Tag: Bible

Desktop Project Part 7: A new volcano parts the Red Sea. Kinda

By Phil Plait | April 1, 2012 7:00 am

[Over the past few weeks, I’ve collected a metric ton of cool pictures to post, but somehow have never gotten around to actually posting them. Sometimes I was too busy, sometimes too lazy, sometimes they just fell by the wayside… but I decided my computer’s desktop was getting cluttered, and I’ll never clean it up without some sort of incentive. I’ve therefore made a pact with myself to post one of the pictures with an abbreviated description every day until they’re gone, thus cleaning up my desktop, showing you neat and/or beautiful pictures, and making me feel better about my work habits. Enjoy.]

It probably won’t surprise you to hear I’m not exactly a Biblical literalist. Still, parts of the Bible are known to be based on actual events, so when something turns up that sounds like one of the stories come true, it’s not always surprising.

Still, I always figured the parting of the Red Sea was wholly fictional. But now something has turned up hat makes me wonder if it could’ve sparked — literally — the legend: a volcano has poked its head up from above the waters of the Red Sea.

Here’s the scene on October 24, 2007, as seen by the Earth Observing-1 satellite:

[Click to enhaphaestenate.]

That all looks pretty normal. Calm seas, a couple of islands (Haycock Island to the north (left), and Rugged Island to the south, both about a kilometer long), no biggie.

Now take a look at the same scene on December 23, 2011:

[Click to Cecilbdemillenate.]

Holy smoke! Look at that: a whole new volcano! This is happening off the coast of Yemen near a group of islands called the Zubair Group. This region is in a rift zone, where two tectonic plates are pulling apart, so volcanic activity isn’t too surprising.

And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if something like this were the genesis* of the story from Exodus. A big eruption could cause big waves, flooding, disasters on a smallish scale… and over time the story grew, had bits added to it, and next thing you know there’s an overwrought movie with Charlton Heston yelling at the water and shaking a stick at it.

To me, the story of science is always better than the ones we humans make up or embellish, though. Look at that: a brand new volcano, born right before our eyes, and all courtesy of space travel, satellites, good detectors, and a burning, unending desire to understand the world better.

There’s a revelation for you.

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team.


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures, Religion

Are the Ten Commandments really the basis for our laws?

By Phil Plait | June 8, 2010 7:00 am

As we ramp up to the mid-term elections in November 2010 — sure to be just a warmup to the insanity that will be the Presidential election in 2012 — you can bet your bottom shekel that we’ll be hearing from a lot of "family values" politicians decrying our lack of morality. That’s de rigeur for any election, but every cycle it seems to get worse.

heston_10commandmentsA lot of these claim that the United States is either a Christian nation — a ridiculous and easily-disprovable notion — or that it was founded on Judeo-Christian principles (the "Judeo" part is a giveaway that these politicians are Leviticans: they seem to keep their noses buried more in the fiery wrath of the Old Testament than in the actually gentle, politically-correct teachings of Jesus… more on this later, promise). Specifically, they claim quite often that our laws are based on the Ten Commandments.

I was thinking about this recently. People seem to accept that our laws are based on the morals of the Old Testament laid out in the Commandments, but as a proper skeptic, I decided to take a look myself. Why not go over the Commandments, said I to myself, and compare them to our actual laws, as well as the Constitution, the legal document framed by the Founding Fathers, and upon which our laws are actually based?

So I did*.

For those of you not familiar with the Bible — which includes many politicians most willing to thump it, it seems — what follows is the relevant passage from Exodus 20 in the King James Version. I found it online at the University of Michigan’s Digital Library, which matches other online versions I found. Note: apparently, God said some other stuff interspersed among the Commandments, a sort of legal commentary to stress the aspects He felt important. I have highlighted the actual Commandments below.

Let’s take a look:

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