1. whywhywhy says

    Does he spend the whole book misstating, fabricating, and lying about biology?

  2. specialffrog says

    I had always assumed Von Daniken was late 19th / early 20th century, I was shocked when I learned he was still alive.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    Insert Big-haired Ancient Astronaut show host saying “Aliens” HERE.

  4. Matt G says

    So is this the Third Way, the Third Way repackaged, or the Fourth Way? These fanatics never give up.

  5. Rich Woods says

    I enjoyed ‘Chariots of the Gods’ when I first saw it in my local library, back in the 70s. My excuse is that I was only 12, and because it wasn’t in the sci-fi section that I normally haunted it took me a while to realise that it was actually sci-fi. A few years later I read a couple of his sequels, this time with an encyclopaedia to hand so that I could check which bits to laugh at if it wasn’t immediately obvious.

  6. silvrhalide says

    From the Amazon author bio

    Erich von Daniken is arguably the most widely read and most-copied nonfiction author in the world. He published his first (and best-known) book, Chariots of the Gods, in 1968. The worldwide best seller was followed by 40 more books, including the recent best sellers Twilight of the Gods, History is Wrong, Evidence of the Gods, Remnants of the Gods, and Odyssey of the Gods (all published by New Page Books).

    His works have been translated into 28 languages and have sold more than 65 million copies. Several have also been made into films. Von Danikens ideas have been the inspiration for a wide range of television series, including the History Channel’s hit Ancient Aliens. His research organization, the AASRA/, comprises laymen and academics from all walks of life. Internationally, there are about 10,000 members. He lives in Switzerland but is an ever-present figure on the international lecture circuit, traveling more than 100,000 miles a year.

    So… no actual qualifications for anything.

    traveling more than 100,000 miles a year

    Because he’s staying a couple of jumps ahead of any arresting authorities? Just wondering.

    His works have been translated into 28 languages and have sold more than 65 million copies.

    PT Barnum was right.

  7. wzrd1 says

    Another idiot falling for the evolutionary determinism trap. The second panel repeatedly shows how deeply he fell for it, that evolution is guided and has a goal.
    And displays pure ignorance as well, as there is no “the eye”, as eyes have repeatedly independently evolved, possibly hundreds of times, as they give a decided survival advantage in any creature that possesses vision.
    And disappeared in quite a few cases as well, which I’m sure he’ll never cover cave dwelling creatures who lost vision in adaptations that were quite rapid. The question evolution solves there is, why support a metabolically expensive eye and visual processing in a lightless environment? The advantage goes to the visionless creature, as there is a lower metabolic cost present than in a sighted creature that has no advantage having a visual system to support and no light in which to capitalize upon that system as an advantage.
    The concepts are simple enough – if one unburdens oneself of any silly notion that evolution is guided by anything other than reproductive advantage.

  8. says

    I read Chariots of the Gods as a teenager in the 70s, before I had any real science education, and it wasn’t terribly convincing even then. To summarize, it was a lot of “brown people couldn’t have built the pyramids, therefore aliens.”
    And now he shows his understanding of evolution to be roughly equal to Herschel Walker’s. Still arguing from ignorance. Man, some people just don’t grow.
    Eyeballs? Really? Still on about the eyeballs?

  9. nomaduk says

    As a youngster, I did find myself falling for all sorts of bullshit: ancient astronauts, the Bermuda Triangle, Catholicism … fortunately, I got better. The one thing I do give von Däniken credit for is turning me into an atheist, as Chariots of the Gods was the first book I read that actively promoted the idea that religion was meaningless (yes, I led a pretty sheltered life back then).

    Fortunately, when in the bookstore looking for more ancient astronaut rubbish, I discovered The Space Gods Revealed, a thin little tome by Ronald Story, with an intro by Carl Sagan, that proceeded to demolish everything von Däniken wrote utterly and completely. From there it was on to Larry Kusche’s The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved, and everything Carl Sagan ever wrote.

    I do find it surprising that von Däniken is still at it, but, sadly, not at all surprising that he’s still finding adherents after all this time. Maybe even more than he had before.

  10. says

    Wait. Wait. The subtitle is “A Radical Approach to the Origin and Transformation of Life,” and I have no idea how yet another ID muppet is going to be radical? I assume he knows ID is a thing?

  11. Doc Bill says

    “He’s still alive?” seems to be a common theme here!

    I, too, read Von Däniken in 1968. Summer of Love. Transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the Beatles. I was also a big fan of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Avant Garde magazine that horrified my mother but cost something ridiculous like $5 a year to subscribe.

    Heady times. I worked that summer in a clinical laboratory running blood serum samples through the atomic absorption spectrometer, analyzing GC charts, doing ether extraction of pesticides in alfalfa and more. As a high school junior. No credentials. Yeah, anything was possible – even Mayan astronauts!

    From Wikipedia I thought this was interesting: Von Däniken wrote his second book, Gods from Outer Space, while in prison. (He was a crook to fund his playboy lifestyle.)

  12. says

    I think it was unavoidable that those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s would get exposed to the Chariots of the Gods bullshit. I read it, too, and half of it was wondering “could that be true?” (it wasn’t) and the other half was “that’s baloney.”

  13. ethicsgradient says

    3 things about von Daniken, from his Wikipedia entry:
    1) Like others, I’m amazed he’s still alive. Now 88, and was quite young when he foisted his nonsense on a gullible public in the 60s
    2) He was convicted of fraud at the time, and wrote one of his books while in prison
    3) Douglas Adams had his number:
    “An early version of Colluphid was the character Professor Eric Von Contrick appearing in a December 1979 episode of the BBC radio series The Burkiss Way, which was based on author Erich von Däniken. “Spaceships of the Gods”, “Some more of the Spaceships of the Gods”, “It Shouldn’t Happen to Spaceships of the Gods”. were books by the fictional author who had a Gag Halfrunt-style accent and who is visited in the Adams-written sketch by the aliens to demand a cut of Von Contrick’s profits.”

  14. robro says

    I was introduced to Chariots of the Gods by an art history professor who did a couple of classes on it in 1972. He used a critique of von Daniken’s interpretation of ancient artifacts as a cautionary tale for the class. What von Daniken did is similar to what many early archeologists did, particularly in Palestine, and some later day ones still do: start with a bias influenced by one religion or another and make everything prove your bias.

  15. jenorafeuer says

    I remember Chariots of the Gods, too…

    Also, the first ‘double dactyl’ I remember reading when they were all the rage back in the 1980s was:


    Erich von Däniken
    Wrote of green spacemen who
    Came from afar.

    Next thing you know he’ll say
    Came down to Dallas to
    Murder J.R.
    And that’s about the level of seriousness von Däniken deserves.
    (I think that was published inside Isaac Asimov’s SF Magazine, which my father had a subscription to at the time.)

  16. jenorafeuer says

    I remember Chariots of the Gods, too…

    Also, the first ‘double dactyl’ I remember reading when they were all the rage back in the 1980s was:

    Erich von Däniken
    Wrote of green spacemen who
    Came from afar.

    Next thing you know he’ll say
    Came down to Dallas to
    Murder J.R.

    And that’s about the level of seriousness von Däniken deserves.
    (I think that was published inside Isaac Asimov’s SF Magazine, which my father had a subscription to at the time.)

  17. Pierce R. Butler says

    Even Ernst Haeckel doesn’t deserve the Turnerizing (don’t bother to look that up: bad colorizing) on vD’s book cover.

  18. René says

    I read only parts of one his books (“Waren de goden kosmonauten?”, probably in English as “The Gods Were Astronauts: Evidence of the True Identities of the Old “Gods”), but by age 17 I had a healthy well-developed BS-detector. My schoolfriend who recommended it to me also believed in ESP and such baloney, and intended to study theology.

  19. drsteve says

    I never read E to the von D firsthand, but I always had an affection for him since my freshman high school mythology/literature class was treated to lectures on Chariots of the Gods’ ‘theories’ by our teacher, a weirdo with the vibe of Dan Hedaya playing a car salesman/volunteer football coach.

    In any case, although I am intrigued by his latest application to his own theories of the long-attested link between extraterrestrials and probing, as a UC patient for most of my life I can report that if evolution were a conspiracy, an international cabal of gastroenterologists would make for a more inspired and less cliched big boss villain. 😑

  20. Bruce says

    I would hope that every ninth grader can see that the phrase “evolution is probing” is a metaphor. It is ironic that vonD cannot detect a metaphor after decades, while people such as Jordan Peterson see nothing BUT metaphors. Reminds me of the Bible line that “Jesus is the door…” Every educated person in the day of gay King James knew what a metaphor was.

  21. drsteve says

    But seriously, what I’m trying to get at it is how bewildered I am by his claim that evolutionary theorists assume a process of ‘probing’. . .that is jargon I don’t think I can remember hearding in any evolutionary biology context, including a grad school class on the fundamentals of molecular evolution. Other than an artifact of bad translatiion into English, the best I can make sense of this claim is that ‘probing’ is von Daniken’s bizarre way of characterizing natural selection. Then it’s just another example of the old canard of needlessly assuming a mind to guide a process that can be understood in terms of mathematical models of statistical physics effects which don’t require any consciousness to explain: evolution is no more and no less of a probing process than particle self-sorting in a gravitational field is

  22. StevoR says

    Velikovsky did it better. Still really silly admittedly.

    Sagan’s take down there in Broca’s Brain is epic.

    This sort of stuff makes good science fiction if done well but blurrring the line to mislead and make it out tobe real .. yeah not so good. (Glares at Science channel & esp NASA’s Unexplained Files – a show that really went off the rails but used to be good once if memory serves..

  23. brightmoon says

    @30 I like the cover too. Maybe I’ll try a quilt in those colors. 🤔

  24. brightmoon says

    I don’t read pseudoscience anymore as it annoys me to no end . I remember Chariots of the Gods too. The idea fascinated me but only because I thought it was creative in an 70s Earth Wind and Fire or Parliament Funkadelic stage show type of idea.

  25. mordred says

    @1 Erich wasn’t the original AA guy by a long shot. He copied from others as others would steal from him. Jason Colavito has written some interesting stuff on the connection to H.P Lovecraft and the Theosphists.
    Anyway even early 60s German pulp SF had astronaut gods!

  26. Dan Phelps says

    Erich von Däniken Is one of the people who made me a skeptic when I was about 11. In 1973 or 74, I had an aunt who was into astrology and other occultish bullshit. She knew I was interested in science and gave me a copy of Chariots of the Gods. I recognized not only that most of the claims were wrong and based on misrepresentations, but the style of argument was somehow illogical. I finally figured out that adults were often liars and that books supporting lies could be published with no repercussions. Later in the year, a teacher showed a fake documentary based on Chariots in oceanography class. Another student and myself pointed out numerous cases of lies and bad reasoning. The teacher wasn’t amused, but didn’t do anything overt. Thank you, even if you are a fraud, Erich von Däniken!

  27. Pierce R. Butler says

    d3zd3z @ # 34 – Whoops, I sit corrected. Haeckel may have inflicted those colors on his own work.

    Anybody know if they’re accurate? My search for discomedusae jellyfish images, oddly, turns up mostly drawings, few if any photos.

  28. rietpluim says

    @René #24 – Waren de goden kosmonauten? is the Dutch translation of Chariots of the Gods.

  29. outis says

    Pierce R. Butler @37: that cover image is more or less accurate, they just jazzed it up. The (cheap) repro book from Taschen I have shows the same colours, just less intense.
    It’s table 8 (Discomedusae), and I believe it was used as inspiration by more than one artist, for light fixtures in glass and such. Beautiful lines.
    As for Von Daniken I was also surprised to read that he’s still around. Mountebanks die hard, for instance did ya know that Uri Geller is still at it? Had a show in my city a few years ago, was in the news recently as he was looking for buyers for his really nice house. Grifting pays, alas.

  30. jenorafeuer says

    I remember that bit from Asimov’s discussion on Velikovsky. He’d done the usual pointing out of how the orbital mechanics in Velikovsky’s work was just whack-a-doodle (aside from just the sheer ridiculousness of it all, Venus has one of the most circular orbits in the solar system and there is just no way to go from cometary to circular orbit without messing everything else up) and one of Velikovsky’s followers pretty much made the claim of ‘that’s not your field of expertises, who are you to criticize the great Velikovsky on that?’. So Asimov went and showed that the whole description that was used for ‘manna falling in the desert’ made it clear that Velikovsky didn’t know the difference between a hydrocarbon and a carbohydrate… and then pointed out that his Ph.D. was in biochemistry, so this was his field of expertise. The follower was remarkably silent after that.

  31. birgerjohansson says

    I remember him (I won’t mention the wanker’s name) from my childhood. In the beginning it looked kinda plausible, but when the 15 year old version of me dug deeper it looked kind of stupid.
    I was like the New York can driver Carl Sagan mentioned, curious and eager to believe cool stuff. But in the end the Swizz author turned out to be a grifter.
    I thought he -and the spoon-bender – were long dead, but they are indestructible, like a spot of mould.

  32. wzrd1 says

    PZ @31, so is nicotine. A cigar is a meal, yum! Excuse me, I need to dip a bit more gasoline into my coffee to sweeten it up. Maybe with some ricin spice.
    But, it’s safe and good, because it’s all natural!

    Now, let’s have a thought experiment. You are a space alien with interstellar transportation and you blunder into earth. Observation reveals this topic.
    How stoned out of your mind would you need to be to find it a good idea to land here, rather than burn your interstellar drive to ruination getting the hell away from this madhouse?

  33. birgerjohansson says

    Those born in the seventies and later will be blissfully unfamiliar with this guy, and the spoon-bender guy.

    I do not intend to read this, but I am guessing he uses “Prometheus” as the template for his ideas.
    In which case I wish some real aliens show up and feed him the dark goo.

  34. says

    Now, let’s have a thought experiment. You are a space alien with interstellar transportation and you blunder into earth. Observation reveals this topic.

    I wouldn’t even notice this topic — I’d be to busy observing humans’ longstanding tradition of large-scale mechanized warfare, then I’d GTFO before those savages got hold of my interstellar-drive technology.

    Even if my people didn’t have laws about sensitive technology transfers, I wouldn’t want to be remembered as the dumbass who gave warp-drive to Viking marauders…who already had nuclear weapons…

  35. says

    Y’know, I’m not surprised von Dankien is attacking evolution: that kinda dovetails with his earlier blithering about alien “gods” meddling in early human affairs. Since he’s alleging our ancient “gods” were real (albeit as alien impostors), it would follow that those gods’ creation stories would be at least partially/metaphorically true; which means evolution is at least partly contradicted by those sorta-true-if-you-squint-at-them-right folktales.

    Not sure if that’s the case he’s making in this book (and I’m not bothering to read any of it myself); but it’s kinda logical in the context of von Daniken’s longstanding shtick.

  36. fergl says

    My big sister, who is now a doctor so not stupid, recommended Chariots of fire, I read it and thought it bullshit, not boasting just my closed mind. Caused a fall out for a bit. There is a picture on that book of an alien runway. Been proved the photo is about 2 metres long. The guy is a liar, end of.

  37. fergl says

    My big sister, who is now a doctor so not stupid, recommended Chariots of fire, I read it and thought it bullshit, not boasting just my closed mind. Caused a fall out for a bit. There is a picture on that book of an alien runway. Been proved the photo is about 2 metres long. The guy is a liar, end of.

  38. birgerjohansson says

    @42 spell check sabotage.
    Cab driver, not can driver.

    wzrd1 @ 45
    More important, the cake is a lie!

    Anyway, alien astronauts in the past go back to at least the first story in Stanislaw Lem’s comical anthology “The Star Diaries”, first non-polish edition by Suhrkampf maybe late 1960s.

  39. René says

    @38, Rietpluim: Ken het zijn dat ik u kan? Have we met on a Dutch website (gvd?) before?

  40. birgerjohansson says

    …So the asshole could easily had had the idea by reading a german edition of Lem’s book.

  41. birgerjohansson says

    Haeckel was a lamarckian, and yet anti-evolutionists keep referring to him as part of the lying Darwinist cabal. 😁
    (source: God Awful Movies. A treasure trove of biology)

  42. birgerjohansson says

    Mordred @ 35
    I stand corrected! Ancient astronauts have clearly been around a long time.

  43. R. L. Foster says

    I don’t know why anyone would even bother to parse old Erich’s latest book. It’s all about the money. He knows that there’s a pool of desperate creationists and ID fanatics who will gladly plunk down $16.49 (I checked) to read this self validating nonsense.

  44. Steve Morrison says

    @10: Thanks for pointing out the racist implications of von Däniken’s pseudoscience. For more on the topic, see this post by Spencer McDaniel (the same blogger who recently posted about how Jordan Peterson doesn’t understand ancient languages.)

    @50: The idea does go back farther than that in SF. Stanley Weinbaum used it in his 1934 story “Valley of Dreams.” (It’s available at Project Gutenberg.)

  45. birgerjohansson says

    Steve Morrison @ 58

    Stanley Weinbaum was one of those who died far too early, I think Isaac Asimov wrote about him.
    A lot of early writers had wild ideas, but few had original or good ideas.

  46. nomdeplume says


    Has Daniken now become the most wrong person in history?

  47. birgerjohansson says

    Re @ 57
    Noah and Eli are describing PZ thusly
    “PZ Myers is a nice guy who just wants to sit on a bench and eat a sandwich in peace”.

    (Little do they know the things hidden under the surface) (ominous music)

  48. hemidactylus says

    One upside of Chariots of the Gods was that it combined with Mormon cosmology to form the backstory of Battlestar Galactica.

    I think I got dragged to see Chariots of the Gods at a drive-in in the 70s as a hapless impressionable kid. Couple that with Nimoy’s In Search Of, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man and various other nonsense and I was doomed to believe in a bunch of bullshit.

    That drive-in went full XXX porno a few years later. I was too young to sample that sort of thing at the time. I imagine, given whatever the porn drive-in patrons may have been up to in their cars, citronella coils would have been a bare necessity.

  49. hemidactylus says

    @41- Reginald Selkirk
    Excellent book!!!! Just finished it. I’m glad Larry wrote it. He cuts across the grain of accepted dogma amongst the hyperdarwiniists and science media machine and thoroughly tears ENCODE and its cheerleaders a new one. Well deserved. He deep dove into a bunch of stuff that I had been at least vaguely aware of mostly from my evolution class in the late 90s and following Larry’s clear and detailed posts on and then his blog. I always revered him as one of the balcony muppets.

    One topic I learned quite a bit of new stuff on was spurious transcription and how junk RNA is a thing. Plus he puts the kibosh on alternative splicing of mRNA. I had latched onto that as a sexy topic back in the late 90s thanks to evo-devo, but back then Larry was dubious on it I think. I pinged @PZ on Discord hoping he will chime in at some point. Most of the people I have interacted with are still awaiting their print copies. I got the Kindle edition. There are books I get and start reading only to get distracted by something else. Not Larry’s book. I was hooked from the start.

    Sadly Larry’s book will probably have a much lower impact than the ENCODE hype and the prominent high impact venues that shined that turd. To paraphrase Metallica ‘the light at the end of ENCODE’s tunnel was a freight train of junk coming their way’. I haven’t kept up with the crap Larry had to deal with on editing of Wikipedia articles relevant to his professional forte’. That’s kinda what he’s up against. It should be toward the top of the list of very important must read books on evolutionary biology. Time will tell.

  50. bcw bcw says

    His full name is “If-not-then-what?-Von-Danikin,” since he uses the phrase so many times. He concludes aliens did everything because he doesn’t have the imagination to understand what actually happened.

  51. birgerjohansson says

    Bruce @ 26
    So, in regard to the door, von Däniken would be as dumb as Baldrick in Black Adder?

  52. birgerjohansson says

    Nomdeplume @ 60
    Von Däniken, aliens and “probing”?
    The jokes practically write themselves.

  53. Silentbob says

    @ 68 chigau “””(違う)”””

    What the fuck has that got to do with anything, weeaboo boi? You found an unrelated comedy biker from the 60s with a vaguely similar name. Nobody gives a shit, fuck off.

  54. Silentbob says

    It’s funny how many here have had a similar experience. I remember as a youngster being intrigued by Chariots of the Gods, but not ever a believer. I thought ancient astronauts were a cool idea, but just an idea.

    Then Carl Sagan came along and thoroughly inoculated me, lol. Cosmos, the 1980 original, was something of an epiphany for me, convincing me that actual real evidence based science was way cooler than any sci-fi fantasies. After that I was far more interested in books debunking the ‘Face on Mars’ or other such stuff.

    Pity so many “rational skeptics” turned out later to be sexual assault apologetic misogynists (to this day). But not Sagan. As far as I’m aware (touch wood).

    I remember in the original Cosmos he talked about Hypatia, an Alexandrian mathematician and astronomer, and asked how many other great women could there have been in the history of science (and other fields) if not for sexism. That was in 1980, and it had a lasting impact on me as a teenager. From every account I’ve read he seems to have been a rare “skeptic” who really was a genuine feminist.

  55. ospalh says

    @1, 3:
    Yeah. And still publishing books.
    German Wikipedia says he published
    Alles Evolution – oder was? Argumente für ein radikales Umdenken
    in 2022.
    (Everything evolution – or what? Arguments for a radical re-thinking.)

  56. Dr Sarah says

    Hey, reading terrible books so I can tear them apart is something like 95%+ of what I do on my own blog, so I’m not gonna be the one to talk you out of it. Just remember to buy second-hand if you do buy it so that you aren’t contributing to the stupidity financially.

  57. pacal says

    Regarding No. 40 jenorafeuer:

    I find it very funny that someone would criticize Asimov for dismissing Velikovsky’s account of planetary billiards on the grounds for example that the circularity of the orbit of Venus now would be very, very unlikely if Venus had shot out of Jupiter and then gyrated all over the inner Solar System before settling down. The grounds given being that what the hell did Asimov know about celestial mechanics given that was not his area of expertise? Well what the hell did Velikovsky know about celestial mechanics was that his area of expertise? It wasn’t; Velikovsky was a Psychoanalyst!!, and a dyed in the wool Freudian with more than a dash of Jung. Velikovsky had no expertise credentials in celestial mechanics, Egyptolgy, Geology, Physics, Assyriology and so on and so forth. So why did this person listen to him on those subjects?

    In fact before Velikovsky published World in Collision he published, (1946), Cosmos Without Gravitation in which Velikovsky argued gravity was nonsense and a myth and it was electromagnetic forces that governed Cosmic interaction between stars, planets etc. The arguements and “evidence” that Velikovsky put forth in this work are to put it bluntly ignorant and nonsensical.

    Velikovsky clearly shows that his expertise regarding Celestial mechanics is in fact well into the minus zero area and has such can be dismissed out of hand.

  58. wzrd1 says

    Laughably, there still are some electric universe kooks out there.
    At least I get a laugh in my challenge of gravity. There is no such thing as gravity, the earth sucks.

  59. wzrd1 says

    Oh, and I fart out almighty thunderbolts, so Jupiter is coming at my flatulent maximum or something.