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Another Atlantis myth exploded

Visitors to Bimini in the Bahamas can hire guides to show them an ancient "road" from lost Atlantis. But there is a more prosaic explanation. Following up earlier studies, anthropologist Marshall McKusick of the University of Iowa and geologist Eugene A. Shinn of the US Geological Survey (who is investigated this at his own expense) have shown the famous road to be nothing more exotic than beachrock.

They explain in a report in Nature that seawater off Bimini is rich in calcium. This leads to rapid formation of beachrock. Indeed, it forms so quickly that bits of glass, bottle caps, and other litter are trapped in the matrix of the stone. Such beachrock fractures into tabular blocks with more or less smooth surfaces, so that a formation can look superficially like an old road bed of quarried stone.

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One would think that these findings would demolish the notion of an Atlantean road. But, McKusick and Shinn point our, "There is in the US a vigorous cult dedicated to the mystic revelations of a native American prophet Edgar Cayce ( 1877-1945), who wrote that lost Atlantis was the center of all ancient civilization 10,000 years ago and that Bimini was part of the continent."

As with many other dogmatic fantasies -- such as reincarnation, demonology, or literal interpretation of biblical creation myths -- this would be a harmless delusion if it were not part of a larger pattern of unreason that poisons public thinking. As McKusick and Shinn note, it fosters "an unfortunate rejection of the scientific explanation of natural and physical phenomena." This is a dangerous tendency at a time when humanity needs as clear an understanding of natural phenomena as science can provide to enable it to manage our planet more wisely.

McKusick and Shinn have done a valuable service, sacrificing their own time and money to help to dispel this miasma, even though committed believers and those who profit commercially from promoting the Atlantean roadway fable probably will ignore their findings.

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