Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Why is the establishment stuck in a trench?

I promised a while ago to look at the reasons for the huge reluctance of the "archaeology establishment" (senior academics, editors, key figures in societies etc) to even consider the possibility that they might be wrong about the "human transport" of very large stones over very large distances prior to them being placed in that ancient monument. Well, there is a lot of personal pride involved here -- certain people think that their reputations would suffer if their pet theories should be found wanting. So this is to do with the self-esteem of fragile personalities. This may sound a bit harsh -- since we as scientists are supposed (according to the precepts of Karl Popper) to welcome falsification and to seek to find the defects in theories so as to replace them with better theories. But people do, sadly, get so attached to their theories that they cannot contemplate ever seeing them replaced. So working hypotheses get turned into ruling hypotheses. Is this more prevalent in archaeology than in other subjects? I'm not an archaeologist, and so I wouldn't know -- but looking in from the outside, I must say that I am disturbed by an apparent obsession with PR and with "wacky stories" at the expense of sound science. The "healing stones" fairytale put out by Profs Wainwright and Darvill is a classic example. As far as I can see, there is not a shred of evidence to support it -- just a lot of wishful thinking, dressed up as science by TV producers and newspaper editors and journalists. More to come....

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