Moses & The Parting Of The Red Sea Explained By Science

Source: Rune.welsh (CC)

Source: Rune.welsh (CC)

Somehow I doubt the faithful will want to hear this, but apparently the parting of the Red Sea was no miracle. Story from Reuters via LA Times:

Moses might not have parted the Red Sea, but a strong east wind that blew through the night could have pushed the waters back in the way described in biblical writings and the Koran, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

Computer simulations, part of a larger study on how winds affect water, show wind could push water back at a point where a river bent to merge with a coastal lagoon, the team at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado at Boulder said.

“The simulations match fairly closely with the account in Exodus,” Carl Drews of NCAR, who led the study, said in a statement.

“The parting of the waters can be understood through fluid dynamics. The wind moves the water in a way that’s in accordance with physical laws, creating a safe passage with water on two sides and then abruptly allowing the water to rush back in.”

Religious texts differ a little in the tale, but all describe Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt ahead of a pharaoh’s armies around 3,000 years ago. The Red Sea parts to let Moses and his followers pass safely, then crashes back onto the pursuers, drowning them.

Drews and colleagues are studying how Pacific Ocean typhoons can drive storm surges and other effects of strong and sustained winds on deep water…

[continues at Reuters via LA Times]

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  • Vox Penii

    interesting…

    but the article doesn’t address two questions: (1) what’s the likelihood of wind blowing as described in the particular area? (2) the “red sea” crossing is actually described in the Bible as occurring at “Yam Suph,” or the sea of reeds — a marshy _inland_ region north of the Red Sea.

    but the article’s interesting all the same. lots of religious stories seem to have some basis in fact, though the core elements of the story are usually elaborated and embellished in retelling.

  • JP

    though it is obviously cool that this is possible – the “parting” of the sea, there is one major problem & assumption with this premise – that the events of the bible are historical events and not fictional morality tales. perhaps this phenomenon is the kernel of truth to the story

  • JP

    though it is obviously cool that this is possible – the “parting” of the sea, there is one major problem & assumption with this premise – that the events of the bible are historical events and not fictional morality tales. perhaps this phenomenon is the kernel of truth to the story

  • APR

    Now if only they could prove Moses was a real person. Apparently there is only one reference book. This is stupid. If the wind is so strong it moves that much water, how are the people supposed to walk through without getting blown to the ground?

    • Hadrian999

      proving there were ever Jewish slaves in Egypt is the hard part

  • APR

    Now if only they could prove Moses was a real person. Apparently there is only one reference book. This is stupid. If the wind is so strong it moves that much water, how are the people supposed to walk through without getting blown to the ground?

  • GoodDoktorBad

    “……and Moses let forth a mighty God fart and the seas -they did part”

    So it was written in the Book of Moot.

  • Anonymous

    “……and Moses let forth a mighty God fart and the seas -they did part”

    So it was written in the Book of Moot.

  • Anonymous

    . . . Totally ignoring the most likely scenario: “That it’s all just made-up B*S* designed to add colour to a boring story.”

    Personally, that’s the most interesting bit to me: What possible psychological / spiritual significance this could hold for someone such that they would invest the energy in trying to derive a naturalistic explanation for a ridiculous and peripheral detail?

    As one of the duller footnotes in the tribal origin myth of an ethnic group to which I do not belong, this story’s pull is prettttttttttty damn weak for me.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    . . . Totally ignoring the most likely scenario: “That it’s all just made-up B*S* designed to add colour to a boring story.”

    Personally, that’s the most interesting bit to me: What possible psychological / spiritual significance this could hold for someone such that they would invest the energy in trying to derive a naturalistic explanation for a ridiculous and peripheral detail?

    As one of the duller footnotes in the tribal origin myth of an ethnic group to which I do not belong, this story’s pull is prettttttttttty damn weak for me.

    • Tobie2633

      It is the ethnic group to which I belong. I’m not religious, but I identify strongly with being Jewish; in fact, it is my primary identification.

      I’m not terribly hung up on the details of the exodus from Egypt. I consider the Torah to be a source of laws and guides to good living, but I don’t put a lot of faith in the assertion that G-d gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. I think it’s more likely that Moses, and some others, were under the influence of psychedelics, likely acacia-derived DMT, and they took their information from those experiences.

      But it is interesting that we still exist as an ethnic group, considering the attempts to eradicate us over the millenia, the Inquisition and other influences of christianity and the spread of islam, etc.

      • Liam_McGonagle

        “But it is interesting that we still exist as an ethnic group, considering the attempts to eradicate us over the millenia, the Inquisition and other influences of christianity and the spread of islam, etc.”

        Well, since you mention it, this, I figure is the only “meaning” of the story worth mentioning: The place of the Exodus story in the history of political propaganda.

        Stand back for a moment and consider the broad narrative arc and typical, if not expected, emotional responses:

        1. The People are held captive by a neighbouring foreign power (Fear)

        2. Through the miraculous intercession of God, The People are delivered from bondage (Relief)

        3. Not only this, but a state of unprecedented peace and prosperity are promised to The People–but only if they comply with an onerous set of taboos and prohibitions. (Mixture of Hope, Pride and Fear)

        This is the fundamental recipe for social control by the elites who are the recognized custodians of a society’s mythology, be they priests, politicians or artists. Permutations of this very same story have probably existed in all cultures around the world since Humanity acquired a rudamentary ability to abstract and symbol. Some highly charged variants continue to function to this very day–Sarah Palin’s ironic and not-so-subtle portrait of fat, middle-class, suburban white America as a beleaguered minority who need to ‘take back their country’. So far neither the Exodus story or its individual elements appear to be terribly unique.

        However, the context in which the Exodus story arose and was perpetuated does hold some interest. From the perspective of simple chronology, it may be the earliest, best documented example of propaganda becoming embedded within the very existential fibres of a group’s self-concept. But more importantly, the mechanism by which the story was perpetuated may hold a special place in the development of political institutions– a corpus of authoritative literature interpreted by a non-hereditary elite of civilian scholars.

        That might just be first articulation of the conceptual framework upon which the European Age of Enlightenment was constructed. Some might argue that there are earlier examples of written laws. But I think it is generally conceded that operation of those other laws was clearly dependent upon coercion by a hereditary military elite, a thing just not possible for the religious laws of a small stateless minority before the advent of ideals like separation of Church and State.

        Survival of an ethnic/religious identity through the tribulations of statelessness and brutal and sustained persecution is not really unique. Yes, the Jewish people. But also African Americans, the Armenians, the Irish, etc., etc., etc. Each of these cases is unique, and it seems possible to intuitively appreciate certain qualities that allowed each group’s identity to adapt and survive, be it continuing presence in a geographical if not political homeland, perceived racial differences, existence of strong literary/religious traditions, etc., etc., etc.

        But for my money, the ethnic group with the most mysterious survival track record has to be the Roma. Maybe it’s just because I am not particularly well-informed about their culture, but I haven’t been able to identify any of the typical sustaining institutions among them. As far as I know their language does not have a notable literature and its dialects are highly fragmented and heavily influenced by those of their various host countries. I am unaware of any formal racial laws amongst them. To my eyes Romani people don’t seem to have any unique physical characteristics that might distinguish them from their non-Romani neighbours. And I belive that they are highly diverse in terms of religious confession or lack thereof.

        I just don’t understand how these Romani people survived as a distinct group during 2,000 years of vicious persecution. Some estimates say that as much as 25% of the Romani people may have been whiped out during the Holocaust alone.

  • Haystack

    It sounds like the researchers just found a way to generate publicity by linking their study to Bible.

  • Haystack

    It sounds like the researchers just found a way to generate publicity by linking their study to Bible.

  • Hadrian999

    proving there were ever Jewish slaves in Egypt is the hard part

  • Tobie2633

    It is the ethnic group to which I belong. I’m not religious, but I identify strongly with being Jewish; in fact, it is my primary identification.

    I’m not terribly hung up on the details of the exodus from Egypt. I consider the Torah to be a source of laws and guides to good living, but I don’t put a lot of faith in the assertion that G-d gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. I think it’s more likely that Moses, and some others, were under the influence of psychedelics, likely acacia-derived DMT, and they took their information from those experiences.

    But it is interesting that we still exist as an ethnic group, considering the attempts to eradicate us over the millenia, the Inquisition and other influences of christianity and the spread of islam, etc.

  • Anonymous

    “But it is interesting that we still exist as an ethnic group, considering the attempts to eradicate us over the millenia, the Inquisition and other influences of christianity and the spread of islam, etc.”

    Well, since you mention it, this, I figure is the only “meaning” of the story worth mentioning: The place of the Exodus story in the history of political propaganda.

    Stand back for a moment and consider the broad narrative arc and typical, if not expected, emotional responses:

    1. The People are held captive by a neighbouring foreign power (Fear)

    2. Through the miraculous intercession of God, The People are delivered from bondage (Relief)

    3. Not only this, but a state of unprecedented peace and prosperity are promised to The People–but only if they comply with an onerous set of taboos and prohibitions. (Mixture of Hope, Pride and Fear)

    This is the fundamental recipe for social control by the elites who are the recognized custodians of a society’s mythology, be they priests, politicians or artists. Permutations of this very same story have probably existed in all cultures around the world since Humanity acquired a rudamentary ability to abstract and symbol. Some highly charged variants continue to function to this very day–Sarah Palin’s ironic and not-so-subtle portrait of fat, middle-class, suburban white America as a beleaguered minority who need to ‘take back their country’. So far neither the Exodus story or its individual elements appear to be terribly unique.

    However, the context in which the Exodus story arose and was perpetuated does hold some interest. From the perspective of simple chronology, it may be the earliest, best documented example of propaganda becoming embedded within the very existential fibres of a group’s self-concept. But more importantly, the mechanism by which the story was perpetuated may hold a special place in the development of political institutions– a corpus of authoritative literature interpreted by a non-hereditary elite of civilian scholars.

    That might just be first articulation of the conceptual framework upon which the European Age of Enlightenment was constructed. Some might argue that there are earlier examples of written laws. But I think it is generally conceded that operation of those other laws was clearly dependent upon coercion by a hereditary military elite, a thing just not possible for the religious laws of a small stateless minority before the advent of ideals like separation of Church and State.

    Survival of an ethnic/religious identity through the tribulations of statelessness and brutal and sustained persecution is not really unique. Yes, the Jewish people. But also African Americans, the Armenians, the Irish, etc., etc., etc. Each of these cases is unique, and it seems possible to intuitively appreciate certain qualities that allowed each group’s identity to adapt and survive, be it continuing presence in a geographical if not political homeland, perceived racial differences, existence of strong literary/religious traditions, etc., etc., etc.

    But for my money, the ethnic group with the most mysterious survival track record has to be the Roma. Maybe it’s just because I am not particularly well-informed about their culture, but I haven’t been able to identify any of the typical sustaining institutions among them. As far as I know their language does not have a notable literature and its dialects are highly fragmented and heavily influenced by those of their various host countries. I am unaware of any formal racial laws amongst them. To my eyes Romani people don’t seem to have any unique physical characteristics that might distinguish them from their non-Romani neighbours. And I belive that they are highly diverse in terms of religious confession or lack thereof.

    I just don’t understand how these Romani people survived as a distinct group during 2,000 years of vicious persecution. Some estimates say that as much as 25% of the Romani people may have been whiped out during the Holocaust alone.

  • 2003matrix

    And who cares?

  • 2003matrix

    And who cares?

  • Betsy Markel

    The book says that it was a strong east wind that parted the seas. So you’re right. There is an expanation. The miracle here is that just as Moses lifted his staff out to the sea, the parting happened. The timing is immaculate. That’s really not the point. The point is that God loves us so much that he sent his son whom he loved to die for and that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. When we were yet sinners, he died for us. What does this mean? It means that it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, you’re accepted by God through Jesus. Anything else really doesn’t matter. I don’t have to defend God. God defends himself but if anyone is looking for a life of peace and fullfilment and not emptiness I suggest giving God a chance.

  • Betsy Markel

    The book says that it was a strong east wind that parted the seas. So you’re right. There is an expanation. The miracle here is that just as Moses lifted his staff out to the sea, the parting happened. The timing is immaculate. That’s really not the point. The point is that God loves us so much that he sent his son whom he loved to die for and that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. When we were yet sinners, he died for us. What does this mean? It means that it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, you’re accepted by God through Jesus. Anything else really doesn’t matter. I don’t have to defend God. God defends himself but if anyone is looking for a life of peace and fullfilment and not emptiness I suggest giving God a chance.

  • loverofGod

    if this is true then the amazing part is how precise in timing that God allowed them to be exactly where they needed to be to cross, God is just too cool for science 

  • loverofGod

    if this is true then the amazing part is how precise in timing that God allowed them to be exactly where they needed to be to cross, God is just too cool for science 

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