“Bronze Age DNA calls famous biblical slaughter into question” | New Scientist

DNA from five ancient skeletons confirms the Canaanites were not annihilated by the Israelites, as the Bible suggests, but live on in modern day Lebanon

Source: Bronze Age DNA calls famous biblical slaughter into question | New Scientist

“Climate Change in Trump’s Age of Ignorance” – The New York Times

“as an instrument of deception on issues like global warming.” I don’t think this topic gets the attention that it should. The successful campaigns of deception by self-interested corporations has had a devastating effect on the health and well-being of many people here in the U.S. and across the globe. It may be difficult to educate the general population on this subject in the “Age of Ignorance,” but we should at least try. Ignorance is particularly dangerous in this “Age of Deception.”

I also think that us educators need to seriously think about how we prepare our students to sort through all the nonsense they are bombarded with in the age of the internet. We also need to teach our students how, and why, science works, not just the basic findings of science.  This is one of the reasons why the testing craze that promotes rote memorization over thinking is so destructive.  If there ever was a time that critical thinking skills were absolutely critical to our well-being, it is now!

Excerpt from the article: “We now live in a world where ignorance of a very dangerous sort is being deliberately manufactured, to protect certain kinds of unfettered corporate enterprise. The global climate catastrophe gets short shrift, largely because powerful fossil fuel producers still have enormous political clout, following decades-long campaigns to sow doubt about whether anthropogenic emissions are really causing planetary warming. Trust in science suffers, but also trust in government. And that is not an accident. Climate deniers are not so much anti-science as anti-regulation and anti-government.”

Source: Climate Change in Trump’s Age of Ignorance – The New York Times

“The Very Great Alexander von Humboldt” by Nathaniel Rich | The New York Review of Books

“The Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) is all around us. Yet he is invisible. “Alexander von Humboldt has been largely forgotten in the English-speaking world,” writes Andrea Wulf in her thrilling new biography. “It is almost as though his ideas have become so manifest that the man behind them has disappeared.” Wulf’s book is as much a history of those ideas as it is of the man. The man may be lost but his ideas have never been more alive.”

Nathaniel Rich reviews two books on nature. The first (The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf) reminds us of Humboldt’s profound influence in science, culture, politics, and literature. His energy and curiosity took him across the New World including Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru. He met dignitaries such Thomas Jefferson, and as pointed out by Rich “exerted a profound influence on Goethe (with whom he had a deep friendship), Charles Lyell, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jules Verne, Carl Friedrich Gauss, Flaubert, Pushkin, Emerson, Poe, Whitman, Aldous Huxley, Ezra Pound, Erich Fried, Justus Liebig, James Lovelock, and Rachel Carson.” Even more significantly, Humboldt’s ideas had a significant impact on Charles Darwin, so much so that the “crowning paragraph of Origin of Species is a nearly verbatim plagiarism of a passage in Personal Narrative.”

Clearly impressed by the research and skill Wulf put into her new book, Rich conveys an enthusiasm in his review that disappears once he turns to Jedediah Purdy’s After Nature: A Politics for the Anthropocene.  For the full review go to The New York Review of Books.

“Legends say China began in a great flood. Scientists just found evidence that the flood was real.” – The Washington Post

“Chinese geologists uncovered evidence of a catastrophic flood some 4000 years ago — right around the time that legends say a mythical founding flood occurred.”

Source: Legends say China began in a great flood. Scientists just found evidence that the flood was real. – The Washington Post

“Our Brain Dislikes Disorder.  That Explains a Lot.” | History News Network

“We abhor disorder and uncertainty.” We’ve known this for a long time, but what we haven’t figured out is how to get people to be rational in the face of disorder and uncertainty. The problem is that it is so much easier to react in ways that are emotionally and psychologically gratifying. But this shouldn’t deter us from trying to change people’s responses to fear. We would all be better off as a result!

Source: History News Network | Our Brain Dislikes Disorder.  That Explains a Lot.

“Russian Orthodox Church Blocks Funeral for Last of Romanov Remains” – The New York Times

This is really bizarre! “Despite mountains of evidence, the church says it doesn’t believe the remains are those of the last czar and his family.”  No one knows for sure why the Church would deny the scientific evidence for the identity of the Romanov remains. Not that denying scientific evidence isn’t unusual for the Church, but in most cases we know why (it contradicts theirs religious dogma). In this case, there are no religious principles on the line. So, what’s going on?

The most compelling explanation seems to indicate political motivations. “Rejecting the bones will anger some Orthodox adherents, particularly those outside Russia. Accepting them will incense a conservative domestic faction that believes the Soviet government somehow faked the burial.” But without actual evidence, this is only speculation.

Read the entire article here: Russian Orthodox Church Blocks Funeral for Last of Romanov Remains – The New York Times

“Russian Orthodox Church Blocks Funeral for Last of Romanov Remains” – The New York Times

This is really bizarre! “Despite mountains of evidence, the church says it doesn’t believe the remains are those of the last czar and his family.”  No one knows for sure why the Church would deny the scientific evidence for the identity of the Romanov remains. Not that denying scientific evidence isn’t unusual for the Church, but in most cases we know why (it contradicts theirs religious dogma). In this case, there are no religious principles on the line. So, what’s going on?

The most compelling explanation seems to indicate political motivations. “Rejecting the bones will anger some Orthodox adherents, particularly those outside Russia. Accepting them will incense a conservative domestic faction that believes the Soviet government somehow faked the burial.” But without actual evidence, this is only speculation.

Read the entire article here: Russian Orthodox Church Blocks Funeral for Last of Romanov Remains – The New York Times

Propaganda and De-humanization: “The Brain with David Eagleman” PBS

The study of history is the study of human nature. However, it’s not the only way to understand human behavior. Science can also illuminate the mysteries of human behavior. Scientists may approach the problem in a different way, but they are also trying to understand human beings. So, I was thrilled when David Eagleman turned to the subject of ethnic/religious conflict in the third program in a series on the brain.  And he used the War in Bosnia (something I’ve spent years studying) to illustrate the problem.

What have scientists found? That when people are confronted with people in our out group (however defined) our brains react as if they were objects, not human beings. The ability to empathize with those in their out group had been lost. How does this de-humanization happen? Usually, through propaganda.

I’ve spent years studying religious/ethnic conflict to come to the same conclusion. He also proposed the same solution: educate students to detect propaganda. In other words, we need to educate students to be good B.S. detectors and independent thinkers. This is one of the reasons why the humanities are so important, particularly philosophy and history.

Here’s the link to the website for the PBS program:  The Brain with David Eagleman

“The Price of Denialism” – The New York Times

Climate denialists (as well as other science deniers) present themselves as reasonable skeptics, when in fact they are anything but. Lee McIntyre, author of Respecting Truth, explains why they cannot honestly present themselves as skeptics: “True skepticism must be more than an ideological reflex; skepticism must be earned by a prudent and consistent disposition to be convinced only by evidence. When we cynically pretend to withhold belief long past the point at which ample evidence should have convinced us that something is true, we have stumbled past skepticism and landed in the realm of willful ignorance. This is not the realm of science, but of ideological crackpots. And we don’t need a poll to tell us that this is the doorstep to denialism.”

Read McIntyre’s trenchant critique of the proponents of denial: The Price of Denialism – The New York Times