Joe Nickell – Ancient Astronauts and the Nazca Lines

August 25, 2006

Joe Nickell, Senior Research Fellow for CSICOP, is considered the world’s leading paranormal investigator. A former professional stage magician and private investigator, he has used his varied background to investigate myths and mysteries, frauds, forgeries, and hoaxes. He has been called “the modern Sherlock Holmes,” “the original ghost buster,” and “the real-life Scully” (after the character in The X-Files). A veteran of hundreds of TV and radio appearances, he is the author of over 20 books, including Secrets of the Supernatural, Entities, Psychic Sleuths, Real Life X Files, and The UFO Invasion.

In this discussion with DJ Grothe, Joe talks about his recent trip to Peru for CFI’s second South American conference, and also about his visit to the world famous Nazca lines, which some people argue is evidence for ancient visits to earth from extra-terrestrials. He recounts his years of investigations into such “geoglyphs,” and suggests some alternative scientific theories for their existence.

Also in this episode, Debbie Goddard, a campus organizer with the Center for Inquiry, gives a back-to-school message.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Friday, August 25th, 2006. 

Welcome to Point of inquiry, I’m DJ Grothe a point of inquiries, the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank collaborating with the State University of New York at Buffalo on the new science and the public master’s degree. We also have branches in Manhattan, Tampa, Hollywood and now Washington, DC, in addition to 11 cities around the world. Every week on this show, we look at some of the most fundamental beliefs of our society, and we focused mostly on three research areas. First, we look at pseudoscience and the paranormal. Second, we’re interested in alternative and complementary medicine claims. Third, we really like to talk about, as you’ll know, if you listen to the show enough. The intersection of science and religion on our society, secularism and belief in let’s call them ancient mythologies. We look at these three research areas by drawing on CeaseFire’s relationship with the leading minds of the day, including Nobel Prize winning scientists, public intellectuals, social critics and thinkers and renowned entertainers. On today’s point of inquiry, I’m joined by my friend Joe Niccol, the world’s leading paranormal investigator. And we’re going to be talking about possible evidence for ancient astronauts visitations by aliens two thousand years ago. We’re going to talk specifically about the NASCAR lines in Peru. But first, I’m joined in the studio by Debbie Goddard, a field organizer, a campus organizer for the Center for Inquiry. She was smiling through my introduction, trying to crack me up. Debbie is a new addition to CFI staff, but a longtime volunteer and contributor to our outreach efforts. She’s here to talk about our fall campus outreach. Welcome to Point of Inquiry, Debbie. Hi. It is good to be here. Debbie, before we get to your piece about getting back to school this fall, you sent me an e-mail this morning about developments in church state separation, teaching of evolution. 

Evolutionary biology has been knocked off the list of approved fields of study for the federal grants for low income students. 

So the federal government provides grants to low income students to study all kinds of subjects. And you’re saying that the field of evolution was taken off the list? 

That’s true. There were some controversies a few years ago because of some subjects getting onto this list, for example. Astrology is not on this list, but some groups have petitioned to put astrology on the list. Certain kinds of, you know, going to a divinity school that wouldn’t be approved on this list. They’d consider that a violation of church state separation. 

And this article, it was in The New York Times yesterday says that evolution was taken off the list. 

Evolutionary biology was taken off the list. No one has any kind of reason for it. They said they’d put it back on a course in it, back on. They don’t know why. It seems kind of fishy. Said no pun intended. Yeah, that’s a lot of fun. OK. 

So quoted in the article, I remember skimming it. Lawrence Krauss affiliated kind of a contributor to magazines at the Center for Inquiry, a friend of the Center for Inquiry. What did he have to say about all of this? 

Well, he he commented on the strangeness that there was suddenly a gap in the listing, you know, a gap in the numbers for evolutionary biology. He said that there is a way around it. Now, students who wanted to choose evolutionary biology can sign up as biology majors, but it’s still peculiar. Someone probably had an agenda. His comment was that removing that one major is not going to make the nation stupid. But if this really was removed, specifically removed, then I see it as part of a pattern to put ideology over knowledge, and especially in the Department of Education. That should be a port. I couldn’t agree more. 

He’s eloquent as ever. Even when you’re reading his words, I love Lawrence Krauss. And now, Debbie, why don’t you share with our listeners your piece about going back to school this fall? 

Well, it’s that time of year. Back to school time, which for many students involves taking advantage of the latest department store sales as radio and TV advertising would have us believe. But it also means gearing up for another challenging year of brain busting classes by day homework and projects all night. Good discussions in class and with friends. And somewhere in all that, learning a thing or two here at the Center for Inquiry. We’re also gearing up for another year of education and outreach. It’s packed full with writing articles and press releases, organizing lectures, seminars and events at college campuses across North America, and launching and coordinating new campus and community groups, running conferences, producing this podcast, publishing over a dozen magazines and journals. Researching, designing, reading, implementing, publicizing, editing. The list goes on. Not only are these things action words, they look good in a resumé. They’re also important and necessary for spreading the word and fulfilling our mission to promote reason, science and freedom of inquiry in all areas of human endeavor, especially the deeply held sacred cow beliefs of our society. Almost nowhere is this more important than on the college campus this summer at the Student Leadership Conference that took place here in Amherst, New York. Richard Dawkins gave a special video address that announced CeaseFire’s new campaign for free inquiry three, which will bring some of the leading minds in the field of humanism, biblical scholarship, medicine, evolutionary biology, history and paranormal research to campuses across North America for debates and presentations on a wide range of topics. The values of free inquiry on the campus are being threatened both by fundamentalist religionists who try to get laws passed in order to insulate their worldview from questions in the classroom, as well as by those on the post-modernist left who attack the methods of science and reason by insisting that all truths are equally true. These ideas are contrary to our experience. However, we don’t go to college to put on blinders against ideas that don’t agree with our own, and believing that the earth is flat doesn’t make it so. My own experience is in elementary and high schools were what led me to get involved with the CFS campus outreach program about six years ago. See, in sixth grade, I became an atheist, a member of that most hated group in America. It happened in Catholic school, of course. I was questioning the catechism. I should have been memorizing if I wanted to receive the sacrament of confirmation. When I told my teacher, Sister Trés, that I wasn’t so sure about the whole God thing, she punished me with a detention which no surprise didn’t achieve her desired outcome of making me a believer. Later in high school, my scholarship to a prestigious Catholic private, All Girls Academy, was revoked. The reason they gave apparently the philosophy club I founded, which was a school recognized student organization at the time, was questioning and discussing out of bounds topics which proved to the nuns that I wasn’t quite on the path to growing up as a good Catholic girl should. Sorry sisters. This sheep has left the flock vs as well as other experiences led to my interest in academic freedom in church, state separation issues and education. Obviously a different rules apply in private and public schools, but similar things do happen in higher education from teachers ostracizing students or fellow teachers for their skepticism or lack of belief to blatant First Amendment violations in the classroom. One of the greatest benefits of higher education is the opportunity for exposure to different viewpoints, values and beliefs. If we wanted simply to reinforce what we think, it’s easy enough to only read books that support our views or only spend time with people who think the same way. But this is not what we mean when we say that a person is educated. Nor is it what we should hope to experience in college. Learning and being educated is also not simply about being familiar with the great works and literature and knowing what the great scientists did and being able to solve a math problem or two. Instead, it involves being able to think critically about an issue, to question the information with which we are presented and to challenge our own perspective and that of others. Colleges and universities aren’t just there to give degrees that might land us higher paying jobs. The goal of the university should include teaching critical thinking skills, challenging the individual, providing opportunities for intellectual growth, and exposing students to new ideas and unfamiliar perspectives. These goals cannot be achieved if we limit the free expression of ideas, even highly controversial ones. Nor can they be achieved if we shut down our process of questioning, out of fear of stepping on someone else’s or our own ideological toes. But we shouldn’t fear these challenges and inquiries, for they are the cornerstone of not only education and knowledge, but of freedom. And if we’re not able to do these things on the campuses, if not at the college and the university, then where will they be done? 

Hi, I’m Barry Carr, executive director of Psych up here at the Center for Inquiry. We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary this year, making the world safe for science and skepticism and dealing with fringe science and paranormal claims. We published what I think is an essential magazine, The Skeptical Inquire. This is the magazine for Science and Reason. The July August issue is now on shelves at better bookstores and can be ordered online at W w w Saikat dot org or by calling our toll free number one 800 six three four one six one zero. We are open Monday through Friday, 9:00 to 5:00 Eastern Time. Subscribing to the Skeptical Inquirer helps us continue to advance science and reason in our society. Am so sure that you love this magazine that I want you to have a complementary issue to see what we’re all about. To get your sample copy. Just call one 800 six three four one six one zero. I mentioned the point of inquiry podcast and ask us for your free copy. We’ll get it right out to you and you can begin and join a skeptical inquiry. Thank you. 

We have back in the studio today one of the world’s leading paranormal investigators, my friend Joe Niccolò, using his very background. He has become widely known as an investigator of myths and mysteries, frauds, forgeries and hoaxes. He’s been called the modern Sherlock Holmes, the original ghost buster and the Real-Life Scully after that character in the X Files. He’s investigated scores of paranormal occurrences and haunted house cases, including the Amityville Horror and dozens of other paranormal sites. A veteran of literally hundreds of TV and radio appearances, he is the author of over 20 books, including Inquest on the Shroud of Turin, Secrets of the Supernatural Looking for a Miracle Entities, Psychic Sleuths, Real Life X Files and the UFO invasion. He’s with us today to talk about his recent trip to Peru and the conference that the Center for Inquiry put on there about skepticism and secularism and also about his visit to the world famous Nasca lines, which some people argue is evidence for ancient visits from extraterrestrials. Welcome, Joe, to a point of inquiry again. 

Good to be back. Of course, as George Burns says, as you get older, it’s good to be anywhere, but it is good to be here. 

Joe, for decades there’s been this theory going around that early in Earth’s history, extraterrestrials seeded the planet with human life and that there’s evidence for all these visits everywhere from the Mesolithic monoliths and the United Kingdom, the statues of Easter Island, the great pyramids, even, they say, and also the Nasca lines and the ECUs Stones of Peru. I want to talk about all that with you today. But first, why don’t we touch on this trip you recently had to Peru. This conference that we put on. Sure. 

Last year, we had the first such conference in South America at Buenos Aries. And that was a smashing success. So he decided to follow it by one in Peru. And it was also a success. These are difficult to arrange, particularly in a in an area where the church holds such sway and where there are a lot of superstitions and so forth, all the more need for such conferences and for such endeavors. So I was quite happy to go down there. It was also supported by Pince, our magazine, which is Pince, Our Meaning to Think. 

And that’s one of the magazines published out of the Center for Inquiry. 

It’s one of the Center for Inquiry group of magazines. And. And I have written for Pince. Ah. So it was really nice to be there with the committed South American skeptics and to talk about ideas of mutual interest. 

So the Federation of the Centers for Inquiry there in South America, they came together, put on the second conference. And you were a speaker at this conference? 

I was. And I enjoyed doing it. And, of course, as I often do, seize the opportunity as I do when I when I go anywhere to an exotic place. And let me defining exotic. It means anywhere outside of Buffalo whenever I go to an exotic place. I try to spend a little extra time and find what is there locally that I might investigate and bring back and share with our people or people who are interested in the paranormal. Because. It’s cost effective to do that. And it allows me to write paranormal travelog pieces for Skeptical Inquirer to check on things that need checking on. And, of course, never, ever to have a good time. And of course, when I drive by beautiful sights or anything like that, I shield my eyes because I am I am hard at work. 

So when you were in Peru, you visited some of these sites. We’ll talk about that in a bit. Kind of by way of introduction. Why don’t you tell me what the NASCAR lines are? 

The NASCAR lines are giant lines and arabesques and swaddles and pictures. Geoglyph this picture to cross 30 miles of desert pompa in the area around Nazca, outside of Nasca, Peru, like a sandy desert. 

This is this is it is a desert, but it’s not sand like the Sahara. I’m not thinking it’s not. I brought with me holding this up so that our listeners can see this with their imagination. They’re showing me a black stone, dark, a dark stone. And you notice on the other side of the stone, it’s lighter. The stones are a kind of gravel that litter the desert. 

And they develop through microbial action. They they develop a varnish. It’s made of manganese and iron. I’ve been testing this in my little laboratory using, you know, simple tests about its manganese and iron, well-known. And this this dark coating on these rocks stands in sharp contrast to the light colored soil underneath. So if you simply pick up the gravel, just pick it up. Clear a path like, say, a walking path. You can see that line fabulously well, even from the air. And that’s the way the nice guidelines are made. They are simply the gravel has been picked up. They’ve been deposited in piles. We have we can see those. We know that people pick these up and they they show up in sharp contrasts. 

So the Nasca lines are pictures that you can see from air that have been designs and pictures, lines and pictures that have been designed in the gravel of this desert. 

For example, trapezoid shapes or broad paths and lines that run Rueter straight for four miles. But drawings and the drawings are just fascinating. You see giant spiders and monkeys and birds of all sorts, including the giant condor, which just to give an idea of scale, the condor is 400 and 40 feet long. I just picture that that’s the length of a football field and a half. These are huge drawings. So large they can only be seen effectively from the air because on the ground you don’t notice them when you’re on the ground, you can’t get a sense of it being a picture of a condor. 

That’s not exactly true. That’s what people generally say. But in fact, you can if you really walk around a figure, you can tell you, you know, you can see if you just imagine your own backyard or something, you can see what’s around you within a compass of several feet. Right. And if you see something, you think, well, that looks like a head and beak or that looks like a claw or that looks like a wing. You can sort of walk around the figure and added up in your mind, but you can’t see the whole picture. Can’t see the whole picture and wouldn’t ordinarily notice it. You could walk across the desert and you probably wouldn’t even notice these. Right. 

Some people have argued because these pictures can only be seen from the air, that they’ve argued, even in bestselling books, that the NASCAR lines were created originally as alien aircraft landing strips. 

Yes. Eric Grandon Duncan in his notorious book Chariots of the Gods, followed by various sequels of, you know, Gold of the Gods and still more and even more curious in the chariots and still beyond and cranked out these books and was imitated by others. And there are a few skeptical books pointing out the fallacies of these. But he he suggested that the the the Nazca figures are rather than being made by the ancient Nazca culture, which I could go into evidence for, that they made them. But he ignores that and suggests that these in an almost implicitly racist way. I think he really suggests well, and he’s not overtly but but the implication is behind his his pointing out these things and his tone is that these ancient nonwhite people weren’t sophisticated enough to do things like make Nasca drawings, giant drawings or build pyramids or or carved the stones on Easter Island. And he disparages the old what he calls the heave ho method of standing. One of these statues up suggests this ridiculous. This can’t be done. In fact, we know if you go to Easter Island, you can see the quarry and you can see where partially car figures are still there and see stone axes. I mean, this is all well known to the experts and natives on the island in modern times have erected a fallen stone using the. Yes. The heave ho method, you know, using poles and levers to leverage it up and digging a hole for it to drop into eventually. You got it up. And the same with the pyramids. We we have knowledge of how they were made. And I would argue we have knowledge of the Nazca lines. In fact, we there are profound reasons to think the NSC is made. 

I’d like to remind our listeners that Joe Nichols books, Psychic Sleuths, Real-Life X Files and others are available through our Web site Point of Inquiry dot org. Some skeptics say that these lines were created over hundreds and hundreds of years. You just suggested how these lines could be made just by removing the gravel. And you yourself, you’ve had firsthand experience creating similar kinds of designs. 

I have. It occurred to me that while I mean nothing in detracting from the genius of the is because these drawings are beautifully stylized. And if you if you see the Nazca pottery, it’s just wonderful, this beautiful stylized figures on the pottery. And then to see these enlarged, somewhat similar figures on the ground there really, really are impressive. And my friend Tony Lavine has suggested that the Nazca lines represent the eighth wonder of the world. And I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. They are remarkable, but. They are not so hard to make, as has been suggested. Intelligent people with a little ingenuity and a little wherewithal without the need for 21st century technology. 

Absolutely. Sticks and string. Even Maria Reich, who the German mathematician who devoted her life to saving these. And she’s a hero in Peru. They lowered flags to half staff when she died. I’ve paid my respects at her grave. She’s 23. She’s treated almost like a saint. They’re statues of her now and avenues named for Maria Reich. Crikey. And or Reich, I guess, in German. 

You hear it all different ways, of course. But she she devoted her life to these. But even she and she was skeptical of the extraterrestrial notion because she said the ground being soft. She said, I’m afraid the spaceman would have gotten stuck if they’d tried to land there. 

But even she suggested that the Nazis could have had technology that was more sophisticated than we know about and that has become lost. 

And I don’t I just don’t think we need to do that. I don’t think we need to postulate that that. So what I did and I had not at the time been able to go to Peru. So I did the next best thing. I went to the Mojave Desert in California. This is going back how many years ago? 

This was back in the late 70s and early 80s that I began to work on this project. And I was able to go to Mojave Desert and see the giant drawings there. But compared to the Nazca ones there. Relatively crude. They’re more like stick figures. They’re not as big, but they are a giant geoglyph. 

Do archeologists date those two about the same time period? 

You know, I’m not sure. I think they’re thought to be later. But the Nazca figures go back to maybe 2000 years. Right. And so I began to work on this problem in. And I decided I would try to make one. And, you know, how do you do that? How do you how do you configure something on the ground? And that’s not hard to do in many ways because I among my many roles that I had in life. One was as surveyors change. So I have plotted boundaries and drawn huge areas with a boundary. And I was sure that the Nazis didn’t do that, although their drawings are continuous lines for a variety of reasons, I was sure that they did not plot and draw, that they weren’t doing a grid method or so. 

Well, that that’s the other method is, is that you could use a grid. 

Well, what did you mean by that? They didn’t plot. 

Well, if you survey you measure an angle in distance of a line and then you from there you go in another direction, angle and distance. And so you make the zig zagging course around, let’s say, a farm or something. Curves are broken into short segments and smoothed out later. But that’s the way a surveyor goes around a boundary. And you could draw something that way. One problem is that your errors are adding up on you all the time. And when you come back, they’re huge at the end if you don’t have very precise methods. This makes no sense for the newscast of done something like this because they’re not that gigantic that that would have been practical and it would have been just error prone and they would have had to head surveying equipment, at least ability to measure angles and so forth. That’s unlikely in the extreme. So I was sure they hadn’t done that. And then I also had been a sign painter and painted billboard sides of buildings, you know, drink Coca-Cola in romantic shock absorber, that sort of thing. And it used a grid method. And I was pretty sure the Nazis didn’t do that, because by grid method, you mean you you draw a rectangle or whatever around figure and divided up into squares. Then you draw a bigger rectangle divided into similarly numbered squares. 

And then you you see you copy sort of square of a square and you will get fairly accurate enlargements. That way you just duplicate each square and put them all together and then that. That’s right. And so so the errors are minimized within a square and you won’t get something very far off because you know which square it goes in. But the Nazca figures were not that perfectly symmetrical and so far they didn’t look like they had done that to me. 

And also laying out grids, a lot of trouble if you don’t need to. And anyway, what I ended up doing was this plotting points using a small sketch. Maria had found evidence that there might be small six foot sketches near some of the figures she thought might have been enlargements basis for enlargements. Anyway, I used a six foot drawing of the giant condor. Remember now 440 feet long? I gulped when I first drove my first two posts since measured that distance off. Is just it just remarkable how how far apart they are. But I drew a center line and then on my sketch we just measured down. Let’s say I want to establish a point like the shoulder of the bird or a point, any point, just that you can point out on the figure, just a series of points. I would come down on the center line to a place opposite that point at right angles and measure how far down and then how far over. And then on the ground I would come down similar large units down and large units over. I used a unit she came up with and I called it a mask of foot and he used that measurement and then we connected the dots. 

Now, this is a little laborious, but six of us in two days duplicate the giant condor in two days, not very long periods of time like some skeptics suggest. Right. They they did not need, I think, a lot of time to make a figure. But the figures were made over a long period of time in that they probably did. There were many figure different figures, different cultures. They were they were more or less traced and redone. All right. New new figures added probably over hundreds of years. So I made this Scientific American said mine was remarkable in its exactness to the original. And therein was one of the problems with what I did, which I admitted early on, that I had plotted it so carefully that I’d copied the Nazca condor’s flaws. Well, if you could do that, then obviously your method is a little more perfect than theirs. The thing was, I proved that even. A simpler method would have worked, and I suggested in my original article that they probably did a lot more freehand than I had done. You see, I was constrained to sort of make mine look just like theirs, whereas they didn’t have to do that. They just had to draw a bird. And if it wasn’t perfectly symmetrical or fit, it was a little crooked. This where that who knows that it wasn’t intentional. 

And the technology you used was just sticks and strings. You didn’t use any aerial. Nothing at all. 

You did nothing. All I used a pair of cross sticks to site by in two sets, a knotted cord to measure bone. Then we used to photograph it just to record it. Arthur C. Clarke had a couple of these pictures in one of his books. 

We had an aerial photograph, the neuro flyover, and then we had a picture me stand. The giant claw was just made my stepladder. And that shows even there that just a little elevation like you could get from a little rustic stand that you might make, which would give you would be able to show you that perspective. Yes. And, you know, it’s possible that they could have had some kind of like a lifeguard stand or something like that that they set up or moved around or improvised. Who knows? But a little bit of a little bit of elevation goes along, lays there and helps you. But I but I didn’t use any elevation and. And I made the giant condor, and that was in 1982 and my first published article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine. 

I’d like to let our listeners know that in addition to Joe Nichols books, that article he just mentioned is available on our Web site, Point of Inquiry dot org. You’ve recently duplicated the experiment for National Geographic magazine. 

Actually, for National Geographic Television. OK. They I’ve been working with their series. Is it real? And I’ve worked on maybe a dozen programs with them. Pleasure to work with. And you know, anyone who takes you on an expedition to Lake Okanagan and hires, you know, boats and divers and sea planes and all the things you want and pays your bar tab, you know, these are these are good folk and you want to work with them. So they they call and they were doing something on ancient astronauts and they wanted to know if I would make them a figure. 

And so I, I first, you know, tried to beg off. I’m getting too old for this and, you know, and so forth. And they they said, well, they would have someone help me. And a couple of people helped me if I needed it and so forth. And they said they wanted the they had their eyes set on the giant spider. And I quickly thought that the spiders only about a third as big as the condor. This is a piece of cake. So I agreed. And here you can see a picture of tiny me standing in this giant spider. 

You’re holding up this picture that is framed of you in the middle of this. 

What’s this white matter is that is just this just powdered gypsum? Yeah. Chalk basically that we rolled on. 

So you made the design rather than by turning over stones, driving away stones, using this gypsum. 

Right. And you know, how you mark the line is, of course, of any consequence. It’s how you get the line to be where it is. Right. That matters. And I used a simpler, somewhat simpler method. Here again, I use this very small. This time is very small sketch, just something I can hold in my hand very, very easily and a center line. And I scribed three circles to make the main part of the spider and then modified. You see, one of those circles is relatively remains. One of them is just the the the cluster where the cluster of the legs comes in. 

And then one becomes the head. And then I modified those areas because then now you’ve gotten small, relatively smaller areas that you can work on. And I modified those right on the ground. 

And then the one of the legs, we made that sort of curved line to make one of the spider’s legs that took a little bit of sort of siting and plotting until we we were all happy with that. Once we did, though, then we just duplicated that one, two, three more times parallel. And that made four lines, which made two legs. Now, if you if you see how that works. Right. And then just symmetrically the same. And it really wasn’t that hard. 

And you’ve shown with relatively simple technology, these grand designs can be made without without any without any appeal to supernatural or paranormal explanation. 

Absolutely. And without cheating, I know at one point was about maybe half done. We were getting ready to go to lunch and producer came. So this looking really good. And how would you like to come up on the cherry picker for a look? Because I were filming from way up in the air and I said, no, that would be cheating. And she looked at me for and then got on. Is it right? You know, it wouldn’t be appropriate. So I. I finished it and then went up on the cherry picker eventually to see the fruits of my labor. 

So you’ve had this experience duplicating designs now twice. And recently you visited the Nasca lines. I’d like to hear about that. But I’m curious why you think the Nasca people, the ancient Nasca people themselves, created these grand designs in the desert? 

You know, as I’ve looked at these over time, my views have changed slightly, but I, I. Early on was pointing out that these figures are drawn with a continuous line. Ordinarily, if I asked you to draw a bird, you you know, you have a pencil and paper, you’ll draw ahead and lift your pencil and you draw a wing maybe and lift your pencil. You frequently lift your pencil. The nausea’s didn’t lift their pencil. Now they drew just the way I’m talking about on their pottery. They drew in the normal way, separate units and so forth. But when they when they drew on the ground, they drew with a continuous line that is once you set down, let’s say, the giant pencil. Just use a metaphor. It never is lifted until the entire figure continuously traces and comes back to the beginning. And that’s a that’s a profound observation. In my earliest work, I suggested that that might have to do with how they made the figures that they were starting and that they were simply scribing them as they went. You see, and and making the drawing continuously, connecting the dots as they went. I no longer think that’s the case, but it seemed to me perfectly reasonable at the time. It still seems perfectly reasonable. But you think there might be a better explanation? I’m sure less. I’m sure there is. We also have the second observation, and that is that all of the figures have a pair of what we might call extraneous lines. The spider not shown in this picture, but off the lower leg, two parallel lines coming off from it, the monkey. 

A pair of such lines coming up to the base of its tail. These lines have no purpose. Anatomically, they’re not part of the picture. They are not necessarily outlines or anything like that for artistically making them. I’m absolutely sure of that. But but if you put that feature with the continuous line feature, you have this incredible observation. And now everybody, Tonio Veni and others, I don’t think any serious Nasca people now would you won’t find much disagreement to putting this together this way. What it shows is and you can demonstrate, if you will, walk one of those extraneous lines, just walk it like a path that looks like a path on the ground. You will then traverse the entire figure and come back out the other one. This is almost certainly proof that these were walking paths. 

They were ceremonial walking pad, like for sympathetic magic or the. That’s right. Something like that. Some kind of ceremony. 

So something maybe like a labron Tony of any suggests, you know, using the term they’re not Leverenz in the sort of European style and everything, of course. 

But they are Labrinth lying. Can, he calls them, elaborates on the desert. And that’s that’s just very clear that that’s whatever else we know about the nose, Glines. We can know that now. Beyond that, why a monkey? Why a spider? I just speculate that, you know, they might be totems, clan totems, for example, or some other such thing. Attempts to equate the lines with the with celestial bodies, the astronomical theory. 

Wasn’t there some suggestion that the designs themselves aligned with astronomical data? 

That’s right. The problem is that the lines just are so many of them going every which way. You can pretty much find whatever you want. Whatever else is said and done, I would say, is a bottom line, that they were ceremonial walking paths. And they almost certainly the the crux issue of the ceremonies had to be water. And I think most people now, again, accept that because they were in peril of their existence. They hidden husk. So every one of these somehow revolves around water, somehow has has to do with ceremonies that would appease the gods or even treat them to produce water or something. I mean, that that has to be somewhere in that in that mix of religious magic of realm that they. That they were in and they walked the figures despite all the evidence. 

Why do you think there’s still such a fervent belief out there among so many people who use the NASCAR lines as evidence for claims of ancient extraterrestrial visitation? 

It’s a little hard to say other than the most to me. 

The most general way is that whenever you have a mystery, you obviously invite people to speculate and not everybody speculates from the same kind of rational basis. Is there still a mystery anymore, though? Well, there’s there’s not so great a mystery. I think when when Von Donnegan was writing, of course, he was raising issues that the public didn’t know the answer to. Scientists did. And we’ve had to the scientists have had to come forward and explain to the public that we do know much more about how the pyramids are built than nothing in saying. But of course, we don’t know a lot about some of these things other than what we can divine by studying and so forth, as the Nazca lines were. And they still are fraught with mystery. We still don’t absolutely know how they made them. And we don’t absolutely know why they made them. But we know so, so close to that that. We we certainly don’t need to speculate in these fanciful ways. We are narrowing down the categories of how they made them within a few. You know, we don’t know if the the guy I like to think of as the genius of NASCAR. And again, given time, there’s probably more than one of these persons and there’ve been many over the time. But there’s word that the supervisor of the making of the giant pictures, this guy had to, you know, be an unusual person. 

And so when you say there are mysteries still with an Oscar lines, you’re not saying mysteries that suggest paranormal or supernatural is not a. But scientific mysteries that still need to be discovered. 

Legitimate real mysteries that that cry out for legitimate real explanations are not pseudo explanations based on pseudo science, pseudo history, pseudo cultural notions, pseudo archeology, pseudo archeology, all these things that that invite people like Erich von Donica and a man of questionable background, to say the least, and who who has been accused of fiddling with the evidence pretty seriously and putting forth Krank notions that simply muddle the waters and serve no use. I mean, I wish I could say, well, at least he got a lot of people’s attention and focused on these things. Well, yes, he maybe he did that. But at what expense? We paid a big price for any of that. And we could have had it simply by having legitimate venues like National Geographic television bring us these these subjects. Right. And so I despair that that so many people buy into the the crank notions of ancient astronauts having visited the planet Earth when they’re just no good evidence for that at all. 

So if ancient astronauts did visit the planet Earth. Vanessa Aline’s, you’re saying, are no good evidence of it. 

I would say that if if ancient astronauts came to the planet Earth and hovered over the pump and keep in mind, these figures, big as they are, they are not helpful as beacons to attract flying saucers. Because by the time you get close enough in the real world, get close enough to see them, you’re about ready to crash. I mean, you would be better off to look for geological features like the plateau or things like that, because out in space, these are insignificant. But but if you were coming in and if if extraterrestrials needed to make these and so forth, they appear to me to have to abuse Dicksons. True. Just like the natives. 

Thank you for being on point of inquiry again, Joe Nye. Pleasure. 

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Point of inquiries produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Executive producer is Paul Kurtz. Point of Inquiries. Music is written and composed for us by Emmy Award winning Michael Wailin, contributors to today’s show. 

Barry Carr, Sarah Jordan, Thomas Donnelly and Debbie Goddard. I’m your host DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.