Of course! It was an asteroid!

…Madagascar provides the smoking gun for geologically recent impacts. In August, Dr. Abbott, Dr. Bryant and Slava Gusiakov, from the Novosibirsk Tsunami Laboratory in Russia, visited the four huge chevrons to scoop up samples.

Last month, Dee Breger, director of microscopy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, looked at the samples under a scanning electron microscope and found benthic foraminifera, tiny fossils from the ocean floor, sprinkled throughout. Her close-ups revealed splashes of iron, nickel and chrome fused to the fossils.

When a chondritic meteor, the most common kind, vaporizes upon impact in the ocean, those three metals are formed in the same relative proportions as seen in the microfossils, Dr. Abbott said.

Ms. Breger said the microfossils appear to have melded with the condensing metals as both were lofted up out of the sea and carried long distances.

About 900 miles southeast from the Madagascar chevrons, in deep ocean, is Burckle crater, which Dr. Abbott discovered last year. Although its sediments have not been directly sampled, cores from the area contain high levels of nickel and magnetic components associated with impact ejecta.

Burckle crater has not been dated, but Dr. Abbott estimates that it is 4,500 to 5,000 years old.

It would be a great help to the cause if the National Science Foundation sent a ship equipped with modern acoustic equipment to take a closer look at Burckle, Dr. Ryan said. “If it had clear impact features, the nonbelievers would believe,” he said.

But they might have more trouble believing one of the scientists, Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He thinks he can say precisely when the comet fell: on the morning of May 10, 2807 B.C.

Dr. Masse analyzed 175 flood myths from around the world, and tried to relate them to known and accurately dated natural events like solar eclipses and volcanic eruptions. Among other evidence, he said, 14 flood myths specifically mention a full solar eclipse, which could have been the one that occurred in May 2807 B.C.

Half the myths talk of a torrential downpour, Dr. Masse said. A third talk of a tsunami. Worldwide they describe hurricane force winds and darkness during the storm. All of these could come from a mega-tsunami.

Of course, extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, Dr. Masse said, “and we’re not there yet.”

It’s a fascinating theory about asteroids and mega-tsunamis with the little tidbit on the flood myths at the end. Read it.

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  • They think the flood happened on my birthday? That rocks. I finally understand why my bat mitzvah parsha was Noach, even though that’s nowhere near my birthday…

  • Myth? People who are religious are at liberty to assume that G-d used natural means to do what He wanted to do. Why would he not.

    We don’t believe in a magician-god who waves wands.

    G-d is not obliged to violate nature to prove he is up there. He sometimes does, but not much. Only when nothing else will work.

    There really is no conflict between science and religion. Science does not de-bunk religion.

  • There really is no conflict between science and religion. Science does not de-bunk religion.

    There is no conflict as long as you keep them separate. First of all, religion does not really work well with the scientific method. They’re incompatible; for instance, many religious experiences are completely subjective (as in “others did not/could not witness it”) or otherwise non-verifiable, non-repeatable or non-plausible.

    Second, religion is, by (most) definition(s), a matter of belief. Whether it’s based on fact or not is irrelevant. What matters to the believers are the beliefs of the followers of the said religion. Fact or fiction? Such a question is meaningless, as the only thing which matters is the belief or faith itself, and that does not require any kind of “justifications” (e.g. answering the question “why” or “how”) to exist beforehand or later. If such reasons are needed, one can make them up as one goes along, or take some from a pool of reasons prefigured by other believers.

    Once you really start to bring science and religion together, you will end up with trouble, like the whole Intelligent Designer -fiasco. The two things are just too incompatible, it does not work.

    Religion is its own domain, and science is its own domain. This is not to say that a person who is religious, could not be scientific, and vice versa. It might be, for example, that religion brings order or peace of mind to the person by lifting off the burden of “carrying the world” – the person can give the burden to God or gods to handle and then be happier and/or less worrying.

    If someone has some tool with which to utilize their minds better to be happier and/or less worrying, be it religion, philosophy, breath control or whatever, I am all for it. We’re not here on this planet for the purpose of eating shit and grinding our teeth.

    And Jewish Mother, please note, this is not some vendetta against you 🙂 We just seem to think perpendicular to each other.

  • Finnish – you could sure teach Richard Dawkins a thing or two. Or someone should. I read this last week – here’s the link to the article on his website…


    Love to hear your thoughts on what he says about an atheist world being like Sweden (I’m assuming he’s thinkng the whole peninsula – even if Finland isn’t completely on it).

    And will someone tell me what is it with all these British academics and their obsession with the “Jewish lobby”? Sheesh…

  • Ramon, Mr. Dawkins is sometimes a bit extreme in his opinions. On the other hand, I see him as a sort of counter-reaction to all the media coverage and drive behind nonsense like Intelligent Designer. I understand Mr. Dawkins’ arguments, and why he is like that – he is looking at religion from the point of view of science, and from that point of view religion doesn’t really make much sense.

    But like I said, religion belongs to a different sphere than science. Religion exists to make a person feel in place, to feel happier, to feel a sense of belonging, it has more of a psychological function. Science exists to explain the world.

    The bad thing about religion is that it really discourages thinking on your own. People become sheep and follow any human in the leading position. The believers do not embrace the ideal of God/gods they have belief in, instead they follow a human who claims to know the ideal better than them. In other words, they place a man as their God/gods, replacing the very same ideal which they believe in.

    As for the Sweden-reference, Sweden is overall a very nice place to live. It’s generally clean and places look pleasant (people put effort to it that their houses, places and things look good), things tend to work. Sweden stayed neutral throughout the whole WWII and I’m sure that shaped the country quite much – there were no population losses or bombed cities, business continued pretty much as usual. All in all, Sweden is a place where you can live a quality life. I think Dawkins was referring more to these aspects of Sweden as an example of his image of a world without religion than saying that the world should become like Sweden, society-wise. (Although I’ve heard Swedish schools do not have religion as such as a teaching subject)

  • Finnish, how could you imagine I disagree with you? I completely agree with you. Of course relgion and science are laboring at different tasks.

    For instance.

    A kid asked his father “what happens to you if you eat non-Kosher food?”

    Well, the only answer is, “are you asking that religiously or scientifically?”

    Scientific answer, nothing.
    Religious answer, long story. Let’s talk to the Rabbi. I am a smart Dad but I am not a rabbi. Let’s see if we can get him on his cell phone, or, if we can get a meeting with him.

    I love your questions, son!! But there is more than one answer, depending on the way you are asking.

    Religion doesn’t have to make people sheep. There will never be an excuse for being a sheep.

  • Religion discourages thinking? Not Orthodox Judaism. We have to think all day.

  • “The bad thing about religion is that it really discourages thinking on your own.”

    Nonsense. There are thousands of religions and each one has completely different systems of thought as well as each of its members have free will to make that choice. You can’t declare something about “religion” in general and have it apply to all or even many. Its far too much a stereotypical statement. In Judaism alone, research, debate, skepticism, etc. are all encouraged. Hell, you never heard of “2 Jews, 3 Opinions”? Opinions come from thinking.

  • Eric, perhaps it was perhaps too strongly said and too black-and-white (which the world isn’t).

    What I meant to say in such a condensed form was that in any religion there exists certain central underlying dogmas. Those dogmas are something which are given to you and you just have to accept without critique, if you wish to be a believer of that faith. It’s what you are supposed to believe in, you really can’t pick and choose that part, it’s beyond discussion, hence the “discourages thinking”.

    Then there are people who are “allowed” or expected to offer commentary about the central dogmas or the interpretation of those. In matters of faith, to put it bluntly, those people do the thinking so that others don’t have to.

    You brought up Judaism as an example of research, debate and scepticism. Would you say that in Judaism there is much discussion generally about there not being a single God, but many gods? Or about there being no God at all? I mean, you said there are differing opinions and debate, but at what level does that debate actually move – is the very heart of Judaism ever questioned or debated? I have little idea to the depth of discussions and the level of debating (no fistfighting I hope), so that’s why I’m asking.

  • Finnish,

    I understood where you are coming from and I used to believe that myself and in some ways still do. Judaism is a tricky thing as it is considered more than a religion, at least to many of its followers, including me. Since the majority of the world’s Jews are secular, I believe many have questioned its very heart. For example, I don’t have to believe in g-d to be a Jew nor do i have to follow Judaism strictly even if I did believe in g-d to maintain my Jewish identity.

    When I was an immigrant to America from the FSU, I was put right into a Yeshiva but was then moved back into the public school system. This caused me to think a lot about my faith and what beliefs gelled with what I learned in my extensive scientific background.

    I think I’m lucky as a Jew because I can believe what I want, and due to my genetic, ethnic, and historical connection to the Jewish People I can both practice and disagree simultaneously with great freedom. I think there is a lot of flexibility in that and in the Reform Judaism that I was brought up in. I’m sure other Jews may not agree, but I won’t get killed nor excommunicated because of that.

  • Finnish, it’s a canard to claim that religion discourages thinking on one’s own. We Christians (including you Lutherans, no?) put individual conscience before all else, even church doctrine; we’re therefore required to make our own moral choices by reflecting on our own sense of right and wrong. We’re not robots.

    No less a worthy than His Holiness the Pope has written that in the event of a conflict between individual conscience and church teaching, one is absolutely obliged to follow the former and reject the latter.

  • “To fill a world with … religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used.” – Richard Dawkins

    Finnish – It is Dawkin’s extremism – moreso his smugness – that prompted me to comment the could learn a thing or two from your open-mindededness. It’s not his atheism that bothers me. It’s how he’s turned science into just another fundamentalist religion, one that purports to be all-knowing. With the same smugness that says anyone who doesn’t believe otherwise is just plain stupid. No different than Intelligent Designers or fundamentalists of any religion. It’s why he illustrates his call for an atheist lobby with the
    so-called power of the Jewish lobby.

    More Dawkins: “I believe that an orderly universe, one indifferent to human preoccupations, in which everything has an explanation even if we still have a long way to go before we find it, is a more beautiful, more wonderful place than a universe tricked out with capricious ad hoc magic.”

    The key words there are “I believe”. Faith. In a sense, his g-d is science, his heaven an orderly universe. His dogma.

    I’ll have to disagree in part with JM. Religions do stifle when taught as the only answer to the unknown. But growing up in a Jewish religious studies environment, where there was always discussion, debating, interpretation, was what created my interest in Campbell, Jungian, et al. in the first place.

    I see your point about Sweden. At first I felt Dawkins was referring more to the stereotyped Scandanavian stoic pragmatism, the supposed lack of friovility, which he considers religion to be. Having traveled throughout Sweden, Norway and a few raucous nights in beautiful Helsinki I can say that’s a stereotype that’s more applicable to the Scandanavian-settled state I live in.

  • Tom, are you sure about this? Can you give examples where a person’s conscience might overwhelm a Church docrine?

  • dawkins unnerves me too because of his stridence. taking on faith and belief as if it could be argued to death is probably misguided.

    here’s the rub, science does require the sort of faith that religion does too. but religious faith tends to color the world with preconceptions that exclude scientific thinking to a degree. it is not that religious people are sheep, it is simply that they have truths that they were given rather than finding. science cannot function that way unless the truths are testable, which is where the whole “shoulders of giants” metaphor comes from. gravity is imminently testable in the way that the number of angels or the creation of humanity is not. how would someone build upon a scientific idea unless it was testable? religion doesn’t require the testability so it skips that step completely. the truths it imparts are valuable because of the way they resonate with other humans. that is all the testing necessary. and in that sense there are many examples where a person’s conscience overwhelms church doctrine… madonna’s done it several times 😉

    jewish mother, i think that what struck finnish was your objection to the word myth. and i don’t mean to offend, but i don’t know a better word for a story we inherited but may not be able to see the truth of yet. they still seem to be homing in on one out of many… will it bother you if it’s not like the one in the torah?

  • Uncle Osbert, I was just distinguishing between facts and truths. I am all for both. Facts six days, truth on seventh day.

    There have been Jewish doctors for a long time, well before the modern era, such as Maimonides.

    Welcome, if you are new.

    Bother me? I don’t use the Torah as a science textbook, so no, it won’t bother me at all.

  • I wouldn’t lend this Dawkins ten dollars. He is only interested in “beauty” not morality. But of course whoever he is, he would get very excercised if somebody didn’t repay HIS ten dollars.

  • Middle, will work on getting the Paparatzi quote re conscience.

  • Here it is:

    “Over the pope as the expression of the binding claim of ecclesiastical authority there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastical authority. This emphasis on the individual, whose conscience confronts him with a supreme and ultimate tribunal, and one which in the last resort is beyond the claim of external social groups, even of the official Church, also establishes a principle of opposition to increasing totalitarianism.”

    Part of his theme here is that we’ll be judged individually by God, and to God alone is the individual believer answerable.

  • If an individual determines to do that after proper conscientious reflection, having taken into account, among other things, the Church’s views on the issue, then the individual is acting properly. If that person arrives at such a judgment and decides NOT to follow his/her conscience, that’s much more problematic– I think that would be deemed sinful, from an orthodox Catholic point of view.

  • btw, we rip stuff off the Jews all the time. Don’t tell anyone.