Comments on a New PLOS ONE Article about the LBA collapse

Hat Tip: the good Jason Colavito.
The authors of this paper propose that a drought stretching throughout the Iron I was a major cause of the LBA collapse. I have written about this collapse and its causes here. According to a graph of Dead Sea levels I found, the low point of the Dead Sea in the second millennium BC was c. 1400 BC. I think climate can be seen as the primary explanation for the Early Bronze Age collapse and as a contributing factor to Canaan’s Middle Bronze Age collapse, but I did not think of climate as necessarily a cause of the LBA collapse before I read this paper. Let us look at the data collected by the authors. Figure 3 shows four graphs. The first graph shows that agriculture near Larnaca Salt Lake collapsed during LB IIB. The second graph shows that wood-burning around Larnaca Salt Lake was done often before the LB IIB, especially during the Amarna era, but became almost nonexistent during the 13th century BC. The fourth graph shows that Larnaca Salt Lake turned from a bay to a lagoon c. 1400 BC. None of these results contradict my previous hypothesis that climate was not an important cause of the Late Bronze collapse. It is the third graph, showing the climate around the Larnaca Salt Lake, as reconstructed from pollen samples, which demonstrates that the area around Larnaca Salt Lake became increasingly dry between the 17th and 13th centuries BC and remained in a dry state until the 9th century BC. Figure 4 shows how the authors designed their Principal Components Analysis to reconstruct the climate around the Larnaca Salt Lake.

The authors cite a paper reconstructing the climate around Gibala-Tell Tweini, Syrian Government-controlled territory, from pollen samples. According to Figure 6, this paper shows that a drought which continued to the time of Hazael began in the area in the late 13th century BC. Figure 6 also shows that farming ceased to exist in the area only between the late 12th (second Philistine invasion) to late 11th centuries BC and during the late 10th century BC, largely as a result of drought in the latter case and partially as a result of drought in the former.

Figure 5 shows evidence of drought during the Eastern Mediterranean Dark Age from two cores in the Nile delta, a core from Ein Gedi (seemingly contradicting the above-linked-to graph of Dead Sea levels), and a core from near Ebla. The Soreq cave core shows no evidence of any Eastern Mediterranean Dark Age drought and the core from off the coast of Ashkelon is irrelevant.

In short, until more evidence comes to light, it seems safe to say that at least a part of Cyprus and coastal Syria suffered prolonged drought throughout the Greek Dark Age, thus exacerbating the causes of the Late Bronze Age collapse in some areas.

Edit: judging from this source, I hypothesize that the Dead Sea was recovering after c.1400 BC due to decreased evaporation during a period of decreased precipitation and cooler sea temperatures.
Edit: this press release contains one blatant falsehood: “They found the abundance of marine plankton decreased around 1200 BC”.

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Quick Note on Poll Questions

What the polls ask:

pewforumreligion
(from http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/table-belief-in-god-or-universal-spirit-by-religious-tradition.pdf )
What the polls should ask:
Does God exist?

What the polls ask:

pewforumevol
(from http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report2-religious-landscape-study-full.pdf#page=99 )
These questions are less flawed than those on the existence of God. Nevertheless, they could use improvement.
What the polls should ask:
Did the human species evolve from other species of organisms?
or
Is the diversity of life that we see today a result of evolution?
and
Is the diversity of life that we see today a result of intervention by a god?
The questions I declare polls should ask allow little room for doublethink. They help religionists understand that questions about the existence of God or the responsibility of Evolution for diversity of life on Earth are questions of fact. Preferably, the questions I declare the polls should ask should be asked along with other questions on less contested facts than the responsibility of evolution for the diversity of life on Earth.
Also, depressing poll results (scroll down to agreement)– those against teaching creationism in government-funded schools and those against teaching evolution in government-funded schools in the U.S. are roughly equal in number, numbering between roughly a fifth and roughly a third of the U.S. population.

Why There Is No Chance Ancient Assonauts Have Visited Earth

1. Interstellar travel is physically impossible with any technology known by humans to work.  ‘Nuff said.

2. Life has been around on this planet for over two billion years. Humans have been around for over fifty thousand years. Civilization has been around for under fifteen thousand years. Humans have been using the telegraph for under two centuries. Humans have been in space for less than a century. Humans have found absolutely no reason to send people to outside the solar system in all recorded history. This has to be remembered by any idiot who uses the Drake equation as evidence for Ancient Assonaut visitation.

3. Even if interstellar travel was possible, there is little probability Ancient Assonauts would end up on this planet rather than some other.

4. The likely motives of potential Ancient Assonauts and the likely results of any Ancient Assonaut visitation are totally inconsistent with this planet’s actual history.

5. There is no archaeological evidence for Ancient Assonauts visiting this planet.

A Wonderful Medium-Sized Film From Brian Dunning

-I just love this movie. If anything, it’s better than Ancient Aliens Debunked. It should be shown to all High School students in America. The only qualms I have with it is that it seems to view the premodern era as one long period of barbarism (only partly true), and that its claim about the Dark Ages could only really apply to Western Europe. Part 2 of my Non-Biblical History is mostly finished, as is my first review of T&L&L’s “Biblical History of Israel”. Check the Schedule page. Also, 100 or more views per day has now become a new normal occurrence for this blog.

Make Your Own Conspiracy Movie Within A Year, Get $, Dupe Millions of Credulous 20-Something Males

As we all know, conspiracy movies are all the rage these days (I’m not going to name any, you know what they are). Thus, I have decided to make a series of guidelines for any producer of conspiracy movies.

1. Be entirely unoriginal. Originality confuses you (not the viewer) and is unsustainable as originality breeds more originality. Eventually, if you are in any way original, you have to make up a claim every quarter-second just to make your story coherent. Don’t be original.

2. Make sure to have a conspiracy theory. The conspiracy theory must be made up entirely of pre-existing ones. It does not have to make sense. Indeed, making sense takes the novelty out of your conspiracy theory. Note: novelty to the viewer and originality are different things. You must remember this. The conspiracy in your theory must be made up of a very small number of people. Add in a few wealthy banking families into your conspiracy that had their best days c. 1900 AD (indeed, you are almost obligated to do so). Liberally use the liberally-used phrase “New World Order” to describe your conspiracy.

3. Talk negatively about the energy industry, pointing out some true facts and some untruths about them. Have promises of unlimited, cheap, and clean electricity. Make sure to either talk about pseudoscientists or have them talk in your movie. Portray them as brave mavericks persecuted by the establishment. Do not in any way suggest ‘the establishment’ might be right.

4. Talk about the bullshit that is fractional reserve banking. Instead of advocating hard money, advocate Congress-controlled inflation (or its equivalent). Complain about debt, not about over-expansion of the money supply. Make promises of unlimited prosperity if debt and restrictions on expansion of the money supply are eliminated and Congress (or its equivalent) has total control of the money supply. Pretend it is possible to print prosperity. Pretend the Federal Reserve System is a ‘private bank’ (ignoring the fact the Banks of the United States in the early 19th C AD were far, far more ‘private’-like). Pretend ‘private’ is a swear word. Make sure to have G. Edward Griffin in your movie complain about central banking (but not a monopoly over money production).

5. Complain about the erosion of the Values of the Constitution (no, not like that). Beardism is not recommended, though having the Founding Fathers be part of your conspiracy is A-Okay, as long as you don’t quote any Founding Father (except Hamilton, Madison, and Jay). If Jefferson is not to be treated as a saint, he should be treaded upon lightly. Remember, your conspiracy does not have to make sense.

6. Pick a 9/11 conspiracy theory and run with it. Add some actual conspiracies of the U. S. government to make your conspiracy seem plausible to the viewer. During this process, make Leftist tyrannies seem like joy-bringing fruits of all the wishes of the people. Ignore the Cold War. Pretend this book does not exist, or, at least, does not apply to every scenario of a revolutionary Leftist government (preferably, do the latter). Make sure to add plenty of untruths into your section on 9/11, especially about this publication.

7. Add the U.N., CFR, the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission into your movie as part of the conspiracy. Ignore the fact the U.S. Government freely ignores the recommendations of all these organizations when convenient. Ignore the fact the CFR YouTube channel is unmoderated (heck, even my YT channel is moderated as much as my blog). Make all (not-so-)secret meetings of powerful or ‘well-connected’ (though not always publicly prominent; you have to keep the element of novelty) people be viewed as somehow Constitutionally treasonous.

8. Pretend globalization is bad, criticizing managed trade agreements. Ignore the fact the world is richer because of globalization. Point out the real evil of poor governments being in debt, but blame the only the creditors, despite the fact there are two parties to every transaction. Mention the evil of GMO patents, but ignore the evil of all the rest of intellectual property (the controversy over which is more ideological than anything else).

9. You are free to integrate any kind of quackery into the movie at your choosing. The more divorced it is from reality, the better. Cancer quackery works best. Mention a few ‘Brave Maverick Doctors’. Castigate ‘the medical industry’ (this includes medical doctors/scientists whose research is entirely funded by the government) for not curing everyone’s illnesses with a panacea. Say they are in a conspiracy to ‘keep people sick’. Do not talk about s**llpo*, or if you do, deny it ever disappeared. Suggest (nay, boldly push) a(n entirely unoriginal) panacea. Say the conspiracy is ‘offering solutions to problems of their creation’. Make sure to integrate the food industry into your medical conspiracy.

10. You are free to talk about ancient megalithic architecture, though not to mention the terms ‘ropes’, ‘ramps’, ‘manpower’, ‘sand’, ‘centralized organization/administration’, ‘pulleys’, ‘hammers’, ‘cranes’, ‘sleds’, ‘saws’ or ‘chisels’ except in a dismissive manner. You are absolutely prohibited from using the term ‘quarries’. You are absolutely prohibited from discussing the ashlars at the Temple Mount. Pretend this megalithic architecture is the product of ‘ancient wisdom’, not necessity or despotism.

11. You are free to imply or suggest the (American) Government has far higher technology than it claims to have or does have. You are free to ignore physical possibility when discussing this technology. Bash Bush and Obama on their expansion of executive power and their assertive/aggressive/disingenuous/backstabbing/perfidious foreign policies. Always claim the U.S. military has done more harm than good since WW II.

12. You must imply the (American) Government has total power and does not know of the existence of a YouTube video with over a million views (again, your conspiracy does not have to make sense). Mentioning the Bush administration’s management of Katrina or failure to control the insurgents in Iraq is absolutely prohibited unless you integrate it into a plot for weapons manufacturers and ‘high business interests’ to make ever-larger profits. Mention ‘FEMA camps‘ as though they are a real possibility.

13. You are free to mention the idea the conspiracy you mention likes eugenics. Ignore this news story, or if you don’t (which is not preferable), mention it as a way the conspiracy you mention is planning to make the world’s population poorer (if so, ignore this graph). You may cast the continuing increase of the U.S. population in the same light.

14. Mention extraterrestrials or do not mention them. There is no in-between. If you mention them, make them a big part of your movie, either influencing the conspiracy or providing the free energy. You could sprinkle crop circles and the Roswell incident into your (wholly unoriginal) ideas about extraterrestrials.

13. You are almost obligated to mention Freemasonry, treat it as part of the conspiracy you mention, and look for even the slightest Masonic symbolism anywhere, anytime, and treat it as evidence of the pervasiveness of the conspiracy.

15. Mention a conspiracy to make anonymity illegal except for conspiracy members. Ignore the preponderance of anonymity on the Internet. Mention the ‘rise of the surveillance state’ while ignoring the hilarity of Google attempting to make every YouTube user use their real name (hint: no YT user who has allowed Google to know his/her real name hides his/her real name from the public). Ignore the fact sockpuppetry is almost impossible to prevent by any government.

16. Criticize the Roman Catholic Church-indirectly (you don’t want to offend a fifth of the U.S. population). You are free to use a few 19thearly 20th C AD cranks to argue that Christianity was made up by the grand conspiracy from paganism. If you don’t do that, you can at least argue that the Roman Catholic Church corrupted the True Message of Jesus (which should not be anything like what Jack Chick makes it out to be). Make sure to make New-Agery the religious ideology of your movie. Make sure to keep lip service to rationalism.

17. Make sure to use an implicit argument from authority by either quote-mining credible experts or allowing the opinions of discredited MA’s or PhD’s to be heard.

18. You are free to mention ‘sacred geometry’ as either connected with aliens, free energy, the wisdom of the ancients, or all of these combined. If you have no ‘sacred geometry’, at least have a ‘satanic geometry’ (which can also be used as a contrast to the ‘sacred’ variety) connected with the Freemasons. Pyramids are to be connected with hierarchy and the conspiracy.

19. Never be critical of David Icke.

20. Make sure you mention that the conspiracy also wishes to keep the environment polluted. In order to not alienate your AGW denialist audience, make sure to take either a neutral or dismissive stance on anthropogenic global warming. Imply fossil fuels cause more harm than good. Add some chemtrails and antivaccinism into your movie.

21. Pretend commonly-accepted government institutions exist for evil purposes. Do not recommend the abolition of Medicare, government road-building, or Social Security. Pretend government schools encourage dogmatism (even though APUSH teachers are notorious for openly challenging students’ most cherished patriotic beliefs). Pretend schoolkids learn less from the Internet than from government schools.

23. Last of all, if your movie contains too much common knowledge (e.g., smoking is bad), you’re doing it wrong. Novelty to the viewer is key to the success of your movie.

Stylistic Details:

1. Have a male narrator. A female voice may remind people of their mothers or teachers, which will possibly repel your predominantly male audience from continuing to watch. Females are often viewed as less rational than males. Avoid attractive female ‘experts’-adding these, especially early in the film, will make the YT commentators focus on these females’ breast sizes and will make them ignore your movie’s novelty.

2. Have music playing throughout the movie. As music is the enemy of rational thought, this will distract the viewer from noticing the falsehoods in your movie. When the supposed experts are talking, have at least some (preferably, a good dollop of) ominous music playing.

3. Make sure something on the screen is moving at all times. This distracts the viewer from noticing the falsehoods in your movie. Include at least one picture of computer-generated men in suits marching forward in neat rows and columns-this will institute a spirit of rebellion against ‘convention’ in most of your audience who are still watching your movie and will make them more likely to continue to blindly accept your movie’s claims.

I Find A Person Who Believes Some Very Weird Things

While I was working on “The Location of Dilmun, Part 2”, I decided to poke my head into the YouTube comments section of Ancient Aliens Debunked (which is just as filled with conspiracy theories and science-denial as you expect) and found this person, who, not understanding the concept of “prior probability“, believes that the perfectly non-man-made Visocica Hill, which, judging by the below image, taken from this pdf file on a pro-Artificial Bosnian Pyramid Hypothesis website, looks barely anything like a pyramid. For some reason unknown to me, this person believes that the vast majority of relevant scholars are engaging in self-delusion when they point to the fact the pyramid is not shaped like a Great Pyramid of Giza, the tunnels inside it are of disputable origin, the sandstone ‘blocks’ exposed beneath its topsoil are natural, and that there is absolutely no evidence at Visocica of anything resembling the evidence that humans made the most outstanding features of the Giza Necropolis in the 4th Dynasty of Egypt. Hell, the person even tried to make me believe Visocica Hill is more correctly oriented towards True North than the Pyramids of Giza (a claim that can be easily falsified by using eyes and a computer mouse).

A bunch of people have the bile to claim this hill is an artificial pyramid!

To further demonstrate that this hill is not a pyramid, I will be generous and give this person an opportunity to experience software he really needs to download in this fashion:

This
ain’t
any
kind
of
artificial
pyramid.
Got
it,
everyone?

The person mentioned above also tells me to read the writing of Paul LaViolette (some crank who has proposed Plato’s Atlantis is a literal description of subatomic particles and has claimed that the Hubble Redshift is a result of ‘tired light’) and Laird Scranton (a Velikovskyan). Don’t be afraid to click on any of the links to the cranks-I’m using nofollow. Naturally, LaViolette claims his hypothesis has not become established science due to scholarly inertia, ignoring the fact scholarly inertia can be overcome with a flood of published papers, as Israel Finkelstein has proven, or with a flood of informally published evidence and informal discussion, as GM Grena has shown (partially; hardly anyone has renounced the idea Socoh, MMST, Hebron, and Ziph on most lmlk handles are GNs and barely anyone besides Grena has proposed that lmlk-stamped jars have something to do with government donations worship payments [see comments] to Levites). Publishing a paper once or thrice and calling it a day has never worked at winning anyone many converts to a very significant new idea. I’m confident most physics PhDs could point out the flaws in LaViolette’s argument, but, as I am no physicist, or even student of physics, I cannot do so. I can, however, ridicule Scranton’s Velikovkyan catastrophism, which is all too easy to refute-it’s physically impossible. His claims regarding the Dogon have been debunked here and here.

Let us now move to ridicule one of the above-mentioned person’s WordPress posts.
Interesting. Over two thousand words and no links. One of the most important things I’ve learned regarding blogging over the past few years is that links are extremely important-testis unus testis nullus (a phrase I have often repeated to the person mentioned above, sometimes with typos). Repeating claims exclusively religious and saying “that is not true” is perhaps the best way to show to the general public all claims exclusively religious are untrue-thus, the solid program “Enemies of Reason”. I don’t see anything more authoritarian-sounding in the CSICOP name as compared to CSI-the latter is simply broader and makes it clear to the public that the former “CSICOP” investigates non-‘paranormal’ nonsense. Dawkins has made it clear he is not “certain” he is right about the non-existence of all gods.

Astrology remains elusive, part interpretive art, part science. That apparent contradiction is guaranteed to frustrate scientists, or worse – seriously piss them off.

-If it ain’t falsifiable, it’s probably false (take care to watch the whole program).

. What our educated elders overlook is that whenever we find authority being asserted by self-appointed Inquisitors General for Accepted Truths, it is usually an indication that the dark ages have already arrived.

-If one can’t show the evidence for something important in front of (metaphorically speaking) the scientific community, one probably doesn’t have much of a case. Besides, there are no such self-appointed Inquisitors General that have any real power. Also, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry does “challenge mainstream views of the world”-it challenges the existence of gods, devils, and many other widely accepted religious claims.

They think nothing of committing academic fraud to preserve the established order and according to psychology professor Richard Kammann, are ‘guilty of the very pathological science they were set up to attack.’

-Where, pray tell, have they committed academic fraud, besides a few instances of plagiarism?

certainly ruthlessly efficient in their campaigns to excommunicate, silence and smear heretics

-Because they have the evidence on their side. Besides, it would be a sad, sad world if we skeptics had not been so efficient at excommunicating (from what?), silencing, and smearing ‘heretics’. Homeopathy would be a multi-million dollar business. Peter Popoff would be out and about claiming to be able to heal the physically sick using faith. A religion that claims a dead Jew some two thousand years ago rose from the dead and is currently residing in outer space (or is it in the clouds?) would be believed in by some 3/4 of the citizens of the richest nation in the world. Over a quarter of the citizens of the same nation would believe in ghosts, and nearly a quarter in astrology. What a sad, sad world it would be. What a sad, sad world it is.

Kepler said that looking for scientific proof of astrology was like a hen pecking around in ‘evil smelling dung’ until a ‘good little grain’ was found.

Kepler was right on the money with this analogy. In this part of town, it’s called cherry-picking, or “questionable subgroup analysis“. I’m still not eating anything out of that dung. The Mars Effect was the product of such analysis, and it is a likely false positive (though compare Kamman 1982). If the person mentioned above cannot show evidence for CSICOP’s fraud (except for a few instances that have no bearing on the truth of its claims), let him not claim it. In short, as there is neither a convincing mechanism for any kind astrology to work, and the evidence for it is, as the person mentioned above admits, cherry-picked, it is safe to say that astrology is ridiculous.

Astrology, like music, is the product of space, resonance, frequency and vibration. The solar system is a vibrating, unified whole. It does not influence us – it is us. Astrology is the interpretation of its meaning and every human birth resonates with the harmony and meaning of the celestial moment.

-[citation needed]. Is that turd of a statement even falsifiable? Also, what is this recourse of cranks to ‘vibration’ (a not-so-subtle means to refer to masturbation?) when they cannot provide actual physical data for their beliefs? Yes, we’re all part of the universe. That should be clear. No, you cannot go about claiming the position of Mars influences the birth of anyone.

Wherever there is water, rock and sunlight, there is potential for telluric ground current which can cause a neurological response in the dowser.

[citation needed] A really, really, really big [citation needed]. What can be claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

It is a phenomenon to do with the natural environment, with landscape, geology, underground aquifers – not plastic bottles of water in boxes set up in a tent. Evidence that human beings are sensitive to these natural effects is found in the location of ancient sites all over the world, which are invariably constructed upon geophysical discontinuities. This was clearly laid out by scientist John Burke in his recent book, ‘Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty’.

-“Eventually, arguing that these things work means arguing that modern capitalism isn’t that ruthlessly profit-focused“. That’s a pretty big problem the cranks have to solve before their crank status can be removed.

However, that only applies to the claimants. In contrast, the debunkers’ standard seems to be that claims held to be ridiculous require only ridiculous standards of disproof.

-Yup. Higher standards of disproof could also be used, but do not necessarily have to be. Also, placing an event in a tent hardly indicates bad scientific practice-where, exactly, should the experiment have been held? Also, why call the good people at CSI “pseudoskeptics”? They are real skeptics, and are perfectly willing to change their views if their requirements for evidence are satisfied. The results of French’s dowsing experiment are clearly visible; they are not ‘fraudulent’ unless one has a special definition of that term. In short, ad hominem attacks on the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry do not make CSI any less reliable than the groups CSI opposes. Scientists are not “superstitious of the mystical”-they admit its low prior probability and are perfectly willing to test it (provided the test is done at little expense). Thus, the million-dollar challenge.

In short, the above person is a crank who believes in weird things without evidence. He, by claiming the only thing that would disprove a man-made origin for the hill of Visocica would be the excavators only discovering earth below topsoil has shown himself as blind as any religious fundamentalist in this matter. It is amazing he has the intellectual dishonesty to portray the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry as having views any less evidence-based than his own. Visocica isn’t an artificial hill. Scranton and LaViolette are not authorities. Cranks deserve to be ‘persecuted’.

Update (Nov. 22, 2012): for claims of ancient concrete at Visocica, see here.

Jim West Gets Mentioned by the BBC, Israel Finkelstein Publishes Some Articles Online

I’m telling you, folks, if you wish to be kept up to speed in the world of archaeology as it relates to the Bible, create a Google alert for yourself on Israel Finkelstein. Today (word coming from Jim West), Israel Finkelstein has published some papers of his online.

The first, on Amarna Shechem, is from 2005, and thus, fairly recent, utilizing the petrographic examination of the Amarna letters done by Goren. It analyzes the rise of the Omrides as interpreted by the rise of an earlier Shechem-area based polity, that of Shechem under Labayu. It was superseded by Finkelstein’s paper on Saul being the “Last Labayu”. The only disagreeable remark I can find in there is the mention of Dor being definitely Israelite in the 8th C BC (on page 183), ignoring the possibility it might have been Phoenician.

The second, on the campaign of Shoshenq I, is outdated (my video is up-to date), describing Shoshenq I as attempting to destroy, rather than encourage, the Masos-Nahas copper network. It is also a useful example of Finkelstein In Transition on his opinions on which stratum at Megiddo corresponds to Shoshenq I’s Megiddo. In this paper, he views “Early IrIIa” Masos II as partially contemporary with “Late Iron I” Megiddo VIA. Finkelstein also presents his “Shoshenq destroyed Saulide Gibeon” hypothesis he more clearly presents in “Last Labayu”.

The third, on “The Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh“, is a Finkelstein classic. He points out the decline of the Judahite population from over 120,000 in c. 705 BC to under 70,000 in c. 605 BC, the utter lack of full recovery in the Shephelah, and the rise in population in the Negev, Hill Country, Benjamin, and Wilderness. He also points out the Arabian trade and Ekron IC as factors in the recovery of Judah under Manasseh. He does not accept there is any good evidence for a Manassite revival of the Shephelah.

In other news, Jim West, biblioblogger extraordinaire, has been mentioned by the BBC.