Atlantis Article

Arguments Against Atlantis

by Rod Martin, Jr.


Athanasius Kircher's 1669 AD map of Atlantis
Athanasius Kircher's 1669 AD map of Atlantis. Note that North is at the bottom and that South America is missing. Also note that Atlantis, as portrayed by Kircher bears an uncanny resemblance to South America. So much for Kircher's believability.

There are not many tests which could be done to disprove Atlantis. The most obvious one proves to be quite expensive, and there are caveats in the pudding. You know the old saying, "the proof is in the pudding?"

Also, there are many flawed arguments against Atlantis. Why flawed? Simply, they don't prove or disprove anything regarding the possible past reality of Atlantis. We will take a careful look at these, later. But first, the "good" argument.

A Good Argument Against Atlantis

A really good argument against the past reality of Atlantis is one that forms an iron-clad barrier against counter-arguments. It is unassailable. Is such a thing possible?

Yes, a strong argument against Atlantis is possible, but there are caveats or qualifications. Perhaps more than most any other investigative endeavor, a search for disproof of Atlantis requires measures to ensure honesty. Now, before you go huffing a puffing about how this disparages the good name of science, you must understand the environment in which such an investigation would take place. It's not a level playing field. In fact, it's decidedly bumpy.

The Problem with Outsiders and Paradigm Shifts

When anyone (scientist or not) is asked to change the way they look at the world, they are likely to exhibit hostility. Such a paradigm shift suffers from rejection and ridicule simply because frequently people are painfully attached to their beliefs. Yes, even some scientists. They feel an assault on such beliefs is an assault on themselves, and defend such, it seems, as if their lives depended on it. Don't believe this? Try talking a devout Christian into a switch to Buddhism, Taoism or — even worse from their point-of-view — atheism. Try talking a career geologist into entertaining the idea of Atlantis as a past reality.

Atlantis Arguments: Dr. Alfred Wegener, astronomer, meteorologist and geologist.
Dr. Alfred Wegener (1880–1930), astronomer, meteorologist and geologist. His research was instrumental in the development of modern plate tectonics (Wikipedia).

If, on the other hand, a scientist is not attached to scientific "law" and prevailing consensus, but perhaps only attached to the principle that some things are knowable through investigation and logic, they may not suffer from such hostility against new ideas. Perhaps it takes a bit of humility, strength of character and childlike wonder to be open to such brash new ideas.

When a brash new idea comes from outside the field of study, that creates an entirely new hurdle — at least in the minds of many scientists. "They're not a member of our club, so why should we listen to them?" Does such an attitude of "outsiderness" really exist amongst scientists? Check out my award-winning essay, "Outsiderness in the Scientific Community" (first-place Krupnick Award, 1994). But also, look at what happened to Afred Wegener, and his work on "continental drift."

Atlantis Arguments: Abraham Ortelius, originator of moving continents idea.
Abraham Ortelius, Flemish cartographer who was first to originate idea of moving continents.

German scientist, Dr. Wegener, earned his PhD in astronomy, but gained his greatest reputation in the emerging fields of meteorology and climatology. His lectures on the subject became a standard textbook on meteorology and climate. So, what does an astronomer and self-made expert in meteorology have to do with geology? In the minds of some geologists, absolutely nothing. Yet, Wegener, taking an idea first posited by Flemish cartographer, Abraham Ortelius in 1596, laid the groundwork for the modern theory of plate tectonics. Wegener never lived to see his geological ideas accepted. The Wikipedia article on Wegener tells us that the opponents "could argue, as did the Leipziger geologist Franz Kossmat, that the oceanic crust was too firm for the continents to 'simply plow through.'"

Atlantis Arguments: Wegener and Snider-Pellegrini fossil map
Wegener and Snider-Pellegrini fossil map, showing range of specific fossils across the boundaries between continents.

Wegener was unable to come up with a plausible mechanism for the continental movement, but his circumstantial evidence provided compelling reasons to continue the search for such a mechanism. Similar plant and animal fossils were found on opposing continental shores, suggesting that they had once been joined.

"While it is now accepted that the continents do move across the Earth's surface — though more in a driven mode than the aimlessness suggested by 'drift' — as a theory, continental drift was not accepted for many years. One problem was that a plausible driving force was missing. And it did not help that Wegener was not a geologist." (Wikipedia, "Continental Drift").

Some parts of Wegener's theory were clearly wrong, when seen from today's perspective — with today's knowledge. Yet, the underlying idea of continental movement on a timescale in the millions of years was entirely correct. Today, GPS (global positioning satellite) measurements show this movement to be on the order of centimeters per year. At two centimeters per year, a one kilometer, relative separation would take fifty thousand years.

Atlantis Arguments: Heinrich Himmler, Nazi leader and father of the Jewish Holocaust.
Heinrich Himmler believed in the superiority of Germans and looked for ways to prove it. One of those ways involved the possibility that Germans (Aryans) came from Atlantis.

There were numerous examples of scientists coming up with reasons why not to accept any of Wegener's hypothesis. Some of the attacks on Wegener's ideas were decidedly vehement. Many objected to the idea that the continents moved at all. Yet, a little imagination might have led to a modified theory which would fit all of the then known facts, even in Wegener's lifetime. It took nearly thirty years after Wegener's death for his theory to be vindicated in its new form — plate tectonics.

Sometimes getting funding for scientific work is a double-edged dilemma. In 1939, German scientist, Ernst Schäfer, wanted to finance another expedition to Tibet. German Reichsführer-SS Himmler agreed to sponsor Schäfer's excursion if all members would agree to join the Nazi SS. Why was the top SS guy interested? Himmler had long believed in Aryan superiority. The "Blavatsky theory of Atlantean precursors to Aryan wisdom living in the Himalayas" (Ward) influenced Himmler to support Schäfer's efforts. If Schäfer was skeptical of the Atlantis connection, he kept such ideas to himself. And wouldn't you? Biting the hand that fed him could have been disastrous for Schäfer. Remember, Himmler was the father of the Jewish Holocaust — not a very nice guy.

Atlantis as Blasphemy


Atlantis Arguments: The cover of a classic book on Mother Goose
Mother Goose was a popular nursery rhyme, long ago. Today, it is just as likely to be used as a source of ridicule and disparaging comparison.

The subject of Atlantis has been through more ringers than last week's laundry. It has been claimed by clairvoyants, New Age crystal lovers, Nazi investigators and a host of other non-scientists that give the subject a decidedly large, black eye. Imagine a professional scientist being asked to investigate the location of Mother Goose. Ludicrous, right? None of their peers would take them seriously after such a commitment. "You did what?!" And quietly, all hopes of future funding go up in smoke. Reputation is next to cleanliness and ego when it comes to professional importances. Look what happened in North American anthropology, where fear of losing reputation put blinders on science.

For over half a century, the culture whose artifacts were discovered at Clovis, New Mexico, was considered to be that of the first inhabitants of the Americas. During that period, scientists were sometimes ridiculed for discussing the possibility of pre-Clovis items. The ridicule proved to be so thick and heinous that some scientists were afraid to dig below the Clovis horizon (the layer dated to the earliest Clovis artifacts). If scientists never dug below that layer, then they would never find proof against the "Clovis first" dogma, thus ensuring its dominance. As you can see, this is more a matter of ego and reputations than about evidence and science.

Compare "Clovis first" with the stance that "Atlantis never existed," and you're likely to find that Atlantis is several magnitudes harder to crack than Clovis. The attitudes in the scientific community are that strong against it. Would such an environment affect the objectivity of any scientists involved? A quick reminder of "Clovis first" is all that one needs to sober up. Now, look what happened on the subject of Atlantis.

Bimini Road to Nowhere


Atlantis Arguments: Bimini Island and the surrounding shallows as seen from space
Bimini Island and the surrounding shallows as seen from space.

Nearly a hundred years ago, American clairvoyant, Edgar Cayce, predicted that in 1968 or 1969 evidence of lost Atlantis would be found in the Bahamas. On September 2, 1968, a diver discovered an underwater structure now called "Bimini Road" or "Bimini Wall" off the northern coast of Bimini Island, in the Bahamas. There have been numerous claims and counter-claims regarding the nature of this feature. The online Wikipedia article covers many of the highlights, yet seems to take a skeptical stance on the subject, making it seem that the arguments suggesting the feature is manmade remain unproven because they have not been "formally published." I can't imagine any peer-reviewed, professional, scientific literature agreeing to publish such an article. Why? Any such publication would suffer in reputation were it to include any article explicitly supporting the past reality of Atlantis. Even if the "A" word was not mentioned, the association of "Atlantis" with Bimini has already been irrevocably made.

Atlantis Arguments: The Bahamas as seen from space.
The Bahamas as seen from space. Also shown are the Eastern edge of Southern Florida and part of Cuba. Bimini is circled.

In mid-2010, Dr. Greg Little, psychologist and amateur investigator noted that several new finds had been made in the waters surrounding Bimini. These potential archaeological sites are being ignored by professional archaeologists. In fact, one academic archaeologist friend of Dr. Little refused to accompany him on his most recent expedition to Bimini because of a fear of losing funding. If professional archaeologists will not investigate these new sites, then they can never be validated as manmade, if indeed they are. For more information from the "pro" manmade side, see the 2007 article on Discoveries at Bimini. Be sure and check out the related article on a "scientific hoax" associated with the so-called "Bimini Road." If the claims in the related PDF document are true, then science gained one very big, black eye from the supposed scientific misconduct of a Mr. Shinn who investigated the "Bimini Road" feature in the 1970's.

Scientific Misconduct, Skepticism and Ignoring the Facts

If Mr. Shinn is guilty of falsifying data, as the PDF article seems to claim, then how is the truth in the matter ever to make it into mainstream science? The differences between the data presented in Shinn's original, 1978 article and the conclusions portrayed in his 1980 article are startling. In the earlier article, Shinn indicates variations in beachrock tilt with only some slanting naturally toward the open sea. In the subsequent article, Shinn characterizes the data as conclusively slanting seaward, underscoring its natural origins. The two articles could hardly be any more different. The implication is one of gross, scientific misconduct.

Atlantis Arguments: Dr. Maurice Ewing at NASA's Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas
Dr. Maurice Ewing at NASA's Mission Control Center, Houston, Texas. Shown are the seismometer readings, December 10, 1972, from the impact made by the Apollo 17 Saturn S-IVB stage when it struck the lunar surface as they were being viewed in the ALSEP room in the Mission Control Center by Dr. Ewing, professor of geophysics of the University of Texas at Galveston (picture courtesy NASA).

This next item, I learned from the Atlantis Quest website. In the 1948-49 Woods Hole expedition to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR), Dr. Ewing included evidence of continental material and beach-like terraces. Then I learned in a handbook on geological anomalies (Corliss), other scientists have provided evidence of deep ocean, subaerial phenomena. Taken together, these suggest that some parts of the ocean floor and MAR were above sea level in the past. I have not yet been able to find out where on the MAR Dr. Ewing's features were located, but if they were in the vicinity of the Azores, they would tend to support the past reality of Atlantis. Apparently, Mr. Ewing was no fan of the Atlantis myth, but he was honest enough to include all data, no matter how controversial. What is interesting is that a summary of the expedition's findings published a decade later mention nothing of the more controversial evidence. Conspiracy? I doubt it. Subconscious bias to ignore such facts? Maybe.

Perhaps part of the problem stems from the paradigm currently used by science — that of skepticism. By-and-large, skepticism has served science well. It is a good tool, but like all tools, it can be misused and even abused. For one thing, skepticism includes a built-in bias — doubt. In any investigation, the investigator should optimally be unbiased. So, what paradigm would prove better than skepticism? How about "selfless restraint?" Such restraint achieves the desired neutrality that skepticism's bias misses.

A larger problem from skepticism comes from the broad range of definitions applied to the word. Some forms of skepticism include "self-indulgent ridicule." Not a pretty sight. You may not find such a definition in the dictionary, but you will find such in actual practice. Skepticism also takes the form, "unsupported dismissal," where ideas are discarded as unworthy of further investigation without the usual scientific "due process," like the ignorance of Dr. Ewing's controversial data. Ignore it quietly enough, it might just go away, buried in obscurity.

Many of the "skeptical" websites with any mention of Atlantis include so many of the bad forms of skepticism, it is a wonder someone has not pulled their shoddy arguments before now. For a look at some of the sloppy reasoning on the subject of Atlantis skepticism, check out "Grading the Skeptics."

The Good Argument

A good argument against Atlantis would likely include something geological. And no wonder. One of the two most critical arguments in favor of Atlantis would be a geological one. The other critical argument in favor of Atlantis would involve sea bottom archaeology.

Produce a thorough set of seabed core samples in the entire region from Gibraltar to the MAR, and from perhaps 200 kilometers south of the Africa-Eurasia tectonic plate boundary to say 600 kilometers north of the same boundary. Ensure that the core samples included all sedimentary layers and perhaps a meter or two of basaltic bedrock. How many cores? For my own satisfaction, one every two kilometers would be sufficient. Such a set would include a number approaching 200,000 cores. The cost of such a set could easily bankrupt a small country.

Atlantis Arguments: A building broken in half during the 2010 Chile earthquake
A building broken in half during the 2010 Chile earthquake.

It is quite likely that a number of cores far less than this could offer significant evidence in the proof against Atlantis, but where does one draw the line? How many of these 200,000 could be removed and not miss a potential Atlantis? After all, with an event like the one describe by Plato, the geological severity likely ranged between 11–12 on the moment magnitude scale (similar to the Richter). Nothing in human history comes close to this. What effects would such severity add to those observed in our most destructive earthquakes? And because this took place in the ocean, how would existing sedimentation have been effected? The inevitable mega-tsunami from such an event would likely have left additional sedimentary clues, but how would we recognize them? Not knowing the shape of such an island or group of islands is only part of the problem. Even assuming that Plato's description of location was accurate, there are far too many unknowns about the placement of coastlines, the size of the landform, and the effects of its destruction.

I have heard of cores being taken in the Northeast Atlantic, but I have no data on the location of these or their number. Also, I do not know the details of the core contents at each layer, how deep each core went, and whether or not the cores pierced basaltic bedrock. Do these cores number in the hundreds? The thousands? Or do they merely number in the dozens?

With such results, I would like to know more about Dr. Ewing's controversial results from the 1948-49 expedition to the MAR. I would like to know more about the controversial findings of other scientists. Could these controversial results merely be easily explained by advances in geological and oceanographic sciences? Could they indicate something other than islands which disappeared? These are interesting possibilities, but they remain open questions until they are explicitly addressed. Merely ignoring them will not make them go away, so long as there are those who are willing to ask the tough questions.

In the final analysis, we currently have no definitive proof for or against Atlantis, directly. It's still an open question.

Bad Arguments Against Atlantis

From all I've ever found, there are many more bad arguments against Atlantis than good ones. What does a bad argument look like?

On the subject of Sam Smith (a fictional character) flying kites, we can make many bad arguments. Here are a few examples:

  • Sam Smith says he never flies kites, so that must be true. But is it really?
  • Sam Smith has many kites stored in his basement, so he must fly them. Yet how would we know that for sure?
  • I did not see Sam Smith flying a kite today, so that proves he never flies them. This is an argument to ignorance (a logical fallacy).
  • I have seen many men flying kites, Sam Smith is a man, so he must have flown kites. But we really don't know this for certain.

Get the idea? Some arguments against Atlantis are like this. They assume something not in evidence, or they go overboard, taking a little evidence and blowing it out of proportion.

What are some specific arguments against Atlantis? Let's take a look.

  • There is no evidence of civilization existing that far back (9600 BCE).
    This is an argument to ignorance which fell to new evidence when the ruins at Göbekeli Tepe, Turkey were dated at about 9500 BCE. And who knows what other finds might push back even that ancient date.
  • There was no advanced technology back then (9600 BCE).
    This is also an argument to ignorance. We just don't know what may be discovered in the future. By the same token, this lack of evidence does not prove Atlantis, either — not by a long shot.
  • There were no boats that far back (9600 BCE).
    This is also an argument to ignorance, but scientists have long known that humanity has had boats for many millennia before the demise of Atlantis. In fact, the habitation of Australia and other islands southeast of Asia occurred about 40,000 BCE. There were no land bridges connecting these islands and the Australian continent with Asia. And recently, a New York Times article indicated that scientists found evidence that humans had boats at least as early as 130,000 BCE.
  • Only crackpots believe in Atlantis.
    This an ad hominem logical fallacy. It may be that some individuals are "crackpots." It may be that some "crackpots" believe in Atlantis, but this does not prove that all of those who believe in or support the possible past existence of Atlantis are crackpots.
  • There is no geological evidence to support the existence of Atlantis.
    This can also be an argument to ignorance. Again, future evidence may prove otherwise. Yet, we have a significant amount of circumstantial, geological evidence in support of Atlantis.

As mentioned earlier, many of the skeptical websites have been graded on their arguments against Atlantis. I would like to have seen better arguments. Why? Better arguments make a better debate. Better arguments against, help me to make my arguments better in favor, or to change sides and accept the idea that Atlantis never existed. Imagine that! If the evidence is strong enough, why not?

References:

Corliss, W., ed., Unknown Earth A Handbook of Geological Enigmas, The Sourcebook Project, 1980, Glen Arm, MD.

Ward, Vanessa. 2008. Nationalist Uses of the Atlantis Myth in a Nordic Framework. PARA Research Paper A-10. http://pseudoarchaeology.org/a10-ward.html, retrieved 2010:0914.

 
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