Humans are not from Earth: a scientific evaluation of the evidence was a bit of a left-field choice for my reading list I’ll admit. The self-published book by ‘U.S. ecologist Ellis Silver’ (more on that later) caught my attention at the back end of last year when it was discussed on the Skeptics with a K podcast.
The book exploded into public consciousness when it was covered on the Daily Fail, and shared at the last count 58,000 times, and from the looks of it, parroted and linked to on countless conspiracy theory websites, including Alex Jones’ notorious Prison Planet.
I bought it as it was only 77p on my Kindle and then completely forgot about it. I found it again as I was tidying up my Kindle and putting together a list of my next ten books, and, remembering that it was only supposed to take a couple of hours to read, decided to give it a shot.
Ellis’ thesis is that humans did not evolve along with the rest of life on earth but that we were planted here by aliens (either fully formed or after being interbred with Neanderthals, he can't decide which), possibly to punish us for being war-mongering and horrible.
Here are his genuine reasons:
- The sun hurts our eyes
- The sun kills us (gives us skin cancer)
- Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- We commonly suffer from bad backs
- We have 223 apparently unique genes
- There no 'missing link' the fossil record
- We lack the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic fields (and use to get a sense of direction)
- We lack body hair
- Some people suffer from hay fever and asthma
- We like eating tasty food that is sometimes bad for us
- We breed too much, resulting in overpopulation
- We lack natural defenses against large predators
- We're destroying the environment
- The technological leap from protohumans to modern day is just too great
- We suffer from a host of chronic illness.
As Ellis’ friend, Dave Haslett, says: “there are far too many coincidences for it to be a coincidence.’ (This is genuinely used as an argument in the book.)
Ellis' ridiculous arguments have been dismantled by others so I won't bother doing it here.
I’m not actually convinced that Humans are not from Earth isn’t just a massively successful hoax. The best writers at the Onion couldn’t have written a more convincing parody of conspiracy theory/poor science literacy/vanity publishing literature.
To check that it wasn’t actually just someone taking the piss, I did a little search for ‘Dr’ Ellis Silver and his academic background; he was referred to as an 'expert' in several reports on the book, although it was never clear what of - self-publicity perhaps? I can’t find much of anything that suggests that Ellis Silver is even a real person, nevermind one with a doctorate in ecology from a US institution. Nothing turns up on Google Scholar for work by an academic by the name of Ellis Silver, and a regular google search just turns up countless links to Humans are not from Earth and to the publisher’s webpage, i4w2. There’s also nothing on the Amazon author’s page, and on an inactive twitter account for Ellis Silver, ‘ecological consultant and author’, there are just a handful of tweets referring to the book's publisher. *Alarm bells ringing*
Hoax or not, I think Humans are not from Earth would actually make a great learning resource: you could play name that logical fallacy, learn how not to formulate an argument, and, if you want to teach someone about evolution, going through everything this book gets wrong would actually be a pretty good place to start.
Anyone with a basic understanding of biology/who's heard of Occam’s Razor might laugh at this batshit crazy stuff, but the uncritical Daily Mail article, the way this tripe spread unchecked across the net, and the 10 five-star reviews for the book on Amazon (if they're not also parodies), are all pretty dispiriting.