Via Mark Shea comes this story.
The New Testament story describes Jesus walking on water in the Sea of Galilee but according to a study led by Florida State University Professor of Oceanography Doron Nof, it’s more likely that he walked on an isolated patch of floating ice.
The study points to a rare combination of optimal water and atmospheric conditions for development of a unique, localized freezing phenomenon that Nof and his co-authors call "springs ice."
In what is now northern Israel, such ice could have formed on the cold freshwater surface of the Sea of Galilee — known as Lake Kinneret by modern-day Israelis — when already chilly temperatures briefly plummeted during one of the two protracted cold periods between 2,500 and 1,500 years ago.
A frozen patch floating on the surface of the small lake would have been difficult to distinguish from the unfrozen water surrounding it. The unfrozen water was comprised of the plumes resulting from salty springs situated along the lake’s western shore in Tabgha — an area where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been documented.
"As natural scientists, we simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years," Nof said. "We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account."
This stuff always just cracks me up. It is just so ridiculous to try to cast doubts on the miracles in the Gospel in the first place. If someone doesn’t believe these miracles happened then fine. Just why exactly do they have to try to find naturalistic explanations for the miracles in the first place. If they doubt the credibility of the reporting in the scriptures in the first place than why not just discount the texts completely? Do environmental scientist spend time proving why Hercules couldn’t have redirected the flow of two rivers through the Augean Stables by himself?
The science on this one doesn’t explain how Jesus managed to get to this patch of ice in the first place. Or how another patch of ice also happened to be next to the fishing boat for Peter to conveniently step on. Though maybe Peter had a slight weight problem causing him to crash through the ice and not Jesus.
What is even funnier about all of these scientific explanations such as snow causing a reflection creating the illusion of the Transfiguration, epilepsy and ball lightning explaining St. Paul’s conversion, or this explanation of the ten plagues.
A massive bloom of deadly red algae called fysteria released toxins into the Nile contaminating the water and poisoning huge numbers of fish (plague 1). With fewer fish to feed on frog spawn, frog numbers increased dramatically and these creatures swarmed and invaded the land (plague 2). These conditions gave rise to a dramatic rise in the population of stable flies (plague 4) and gnats and these afflicted humans and animals with diseases like glanders (plagues 3 and 6), African horse sickness, and bluetongue (plague 5). Later the Egyptians fell victim to a deadly mycotoxin called Stachybotrys atra that had been produced by molds growing on their wet grain and cereal supplies, foods that had been rushed into protective storage during the onslaught of the previous plagues. It was the first-born or eldest of each family who died from this toxin (plague 10) because it was they who ate most of this stored food (owing, we are told, to their traditional privilege of receiving double the food of their younger siblings).
So if you are going to take the events of the Bible as true and yet natural then you have to account I guess for thousands of scientific coincidences to bring them all off. Which of course would be a miracle in itself. It would make much more sense with these naturalistic ideas to just totally dismiss the Bible. It seems to me that there are other motives behind these theories other then purely scientific ones. I remember as a kid going to a planetarium where they provide a natural explanation for the Star of Bethlehem. As a young atheist I remember thinking why are they giving the Bible any credence in the first place?
Though we should not be surprised that atheist or agnostic scientists would do this considering that even some believers do exactly the same thing. For example the miracle of the loaves and fishes otherwise known as the miracle of caring. As if God who created the universe just couldn’t have pulled this one off without assistance. I can easily understand non-believers with this attitude, it just seems strange for believers to do the same.
Though all of this makes me fondly remember one of my first parodies where I imagined a scene where the Marx Brothers meet the Jesus Seminar called A Night at the Jesus Seminar.
Update: A reader reminds me that I came up with this very scientific understanding myself in the Night at the Jesus Seminar post. Proving once again good parody is also unfortunately often prophetic.
And of course Jesus walking on water was the result of a freak storm that caused the top layer of water to ice over. When Peter also attempted to "walk on the water", that patch of ice finally gave way and he ended up in the water. The patch of ice Jesus was on was a little thicker and he was able to help Peter out of the water. It’s all so reasonable!