An A-Z Guide To The Search For Plato's Atlantis

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  • NEWS September 2023

    NEWS September 2023

    September 2023. Hi Atlantipedes, At present I am in Sardinia for a short visit. Later we move to Sicily and Malta. The trip is purely vacational. Unfortunately, I am writing this in a dreadful apartment, sitting on a bed, with access to just one useable socket and a small Notebook. Consequently, I possibly will not […]Read More »
  • Joining The Dots

    Joining The Dots

    I have now published my new book, Joining The Dots, which offers a fresh look at the Atlantis mystery. I have addressed the critical questions of when, where and who, using Plato’s own words, tempered with some critical thinking and a modicum of common sense.Read More »
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Kevin Christopher

Christopher, Kevin

Kevin Christopher is a confirmed sceptic, whose paper, Atlantis: No way, No How, No Where (a) , is widely available on the internet. It is a lightweight offering, frequently quoting two of the most extreme location theories, such as, Bolivia and Antarctica as justification for his view that the Atlantis story is ‘entirely fictional’.

Christopher also questions the chain of transmission of the story, describing it as ‘tenuous’. But as I have pointed out elsewhere, if Plato had simply concocted the Atlantis tale, it is reasonable to expect that he would also have invented a more straightforward provenance. Consequently, any perceived difficulties in this regard, actually enhance the credibility of the narrative.

>Some years ago Rod Martin wrote a short paper grading the arguments of some of the better known Atlantis sceptics, such as Michael Shermer and Kevin Christopher(b) .<

(a) https://www.csicop.org/sb/show/atlantis_no_way_no_how_no_where

(b) Mission: Atlantis, by Rod Martin, Jr. — Grading the Skeptics — Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (archive.org) *

Sceptics

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 has now been seriously challenged by Thorwald C. Franke in a 2012 book, Aristotle and Atlantis[706] specifically dealing with the subject. Nevertheless, Aristotle does record the existence of 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[1255]. He has followed that with a YouTube video(j) in which he relates how scepticism became more extensive in the 19th century.

Sprague deCamp was probably the most quoted Atlantis sceptic of the second half of the 20th century. He offered the blunt declaration that Plato concocted the whole story, basing the tale on a mixture of the wealth of Tartessos in Spain, and the destruction of the Greek island of Atalanta all intermingled with the mythology of Atlas.

One of deCamp’s most quoted extracts is that “you cannot change all the details of Plato’s story and still claim to have Plato’s story.” While I fully endorse this comment, I must point out that there is a difference between changing and interpreting details. For example, when Plato refers to Asia or Libya, even deCamp accepted that in Plato’s day ‘Asia’ was not the landmass we know, stretching from the Urals to Japan, but interpreted Plato’s ‘Asia’ as a reference to a much smaller territory [0194.27].

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.

A claim frequently put forward by sceptics was echoed by Ian Alex Blaise, who wrote(l) that “we can summarise the ‘Timaeus and Critias’ as a parable of good (ancient Athens) triumphing over evil (Atlantis).” This, however, would appear to run counter to Plato’s narrative that records that both vanquished and victorious armies were destroyed, which is not what you would expect from a morality tale.

Commenting on the suggestion that the story of Atlantis was intended as a morality tale Eberhard Zangger noted that “the description of the natural disasters also contradicts the occasional speculative conjecture that Plato did not mean to illustrate the ideal state with Atlantis, but with archaic Greece. After all, he says Atlantis was punished for its gradual moral decline by being destroyed (Vidal-Naquet, 1964). But if the story is supposed to be a moral parable, why is the “good” Greek side first punished with natural disasters? And why does Plato mainly describe the “barbaric” enemies instead of the old Hellenic civilisation? The traditional attempts at interpretation offer no answers to these questions.”(o)

Another critic, Joe Garcia, offers a paper attacking both the Minoan and Spanish location theories(m).

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[522] 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[418] on the subject. Jason Colavito is another vocal non-believer and has written a considerable amount on the subject(d). Several other websites(b)(c)(e) can also be recommended, in particular,  a seven-part offering by Pat Linse(b).

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 the Chapman University of California was repeated in 2016, which suggested that nearly 40% of Americans 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.

In October 2021, Franke published an essay on what he calls the ‘dark side’ of Atlantis scepticism, which offers an interesting overview of anti-Platonism since the time of the philosopher(n).

Earlier this year (2024) Franke also drew attention to an instance of Plato being seriously misquoted that had its origin in 2001 in the Skeptic Junior article “The Search for Atlantis”, in the Skeptic magazine Vol. 8 No. 4 (Winter 2001), page 96, authored by a certain Pat Linse (mentioned above). “The wrong quote is this: ‘We may liken the false to the true for the purpose of moral instruction.’

Plato never said this. And the meaning of this sentence runs counter to all of Plato’s intentions. It sounds, as if something false would be depicted as true, in order to teach a moral lesson. – The basis of this wrong quote may be the following real quote from The Republic II 382d: ‘owing to our ignorance of the truth about antiquity, we liken the false to the true as far as we may and so make it edifying.’ (Translation Paul Shorey)

The meaning of this real quote is the opposite of the wrong quote: In case we do not know the truth itself, we have to approach with our partially false knowledge towards the truth as much as we only can, and work with this hypothesis until we know better. This is of course a basic principle of rational thinking and science, until today.”
(q)

I would not suggest that the original distortion was deliberate but it is disappointing that it was so widely adopted by other sceptics without question. Of course, I am fully aware that some overenthusiastic Atlantis fan have also tried to manipulate texts to accommodate their beliefs.

Some years Rod Martin wrote a short paper(p)  in which he grades the arguments of a number of the better known Atlantis sceptics, such as, Kevin Christopher and Michael Shermer.

(b) Skeptic » Junior Skeptic » The Search for Atlantis (issue #10)   

(c) The Wild Side of Geoarchaeology Page (archive.org)

(d) https://searchatlantis.blogspot.com/2007/08/atlantis-mu-and-maya.html

(e) https://web.archive.org/web/20190530104546/https://www.skepticssa.org.au/html/atlantis.html

(f)  https://web.archive.org/web/20180605101330/https://www.csicop.org/si/show/bridging_the_chasm_between_two_cultures/

(g) https://scyllasoulspeak1.blogspot.ie/2011/06/atlantis-what-was-plato-really-up-to.html 

(h) https://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog/chapman-university-survey-finds-astonishing-levels-of-belief-in-ancient-astronauts-and-atlantis

(i) Strabo, II, 102 and XII, 598. Cf. Proclus In Timaeum 61a (Diehl I, p. 197).

(j) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HF62FLucvQk

(k) https://www.newsweek.com/could-lost-city-atlantis-exist-ocean-mapping-reveals-likelihood-legendary-city-828457

(l) https://www.oocities.org/debunkinglc/atlantis.html (link broken)  

(m) https://www.academia.edu/8064249/Did_Atlantis_Exist 

(n) The Dark Side of Atlantis Scepticism – Atlantis-Scout 

(o) Wayback Machine (archive.org) 

(p) Mission: Atlantis, by Rod Martin, Jr. — Grading the Skeptics (archive.org)

(q) https://www.atlantis-scout.de/atlantis_newsl_archive.htm#an217 *

 

Shermer, Michael

Michael Shermer (1954- ) is the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine and Skeptic.com. For eighteen years he wrote the ‘skeptic’ column for Scientific American(h).

Suffering as he does from terminal scepticism, Shermer could not resist offering his views on Atlantis(a), which michael-shermerbasically assume that Plato created the myth of Atlantis to support his political philosophy. This idea has been put forward by many sceptics. However, nobody seems to have suggested that while Plato may have been promoting his political philosophy with the Atlantis story, there is absolutely no reason why he could not have been using real historical events to achieve the same result. This explains how the late Professor Antonis  Kontaratos was able to point out at the 2005 Atlantis Conference that Plato states directly and indirectly, twenty-two times, in both Timaeus & Critias, that the story of Atlantis is true [629.79].

I should note here the comment of Martin Ebon that “the narrative, unlike the Republic, espouses no particular theory and reads more like historical fact, however confusing, than a myth.”[286.16]

Shermer does accept that Plato mixed history with myth but does not suggest how we might separate the two, instead, he is content to dispose of both baby and bath-water. I consider fatuous, his comment that “Plato’s Atlantean dialogues are essentially an ancient Greek version of Star Wars.” This silly comparison was recently (2018) echoed on an Australian website(d).

Georgeos Diaz-Montexano responded to Shermer’s views with a 2005 article, contentiously entitled Errors, Fallacies and Lies.

Shermer wrote an article(b) for Scientific American (Jan.1.2016) on the subject of ‘Homo Naledi, which generated a highly critical response, noting that Shermer preferred to speculate without evidence and publish an essay without fact-checking.” Even Shermer nods!

>Some years ago Rod Martin wrote a short but interesting paper grading the arguments of some of the better-known Atlantis sceptics, such as Shermer and Kevin Christopher(i)

In a 2017 article in Scientific American, Shermer offered a highly critical review(f)  of Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods.<

However, to give credit where credit is due I must acknowledge that recently (2020)  Shermer, among others, has back-pedalled on their previous sustained opposition to the idea of the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis(e). The impetus for this volte-face seems to have been provided by James Lawrence Powell, also a former sceptic, and his book, Deadly Voyager [1911].

In June 2023, Shermer published an article in Skeptic magazine attacking Graham Hancock‘s theories in general and the Netflix 2022 eight-part series Ancient Apocalypse(g) in particular.

(a) https://michaelshermer.com/sciam-columns/myth-is-the-message/#more-52 

(b) https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/did-this-extinct-human-species-commit-homicide1/

(c) Michael Shermer: Murdering the facts about Homo naledi? – john hawks weblog (archive.org) 

(d) https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/movies/exposing-the-star-wars-code-the-atlantis-connection/news-story/1aae97d63ce040a076f09ca1c37819ad

(e) In praise of intellectual honesty – The Cosmic Tusk 

(f) No, There Wasn’t an Advanced Civilization 12,000 Years Ago – Scientific American 

(g) Skeptic » Reading Room » Alternative Civilization and Its Discontents: An Analysis of the Alternative Archaeologist Graham Hancock’s Claim That an Ancient Apocalypse Erased the Lost Civilization of Atlantis 

(h) https://michaelshermer.com/sciam-columns/ 

(i) Mission: Atlantis, by Rod Martin, Jr. — Grading the Skeptics (archive.org) *