Dateline: 19 November 2011 // Posted by: Loren Burke
Source: Daily Mail
Story: “Is this an alien skull? Mystery of giant-headed mummy found in Peru”
Summary: An elongated mummified skull has been found in Peru along with more skeletal remains. It has Spanish and Russian scientists baffled. According to the article, they believe it has come from an alien species. It is reported that three anthropologists say that it cannot have come from any human, deformed or not. It has a small part at the front of the skull similar to that of a child, called the open fontanelle, but it also has two large molars only found in mature adults. It also has larger eye sockets than what is normally found in humans. One anthropologist has said that its features do not correspond with any other known ethnic group in this world. The remains of the eyeball will be tested for DNA for further confirmation as to whether it is a human or not.
The second set of skeletal remains is not a full skeleton, it has no face but was wrapped in a layer as a placenta and in the foetal position
Why is this PseudoNews? Some commentators have said this is not the remains of an alien species but is actually a human skull deformed by an ancient tribal ritual, namely, the practice of skull elongation. Skull elongation was used to signify group affiliation or social status. This was common in various tribal cultures around the world. Head moulding styles fell into three groups: flat, round or conical. To achieve the desired shape, the head was wrapped in tight cloth. In the case of cranial flattening, the head was placed between two pieces of wood. The technique would usually be carried out on an infant, when the skull is at its most pliable. This could explain why the skull still has the features of a small child if it was an adult skull.
What features of pseudoscience are on show? One of the pseudoscientific features on show here is lack of parsimony. The author chose to believe that it is an alien skull they have discovered instead of the simpler explanation that it could just be a deformed skull. These two theories are still unproven.
Another pseudoscientific feature is confirmation bias, which is a tendency for people to favour information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true. In this case, despite the theory that the skull elongation could be the actual reason for the unusual features of the remains, the scientists and anthropologists still insist that the skull ‘’is not a human being’’.
Another feature is a theory that is unproven as false and consequently considered to be true. Although the headline asks a question — “is this an alien skull?’’ — we can see that already it is believed to be an alien skull even though this theory hasn’t been proven true. Because it hasn’t been proven false it is automatically seen as true and hard evidence to another alien life species.
The moral of the story: Despite the fact that the skull has not been proven to be an alien skull, people nevertheless may choose to believe that there is another form of life outside this earth. Although a more logical explanation has been provided (the skull elongation ritual), there is little evidence to prove that theory and therefore no reason for anybody to doubt that the skull is an alien skull. But maybe people need to see that not everything is as ambiguous as it may appear.