My Netflix docuseries Ancient Apocalypse (https://www.netflix.com/title/81211003), stirred up a hornet’s nest when it was released on November 11th 2022. Immediately – in some cases even before viewing the series – archaeologists mounted a furious response consisting almost entirely of deeply offensive ad hominem vilifications depicting me as a promoter of racism and white supremacy, as a peddler of conspiracy theories, and as a danger to the general public – see Fig. 1 (links provided at the end of this article) and Fig. 2.
An early promoter of the smear campaign was Professor John Hoopes of the University of Kansas. Indeed so excited was he at the prospect of vilifying me that on October 25th 2022, more than a fortnight before the release of Ancient Apocalypse, he offered his services to the media to comment on the series and specifically on how “Hancock’s writings align with and reinforce white supremacist dogma”: (see Fig. 3). In the same press release we also learn that Hoopes has been familiar with my work for more than 30 years and that he has written “scholarly as well as public commentary” about me.
On November 10th 2022 I appeared in Episode 1897 of the Joe Rogan Experience together with my friend and colleague Randall Carlson who features in Episode 8 of Ancient Apocalypse. We talked about the series, and the likely opposition from archaeologists, and the notion of holding a debate was floated. Randall and I had taken part in a previous debate on the JRE – back in 2017 with sceptic Michael Shermer and others – and we welcomed the opportunity for a further encounter.
But who would the new encounter bring together? Two of us presenting the alternative side of the debate would require two on the orthodox side to respond. While we were considering possible candidates Ancient Apocalypse continued to ride high in the rankings all over the world (Fig. 4) leading to further anger and resentment amongst archaeologists and growing demands, channelled through their supporters in the media, to have the show cancelled. In the UK, for example, The Guardian described Ancient Apocalypse as “the most dangerous show on Netflix”, existing “solely for conspiracy theorists”, and asked: ‘WHY HAS THIS BEEN ALLOWED?’
Nor were journalists exaggerating the reactions of archaeologists. On November 30th 2022 the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) published an open letter to Netflix demanding that the streamer remove any labels “that state or imply that that [Ancient Apocalypse] is a factual documentary or docuseries and reclassify this series as “science fiction.” (see Fig. 5).
Professor Hoopes is prominent within the SAA. In addition to the 30 years he claims to have spent studying my work, he curated a thematic section of the SAA Archaeological Record in November 2019 (Fig. 6) that focussed on “debunking” my most recent book America Before: The Key to Earth’s Lost Civilization. And since the release of Ancient Apocalypse he has been active in offering interviews and comments on my work across a range of media. Clearly, therefore, having devoted so much of his time to studying me, John Hoopes is better qualified than perhaps any other archaeologist to offer a solid, well-researched critique of my work.
For all these reasons, and because he frequently announces that his aim in confronting pseudoscience is to correct “the public vernacular perception of archaeology”, I thought it only right and proper that Hoopes should be the first to be offered the opportunity to defeat me in a face-to-face, one-on-one debate (Fig. 7). I assumed that he was confident of his own views and would jump at the chance not only to refute Ancient Apocalypse but also to win a great victory for archaeology on the biggest talk show on earth in front of an audience of tens of millions.
I also had a personal reason for wanting to debate Hoopes first rather – for example – than some random archaeologist with whom I had no history. I’m married to a woman of colour, I have four mixed-race children and seven mixed-race grandchildren and Hoopes’ very public campaign to link me with racism and white supremacy had deeply offended me. I felt a responsibility to my own good name and to the honour of my family to hold him to account.
I expected a robust reply to my December 4th challenge from such a robust critic, so I was genuinely surprised and disappointed when Hoopes turned out not to have the courage of his convictions, offering only a flimsy and contrived excuse. “I can’t debate metaphysics with science,” he declaimed, “and I’m not interested in debating your metaphysics with any other metaphysics.” Grandiose at first glance, this statement proves on examination to be mere sophistry – and laughable sophistry at that from a man who has hitherto taken every public opportunity to smear and ridicule what he calls my “metaphysics” yet suddenly, when called to defend his position in a face-to-face debate, develops a severe case of cold feet.
What makes the whole situation even more peculiar is that Hoopes is clearly not refusing to debate as such. On the contrary he appears to want to debate me – but only from the safety of his keyboard, cheered on by his small band of Twitter followers. On December 6th, I commented on this contrast between Hoopes online courage and his unwillingness to debate face-to-face (Fig. 8). His reply – “If there’s something you’d like to discuss, do it here on Twitter just like everyone else does” – made my point for me by once again seeking to shift the forum of the debate from a one-on-one encounter in front of a global audience of millions to a Twitter exchange in front of an audience of a few thousand (Fig. 9).
So this is where matters stand at present. The idea of a high-profile, high-stakes debate between mainstream and alternative points of view around the themes explored in Ancient Apocalypse was first raised on November 10th 2022 on the Joe Rogan Experience. On December 4th, after three weeks of unrelenting mudslinging on Twitter by John Hoopes – including an offensive jest at the expense of my wife (Fig. 10) — I formally offered him the opportunity to be the archaeologist to debate me face-to-face on the Joe Rogan Experience. On the same day, Hoopes declined. Finally, two days later, on December 6th, he suggested Twitter as the forum for any further discussion.
Twitter will not do, and nor will any other exclusively online forum. After the popular success of Ancient Apocalypse and the universal scorn heaped upon the series by archaeologists, it’s high time for a full-throated in person debate between proponents of orthodox views of pre-history and proponents of well-reasoned alternative views of prehistory. Such a debate might not settle the matter once and for all, but it would definitely mark a quantum leap forward in public education about the past. When John Hoopes ducked out he recommended US historian Dr David Miano to take his place. Duly noted. And British archaeologist Dr Flint Dibble (Fig. 11) writes that he’s also willing to engage. Duly noted. Indeed, since my wish to hold Hoopes to account for his smears and slanders has been frustrated by his funk, I’d like to offer the floor to both these gentlemen at the same time and to suggest that they form the nucleus of a team of four who can speak for the orthodox view of prehistory and will be opposed by a team of four, myself included, who will offer evidence-based alternative views.
The upcoming Cosmic Summit conference in Asheville North Carolina in June 2023 will be the ideal venue to host such an ambitious debate and I hope that both Flint Dibble and David Miano will agree to participate in it — all expenses paid of course. Because the theme of the conference is the role of cosmic impacts in human history and prehistory, I respectfully suggest that these two gentlemen should include Dr Mark Boslough (Fig. 12) in their team. He is a long-term opponent of the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis which plays an important role in Ancient Apocalypse.
Randall Carlson and I have volunteered to form the nucleus of the “alternative” team and will be reaching out to other potential participants in the near future. There will be much fine-tuning to do – debate format, filming of the debate, Q&A sessions, etc, etc. We hope to be in regular and constructive contact with the “orthodox” team as these details are worked out.
An interesting point raised by Mark Boslough (Fig. 12) is the alleged failure of proponents of alternative views of prehistory to “show up” at scientific conferences “to debate scientists”. In a separate tweet, but in a similar vein, he lambasts “pseudoscientists” for failing to give “presentations at conferences sponsored by professional scientific organizations.”
Well, Dr Boslough, now’s the time for you to right that wrong. Please nominate the scientific conferences you have in mind where I and other “pseudoscientists” – as you call us – can show up and debate scientists. Contrary to your view, we are very keen to participate in debates “sponsored by professional scientific organizations” and wouldn’t hesitate to make ourselves available if we were formally invited.
I note that many members of the public were puzzled by Hoopes refusal to debate and that there have been calls to find a scientific/academic forum where Hoopes and his colleagues might feel more comfortable than in front of millions on the Joe Rogan Experience (Fig. 13) Kim Chapman (Tholos History) even speculated that I’m “too scared” to debate an archaeologist in “an academic setting”.
Far from it Kim! If John Hoopes recovers from his cold feet he would no doubt be welcome to join the “orthodox” team in a debate with me and my colleagues at Cosmic Summit in June 2023. And I think it’s an EXCELLENT idea that there should be a follow-up (or even prior) debate in an academic setting. Commentator Dr Umb suggests the Oxford Union, Sharon Greenfield suggests UCLA, Jack suggests the University of Toronto, Magnus Pharao suggests the Royal Society. I hereby give formal confirmation that I and my colleagues will be willing to participate in a respectful, open debate at any of these locations or at any other academic setting that John Hoopes, David Miano and Flint Dibble care to make available.
I asked John Hoopes to put his money where his mouth is and debate me one-on-one on the Joe Rogan Experience. He declined. I have now offered to expand the debate to four-on-four. I have offered a public setting for that debate (Cosmic Summit 2023). I have confirmed that I and my colleagues who advocate alternative views of prehistory will be willing to participate in a subsequent or prior debate in an academic setting. I take note of the several suggestions for such a setting (Oxford Union, UCLA, U of T, Royal Society). And I have also noted that if Hoopes, Miano and Dibble prefer any other academic setting, and make it available for the debate, then I and my colleagues are ready to participate.
Once again, all the orthodox side has to do now is put up or shut up.
Fig 1 links
NB before WoL unpublished it the original url was here: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/graham-hancocks-ancient-apocalypse-netflix-25534985
Weirdly the video that is claimed to “sink” Ancient Apocalypse is simply the Netflix trailer for the series.
Finally (headline not featured in the collage) The Independent writes: “The documentary has raised concerns over Netflix’s own complicity in disseminating dubious or misleading information. More than this, however, it has made a compelling case for the value of the UK’s publicly owned broadcasters.” [Note, for US readers: In the UK “publicly owned” means pretty much the same as “government owned”].