Wednesday, September 22, 2010

This found its way into a scientific journal

I follow meteorological and oceanographic research as closely as I can. It's what I do. In my post-grad days, it's the only thing I did.

So I was a little confounded when I read the abstract for this bit of work funded by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR/NCAR) and the Office of Naval Research.

Then I read this:
Competing interests: The lead author has a web site,, that addresses Christian faith and biological evolution. The Red Sea crossing is mentioned there briefly. The present study treats the Exodus 14 narrative as an interesting and ancient story of uncertain origin.
What?! The paper, supposedly scientific, is done to support some mythical bible story about Moses parting the Red Sea.

How the hell did that make it past an initial review?

Then I noticed that I wasn't the only one who had noticed. Read on at PZ Myers.


polygonic said...

Bizarre pseudo-science trying to lend some credence to mythology, is it? Great stuff. We need more of it.

For a visualisation of what wind splitting a sea might look like, visit the BBC at:

I'm curious what hurricane force is required (and at what angle?) to separate a SEA into two bits - and how successfully anyone could walk in that wind? Even if you are an Israelite.

Boris said...

"Pardon me, is that science, or are you flaunting your origin myth?"

I think the paper is grossly misframed and probably in the wrong journal. If it had been framed as an archaeological argument looking at descriptions of weather events in major historical texts, and not blantantly shouting "Exodus" as an assumption, then perhaps it might have had some value.
"Historical texts often describe actual weather events in the guise of myth and story...The three major Abrahamic religions of today....contain the story of the flood...suggesting the possibility of an usual weather event and a mass migration of people. We determine...provides historic evidence of the impact of significant environmental events on human myths..."

Or something along those lines. As it stands, it reeks of lipsticked creationism. The fact that it one can demonstrate the means by which a sea may part simply shows that it is possible but says absolutely nothing about the veracity of the story people built around such an event. A bit of GIS work and scoping trip might turn up evidence of an ancient mass migration in the area. That or Dan Brown could write another book, or Spielberg another Indiana film.

Dave said...

polygonic, it would required some very serious surface divergence in one location, some massive surface convergence in precisely another and a remarkable set of tides occuring at exactly the same time. Of course we have the problem of the upper air from one system shredding the other due to proximity.

Absolutely impossible? No. Probable? Hardly.