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Skepticism Courtesy Of The Daily Mail … Seriously.

The Daily Mail (TDM) is a rag. This should come as a surprise to no one. TDM loves to spew forth articles about aliens, UFO’s, crop circles, ghosts, and all other sorts of fantasies that impress most children and far too many adults. This as well should come as a surprise to almost no one (certainly no one in the active skeptical community.)

But today I came across this article in TDM which, ‘lo and behold, offers some actual skepticism towards the article’s subject.  I literally had to do a double-take to make sure I wan’t imagining it.

The headline reads:  

Is this an alien skull? Mystery of giant-headed mummy found in Peru

Typical TDM garbage, right? Yep, but if you have the patience to stop for 30 seconds and read it, you will find a diamond in the rough. But in order to do so, you have to get through sentences such as:

Davila Riquelme said three anthropologists, from Spain and Russia, arrived at the museum last week to investigate the findings and agreed it was ‘not a human being’ and would conduct further studies.

And this gem …

The remains bear a striking resemblance to the triangular crystal skull in the 2008 Indiana Jones film Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – which turned out to be of alien origin and have supernatural powers.

But then something amazing happens.  Dare I say “miraculous”.  TDM offers an entirely different possibility, one rooted in reason and history without having to rely on assumptions.  

The alternative explanation for the bizarre discovery is that the skull was artificially deformed as part of a tribal ritual. The practice of skull elongation – to signify group affiliation or social status – dates back 9,000 years. Common in various tribal cultures around the world (such as Mayans, North American natives and Australian Aborigines), the 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. The cloth would be applied from a month after birth and be held in place for about six months.

As we know, the option requiring the fewest assumptions is the most likely to be true.  But is TDM really helping make this skeptical point?  Whether they know it or not, they are doing just that, and they should be credited for it accordingly.

If offering legitimate opposing options when reporting on paranormal crap became a habit for TDM, then I might one day have to add them to my regular reading list.





4 comments to Skepticism Courtesy Of The Daily Mail … Seriously.

  • […] I just Posted this I wrote it a couple of days ago, and found this post, where Evan Bernstein comments on a Daily Mail article about the mummy. Though I agree with Mr. […]

  • I just finished writing about this case myself, then popped on here to find this! This case isn’t that different from the Starchild skull that Dr. Novella wrote about a few years back. Cradle boarding and hydrocephalus can explain them both.

    Though it was nice to see the sidebar on Cranial Modification (which if anyone has not seen, you should go take a look at it: the Wikipedia page is pretty good, but the pictures from a simple google image search are amazing), the bit about the teeth being from both a child and adult seems a little strange. I can’t tell from the picture that well, but it seems to me that the skull is missing both it’s central and lateral incisors, and it’s canines, which places the “large teeth” seen in the pictures in the adult per-molars should be, but as those look like molars to me the position would make them deciduous molars- and therefore evidence of a child not an adult.

    But then again, my standards of journalistic inquiry may be too high for TDM.

    Anyways, thanks for bring this one up.

  • Not to rag on the hopefulness of this post, but as a long-time critic and observer of the DM, I can tell you that they often write something slightly more reasonable right at the end of their articles (especially inflammatory ones, not so much pseudoscientific ones). This is because they know studies have shown that when people read articles, most only tend to read the headline and the opening few paragraphs. As the article continues, readership tails off dramatically.

    This way, the DM and other tabloids can say whatever they like, stir up a ruckus but also include the ‘responsible’ counterpoint within the article, in case anyone calls them on it.

    I admit, in this case, the counter point is in a big orange box, which is a step up.

  • […] og fremst er det ille fordi Dagbladet helt ukritisk gjengir en sak fra Daily Mail, en avis som ikke akkurat er kjent for sin journalistiske integritet. Det er forståelig at det kan være fristende å kaste seg over en slik sak, fordi det gir mange […]

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