by Christine Dao and Brian Thomas*
One of the more dramatic incidents in the Old Testament was the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, which included a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. BBC News reported that researchers have developed computer simulations showing how wind could have parted the Red Sea as described in the Bible.
According to the researchers, winds blowing at over 60 miles an hour "could have pushed water back at a bend where an ancient river is believed to have merged with a costal lagoon."1
The simulations were made using "a modern ocean model to investigate an interesting hydrodynamic event involving the phenomenon of wind setdown," which occurs when water levels drop due to "wind stress acting on the surface of a body of water for an extended period of time."2 The study appears in the online journal PLoS ONE.
How relevant is this study to the famous crossing of the Red Sea? First, it is doubtful that the shallow-water area that the model examined was the real site of the crossing. For example, it does not fit the details of the Exodus account, which describes the Israelites as being trapped against the western shore by nearby mountains. But even if it were the real site, and even if the study could offer a potential natural mechanism for the event, the occurrence of a wind at just the right time, accompanied by God's promise, would have been a clear indication of supernatural intervention.
Lead author Carl Drews clarified at least twice that his research focused on wind dynamics and not on whether the event itself actually happened. Even though the study only allowed for natural causes, comments left on the open access journal's website—such as, "Because there was never an Exodus, an attempted physical proof of the parting of the Red Sea is beyond silly"3—indicate a strong bias on the part of many against any consideration of the supernatural, rather than an open-minded willingness to examine the results on their own merits.
Whether or not the results of this study hold water will be left up to the scientists. But regardless of the motivations or viewpoint of the study's authors, Exodus, just like every other book in the Bible, is a viable historical document that contains relevant subjects that can spur scientific study.4 No scientist should be barred from or ridiculed for using it as a platform to launch research.
- Computers show how wind could have parted Red Sea. BBC News. Posted on bbc.co.uk September 21, 2010, accessed September 29, 2010.
- Drews, C. and W. Han. 2010. Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta. PloS ONE. 5 (8): e12481.
- This particular post does not directly address any concerns with the study's methodology or results, but rather resembles a virtual soapbox. See Exodus Never Happened, and Neither Did the Parting of the Red Sea. Comment on Drews and Han, Dynamics of Wind Setdown at Suez and the Eastern Nile Delta.Posted on plosone.org September 23, 2010.
- Dao, C. Why Can't Science Start with the Bible? ICR News. Posted on icr.org September 2, 2010, accessed September 29, 2010.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor and Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Article posted on October 13, 2010.