Misc: March 2008 Archives


March 7, 2008

Benny Shanon from Hebrew University argues that Moses was taking psychedelics when he saw the burning bush, etc.:
Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times, Benny Shanon, a professor of cognitive psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem wrote in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.

"As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don't believe, or a legend, which I don't believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics," Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday.

Moses was probably also on drugs when he saw the "burning bush," suggested Shanon, who said he himself has dabbled with such substances.


He said the psychedelic effects of ayahuasca were comparable to those produced by concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree, that is frequently mentioned in the Bible.

I'm pretty ignorant of the religious practices of the pre-covenant Israelites, and it's certainly undeniable that intoxicant/psychedelic use is a common feature of a number of religions. That said, I don't really see the point of looking for natural explanations for events in the Bible (for instance, this article arguing that the 10 plagues in Exodus were caused by a volcanic eruption.

What's weird about efforts like this is that they're simultaneously religious and anti-religious. Trying to provide a natural explanation for religious history fundamentally undercuts the religious claims, which rely on supernatural explanations. The Bible pretty clearly says that God spoke to Moses (Ex 3:4). If you believe Moses was just hallucinating, what does that say about God? On the other hand, once you deny the special status of the Bible, then why bother trying to explain the stories at all. It's not like the Bible is this uniquely consistent book of history with just a few mythological pieces. On the contrary, even even the history is to a large degree unverifiable stuff that people only believe because of their preexisting religious (or ethnopolitical) commitments. If you've abandoned those commitments, there's no more need to try to provide scientific explanations for biblical events than there is to provide a scientific explanation of how Sauron crafted the One Ring.


March 2, 2008

More on movie plot holes...

In Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons attack the "12 Colonies" from space and we get treated to the usual terrifying scenes of people running from strafing Cylon fighters. Here's the thing, though: they're trying to kill every human in the galaxy, so what's with the up close and personal attack? Wouldn't it be simpler to just nuke the cities form orbit? For that matter, you could skip the nukes and just use kinetic weapons from space.

OK, so Mrs. Guesswork and I just finished watching Casino Royale and something bugging me. (spoilers after the jump).