That is how I summarize my thoughts about the upcoming Discovery Channel “documentary” “The Lost Tomb of Jesus”. If you’ve missed all the hoopla over this, here’s the story in brief:

  • Archeologists discover a tomb near Jerusalem.
  • People who are buried there have names such as Yeshua (Jesus), Maria, and Joseph.
  • Movie producer James Cameron produces a documentary saying this is the Jesus and his family.

Some reasons why this is absurd:

  • These were all common names in 1st century Jewish names.
  • Jesus and his family lived in Galilee, not Jerusalem.
  • Jesus and his family were poor, and would not have been able to afford a fancy tomb. His followers were poor as well.
  • This tomb has been known since 1980, and the archeologists who worked on the site came up with no ridiculous story about this being Jesus and his family.
  • None of Jesus’ enemies at the time could produce a body. It wasn’t in any tomb.
  • And finally, Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. His body isn’t in a tomb.

Gene Edward Veith says:

Not that I accept the ludicrous claims of the documentary to have any scholarly merit. As someone said, it’s like finding a gravestone of two people named John and Paul and thinking to have discovered the Beatles.

There are probably a thousand sites out there that have something to say about this. Here are a few good ones:

A few of my observations:

  • It is not just Christians who are calling this a bunch of baloney. Secular scholars are highly critical of the documentary as well.
  • This underlines the need for clear thinking in Christian circles. The arguments of Cameron in his documentary will be easy to counter by those who have a basic foundation in the Bible and history.
  • Most who see this, just as most who read or saw The Davinci Code will have no idea that the arguments are absurd.
  • We should expect that the world will attack the center and foundation of our faith: the person and work of Jesus Christ. We should not lose heart even if the attacks become relentless.
  • I wonder if “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” will be shown between Discovery Channel programs about parapsychology and alien abductions. The Discovery Channel is often more concerned about making a buck than about presenting good science.

Don’t let your faith be weakened.

Grace and Peace

Update 3 March 2007:

This whole “Tomb of Jesus” argument is easy to pick apart, and many are doing so. Still, many in the world will buy into it. Why? Because we often analyze information like this not based on the soundness of logical arguments, but by how the information is presented, who presents it, and how it fits our preconceived notions.

Here are a couple more good analyses of “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” :

Tales from the crypt, by Kerby Anderson, Probe Ministries

Archeological Identity Theft, by Chris Rosebrough, Extreme Theology

Stewart Brand, builder of the world’s slowest computer

There’s an interesting story in today’s New York Times about a man named Stewart Brand. Brand was the publisher of the original Whole Earth Catalog, and an early leader of the environmental movement.

Stewart Brand has become a heretic to environmentalism, a movement he helped found, but he doesn’t plan to be isolated for long. He expects that environmentalists will soon share his affection for nuclear power. They’ll lose their fear of population growth and start appreciating sprawling megacities. They’ll stop worrying about “frankenfoods” and embrace genetic engineering.

I was particularly intrigued by this:

Mr. Brand’s latest project, undertaken with fellow digerati, is to build the world’s slowest computer, a giant clock designed to run for 10,000 years inside a mountain in the Nevada desert, powered by changes in temperature. The clock is an effort to promote long-term thinking.

Taking a look at the NYT article just for a peak at his clock will be worth your time.

The thing I like about his clock project is its long-term perspective. Our energy and environmental policies tend to be very short-term; a decade at the most. At times, we need short-term solutions to problems, but we also need long-term solutions. What energy policies will keep us going for 100 years? 1000 years? 2000 years? Coal certainly won’t do it. Neither will fission-based nuclear power (which Brand advocates). Uranium, too, is a limited natural resource. The long-term possibilities: solar, wind, fusion (will it ever work?), and technologies that we might not be even dreaming about yet.

(Yes, I know that Christ could return tomorrow. But he could conceivably wait another 2000 years as well. We don’t know, and need to live as if he could come back on either timescale).

Grace and Peace

Guatemalan sinkhole

Pictures of a recently-formed sinkhole in Guatemala City can be found here.

By JUAN CARLOS LLORCA, Associated Press Writer

GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – A 330-foot-deep sinkhole killed at least two teenagers as it swallowed about a dozen homes early Friday and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people in a crowded Guatemala City neighborhood. Officials blamed the sinkhole on recent rains and an underground sewage flow from a ruptured main.

The pit emitted foul odors, loud noises and tremors, shaking the surrounding ground. A rush of water could be heard from its depths, and authorities feared it could widen or others could open up.

Grace and Peace

Nerve Gas

Books and Culture has an fascinating review of two books about nerve gas:

War of Nerves: Chemical Warfare from World War I to Al-Qaeda by Jonathan Tucker

Chemical Warfare: A Study in Restraints by Frederic Brown

Some quotes from the review:

My favorite of Tucker’s tales is the story of Boris Libman, a native of Latvia who could have walked straight out of the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Born in 1922, Libman was just 18 when the invading Russians confiscated his family’s land and property and drafted him into the Soviet Army. He was seriously wounded early in the war, returned to duty after a long recovery, and was again badly wounded, the second time left for dead. He survived the war and applied to study at the Moscow Institute for Chemistry tuition-free as an honorably discharged disabled veteran. Libman was turned down because he was officially dead. He managed to prove he was alive, attended university, and became quite a talented chemical engineer. He supervised production of thousands of tons of nerve gas on impossible schedules for many years. In trying to do his best for the Soviet Union, he made an error with a containment pond for toxic wastes. A storm caused a flood, the pond burst its dike, and tons of toxic waste poured into the Volga River. Months later the delayed effects of the spill killed millions of fish for 50 miles downriver. Libman was blamed and sent to a labor camp to appease an outraged public. But as it turned out, no one else could run the nerve gas plant, and Libman was quietly released and returned to work after one year.

Poison gases were used in WWI, but not to any large degree in WWII. All sides recognized the hideousness of these weapons, and the tactical difficulties in their use. Modern day terrorists don’t have the same qualms:

Quite rightly, Brown took a measure of comfort in reflecting that the restraints which existed in World War II continued in the Cold War era. Alas, this modest reassurance does not carry over to our own day. Terrorists are not soldiers. As their name suggests, their purpose is to inflict terror on the civilian population, while at the same time they can trust traditional Western reticence not to respond with indiscriminate murder in retaliation.

Grace and Peace

Rotation Of Earth Plunges Entire North American Continent Into Darkness

More important science news, from the Onion:

NEW YORK—Millions of eyewitnesses watched in stunned horror Tuesday as light emptied from the sky, plunging the U.S. and neighboring countries into darkness. As the hours progressed, conditions only worsened.

At approximately 4:20 p.m. EST, the sun began to lower from its position in the sky in a westward trajectory, eventually disappearing below the horizon. Reports of this global emergency continued to file in from across the continent until 5:46 p.m. PST, when the entire North American mainland was officially declared dark.

Click here for the entire story.

I’m glad I live in Europe. It’s still light outside.

Grace and Peace

U.S. Hardiness Zones and Climate Change

The National Arbor Day Foundation has released maps with revised “hardiness zones.” These zones can be used for determining which plants can be grown in certain parts of the United States. For example, a Norway spruce grows well in zones 3 through 7, but would not grow well in much of the South. These maps reflect the realities of changing climate: most of the nation is warmer now than at the time the previous map was published by the USDA, which was in 1990.

USA 2006 Hardiness Zones:

USA 1990 Hardiness Zones:

USA Hardiness Zone Changes:
The pink and red areas are in warmer zones than in 1990.

Here’s what the Arbor Day site has to say about the benefits of trees:

Trees counteract global warming in multiple ways. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the leading contributor to global warming, and as trees grow they remove CO2 from the atmosphere, storing the carbon and releasing oxygen. A single tree can remove more than a ton of CO2 over its lifetime. Also, shade provided by trees reduces summer air conditioning needs. According to the USDA, the cooling effect of a healthy tree is equal to 10 room-size air-conditioners operating 20 hours a day. Trees reduce the “heat-island” effect in urban areas, where summer temperatures are generally warmer than the surrounding countryside. According to the U.S. Forest Service, 50 million strategically placed shade trees could eliminate the need for seven 100-megawatt power plants. Additionally, trees around homes and in cities slow cold winter winds, reducing the need for winter heating. This relief on fuel consumption for heating and cooling helps reduce CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Grace and Peace

Sea Level Rising

Sea level is rising! Coastal areas are going to be inundated! Billions of eco-refugees are going to be knocking on your door!

Or maybe not. Here’s some perspective on sea level rise:

The recently-released IPCC Report (Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis Summary for Policymakers) does not portray catastrophic sea level increases. Their projection for 21st-century sea level rise is in the 0.18 to 0.59 meter range. This is primarily due to the thermal expansion of the oceans as they warm, and excludes any sea level rise due to substantial melting of polar ice caps. A 0.59 meter sea level rise could cause serious problems for coastal communities or low-elevation countries like the Maldives and the Netherlands, but this is not the catastrophic sea level rise that the more extreme elements of the environmental movement want us to fear.

Rising of sea level has been going on for many thousands of years, though at a slowing pace. In the past 18,000 years, sea level has increased a whopping 120 meters (that’s almost 400 feet). During periods of glacial maximum (i.e. “the ice ages”), a large quantity of water was stored on the continents in the form of ice caps. As this melted between 18,000 and 8,000 years ago, sea level rose dramatically. Whatever sea level increases occur due to global warming will be rather small in comparison.

Image from Wikipedia article on Sea Level Rise

Grace and Peace

Disclaimer: I am at present neither a global-warming skeptic nor a global-warming advocate. I’ll let you know when I figure it all out.