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posted by martyb on Wednesday December 10 2014, @06:11AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the pillar-of-fire dept.

Bruce Parker, the former chief scientist of NOAA’s National Ocean Service and currently a visiting professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, reports in the Wall Street Journal that there is a natural explanation for how a temporary path across the Red Sea could have been revealed that that doesn't involve biblical miracles. The explanation involves the tide, a natural phenomenon that would have fit nicely into a well-thought-out plan by Moses, because Moses would have been able to predict when it would happen. In the biblical account, the children of Israel were camped on the western shore of the Gulf of Suez when the dust clouds raised by Pharaoh’s chariots were seen in the distance. The Israelites were now trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. The dust clouds, however, were probably an important sign for Moses; they would have let him calculate how soon Pharaoh’s army would arrive at the coast. Moses had lived in the nearby wilderness in his early years, and he knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. He knew the night sky and the ancient methods of predicting the tide, based on where the moon was overhead and how full it was. Pharaoh and his advisers, by contrast, lived along the Nile River, which is connected to the almost tideless Mediterranean Sea. They probably had little knowledge of the tides of the Red Sea and how dangerous they could be

Interestingly enough Moses was not the only leader to cross the Gulf of Suez at low tide. In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte and a small group of soldiers on horseback crossed the Gulf of Suez, the northern end of the Red Sea, roughly where Moses and the Israelites are said to have crossed. On a mile-long expanse of dry sea bottom exposed at low water, the tide suddenly rushed in, almost drowning them. When Napoleon and his forces almost drowned in 1798, the water typically rose 5 or 6 feet at high tide (and up to 9 or 10 feet with the wind blowing in the right direction). But there is evidence that the sea level was higher in Moses’ time. As a result, the Gulf of Suez would have extended farther north and had a larger tidal range. If that was indeed the case, the real story of the Israelites’ crossing wouldn’t have needed much exaggeration to include walls of water crashing down on the pursuing Egyptians.

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  • (Score: 2) by mhajicek on Wednesday December 10 2014, @06:13AM

    by mhajicek (51) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @06:13AM (#124530)

    He forked it.

    • (Score: 1) by maxwell demon on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:56AM

      by maxwell demon (1608) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:56AM (#124562) Journal

      But afterwards, it got merged again.

      --
      The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 2) by Bot on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:48AM

        by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:48AM (#124592) Journal

        The terrifying last scream of the Pharaoh: EVERYBODY ROLLBACK!!!!

        --
        Account abandoned.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @06:38AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @06:38AM (#124542)

    SEE? Science proves God!!1

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:06AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:06AM (#124550)

    ... there is some horseshit somewhere...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:10AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:10AM (#124551)

      *Shhh*, just because we don't believe them doesn't mean we have to provoke them ;-)

      • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Wednesday December 10 2014, @06:48PM

        by bob_super (1357) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @06:48PM (#124811)

        I read the same "tide" explanation a couple decades ago. Glad to hear someone still gets funded to get to the same conclusion.

        My Red Sea Parting explanation:
          - Considering the existence of a cool phenomenon, it wouldn't be surprising for local to make stories about it. "Dude, when the water clears up, wouldn't it be so cool if you ran across, and the bad guy chasing you got drowned? Gimme another beer"
          - Civilizations (esp. dictators) all over the globe have been known to use exotic local stories to embellish their narrative.
          - Whether Moses was real and Batman-good at timing large crowd movements, or someone just put on paper some popular story that a cool grandpa would tell his grandchildren in the long desert nights, it found its way into the collective consciousness.
        Isn't that how most legends come to last?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:24AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:24AM (#124555)

    There is no historical evidence for Jews ever being slaves in Egypt.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:37AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:37AM (#124556)

      http://ancientegypt.wikia.com/wiki/Slavery [wikia.com]

      It's pretty conclusive that there were Jewish slaves in Ancient Egypt.

      While the bible is greatly exaggerated, many things like exodus are relatively possible.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @10:46AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @10:46AM (#124608)

        An unsourced article by anonymous writers... wow, I'm convinced now! My totally awesome historically accurate sources [wikia.com] agree with that fact so it must be true!

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:06PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:06PM (#124728)

        Your linked article says exactly the opposite.

        "According to Flavious Josephus, the Hyksos were Jews, leading to one of the few possible explantions for Jewish Enslavement, as there has never been any clear archaeological evidence for the Exodous. The name Hyksos was used by the Egyptian historian Manetho (fl. 300 bce), who, according to the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (fl. 1st century ce), translated the word as “king-shepherds” or “captive shepherds.” Josephus himself wished to demonstrate the great antiquity of the Jews and thus identified the Hyksos with the Hebrews of the Bible. Hyksos was in fact probably an Egyptian term for “rulers of foreign lands” (heqa-khase), and it almost certainly designated the foreign dynasts rather than a whole nation."

    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:24PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:24PM (#124737)

      Wasn't slavery common there at the time? The Jews may not have been singled out, but I bet there was a decent population of [insert regional culture] slaves. Give that a few dozen generations of storytelling, especially among a culture that seems to have an attachment to the victim narrative, and before you know it it was a dramatic culture-spanning ordeal. Hell, by that point *everyone* probably has a slave in their direct ancestry, so in a sense it was. That is, unless you really enjoyed yet again listening to Grandpa telling the same damn story about how much harder they had it in the old days.

      Sort of like how the oral tradition describing tsunamis, which, taken in aggregate, would have periodically flooded pretty much every coastal community on a semi-regular basis (on historic timescales) without warning or mercy. Give that a few dozen generations of oral tradition and the whole world flooded at once. I mean all your trade partners have legends of a Flood as well, and what are the odds that such a horrific, improbable thing happened more than once? Sure, only the coastal cultures have the legend, but that was most of the more advanced cultures - and who would expect those inland-dwelling savages to keep records that far back?

    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Wednesday December 10 2014, @08:55PM

      by HiThere (866) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @08:55PM (#124861) Journal

      There's reasonable evidence, all that would actually be expected, that there were jewish slaves (the Habiri) in Egypt. It's also not implausible that Moses was the result of an "indiscretion" by some Egyptian noble who didn't want to acknowledge it. OTOH, it's also a pretty near duplicate of the story of the childhood of Sargon of Akkad, so you pays your money and you takes your chances. For other evidence, the golden calf was the Egyptian god Apis. There are lots of other minor bits of evidence. It's purely a guess, however, that Moses was the illegitimate half-brother of Ikhnaton (Akhenaton), though it seems quite plausible that they both had the same religious indoctrination...which probably means the same teacher. Also it would explain why the Egyptian government didn't reinforce the government of the territory of Cannan when the local governor requested assistance against the assaults of the "Habiri".

      So, yes, it's not proof. But it's quite a reasonable assertion. The only problem is the timing doesn't work out. The Egyptian records are quite specific as to date, but they can't be reconciled with any 40 years wandering in the desert.

      --
      Javascript is what you use to allow unknown third parties to run software you have no idea about on your computer.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:34PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:34PM (#124874)

        Baseless assertions don't make your case. Historians regard the Exodus story as mythical. See modern references here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_in_Egypt [wikipedia.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @10:23PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @10:23PM (#124884)

      great. first we have holocaust deniers. now exodus deniers. you anti-Semitic insensitive clod!

  • (Score: 2) by Arik on Wednesday December 10 2014, @08:57AM

    by Arik (4543) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @08:57AM (#124582) Journal
    That's all well and good (except for the suggestion that the Egyptians were ignorant of the area which had been theirs for centuries and is right next door to their Lower Egypt core, that's a bit absurd) but you're talking about the Red Sea.

    By contrast, the body of water in question is actually the *Reed Sea.*

    --
    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:28AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:28AM (#124586)

      There is plenty of discussion of this and it is simply not known if the water in quesiton was the Red Sea of a lake to the north known as the Reed sea. Many religeous people have prefered the Red Sea and view the Reed Sea translation as an attack on the miraculous nature of the story but this doesnt mean either one or the other is correct.

      This page is reasonably balanced http://www.ucg.org/science/bible-and-archaeology-red-sea-or-reed-sea/ [ucg.org]

  • (Score: 2) by Bot on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:56AM

    by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:56AM (#124596) Journal

    Let's assume the account in the Bible is true, technically speaking, the objective was to save Moses, and a naturally closing sea on the Egyptians is quite a remarkable coincidence.
    So what science did is that the hypothetical God didn't break his own laws to save Moses, OR that the Jews had a favourable coincidence without which we would not be hearing about them after all these years.
    "Science explains there was no miracle" is a wacky statement on a scientific level.

    --
    Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 2) by Bot on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:59AM

      by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 10 2014, @09:59AM (#124597) Journal

      I did not explain myself enough: even if Moses could exactly predict when the sea would close, it would not have helped at all if the Pharaoh did not move at the wrong time for him.

      --
      Account abandoned.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @10:13AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @10:13AM (#124600)

        So you don't think Moses could have planned the exodus so that they arrive at the Red Sea just at the right time? After all, the speed of an army isn't completely unpredictable either.

        • (Score: 2) by Sir Garlon on Wednesday December 10 2014, @02:25PM

          by Sir Garlon (1264) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @02:25PM (#124659)

          The difference between coincidence and miracle is exactly the difference between skepticism and faith. Of course it's possible the whole exodus was meticulous planned by Moses and his aides-de-camp. Some might also say it's possible that the hand of God made sure those plans executed smoothly. That latter is a non-falsifiable hypothesis, and that's where the debate lies.

          There's no way for anyone to "win" that debate because, ultimately, faith is independent of reason. (Some would say faith is antithetical to reason but that's basically hate speech. Occam's Razor was invented by a monk.)

          TFA has a lot more benefit for a religious person than a irreligious one. A religious person can read TFA and be reassured that the scientific understanding of the laws of physics is compatible with the Biblical account. Believing in Big Miracles like the parting of the Red Sea is very challenging because it flies in the face of everything reason tells us.

          Even though TFA will likely cause more affirmation of faith than it will cause abandonment of faith, it should only be regarded as a win for science. It supports the mountain of evidence that science works, bitches [xkcd.com] and removes a source of tension between rationality and faith. Several famous scientists -- Einstein and Feynman for sure -- have argued that faith and reason are fully compatible. Here's another data point in support of their position. The only losers here are the opponents of reason, who claim faith as their motivation but whom I frequently suspect of ulterior motives.

          --
          [Sir Garlon] is the marvellest knight that is now living, for he destroyeth many good knights, for he goeth invisible.
        • (Score: 2) by Bot on Thursday December 11 2014, @03:20PM

          by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Thursday December 11 2014, @03:20PM (#125076) Journal

          I think you could not plan such a timely exodus taking into consideration the waking up (possibly announced by a double agent) and time spent organizing the pursuit and time needed to get there just in time to be washed away. Too much variables involved. You could not do it today either.

          --
          Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Wednesday December 10 2014, @05:40PM

      by nitehawk214 (1304) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @05:40PM (#124790)

      Presuppositionalist arguments are batty. "Let's assume the account in the Bible is true"... Well why the hell should we do that?

      --
      "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11 2014, @03:16PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 11 2014, @03:16PM (#125072)

        You are aware that one of the main proof methods in mathematics starts with "let's assume [statement to be proven false] is true"?

        Assumptions (no matter whether they turn out to be true or false, and no matter whether they are expected to be true or false in the beginning) are one of the main tools of science. If you forbid them, you forbid science.

        The only thing one should never do is confuse assumptions with established facts.

        • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Tuesday December 16 2014, @07:03PM

          by nitehawk214 (1304) on Tuesday December 16 2014, @07:03PM (#126584)

          This is not math. But you are right, I think most of my complaint is that people present assumptions as fact.

          --
          "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
      • (Score: 2) by Bot on Saturday December 13 2014, @10:43PM

        by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 13 2014, @10:43PM (#125844) Journal

        Given that the entire article is an interpretation of the supposed parting of the sea, I find pointless to contribute something to the topic by dismissing it.

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        Account abandoned.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @11:39AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @11:39AM (#124613)

    I can see how whiling away the off-ours in a search for reasonable explanations for various legends, myths and cheap parlor tricks would be entertaining to some folks, but it's just fun and games. It doesn't change the fact is that religious fairy tales are about as intellectually rigorous as J.K. Rowling or C.S. Lewis.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @11:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @11:41AM (#124614)

      Off-hours, not off ours. Bad typing there. Sorry.

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by theluggage on Wednesday December 10 2014, @03:54PM

      by theluggage (1797) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @03:54PM (#124719)

      It doesn't change the fact is that religious fairy tales are about as intellectually rigorous as J.K. Rowling or C.S. Lewis.

      Hang on there! There is plenty of reliable historical evidence that a major European conflict around 1940 caused English children to be evacuated to the country exactly as described in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". At the time, large wooden cupboards called "wardrobes" were commonly used to store clothes, and there are contemporary accounts of children hiding in them as part of a game called "hide and seek". There was certainly a confectionary called "Turkish delight" available in that time period.

      Meanwhile, a lot of the misinformation spread by Potter-deniers about the non-existence of Platform 9 3/4 at Kings Cross station can be explained if the station being described was, in fact, St Pancras (as depicted in the limited video evidence available) and not Kings Cross. Since St Pancras was being extensively re-built during Potter's lifetime, the existence of a temporary platform between 9 and 10 is quite plausible. Events at the Ministry of Magic in the later chronicles clearly refer to the so-called "trojan horse" educational scandal in early 21st century Britain.

      This is all typical of the continual attempts by meta-pre-radical-neo-post-liberalists to deny the historical importance of figures such as Robin Hood, James Bond, Doctor Who and Snowdon Assange by invoking the pseudo-scentific dogma of "confirmation bias" to wave away all the evidence of their existence.

    • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:23PM

      by tangomargarine (667) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:23PM (#124736)

      It doesn't change the fact is that religious fairy tales are about as intellectually rigorous as J.K. Rowling or C.S. Lewis.

      If by "fairy tales" you mean "miracles"...yeah, that's tautologically correct. Miracles are by definition not explainable by science.

      --
      "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
  • (Score: 2) by ghost on Wednesday December 10 2014, @01:30PM

    by ghost (4467) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @01:30PM (#124638) Journal
    How can I ban this Hugh Pickens shit? Why isn't there a preference to ban him (and, G-d forbid, frequent contributor Bennett Hasselton).
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @02:53PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @02:53PM (#124675)
      You mean you're not looking forward to the article offering a scientific explanation of how Paul Bunyan cut down the entire Pacific Northwest without actually having been a giant?
    • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:02PM

      by Phoenix666 (552) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:02PM (#124725) Journal

      I feel this pain, and yet I recall that Jon Katz helped take /. from a small board to a big one back in the day. So many panned his posts then, but when it came to Columbine I really felt that he contributed the right thing at the right time and helped a lot of people. Is Hugh Pickens the same here, now? Maybe. But it takes many people to build an institution, and not always in the ways that you might expect or that you might be entirely comfortable with.

      Abstract the people you like to hang out with from the people who have pushed the envelope and made the world a better place through their dysfunction. Very, very few of the people who've done the latter would qualify as people you'd like to know or even encounter in a bar. They're nuts. They're offensive. They're people who say and do things that offend your God and mother. And so often we learn that though those people made the world categorically better for everyone else through their contributions, they themselves died despised, penniless, friendless, and in despair.

      I submit, for consideration, that not everyone who can change your world for the better is somebody you'd like to know or to talk to. I submit that many of the people you imagine are nice to talk to and know, aren't.

      --
      Washington DC delenda est.
      • (Score: 2) by nitehawk214 on Wednesday December 10 2014, @05:21PM

        by nitehawk214 (1304) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @05:21PM (#124776)

        I disagree with you on Jon Katz... I was one of the ones happy you could block an editor's posts when they brought that in. And I disagree that Hasselton and Pickens are even Katz's league of at least being useful.

        --
        "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
      • (Score: 1) by ghost on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:02PM

        by ghost (4467) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:02PM (#124819) Journal
        Jon Katz was a /. "editor", IIRC, so you could block his shit. Just like Zonk ("Games Should Be Like Female Orgasms") and his shitty game reviews.
      • (Score: 1) by ghost on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:06PM

        by ghost (4467) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @07:06PM (#124820) Journal
        ... although I do look forward to Hugh "picken" off a bunch of high school students with bolt-action 30-06 (or "fully automatic assault rifle", as the press will refer to it). Ponca City will never be the same.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Immerman on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:33PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:33PM (#124745)

      Actually it's very easy: Whenever you see the name of your despised submitter of choice as the *very first line* in the summary - skip it. You have then successfully banned their submission from your awareness. If enough people do such a thing it'll quickly become obvious that Submitter X's submissions have no conversation-generating appeal and they'll either improve or stop getting posted.

      Oh, wait, you just want to be able to unilaterally ban your personal list of pariahs? That's easy too: piss off.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:47PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @04:47PM (#124756)

      Just be grateful we don't have Cold Fjord (yet).

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @03:52PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10 2014, @03:52PM (#124715)

    ...the Israelites walked through on dry ground...did science explain that? (no I did not RTFriendlyA)