Thursday, April 9, 2009

Religion and Science Joined by Wadsworth

An interesting article on Slate today. It talks about scientific explanations for events in the Bible. None of this is terribly important, of course, if you believe that religious texts are more about philosophical wisdom and morality than they are about historical accuracy.

But since a lot of people think it is vitally important that every word of the Good Book be interpreted to be literally true, these scientific explanations can be kind of fun. It seems to me a little like Tim Curry running around at the end of Clue explaining who killed who. The best passage is about the plagues.

Before he parted whatever sea it was he parted, the Bible describes Moses and his brother Aaron delivering 10 plagues on the people of Egypt. The Nile turns to blood, all the fish die, frogs are brought forth abundantly, and so on. Drawing on theology, Egyptology, and biology, epidemiologist John Marr developed a "domino theory" to explain each of the 10 plagues in order. Marr believes the plagues were a series of natural disasters and diseases triggered by a bloom of water-borne organisms called dinoflagellates. The dinoflagellates turned the Nile red and killed the frog-eating fish, which in turn caused a population explosion among frogs. The tainted water eventually killed the frogs, causing lice and flies to run rampant, which lead to a number of animal diseases (including African horse sickness) and an outbreak of boils (fancy glanders). This reign of disaster and disease continued through hail, locusts (Schistocerca gregaria, to be precise), and sandstorms until the death of the firstborn sons, which Marr thinks was caused by grain infected with mycotoxins. Others, building on Marr's domino theory, argue that the plagues were triggered by the eruption of the Greek island of Santorini, causing a string of disasters such as those that occurred at Lake Nyos, Cameroon, in 1986.
And then Moses hit Pharaoh with a candlestick in the study.

1 comment:

bigsmithdude said...

and i always thought it was Cain in the study with a deuteronomy


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