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Thread: an experiment with a Torah and a time machine: what 'good' could you do?

  1. #1
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    an experiment with a Torah and a time machine: what 'good' could you do?

    imagine the following:

    1. you are living in the future and have access to a time machine.
    2. you decide to go back in time and somehow get yourself elected to the position of chief priest in 650BC in the court of King Josiah- just as the final redaction/compilation of the hebrew bible is being completed.
    3. you slip in one succinct scientific paragraph that will make the world a better place, accelerate science by 2000 years, and bring on a new era of Torah-Punk technology: think " lasers + sandals."

    what would it be??

    my vote:"Disease is caused by tiny animals, too small to see. Wash your hands."

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    That's a good one, yep.

    Or possibly. "One word: sewers."

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    "Here be dragons"

    No, that was not my suggestion for biblical additions, that's my thoughts about this thread; or maybe it should be "Here be minefield". I'll allow it for the moment, but all our rules about civility and religion apply to this thread, including being respectful of other people's beliefs. OTB does not give carte blanche to ignore these rules.
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  4. 2014-Sep-02, 02:21 PM

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    actually I like the OP's question and if we can discuss it without causing problems, Im all for it.

    I think there would need to be careful thought to put into the paragraph to make sure it is well reasoned within the prevailing ideas and understanding of the time. This is because if the idea was too alien, ie 'tiny animals cause disease' would seem to be without root or reason in that time and would likely be ignored or highly questioned, even divisive. Science can't necessarily come into play in the description because there was no science at the time, and all wisdom came from religion or inner reflection, with religion being the priority. It might have even be considered sacrilegious to try to define truth from nature or experiments if it contradicted with the Church's stance.

    many of the religious rituals and rules of ancient world came as teachings from the Church and were beneficial, for instance not eating pork probably saved a lot of lives through prevention of various diseases;

    so perhaps "holy is he who washes his hands before meals and after relief of bodily needs" is added with appropriate religious reasoning or symbolism so that it would fit within the teachings of the day, and stand a better chance of acceptance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iquestor View Post
    I think there would need to be careful thought to put into the paragraph to make sure it is well reasoned within the prevailing ideas and understanding of the time. This is because if the idea was too alien, ie 'tiny animals cause disease' would seem to be without root or reason in that time and would likely be ignored or highly questioned, even divisive.
    I get the feeling that the point of the OP is that, since it's written in the Torah, it will be obeyed no matter how odd. I also get the feeling that the point of the OP is about the concept, not so much the wording. (and he did specify scientific paragraph, even if it was to head off any 'love they neighbour' posts.)
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2014-Sep-02 at 05:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    I get the feeling that the point of the OP is that, since it's written in the Torah, it will be obeyed no matter how odd. I also get the feeling that the point of the OP is about the concept, not so much the wording. (and he did specify scientific paragraph, even if it was to head off any 'love they neighbour' posts.)
    I am not learned enough in ancient history, or religion to know if everything was blindly accepted, even if were really odd; so I could be wrong.

    however if the goal is to cause an advance of technology and improve the past 2000 years by advancing a concept (handwashing) then whether the explanation was scientifically based or religious based might not matter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by iquestor View Post
    I am not learned enough in ancient history, or religion to know if everything was blindly accepted, even if were really odd; so I could be wrong.
    What I'm saying is: I think it's the OP's intention (whether true or not) that we assume people will follow it, even if they don't understand it. That's why he's phrased it as a 'it's in the bible' question in the first place - as opposed to just a 'if you could tell a bunch of important people' question.

    Quote Originally Posted by iquestor View Post
    ...whether the explanation was scientifically based or religious based might not matter.
    Yes. I just meant no need to get caught up on how it's phrased - the important thing is the effect it has on the population.

    The OP's suggestion - by providing a bit of root cause - means that people would be able to extrapolate from 'disease is due to tiny animals' to many other areas of their lives - for example, not just handwashing, but also why meat rots and wounds fester.

    There are just my opinions. I am not challenging your take on the subject.
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2014-Sep-02 at 06:54 PM.

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    Maybe an early introduction to the modern scientific method would be better than any specific advanced knowledge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck View Post
    Maybe an early introduction to the modern scientific method would be better than any specific advanced knowledge.
    Though shall not make decisions based upon faith, but upon experimental evidence

    But wait a minute... if I shouldn't base decisions just on faith, such as what is in a religious book, then I shouldn't follow that piece of advice because it is written in such a book. But if I don't follow that advice, then I only have faith to go on... and my faith says I should base it on experimental evidence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post

    what would it be??

    my vote:"Disease is caused by tiny animals, too small to see. Wash your hands."

    To wash the hands was already in the Torah:

    "Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it; when they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water, so that they will not die" (Exodus 30:19)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Though shall not make decisions based upon faith, but upon experimental evidence


    Or, more simply: "Thou shalt not employ a Bible."

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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    my vote:"Disease is caused by tiny animals, too small to see. Wash your hands."
    How about, some foods have more dangerous versions of those tiny animals than others so be careful about eating them.
    ...
    Hey! Not that careful! Too late. Oh well, never mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    How about, some foods have more dangerous versions of those tiny animals than others so be careful about eating them.
    ...
    Hey! Not that careful! Too late. Oh well, never mind.
    But don't steer 'em away from moldy cheese, or the discovery of penicillin is delayed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    How about, some foods have more dangerous versions of those tiny animals than others so be careful about eating them.
    ...
    Hey! Not that careful! Too late. Oh well, never mind.
    You may have had this in mind (I'm not sure) but I've heard the idea that this is why various Middle East religions have prohibitions against eating pork and shellfish.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    You may have had this in mind (I'm not sure) but I've heard the idea that this is why various Middle East religions have prohibitions against eating pork and shellfish.
    That is exactly what I was thinking of. Someone in the future will come across this thread on the Wayback Machine and have an idea for their next time trip...

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    I could see this exercise as doing more harm than good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    You may have had this in mind (I'm not sure) but I've heard the idea that this is why various Middle East religions have prohibitions against eating pork and shellfish.
    In my Food Anthropology class last semester, we read a paper suggesting that the taboo had another motivation-- the fact that pigs are difficult and costly to raise in the region's ecology and produce no product except meat (no wool, eggs, milk, etc.)

    Here it was: http://etnologija.etnoinfolab.org/do...arris_1521.pdf

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    yes.. it's hard to think of a modern scientific idea they could understand back then but maybe evolution is pretty simple:

    plants and animals that survive can reproduce.
    offspring are similar but not identical to each other.
    by chance some offspring are more adapted to the environment and are more likely to survive to reproduce.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Though shall not make decisions based upon faith, but upon experimental evidence

    But wait a minute... if I shouldn't base decisions just on faith, such as what is in a religious book, then I shouldn't follow that piece of advice because it is written in such a book. But if I don't follow that advice, then I only have faith to go on... and my faith says I should base it on experimental evidence.

    How about "Have faith in only God. Everything else requires proof"

    For my own: "Have not the unlearned man tell the farmer how to keep the cow. Have the unlearned man learn from the farmer, for to add to the knowledge of cows, one must have knowledge of cows"

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    Well, crud. ATM is still there. All I did was prove that I dont invent a time machine.


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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    yes.. it's hard to think of a modern scientific idea they could understand back then but maybe evolution is pretty simple
    They would have had a good idea of practical evolution anyway (selective breeding). Maybe sneak in a line about, "Hey, you know the way you breed better cows and goats? That's basically how I created everything. Cool, huh."

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    I won't try to make the words, but I'd be trying to get people to take a longer-term view of things. Rather than accelerate science, I'd prefer to see the results (of science) considered within the context of things such as the environment.

    For example, you could inject information about steam engines to bring forward certain advances (anyone remember the original "Tomorrow People" episode where the Roman empire got steam engines and survived to the "present day"?) but caring about the long term effect on air quality of coal burning (etc) would be something more important in the long term.

    TL/DR: People will eventually come up with "the science" anyway. Religious texts would be better used to modify attitudes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    you decide to go back in time and somehow get yourself elected to the position of chief priest in 650BC in the court of King Josiah- just as the final redaction/compilation of the hebrew bible is being completed.
    Would not this redaction have to have been before 650 BC? The Samaritans, who had in their hands the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua already from the time of Jeroboam and the Ten Tribes centuries earlier, and who to this day are proud that they possess no other Biblical books, later became bitter enemies of the Judeans and would never have accepted even the slightest subsequent alteration from the time of Josiah.

    The term "Torah" can be taken to mean the Pentateuchal text - the Written Law, plus the large body of the Oral Law that explains it. That body contains enough intriguing scientific info, one referred to in
    this thread, that there is an association of Orthodox Jewish scientists at PhD and professor level who research in to the source of its origins.
    Last edited by wd40; 2014-Sep-04 at 02:12 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    Maybe sneak in a line about, "Hey, you know the way you breed better cows and goats? That's basically how I created everything. Cool, huh."
    I think the whole book would be better if it were written in this tone.
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    what about "hang a rock from a cord of 3 cubits length. Set it swinging. This is a clock. See that it doesn't matter how heavy the rock is"... now you can measure time, speed, acceleration etc etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by plant View Post
    what about "hang a rock from a cord of 3 cubits length. Set it swinging. This is a clock. See that it doesn't matter how heavy the rock is"... now you can measure time, speed, acceleration etc etc.
    Try dropping a bowling ball and a baseball from the top of a high building. Which do you think will hit the ground first. Interesting, no?
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Try dropping a bowling ball and a baseball from the top of a high building. Which do you think will hit the ground first. Interesting, no?
    "What is this 'base ball' of which you speak?"

    And so the interpretations and schisms begin ... one group insisting it is an evil ball, the other that it is a ball at the bottom of the building.

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    there could be an injunction to observe the annual festival of the "rocks and feathers" whereby the priests drop a bag of rocks and a bag of feathers from the top of a cliff- in order to show that the underworld-deity wants the souls of both the good and the evil amongst mankind equally.

    perhaps after a few hundered years a young priest will begin to wonder why this happens.....

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