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4 “Facts” That Have Changed Since You Were In School

First they blew your mind when they told you Pluto isn’t actually a planet, then they told you that not only is Atlantis real, it’s been sitting in the bottom of some mudflats in Spain for a few thousand years. It seems history and science keep changing right in front of our eyes and pretty soon, nothing we learned in school will be true any more. Well, if you can’t deal with change, then you aren’t going to like these four things you learned in school are actually completely bogus.

The Pyramids Weren’t Built By Slaves

If you learned one thing about Egypt in school, it was that the pyramids are marvels of ancient technology…and that they were built by slaves. There are movies based around slaves working on the pyramids and every one has seen at least half a dozen pictures of the poor workers straining under the hot sun as their cruel masters wait, whip in hand, for someone to slack off. But working on the pyramids might not have been so bad after all. While it was still hard work to construct the massive monuments, recent research has shown that the workers were more likely skilled masons who had the right to leave whenever they wanted. Evidence to back this claim is supported in the fact that the workers had their own tombs right beside the pyramids. Egyptologists point out that someone that low on the social ladder would never have been buried so close to the pharaohs. Image via anniemarieangelo [Flickr]

Everything You Knew About Dinosaurs Is Wrong

Ok, maybe not everything you learned about dinos back in school was wrong, but a lot of it sure was. For one thing, there is no brontosaurus. Yeah, that giant lumbering monster we all learned about in grade school was actually an apatosaurus with the head of a camarasaurus. The worst thing about this inaccuracy is that it was discovered over a century ago, but up until recently, everyone (including a lot of elementary school teachers) still insisted on calling apatosauruses brontosauruses. I guess one mislabeled dino isn’t that big of a deal…but the incorrect visual representation of just about every dinosaur imaginable is. By now, you’ve probably heard that many dinosaurs probably had feathers, a huge change for those of us who grew up thinking about giant lizards roaming the prehistoric plains. But even those that probably didn’t look like giant birds still looked way cooler and more versatile than the oversized iguanas popularly imagined. These days, we even know what color some dinosaurs were, and they are a far call from the multitude of green shades we once imagined. If you really want to know just how different dinosaurs were compared to what we were taught, check out this great article on Listverse, about the Top 10 Dinosaurs That Aren’t What They Were. Image via Geoff S. [Flickr]

Arsenic Is One of the Building Blocks of Life

If you learned chemistry or biology in high school, you were probably taught that there are six chemical elements known as the “building blocks of life.” They are carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus.  These components make up the chemical composition of DNA and without them, life isn’t possible…or at least, we thought it wasn’t possible. Last year, scientists discovered a bacteria species living in a salt lake in California that was missing one of the building blocks of life, phosphorus, and instead had arsenic in its place. For some people, this might not seem like such a huge deal, particularly considering that arsenic is very close to phosphorus in its physical and chemical properties, but it’s a huge deal to scientists who suddenly saw a massive expansion in the scope of potential living things. It really makes a difference in intergalactic research, since the discovery opens up whole new planets as potential life-supporting ecosystems. Image via Artful Magpie [Flickr]

Humans Aren’t Really All That Special

Maybe this wasn’t the case for all of you, but when I was in school, the teachers seemed overly fascinated with telling us how much better humans are than other animals. They’d tell the class, “we’re the only animals who have complex emotions,” “no other animal is self-aware like we are,” “humans are the only creatures who use tools,” “we are the only species to communicate through complex language,” etc. I don’t know why they felt our fragile homo sapien egos were so threatened by other creatures, but I always thought that was a little strange. As it turns out, it was completely incorrect too. Recent studies show that elephants mourn the loss of their companions and many animals, particularly dogs (who have evolved in the companionship of humans), have far more complex emotions than scientists had ever imagined. And chimps don’t just have emotions; they also are self-aware enough to understand how their own actions will affect those around them. Well, we still have our intelligence to set us apart from the beasts right? Not so quick you homo sapien- supremacists. Actually, there are a lot of intelligent animals out there, many of which use tools and converse amongst themselves. Chimps have used spears to hunt for thousands of years, octopuses use coconut shells as both camouflage and as protection, and dolphins use sponges to help uncover fish that are hiding in the sand. As for language, bees have an incredibly complex language system allowing them to communicate what type of flower is located in a given place and how to get to that location. Monkeys not only communicate with one another vocally, but they even understand grammar rules. In fact, in some ways, animals are actually ahead of us in the language game. While humans cannot yet speak the language of any other animals, primates can be taught sign language so they can communicate with us in our own language. Image via Mundoo [Flickr] If this crushed your memories of grade school, I’m sorry, but now it’s your turn to get revenge. What have you learned isn’t true even though they told you it was a “fact” back in school?


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Ryan, interesting and well expressed. Thank you!

It's refreshing to see a discussion of the sort in this thread that doesn't break down to, "Your god sucks." "Yeah, well, your science sucks." "Does not!" "Does too!"
ad infinitum, ad nauseum, Godwin, blah blah blah.
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At risk of sounding arrogant, pretentious and everything else, I feel compelled to add that the formulation of scientific inquiry largely began with religiously minded people like Newton and Ibn al-Haytham. Not too many people are familiar with al-Haytham, one of many great muslim scholars who helped found the scientific enterprise and who assisted in the formulation of many of its formal guidelines. al-Haytham was also the first person to draw an accurate diagram of the human optical system. For al-Haytham, Newton and many others of their time science was explicitly for the express purpose of studying the "works of God" and admitted of no possible means of studying God.

However, in modern times people are of the indefensible belief that God is an object of some sort that can be collectively studied in a laboratory. It is not just reductionist-materialist types that think of God as a finite object, but most Christians do too! That is why there is such an apparently conflict, because Christianity has descended from enlightenment into idol worship. Idols which are objects capable of being scientifically refuted, and so science and religion appear to be at odds, but it never used to be this way. It is only because "God" has fallen from heaven and become a Man that there is any conflict at all. In 'his' infinite formlessness there is nothing to study or compare God to, but in the God-as-Man formula commonly worshipped today, all of that is possible, and God is frequently compared to human beings with all kinds of contradictions and conceptual problems. This is not what St. Anselm imagined when he said "God is that than which nothing greater can be thought" which is called today "The Ontological Argument". While the argument still stands as a great proof of God as infinite formless being, it is so often used in an attempt to prove the God-man idol of modern Christianity and that is just absurd. If a man is the greatest thought these people can have it says a lot about our current society.
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So, this God I mention is no more than everything in existence, and everything that is in existence is no less than God. The Egyptian Great Hymn to the Aten by Amenhotep IV (c 1440 B.C.) says it this way: Thou bringest forth as thou desirest
To maintain the people (of Egypt)
According as thou madest them for thyself,
The lord of all of them, wearying (himself) with them,

It would be a bit better if the last line had read "The lord of all of them, wearing himself with them". It would be put by Shakespeare this way: "All the world's a stage
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts."

For the Bible's part it spends a long time getting to this realization because the average human mind just can't comprehend it and "moves within a sphere of worldly interests" [to quote Buddha]. The Bible tries to represent the "sphere of worldly interests" by the flesh or sinful nature.

So, not to be too critical, I think its entirely possible that it is actually the other way around, that religious people actually have some extremely profound insight into reality that scientists can never find in a microscope. They aren't looking inward to find the source, they are looking outward and there is reason that doesn't work for finding God, the reason is our minds rend the whole of God into discrete parts and then we look at those parts and try to determine something from the parts. We don't see the whole which is God.

So the Bible says "There is but one God and no other beside him" and from this God is said to be omnipresent. Now, if God is omnipresent and if there is no other beside him, then neither you nor I are apart from or beside God, but must necessarily be God in some aspect, and that is to say that we are actually just aspects of God, or personas, images, reflections, appearances, dust in the wind, here to play a part in God's plan. Which plan somewhat amounts to "life" or "existence" or "actuality". So it is as if God created us so as to experience himself through us. Because were God not differentiated into the finite form of a human being with a fragmented relativistic consciousness, he could never actually become aware of himself, as I said; the totality is relative to finitiude, it is through the bounded-thingness of the world that the totality, and thereupon God becomes known to us. But only through understanding our relativistic consicous life. Otherwise we are apt to find the most value in some particular finite thing, like a car, a job or a spouse. So they say, we are made for God and our highest duty is to direct our awe and appreciation toward God, but because we cannot know God without first knowing finite things, we tend to direct our awe and appreciation towards those things and consequently ignore God. This is quite literally the old teachings of religion, within which the claim "God cannot be scientifically proven" is both 100% true and completely false if its intended to refute God. Because in this way God transcends all scientific inquiry.
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@Petra

I would like to point out that "scientific vs. common usage" is a potentially fallacious dichotomy. I think theory is used in much the same way, colloquial theories are tentatively based in evidence and are subject to such revision. But scientific theories tend to be more rigidly held.

I would like to outline a definition of God which cannot be refuted and therefor must be true and neither can it be verified by observation or scientific inquiry. That definition is that than which nothing greater can be conceived. Rather than postulate all kinds of lesser 'things' that might be transcended by an elusive God-concept, I'd sooner point to the moment of undifferentiation in our conscious processing. Every thing we can conceive of has a boundary, is bounded if not in space and time, then at least in quality. Every quality we conceive of, in-fact, everything we can possibly imagine is bounded as such. I cannot generate a thought that is not defined and therefor differentiated from the totality. Even the concept of totality is a mere reflection of the concept of finitude, and I could not conceive of a totality without also conceiving of its parts. So the God I wish to point to, is not a concept, nor a percept, but actually transcends all concepts and percepts and all finitude. Such a God is not this and not that, nor is it anything else you can think of. And this is solely based in recognition of the relativistic nature of thought, we cannot conceive of such a being, not even the brightest or wisest among us. All thought and verbal expression is relative, all scientific inquiry is relative, all physical matter is relative, God is the one absolute.

So such a God - to recognize it - requires you to do some meditative work and figure out what lies beyond relative thought and conception. Any exertion of effort in this regard is like a descent into relativity, so the masters direct us to let go of our concepts and percepts, because no formulation thereof can bring us toward God. It is rather in the dissillusionment of concepts and percepts the unbroken ground of all being becomes noticable. But only as through a glass-darkly, because all subsequent conceptualization reduces the infinitude of God to the finititude of verbal and conceptual expression and thought.

With this in mind, it is quite possible that evolution is also true as there is no real conflict between an infinite God of this sort and physical phenomena, the physical phenomena belongs to the realm of relativity, of conceptual thought, and so must remain internally consistent. There must be a constant chain of causes and effects stretching back and forth indefinitely and with cold logical rigidity. This is a requirement of the conscious mind dwelling in relativity, but it is not the nature of reality. Reality itself is non-dual, absolute and neither this thing or that. And when we conceive of God as the absolute, unbroken ground of all being, we must be referring to this undifferentiated totality which cannot be expressed with the use of finite concepts and language.

Such a God is not theoretical, but is undeniable, and equates to that which is draw to mind in reflecting on reality as a whole without "breaking it down".
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On the topic of theories - scientific vs. common usage, I'd like to point out that in both cases, religion is just theory, as there is no proof, scientific or otherwise, that God exists. And since many (and I'm not necessarily saying this about you, Kevin George, as I have no idea what you think) people chose to believe "Intelligent" Design over evolution, citing evolution as only being a 'theory,' I'd like to point out, using said thought process, that there is zero proof that ID makes sense, since God is theoretical.
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