Dibble v. Hancock - with Prof. Howard Williams

This is the podcast where we examine strange claims about alternative history and ancient aliens in popular media. Do their claims hold water to an archeologist, or are there better explanations out there? 

We are now on episode 60, and I am Fredrik, your guide into the world of pseudo-archaeology. If you have missed it, Professor Flint Dibble, out of Cardiff University, went on the Joe Rogan Podcast to debate Graham Hancock. I have a vague feeling that you are perfectly aware of this and have most likely heard a bunch of takes already. Like my podcast neighbor, Dr. Andrew Kinkella . I can’t help that Joe Rogan scheduled this to release the same date as my last episode, meaning there are two weeks until my next show comes on. It’s almost as if this is a conspiracy.

But don’t turn this episode off thinking there will be nothing new here! Because my take might not be like the others. It might be a bit more critical. I’m also joined by Professor Howard Williams, also known as Archaeodeath, on TikTok and YouTube . Or rather, I joined him on a live talk when this was just released. 

So, the first section of the episode will involve me reflecting a bit on some time after. Then, Professor Williams will join me in the second part. If you want the full raw chat with Williams, you should sign up on Patreon or the members portal. Just as a few lovely supporters already have done, something I’m extremely grateful for. So, with those people buttered, I guess there’s nothing more than to remind you that sources can be found on diggingupancientaliens.com

Now that we have finished our preparations, let’s dig into the episode.

In this episode:

Response to Flint Dibbles article in Sapiens

Discussion with Howard Williams

Sources, resources and further reading suggestions

Debating psuedoscientists - a long term win?

First of all, I'm not particularly eager to rain on someone's parade. I also hope to be proven wrong about what I bring up here. That's not often I say in this show, but I genuinely wish I'm shown to be incorrect. I also admit that I'm not enjoying Joe Rogan or Graham Hancock . I've never understood Rogan's popularity or why someone would want to listen to these long shows where the host doesn't know what they are talking about. I understand that the show's selling point is that Rogan is just an average bloke, a regular Joe, one might say, who is just asking questions and engaging in a conversation like everybody else. However, Joe Rogan is not like everyone else. Rogan operates one of the largest shows , with some 14 million subscribers on Spotify and 16 million on YouTube. These are not the numbers of the average Joe. As we will see, these numbers should put some journalistic pressure on Joe Rogan, something he doesn't take upon himself. That unwillingness to do proper journalistic work will affect his audience and how they might respond to different claims.

With this large platform in mind, it's not strange that Dibble or any other historian or archaeologist would like to use this to spread good information. The setting we got, however, was that science-based archaeology and Graham Hancock's unproven fantasies are equal. For it to be a debate, there need to be two sides whose ideas are, to some extent, equal. As Brian Dunning puts it, "The very nature of a debate presents science as if it is merely a competing opinion." 

In an article published in Sapiens , Dibble discusses his thoughts and goals regarding the debate. Dibble also discusses Bill Nye's debate with Ken Ham and how some experts referred to it as a mistake. But in reality, it was a way to make information accessible for younger generations, and now the acceptance of evolution is above 50% among the US population. I'd like to point out that the debate is a bit of a double-edged sword. The acceptance of evolution has been on the rise since before. Sure, it peaked in 2014, but it is worth mentioning that this belief has been in decline since then. Suffolk University, in the most recent poll on the subject from 2023, shows that 53% of those questioned believe in some version of evolution. 37% do not believe in evolution at all. So, it seems as if we are barely holding onto the lead. 

As for the backside of the debate, it helped Ken Ham restart his funding campaign for the Ark Encounter. With the media attention, donations started to come in, and the park could open in 2016. Since then, it's been costing Kentucky taxpayers large sums of money in different incentives, and the park has tried to re-register as a non-profit religious entity. The park is open for schools to visit, and tours are offered to children. While the Ark Encounter might not be the financial and attendee success Ham had hoped for, it's still a place that promotes Young Earth Creationism. So, while there was an initial benefit, the aftermath down the road is more murky. It will be hard to say what and if there will be any upsides or downsides from Dibble's debate with Hancock a decade down the road. 

With this said, I'm not claiming we should not engage with believers in pseudo-sciences. Not at all. Editor of the Skeptic and several times skeptic of the year, Michael Marshall makes a good case for engaging with these people and does it successfully in his podcast, " Be Reasonable ." That's an excellent example of how we can engage while being in control. Marshall does a great job navigating this discussion and knows when and how to push these promoters of false scientific claims. A skill that was lacking from Rogan in Dibble's debate with Hancock. Joe Rogan can't host a conversation on complex topics.

This is clear in other episodes with Rogan, who tends to have on personalities promoting false and dangerous ideas. These include Milo Yiannopoulos, Alex Jones, Gavin McInnes, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Graham Hancock, Jimmy Corsetti , and Charles C. Johnson. Rogan has repeatedly failed to push back against what these people said. Monica Hesse, in the Washington Post, wrote about how Joe Rogan failed to push back against Charles C. Johnson's claims that black people were more prone to violence. Joe Rogan also struggles with fact-checking guests' claims while live and mostly Googles the keywords the guests give him, or rather Rogan's assistant. This resulted in Robert F. Kennedy convincing Joe that what he said about vaccines being dangerous is true. Because Rogan's assistant didn't realize they were on a webpage made by Kennedy. Monica Hesse describes the scenario very well in her column in the Washington Post : "He's not nimble enough or forethinking enough to engage in intellectual battle with guests who are not there to seek truth but to recruit converts."

Something visible in the Dibble and Hancock debate was that Rogan often felt inept in asking piercing questions, especially toward Graham Hancock. While some claim that Rogan seemed more convinced by Dibble toward the end, I'm unsure if I agree. Becoming warmer as they got to know each other, maybe. But I can't claim to know what happens in Rogan's head. The conspiracy-prone guest also affects those who listen to Joe.

Looking at who listens to the Joe Rogan Podcast , it's a majority of white conservative males. They are more prone to not trusting vaccines or the media. While Dibble knows he won't convert the hardcore fans, it's still an uphill battle with Rogan's audience in mind. While one study has shown that a fact sandwich might help convince some people regarding claims in a political debate, I'm not sure how effective it is in this setting. When it comes to this audience, we might need a different approach. Peter Boghossian suggests that we need to get these people to ask themselves, "What evidence would it take to change my mind?" From there, they can embark on a journey and apply skeptical thinking. 

I'm not sure how many who changed their minds in the Dibble v Hancock debate. That's the dirty little secret with debates we try to ignore; we go into them with our minds made up and leave most often the same. I've seen posts on Twitter and Facebook that there are threads on Hancock's subreddit that fans don't think he won. As one in several Reddits and telegram places, I've not seen that as much. I went to Hancock's Reddit and found some posts claiming Dibble won, but those comments seemed to be from accounts posting skeptical comments. For the most part, inside these alternative history forums where Hancock, while tired, showed those academics in their ivory tower, Hancock can't be silenced, and they can't answer his questions. That's also a common outcome; your favorite always wins the debate. Everyone is a winner.

So Joe Rogan has an enormous platform, but will it really benefit us going there? Is it worth it for us to sit down with a transphobe with a history of racist remarks? I have to acknowledge that we have those among us science educators and even archaeology and history educators who have made transphobic remarks. We should definitely deal with that, but striving to be on Rogan won't help us as much as we think. 

It kind of downplays our impact even without Netflix specials and Rogan. We have brilliant creators and people out there who make amazing educational content. Milo from Miniminuteman has videos with several millions of views, Anneliese Baer has videos with several millions of views, and not to brag, I even have some short videos with several millions of views. All of that without promoting bigots or pseudo-scientists. We should be proud of this and see our value. Instead of driving traffic to the Rogans and Hancocks of the world, let's drive traffic to a place where it would matter. Let's start a stipend that can help educators improve their production value. Get funds to pitch good history shows to the production companies. I think somewhere here is the best way forward.

When we engage with these people, as we should, we should do so in a setting where we are in control. And we need to see our value, even without Joe Rogan.

Until then, please spread the word by leaving a positive review on platforms like iTunes, Spotify, or even among your fellow trench dwellers. For more information about me and my podcast, check out diggingupancientaliens.com.

You'll find an extensive list of sources and resources and reading recommendations for those eager to expand their knowledge on the subject matter on the episode page.

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Sandra Marteleur created the intro music, and our outro is by the band called Trallskruv, who sings their song "tin foil hat." Links to both these artists will be found in the show notes.

Until next time, keep shoveling that science!

Sources, resources, and further reading suggestions


“Folie hatt” by Trallskruv

Lily of the woods by Sandra Marteleur