Over on Substack, I reviewed the three-hour conversation between Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine and controversial Canadian academic Jordan B. Peterson. You can read my thoughts here.
The following was cross-posted in my Substack newsletter.
This week, I am experimenting with a newsletter format, featuring a longer piece of writing divided into shorter articles rather than separate posts. In this issue, we’ll look at the Today show’s promotion of the curse of the pharaohs, a new article about ancient Greek mythology’s connection to the Bronze Age, and we’ll review a historical piece by a famous writer linking American mounds to Atlantis.
Ancient Origins ran a piece recently arguing that indigenous oral traditions from North America are related to the biblical Tower of Babel story. The author seems to have lifted his understanding of the parallel myths from the Tower of Babel’s Wikipedia page, but even so, it is at least mildly interesting to review what are indeed parallel stories in order to understand where author Mark-Andrew Carpenter went wrong. The short version is that he heavily discounted the influence of the Bible on post-Contact America and among the missionaries who recorded—and revised—Native stories.
My computer's hard drive died, so I am working, slowly, from a backup machine while I shop for a new computer, since the other parts, like the keyboard, the monitor, and the touch pad, aren't working so well either. The last time this happened, last year, I received a one-year warranty on the hard drive, and it lasted ten whole days past the end of the warranty before crapping out. Anyway, on to today's issue...
Classicist Peter Gainsford made an interesting case on his blog that the humorous ancient Greek science fiction satire of Lucian called The True History includes a close parody of the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation. I can definitely see Gainsford’s point, but my gut instinct is that Lucian wasn’t directly drawing on the Christian text in imagining the fantastical paradise on the Isle of the Blessed where the heroic dead reside. Let’s take a quick look at what Gainsford says in order to puzzle out whether he’s right and whether Lucian had it in for Christianity’s most psychedelic text.
Many, many years ago I read Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary and was quite taken with a story Bierce told about an “Arabian” myth of an all-powerful entity that held all the power in the universe on the condition that it never use that power:
RABBLE, n. In a republic, those who exercise a supreme authority tempered by fraudulent elections. The rabble is like the sacred Simurgh, of Arabian fable—omnipotent on condition that it do nothing. (The word is Aristocratese, and has no exact equivalent in our tongue, but means, as nearly as may be, "soaring swine.")
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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