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Motivating the research by defining the phenomenon

Posted by BjoernBrembs on 27 Sep 2010 at 14:33 GMT

First, the positive: this paper presents a reasonable scientific explanation for a documented event that some people for some time too for a religious miracle. Hurray for science!

The negative: there is scant, if any, evidence that the documented event ever took place, as there appears to be little archaeological evidence of any Jewish habitation in Egypt, nor, hence, any exodus. Clearly, scientific phenomena cannot be defined merely in some bestseller, or we'd be reviewing heaps of vampire and alien studies. Which, in this case, leaves us with a paper that explains a phenomenon that most likely never existed. This is clearly not as positive as a disproved miracle. Alas, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence...

There is a simple means to rectify this error and justify the publication of this paper in a peer-reviewed scientific journal such as PLoS One. One of the many values of science is to educate the public that supernatural explanations of observable or documented phenomena are not necessary. Thus, where this paper has failed is not in its reference to some religious text. It did fail to mention that there is little if any evidence to support the phenomenon described in the religious text. The paper thus fails to emphasize that even if that event had taken place, it would not have required a deity and that whoever attributed it to a deity was either gullible or a con-artist.

In contrast to bestsellers featuring vampires or aliens, religious bestsellers seem to enjoy a readership that fails to recognize the fiction in these books. I am of the opinion that it is one of the tasks of science to clear up such misconceptions, especially if they are as widespread as in some major world religions. This paper could have dealt a double, rather than just a single blow to religious superstition: the exodus never happened and even if it happened, it wouldn't have required a deity.

I am a biologist who grew up with a Christian background and did, until the coverage of this paper, did not know there was no evidence backing the Jewish exodus story up (I obviously never believed in miracles). Mentioning this important fact would give this paper a passing grade in my books, mainly because the belief in this particular myth is so widespread.

Competing interests declared: I'm a biologist and a PLoS One Acedemic Editor

RE: Motivating the research by defining the phenomenon

drews replied to BjoernBrembs on 29 Sep 2010 at 14:56 GMT

The historicity of the Exodus is outside the scope of this paper, which deals with the dynamics of wind setdown at several coastal sites, modern and ancient. Since this is a scientific paper in a scientific journal, we have omitted references to what a deity did or did not do.

Two of the geographical sources we cited, [9] Hoffmeier (2005) and [41] Kitchen (2003), also discuss the archaeological evidence at length; I refer the interested reader to those sources, and some other forum for their discussion. The presence or lack of "evidence backing the Jewish exodus story up" is outside the scope of this paper.

Carl Drews, lead author

No competing interests declared.