Michael Heiser is a biblical scholar and a potent force in the skeptisphere. I know him from his splendid website Sitchin is Wrong
. That's Zecharia Sitchin, the dreamer who sold a ton of books claiming that human DNA was edited by beings called The Anunnaki. Sitchin claims authentic sources in Sumerian literature, and Heiser — who actually knows about Sumerian — says the sources not only aren't authentic but aren't there.
Mike Bara thinks Sitchin was right. From the Himalayan heights of his ignorance, he wrote a 47-page chapter in his latest book which was not much more than a steal from Sitchin's ridiculous work The Lost Book of Enki
. Those emolunauts who read my review of Bara
will have had a taste of the mind-bending imbecility of this material.
Well, Bara spent a page and a half attacking Michael Heiser, and now Heiser has rebutted, in fine style. In a post titled Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Mike Bara: An Explanatory Illustration
in his Paleobabble blog, he did a far better job than I could possibly have done. Here it is in toto
One of my favorite blogs is The Emoluments of Mars
It’s the brainchild of “Expat,” who has committed himself to the
mind-numbing task of critiquing the conspiratorial pseudo-science behind
ideas like the “face” on Mars, glass domes on the moon, and esoteric
meanings to NASA space missions (think Richard Hoagland and Mike Bara).
Expat’s URL is something of an homage to Hoagland’s book, Dark Mission
detailing the alleged esoteric conspiracies behind what NASA does:
dorkmission.blogspot.com. Since I’m neither a scientist nor photo
analyst, I depend on the work of people like Expat. Stuart Robbins’ Exposing PseudoAstronomy
blog is another such resource that I’ve mentioned before.
A couple months ago Expat emailed me with the wonderful news that I’d
made it into Mike Bara’s most recent literary assault on clear thinking,
Ancient Aliens and Secret Societies
. The email sort of got
lost in the shuffle, but I thankfully found it again. Bara’s book hasn’t
exactly garnered an overwhelming response (four reviews to date in five
months, several of which are hilariously brutal (“zero stars if
Amazon allowed it”; “Google scholarship”; “Friends don’t let friends
read Mike Bara”). That last one was good enough to steal for my post
title. It says it all.
Nevertheless, I thought I’d take a look at what Expat sent. After all, this year I was privileged to be colored as a government informant
by Jim Marrs. When I blogged about that honor I pointed out that Marrs’
ludicruous assertion was falsifiable by a simple phone call (he had me
working on a “government funded” program dealing with Sumerian
lexicography). All he needed to do was call the office for that program
to learn that I hadn’t worked on that project. But hey, implying I “work
for the government” in my opposition to Sitchin’s nonsensical handling
of Sumerian texts (and most everything else) is more fun.
Here are excerpts from what Bara wrote on pp. 88-89 of his book. (Bara is in green in this version)
“Other critics have attacked Sitchin more directly, arguing that his interpretations of the Sumerian texts are simply wrong …
MSH: Yes, I have said that. But Bara’s missing
something (and it won’t be the last time in this short post). I’ve
actually argued that Sitchin’s interpretations aren’t even to be found in the Sumerian tablets.
That’s right. They aren’t even in there. You can’t call what doesn’t
exist “wrong” or a screwed up translation. Ideas like the Anunnaki being
from Nibiru and Nibiru being a planet beyond Pluto literally don’t
exist in the Sumerian material. Now how easy would it be to show me
wrong with a claim like that? Pretty easy. And so I directed people on
how to test my assertion. Instead of insisting that people take my word
for it, I created a screen-capture video of yours truly going to the publicly accessible Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature
website to check my claims. (I wonder how many times Bara lets people
follow his trail — I know Sitchin didn’t do that). Anyway, the video
isn’t exciting, but it does show me showing YOU how to search for all
the occurrences of “Anunnaki” gods (including the shorter name, Anunna)
and return them with links for English translations. Guess what? No
ancient astronaut material. Funny how that happens when you direct
people to primary texts. Continuing …
… Foremost among these is Michael Heiser, a committed Christian who has made debunking Sitchin something of his life’s work …
: True; I am a
“committed Christian.” I’m also a Christian that makes other Christians
nervous for various reasons. I’m guessing Bara never read any of my
blogs and their comments. Is debunking Sitchin my life’s work? Hardly.
How could I make a living doing that? It would be like trying to
convince people to read Bara’s books for a living. Mike seemingly
doesn’t know that I’m the guy who posted my income tax returns online
back in the day to shut up William Henry when he accused me of making
money off Sitchin’s name. I asked William to do the same. (Cue crickets
here). And guess what? They’re still up there
, Mike! Have a look.
Those were the days when I first appeared
on Coast to Coast. Readers may remember that Art Bell asked if I’d
debate Sitchin on his show … the lowly graduate student against the
poobah of paleobabble. I said yes. Sitchin refused. Funny how that
happens when you appeal to primary texts.
… Heiser and other critics are fond of pointing out that Sitchin’s
interpretations of certain words and phrases are “incorrect” according
to the most commonly accepted academic understandings of them …
MSH: No, they’re incorrect because they aren’t there.
They have no basis in reality. (See above). Prove me wrong, Mike — run
the search and find the alien Anunnaki on Nibiru. Let’s have one line of
one tablet that says that.
… Sitchin taught himself Sumerian at a time when only a few people in the world knew how to read cuneiform texts …
MSH: A couple of
corrections here. Sitchin didn’t know Sumerian. Nothing he produces in
his books about Sumerian provide any evidence of that. His
“translations” would never survive peer review. Want to test that, Mike?
Tell you what. You gather Sitchin’s translations *with tablet line and
citation so real Sumerian scholars can go look.* Then follow these
(1) Show us [this is called
fact-checking, Mike] that Sitchin’s translations are not those of
someone else — that is, they did NOT come from a published anthology of
English translations. If they survive that test, then …
(2) Send them to a real Sumerian scholar. Pick someone from the membership list of The International Association for Assyriology
, or one of the staff at these ongoing projects in Sumerian studies: CDLI
or Stephen Tinney
of the Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary Project (PSD; the volume
covering Anunnaki is published). I’m sure you and I can agree on who to
send Sitchin’s translations to. I’ll publish the results of your efforts
on my blog.
… Today people like Heiser have become more numerous and they have
learned the language from academic sources such as 2006′s Sumerian
Lexicon, all of which postdate Sitchin’s publication of The Twelfth
Planet … … The Sumerian Lexicon is no more authoritative a source than
Sitchin himself. In fact, one reviewer declared it to be ‘a book
compiled by a dilettante who understands the basics of neither
lexicography nor Sumerology.” …
MSH: There’s so much
erroneous misdirection here. I’ll give Mike the benefit of the doubt
that he’s just ignorant and not being deliberately deceptive. (That’s how nice I am). Here we go:
(1) Yes, people now learn Sumerian from
“academic sources” — so did Sitchin learn with non-academic sources? No
sources? The 12th Planet was published in the late seventies. There were
plenty of (perish the thought) academic sources for learning Sumerian.
(And I repeat: I don’t think Sitchin knew Sumerian at all). Bara’s
argument here pits academic sources against … what? It puts Sitchin in
the position of using inferior sources or no sources. Nice argument,
(2) You don’t learn a language by using a
dictionary. You learn vocabulary that way. But languages have grammar
(remember high school, Mike?) Dictionaries are not presentations of a
language’s grammar: grammatical forms (morphology) and relationships
(syntax). I can scarcely believe I have to point out that dictionaries
don’t “do” grammar. In reality, there were plenty of academic grammars
prior to the publication of the 12th Planet (late seventies). For
- Stephen Langdon, A Sumerian grammar and chrestomathy (1911) – for years one of the standard learning grammars for Sumerian.
- Kurt Schildmann, Compendium of the historical grammar of Sumerian (Grundriss der historischen Grammatik des Sumerischen) 1964-1970
But again, what is Bara’s point? That Sitchin didn’t have resources to learn Sumerian? If so, how could we trust his knowledge? If he did have sources, then … what?
(3) The “Sumerian Lexicon” Bara is
referring to is Halloran’s Sumerian Lexicon (which originated as an
online compilation of Sumerian terms). I know that because the
reviewer’s comments are drawn from this review
of Halloran. This is not the lexicon I directed readers to on my
website for years. What I directed readers to is the Pennsylvania
Sumerian Dictionary (= PSD). Here’s the image from a page that used to
be on my website:
You’ll notice that the editor isn’t Halloran. So Bara is criticizing the
wrong source.Here’s page 133 from the PSD that lived for many years on
my site. It’s the entry for Anunnaki (and its variant forms). Notice
that “those who from heaven came” or “fallen ones” (or whatever
nuttiness Sitchin assigns to the term) isn’t a meaning scholars
Since it’s not the lexicon that Bara’s
source is bashing, the criticism levied by that source don’t apply to
the PSD (which, per the scan above, does not agree with Sitchin). The
PSD is a leading lexical project for the entire field of Sumerian. The
raw materials for the PSD have lived online
for many years (the project was begun in 1974 – before Sitchin
published the 12th Planet, by the way). The print publication of this
dictionary is an ongoing project. Three volumes have been published to
date (the above page comes from vol. 1). But who cares? In fact, the
lexical resources that form the basis for current projects like the PSD
have been around since the early 1900s. A “Sumerian expert” like Sitchin
would have known that. Lexical sources like the multi-volume Materials
for the Sumerian Lexicon, begun by Benno Landsberger in the 1930s,
served Sumerian students well for many years.
… Heiser’s own biography states that “He has also studied Sumerian . . . independently” …
: Yes, it does. Do
you know why, Mike? Because I’m honest. Bara concludes that since
Sitchin and I are both self-taught in Sumerian, Sitchin is just as
trustworthy. This is flawed logic. I have a publicly accessible resume
that proves I have studied nearly a dozen ancient languages in a formal
academic setting. Know why that’s important? One word: accountability. I
had to perform in the languages for experts. Sitchin has nothing like
that. Where is Sitchin’s resume? Hmmm. I’m betting he had ZERO language
work at any institution. In other words, no proof he studied anything.
In other words, my resume offers people some basis for concluding that I
did indeed study Sumerian, even on my own. The logic goes like this:
“Heiser studied nearly a dozen ancient languages. It seems plausible he
could have studied one more on his own time.” On what basis can we
conclude Sitchin’s claim of self-study is plausible? I see none. The guy
couldn’t even wrap his head around simple concepts like subject-verb agreement when it comes to Hebrew elohim
(a lot easier than Sumerian). But in Bara-land (see the Emoluments blog), logic and coherence is simply not a pre-requisite.
… A number of Sicthin’s (sic – the misspelling is Bara’s) assertions
have been successfully tested (or at least supported), and Heiser’s have
MSH: Where have any of
Sitchin’s claims about extraterrestrial Anunnaki or Nibiru been tested
or validated, Mike? Let’s have those studies and that data. I’ll post
them. Oh, I forgot … First you have to prove those ideas exist in the
tablets. But they don’t. Again, how easy would it be to prove me wrong here by simply producing the tablet that has these claims?
I can’t make it any easier, Mike. I’m telling you (and everyone else
who buys Sitchin’s Anunnaki nonsense) how to falsify my claims. The data
simply do not exist. You can’t validate what doesn’t exist. But let’s
widen the net … show me where Sitchin’s claims about alien intervention
have been validated by any expert under peer review (as opposed to
authors writing for Adventures Unlimited Press).
… Heiser comes off as nothing but a Christian fundamentalist with an
axe to grind. His interpretation of the words and phrases carry no more
scientific weight than Sitchin’s do.”
MSH: Right. Mine carry
no more weight. Except that my interpretations are based on lines in
tablets that exist while Sitchin’s don’t. So all I have going for me is a
little thing I like to call reality. I’ll take that. And for the
record, I’m not a Christian fundamentalist. I know Bara doesn’t really
know what that term means in the spectrum of Christian sub-cultures, but
it needs pointing out. I spent some time in fundamentalist circles
until I was ejected. I lost a job over it. I believe several things that
would make fundamentalists denounce me (and they have). Just read my
blog, but get an education first about what the term means in Christian
circles. After that, why I’m not in those circles will be pretty clear.
So what have we learned?
A few things:
1) I’d rather be called a government informant than a fundamentalist. It’s just more fun.
2) That Sitchin supposedly taught himself Sumerian by using inferior sources or no sources at all. Maybe he channeled it.
3) That Bara likes to hide data from his readers — like the fact that
Sitchin’s fundamental claims don’t exist in Sumerian tablets — and that
I’ve given the world the breadcrumb trail to learning that is indeed
4) That Sitchin is still wrong
. And so is his disciple, Mike Bara.