RE: Some Light relief

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Fri Aug 31 2001 - 15:37:07 BST

  • Next message: Chris Taylor: "Re: Some Light relief"

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    From: Vincent Campbell <>
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    Subject: RE: Some Light relief
    Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001 15:37:07 +0100
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    Amongst the explanations of the ten great plagues of Egypt, the most
    difficult one is the last one- the death of the first born Egyptian kids,
    with Israelites not affected.

    Assuming this actually happened, as the researchers have done, they came up
    with a fantastic solution. This does link to what you're asking BTW!
    Basically they posited that the effects of previous plagues (of insects,
    diseases and sandstorms) meant that the Egyptians stored their wheat etc. in
    large underground chambers, possibly for much longer than normal. This
    became a rife breeding ground for poisonous thingies (how annoying I can't
    remember what they're called at all....) to grow on the stored wheat/grain.
    The cultural tradition of the Egyptians was to feed the first born kids with
    the "best" food, the most of it, and before everyone else- hence the first
    born kids got most of the diseased crops (without anyone realising this, of
    course). The Jews, on the other hand eating their unleven bread (as slaves
    presumably they weren't allowed near the crops they were forced to work to
    produce), and as such they didn't get ill.

    I wonder if washing followed a similar path, of at one time a possibly
    insightful connection being made between the survival of a group of people
    when faced with an illness or whatever who washed and the deaths of those
    who didn't, with that insight being lost in subsequent generations, whilst
    the ritual was retained.

    I have heard recently that Muslim prayer rituals owe a lot to the orthodoxy
    of christian worship of the time, at least in that part of the world, so I
    don't know how much their washing rituals owe to previous religions. Given
    the current different between the largely symbolic baptism of most
    christians (leaving aside the evangelicals who like doing the full body
    soak), and the feet and hand washing of most muslims, it would be
    interesting to see if there were any environmental factors that could
    explain that difference.

    I wonder also how come both Islam and Judaism retain traditions of food
    preparation rituals- halal and kosher-(I used to wind up a Muslism friend of
    mine with the persistent bad joke when passing any halal butcher 'That Hala
    fella must be worth a bob or two'), whilst christianity doesn't. Kosher's
    quite interesting because the list of right and wrong things is in Leviticus
    (in the Bible) IIRC, and whilst it says not to eat creepy crawlies, it does
    say you can eat crickets. I saw a programme about a Shoma (spelling?) in
    London, the Jewish guys who go around checking that food is kosher. Very

    BTW Chris, couldn't agree more on the GCSE pass rates thing. Good to see
    also that the first cohort produced erudite intellectuals like yourself and
    I :-)!


    > ----------
    > From: Chris Taylor
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Friday, August 31, 2001 2:57 pm
    > To:
    > Subject: Re: Some Light relief
    > > So, my education included a religious studies teacher who didn't believe
    > in
    > > religion, and a biology teacher who didn't believe in evolution.
    > Lol :)
    > I was also in the first year of GCSE - I got some of the last 'O' levels
    > going the previous autumn too - what puzzles me is that I only did half
    > my French GCSE paper and got an A (hey look how well the kids do on
    > these new exams - marvellous). What I don't get is how abilities can
    > improve - I always thought that the national exam results were fitted to
    > a curve that assumed the same profile of grades every year, but
    > apparently that was wildly inaccurate. Apparently, pedagogical science
    > is making vast strides...
    > Back to the Asimov-inspired larks:
    > Sorry, I've not gone bonkers (honest).
    > My point was that if you're going to engineer some stability into a
    > fairly anarchic version of humanity, you give them a codified set of
    > behaviours that will allow reciprocal altruism (love your neighbour,
    > don't kill people or nick stuff), protected by stranger exclusion (only
    > trust subscribers of the religion), and importantly you give them some
    > simple public hygiene tips (wash to avoid diseases like dysentery,
    > cholera and typhoid) which are engineered into the memeplex as religious
    > rites to keep them healthy and spreading the word; cleanliness is next
    > to godliness, but why - the fairy tales you mention Phillip - good
    > stories to engage simple folk, avoiding having to give courses in
    > epidemiology.
    > These days, the washing stuff is a stylised echo of the past, but why
    > was it there at all? With or without my joke aliens seeding these ideas,
    > how does washing get in there so regularly? The easy answer is that all
    > these religions have a common root, which for arbitrary reasons
    > contained a washing ritual, but again, why (considering that it took
    > pasteur+ to work it out for us).
    > And of course your new clan of converts will survive clashes with other
    > groups much better if they have a super weapon like the ark of the
    > covenant...
    > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    > Chris Taylor (
    > »people»chris
    > ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    > ===============================================================
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