Ancient Astronauts and their technology is often promoted as the inspiration behind aspects of many ancient religions such as the vimanas of the Hindus, the flying chariots of Ezekiel as well as the gods of Mesopotamia. The most widely known proponents of these ideas are Erich von Däniken and the late Zecharia Sitchin.
However, before von Däniken, Harold T. Wilkins was already suggesting prehistoric extraterrestrial visitors in the 1950’s. He also wrote a couple of books about Atlantis. R. Cedric Leonard is another Atlantis researcher who has written about Atlantis and ancient technology(aliens). The most recent attempt to link Atlantis with ancient astronauts is Kevin Falzon, who closely follows Sitchin while locating Atlantis in his native Malta. Richard Mooney speculated on a connection between Atlantis and ancient aliens four decades ago.
Nevertheless, the idea of visitors from other worlds is often traced back to the 18th century and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772)(e), who not only argued that extraterrestrial beings had visited our planet, but that he had actually met them! Greg Little has also recently(g) credited Swedenborg as the originator of the alien visitors idea, but Jason Colavito has rubbished Little’s article(f) and traced the concept of extraterrestrial encounters back to Lucian (125-180 AD) together with a few others before Swedenborg. Colavito and Little are not ‘best friends’, so I can only conclude that Colavito simply wished to undermine Little’s credibility as a researcher.
Jason Colavito has also drawn attention(a) to an exhibition to be held in Beijing in July 2012, which purports to offer evidence of these ancient visitors, and has published(b) the official U.S. Government view on ancient astronauts. He also offers an overview of alien theories and scathingly criticises their proponents(c).
Colavito has also an interesting blog for 29/08/14 which quotes from a 1977 magazine that has an article suggesting that Jesus was an American astronaut who came back from the future, no doubt inspired by Planet of the Apes!(d)
Perhaps even more disconcerting is the results of a survey(h) carried out by Chapman University that show 20% of Americans believing in ancient astronauts!
Also See: Extraterrestrials
*(e) http://www.swedenborgproject.org/2007/09/08/the-life-on-other-planets-question/ (link broken Oct. 2018) See: Archive 2262*
Sceptics regarding the existence of Atlantis have been around since the time of Plato. The first such critic was assumed to be Aristotle, a pupil of Plato’s, who apparently denounced the Atlantis tale as an invention. However, this presumed scepticism of Aristotle’s has now been seriously challenged by Thorwald C. Franke in a 2012 book, Aristotle and Atlantis specifically dealing with the subject. Nevertheless, Aristotle does record the existence a large island in the Atlantic known to the Phoenicians as Antilia, inadvertently supporting Plato’s story(i).
Franke has recently outlined the extensive support for the existence of Atlantis from the earliest times in his recent German language book. He has followed that with a YouTube video(j) in which he relates how scepticism became more extensive in the 19th century.
Many modern commentators believe that in the interests of dramatic effect Plato heavily embellished the core truth underlying the story, namely that of an ancient submerged civilisation.
However, when we consider modern sceptics we find that they have been provided with unlimited ammunition by the poor scholarship of many Atlantis supporters and the outright ravings of the likes of Blavatsky, Steiner, Cayce, and a profusion of other authors, who claim to have channelled information regarding Atlantis.
Edwin Ramage, in his essay on Atlantis, makes the interesting comment that “believers tend to overshadow the sceptics for the simple reason that a positive theory, whether it is simple or elaborate, tends to be more attractive and to make better reading than any attempt at refutation, no matter how well taken it may be.” This is probably akin to referenda questions being framed by governments in a manner that favours a Yes vote that will provide the outcome that they want. This is because most people prefer to say Yes rather than No.
However, if the Atlantis narrative has any truth in it, the legitimate criticisms of sceptics must be given due consideration. One such sceptic is Paul Jordan who has produced a highly critical work on the subject. Jason Colavito is another vocal non-believer and has written a considerable amount on the subject(d). A number of other websites(b)(c)(e) can also be recommended.
I recently came across a sceptic review of Atlantis theories by Justin Spring which I thought contained some novel views and although I totally disagree with his conclusions, I feel it should be given a reading(g).
While I expect that few sceptics will be reading this entry, I would recommend to anyone a paper by Karla Mclaren, a former New Age ‘believer’ who developed into a sceptic(f).
A 2015 survey by Chapman University of California was repeated in 2016, which suggested that nearly 40% of American believe that an advanced prehistoric civilisation, such as Atlantis, existed, causing consternation among sceptics(h). Why they found it so depressing is hard to understand, since popular belief is no guarantee that it is supported by reality. After all, it was once commonly thought that the sun revolved around the earth!
There are times when I regret that I have not had a university education and then along comes a qualified academic who manages to remove any such feeling. One of those is Seth Stein, a professor at Northwestern University, who specialises in plate tectonics, who was reported in early 2018(k) to have proposed that “one of the strongest reasons to dispel Atlantis as a true ancient civilization is the fact that we haven’t found it.” This asinine comment shows a total abandonment of critical thinking, because he seems to think that because something has not been found, proves that it does not exist. For example, before Heinrich Schliemann, Troy did exist, but had yet to be located. Professor Stein’s stupid statement is also built on a flawed understanding of what Plato said or more correctly, did not say. Plato never described Atlantis as a continent, as assumed by Stein and it can be reasonably argued that our Atlantic Ocean where he sought Atlantis was not the Atlantic ‘Sea’ referred to by Plato. I suggest that Stein sticks to earth sciences and leave Atlantis to others.
*(f) http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bridging_the_chasm_between_two_cultures/(link broken April 2019) See: https://web.archive.org/web/20180605101330/http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bridging_the_chasm_between_two_cultures/*
(i) Strabo, II, 102 and XII, 598. Cf. Proclus In Timaeum 61a (Diehl I, p. 197).