CPSP118G Fall Semester: Earth, Life & Time Colloquium
Hollow-Earth Antarctic Space Nazis, Homeopathy, and Alien Abductions: Who Says that Pseudoscience is Harmless?
Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
For details on alien abduction claims and the sinister use of hypno-therapy, see Chapter 9 in Sagan.
We've seen some cases of pseudoscientific claims that are basically benign ("all in good fun, so what's the harm"). But it isn't always that way...
Pseudoscientists can often be benign, but their lack of critical thinking has in the past
allowed unscrupulous people and movements to take advantage of them. For example, Adolph Hitler's
rise to power in Germany is at least in part due to pseudoscientific movements of the early 20th
- The National Socialist German Workers' (NAZI) Party, founded in 1920 and of which Hitler
became President in 1921 was a combination of two previously existing parties:
- those being the National Socialist Party and the German Workers' Party, populist right-wing
parties organized to get the support of the common German people as a counter to the rising Communist Party.
These two proto-Nazi parties were created by:
- the Thule Geselleschaft, with its symbol the swastika derived from Indian iconography. This
organization was a rabidly anti-Semetic and anti-Communist Bavarian branch of the:
- Germanenorden, a fellowship interested in the study of the origin, history, and culture
of the Aryan peoples. ("Aryan" in this context is equivalent to today's term "Indo-European": a
major group of languages with a shared ancient historical connection). The Germanenorden combined
"secret society" aspects of Freemasonry with the turn-of-the-century movement of:
- Theosophy, a religion combining then-current natural historical sciences (especially historical
geology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, and archaeology) with occult mysticism.
Within cultures like the Third Reich, the USSR, and other oppressive authoritarian regimes,
pseudoscience could flourish for a variety of reasons:
- Lack of free and open discourse between domestic and with international researchers meant
that the debate and dialogue necessary for critical evaluations of ideas could not go on.
- Ideas lacking in critical merit, but which made the policies or ideologies of the State look
favorable, would be officially promoted; those which made the policies or ideologies of the State
could be dismissed, made illegal, suppressed, or simply regarded as "unpatriotic".
- Individuals which the State looked upon favorably for any reason might get their own pet
theories promoted regardless of merit; similarly, those ideas developed by "enemies of the State" could
be supressed even if they had no bearing on the policies and ideologies of the State.
Germany in the early 20th Century had a very well-educated public and was on the cutting edge of
many lines of scientific and technical research. Nevertheless, in Nazi Germany many types of pseudoscience
flourished alongside real science and technology. In the realm of the Earth sciences, bizarre notions
of a Hollow Earth or the World-Ice-Theory found official support.
After the end of the war, legends quickly developed about the possible survival of Hitler and
some of his cronies. Among the more bizarre claims were that he may have fled to a secret base
in Antarctica, or in the Hollow Earth, or off to the Moon!
Last modified: 29 September 2008