Great Pyramid of Giza and Critical Thinking

Great_Pyramid_DiagramThe pyramids of Egypt are in the news lately for a couple of reasons and it gives me the opportunity to discuss the nature of critical thinking. Of course I’ll take it!

The first story involves a new chamber being found in the tomb of Tutankahmun.

The second story involves presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s assertion that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a grain silo.

Another group of stories involves how it is impossible for the pyramids to have been built with the technology of the time. I addressed this issue in another blog so I’ll leave it alone today.

Finally is the twenty year timeline for building the pyramids themselves which is based upon certain assumptions.

The first story proudly declares that a new, hidden region was found in the burial chamber of Tutankahmun.

When I finally got around to reading the story I discovered that no such new chamber has been found at all. What they do is scan the region for temperature. An area where the temperature is slightly cooler might indicate a draft from a room. It could also indicate some damage to the structure that is letting in air. No one has gone into these areas because to do so would potential destroy them. It’s a lot of speculation and, frankly, I’m not convinced. It seems more likely to me that the cool areas are caused by structural flaws than hidden chambers, particularly because any number of these were found in the analysis.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are many hidden passages in the burial region. It just seems to me that it’s best to go with the most logical explanation before leaping to the most sensational conclusion. That’s critical thinking.

This, naturally, leads me to the rather bizarre assertion by Carson that the Great Pyramid of Giza was a grain silo. I’ve included a diagram of the pyramid to illustrate why this conclusion is so unlikely. The grain silo explanation has to do with a biblical story about Joseph warning Pharoah (Genesis 41 ESV) that seven good years would be followed by seven lean years and thus grain should be stored away.

What is called the main shaft of the pyramid, which leads to the burial chambers, is basically equivalent in dimensions to a silo. However, building a grain silo of those dimensions would have been trivial to the people that built the Great Pyramid. One look at the diagram above makes it obvious that it was not designed to store grain. Only someone who desperately wanted to come to the grain silo conclusion could possibly think otherwise. This is called a Cherry Picking fallacy. From what I’ve seen of Carson this fallacy seems to largely determine his entire thought process.

Finally, as to the twenty year time scale on the Great Pyramid of Giza. This is based on three facts.

  1. Workers left a mark in an interior chamber with their name on it and the name of Pharaoh Khufu.
  2. Khufu reigned for 23 years. This is disputed.
  3. The mummification process took some 70 days to complete.

From these three facts Egyptologists assume Khufu started the Great Pyramid upon ascending to the throne and that the completion of the pyramid coincided with his death.

I find these conclusion dubious. Khufu could have died long before the Great Pyramid was completed and been stored away until then. His reign could have been much longer than twenty years, some sources put it at over sixty.

The most logical conclusion I can draw is that some other Pharaoh started the pyramid but it was finished during Khufu’s reign and he simply usurped its use for himself.

Do we know for certain? No. But why not go with the most apparent conclusion first? Why leap to an unlikely scenario?

Tell me where my critical thinking skills have failed me in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Girl in Glass I: Apparition
Next Release: The Gray Horn

 

Meddling Confirmed – The CIA and Iran

Mossadegh mohammadIt’s not exactly an earth-shattering admission but the CIA has finally released documents admitting they were largely responsible for the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in 1953.

You’re probably wondering why that is such a big deal. 1953 was 60 years ago and wouldn’t seem to have much to do with the world today. I think it is a big deal and there is a large segment of people in the United States who want to make a similar mistake today.

In 1953 Iran was, as they are today, oil rich. The oil companies were largely owned by British interests. Mosaddeq was elected democratically but was unhappy with the fact that British oil companies were getting the vast majority of the revenue. The British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (BAIOC) offered Saudi Arabia a 50/50 split of revenue but refused to go even this far with Iran.

The government before Mosaddeq toed the line claiming the Iranians weren’t capable of managing the operation. The prime minister was assassinated and Mosaddeq came to power; appointed by the Shah of Iran to appease the people who saw the oil being pumped out of their ground and all the profits from this operation going to England.

Mosaddeq immediately nationalized the oil industry although promised to pay fair compensation from the revenue generated. Royalist Iranians protested this move as Mosaddeq was largely a populist. There was much internal turmoil. Mosaddeq emerged victorious although the British then waged a war of economic ruin on Iran. President Truman opposed the British “rule or ruin” policies but President Eisenhower thought differently. He was worried that Mosaddeq, a fervent anti-socialist, would turn to the Soviet Union for help.

He ordered the orchestration of a coup. CIA operatives paid tribesmen to riot, pretended to be communists and socialist and threatened enemies of Mosaddeq in a clever ruse to make them even more angry at the prime minister. Mosaddeq was removed from power and arrested. He died four years later still under house arrest.

All for money.

The Shah of Iran then came back into power and was eventually overthrown himself in the 1979 popular revolution.

Is it any wonder the people of Iran were so upset with the United States and England? Imagine foreign operatives roaming the streets of St. Louis paying people to have riots.

When we behave in this fashion we make enemies. When we think we know better how to rule a nation than the people themselves; we go against everything for which our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution stand.

Nations must be free to make their own mistakes. We spend billions of dollars trying to influence nations so we can have military bases, so we can dig up precious resources, so we can put into power those we deem satisfactory. And the world hates us for it.

Iranians hate us for it and their money has spread that hatred everywhere in the world. If only we had looked past the possibility of Iranian oil money, of the Red Scare. If only we had heeded the spirit of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the rest of the Founding Fathers. We didn’t and we are paying the price today.

Why is this important now? Egypt.

The people of Egypt overthrew their government and elected a rather nasty lot, the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s their business. The Muslim Brotherhood engaged in some shady practices and the military led a coup against them. In Congress there is a debate about cutting off foreign aid. Using that aid as a bargaining chip to try to further influence the nation and people of Egypt.

We have to stop. Any gain in the short-term is paid for with blood in the long-term.

Freedom is the best form of government in the world. A Representative Republic is as good as it going to get. If we cherish our freedom enough to let other people have theirs they will eventually come to us. Join us.

The way forward in Egypt is clear to me. The Muslim Brother, as nasty as they might be, were elected fairly. When we support a fairly elected government, particularly when it is opposed to our agenda in the region, we make friends. We turn enemies into allies. We make the world a better place.

We must start believing in freedom again. Nowadays we believe in safety. Keep me safe even if it means taking away my freedom and particularly if it means taking away the freedom of other people.

Freedom is free, it’s just not safe. Let’s be brave again.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water
Upcoming Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Why Throwing Tomatoes at Hillary Clinton is Good (not why you think)

TomatoSecretary of State Clinton paid a visit to Egypt the other day and was greeted by protestors some of whom threw tomatoes and shoes at her caravan as she drove past. At issue was the United States supposed support for the Muslim Brotherhood during the recent Egyptian elections.

I’ve noticed that Clinton seems to engender a lot of anger, maybe you’ve noticed the same thing?

The main group protesting Clinton’s visit were minority Egyptians including Christians who make up about 1% of the population. They are justifiably concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood might try to impose religious Sharia Law on them after years of relative secularism under the previous regime.

Hosni Mubarak and his predecessor Anwar Sadat ruled Egypt through the military and brutally suppressing dissidents but largely, after the peace treaty of 1979 ended the Isreal-Egypt war, were allies of the United States and allowed religious freedom although the judicial system includes a number of Sharia elements.

I’m a little divergent from my main topic here but now I’ll get to the point. During previous regimes if a protestor was to throw tomatoes or shoes at one of the dictatorial officials there was every chance they would be arrested, tortured, and even murdered while in prison. That’s what dictators do when they have absolute power.

The fact that dissidents were allowed to protest, not even completely peacefully, without facing arrest and incarceration is a huge step in the right direction. Any freedom loving government not only must tolerate protest and voices against the current regime but they must embrace them! This is the essence of free society and the heart of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

The First Amendment, among other things, guarantees that people can speak out against the government without fear of arrest (Freedom of Speech) and can assemble peacefully to protest said government without fear of prosecution (Right to Peaceably Assemble). That we see these principles in Egypt is a great sign although it certainly doesn’t guarantee anything in the future.

A representative republic is a messy form of government where people are allowed, I would say encouraged, to protest peacefully and speak out against the current government without resorting to violence. This ability means that voices of change are not suppressed, that real ideas enter the mix, and that people are not eventually incited to violent rebellion because they are legally prevented from expressing said ideas.

So, I say to the Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed Morsy, well done. Good start. Keep it up! The Arab world is watching and you have the opportunity to lead it away from its current horrific violence and terrorist nature. Don’t be afraid of dissent. Embrace it! You can change the Arab world from one of violence and hate to one where people can go about their business, raise a family, hold a job, go to the beach, and otherwise lead their lives without trying to kill one another and their perceived enemies.

I would say to Americans as well, dissent is good. Disagree with President Obama, fine. Disagree with President Bush during a time of war or any other time, tell us about it. Anyone who says, “America, love it or leave it” doesn’t understand America.

I suggest, don’t throw things, don’t shout down opposition, express your grievances like a civilized adult, show respect for elected officials, but never stop disagreeing.

Tell me what you think in the comments!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire

Egyptian Elections

Egyptian ElectionThere are some interesting happenings in Egypt with the latest elections and I think it’s critically important to the United States and the world how we interpret and react to events.

I’ll take a quick look historical events so as to provide perspective but it would be a good idea to look at a few wiki articles including Arab Spring, the Shah of Iran, and Muslim Brotherhood.

The incredibly important dividing line is the emergence of Arab nations seeking freedom. Some people think that nations such as Egypt are turning the corner from oppressive, authoritarian rule towards representative republics. Others think they are simply swapping totalitarian regimes for theocracy of an even more oppressive nature and ones more likely to act with terror tactics towards the western world.

I think it’s a vitally important issue because the last time something like this happened the results were catastrophic for the Arab world and unpleasant for the western, democratic world. The last opportunity of this nature came during the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In that uprising students ousted the Shah of Iran and established a theocratic government in its place. They took U.S. citizens at the embassy hostage and an antagonistic relationship between Iran and the United States continues to this day. Much of the ill-will that Arabs feel towards the western world stems from this relationship although unquestionably the Israel-Palestine situation is a major factor as well.

Since then hundreds of thousands of Arabs have died in terrible violence, oppressive regimes have become worse, children have grown up in an environment where terrorizing your foe was the objective, and Americans and westerners have learned to view Muslims as terrorists and with good reason.

This is not a winning environment for anyone.

I think that refusing to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood’s election leads us down the same path we’ve already traveled. I agree that the Muslim Brotherhood holds dangerous religious tenants and that theocracy are a very bad form of government. That being said if we had supported Mubarak until the end, if we refuse to deal with Egypt, if we continue to fight then the situation can only escalate into worse violence. More people will die. Americans will be killed by terrorists, Arabs will be killed by Arabs and Westerners. Children in Arab countries will grow up dreaming not of owning a house but of strapping bombs to themselves so they can kill other people they don’t even know.

We must embrace any popular revolution that overthrows a dictator even if the ensuing government isn’t to our liking. Could it possibly have turned out worse if after the Iranian Revolution President Carter had said, “Well done. You were right. We should never have supported a brutal dictator because he was secular and allowed us access to his oil. We’re sorry. Welcome to the world of nations. We hope you choose freedom, religious freedom, representative government, but it’s your choice. If you need any help just let us know. We’re here.”

I don’t like the Muslim Brotherhood. I’m Jewish by heritage if Atheist by religion. I don’t like Sharia law. I think one of the absolutely most vital things for the world to realize its potential is for women to enjoy all the freedom that men do. I don’t like a lot about the Muslim Brotherhood but I do like that they stood up and threw out a totalitarian regime. Fewer regimes such is this are a good thing.

Let’s not make the same mistake again. Let’s at least make a different one and maybe it will turn out to be not a mistake at all. At least I hope so, for all our sakes.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
New Release: The Hammer of Fire