Prof Dr Heinz-Günther Nesselrath (Göttingen) has committed a severe breach of trust. I have to tell this in chronological order.
Until recently I lived with the impression that there are on the one hand severe disagreements between Heinz-Günther Nesselrath and me, but that there is on the other hand also a rudimentary level of mutual respect. Nesselrath always applied a certain level of irony in his communication with me, but factual arguments were definitively in focus in our exchange. Nesselrath even welcomed or even took over some of my views! You cannot expect more when you are following the idea that Plato's Atlantis may have been a real place. This was OK.
On 13 March 2021, my Atlantis Newsletter No. 157 was published (link below), about Nesselrath and his criticism of Tony O'Connell, the author of the Web site Atlantipedia. I dared to write e.g. that
"Heinz-Guenther Nesselrath plays on the missing knowledge of his opponent. He easily debunks certain statements, as if they were completely nonsense, and provides the impression that just the opposite is true. He achieves this by avoiding own statements on the matter and by asking wide-open rhetorical questions. If you have more knowledge on the matter, you would realize that there are differentiated answers to these questions. Answers which would show that O'Connell's statements are not complete nonsense.
I wonder now if this quick-and-dirty way of making arguments is acceptable under ethical considerations? Are such arguments helpful for less educated readers? Which misunderstandings may occur by Nesselrath's way of arguing? Would Nesselrath like to have these arguments cited in other contexts? And last but not least: This style reminds very much of the terrible rhetorical questions of Franz Susemihl, the founder of academic Atlantis denialism, who betrayed himself and others by his Romanticism."
These words made Heinz-Günther Nesselrath exploding.
In an e-mail only 40 minutes later, Nesselrath wrote to me that I allegedly had "completely rampantly pounced on him" in this newsletter (German original: "und dann fallen Sie ... völlig ungehemmt über mich her"). This extreme reaction cannot be explained by my words in the newsletter. Obviously I had hit a nerve. Nesselrath must have felt caught applying dirty methods, I guess.
But this was only the beginning.
On the same 13 March 2021, Heinz-Günther Nesselrath uploaded his Bologna talk from April 2017 (!), not known to me until then, in which he had lumped me together with the pseudoscientific Atlantologist Graham Hanock. Just imagine! Thus I am handed over by Nesselrath to the most ridiculous ridicule, and my contribution to science is simply negated! By him, Nesselrath, who has taken over certain views from me. And not only this, Nesselrath depicted me even as more ignorant than Graham Hancock! Nesselrath provided the impression that I am boasting and bragging like typical pseudoscientific Atlantologists do, or that I would fall for superficial interpretations, premature conclusions and other typical thought traps of pseudoscientific Atlantologists. The impression that I would believe that the "Atlantis thalassa" of Herodotus had something to do with Plato's Atlantis, because of the word "Atlantis"! That I had tried to make Herodotus a "crown witness" for Atlantis! Herodotus who did not write a single line about Atlantis. And my whole idea of historical criticism is not mentioned while Graham Hancock is praised because he "preserved" the 9,000 years of Atlantis (by his pseudoscientific literalist reading, but this is not explained by Nesselrath) while I allegedly "ignored" the 9,000 years (because of historical criticism, but this is not explained either). Now, this is really, really dirty.
And this talk was held in 2017. This means that Nesselrath had left me at least four years (!) with the wrong impression of a more or less fair though distanced and sometimes a bit ironic exchange of opinions. Nesselrath continued this exchange of arguments with me even after (!) his Bologna talk, and it was really an exchange of arguments, e.g. in his "Bemerkungen" from 2017 about my book "Kritische Geschichte" from 2016, which he made known to me on 10 July 2018. And while he wrote in his "Bemerkungen", that it has to be waited for the publication of Franke's Atlantis hypothesis (German: "Es kann hier nicht um eine Auseinandersetzung mit dieser These gehen; dazu ist Frankes angekündigte Publikation abzuwarten."), he in truth already had stopped waiting (!) in his Bologna talk and had – yes! – rampantly pounced on me. And while he usually criticizes Vidal-Naquet's book, partially agreeing with me on that, he recommends this book in his Bologna talk but leaves my "Kritische Geschichte" book, which clarifies many mistakes of Vidal-Naquet, completely unmentioned, i.e. the book of the person about whom he is holding this talk. This all is a game of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Very dirty again. And after four years, the damage cannot be contained anymore.
Stepping deeper into the swamp:
I tried a dry and factual answer to Nesselrath's Bologna talk on 14 March 2021 with a very reluctant conclusion: "Normally, the author of this talk is a subtle author providing fruitful insights. Yet this time, something must have driven him away from his usual ways of arguing. In this talk Heinz-Günther Nesselrath has not lived up to the ideal of science."
But instead of rethinking, Heinz-Günther Nesselrath only continued escalating, now with his response under the speaking title "On Praising Oneself and Bashing Others" from 21 March 2021. Again, I wrote a still mostly factual answer in a bullet list on 22 March 2021, but this time I cautiously added the words that Nesselrath's attack is "irrational and insulting", concluding that "Nesselrath avoided to admit anything, although this is his duty. He only stepped deeper into the swamp."
Then only silence from the other side.
I did not escalate this.
And I am stunned by the evil I see.
Nesselrath's objectively dirty way of acting and arguing constitutes a severe breach of trust. It seems that Heinz-Günther Nesselrath believes that everything is allowed when it is against persons whom he arbitrarily and sweepingly judges to be "Atlantologists". This is immoral.
It is also harmful for science itself, since uncomfortable questions arise: Are scientists such as Nesselrath able to defend their views on Atlantis only by dirty means as soon as somebody comes along and questions their doctrines who cannot as easily be refuted as a Graham Hancock? It is indeed hard to imagine that the Bologna talk was held because of a Graham Hancock. About the latest books of Erich von Däniken Nesselrath does not give lectures either. The announcement of the talk spoke of "recent attempts (mainly by German Atlantologists)". But there was talk only of one German alleged "Atlantologist", namely of me. The Bologna talk was obviously held because of me and me alone, and Graham Hancock was mentioned only in order to lump me together with him. – Another uncomfortable question is whether it is silly and naive to expect scientists to live up to the ideal of science? Shall we just accept Nesselrath's behaviour as "normal"?! More uncomfortable questions pop up: Does Nesselrath's behaviour confirm the opinion of pseudoscientists that real-existing academia is no undertaking to get closer to the truth but only a game of power and influence? Is it true, in the end, that academic scholars form a conspiracy to suppress unwanted opinions?
To say it clear: I do not believe such pseudoscientific conspiracy theories. I always was clear on that. I am not playing the pseudoscientists' game. But one thing must be clear, too: With the claim of being a scientist and to produce science, you cannot behave like a wild boar in the woods wallowing in dirty swamps.
Let us summarize Nesselrath's wrongdoings:
It is hurting my soul, but it is not possible to ignore what happened. We cannot just move on now and go back to business as usual. The evil itself unfolded before our eyes. And the evil has to be wiped off the face of the earth. Plato gives us the method how to do this in his Atlantis dialogue Critias: "And the correct penalty is to bring into tune him that is out of tune." (Critias 106b; translation RG Bury). Heinz-Günther Nesselrath has to step back from his wrongdoings by openly admitting his wrongdoings, there is no other way out. It is not an option to grant mercy where there is no remorse.
It is not my will but the dictate of the circumstances, that Heinz-Günther Nesselrath is condemned until he sincerely changes his mind. Or to say it with Lessing's Ring parable: Nesselrath has just thrown away his ring.
The door will always be open for Heinz-Günther Nesselrath to come back to our side, to the side of of humanism, dignity, duty, order, rationality and compassion. But the entrance card back to trust is not for free.
Atlantis Newsletter No. 157, 13 March 2021:
Unfolding of events after the newsletter:
Bologna talk 2017 – My Review – His Response – My Response in PS to Review.