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Erich von Däniken (born April 14, 1935 in Zofingen, Switzerland) is a controversial Swiss author who is best known for authoring works about extraterrestrial influence on human culture since prehistoric times. He is one of the figures responsible for popularizing the paleocontact and ancient astronaut theories.

Currently von Däniken is a prominent member of the Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI Research Association (AAS RA), of which he is a co-founder. Von Däniken has developed a theme park called Mystery Park, based in Interlaken, Switzerland. It opened May 23, 2003. A new science fiction television series based upon his books is under production.

Contents

Claims of alien influence on Earth

Building on the earlier works of many others, von Däniken reiterated the theory (already discussed by previous authors) that if intelligent extraterrestrial life exists and has entered the local Solar System in the past, there is the possibility of finding traces of their visits on Earth, on the neighboring planets, or elsewhere in space.

He has also reiterated the theory that human evolution may have been manipulated by means of genetic engineering by extraterrestrial beings.

His 26 books have been translated into more than 20 languages, selling more than 60 million copies worldwide, and his documentary TV-shows have been viewed in Germany and the United States. His influence can also be seen in science fiction, the New Age culture and some modern religions.

The evidence von Däniken has put forward to support the paleo-contact theories can be categorised as follows:

  • Artifacts have been found which represent higher technological knowledge than is presumed to have existed at times when they were manufactured. Von Däniken maintains that these artifacts have been manufactured either by extraterrestrial visitors or by humans who learned the necessary knowledge from them. Such artifacts include Stonehenge, the head statues of Easter Island and the Antikythera mechanism.
  • In ancient art throughout the world themes can be observed which can be interpreted to illustrate astronauts, air and space vehicles, non-human but intelligent creatures, and artifacts of high technology. Von Däniken also points out details that are similar in art of unrelated cultures.
  • Origins of religions as reaction to a contact of primitive humans with an alien race. The humans considered the technology of the aliens to be supernatural and the aliens themselves to be gods. According to von Däniken, the oral and literal traditions of most religions contain references to visitors from 'stars' and vehicles travelling through air and space. These, he says, should be interpreted as literal descriptions which have changed during the passage of time and become more obscure, rather than symbolic or mythical fiction. One such is Ezekiel's revelation in Old Testament, which he interprets as a detailed description of a landing spacecraft.

Criticism

The scientific community has universally dismissed von Däniken's more particular theories, but the scientific community does not outright dismiss the possibility of paleocontact itself. Credited scientists such as Carl Sagan and I. S. Shklovskii have written about possible extra-terrestial visitations to earth in the distant past and even visitations within human memory.

Most historians regard von Däniken's archaeological claims as pseudoscience, and are of the opinion that he is drawing far-reaching conclusions from little evidence and is disregarding more likely alternative hypotheses, but a large group of followers, some of whom have written books of their own, are of the opinion that his theories are likely to be true.

The scientific community's dismay at von Däniken led to the publication of The Space Gods Revealed by Ronald Story in 1976 (ISBN 0060141417 hardback, ISBN 0450033708 paperback). It is a careful refutation of the theories and evidence in von Däniken's most famous work—Chariots of the Gods—almost page by page.

Furthermore, some have accused von Däniken of racism or Eurocentrism: Though Europe contains many remarkable, large-scale ancient monuments, von Däniken generally does not suggest these were built with extraterrestrial aid, for example, von Däniken "concedes that Europeans could build the complex cathedrals, but refuses to admit equivalent levels of skill and endeavour in the non-European societies."

Some engineers and academics have written articles and books and given speeches supporting von Däniken's theories, although they are in the minority. See in particular The Manna Machine by George Sassoon and The Spaceships of Ezekiel (1974) by NASA scientist Josef F Blumrich. The Sirius Mystery (1976) by Robert K G Temple presents Temple's own theories on ancient contact.

Von Däniken and forgery

Von Däniken first appeared before a magistrate while still a boy, charged with stealing money from the boy scouts. In the early 1960s, in his mid 20s, he was convicted of defrauding the hotel where he worked and also petty theft, for which he was fined.

In 1967, at the age of 32, Von Däniken was convicted of a large scale embezzlement, forgery and tax evasion, and spent three and half years in prison. During his time in prison he wrote his second book.

Von Däniken personally denies the various claims of wrongdoing other than the conviction leading to his imprisonment and claims that conviction was the result of a conspiracy against him by members of the Catholic hierarchy in Switzerland, intended to discredit his theories.

Von Däniken has also used photographs of pottery depicting UFOs, claiming that the pottery came from an archaeological dig and dated to biblical times. The television series Nova determined that this was a fraud and located the potter who actually made the pots in question. When confronted with this evidence, Von Däniken argued that the deception was justified because some people would only believe his theories if they saw proof.

See also

Works

External links

nl:Erich von Däniken pl:Erich von Däniken fi:Erich von Däniken sv:Erich von Däniken

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