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NASA 'alien' rock art quote causes storm

Posted on Thursday, 22 May, 2014 | Comment icon 126 comments

A misquote about alien communication has been circulating the web. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Hajor
A NASA reference to rock art being the work of extraterrestrials has ignited significant controversy.
When it was first published by NASA back in 2012, the book "Archaeology Anthropology and Interstellar Communication" managed to slip mostly under the radar, but now thanks to a rather intriguing misquote by the media the book has suddenly jumped in to the limelight.

The main point of interest is a section of the book written by Professor William H. Edmondson that touches upon the subject of prehistoric rock art drawings.

"We can say little, if anything, about what these patterns signify, why they were cut into rocks, or who created them... For all intents and purposes, they might have been made by aliens," he wrote.

As media outlets started to suggest that NASA had published a book implying that aliens had created ancient rock drawings, controversy soon erupted. As it turns out, this particular quote was taken very much out of context. The preceding text states:

Consider again, therefore, the desirability of establishing symbolic/linguistic communication with ETI. It is helpful to review some parallels from human existence that pose problems for us today. One of these is "rock art," which consists of patterns or shapes cut into rock many thousands of years ago.

Far from suggesting that extraterrestrials were scribbling on cave walls, Professor Edmondson was simply using ancient rock art as an analogy for the challenges of communication.

The book, which had been available to view online for free, has since been taken down.

Source: Daily Tech | Comments (126)

Tags: NASA, Rock Art, Extraterrestrial

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #117 Posted by sinewave on 23 May, 2014, 23:17
In the minds of some people, the accomplishments of man are the work of God or aliens. For what it is worth, man does get full credit for any an all failures. Interesting how the mind of the believer works.
Comment icon #118 Posted by Rose-Red Howler on 24 May, 2014, 0:00
Not aliens again. It can't be aliens.
Comment icon #119 Posted by Paranomali on 24 May, 2014, 1:28
I expect Giorgio Tsoukalos to reference this book in the next episode.
Comment icon #120 Posted by Codenwarra on 24 May, 2014, 5:54
i'm sorry to say that it no longer surprises me that an ordinary English idiom is deliberately or ignorantly misinterpreted. "may as well have been aliens" is not "may have been aliens". This kind of thing is quote mining and misrepresentation.
Comment icon #121 Posted by Sir Wearer of Hats on 24 May, 2014, 6:05
May as well have been aliens shows a paucity of research and thought on the part of the writer IMO, while "it's aliens" at least shows a degree of imagination. Especially if coupled with "because of X and Y", there's SOME research being done as opposed to the former which is just hand wavy non-answer.
Comment icon #122 Posted by Harte on 24 May, 2014, 13:02
Don't tread on these? Harte
Comment icon #123 Posted by Silent Trinity on 29 May, 2014, 11:05
I have to say I am open minded to the subject of aliens and indeed even the ancient alien theory, but one must be objective in this statement really. The author could have quite easily said: "We can say little, if anything, about what these patterns signify, why they were cut into rocks, or who created them... For all intents and purposes, they might have been made by the spirit of Elvis Presley" I think he was just throwing out an arbitrary suggestion, not saying that they WERE created by aliens. What he is saying is they have no idea what-so-ever who did make them, not confirming t... [More]
Comment icon #124 Posted by Harte on 29 May, 2014, 14:27
Wellcome and yes, you hit the mark dead-on with the above post. Harte
Comment icon #125 Posted by seeder on 29 May, 2014, 15:59
yep dead right! And again Welcome to UM! Dont worry about the politics...
Comment icon #126 Posted by sinewave on 29 May, 2014, 21:09
Yep, that is exactly right.

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