A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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reader comments: Dogon & Sirius

11 Feb 99 
Hi, I got to your site from Hotbot, while looking for information about the Dogon tribe. I don't know how long it's been since you updated the page but you may be interested to know that the Dogon tribe investigators had (publicly, since 1976) claimed that they also had knowledge of a third star in the Sirius system. And that in 1995, that third star *was* found.

In 1995, the French Astronomers Daniel Benest and J. L. Duvent published the results of years of study in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics ["Is Sirius a Triple Star?" Volume 299, 1995 pages 621-628. Article received 11th Oct 1994, and accepted for publication on 8th November 1994.] stating that a small red-dwarf star seems to exist in the Sirius star system. They have detected a perturbation in the orbit that cannot be explained by any other means.

I'm all in favor of critical thinking. Loved Sagan's book, The Demon Haunted World. But information like this is readily verifiable and bears consideration before you dismiss Temple's work as that of a crank.
John Finnan

reply: OK, I've considered this new information and I still dismiss Temple's work as that of a crank.

1 Apr 1996
Upon reading the piece on the Dogon and the Sirius connection I was disturbed at how quickly you dismissed seven years of research. I wonder if you have actually read the book. As far as Carl Sagan is concerned, his explanation of a local connection is rather feeble.

For one thing, the Dogon have had the Sirius based traditions for many generations before Carl Sagan or the French anthropologist happened upon their existence.

There is a big difference between a "transmission" of a concept (i.e.. white dwarf = heavy) and the actual tracking of an "invisible" star. As I mentioned above, these people had information on Sirius A and B long before Griaule and Dieterlan came onto the scene. Unless Europeans can travel back in time and affect several generations of the Dogon (i.e.. "transmitting" scientific cosmology in terms the Dogon could translate into entire cultural identity), Sagan's explanation is unfounded. Sagan's reputation as the debunker's debunker may shed some light on the incredulous explanation given. I would like to ask you that given the more than remote possibility that he is incorrect, how would you explain the Dogon knowledge of Sirius B. I would also like you to know that the Sirius B was not even photographed until 1970 by Irving Lindenblad of the US Naval Observatory. Also, According to Arthur C. Clark'

"...Sirius B is about magnitude 8 - quite invisible even if Sirius A didn't completely obliterate it"

Temple transcribed Griaule and Dieterlen's article called "A Sudanese Sirius System". It describes the Sigui ceremony which occurs every 60 years. Below is a sample:

"More consistent evidence of the celebration of the Sigui is provided by the large wooden mask, whose carving is one of the major concrete purposes of the ceremony. This mask -usually of considerable size - is seldom used and is kept in some shelter or hideaway in the rocks, along with those which have been carved at previous ceremonies. The care with which these masks are treated - for in some ways they are the village archives - means that it is not uncommon to come across series of three or four of them, the oldest of which date back, respectively ***to 1780 and 1720***, give or take a year or two. In exceptional cases, when the shelter has been well selected and under constant surveillance, the series may be longer still; thus at Ibi, in 1931, nine poles were counted, and these must have succeeded three more which had been reduced to a few fragments and piles of dust and were still visible; as were the special places earmarked for them at the back of the shelter, all perfectly protected from damp, vermin and animals. The oldest in the series of nine, which showed a continuous progression of ageing in the course of time, thus date from the beginning of the ***fifteenth century***; and if the three others are taken into account, the remnants of the earliest would date back to the first half of the ***thirteenth century.***" The Sirius Mystery pg.37-39

Since neither the Europeans or anyone else had access to a telescope in the thirteenth century let alone the 1700s, Sagan's "transmission" idea is laughable. Now, one could dismiss the accounts presented by the French anthropologists or even that the Dogon people quickly developed ageing techniques to wood in order to fool all of us that the world was visited by advanced beings. What a terrific hoax this would be.

My annoyance here is not with the possibility that Temple's idea is wrong for he states that he could very well be wrong, but with the blindness and pseudo-intellectualism burped up by skeptics. If you are a true skeptic then you would withhold your judgments until the facts present themselves. Either you didn't read the book or you simply dismissed the idea before it had a chance, for the facts within this book are extremely difficult to dismiss or counter.

As far as Temple's "one" piece of evidence (the sand diagram), by reading Griaule and Dieterlen's account you would see that there is more than "one" piece of evidence. In fact there are many and in several different places (this being the individual villages that house the masks and poles).

I find it difficult to understand why someone would be so entirely close-minded. This particular book could only be dismissed by the most narrow of minds. Do you also dismiss the scientific attitude that life on other planets is not only probable but the chances of no other life is improbable.

Dr Su-Shu Huang of the Goddard Space Flight Center, Maryland has written,

"planets are formed around the main-sequence stars of spectral types later than F5. Thus, planets are formed just where life has the highest chance to flourish. Based on this view we can predict that nearly all single stars of the main sequence below F5 and perhaps above K5 have a fair chance of supporting life on their planets. Since they compose a few per cent of all stars, life should indeed be a common phenomenon in the universe." The Sirius Mystery pg.14

There is an quick history of Sirius B discovery on page 33-34 of Sirius Mystery. 1862 was the first time, using a telescope, that Sirius B was seen with the human eye. Unless the Dogon have supereyes or some superhuman ability it is impossible for them to have developed their calendar without help.

I wonder if you would be laughing at Galileo....
--Jason Gray

reply: As Sagan once noted, remember that they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.

04 Aug 1996
Although Mr. Jason Grey's tone was a tad on the condescending side, he makes some essentially valid points. From my limited knowledge of this mystery (Reader's Digest mystery type books:), I do recall mention of Dogon religious doctrine proclaiming that a single inhabited planet orbits the Sirius binary system. Wouldn't the space telescope be able to detect with some degree of accuracy a wobble in the orbits of both stars if a planet did indeed exist in that star system? I think it would be well worth the tax payer's money to point the space telescope at the Sirius system and validate/invalidate this mystery once and for all!!!

Steven Rutter

reply: I can think of a few other projects I'd rather see our taxes supporting, like an Institute for Higher Skepticism.

28 Oct 1996
I don't know whether there's a real mystery involving the Dogon and Sirius B or not. I do know that Randi has made an absolute fool of the "skeptics" who take his critique of Temple's book at face value.

Firstly, Temple never claims that the Dogon themselves have or have had contact. He hypothesizes that the contact took place at around 3000 BCE.

Second, the famous sand drawing. On page 47 of Temple's book you can find the "censored" version of the diagram--a full-page reproduction, no less! While Temple does also give versions omitting some elements (to remove symbols irrelevant to his particular point), neither of the two corresponds with the version Randi gives--one includes less, one more. So, why haven't any of the "skeptics" had the skepticism to check Randi's reference? Just flipping through Temple's book would fully discredit what Randi says. Why don't any of them call Randi on this: shouldn't they want to expose this kind of fraud? Or should we have taken Randi's title [Flim-Flam!] at its word?
Dan Clore

Dogon & Sirius

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