The Pyramid Code Documentary Review Essays

Why do I do this to myself? 

At the beginning of the month I started watching a "documentary" miniseries on Hulu called "The Pyramid Code". IMMEDIATELY my B.S. meter started pegging and I became so frustrated at the depth of balderdash that I stopped watching, and posted something close to the following on Google+:

I'm not talking about the usual "aliens did it" retardation...alien visitation crackpots are easily dismissed... those are more entertaining than frustrating.

My major beef lies with totally false claims that advanced technology is required to build the things and that advanced mathematics (beyond algebra) are required to arrive at the dimensions... that their construction necessitated the use of exotic 'power sources' that we don't understand today. It's not remotely true. You can construct a pyramid of those exact dimensions (pi and all) using integer math and bronze age tools. And it appears that "elbow grease" and "puttin' your back into it" have suddenly become exotic power sources (I can't say I'm surprised on that one).

The "it's not possible" claims are maddening. All this does is allow the author to advertise two things: 1. "Even though I have a Ph.D, I'm too frakkin' stupid to think of simple solutions to practical math problems", and 2. "I'm so bloody spoiled that I cannot conceive of an age where people were willing to labor."

BTW, here's something I wrote on the subject a few years back: http://blog.cratchit.org/2007/06/how-to-build-pyramid.html

Well, having rested for a good 20 days, I decided to try another stab at watching it today. I should have known better. Now, having endured the entirety of the show, I get to tell you my opinion.

Dr. Carmen Boulter has the kind of Ph.D. that renders all scholarship suspect and the most outlandish of folk tales credible... in other words, the practically worthless kind. Whether it be giant quartz "crystals" (Dr. Boulter hasn't bothered to pay attention to anyone who can tell her the difference between a crystal and a rock) that act as giant vibrational warm-fuzzy transmitters, or nuggets of esoteric physics like, "sunlight on water... that is energy," Dr. Boulter hasn't met a scientific theory she wouldn't like to replace with a hearty helping of woo.

One thing that's particularly distracting is her love affair with the phrase "Band of Peace", which she apparently uses to refer to the fertile Nile river valley. Do a little experiment for yourself. Using Google, try searching for the phrase "Band of Peace", excluding the name of her program. Here's the search term, and a link for you. I'm excluding only the verbatim phrase "The Pyramid Code"

See anything about Egypt or the Nile in what's left? Right. What these results tell me is that she promoting the hell out of a phrase she dug out of her butt. In fairness, she might have dug it out of somebody else's butt... maybe Hakim's. Either way, the constant repetitions give the viewer the distinct impression that if this program does nothing whatsoever but make this moniker stick, then Boulter will have won her own little private Nobel Prize. It's totally in keeping with her trend of replacing any hard science she may find with shit she made up.

The series makes copious use of Abd'El Hakim Awyan, though it didn't do him many favors. Hakim was a doctor in his own right, yet was credited "Indigenous Wisdom Keeper". Not so great for his credibility, but a damn cool title, nonetheless. I'm so going to have that put on a business card. Hakim brings just the right amount of down-home folklore, but is clearly out of his depth when discussing anything to do with physics. The "sunlight on water" quote above is his.

Hakim makes much of the fact that the Khemetic language had no word for "death" and thus the ancient Egyptians could not have been obsessed with death, despite all the pyramids, mummies, tombs, temples, mustabas, etc. Of course, he says that just before he relates the word for death ("they called it 'Westing', as in 'going to the West'). To be sure, the same "no word for death" claim can and has been said of the Teutonic languages; and English-speaking Christians have a score of words for death, and still believe in resurrection. Also, the origins of words often have only a vague connection to contemporary usage; for instance, a person may collect a "salary", though it's been 2,000 years since Roman soldiers were actually paid in salt. So it was unclear to me what this is supposed to prove. Then came my answer.

"The Egyptians obviously had a very different world view from ours today. They believed in the afterlife and the soul's immortality."

Suddenly I understood why Boulter and co. were having so much difficulty with the subject, and it made me very sad. I then sat through the rest of the episode watching their "scientists" treat with utmost credibility the notion that the ancient Egyptians had a physical means of attaining what the archaeologists themselves reject in their everyday lives. These beliefs are common in today's culture. I thoroughly understand being an atheist. I don't understand in the slightest being so blind to the world around you that you don't see the parallels in what you're studying and the millions of people for whom a central portion of this worldview has persisted to the present day. How was it possible for them to be so perplexed? 

That question carries forward just in general. I watched the section on reading hieroglyphs with a sincere desire to shout at the screen, "would you stop acting stupid and just present the information?!" Look, if you've got 4,000 hieroglyphs and only 26 letters, it's not a news flash to say that there's not a 1 to 1 correspondence between glyphs and letters. With that number of glyphs, it's pretty safe to assume that we're not talking about a syllabary either. Rather, you're going to have a concept per glyph, as in Chinese. None of this was news even before the Rosetta Stone was discovered. So why does Boulter pretend that this is a revolutionary new understanding of hieroglyphs?

Perhaps she's led astray by Laird Scranton, a computer programmer and amateur anthropologist who, starting from an observation by others that the Dogon people of Africa believed the star Sirius had a companion star, leaped to the conclusion that all of Dogon cosmology is scientifically brilliant, and that their rock paintings of water and eggs and grain should be interpreted as describing quantum mechanics as opposed to, say, a recipe for cake. He estimates the science of their ancients to be at least 50 years in advance of our own... which has enabled them to build mud huts and paint rocks. I weep for our children of 50 years hence. The forward of Scranton's book, Sacred Symbols of the Dogon, lays out his qualifications... hey, he's a software designer! Computers have symbols! Hieroglyphics are symbols! Therefore he's an expert. You can't argue with that kind of logic.

Don't get the idea that there's absolutely nothing of value in this series. There are bits of real scientific information embedded in the video, particularly when Dr. Boulter is not on-screen. I actually feel sorry for the legitimate scientists who share the screen here and there. And I suppose there's some entertainment value in cataloging the myriad forms of woo that appear here. Sadly, the signal-to-noise ratio is so poor that I can't recommend the show to anyone as an introduction to the subject of Egyptology. Get familiar with the subject first, then come back and see what you can pick out.



As a reference, here's how you present this sort of information:



And here's part 2:



Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, Thomas Brophy does things strictly according to the scientific method. He has a hypothesis, calls it a hypothesis (knowing the difference between that and a theory), and does the math. Most importantly, he knows that science ain't horseshoes... close isn't good enough. So when his hypothesis is close, but not exact, he discards it and looks for a better one. Nice.

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