The Budding Discipline of Geomythology

noahsark_meister_150.jpgMyths are not the only records that scientists should take notice of. They should also take notice of one of the most carefully recorded and transmitted collection of records on the planet — the collection of documents we now call “The Holy Bible.”

There’s a new scientific discipline out there called “Geomythology.” What is it? And how does it work? Here’s the article that alerted me to it … “Tracking Myth to Geological Reality” …

Science 4 November 2005:
Vol. 310. no. 5749, pp. 762 – 764
DOI: 10.1126/science.310.5749.762

Tracking Myth to Geological Reality

Kevin Krajick*

Once dismissed, myths are winning new attention from geologists who find that they may encode valuable data about earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, and other stirrings of the earth

More and more geoscientists are willing to combine their work with such stories these days, in a budding discipline called geomythology. Volcanologist Floyd McCoy of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, says discussing myth has traditionally been “a good way to sink your own credibility”; it can put you on the list with flaky Atlantologists and other amateur zealots. But, says McCoy, “I’d be a fool to write it all off. There is a new realization that some myths have something to say.” Myths can sometimes alert researchers to previously unheeded geohazards; in other cases, where science has demonstrated the danger, legends “enrich the record” and reinforce the fact that people lie in harm’s way, says paleoseismologist Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Seattle, who has spearheaded many studies of seismic events in the Pacific Northwest. The trick is teasing out which myths carry kernels of truth that can be connected to hard data.

Deities of flood and fire

The movement traces in part to the 1980s, when scientists realized that the slow march of geologic time is sometimes punctuated by biblical-scale catastrophes, such as the giant meteorite that wiped out dinosaurs 65 million years ago. After this was accepted, some (usually those with tenure) felt freer to wonder if near-universal myths of great floods and fires implied that such disasters also have punctuated human time. In the 1990s, Columbia University marine geologists Walter Pitman and William Ryan argued that rising Mediterranean sea levels following the last deglaciation topped what is now the Bosporus Strait and roared into the Black Sea 7600 years ago, serving as the original inspiration for the biblical flood. Their work triggered sharp criticism and a torrent of research, resulting in growing acceptance of some sort of Black Sea flooding (Science, 22 September 2000, p. 2021). Whether the book of Genesis somehow grew from this is a further step, admits Ryan, who presented his latest findings at the International Geoscience Program in Istanbul, Turkey, in early October.

Myths may provide unusually precise tools in the Pacific because some are tied to royal genealogies that can be roughly dated. In Hawaii, where the genealogies go back 95 generations, archaeologist Bruce Masse of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has compiled stories of battles between the fire deity Pele and others that seem to relate to volcanic eruptions; the reigns of kings at the time of the “battles” correlate within a few decades to radiocarbon dates of burned vegetation under lava sheets. Other tales apparently record celestial events. One, said to have taken place during the reign of King Kakuhihewa, narrates a human sacrifice at dawn interrupted by giant owls who fly across the sun. When Masse lined up the number of generations with recent NASA tables that calculate times of past events, he hit a match: A rare solar eclipse took place over Hawaii precisely at sunrise on 10 April 1679.

See also my article entitled “Comet or Meteor Impact Around the Time of the Flood?

Why am I, a Bible-believing Creationist, interested in this? Because myths are not the only records that scientists should take notice of. They should also take notice of one of the most carefully recorded and transmitted collection of records on the planet — the collection of documents we now call “The Holy Bible.” Just think what a radically positive difference it would make in our study of geology (and many other disciplines) if all scientists took these records seriously!

3 Responses to “The Budding Discipline of Geomythology”

  1. lordkalvan says:

    I think there is little doubt that many scientists are prepared to take any records seriously (as demonstrated by your reference), but that in order for those records to be accorded any literal value there has to be evidence to substantiate them. Sadly, there is little evidence to substantiate the mythology of Genesis, although this is not to devalue the worth of the Bible as allegory.

  2. lordkalvan says:

    To carry your argument to its logical conclusion, does the fact that Schliemann used the Homeric tales of the Greek legends of the Trojan War in his quest to find an historical Troy make The Iliad and The Odyssey accurate works of history? That the Bible contains a few elements of historical accuracy does not make it ‘one of the most carefully recorded and transmitted collection of records on the planet’.

  3. porzitski says:

    Again, The Lord Kalvan has spoken! All who look upon his visage … ah, skip it. The irony will be lost anyway.

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