Speaking of priorities, before I talk about today’s comic I’d like to convey my heartfelt condolences to the people of Oslo, Norway in the wake of Friday’s terror attack. I’ve always viewed Norway —the whole Scandinavian region, really—as a safe, welcoming place for freethinkers, and it broke my heart to see it torn by this tragedy. We here at Sci-ənce have our views on the horrific bombing/shooting and the new face of terrorism it presents, but right now the focus should be on getting aid to the injured and showing our support to the people of Oslo, who stand strong in the face of ignorance and hatred.
At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be an official channel to donate for Norway, and the country has not asked for aid yet, but if you hear anything, please link it in the comments and we’ll spread the word. Though beware, as if the bombing and shooting of close to 90 people wasn’t a bad enough testament to human cruelty, word is that there are already Oslo bombing scam e-mails going around. Be skeptical, and donate to trusted charities like the Red Cross. Thank you, we’re behind you 100% during this time of recovery.
[Editorial clarification: My point in the comic is not that because the book features a talking snake, everything else in it is a collection of lies. Only that everything in it should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, you can pick plenty of probable events out of Jesus' life, but given the rest of the improbable stuff, you could easily chalk a time-of-death up to embellishment]
Onto the snark. It always baffles me when somebody decides to go out and try to explain a biblical story with science. You know who I’m talking about. I’m talking about the explorers looking for Noah’s Ark or people who claim they found nails from Jesus’ crucifixion (related!). In all cases, the facts prove their claims bogus. The wood found on Mt. Ararat is way too young (possibly brought there to instigate a hoax), and only one crucifixion nail has ever been found—embedded in the heel bone of a man named Jehohanan. Back then, iron was kind of a commodity, and after all was said and done, the Romans would take the nails back. Except for this one because it bent in a way that prevented removal. Now we have a doctor, Joseph Bergeron, who believes he knows what caused Jesus’ death. Because apparently Jesus took the beatings and crucifixion like a champ, and it was only because of a “trauma-induced coagulopathy” that he finally bit it.
One of the factors leading to this condition is hypothermia, which was caused by exposure to the elements in early April. Why do they think the crucifixion went down in April? Because that’s around when Easter is celebrated. It makes sense, after all, it’s not like Easter was determined by Gregory XIII in 1582 to “fall on the first Sunday following the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after the day of the vernal equinox.” Oh, wait, it was—so they’re diagnosing hypothermia based on a made-up day. [Editor's Note: My bad, I was reminded that the Crucifixion took place during Passover, which would indeed place it between late March and late April.]
Now before I get too far, if I could direct your attention to the elephant in the room: This is all based around the assumption that the bible is a work of accurate historical fact.
Which is silly. Even if you cannot accept the fact that a book about angels, demons, talking snakes, and people turning into salt just might be allegorical fiction, you also can’t rely on it as historical fact because early “historians” like Tacitus and Josephus were notorious for embellishing their narratives to make for better a better story. Not only that, but many of the stories are rife with hints that they were borrowed from pagan sources. For example, virgin births, deaths, resurrections, and demigods are not unique to Christianity. My boy, Mithras shows just how much has been borrowed over the millennia.
The point is that the entire book is suspect. Every story in it is either blatant fantasy, fable, or only loosely based on actual history. But by rejecting the fiction, and accepting the ever-increasing body of archaeological evidence, you’re doing yourself a favor in the form of intellectual honesty. It’s uncomfortable to think that there was probably never a man named Jesus, or that many of the details surrounding the Exodus are pop-culture falsehood perpetuated every year by Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston*. I may have just opened a huge can of worms there, but a huge part of science is being open to change in the face of new evidence. Even archaeology itself is a shifting, self-correcting process.
So until solid evidence comes forth that there was some guy named Jesus running around, I’m going to put my money on the science and not on the book with the talking serpent.
This post was brought to you by Praseodymium (Pr).
*Put down the pitchforks, I can see you squirming. I know that history in regards to ancient religious texts is a sensitive topic. After all, Jewish people everywhere identify with a culture that tells them that their people were slaves in Egypt, and The Ten Commandments film tells them that their ancestors built the pyramids. First, there were no slaves. Recent archaeological finds show that the pyramid builders were not slaves at all, and were honored with burial chambers near the pyramids themselves. Second, the Exodus never even mentions any pyramids, and the earliest Jewish settlement in Egypt was a Persian garrison on the island of Elephantine, settled over 600 years after the last pyramid was built. What’s interesting, though is that these Jewish mercenaries living on Elephantine were already celebrating shabbat and having Passover Seders, which implies that perhaps the Exodus story has more ancient roots than we know… or it may just be allegorical.
Thanks to Brian Dunning of Skeptoid, who has a more in-depth write-up about the topic.