By Pierce J. Flynn, Ph.D.
I perceive in Forbidden Archeology an important work of thoroughgoing scholarship and intellectual adventure. Forbidden Archeology ascends and descends into the realms of the human construction of scientific "fact" and theory: postmodern territories that historians, philosophers, and sociologists of scientific knowledge are investigating with increasing frequency.
Recent studies of the emergence of Western scientific knowledge accentuate that "credible" knowledge is situated at an intersection between physical locales and social distinctions. Historical, sociological, and ethnomethodological studies of science by scholars such as Harry Collins, Michael Mulkay, Steven Shapin, Thomas Kuhn, Harold Garfinkel, Michael Lynch, Steve Woolgar, Andrew Pickering, Bruno Latour, Karin Knorr-Cetina, Donna Haraway, Allucquere Stone, and Malcolm Ashmore all point to the observation that scientific disciplines, be they paleoanthropology or astronomy, "manufacture knowledge" through locally constructed representational systems and practical devices for making their discovered phenomenon visible, accountable, and consensual to a larger disciplinary body of tradition. As Michael Lynch reminds us, "scientists construct and use instruments, modify specimen materials, write articles, make pictures and build organizations."
With exacting research into the history of anthropological discovery, Cremo and Thompson zoom in on the epistemological crisis of the human fossil record, the process of disciplinary suppression, and the situated scientific handling of "anomalous evidence" to build persuasive theory and local institutions of knowledge and power.
In Cremo and Thompson’s words, archeological and paleoanthropological "‘facts’ turn out to be networks of arguments and observational claims" that assemble a disciplines "truth" regardless, at times, of whether there is any agreed upon connection to the physical evidence or to the actual work done at the physical site of discovery. This perspective, albeit radical, accords with what I see as the best of the new work being done in studies of scientific knowledge.
Forbidden Archeology does not conceal its own positioning on a relativist spectrum of knowledge production. The authors admit to their own sense of place in a knowledge universe with contours derived from personal experience with Vedic philosophy, religious perception, and Indian cosmology. Their intriguing discourse on the "Evidence for Advanced Culture in Distant Ages" is light-years from "normal" Western science, and yet provokes a cohesion of probative thought.
In my view, it is just this openness of subjective positioning that makes Forbidden Archeology an original and important contribution to postmodern scholarly studies now being done in sociology, anthropology, archeology, and the history of science and ideas. The authors’ unique perspective provides postmodern scholars with an invaluable parallax view of historical scientific praxis, debate, and development.
Pierce J. Flynn, Ph.D.
Department of Arts and Sciences
California State University
San Marcos, Calif., U.S.A.