Derek Taylor
Derek Taylor

Science vs the atheists at pesach

Jewish holiday Passover background with matzo, seder plate, wine and tulip flowers on wooden table. Top view from above. (Jewish News)
Jewish holiday Passover background with matzo, seder plate, wine and tulip flowers on wooden table. Top view from above. (Jewish News)

There are still a lot of atheists out there scoffing at the Old Testament. Their argument is that science is king and has now proved all the Biblical stories to be mumbo-jumbo fantasies and myths. 

Well, we’re coming up to  Seder Night and recalling the 10 plagues of Egypt, as we have done for thousands of years. So how about a scientific explanation for why they happened and in the order they did. 

Let me introduce you to Dr. John Marr, who served for many years as Chief Epidemiologist at the New York Department of Health. Together with Curtis Malloy,  a research specialist on epidemiology and infectious diseases, they decided to see whether science could explain the plagues and the order. Where necessary, they called in expert friends to deal with the specific calamities. 

First, the turning of the Nile into blood. What could have happened to the great Nile Delta? Well, it happened a few years ago to the waterways in North Carolina. Millions of fish died and their blood polluted the waterways. The cause? An algae called pfiesteria. It eats the flesh of fish and their blood can turn a river red. This was identified by a marine biologist called Dr. Johann Burkholder. On another occasion in Hong Kong it was said to wipe out 150,000 tons of fish.

Then came frogs. Obviously the spawn that produced them weren’t eaten as usual by the fish; they had died.  Professor Richard Wassersug of the University of Halifax pointed out that the Biblical word could also cover toads. Then the professor tells us that the Bufo toad in Egypt can produce hundreds of thousands of offspring. 

Then lice. Richard Brown, curator of the Mississippi Entomological Museum pointed out that the Hebrew cinnim covered Culicoides canithorax – a biting midge – which likes decayed organic material. A plague of Culicoides was very feasible; there was plenty to feed on. The leading Harvard entomologist, Andrew Spielman, fixed on the Egyptian stable fly which bites with disastrous consequences. 

Dr. Roger Breeze, Director of the US Animal Research Centre, put the death of the cattle down to Bluetongue, which kills animals in a matter of hours The virus is spread by – the Culicoides midge. 

Boils were attributed to pseudomonas mallei which would be carried by the stable fly. Hail can be more than a metre deep in the Middle East. Locusts were the eighth plague, probably schistocerca gregaria, the desert locust. Then the Khamsin wind can produce such extensive sandstorms as to blot out the sun.  Even the killing of the first born can be put down to the eldest traditionally eating first and diseased crops producing typhoid and salmonella.  Malloy says Mycotoxins probably did the damage. 

So what was the miracle? Obviously how Moses knew to warn the Pharaoh what would happen if he didn’t let the Jews go.  Is it really feasible that Moses knew in Bible times about the cumulative effects of pfiesteria, bufo toads, culicoides midges, bluetongue, pseudomonas mallei, schistocerca gregaria and mycotoxins? Even if it was described in the time of the Talmud,  that’s only sixth century. Could Moses and Aaron have the combined scientific brains of Messrs Marr, Malloy, Dr. Buckholder, Messrs Spielmann, Wasseersug, Breeze et al? 

It makes more sense to believe that Moses and Aaron did what they were told by the Almighty, even if this goes against all the beliefs of the atheists. 

About the Author
Derek is an author & former editor of the Jewish Year Book
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