Lightning & Disease: A Primitive Thought System Overturned

For most of human history, life has been a struggle – a struggle against predators, against disease, against natural disasters, and against our fellow human beings as we find ourselves all thrown together on a single planet, vying for limited resources.  In the words of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, life for the many has been “nasty, brutish, and short.”

Foremost among our ongoing challenges, however, and rising above all the others, is the struggle against our own ignorance.  Like newborn infants, naked and helpless, humans have been thrust into this world without the benefit of any instruction book to show us the way.  It is only through patience and ingenuity (and a fair amount of dumb luck) that we have managed to rise above our brute animal nature to occasionally achieve something resembling peace and civility.  Obviously, we still have a long way to go, but if we as a species hope to continue our stumbling progress towards a happier, healthier future, we must acknowledge the various pitfalls and dead ends we’ve encountered along the route, starting with those of the distant past.

To the ancients, one of the most terrifying and inexplicable forces that they would encounter on a regular basis came in the form of blinding shafts of energy hurling down from the sky above, killing and setting fires indiscriminately –  a phenomenon we now call lightning.  Having no ready basis upon which to form a rational explanation for it, they instead let their imaginations run wild and so attributed its power to a mighty, invisible sky king.  This makes a certain amount of sense; after all, if you’d watched your buddy get killed by an enemy’s arrow, the cause was clear as day.  To get hit by a flaming arrow shot from a cloud would therefore seem to be the result of having angered some sort of cosmic archer.

The near-universality of this sentiment is striking.  In addition to having a “mother earth goddess” representing fertility and abundance (personified as Gaia by the ancient Greeks, Ishtar by the Babylonians, Pachamama by those in the New World, and so on), nearly every ancient society had some conception of a mighty “lord of the sky.”  In the proto-Indo-European language spoken by the ancestors of nearly everyone now inhabiting Europe, the Middle East, and northern India, this god was called Dyeus Pitr – literally “Sky Father.”  This etymology is still present in the names of numerous mythological figures and objects of religious worship, ranging from the Roman god Jupiter (a corruption of the Greek Zeus pater) to the Germanic high god, Tiwaz (the root of “Tuesday”), and persisting all the way to the present in the French and Spanish words for “God” (Dieu and Dios respectively).  It is from Dyeus that we derive the words “deity” and “divine,” as well as theos, as in “theology” or “theist.”

Luckily for posterity, despite its ubiquity across time and cultures, not everyone from the past was stuck in this simplistic, supernatural mindset.  One of the earliest records of a more scientific understanding of lightning can be found in the writings of Lucretius, a Roman living in the first century BCE.  As a devout Epicurean and therefore, a philosophical materialist, he was convinced that lightning was caused solely by the interactions of atoms, and he openly mocked those who hid behind superstitious explanations.  In his own words:

Here then is a plain and intelligible account of the fiery thunderbolt and how it does what it does.  It is a fruitless task to unroll the Tuscan scrolls, seeking some revelation of the god’s hidden purpose.  That is no way to study from which quarter the darting fire has come or into which other it has passed…

Of course, with the onset of the Dark Ages and Church hostility towards all things scientific, his knowledge was largely forgotten until the arrival of the Enlightenment and Benjamin Franklin’s famous (and insanely risky) experiment with the kite and the key.  Ironically, even in Franklin’s time, his bold feat and its practical result – the widespread installation of lightning rods on tall buildings around the country – was denounced by leading clerics for being presumptuously irreverent towards God Almighty and an infringement upon his divine power.

Today, we’ve come to realize that lightning is a purely natural phenomenon – a discharge of static electricity caused by the interaction of ions in the atmosphere (an explanation remarkably similar to that proposed by Lucretius over two thousand years ago).  That’s not to say that we yet fully understand all aspects of how lightning is formed, but we at least have a solid grasp over how it’s not formed; namely, by angry anthropomorphic deities hiding in storm clouds.

Despite this modern understanding however, the irrational fear of lightning, called astraphobia (from the Sanskrit word for “weapon” in reference to the lightning bolts wielded by the Indian sky god, Indra), is still the third most prevalent phobia in the U.S., exceeded only by the fear of heights and of course, fear of “Sky Father” himself.  As the Bible repeatedly reminds us; “thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God” – a god who reveals himself as “thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud” as he “talked with you from heaven.” (Leviticus 25:17, Exodus 19:16 and 20:22)

Less dramatic than celestial fireworks but far more devastating to humanity is disease.  Diseases have plagued life on Earth for almost as long as life has existed, at least since the first appearance of multicellular organisms just over two billion years ago.  Evidence of our past brushes with epidemics can still be found in the form of vestigial segments of virus genetic code embedded within our DNA, and disease remains the number one cause of death for humans overall.

As was the case with lightning, the ancients were utterly dumbfounded as to the cause of disease.  Remember, the concept of preventing infection by applying antiseptic to wounds and before surgery was only developed about a hundred and fifty years ago; antibiotics weren’t available as medicine until shortly before the Second World War; and the science of nutrition is still in its infancy, as evidenced by America’s worsening obesity crisis.

In almost every culture on the planet, the search for an explanation of the cause of illness eventually led to the idea that diseases were the result of interference by evil spirits.  This isn’t actually as ridiculous as it may sound, especially considering that the modern germ theory of disease similarly relies on the existence of malicious entities invisible to the naked eye.  The basic idea of spirits is rooted in a sort of folk biology.  For ancient people, having noticed that the most obvious difference between a living creature and an inanimate object is the fact that living things breathe, it was a short mental leap to equating breath with a mysterious “essence of life.”  You see this in many myths about our origins, where some god fashions a figure out of wood or clay and then breathes into, thus imbuing it with the life force or spirit.

Further clues to the psychology underlying such beliefs can be found by studying the evolution of language.  The word “spirit,” for example, comes from the Latin word for “breath,” as is still apparent in the word “respiration.”  By extension, it was believed that someone who had been filled with the Holy Spirit was “inspired,” while to aim for greatness is to “aspire;” and when you die, you’re said to have “expired.”  In this same vein, it’s interesting to note that in its original Greek and Aramaic, the Bible never explicitly mentions the words “spirit,” “ghost,” or “soul” in the way most people are used to seeing them.  Instead, it uses various words for “breath” or “wind” which are then rendered more poetically when translated into Latin and again into English (a fact which can lead to quite a different interpretation of scriptural meaning than that taught in Sunday school).

This concept of airy, immaterial life forces is thus deeply rooted in human culture.  In many ancient societies, it found expression as animism, an early form of religious belief in which every object in one’s surroundings is thought to be possessed of its own spirit, thereby lending sacredness to every rock and stream, every tree and every gust of wind.  For adherents of such notions, it was generally believed that some of these spirits were kind and benevolent and should be honored with shrines and offerings to obtain their blessing, while others were cruel and malevolent and had to be placated or held at bay with chants, charms, potions, and rituals.

Applying this idea to illness, it was believed by many primitive people that all disease, whether mental or physical, was the direct result of such evil spirits inhabiting the body.  Among European cultures, this gave rise to the practice of exorcisms and persecution of “witches.”  To this day, when we say “God bless you” after a sneeze it’s linked to the widespread medieval belief that sneezing momentarily exposes your soul to invasion by lurking demons.  In other places, such beliefs provided justification for the practices of tribal shamans which, contrary to skeptical expectations, can at times actually be highly effective for treating certain ailments due to the power of the placebo effect as famously documented by ethnographer Franz Boas in the case of the Kwakiutl shaman, Quesalid.

As for most diseases caused by microbes or by the body’s own cells however, except for plant based treatments (some of which modern medicine is only now beginning to rediscover) as well as certain Ayurvedic and acupuncture techniques that have been successfully practiced in the East for millennia, the vast majority of remedies early people employed were utterly futile and left them helpless against the onslaught of disease-causing pathogens.  Not only were such methods as prayer and dancing, the wearing of totems, or the reciting of magic spells completely useless, but often times they could be outright deadly if used in place of more effective treatments.  To this day in parts of Africa, there are sects who have rejected Western medicine as evil, and so refuse vaccination (greatly hindering efforts to eradicate diseases like measles and polio) while others believe the only way to cure AIDS is to rape a young virgin.  Foolishness, it would seem, is the most widespread and stubborn of all human afflictions.  Which brings us back to our own present situation.

As citizens of technologically advanced societies living in the modern age, we have many things to be both proud of and thankful for.  We’re able to reap the benefits of countless discoveries and numerous technical innovations which directly contribute to our comfort and wellbeing.  That said, we also have many serious challenges remaining, some of which put our very survival at risk.  By far the best method we’ve ever devised for solving such challenges is science.  And yet, infuriatingly, the biggest impediment to its advancement is not the inherent complexity of nature but rather the vestiges of the same primitive misconceptions that brought us spirits and Sky Father, still weighing us down in the form of dogmatic, faith-based religion.

The Bible was written in a time when people believed the Earth was flat and the sun revolved around it.  They believed that natural disasters were signs of God’s wrath and that diseases were the result of demonic possession.  We see this demonstrated again and again such as when, on Joshua’s command, “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day,” (Joshua 10:13) or when the Devil brought Jesus “up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world,” (Matthew 4:8) or when Jesus was brought “many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick.” (Matthew 8:16)  The list goes on and on.

Every one of these beliefs has now been demonstrated to be patently untrue and hopelessly misguided.  Science has led us out of the abyss of ignorance and into the light.  But as long as people keep turning to outdated texts brimming with absurdities for their guidance on important issues; as long as they continue to disparage the incredible phenomenon known as consciousness by conflating it with magical, invisible agents inhabiting their bodies through what they call “spirituality,” we will remain as powerless against the challenges we face as the ancients were while offering burnt sacrifices upon the altar.

Every hypocrite who denies evolution, yet clamors for stronger antibiotics when their infection won’t heal because the bacteria have evolved to become resistant; everyone who opposes the teaching of science and critical thinking skills yet is happy to watch TV, talk on their cell phone, use the Internet, or fly in an airplane needs to seriously reexamine their worldview.  It’s not fair to discount science and yet gorge on its fruits.  It’s not fair to despise its methodology yet demand it solve all our problems when irrational methods fail (as they so often do).

Instead of wallowing in inherited ignorance, let us embrace the power of our incredible minds and work together to continue moving forward toward the bright horizon of possibility.  Let’s leave fearful superstition where it belongs – a relic of the distant past that we can read about in history books and be proud to have moved beyond!

Colby Hess is a freelance writer and photographer living near Seattle, WA.  He is currently writing a book about science, philosophy, and freethought.  Follow him on Twitter @ColbyTHess

Colby Hess

Colby Hess is a freelance writer and photographer living near Seattle, WA.He is currently writing a book about science, philosophy, and freethought.Follow him on Twitter @ColbyTHess.

63 Comments on "Lightning & Disease: A Primitive Thought System Overturned"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Jul 17, 2012 at 10:00 pm |

    Wow, what an ignorant western civilized arrogant circle jerk. Don’t look now, your cultural biases are showing. Go pray to Technology, maybe he’ll save you after the total collapse of the biosphere, that he is causing. But probably not.

    • Linsang811 | Jul 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm |

      Your blustery self-righteous indignation is showing. Technology isn’t responsible for wrecking the biosphere, ignorant, shortsighted humans are. I can use a hammer to fix things or I can use it to smack your silly ass with. If I choose to, will you blame the hammer?

      • Jin The Ninja | Jul 17, 2012 at 10:54 pm |

         so technology is self-producing? atoms are actually self-replicating nanobots?

      • Anarchy Pony | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:33 pm |

        Technology, and especially your fancy modern technology cannot exist without massive infrastructure, the maintenance and continuation of this infrastructure is a constant drain on resources meaning more destruction of the biosphere to acquire them, and constant source of waste and pollution, which causes decay and disease in the places not being chewed up for those resources. And of course the endless quest for exponential growth only speeds this process up even faster. 
        To summarize an iPhone won’t kill a whale, but the fucking boat it’s shipped on might, or the toxic waste produced as a side effect might make the river next to the factory uninhabitable. etc etc. 

        • You did nothing but point out flaws in his analogy. “Technology isn’t responsible for wrecking the biosphere, ignorant, shortsighted humans are.” And ignorant, shortsighted humans create the technology and infrastructure, drain the resources, and do this without thinking for one second –“There must be a better way!” So who is to blame? Technology that has not even been conjured up yet? Or us, for applying the most “cost-effective” solution available instead of the most noninvasive and harmless one? Demand a better way dammit! 

          • Anarchy Pony | Jul 18, 2012 at 12:39 am |

            The time for a “better way” is long past. Wanting it now won’t solve any problems and certainly can’t undo the damage done. You want un-intrusive? That takes time. Time, these days, is short.

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 18, 2012 at 2:08 am |

            The whole system is a disease. We need a revolution

        • MoralDrift | Jul 18, 2012 at 2:10 am |

          I’d like to agree with you, and I’m fully aware of the pain and injustice that mankinds foray into mastering the universe has brought unto this world but…if we have come this far..why not try and go further? 

          The alternative is to abandon all technology after steam power and live in small tribal societies inevitably warring with each other until one of them gets large enough to start the whole thing over again or we are wiped out by disease or famine or disaster……

          We are on the precipice of great leaps forward in energy production and distribution, biotechnology, and maybe space travel…we already have communications infrastructure and knowledge networks that would blow the mind of anyone who didn’t live past 1975….

          Yeah the early 21st century and the ones preceding it have really sucked in a lot of ways…but dare we go back? Can we? and the end…to what purpose?

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm |

             we can’t go back. in that i agree. but unless we have an ideological shift, or a paradigmatic shift, we cannot continue the veneration of technology.

          • MoralDrift | Jul 18, 2012 at 9:07 pm |

            No doubt fully on board with that…

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 19, 2012 at 12:26 am |

            Especially us computer users. Alot of us seem to have an automatic veneration for computers. First we need to realize how these computers are made, many of the parts used in computers are rare resources ripped from previously pristine environments. I’m looking at eco-laptops at the moment, do you know any good sellers?

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 19, 2012 at 2:52 am |

            i am actually unaware of any true ‘eco’ laptops in production (feel free to correct me) currently. i know i’ve seen several prototypes on green design sites the past several years, but none that are made sustainably or from recycled mats. my best advice (which is what i myself do) is get either a) a custom built laptop. b) a union made laptop. for customs they are very expensive, but they laaaaast, and you can easily swap parts when you want to upgrade (instead of getting an entirely new unit)- and the bonus being you can source ‘made in usa/canada’ parts as the need arises. northwest systems does a mean 17′. the bonus to this being that you can get them to install linux as your primary OS. another choice being an alienware or their parent company (which i won’t name) which does assembly in the US. sam sung also has an ‘eco’ laptop that is really just less power-hungry. to be frank, impossible i think to source an entirely non-sweatshop/prison made, rare earth mined laptop. that is the hypocrisy of being connected i guess…

          • Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 19, 2012 at 3:14 am |

            Thanks for the tip, I’ll probably go custom built seeing that its the cheapest option. It certainly is a conundrum as it is with many aspects of modern life.

        • Linsang811 | Jul 18, 2012 at 8:45 am |

          I’d like to think that we could find a way to enjoy technology without wreaking havoc on the planet. It will necessarily involve population control and that in itself brings up a whole host of issues, especially human rights issues. I also think, if we really wanted to, we could terraform other planets and move away from the Earth. Not likely though because we’re a bunch of shortsighted, ignorant, selfish assholes.

          • PossiblyMaybe | Jul 19, 2012 at 11:24 am |

            “It will necessarily involve population control…” Ah! I see you already beat me to it 🙂 

    • Jin The Ninja | Jul 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm |

      lol. you beat me to it.

    • emperorreagan | Jul 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

      He’s jumped to conclusions about technological innovation being the salvation of man’s current state and religion hampering that leap in a couple of essays now.  Outside of a handful of particular cases like stem cell research, I think that conclusion is rather dubious. 

      I sometimes think that people who worship technology believe in some sort of divine form – the chair I’m sitting in is a reflection of some sort of ideal chair.  Chasing after science and her applied little sister will offer some sort of tech gnosis.  Some of the singularity stuff is explicitly that.

      Technology reflects and magnifies human intent.  And the curious thing about most of the “save the earth” technologists is that their intent is first to maintain lifestyle.  All other goals are secondary.  

  2. Josh Steves | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:25 pm |

    Technology has advanced so far that anything which would work as a real solution is going to be kept secret. It’s kept secret for numerous reasons, some which are obvious, others which you might not think of. Only one reason is needed however, and that reason is money. When technology can provide for all your needs without any shortcomings or downfalls. What is the point of money? 

    Human nature is the problem, not religion or technology . 

    • Anarchy Pony | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:26 pm |

      It must be nice to live in an imaginary world where imaginary things exist.

      • Josh Steves | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

        What’s imaginary, technology, religion, money? The only thing that’s imaginary are the thoughts going through your head right now. 

        • Jin The Ninja | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:33 pm |

          do you really think post-scarcity is possible within a capitalist paradigm? better brush up on your bookchin.

          • Josh Steves | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm |

            No! Of course not. The way we are now, we would destroy everything with such things.  

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:45 pm |

            but who then would produce such a thing? no business no gov’t would create a system or a machine that would effectively end their monopoly on power and money.

          • Josh Steves | Jul 18, 2012 at 12:05 am |

            They take many risks, Wall street should prove as an example. Secrecy, disinformation, a system of denial, unlimited budgets, fear. They can all outweigh the risk. If you strive for power as bad as them, would you not want that?     

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm |

             who takes many risks? big biz? corps?

          • Josh Steves | Jul 18, 2012 at 8:06 pm |

            I don’t believe you’re that naive. 

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 18, 2012 at 9:39 pm |

            no. and i’ve been asserting the opposite this entire time. what exactly are you saying? that humanist/ecological technology can be produced subversively by nobel minded scientists in underground labs?

          • Josh Steves | Jul 19, 2012 at 11:23 am |

            How is it that you can believe in corruption and corrupt individuals ability to conspire, but you cannot believe they would prevent these technologies from hitting the marketplace? 

            You seem to be trying to entice me to speculate on the specifics of the secrecy and all the underlining mechanisms behind it. I  could speculate, but I would rather not. Would you like to here speculation and then critique it as you wish?What I’m saying is very basic.  Any time a technology is developed that can be used as a non-invasive solution to a large scale problem. It is evaluated for it’s ability to preform in the marketplace. If the technology is ‘too good’ as a solution. (Meaning it will wipe out all competition, or be stolen by foreign interests.) It is effectively buried, shelved, or brought into black projects and then classified. Thousands of patents are classified every year under the guise of National Security. Some of them could solve a lot of our problems here on this big blue ball. I only ask that you — or anyone else for that matter — understand that these solution DO exist. 

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm |

            you seem to interpret me as your adversary when in fact my implication was the same as your above all along- with one difference i do NOT believe they even attempt to develop beneficial technologies. and what you associate with ‘too good’ i simply associate as greed and capital.

          • Josh Steves | Jul 19, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

            Well then, my apologies for the misinterpretation. I’m just struggling to understand how you can think they wouldn’t attempt to make such technologies. Not for our benefit, but for their own. Selfishness and greed are the mechanisms that drive their desire to have these technologies all to themselves. Even they must not be tempted to use them, as it could potentially leak out. Only in the most compartmentalized and secure situations would this technology ever be deployed. Let me share something with you. A scientist I knew working on nuclear trigger systems at Kirkland AFB in New Mexico was allowed to keep a device on his desk which put out a constant current at 1.2 volts, forever. It was solid state, no moving parts. He had it attached to a couple of LEDs. My colleague and I had to do some work in his lab, calibration work to be exact. We noticed the lit LEDs on his desk for 5 days without losing any brightness what so ever. On the fifth day we finally asked him, “Whats with the lit LEDs on your desk?” He replied, “It’s quantum electron amplification.” It takes surrounding photons, uses them to push out electrons from a certain crystal lattice and for every one electron pushed out it produces 4 in the circuit, using this “quantum electron amplification.” After we left, it took 2 years before their calibration cycle was up again. When we returned 2 years later, the device was gone, the person didn’t work there and no one would comment as to why. I can’t tell you for a fact why he left. I speculate it was because he showed us something he shouldn’t have. Talking about the device to everyone we saw on base was probably not a very good idea in hindsight. Attached is a picture of my SNL badge, it’s about the only proof I can offer you that I was there and this isn’t just some made up story. Best Regards, Josh. 

          • NotFunButNecessary | Jul 19, 2012 at 11:21 am |

            If we had enforced population control via parental licensing and one-child only laws then yes, me thinks it would be possible… 

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm |

            instead of advocating for an inane solution that limits, particularly women’s already under attack reproductive rights, let us instead gaze deeply at the massive inequalities in resource consumption. and how fossil fuel use, wars, corporations, monoculture and capitalism generally has eroded our biosystems and caused massive environmental and social problems. of course it is easy for anyone living in the west to declare limits on pop’n rather than limits on the very lifestyle (theirs) that has caused such a radical shift in gaian health.

          • PossiblyMaybe | Jul 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm |

            “instead of advocating for an inane solution…let us instead gaze deeply at…” Why can’t we have both? Wouldn’t that make the most sense? Reduce/control the population AND alter the way in which said population goes about consuming natural resources. Far as I can tell, that is a win-win situation. And having an enforced one-child only policy is not insane…it is practical, rational, and efficient.  

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 19, 2012 at 11:45 pm |

            practical, rational and efficient is not democratic, humanist, or compassionate. i’d rather live in a world that values the latter.

      • Jin The Ninja | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:32 pm |

        what i don’t understand, is that there is nothing more ‘real’ than the ground we walk on, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the clouds at which we gaze. so instead, we’d rather poison, destroy and erode  that which is tangible, and venerate some cogs literally ripped from the heart of a mountain- and then hope they save us!?

      • Calypso_1 | Jul 17, 2012 at 11:50 pm |

        It is.

      • NavyVet81 | Jul 19, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

        What an ignorant fucking comment. You must be just as tech savvy as a pony. Go save a stray cat or something. Leave the real thinking to people who understand technology and history. In 1970 when I was in the Navy, they had ships that ran completely off of nuclear power. And not the nuclear power we use commercially! It was  nuclear material that reacted with other materials to produce electricity directly. It lasted 30 years before you needed to change out the fuel. It also produce almost zero waste products, in 1970! 
        That way to generate power is still classified today. Using nuclear power to generate heat to run turbines is the dumbest fucking idea in the universe.  So don’t go around with your stupid arrogant attitude thinking you know whats real and whats not. You know nothing!    

        • Josh Steves | Jul 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

          I understand your frustration. There are a lot of people who hate technology because the only technology allowed is the type that consumes. Because of this you can’t blame them for their would view. It’s all they know and understand. That’s how the people of the world are conditioned, they are basically trained to consume consume consume. To them, a system that would generate energy without consumption or with extreme hyper efficiency is magic and best left to fairy tails and fiction movies. If they had any idea these technologies existed under their noses they would probably riot or demand they be implemented as soon as possible. And we both know that’s not going to happen because of the power structure in place on this world. The money must be funneled to the top, if some technology arises that would interrupt that flow then it will be effectively suppressed. This is the truth, and their broken world view will not allow a revelation like that to enter their heads. All we can do is speak our mind and hope that someday they will see for themselves how the fraud is perpetrated and all our resources are exploited for no reason but greed. Peace and love my friend.   

  3. i always find it interesting that viruses are always presented and viewed as tiny vikings that merely rape and pillage anything they encounter when there are so many other things these vessels can do

  4. Tchoutoye | Jul 18, 2012 at 2:16 am |

    “In the proto-Indo-European language spoken by the ancestors of nearly everyone now inhabiting Europe, the Middle East, and northern India”

    Actually, most people in the Middle East speak Semitic or Turkic languages that are unrelated to proto-Indo-European. Persian is the only proto-Indo-European language spoken in that region (as a first language).

  5. Tchoutoye | Jul 18, 2012 at 2:52 am |

    “To this day, when we say ‘God bless you’ after a sneeze it’s linked to the widespread medieval belief that sneezing momentarily exposes your soul to invasion by lurking demons.”

    For the same reason many people still cover their mouth with their hand when they yawn.

    • Demiships | Jul 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm |

      I don’t know about you, but I cover my mouth when I yawn so I don’t suck in any bugs. If i didn’t do that I would be eating mosquitoes for lunch. If I’m inside I don’t even bother covering my mouth.      

  6. Tchoutoye | Jul 18, 2012 at 3:14 am |

    “The Bible was written in a time when people believed the Earth was flat…”

    Some people, but not everyone. Eratosthenes (276 BC– 195 BC) calculated the circumference of the earth with remarkable accuracy. People in other cultures (Egyptian, Indian and Persian) knew that the earth was round.

    The sphere was considered the most divine shape by Pythagoras and the like, why would God then choose any other shape for the centre of the universe?

  7. plot spoiler alert:
    the gloss is the entirety of the story

    Wipe your glosses with what you know.

  8. Yeah, whatever!  The thing, or things that technology can’t give people that follow evolution, or technology, or science, is a sense of morality or something the bible calls love, among other good things.  Since people who follow this stuff say they have no God, invariably worship something.  Call it money, economy, government or technology, you all believe in something and it is nameless and formless and you believe in it.  It stands in enmity towards God and that’s the real issue.  If you’re not serving God, then you’re probably serving money, and everyone has a master.  Who, or what, do you follow?  Will it save you from enslavement.  Most people are just cogs in the wheel, worker ants, making things better for the economy and most will never see the rewards of their labor.  People who trust in technology and evolution are missing the point of life and probably don ‘t stand for anything, Except when they see something bad happening and then see something good happen, one will choose to do the bad thing and another will choose to enact the good thing.  Good, like disease spreads, and so does evil.  God did the first good and people who do good only do so because they’ve witnessed other good deeds and repeated them.  Someone saw God do the good things and decided to do what he did.  Some decide to do the other things, and cause problems.  There’s nothing in all of science or technology which can teach a person to treat another with kindness, or love, or respect, or give a reason why one should.  People who follow the bible are trying to do good things and not evil.  There is no reason for anyone to ever believe that people who don’t follow God will treat another well.  It usually happens that people who don’t have a source, like the bible, for morality, will not treat others well.  Christians who do bad things to others undeservedly are disobeying God, and have to answer to him, but none but he may judge his children.  None of you can tell anyone why a person should do good, and not evil, unless you’ve read and understood the bible.  I don’t think there is another book which can teach this. 
    Go ahead! tell me how the great God of evolution and technology teaches others how to be loving and generous? I dare you!

    • Your “God” (Imaginary being in the thoughts of people) has causes more problems than that of us humans alone.  Love exists without the notion or even the thought of God.

    • Michel Stevelinck | Jul 19, 2012 at 6:30 am |

       Hi. There are more than 2000 different Gods in human history. Other books exist and promote love … or not. Nearly every religious book claim that it tells the truth. Every religion claims that it is the “choosen people” and other are by definition infidels (to their God). What about a planetary dimension ? We all live on this planet and we have (so far) only one planet. You could worship the planet, the nature and the universe around it. You could enjoy life and be good to people without telling them that only THAT book tells the truth. The truth is out there. The reality is present and there is a universal way of understand it : science. Science will not solve all our problems. Science only tell us how things work. The difference forces, chemistry, biology, genetics, geology, astronomy, physics, …. but also psychology, anthropology and other human sciences. All those disciplines give us an understanding (proven by a scientific methodology : replicable by others, …etc) which gain in precision year after year of research and worldwide agreed (this is the planetary dimension). What the human do with science is totally different. Nuclear physics can give you the knowledge to build a ray to cure cancer or an atomic bomb. It’s not because you don’t worship a superpower devine entity that you don’t have rules to guide your life. Those rules are the civil laws but also personal ethics and deonthology. I am an atheist. I don’t kill other humans for fun. I feed the birds in my garden, I give 200$ a month to charity, I learned CPR and first aids techniques to help my fellow human in case of an accident, I have signed paper to give my organs if I am clinically dead and I teach my son to not do to others what he don’t like to be treated by others. I teach my son to question everything, to be curious and to learn as much as he can. I want my son to be happy and to find his way in life. He could marry a woman of any race, he could be gay or even choose to be religious in any kind of religion he would like to worship. I just want him to be happy. I want that for all human beeings. I hope you have children and that they have the same freedom as mine does. – Michel S. – Brussels, Belgium, Europe.

  9. Joy_isolated | Jul 23, 2012 at 4:34 am |

    There is a reason the word is “supernatural”, as in “above nature”–i.e. outside of the laws of science.

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