Sunday, March 27, 2011

Authorship of Several Scriptures In Question

Rembrandt's "Paul." Wrote only 7 of the 13 Pauline letters?

The words “lie” and “Bible” aren’t often linked, but a leading biblical historian points out that the level of deception in the scriptures is much greater than most people think ~ especially regarding issues of authorship.

Bart Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, says that the New Testament book of 2 Peter was not written by the apostle Peter, and that Paul wrote only seven of the 13 letters ascribed to him.

Regarding the impact of such fakery, Ehrman writes:
This may all seem like a bit of antiquarian curiosity, especially for people whose lives don't depend on the Bible or even people of faith for whom biblical matters are a peripheral interest at best. But in fact, it matters sometimes. Whoever wrote the book of 1 Timothy claimed to be Paul. But he was lying about that -- he was someone else living after Paul had died. In his book, the author of 1 Timothy used Paul's name and authority to address a problem that he saw in the church. Women were speaking out, exercising authority and teaching men. That had to stop. The author told women to be silent and submissive, and reminded his readers about what happened the first time a woman was allowed to exercise authority over a man, in that little incident in the garden of Eden. No, the author argued, if women wanted to be saved, they were to have babies (1 Tim. 2:11-15). 
Largely on the basis of this passage, the apostle Paul has been branded, by more liberation minded people of recent generations, as one of history's great misogynists. The problem, of course, is that Paul never said any such thing. And why does it matter? Because the passage is still used by church leaders today to oppress and silence women. Why are there no women priests in the Catholic Church? Why are women not allowed to preach in conservative evangelical churches? Why are there churches today that do not allow women even to speak? In no small measure it is because Paul allegedly taught that women had to be silent, submissive and pregnant. Except that the person who taught this was not Paul, but someone lying about his identity so that his readers would think he was Paul. 
Ehrman is author of bestsellers including Misquoting Jesus and Jesus, Interrupted. His latest is Forged: Writing in the Name of God ~ Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.

Click here for the complete article.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ode to the Brain

"Ode to the Brain" is the ninth episode in the Symphony of Science music video series. Here’s creator John Boswell’s explanation of this video:

Through the powerful words of scientists Carl Sagan, Robert Winston, Vilayanur Ramachandran, Jill Bolte Taylor, Bill Nye, and Oliver sacks, it covers different aspects the brain including its evolution, neuron networks, folding, and more. The material sampled for this video comes from Carl Sagan's CosmosJill Bolte Taylor's TED TalkVilayanur Ramachandran's TED Talk, Bill Nye's Brain episode, BBC's "The Human Body"Oliver sacks' TED Talk, Discovery Channel's "Human Body: Pushing the Limits" and more.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First Public Showing for Mysterious Sculpture

 A mysterious sculpture ~ thought by some experts to predate the pyramids of Egypt ~ is being displayed publicly for the first time in hopes of attracting international attention and fresh insights into its origins.

No expert among the many consulted over the past decade can identify the sculpture's age or artistic tradition, nor can they decipher the "ancient, yet unidentifiable language" etched into the artwork.

The large limestone object depicting two entwined and perhaps emaciated figures, "could be one of the rarest finds of its kind," according to Clarence Epstein of Montreal’s Concordia University.

The two nude subjects ~ one a male and the other possibly a female holding a child ~ are depicted in a sitting position with abnormally large heads and elongated limbs. It was brought to Canada in the 1940s by Vincent and Olga Diniacopoulos, Greek immigrants from France who had amassed a world-class collection of antiquities gathered from Egypt, Israel and other ancient sites. The family's vast collection was donated about 10 years ago to Concordia.

The Diniacopouloses considered the mysterious sculpture the centerpiece of their collection. And while there is little documentation about the artwork's provenance, the couple had listed the object under the title "The Starving of Saqqara," referring to one of Egypt's largest burial grounds.

Click here for the complete article.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ancient Israelites Worshipped God and His Wife

Asherah, or Ishtar, on 2nd millennium BC terracotta relief.

Findings that the ancient Israelites worshipped Asherah ~ the wife of Yahweh, the Israelites’ god ~ is gaining new prominence among biblical scholars. Accounts of Yahweh and Asherah are in the Old Testament’s Book of Kings.

The first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah was Raphael Patai in 1967. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

According to Discovery News:
"You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him," writes Stavrakopoulou in a statement released to the British media. "He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many ... or so we like to believe."
"After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife," she added.
Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.

Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

J. Edward Wright, president of both The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, told Discovery News that he agrees several Hebrew inscriptions mention "Yahweh and his Asherah."
"Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors," he added. "Traces of her remain, and based on those traces, archaeological evidence and references to her in texts from nations bordering Israel and Judah, we can reconstruct her role in the religions of the Southern Levant."
Asherah ~ known across the ancient Near East by various other names, such as Astarte and Istar ~ was "an important deity, one who was both mighty and nurturing," Wright continued.

Click here for the complete article.

Dreamtime Sees Origin of Life in Meteors

Ancient Aboriginal cave drawing.

Aboriginal dreamtime stories were linking meteorites to the origins of life thousands of years before modern science reached the same conclusion.

Duane Hamacher of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, says the Arrernte and Luritja people of central Australia have an unusually strong focus on meteors, meteorites and impact craters and knew about the nightly and yearly movements of stars. Many of their folk tales and legends feature meteorites as origins of life.

According to Hamacher, one story spoke of life coming from two rocks that fell out of the sky. "These rocks were people described as stars falling to the ground; they were like Adam and Eve," he says. "Another described how the egg of life was accidently dropped from the sky, falling to the ground and breaking into pieces, bringing life to the Earth."

Hamacher says science has recently confirmed that amino acids ~ the basic building blocks of life ~ are transported to earth by comets and meteors.

Click here for the ABC Science article.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Political Conservatives and the Larger Amygdala

New research linking conservative political views with an enlarged part of the brain called the amygdala ~ responsible for reflexive impulses such as fear ~ still lacks sufficient data to say which came first: Does a fear-provoking enlarged amygdala encourage political conservatism, or does conservative thinking actually change the brain to create a larger amygdala?

Conservatives also display a smaller anterior cingulated, which is the part of the brain responsible for courage and optimism.

"We were very surprised to find that there was an area of the brain that we could predict political attitude,” according to Professor Geraint Rees of the University College of London, who lead the study. "It is very surprising because it does suggest there is something about political attitude that is encoded in our brain structure through our experience or that there is something in our brain structure that determines or results in political attitude."

The new research ~ to be published this year ~ supports an earlier study showing that some people were born with a "Liberal Gene" that makes people more likely to seek out less conventional political views. That gene, a neurotransmitter in the brain called DRD4, could even be stimulated by the novelty value of radical opinions, according to the London Telegraph.

Click here for the London Telegraph article.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Large Hadron Collider May Be a Time Machine

Concept of H.G. Wells' time machine by artist Danny Cardle.

The Large Hadron Collider ~ the world's largest atom smasher that started regular operation last year ~ could be the first machine capable of causing matter to travel backwards in time.

One of the major goals of the collider is to find the elusive Higgs boson: the particle that physicists invoke to explain why particles like protons, neutrons and electrons have mass. If the collider succeeds in producing the Higgs boson, some scientists predict that it will create a second particle, called the Higgs singlet, at the same time.

According to Science Daily:
“Our theory is a long shot,” admitted Tom Weiler, who is a physics professor at Vanderbilt University, "but it doesn't violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints.”
According to the theory Weiler and Chui Man Ho have developed, these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifth dimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past.
"One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes," Weiler said. "Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if scientists could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future."
Weiler began looking at time travel six years ago to explain anomalies that had been observed in several experiments with neutrinos, says Science Daily. Weiler and Ho's theory is based on M-theory, a "theory of everything." A small cadre of theoretical physicists have developed M-theory to the point that it can accommodate the properties of all the known subatomic particles and forces, including gravity.

Click here for the article.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Detecting Future Criminal Behavior in Children?

The demon Krampus marching naughty children to Hell.

Some criminologists are suggesting that children be screened with brain-imaging technology to identify violent tendencies. If the tendencies are present, the children would be treated … in some fashion.

They claim abnormal brain make-up could be a cause of criminality ~ psychopaths and criminals have smaller amygdala and prefrontal cortex, both of which regulate and control emotion and behavior. They also argue that children as young as four exhibit “callous unemotional traits” such as lack of guilt and empathy that suggest future bad behavior.

Linking these features with “conduct problems” such as throwing tantrums could be a strong way to predict who could be anti-social in later life.

Nathalie Fontaine of Indiana University used data from more than 9,000 twins born in England and Wales between 1994 and 1996. Assessments of callous unemotional traits and conduct problems were based on teacher questionnaires when the children were seven, nine and 12. Information was taken from parents when the children were as young as four.

She found there was a correlation between risk factors at a young age and bad behavior at an older age.

A British criminologist, Adrian Raine, told the Telegraph he acknowledged the ethical implications of treating children before they had done anything wrong, but argued that “biological” causes of crime could not be ignored. “We could be ostriches and stick our heads in the sand but I believe we have to pursue the causes of crime at a biological and genetic level as well as at a social,” he said.

Click here for the Telegraph article.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Evidence Points to Probable Site of Atlantis

Artist's conception of Atlantis's multiple rings.

Researchers using satellite views of an ancient city submerged in southern Spain’s marshlands are claiming they may have located Atlantis. The site is 60 miles inland, just north of Cadiz. Following the researchers' scenario, a giant tsunami would have destroyed Atlantis millennia ago.

They believe the site may be Atlantis because it fits the age-old description of a multi-ringed metropolis, according to Richard Freund of the University of Hartford, Connecticut, the professor leading an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis.

Freund's discovery in central Spain of a strange series of “memorial cities” ~ built in Atlantis's image by its refugees after the city's destruction ~ gave researchers added proof, they say. Atlantis residents who did not perish in the tsunami fled farther inland and built new cities there.

While it is hard to know with certainty that the site in Spain in Atlantis, Freund said the finding the memorial cities makes him confident Atlantis was buried in the mud flats on Spain's southern coast. “We found something that no one else has ever seen before, which gives it a layer of credibility, especially for archeology, that makes a lot more sense,” he says.

Plato wrote about Atlantis some 2,600 years ago, describing it as “an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Hercules,” as the Straits of Gibraltar were known in antiquity.

Click here for the Reuters article.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Is Magnetic Pole Shift a Cause for Alarm?

A recent Wall Street Journal article cited the movement of the earth’s magnetic field as a cause for potential alarm ~ but still posed the question, “Should we be alarmed?”
The earth's magnetic field is weakening at an accelerating rate. It is 15% weaker than it was at the time the north magnetic pole was "discovered"—and claimed for King William IV—by a British explorer in 1831. Should we be worried?
What's more, the north magnetic pole, after meandering through Canadian islands for half a millennium, is heading off across the Arctic Ocean toward Russia at the breakneck speed of 37 miles a year. It will pass close to the geographical North Pole in a few years. With the dastardly Russians about to pinch this British heirloom, should we be doubly worried?
While the WSJ admits we don’t know the answer, it contends there is no concrete evidence pointing to reasons for undue concern:
Though odds are strongly against it, it is just possible that this is the beginning of a polar reversal, when the North and South magnetic poles swap places. This used to happen quite often—by which I mean every hundred thousand years or so—but it's now 780,000 years since it last occurred, an unusually long interval.
During such a reversal there is probably a very brief interval (oops, there I go again; by "very brief" I mean a thousand years or so) when the earth has no stable magnetic field. This does not seem to have bothered our ancestors: There is no evidence of biological extinctions peaking during magnetic-pole reversals.
Click here for the complete article.