the Face as soon as we could get a good shot at it.”
When Mars Global Surveyor flew over the “face” again in 1998, and the Mars Orbiter Camera team snapped a picture 10 times sharper than the original Viking photos, it revealed a natural landform. NASA concluded “There was no alien monument after all.”
The “evidence” can be weighed and viewers can decide for themselves by Googling “the face on Mars” or similar topics. The problem with this kind of “evidence” is that it has to have a theory, a story, to support it.
That story can be true or false. It can be reasonable or unreasonable. To the person who wants to believe the story, the evidence is simply a byproduct. It does not have to be conclusive. It only has to be believable.
Such conviction, stemming from credulity, often becomes more persuasive than the evidence. If that’s all the proof needed to grab a few headlines, I guess the joke is really on us. Shouldn’t care be exercised in deciding what we choose to believe?
In the case of Mars, the simple explanation of winds, erosion and even enhanced pictures revealing nothing artificial, but completely natural landforms, cannot dissuade believers in extraterrestrial life on Mars. No real evidence — only theories and assumptions.
It reminds me of a similar mindset of the woodcutter described at Isaiah 44:16-17. It says, “With some of the wood he makes a fire; he roasts meat, eats it, and is satisfied. He warms himself and says, How nice and warm! What a beautiful fire! The rest of the wood he makes into an idol, and then he bows down and worships it. He prays to it and says, You are my god — save me!” — Good News Translation.
Believing a piece of wood is a living god does not make it so. Believing there is life on Mars, because time and winds have created certain designs, does not make it so. Discovering copper wire does not a telephone system make. An honest search for the truth should be supported by real proof, not unreliable evidence.
Like Bubba, we all have vivid imaginations. They can run wild at times. I certainly don’t mind discussing life in outer space, creation, evolution or quantum physics, if I can keep up. But make no mistake about it, what we believe can make the difference in people laughing with us or at us.