Author of the Month
Response by Graham Hancock to Nick Flemming’s review of Programme 2 of Flooded Kingdoms of the Ice Age.
This response was originally posted in five separate sections on the Mysteries message board. Links to the original posts are provided at page bottom.
SECTION 2: METHODOLOGY
Nic Flemming wrote:
It is reasonable in scientific work to develop a series of stages of experiment, data, and deduction which can be demonstrably proven as true, and then to conclude the presentation with some suggestions as to the next stage of work which might be useful. These may be based on logical projections of the argument, or on hunches or speculation. This is accepted at the end of an argument, because it indicates logical possibilities that should be checked out for future research
For example, when I speculated on the basis of the connection between Malta-Sicily and Italy that Palaeolithic tribes had hunted on the continental shelf, and that this proposition could be checked, this was a reasonable proposition on the basis of the previous established evidence.
But this line of logic does not work in reverse.
You cannot make a legitimate chain of arguments which goes "A may have happened and it is possible that B happened and what if C happened and therefore I conclude definitely that there were Flooded Kingdoms in the Ice Age". In the social sciences there are usually dozens of plausible alternative possibilities.
Thus, each time that Hancock says "A" may have happened he must also concede that multiple other things are equally likely to be the explanation. For instance, after three such steps for which a chain of five alternatives has been suggested three times, 125 different possible outcomes or explanations are possible.
Yet only one of these chains might - conservatively - be supported by and be consistent with the Flooded Kingdom proposition.
The normal scientific procedure when confronted with 125 possible explanations for events is to first weed out the non-starters, and reduce the field before spending time and money on expensive research. A quick check on the Flooded Kingdoms proposition would show masses of evidence against it from the hundred or more known stone-age sites on the continental shelf, and evidence of contemporaneous cultures on land and that would be the end of the argument. To waste any more time on the Flooded Kingdoms proposal would be a blunder.
Instead, after listing multiple chains of "possibly, what-if and could-it-be" Hancock concludes that his one and only proposal, the Flooded Kingdoms hypotheses, is strongly substantiated.
It is not.
Another technique used by Hancock is frequent references such as "I have now discovered..." or "Now I know that..." as if points presented were his original discoveries. In most cases the "discovery" has been known to students of archaeology and oceanography for decades, and could have been summarized in a few minutes, leaving time for some really original footage of underwater ruins, if they exist.
One general example of this is presentation of computer generated maps showing the seas. We returned again and again to different versions of this, and sometimes the same version more than once. The technique developed by Dr Milne is undoubtedly useful, and could have been used once or twice. However, any modern atlas, such as the Times Concise Atlas shows approximately the depth of the sea on the continental shelf. My atlas at home (not a research document) shows the depth contours at 25 metres, 50 metres, and 200metres with a change of blue tint at each contour, for every country with a sea coast. Anyone with such a common atlas can see immediately the light blue area out to the 200m contour, the limit of the continental shelf. If you know that the Ice Age sea level was at -25 metres about 8000 years ago, and -50 metres about 10,000 years ago, the two intermediate colours tell you where the coastline was at these two dates. That is not rocket science. You can do it at home.
My concern is that much of this presentation seemed designed to baffle and impress the viewer, to mystify rather than to explain matters which are fundamentally very simple, and fun. There are probably stone-age human occupation sites off every coast in the world, and any scuba diver could find artifacts with a bit of luck, and with the correct information of what to look for. It is not a mystery.
Graham Hancock replies:
Dr Flemming modestly describes his own hypothesis about Palaeolithic hunters on the Siculo-Maltese continental shelf as “a reasonable proposition on the basis of the previous established evidence”. By contrast he reprimands my thinking as illogical and unscientific, and caricatures my argument as follows: "A may have happened and it is possible that B happened and what if C happened and therefore I conclude definitely that there were Flooded Kingdoms in the Ice Age".
This is not my argument, nor my logic, and Flemming misrepresents me here. What I’m trying to do in Underworld, and in the TV series is to mount an active and focussed investigation into the neglected possibility that the descriptions in ancient myths of former civilisations destroyed by global floods could be actual records of real events at the end of the Ice Age. I made use of the science of inundation mapping to aid the search – and this science shows that 25 million square kilometres of land were lost to rising sea-levels at the end of the Ice Age. I am therefore not much impressed by Flemming’s assertion that: “A quick check on the Flooded Kingdoms proposition would show masses of evidence against it from the hundred or more known stone-age sites on the continental shelf, and evidence of contemporaneous cultures on land and that would be the end of the argument. To waste any more time on the Flooded Kingdoms proposal would be a blunder.”
The very fact that only about 100 stone-age sites are known worldwide on 25 million square kilometres of land inundated at the end of the Ice Age underlines for me why the Flooded Kingdoms proposal is not a waste of time at all and why pursuing it further is not a blunder but a justified and rational strategy. As I state in the introduction to this website the reason that so few sites have been found on the inundated lands is not that such sites do not exist but that the search for them by marine archaeologists has so far been extremely limited and small-scale. The plain fact, as Dr Flemming can hardly deny, is that only a tiny fraction of the submerged lands have been properly surveyed and studied and that the greatest part has never been looked at at all. It therefore may not be good logic to conclude from the unsurprising nature of the 100-plus stone-age sites so far known to marine archaeologists that everything that awaits us on the flooded continental shelves must necessarily be equally unsurprising.
This perhaps explains why it is necessary for Dr Flemming to go to such extreme lengths later in his review to try to discredit the finds that have been made underwater off south-east and northwest India and that are reported in Underworld. Because if I and the Indian oceanographers and marine archaeologists are right about the age of those finds then they represent proof that Flemming’s view is wrong and that the 100 submerged stone-age sites to which he refers are indeed not representative of everything that remains to be found underwater.
We’ll come back to this when I address the relevant section of Flemming’s review. Meanwhile, continuing his critique of my methodology he writes: ‘after listing multiple chains of "possibly, what-if and could-it-be" Hancock concludes that his one and only proposal, the Flooded Kingdoms hypotheses, is strongly substantiated’.
But I do not conclude that that only the Flooded Kingdoms hypothesis is strongly substantiated. What I do conclude both in the TV series and in the book is that on the basis of the small amount that I as a self-funded author and diver have been able to do it looks as though there could after all be some merit to the Flooded Kingdoms hypothesis and that it is certainly worth taking the investigation further. Dr Flemming has the right to disagree with me about that but not to attribute to me a conclusion that I nowhere force either on the viewer or on the reader.
I’m saddened also by Flemming’s objection to my use in the films of terms like “I have discovered” and “now I know that”. The films describe my personal journey of discovery through the evidence and information surrounding the sites that I investigate so what other terms should I use? It seems to me petty-minded and not a proper part of serious debate to try to score semantic debating points with cheap shots like this.
Last but not least while reviewing my methodology, Flemming objects to what he sees as the overuse in the film of Dr Glenn Milne’s inundation maps. With what could almost be mistaken for an attitude of indifference to the huge amount of work that Dr Milne has put into his maps, Dr Flemming effectively suggests that they are of little more use to those studying post-glacial sea-level rise than “any modern atlas, such as the Times Concise Atlas.” Flemming adds that his atlas at home “shows the depth contours at 25 metres, 50 metres, and 200 metres with a change of blue tint at each contour, for every country with a sea coast. Anyone with such a common atlas can see immediately the light blue area out to the 200m contour, the limit of the continental shelf. If you know that the Ice Age sea level was at -25 metres about 8000 years ago, and -50 metres about 10,000 years ago, the two intermediate colours tell you where the coastline was at these two dates. That is not rocket science. You can do it at home.”
Although I cannot believe this to be the case Flemming seems to show no appreciation of the phenomenon of glacial isostacy in which Milne is an expert and which his maps take into the account (eg land formerly depressed under kilometres-thick ice sheets rebounds over periods of millennia with sometimes significant effects on local sea-levels; similarly the sea-bed rises up when the water burden on it is reduced, as it was at the Last Glacial Maximum, and then subsides again as the water burden increases – as it did when the ice-caps melted down).
I’m therefore fully satisfied that we did the right thing in creating graphics based on Milne’s maps to give our viewers the best-informed picture of how coastlines changed during the meltdown of the Ice Age. I’m completely baffled as to why Flemming should object to the use of these accurate graphics since, as far as I know, this is the first time such images have ever been shown on television.
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