Response to Mark Van Stone. November 2009
I received an email from Mark Van Stone in mid-November, 2009. I respond to his comments and accusations below (in red).
Hey, I think I read on Pinchbeck’s blog that you and he had been involved in the 2012 Movie launch preview-publicity-event in Colorado, or something, last month. Congratulations! I hope they paid you more than a nice hotel room and a plate of canapés. What was it like? Didja get to chat with Roland Emmerich? I understand he said he does not exactly believe what he puts in to his movies..... Do you get along with DP? Anyway, I am proud of, and happy for, you.
I understand you have been severely disappointed that my work on 2012 does not mention yours to any substantial degree.
I am sorry to disappoint you, but I thought I made it clear in my letters my strong reservations about the soundness of your arguments. And your replies did not lay these reservations to rest.
Your many years' scrutiny of Izapa and related Late Preclassic sites, as well as everything else you've been looking at for so many years, necessarily have given you several profound insights. What I find troubling is that you mix these gems with lousy logic.
For example, you say on the one hand that the Preclassic Maya in Izapa were making precise calculations thousands of years in their future, based on naked-eye astronomy.
We know that the Dresden Codex Venus Tables contain corrections inserted every few decades, indicating that the Postclassic Maya, at least, knew that their calculations were imperfect. But, as modern astronomers do, once they compiled enough data, they could hone their calculations and their correction factors until their predictive tables could be VERY accurate. As you know we've found evidence that suggests the Maya calculated enormous periods based on a VERY precise multiple of the Tropical Year, and others with the Sidereal Year. Yet, when challenged on the fact that at Izapa's latitude, the Zenith Passages were 258, not 260, days apart, you as much as argue they wouldn't have noticed:
"For naked eye astronomers, it is virtually impossible to distinguish any difference between the sun’s declination at high noon on August 11 versus August 12 versus August 13 – even with the kind of gnomons that are in Izapa Group B. This is what I call a meaningless criterion of misplaced precision. It is similar to the flaw in Lounsbury’s argument – assuming a degree of precision that isn’t even supported in the vagaries of the astronomy under consideration."
John, you cannot have it both ways. If we accept the above argument, then we must conclude that they were incapable of calculating even a Solstice date with even ten days' accuracy, two thousand years in the future. (Never mind Precession's equinox-shift.)
With all due respect, I was seeing vagaries specifically in the case of how the Maya preferred to conceive solar zenith observation, based on visual shadow projections, whereas the sidereal and tropical years, as well as precession, could be and apparently were expressed precisely in the inscriptions. More importantly, in my opinion, the “sun in center” idea, as related to the zenith, would have no doubt allowed a several day range, simply because of the important period of the sun occupying the zenith center would have stretched over several days --- a smaller period at southern latitudes and a larger period over northern latitudes. A chart that calibrated the latitude ranges for zenith passage phenomenon (unlike any other chart published before or since) was published in my 1998 book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. There is a tendency of my critics to nitpick and complain about perceived failings in my work, rather than acknowledge the unprecedented insights. While the precise midpoint of the date-range could have easily been estimated (a thing modern science likes to do), the conceptualization resulting from actual observation would very likely have included the full date range as denoted by when the mythically potent “sun in zenith center” would have been applicable. The nature of the solar zenith transit phenomenon seems to me to support this kind of acknowledgment and admission, because I am sensitive to how naked-eye skywatchers valued the mythopoeic application of astronomical events.
The sidereal and tropical year calculations, as well as precessional calculations as evidenced in Michael Grofe’s work, on the other hand are not “alignments” or “alignment zones” and so no allowance for visual or conceptual “ranges” are relevant or necessary. When you say that I can’t have it both ways, you are applying a general rule to several different types of astronomical observations and calculations --- like saying “you want to eat cake and you want to eat a house, but you can’t have it both ways.” I wouldn’t want to have it both ways. Eating cake is good, and appropriate for what can and should be done with cake, but eating a house is not advisable. Applying precision to the sidereal year calculation is good, and relevant for what can and should be done with the sidereal year, but precise observation of a solar zenith transit is not. Your 2-day argument, which you apparently intend to invalidate the role of the 260-day period at the latitude of Izapa, is valid only in a restricted abstract sense that has no bearing to the real situation but has meaning to the mind divorced from reality that wishes to discredit something. It’s like a lawyer making an argument that the rape did not occur because, topologically, the alleged rapist’s penis was never in fact inside the topologically defined outline of the woman’s body. Brilliant!
If, on the other hand, we believe that they DID have an accurate enough measurement of Precession, and the DID have observational data to cast Solstice dates that far into the future, then we must conclude that they could measure Zenith Passages with the same precision.
But, again, even if they could calculate the zenith passages accurately, which I’m sure they did, they may have preferred to allow for a range of 2 or 3 or 5 days depending on latitude --- I suggested this possibility in the context of arguing for a 200+ year range for my solar-zenith-Pleiades alignment reconstruction at the latitude of Chichen Itza.
Just average the data over a century, and your hypothetical astronomers will know, within hours, that Izapa's ZPs are NOT 260 days apart.
The birth of a child does not always happen 260 days after a woman first misses her period --- or even on average --- and yet the modern Maya associate the 260-day tzolkin with this biological phenomenon. Similarly, the Venus period intervals codified in the almanacs and alluded to in the Popol Vuh (according the D. Tedlock) are in several instances wildly inaccurate approximations in order to make them commensurate with multiples of 20. Did the Maya have an accurate understanding of the precise intervals? Yes. Did they intentionally “fudge” the periods in order to coordinate them with their philosophical and ideological need for commensuration? Yes. Oops, we just had it both ways.
Your logic is a great example of getting stuck in the need to apply absolute precision --- often the reflex and assumption of scientists --- to an ideological context that would have allowed for a vagary in order to acknowledge an association relevant for the practical expression of a philosophical model. I believe that the general latitude of Izapa afforded an ideological acknowledgment of an ideal 260-day zenith-passage interval. Your argument isn’t against one of my own ideas --- as you can see from my well-documented discussion of the origins of this idea in my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, this idea goes back to Nuttall in the 1920s. Are there ways of expressing things in that book that I would change now, to serve clarity? Sure. I’ve written 20,000 pages of research material on these things since that book was published, and I’ve tried to hone my language to mitigate the critiques of those who are dedicated to skewering me. I am fairly certain that no matter how much I fine tune my language and definitions, there will always be nitpickologists and semantics pedagogues who will seek to mitigate my reconstruction work --- for example, Marcos Villasenor’s recent critique that “alignment” is not a valid astronomical concept. It’s difficult to have real discussions with people like this, who are simply taking pot shots.
You must choose one argument or the other; you cannot have it both ways. If you are going to claim that they invented the 260-day cycle to match the astronomy of some specific place, you are gonna have to look a few miles south of Izapa. It is sloppy logic like this that brings scorn and discredit to your work among my colleagues.
Well, obviously you and your colleagues do not have much facility for dealing with different contexts. Does the sun rise every morning? Yes or no, you can’t have it both ways. Let’s say you answer “yes.” I reply “Wrong, you fool!” The sun never rises, the earth spins. You say “No” and I reply “what a fool, my colleagues and I will assemble tomorrow at dawn and document the sun rising, and expose your charlatanism.” The point of your argument that we must look a few miles south of Izapa is ridiculous and a nitpicky distractive time waster.
Let me tell you, your reputation among scholars is not dismissed whole, by any means. There are those among my colleagues who defend you, and want to hear more of your perspective and your theories. You really should attend more Mayanist conferences. We all have a lot to learn from one another. A conference's raison d'être is to strike the intellectual sparks that can only happen when intellects collide. Disagreement leads to insights. You both come away sharper.
Yeah, that Tulane conference was a revelation. Aveni really showed himself up to be a closed-minded consensus-wielding bulldog, or, as scholar B. T. said to me, “a bull-shitter who just makes things up.” He didn’t even address the compelling fact of the solstice placement of the 13-Baktun cycle ending in 2012 as a vector for intentionality until I brought it out in the Q & A section. You might want to re-listen to his talk in case you forgot: http://Alignment2012.com/Tulane2009.html. Only now, in the recent National Geographic piece online, has Aveni admitted that such a solstice placement might mean that the end date is an intentional artifact. It should go on record that November 2009 was the first time Aveni admits this, and he claims it without reference to my work to get that one put on the table over the last twenty years. You might want to also assess the factual and conceptual errors that pepper both Aveni’s and Krupp’s recent articles on 2012: http://Update2012.com/responsetoKrupp.html and http://Update2012.com/ResponsetoAvenisarticle.html
Since at least some of their factual errors must be obvious to yourself and “your colleagues,” then why have you not offered corrections publicly? Because of FEAR of reprisals or for fear of incurring the wrath of your gods. Lord Aveni and Sri Krupp will certainly cast their baleful eye upon you if you were to point out all the facile errors that Michael Grofe found in Aveni’s math and astronomy (in Aveni’s recent book), or if you pointed out to David Stuart that the apocalypse-2012 meme began not with “New Age hacks” as he stated with 100% certainty in his recent 2012 blog, but with Michael Coe’s 1966 book The Maya. So, you might also want to avail yourself of the corrections that are easily made to David Stuart’s 2012 Q & A blog: http://Update2012.com/responsetostuartsblog.html.
My exposure of David Freidel’s factually incorrect and intellectually dishonest ad hominem attacks of me in his presentations are equally facile and easy to point out: http://Update2012.com/May2009.html (see also the internal links to my response to Freidel). Do you care about these corrections, or about my detailed and thankless attempts to correct factually incorrect information that you and other professional scholars enjoy broadcasting about me, personally, and my work, professionally? I doubt it. That’s why your aren’t going to read them.
Now, since exposing the factual and conceptual errors of these scholar-gods is so easy, why am I the one doing it? Because fear causes progress to fail, and you and others fail to stand up to the ridiculous misconceptions proffered publicly by your colleagues. For example, are you aware that my correction to Stuart’s mistaken notion that the 2012-apocalypse meme originated with “New Age hacks” was rejected by Aztlan? You can read my civil post verbatim and the exchange I had with Aztlan moderator Mike Ruggeri at http://Update2012.com/responsetostuartsblog.html. You might want to try to apply the same degree of scrutiny you are leveling at my work to the arguments of your colleagues, especially in regard to 2012-related discussions.
I did not include your work among my explications of the issues that I chose, simply because I did not find it to possess sufficient rigor.
Cool, I’ll post the email exchanges we had in the year prior to your paper being released --- on Lounsbury’s 584285 and other ignored yet relevant things --- and leave it to others to decide how much my arguments to you have lacked rigor. Oops, I already did that almost a year ago: http://www.alignment2012.com/Jenkins-VanStone2008.html and http://www.alignment2012.com/Jenkins-VanStone2008-2.html. You never responded with any “rigorous” counterarguments to my email comments to you on the correlation issue, and the fact that Lousbury’s own revised addendum to his 2-day difference would bring it into alignment with the Dec 21 cycle ending for all post-Conquest dates. I laid that out for you carefully and cogently. I guess you simply didn’t understand that fact. You could have asked for clarification, but then again I wouldn’t expect that since I only spent twenty years studying and understanding the correlation issue. Do you recall what Dennis Tedlock said in the Sunday session at Tulane, when I asked him about the 2-day correlation? He said: "We wouldn't even be having this discussion if Lounsbury hadn't made that mistake." I think you were there.
I was hoping, and still hope, that you will clean up your act, and put some of your theories out there in a rigorous fashion, in a peer-reviewed publication.
Anything I publish now will merely be a restatement of things I’ve said and written before dozens of times, but would simply be presented in a venue that is not invisible to the elitist Brahmans of academic consensus.
I did you a favor: had I mentioned your theories, I would have been honor-bound to mention the holes in your entire fabric, and my presentation would have gotten bogged down and clouded by lots of negative energy.
So, here’s my prediction, then. You and others will apply the same kind of self-serving crazy-logic that you used above to expose the “holes in my entire fabric.” Meanwhile, you will slowly and craftily publish your own arguments for what I’ve already proposed, in order to give yourself the seal of veracity, thereby shunting me to the side while the essence of my pioneering insights gets claimed within academic consensus. Let’s recall Thompson and Whorf here. Luckily, unlike Thompson’s advantage over Whorf, I’m not dead yet.
We have all published stuff that we later had to retract. Just this spring I gave a paper relating the Chichen Ballcourt Rings to the glyph /mo/, the abbreviation for /Mo'/, "Macaw", and therefore to the Macaw-head ballcourt "goal markers" at Copan. A friend & colleague, Bruce Love, came up to me and said, "Interesting paper. I think it's full of shit, but it is a nice, provocative idea." He and I are still friends, and maybe one of us will some day convince the other. In the meantime, I am inspired to tighten up my arguments and my support data.
More importantly, this one paper, even if it be dead wrong, will not sink my reputation. Nor the converse; if I turn out to be right, my triumph is small and of only minor significance. What's important is that it is only one idea, and one idea, even a good one, does not a reputation make. Besides Special Relativity, Einstein published two or three other important papers on physics in 1906, and one of these, NOT Relativity, earned him the Nobel Prize. It was the vast accumulation of ideas that made him a genius, not Relativity. Likewise, Knorosov made many wrong individual readings of glyphs —which his rivals used to discredit the logic of everything he said— but it turns out that the fundamental argument he made WAS right. You have dozens of good ideas. Publish them one by one, and use the criticisms you hear when you vet it —before publishing— to strengthen and polish each of them till they are watertight.
Another quotation typifies why I didn't cite your work more explicitly. The *first sentence* of your concluding chapter in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 begins, "Based upon insights gathered while in altered states of consciousness,…" Okay, you've basically said that the Maya built their cosmology (and inferentially, their scientific reasoning) while high as flying serpents. Yet they must have been stone sober while collecting all their Precessional and Venus-Table data, and also while making those immense and precise calculations. I don't know about you, but *everything* I've written, and even more what I've *calculated*, while high, turned to shit once I sobered up.
Kekule saw the benzene molecule in a daydream. The separation between inner insight and scientific reason is not as clear-cut as you would like to believe. Your critique here fails in the same way as your earlier ones do, because you are not distinguishing two different perspectives that can be applied to two different, albeit interrelated, categories of Maya experience. Or, if I may make a suggestion, you choose to isolate one category and apply to it the description I intend for the other category, which in your unsophisticated and incomplete treatment of my work gives the impression that I have fallen into illogical absurdities. You are either unconsciously attempting to insinuate flaws in order to discredit me, or are consciously --- as Aveni does --- engaging in misleadingly clever linguistic polemics to create the same effect. You, like Aveni, enjoy drawing from summational sections of my 1998 book that were written in a prose style intended to paint an overall picture of what was already documented earlier in the book. You should really read my critique of Aveni and Krupp (above) and look at Aveni's misrepresentation of precessional movement. Really shameful. The problem you are having is the problem of the split mind which disallows the multivalent nature of cultural artifacts, which can be addressed with proper caveats from several different perspectives. I write about this problem of limited approach to the data --- especially evident among Maya scholars --- in the context of the pre-trans fallacy and the need for a trans-rational perspective and solution, in my new book The 2012 Story. I can’t tell if your blazing missive to me was inspired by your encounter with my new book. If not, you might want to read it.
The Maya may have been using drugs (or lack of sleep, or trance-dance, or whatever) while *transforming* their data into myth and symbol. But certainly one part that we latter-day skeptical scientists find astonishing —their immense calculations and precise observations, the very things you cite so proudly— were NOT "gathered while in altered states of consciousness." You discredit everything that went before, pretty much your entire book, with those ten words.
I could go on, and will, if you want me to, but suffice it to say that these examples do not exhaust your lapses of logic. I don't say that to hurt you. My motivation is the same as that which prompts my saying it to any mentee or colleague. You want to play with the big boys? Follow the rules. Not the you-must-have-a-degree kind of rule, the your-arguments-must-be-logical kind.
That’s hilarious, Mark. Play with the big boys? What are we in 6th grade? Take a look at the pathetic and messy stew of misappropriations, misconceptions, bias, assumptions, and factual errors indulged in by Aveni, Freidel, Stuart, Krupp, and others (see links above). If you’re going to keep throwing red herrings at me, I need to be convinced that you’ve actually read my counter-critiques linked above, and that you can dispense with all of my corrections to their errors. If you can’t, then who should be listening to who will have to be turned upside-down. Krupp's and Aveni’s application of his brand of “logic” is precisely what prevents him from seeing what the ancient Maya were actually doing, and results in him committing a deceptive slander of my work and, more unfortunately, of Michael Grofe’s work as well. You might want to apply your "logic" principle to the authority figures you blindly follow.
Anyway, congrats on your latest book; I hope it pays off your mortgage, etc.
Yeah, I can’t wait to buy that island in the South Pacific where I can then begin my Cult of Illogic in earnest. There, my minions and I will plot the downfall of rationalism and slowly eliminate all the foolish enemies of fantasy and chaos.
It will be fun to talk again about these themes when consensus in Maya studies accepts that the Maya intended December 21, 2012 to represent the alignment of the solstice sun with the dark rift in the Milky Way. That’s the simple core of my revolutionary and unprecedented hypothesis, first published in 1994. You might want to take a close look at the astronomy connected to the dates on Tortuguero Monument 6. It’s very telling that your email responds to my email of July 24 (below), but you did not actually address or respond to any of the points, data, and 2012-related conversation topics I offered. Your next critique will likely cite misspellings in the piece I wrote when I was 8 years old entitled “Why I want a pony for Christmas.” Best wishes, John Major Jenkins.
Below is an earlier email to Mark, at the end of a previous email exchange four months before I received the above email from him. It was an offlist comment to a thread on Aztlan, which can be found in the Aztlan archives online.
From: John Major Jenkins [email@example.com]
Sent: Friday, July 24, 2009 12:24 PM
To: Mark Van Stone
Subject: RE: [Aztlan] Tortuguero Mon 6 fragments
Sven's work at the site has been groundbreaking and his presentation of all the inscriptions thorough. Michael Grofe's observations here are very relevant for understanding how the 188.8.131.52.0 (2012) date on Tortuguero Monument 6 was being utilized. Via DN relations it was connected to a 7th-century building dedication and to the ruler B'ahlam Ajaw. So, even though we are missing the left arm of the T-shaped monument, and even though the 2012 date is found only in the small right arm of the monument, we can see that the date was linked to ritual actions and historical kings. I'd like to see more of what Michael and others are finding, and believe that a full decipherment of Tortuguero Monument 6, with a sensitivity to astronomy, will help us understand how the 2012 date was being utilized and conceived at Tortuguero. Other texts from Tortuguero might provide helpful contexts (there's an astronomically significant 184.108.40.206.0 date on Tortuguero Monument 2), and perhaps analogous texts & dates at other sites might further illuminate the relationships between kingly births & accessions, ritual dedications, Long Count cycle endings (big and small), Creation mythology, and astronomy. These pursuits might contribute to our understanding of how 2012 was conceived by the ancient Maya.
Update: While these exchanges took place throughout 2009, Mark was writing his book on Tortuguero and "Maya science", which was released in March 2010. In that book, Mark evaded crediting me with my own theory and instead drew poor secondary paraphrases of my work from the pop marketplace, and critiqued that instead. Mark's stratgey here is unlikely to merely be an oversight, since we have discussed my work in emails since early 2008. Rather, Mark Van Stone is clearly employing tactics designed to minimize or mitigate the clarity that I have sought to express in regard to the 2012 alignment and my 20 years of work to reconstruct ancient Maya precessional astronomy.
It's unfortunate and unprofessional and cowardly of Mark to not treat my work directly, and instead exploit the secondary distortion of my work by others. This is not a person seeking truth or following the evidence. His tacit role is to be a front-man shill to protect his status quo benefactors --- and the superiority complex of academics who cannot tolerate that the breakthroughs were pioneered by a non-degreed outsider. Within 8 months after the above exchange, within 3 months after the release of Van Stone's book, we see the second stage of this process taking place --- scholars begin to express an understanding of 2012 using language echoing my own. This took place in May 2010 with John B Carlson's presentation at the Robbins Museum, in which the 2012 "lord of creation" would appear to facilitate the "transformation" and opening to a new World Age; Carlson did this again in January 2011 at the Oxford IX conference in Peru. Carslon neglected to note that I had been languaging 2012 in such a way since the mid-1990s (despite the fact that I'd sent him article proposals summarizing my work in 1995 and 1999, and my book in 1998!). If my work and my name can be relegated to a dismissive footnote or swept under the carpet (by people such as Van Stone), then academia can hope that my pioneering role will be forgotted or marginalized and they can co-opt my work with impunity. Consider this a prediction; we'll see how things develop.
Update. April 2011. Well, my prediction holds true. More to come.
Update December 2012. Even moreso now; Carlson's Archaeo 24 essay explicitly states that 2012 is about renewal and deity sacrifice. This is the ideological part of my reconstruction, published in my writings since the mid-1990s. Also, a general consensus is forming among scholars around the Era renewal idea. Michael Grofe has stated and indorectly explored the astronomy of my galactic alignment thesis, in his IAU paper of 2011 and his Archaeo 24 paper (released August 2012).
Update September 2014. Barb MacLeod / Van Stone's Zeitschrift fur Anomalistik paper (published in mid-2012) contains supportive comments about my work, and also an invitation to be persuaded that the pre-Classic creators of the Long Count intended the 2012 period-ending to target the alignment of the December solstice sun and the Dark Rift/Crossroads. I responded to the challenge, but no response from MacLeod yet. http://Update2012.com/Comments-on-Great-Return-8-2014.pdf.