Religion, History, and Science: My Favorite Topics
Religion is a touchy subject for people to discuss. Most take it very seriously and claim that what is written in the Bible is fact. Period. While others want proof. Since I'm a history buff and have taught high school history, I feel that I have a better than average grasp of the frailties of what we think we know. For instance, history is re-written about every 30 years. Why 30? Because that's when another generation has grown up, done some research, and put their own spin on what happened way back when. I always encourage my students (and now you) to never accept just one source for information. I know sometimes we only have one source, so hopefully it's the primary source (person who wrote it) but often it is only secondary sources (people who read it or heard it said). Of course, if we have two people who said they saw it, read it, heard it-that's even better. We have some substantiation. Many things in the Bible have to be taken on faith or just not believed because there is no evidence to support the claims.
What I really love is when different branches of modern science substantiate historical claims, especially those in the Bible. For instance, archeologists were looking for the locations of Sodom and Gomorrah. Based on the Biblical account, the cities were near the Dead Sea. They think they've found it and where they decided to dig, they located a shallow, oval clay bowl that would fit in the palms of two hands. Markings were engraved on the bowl, which were eventually determined to be astronomical. One of those markings was a long streak, which they took to mean an asteroid or comet. Since we can pin point dates according to star placements in the heavens, it was determined that this bowl was indeed dated to the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the meantime, environmental scientists in the Peruvian Andes and the arctic pulled ice cores to study. These two groups were not related to each other nor were they in contact with the archeologists. But they both found evidence that an asteroid had struck the earth at the time we're discussing. Based on the levels of asteroid evidence contained in the ice, they were able to pin point where it should have hit. The only problem was that there was no crater located where they thought it should be. However, because we know that asteroids can sometimes explode before hitting the ground, they decided that's what happened. Considering their location for the asteroid and the bowl's location for the asteroid were the same, it's a good bet they're correct.
Now when an asteroid explodes, it will push debris into the upper atmosphere that will then fall back to earth burning-incredibly hot. We know from the Biblical account that angels were going to destroy Sodom with "fire and brimstone." Now if you are close enough to the original explosion of an asteroid, the burning debris will be so hot that you can be turned to ash instantly. We know from the account as well, that Lot made it to safety in a cave but his wife paused to look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Salt? Ash? She would've definitely been a pillar of something...not living. And the cities would have been obliterated.
So there you have it-the Biblical account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah substantiated by modern science.
Thank you Caron. I like that explanation. I've actually read a different interpretation involving the tar-pits the Bible mentions as being close to Sodom and Gomorrah. Again, it gives a scientific explanation that fits the story in the Bible. And again, like you say, we can't know exactly what happened in the past, but we can try to learn more about what happened. Inasmuch as that past matters to us, maybe trying to learn more about it really ought to matter too.
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