I’m just about finished with America Before, Graham Hancock’s most recent +1000 page deep-dive on the newest evidence for a lost civilization in deep antiquity.
I’ll share with you here a philosophical insight that I gleaned from the evidence in the book that is especially relevant to THIS moment in history…
An admission, I used to be a “young-earth creationist,” which means that I was among the Christians that believe that God created the world and universe about 6,000 years ago. A commonly-held and dogma-driven view of history that we now view as absurd and anti-rational which necessitates ignoring a lot of evidence. Almost nobody (Christians included) is now a young-earth creationist — but (even the intelligentsia of) society still holds some very dogmatic views of history that require ignoring a lot of evidence. Graham Hancock has written several books thoroughly documenting and analyzing this evidence. According to the mainstream view of history, our species suddenly jumped from scratching about in the dust to building the pyramids and other megaliths of tremendous proportions and size — civilizational endeavors requiring mastery of complex mathematics and engineering principles. While our modern civilization can barely keep the lights on in a lot of places (and can’t even keep the Notre Dame cathedral from burning down), we’re made to believe that ancient humans jumped right from chasing down megafauna on the flatlands with spears to the decadent project of building giant monuments perfectly aligned to the astrological starscape above, in a matter of (at the most) a few thousand years, while they were mired in a barbaric and deeply superstitious societal state. Indeed, “young civilizationists” (like young-earth creationists) believe that something magical happened about six millennia ago.
A more rational and scientific view of ancient history is becoming clearer, with a lot of resistance from the young civilizationists; that there was a relatively advanced civilization present about 12,000 years ago that had mapped the earth and the night sky and seeded the ancient civilizations around the globe that we all learned about in grade school, before its demise. I’ve just republished on my website, my deep-dive book review of Magicians of the Gods — if you’re still skeptical of the idea of a lost civilization read that or listen to the podcast version I recorded.
I’m currently engrossed in Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods, which presents a very methodical argument for a lost…
It’s a tantalizing hypothesis that’s no longer in the category of silly history channel documentaries and click-baity Youtube videos. Plato called this civilization Atlantis, but we frankly have no idea what they called themselves. They may have lived in the center of what’s now the Sahara desert, or the south-western coast of Spain, or quite possibly, in North America — we really don’t know. We have no idea what their language was like. The names of their greatest men and women are forgotten. But we owe them a lot. Their deliberate efforts and sacrifices resulted in civilization flowering around the globe.
But there is one thing that we know we have (somewhat) in common with them, they most certainly had a universalist theory of ethics and morality. This means everybody has to play by the same rules, it stands in stark contrast with tribal morality where there are different rules for different types of people. If there’s one thing that we know from more recent history, it’s that civilization is downstream (and sometimes it can be a long stream) from universalist morality.
If we look at the world now or at any point in the last several thousand years, the best societies — the places where you might choose to live if you had a choice of where to be born — were the places with the most universal system of ethics. Where a poor farmer had the same rights as a rich aristocrat. For at least a hundred thousand years life in Europe was brutal and short, but then something changed, and in a historically relatively short period of time there was tremendous innovation, invention, renaissance, the abolition of human serfdom and slavery, rule-of-law instituted, human rights enshrined, and great leaps forward in medicine and science. What was that something? What changed? We didn’t undergo a drastic genetic change making us more intelligent. It was a modicum of universalist morality in the form of Christianity — every man had a soul of equal weight worthy of God’s forgiveness and promise of everlasting life. And I know what some of you are thinking…
What about slavery, colonialism, aristocracy, etc? There’s a lot of nasty tribalism in the history of Chistendom that dosen’t seem very universalist.
While western philosophy and the Bible espoused universalism, we were mostly pretty bad at implementing it because men lust for booty and power. But that modicum of universalist ethics was enough to get us from a state of stark barbarism to where we are. When and where more universalist ethics arose, protestant northern Europe, there was even more innovation and acceleration towards a brighter future. And the one country founded explicitly with universalist morality, the United States, became “the shining city on a hill,” the envy of the world. The place everyone wanted to go to. Tribal morality gets you a hundred thousand years of chasing boars through a forest and “royals” raping peasant girls with impunity while universalist morality gets you from the first airplane flying on Kittyhawk beach to footsteps on the moon in 66 years.
If the Atlanteans mastered engineering, mathematics, and astronomy to a level on par with 18th or 19th-century European civilization and then tried to disseminate that knowledge around the globe to humans living in a brutal state of nature (and Hancock’s books make a strong case that they did), they most certainly had a universalist system of morality. So I say Atlanteans’ lives mattered! But, considering their morality I’m sure they would respond…
Yes, of course, all lives matter.
While it would seem that they succeeded in implanting self-replicating megalithic memes reflective of the heavens above in proto-civilizations around the globe it would seem that they largely failed to impart the primacy of universalist ethics to the savages who regarded them as gods or magicians. We would have to learn the hard way over the proceeding millenniums that history records.
In my philosophical work, I’ve made the case the modern western civilization (largely propelled by regression to tribal morality) is headed towards a dark age, but this challenging time ahead may serve as a crucible that reignites universalist morality. If we can reembrace this edifying philosophy, the great leap forward will be dizzying, we will cure cancer, we will defeat death, we will colonize Mars, and I, for one, look forward to salsa dancing on Olympus Mons!