Thursday, January 24, 2008

Section 6 and Section 7

Following the publication of Robert Temple's The Sirius Mystery in 1976, points made by sceptics focused strongly on whether the knowledge attributed to the Dogon could be explained on the basis of possible gaining of knowledge from the West. Most of the relevant discussion either assumed that the Dogon had the knowledge attributed to them, or at most briefly mentioned the possibility of inaccurate reporting of that alleged knowledge.
In 1991, the position changed.
As a result of an article published in 1991, the following fundamental question arises: Did the Dogon even say anything about Sirius B and Sirius C to Griaule?The relevant article was written by anthropologist Walter E. A. Van Beek and was entitled Dogon Restudied --A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule (van Beek, 1991). Van Beek stated that he could not replicate despite systematic attempts to do so findings reported by Griaule regarding Dogon knowledge of Sirius.
Contrary to the results reported by Griaule, Van Beek reported following his own investigation of the Dogon: (1) That Sirius is a double star is unknown (van Beek, 1991, page 148) and (2) the purported knowledge of the mass of Sirius B or the orbiting time was absent (van Beek, 1991, pages 149-150).
Van Beek's article included the following: The Dogon, of course, know Sirius as a star (it is after all the brightest in the sky), calling it dana tolo, the hunter's star . Knowledge of the stars is not important either in daily life or in ritual . no one, even within the circle of Griaule informants, had ever heard or understood that Sirius was a double star . Consequently, the purported knowledge of the mass of Sirius B or the orbiting time was absent (van Beek, 1991, pages 149-150).
Some of the various articles on the Internet which discuss van Beek's article suggest that Griaule had managed to unearth secret knowledge known to only a few within the Dogon people, and that van Beek had failed to ask the right people and/or had not had the secret knowledge revealed to him. Such suggestions are supported by an article written by Griaule's daughter. She has suggested that van Beek has not gone through the appropriate steps for acquiring knowledge (Calame-Griaule, 1991, page 575).
However, van Beek actually includes a reasonably detailed discussion of Griaule's clear statement that the deeper Dogon knowledge belongs to a class of secrets hidden from the majority of the population, as well as outsiders. He refers to an estimate by Griaule that 15% of the population had this secret knowledge (citing Griaule, 1952 pages 32-33). Van Beek commented that rediscovering this knowledge will not be easy; yet it must be possible (van Beek, 1991, page 143). Thus, van Beek clearly had in mind the suggestion that the relevant knowledge was confined to a certain part of the Dogon population. He discusses this suggestion in considerable depth in his article.
Following his study of the the Dogon, van Beek reported that they have various myths, many of which are conveyed by song texts. However, he reports that neither the myths nor the song text . are secret, commenting that every Dogon knows the myths and parts of the songs, though not everyone can tell or sing them in full. Some individuals are trained to recite the myths without fault or hesitation, but their knowledge does not go beyond the pubic knowledge.
Van Beek concluded: Thus, the secrets of Dogon society are not at all of the initiatory kind. The knowledge defined by the Dogon as secret is, in fact, of the 'skeleton in the cupboard' variety. The best-guarded secrets in Dogon society pertain to facts that shame them as members of their families or lineages, such as divisive past quarrels, or to the mechanisms and trappings of witchcraft and sorcery (van Beek, 1991, page 150).
The article by Griaule's daugther which comments upon Van Beek's work repeatedly refers to many misreadings and errors in van Beek's article, but does a remarkably poor job of coming up with specific examples of material errors (Calame-Griaule, 1991, page 576).
On the other hand, another academic has referred to spending 10 years working among the Dogon and has confirmed the validity van Beek's finding regarding lack of knowledge of Sirius (Bouju, 1991). Importantly, Bouju also commented that the domain of secrecy is indeed not that of esoteric knowledge revealed only to a few great initiates but that of historical or current events that are considered shameful - instance of conflict, past (serious transgressions, betrayals, wars, massacres) or present (over land, women, or sorcery) (Bouju, 1991, page 159).
Thus, the suggestion that the Dogon do not in fact have knowledge of the Sirius solar system is not confined to van Beek alone.
In one related, but separate, respect van Beek's article goes further. He provides one account of discussions between Ambara and Griaule. Van Beek reports that According to Amadingue. Ambara never spoke in terms of a double-star system. What he did speak about always. were stars of different generations (togu; the French translation is his), meaning (and pointing out) two adjacent stars in the sky, which were to be considered as father and son to Sirius as a grandfather. These stars, as Amadingue pointed them out to me [van Beek], were the two other stars of the Dog constellation. If this is so, then Griaule must have interpreted the information given by Ambara and Yebene in a different fashion, as a system of double and triple stars (van Beek, 1991, page 157).
Thus, it seems that the debate regarding Dogon knowledge of the Sirius solar system may have provided on a rather faulty basis during the period 1976-1991.Indeed, it is notable that many of the discussions of The Sirius Mystery on the Internet today do not refer to van Beek's article (or comments from individuals confirming the facts within that article, e.g. by Bouju).
What did Robert Temple say about van Beek's 1991 article when Temple revised his book in 1998?Nothing.Nothing at all.Temple did not even refer to van Beek.
A Google search of Robert Temple's website during December 2007 failed to find any reference to van Beek, although I have read (and referred above) to some of Robert Temple's comments on some of the other points made by sceptics since1976.
Articles continue to be written on the Internet and in print about the Dogon mystery which ignore various criticisms and facts which have been raised by numerous sceptics since the publication of Robert Temple's book The Sirius Mystery in 1976.
Robert Temple revised his book in 1998, but the expanded text of that book fails to deal with many of the points that have been made.Ufologists will never be taken seriously if the arguments put forward by scientists are simply ignored. It is important to acknowledge and consider the points made by prominent authors such as Carl Sagan. Failing to acknowledge counter-arguments will result in ufologists appearing ignorant of, or unable to consider, the evidence against their claims.
Of course, some sceptics have also written material which fails to accurately reflect the debate regarding the Dogon. For example, Philip Coppens has written a skeptical article entitled Dogon Shame which asserts that Robert Temple's book's reputation was first dented in 1999, when LynnPicknett and Clive Prince published The Stargate Conspiracy.
As can be seen from the discussion above, Robert Temple's book had been subjected to detailed and forceful criticism much earlier than 1999. (Coppens concise articles about the Dogon are, however, well worth reading for details of a suggestion that Temple had been highly influenced in his thinking by Arthur M. Young).
Has the Dogon mystery been resolved?
Well, as with many questions in relation to UFOs and aliens, it depends upon your views regarding the burden of proof and the appropriate standard of proof. The Dogon mystery can therefore usefully be considered in the context of a wider debate about Ancient Astronauts and UFOs.
During the debate regarding the Dogon, several ufologists and sceptics have expressly raised these issues.
For example, ufologist Randall Fitzgerald has written that dispelling [the] bias against the prospect of visitation by ancient astronauts will require nothing less than extraordinary, irrefutable evidence. (Fitzgerald, 1998, Page 15).
Such remarks echo the statement popularised by Carl Sagan that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
I note in passing that the suggestion that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence actually reflects English law in relation to proving matters on the balance of probabilities. In the leading House of Lords case of Re H [1996] AC 563, Lord Nicholls said: the more serious the allegation the less likely it is that the event occurred and hence, the stronger should be the evidence before the court concludes that the allegation is established on the balance of probability .. The more improbable the event, the stronger must be the evidence that it did occur before, on the balance of probability, its occurrence will be established (emphasis added).
Most skeptics do not claim that the Dogon mystery has been conclusively shown to have any one particular solution. For example, James Oberg has commented that the evidence for the recent acquisition of the knowledge is still entirely circumstantial. It seems likely that we will never know for sure (Oberg, 1982, page 131). However, there are various plausible explanations for each part of the mystery.In these circumstances, several sceptics have made remarks along the lines of the following comment by Carl Sagan: There are too many loopholes, too many alternative explanations for such a myth to provide reliable evidence of past extraterrestrial contact (Sagan, 1979, page 99).
In comments helpfully provided by Ian Ridpath, he noted the following: Looking at the case again in the light of criticisms from anthropologists, I was forced to conclude that the main contaminator was Griaule himself and that all the emphasis on earlier contact may have been irrelevant. As I am fond of saying in relation to UFO cases, before you try to explain something, first establish what it is that needs to be explained! (Ridpath, 2007).
Ian Ridpath concluded In this case, in particular, it seems that there really wasn't much to explain after all(Ridpath, 2007).

1 comment:

starman said...

So you're saying that Griaule imparted this knowledge to the Dogon and then perpetrated a hoax by claiming they already knew it? What about the other anthropologist; why did he go along? Weren't they pro researchers? Why did the Dogon say they got their knowledge from sky beings if they just got it from a missionary or returning soldier? If missionaries and schools contaminated, shouldn't we expect more primitive tribes to have similar knowledge about Sirius? Did other tribes nearby have the knowledge?