‘Ancient Aliens’ controversy

Television show fuels distrust in science and history.

Tiana Kuchta

More stories from Tiana Kuchta



Though this meme took the internet by storm a number of years ago, few people have considered what the show could actually do during this time of high stress in the science community.

Until this past winter break, “Ancient Aliens” has always been a show that I might notice on the TV guide and then quickly pass over in search of something like “Property Brothers” or “Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet.”

The most I knew about it involved that classic meme of Giorgio Tsoukalos, the “Ancient Aliens” guy, that simply said “aliens.” Even though I had never watched the show, and the meme made the show as a whole seem like a joke, I had this preconceived idea that it would rock me to my rational core and I would somehow come away believing everything they said.

This, of course, proved not to be the case. Instead, I was laughing through each episode. The episodes were full of scare tactics and overall terrible logic, and yet I couldn’t get enough of it. 

The problem the show faces is in the way in which it promotes anti-scientific viewpoints.

The premise of each episode is that they pick one specific event in history or one geological area, and spend their time trying to explain to the audience why that event or area had to have been caused by aliens. As far as alien theories go, this one isn’t too far off.

The main problem, though, is their storytelling abilities. The show spends so much time building suspense that there’s never actually a release, leading to highly disappointing endings.

Before each commercial, there’s one of those “coming up” sequences, but I swear the footage they show never happens in the episodes. If it does, the importance of it is never explained.

While this can be annoying as a casual viewer, I think the reasoning behind it goes back to the fact that many of the people on the show don’t have actual evidence to back up why they believe aliens have been to Earth.

One theory is called the Ancient-Astronaut Theory, essentially saying that there are other intelligent beings in the universe and they have visited Earth in the past. As Barry Vacker explains, “the scale of the observable universe is immense and that the Kepler telescope suggests there may be billions of planets in the Milky Way, there is almost certainly life elsewhere in the cosmos, perhaps including intelligent civilizations.”

While this has become a semi-accepted truth, the part that “Ancient Aliens” doesn’t acknowledge is what Vacker goes on to say: “It is highly unlikely we have been visited, precisely because the distances are so vast, the universe is so gigantic, and our planet is so tiny.”

Even though I can enjoy the show as a way to have a laugh, Jon Coumes explains why the shows could lead to larger problems in society.

“Ancient Aliens” seems to be highly in support of anti-intellectualism, or demonstrating mistrust towards scientists and intellectuals, and while people like myself might look at that and find it amusing, others jump on board and start claiming that science as a whole is false.

In his article, Coumes explains why this is dangerous now in the time of climate change and especially while America has a leader who distrusts science as much as President Donald Trump does.

Coumes quotes the philosopher and political theorist Hannah Ardent when saying how “Ancient Aliens” relies on a “cynical dismissal of respected standards and accepted theories carried with it a frank admission of the worst and a disregard for all pretenses,” something that viewers take not as a criminal condescension, but which they “mistake for courage and a new style of life.”

These alien theorists and the major fans of the show are thriving on their ability to mock mainstream historians. While, hopefully, their lack of hard evidence and the way they stretch explanations will create mostly viewers like myself, there are always people who will use this show’s mistrust in history to fuel their own mistrust in science.

Overall, I don’t have an issue with the show itself. As I’ve stated, I find it amusing and it makes me think creatively. However, I do have an issue with the show being on the History Channel.

Maybe the History Channel has changed its branding to keep up with viewer’s interests, but by having “Ancient Aliens” on their channel, they are implying that the show is real, proven history and that just isn’t the case.

Kuchta can be reached at [email protected].