Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Bible as good history again: Egyptian plagues really happened, say scientists

Global warming in ancient Egypt?? But the Warmists tell us that it is all recent and unprecedented!

The Biblical plagues that devastated Ancient Egypt in the Old Testament were the result of global warming and a volcanic eruption, scientists have claimed.

Researchers believe they have found evidence of real natural disasters on which the ten plagues of Egypt, which led to Moses freeing the Israelites from slavery in the Book of Exodus in the Bible, were based. But rather than explaining them as the wrathful act of a vengeful God, the scientists claim the plagues can be attributed to a chain of natural phenomena triggered by changes in the climate and environmental disasters that happened hundreds of miles away.

They have compiled compelling evidence that offers new explanations for the Biblical plagues, which will be outlined in a new series to be broadcast on the National Geographical Channel on Easter Sunday.

Archaeologists now widely believe the plagues occurred at an ancient city of Pi-Rameses on the Nile Delta, which was the capital of Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Rameses the Second, who ruled between 1279BC and 1213BC. The city appears to have been abandoned around 3,000 years ago and scientists claim the plagues could offer an explanation.

Climatologists studying the ancient climate at the time have discovered a dramatic shift in the climate in the area occurred towards the end of Rameses the Second's reign. By studying stalagmites in Egyptian caves they have been able to rebuild a record of the weather patterns using traces of radioactive elements contained within the rock. They found that Rameses reign coincided with a warm, wet climate, but then the climate switched to a dry period.

Professor Augusto Magini, a paleoclimatologist at Heidelberg University's institute for environmental physics, said: "Pharaoh Rameses II reigned during a very favourable climatic period. "There was plenty of rain and his country flourished. However, this wet period only lasted a few decades. After Rameses' reign, the climate curve goes sharply downwards. "There is a dry period which would certainly have had serious consequences."

The scientists believe this switch in the climate was the trigger for the first of the plagues. The rising temperatures could have caused the river Nile to dry up, turning the fast flowing river that was Egypt's lifeline into a slow moving and muddy watercourse.

These conditions would have been perfect for the arrival of the first plague, which in the Bible is described as the Nile turning to blood.

Dr Stephan Pflugmacher, a biologist at the Leibniz Institute for Water Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin, believes this description could have been the result of a toxic fresh water algae. He said the bacterium, known as Burgundy Blood algae or Oscillatoria rubescens, is known to have existed 3,000 years ago and still causes similar effects today. He said: "It multiplies massively in slow-moving warm waters with high levels of nutrition. And as it dies, it stains the water red."

The scientists also claim the arrival of this algae set in motion the events that led to the second, third and forth plagues – frogs, lice and flies. Frogs development from tadpoles into fully formed adults is governed by hormones that can speed up their development in times of stress. The arrival of the toxic algae would have triggered such a transformation and forced the frogs to leave the water where they lived.

But as the frogs died, it would have meant that mosquitoes, flies and other insects would have flourished without the predators to keep their numbers under control. This, according to the scientists, could have led in turn to the fifth and sixth plagues – diseased livestock and boils

Professor Werner Kloas, a biologist at the Leibniz Institute, said: "We know insects often carry diseases like malaria, so the next step in the chain reaction is the outbreak of epidemics, causing the human population to fall ill."

Another major natural disaster more than 400 miles away is now also thought to be responsible for triggering the seventh, eighth and ninth plagues that bring hail, locusts and darkness to Egypt. One of the biggest volcanic eruptions in human history occurred when Thera, a volcano that was part of the Mediterranean islands of Santorini, just north of Crete, exploded around 3,500 year ago, spewing billions of tons of volcanic ash into the atmosphere.

Nadine von Blohm, from the Institute for Atmospheric Physics in Germany, has been conducting experiments on how hailstorms form and believes that the volcanic ash could have clashed with thunderstorms above Egypt to produce dramatic hail storms.

Dr Siro Trevisanato, a Canadian biologist who has written a book about the plagues, said the locusts could also be explained by the volcanic fall out from the ash. He said: "The ash fall out caused weather anomalies, which translates into higher precipitations, higher humidity. And that's exactly what fosters the presence of the locusts."

The volcanic ash could also have blocked out the sunlight causing the stories of a plague of darkness. Scientists have found pumice, stone made from cooled volcanic lava, during excavations of Egyptian ruins despite there not being any volcanoes in Egypt. Analysis of the rock shows that it came from the Santorini volcano, providing physical evidence that the ash fallout from the eruption at Santorini reached Egyptian shores.

The cause of the final plague, the death of the first borns of Egypt, has been suggested as being caused by a fungus that may have poisoned the grain supplies, of which male first born would have had first pickings and so been first to fall victim.

But Dr Robert Miller, associate professor of the Old Testament, from the Catholic University of America, said: "I'm reluctant to come up with natural causes for all of the plagues. The problem with the naturalistic explanations, is that they lose the whole point. "And the whole point was that you didn't come out of Egypt by natural causes, you came out by the hand of God."


The new priesthood of meddling experts

Whether they’re marshalling ‘science’ to stop us from smoking or from eating meat, we should all be more sceptical of the new expert class

Feeling that it lacks moral authority, the British political elite continually solicits others to speak on its behalf, whether it’s a group of scientists or medical doctors. Legitimacy, conviction, authority… what politicians want, these experts seem to have in spades. Little wonder that public policy, particularly the most authoritarian, citizen-controlling kind, always seems to be backed by ‘expertise’ these days.

And so it was this week with the release of a report by the UK’s Royal College of Physicians (RCP) warning of the deleterious effect passive smoking can have on children. This report wasn’t something the RCP did simply out of the goodness of its fearmongering heart. It did it because there is a review of anti-smoking legislation imminent and, given that the UK’s chief medical officer Liam Donaldson has written an approving foreword, the British state clearly needed the debate-defying authority only a professional expert can provide. Which makes the policies proposed in the RCP’s report even more shocking.

Chief among them is the proposal to ban smoking in cars and also where young people congregate. Such proposals are not entirely new, but what sets the RCP’s demands apart is that they want smoking prohibited not just when there are children in the car but in all cars per se. In the ominous words of the report’s lead author, Professor John Britton: ‘This isn’t just about protecting children from passive smoking, it’s about taking smoking completely out of children’s lives. Adults need to think about who’s seeing them smoke.’

Donaldson clearly welcomed this expert endorsement of future government legislation: ‘One of the biggest impacts of smoking around children is that adult smokers can be seen as role models, increasing the likelihood that the child will, in due course, also become a regular smoker. Preventing this means that adults take responsibility to stop smoking in front of their children at home, or in places where children may see them smoke.’ If anything confirms smokers’ pariah status, it is this: henceforth they will neither be seen nor inhaled.

No expert endorsement, in this case from a leading professional body, is complete without facts and figures, of course. Policymakers love facts and figures and the more of them, the better – the better, that is, with which to beat those who disagree around the head. Facts and figures don’t just put policy beyond doubt - they put it beyond debate. Right on cue the RCP estimated that, amongst children, passive smoking contributes to over 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection, 120,000 cases of middle-ear disease, 22,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma, 200 cases of bacterial meningitis, and 40 sudden infant deaths. Got all that? And if illness and fatality aren’t persuasive enough, the RCP drops in the obligatory financial nugget: children’s inhalation of second-hand smoke costs the National Health Service about £23million a year.

None of this estimation is based on new research, however. It is based on ‘meta-analyses’ and ‘systematic reviews’ of ‘established literature’. In other, less confusing words, it’s an interpretation of data that has been around for the past 10 years. And the problem for those who want to close down a debate with an interpretation is that an interpretation is never beyond dispute: it can always be questioned. The truth of an interpretation is not something that can simply be proclaimed; it needs to be debated. Hence, as we have countered time and time again on spiked (see The anti-smoking ‘truth regime’ that cannot be questioned, by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick), there is still little or no statistically significant link between passive smoking and ill health.

Not for nothing did a 2006 House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report assert that claims made for the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) were far from certain - it even went so far as to say that the statistics did not justify the smoking ban. Not that this will be admitted by those at the Department of Health determined pre-emptively to shut down debate. These are facts, they say, and facts are sacred.

Except they’re not sacred. Sometimes they’re not even that factual. On the day the RCP launched its state-backed salvo against the citizenry, pitting children against adults, complete with facts, evidence and meta-analysed literature, there was another story also gaining momentum. In 2006, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released a report claiming that meat production was responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse emissions - more, incredibly, than transport.

This understandably caused quite a stir. A horrific alliance of greens and vegetarians had finally found the authority their essentially moral arguments lacked. Armed with this ‘fact’ much as Tomás de Torquemada carried the Bible, they proceeded to urge the world to stop stuffing their stupid, carnivorous faces. Paul McCartney even launched a campaign last year called ‘less meat = less heat’.

Unfortunately for these expert-powered, fact-fuelled campaigners, it has now become clear that something was not quite right with these facts. As Professor Frank Mitloehner from the University of California noted, while the FAO totted up all the greenhouse gas emissions associated with meat production, from farm to table, they just took the existing UN figure for the greenhouse emissions of transport.

Unlike that for meat production, this only included the fossil fuel burnt when using the particular mode of transport. It did not mention the fossil burnt in manufacturing cars, maintaining roads, building planes or the upkeep of railways. That is, the FAO applied completely different methods of measurement to food production and transport. The resulting figures are literally incomparable. A FAO policy officer was more than a little embarrassed: ‘I must say honestly that [Professor Mitloehner] has a point.’

The bigger point here, however, is not that facts can be more than a little fictional. It is not even that experts in their fields, medical or otherwise, are fallible. It is that expertise should not be prostituted to politicians and political campaigners. In their hands it becomes something other than it is. It becomes the source of authority that their arguments or their policies lack. And in the process it transforms those arguments and policies into the commands of those who know better than normal members of the demos. For the new expert priesthood, to choose not to stop smoking, as adults are entitled to do, is to choose ignorance and darkness. The facts and figures of prostituted expertise compel assent, not debate.

Criticising this exploitation of the expertise of professional scientists, medical doctors and so on shouldn’t be taken as a denigration of rationality, of our ability to know how things are, whether it’s the increased risk of lung disease amongst smokers or the carbon emissions of different modes of transport.

Rather it is to argue that this form of rational knowledge, when used by politicians, merges with their moral reasoning. They don’t just say how things are, they use (and abuse) it to say how things ought to be. And in doing so, they deprive us of our own reason, our own ability to make moral decisions about how we want to live our lives. Under the tyranny of expertise, the only rationality that matters is theirs.


Another "human rights" fraud

By Andrew Bolt

Yes, anti-"Zionism" need not be the same as anti-Semitism, but, gee, it does sometimes seem like Jew-hatred is being mainstreamed:
Human Rights Watch is one of two global superpowers among the world’s myriad humanitarian pressure groups… So it was perhaps a little awkward that a key member of staff was found to have such a treasure trove of Nazi regalia.

By day, Marc Garlasco was HRW’s only military expert, the person that its Emergencies Division would send to conflict zones to investigate alleged war crimes. He wrote reports condemning the dropping of cluster bombs in the Russia-Georgia war, the alleged illegal use of white phosphorus by the Israeli army in Gaza and coalition tactics that he said “unnecessarily” put Iraqi or Afghan civilians at risk…

But by night, Garlasco was “Flak88”, an obsessive contributor to internet forums on Third Reich memorabilia and an avid collector of badges and medals emblazoned with swastikas and eagles.

A lavishly illustrated $100 book he compiled and self-published is dedicated to his grandfather, who served in the Luftwaffe. On members-only sites such as Wehrmachtawards.com he was writing comments like “VERY nice Hitler signature selection”; “That is so cool! The leather SS jacket makes my blood go cold it is so COOL!”

An interest in Nazi memorabilia does not necessarily suggest Nazi sympathies — but it is hardly likely to play well in the salons where Garlasco’s employer might solicit donations…

His dilemma did not last long. In September a blogger noted that Marc Garlasco had long been reviewing books on Third Reich memorabilia on Amazon — and that he was the same Marc Garlasco who had written controversial HRW reports about alleged Israeli violations in Gaza and Lebanon. The blogger did not accuse him of being a Nazi, but wondered if Garlasco’s “obsession with anti-Semitic Nazi genocidal lunatics” was in any way related to his “apologism for anti-Semitic genocidal Hamas lunatics”.
So how did Garlasco not stand out from the crowd at HRW? Well, maybe because his own views about wicked Israel and the rest of the wicked West had found a good home:
Initially HRW offered Garlasco unequivocal support… Its programmes director, Iain Levine, later went so far as to directly accuse the Israeli government of being behind it…

Every year, Human Rights Watch puts out up to 100 glossy reports.. Some conflict zones get much more coverage than others. For instance, HRW has published five heavily publicised reports on Israel and the Palestinian territories since the January 2009 war.

In 20 years they have published only four reports on the conflict in Indian-controlled Kashmir, for example, even though the conflict has taken at least 80,000 lives in these two decades, and torture and extrajudicial murder have taken place on a vast scale. Perhaps even more tellingly, HRW has not published any report on the postelection violence and repression in Iran more than six months after the event…

Since the Garlasco affair blew up, critics of Human Rights Watch have raised questions about other appointments. An Israeli newspaper revealed that Joe Stork, the deputy head of HRW’s Middle East department, was a radical leftist who put out a magazine in the 1970s that praised the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. In 1976 he attended an anti-Zionist conference in Baghdad hosted by the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein… (W)hen Stork was hired by HRW in 1996 he had never worked for a human-rights group, had never held an academic position, and had a history of anti-Israel activism.

Stork’s boss, Sarah Leah Whitson, and most of his colleagues in the Middle East department of Human Rights Watch, also have activist backgrounds — it was typical that one newly hired researcher came to HRW from the extremist anti-Israel publication Electronic Intifada..

While HRW was dealing with the fallout from the Garlasco affair, it was already on the defensive as a result of criticism of a fundraising effort in Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s worst human-rights violators. This involved two dinners for members of the Saudi elite in Riyadh, at which Sarah Leah Whitson curried favour with her hosts by boasting about HRW’s “battles” with pro-Israel pressure groups, such as NGO Monitor.

The death of resilience: A Britain that prided itself on self-reliance now believes pills can cure anything and happiness is a human right

The brass band from Yorkshire Main Colliery assembled outside the doctor’s surgery in Edlington, South Yorkshire, and began to play. From the window above fluttered a Union Jack; below, the doctor handed out drinks to the puffing bandsmen. It was July 5, 1948, the first day of a new era: the age of the National Health Service.

But few of those people toasting the new arrival, born and bred in a country that valued stoicism, reticence and self-reliance, could have imagined how deeply their successors would sink into hypochondria and self-indulgence.

To the first NHS patients, the latest Department of Health figures — which show that the average Briton picks up a staggering 16 prescriptions a year and the Government spends an astonishing £22 million a day on prescription drugs — would seem utterly inconceivable.

For unlike their successors, those people who queued outside doctors’ surgeries in July 1948 were not whingers or hypochondriacs.

And what they would make of another report yesterday — that in an era of cuts and sacrifices, the Government’s ‘happiness czar’ Lord Layard is offering £80,000 a year for someone to run the new ‘Movement for Happiness’ — simply defies imagination.

They were the last in a long line of ordinary Britons who did their best to live up to the ideal of the stiff upper lip and saw life’s disappointments as troubles to be endured rather than as an excuse to demand yet more help from the state.

As the war had just shown, the average Briton had a strong sense of duty, believing in an obligation to give something to the state rather than the other way round. ‘What we want from the British people is self-discipline and self-restraint,’ said the founder of the NHS, the socialist firebrand Aneurin Bevan.

Sixty years on, those virtues seem to have evaporated. Of course, today we are a much healthier people living longer — though whether we are happier is a moot point.

Many, perhaps most, prescriptions are for genuine ailments, and none of us should begrudge the genuinely sick the medication they need to lead decent and fulfilling lives.

Yet, as Professor Joan Busfield of Essex University puts it, ‘the age of stoicism is dead’. We have become addicted to the idea that there is a pill for every ill. You can even get pills for ‘cognitive tempo disorder’ — symptoms: dreaminess, sluggishness and laziness — and ‘intermittent explosive disorder’ — otherwise known as having a temper tantrum.

As Professor Busfield notes, this obsession with pill-popping is partly driven by the profiteering drug companies. But it also says something deeper and more disturbing about our cult of self-indulgence, our insistence on instant happiness as an inalienable human right, and our reckless rejection of one of the oldest traits of Britishness: our resilience in the face of adversity.

Those first NHS patients had just come through the darkest time in British history, when we stood alone against Hitler’s tyranny. Yet what seems astonishing now is how few of them felt sorry for themselves.

Most prided themselves on living up to the slogan on the wartime posters: ‘Britain Can Take It.’ And in the words of their indomitable leader, Winston Churchill, soldiers and civilians alike were determined to ‘keep buggering on’.

Like Churchill, who was obsessed with living up to the example of his great forbear, the Duke of Marlborough, the wartime generation felt themselves to be following in the footsteps of millions of Britons whose stoicism under pressure had become legendary. They had been raised on stories of heroes such as Nelson and Wellington: cool under fire, unflappable even at the point of greatest danger, magnanimous in victory, unflinching in defeat.

Even now it is impossible to read stories of the great British stoics of the past without feeling oddly moved. Sir Philip Sidney, for instance, was not only one of the finest Elizabethan poets, but also a keen soldier who led Protestant forces against Spain in the Netherlands.

Shot in the thigh and bleeding to death at the Battle of Zutphen, he famously handed his water bottle to an injured comrade with the words: ‘Thy need is greater than mine.’

But his selfless bravery was nothing exceptional. More than two centuries later, as General James Wolfe was bleeding to death at the Battle of Quebec, he refused all offers to fetch a surgeon, insisting that other soldiers were in greater need. Told that the French were fleeing the field, he said simply: ‘God be praised. I die contented.’

The crucial point about stories such as these is that they became self-reinforcing. As each generation of Britons learned about the examples of their forefathers, so they, too, determined not to let the side down.

Perhaps this explains Lord Uxbridge’s extraordinary reaction when his right leg was shattered by a French cannonball at the Battle of Waterloo. ‘By God, sir!’ he remarked to the Duke of Wellington. ‘I’ve lost my leg!’ ‘By God, sir!’ the Iron Duke replied. ‘So you have!’

Yet in the light of our modern obsession with blame and compensation, it is what happened next to the Duke that is truly impressive. Even while surgeons were hacking off the remains of Uxbridge’s leg without recourse to antiseptics or anaesthetics, he remained calm, commenting merely: ‘The knives appear somewhat blunt.’

The Army offered him an annual pension of £1,200 as compensation for his lost leg. True to form, he turned it down.

Of course, those days are long gone. The mawkish outpouring of public grief has become our national emblem. Emotions are no longer kept in check by those suffering illness or misfortune, but instead permanently displayed. Tears spring readily to the eye and the notion of suffering in silence seems as alien to us as dragoons’ sabres or Bakelite radios.

Indeed, if the stoic spirit survives at all, it is in a few isolated bastions of the old order: the corridors of Buckingham Palace, where the Queen does her best to preserve a spirit of quiet service; or the deserts of Afghanistan, where our brave soldiers serve uncomplainingly despite grossly inadequate pay and equipment.

But in general, by comparison with our forebears, we have become a deeply spoiled and self-indulgent people. We expect perfection in our daily lives, and when, inevitably, it fails to materialise, we turn to the government for handouts and to the doctor for pills.

Barely half a century after millions of Britons struggled grimly through their daily lives with hernias, rotting teeth and broken bones because they simply could not afford the doctor’s bill, we hand out 10,000 prescriptions a week for ‘anti-hyperactivity’ drugs, known as the chemical cosh, to ensure order in the classroom.

Perhaps it is not surprising that we have become so obsessed with a quick fix to every problem. Thanks to the disgraceful neglect of history in the modern curriculum, many youngsters have no idea how lucky we are and no sense of the sacrifices our ancestors routinely had to make.

But the age of self-indulgence cannot last forever. In the next few years, deep cuts will mean there is no more money for happiness czars — and less money, I hope, for spurious prescriptions to be thrown around like confetti at a wedding. In an age of austerity, we will need to rediscover the older values of stoicism and self-reliance. We will have to get used to looking after ourselves, rather than expecting the state to do it for us.

Few of us, thankfully, will have to put up with anything as dreadful as our forebears were forced to endure, whether from the great conflicts or terrible diseases that imperilled their lives. But is it too much to hope that we can still learn something from their example?



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: