Friday, November 30, 2007

News from the Fish Bowl: Breaking News

This is Lucky the Goldfish. I just want to tell everybody that when I say "breaking news," I mean news that's important and that I just got, not that my goldfish bowl has broken and that I'm drowning, just in case anybody was worried. I'm not drowning, not really, except I do have to hold my breath to jump out of the bowl and flop on the keyboard to type these posts, but that's how I get my workout and because I do that I can hold my breath for a longer time than most goldfish and I've got really strong fins, too.

BRUCE MASSE TO CHRIS TURNEY: MY MYTH IS BIGGER THAN YOUR MYTH

Some researchers want to know if real-life events lie behind the Flood story of the Bible and the flood stories of other cultures.

Some of you may already know one theory holds that Near Eastern flood stories originate from a rise in sea levels that broke down a barrier between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. According to Michael Kahn in this Reuters article from Yahoo! News, this event has been successfully dated. Evidence also indicates that the rising Black Sea resulted in a diaspora. Farmers displaced from the region moved across Europe, bringing their agricultural knowledge with them, according to researcher Chris Turney.

But that's not good enough according to Bruce Masse. He has proposed that flood myths from around the world originate with a comet strike that wiped out eighty percent of the world's population approximately 5,000 years ago, as Scott Carney writes for Discover. Masse's sensational theory of course has its critics, and we can safely expect that no definite answers will be forthcoming in the future, but to bolster his theory, Masse so far has a possible crater off the coast of Madagascar and some shore features that may suggest a cataclysmic impact.

Update from D. G. D.: Thanks for the new item, Lucky. I hope you don't mind if I post a brief addendum. The Discover article makes a generalization about most cultures having flood myths. Personally, I have no idea how many known flood stories there are or how many cultures have them. Greg Laden's irritated but nonetheless notable post on the subject is worth reading. He claims only a "small percentage" of cultures have flood myths, though he doesn't cite research to back it up. I have no idea if his generalization is any more accurate than the generalization in Discover. All I can say at the moment is that some cultures have flood myths and others don't. I thought this worth mentioning since Christians are often guilty of the "every culture has a flood myth" generalization, though we're hardly the only ones guilty of it.

Even if Masse's theory is a wash, I hope he publishes a book of comparative mythology on the flood stories he's been researching. It would be a shame if all that work went to waste. Perhaps such a work could clear up the question of just how many cultures have these flood myths.

I must also mention this: the Discover article treats Genesis and The Epic of Gilgamesh as if they are two independent sources, but they are almost certainly related. Myths have a habit of moving around and getting modified. I suspect Masse isn't taking that into account.
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