The Bible and Science
Biblical "Science"--The question of whether or not the Bible is scientifically valid has been debated for hundreds of years by critics and supporters alike. Biblicists have contended the book not only supports science but contains many statements that are ahead of their time. The Bible supposedly has great scientific wisdom and only now are we beginning to realize as much.
However many critics believe the Bible is its own worst enemy. From this perspective there are more than enough statements contained therein to forestall any claims to scientific precision. Indeed, many statements clearly belong in the realm of mythology and folklore, while others are simply false. Some are so vague it's difficult to know what is meant, so naturally, biblicists choose the more scientifically oriented interpretation.
Those believing the Bible to be scientifically precise and wise beyond its years should read, digest, and remember the following assertions contained within its covers:
- the bat is a bird (Lev. 11:19, Deut. 14:11, 18);
- Some fowls are four-footed (Lev. 11:20-21);
- Some creeping insects have four legs. (Lev. 11:22-23);
- Hares chew the cud (Lev. 11:6);
- Conies chew the cud (Lev. 11:5);
- Camels don't divide the hoof (Lev. 11:4);
- The earth was formed out of and by means of water (2 Peter 3:5 RSV);
- The earth rest on pillars (1 Sam. 2:8);
- The earth won't be moved (1Chron. 16:30);
- A hare does not divide the hoof (Deut. 14:7);
- The rainbow is not as old as rain and sunshine (Gen. 9:13);
- A mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds and grows into the greatest of all shrubs (Matt. 13:31-32 RSV);
- Turtles have voices (Song of Sol. 2:12);
- The earth has ends or edges (Job 37:3);
- The earth has four corners (Isa. 11:12, Rev. 7:1);
- Some 4-legged animals fly (Lev. 11:21);
- The world's language didn't evolve but appeared suddenly (Gen. 11:6-9)
- A fetus can understand speech (Luke 1:44).
- The moon is a light source like the sun (Gen 1:16)
Some statements are so vague that apologists can often evade dilemmas by creative rationalizations. As Ingersoll said: "If the holy writer uses general terms, an ingenious theologian can harmonize a seemingly preposterous statement with the most obdurate fact. (Ingersoll's Works, Vol. 5, p. 37). For instance, Gen. 1:7-8 says: "And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament;... And god called the firmament Heaven." Realizing the scientific implausibility inherent in this narration, some apologists attempt to portray the firmament as nothing more than the atmosphere separating the moist clouds above from the oceans below. Some biblical allegations are not only erroneous but have been fatal to their adherents. For instance, Mark16:17-18 says: "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils;.... They shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them." Not many believing Christians are willing to drink poisons or handle rattlesnakes to prove the Bible's accuracy, although some have tried. Many individuals have died because they put their trust in the Biblical injunction to pray ("And the prayer of faith shall save the sick," James 5:13-15) and, not wanting to make Asa's mistake (2 Chron. 16:12), shunned physicians.
The unscientific aspect of biblical teachings is also shown in the fact that many mythological creatures are spoken of as if they were, in fact, real. The manner in which they are described and the context within which this occurs show biblical writers felt they actually existed. Some of the prominent examples are:
- cockatrices (Jer. 8:17, Isa. 11:8 59:5),
- unicorns (Deut. 33:17, Psalms 22:21. 29:6, Job 39:9-10),
- satyrs (Isa. 34:14, 13:21)
- fiery serpents (Num. 21:6),
- and flying serpents (Isa. 14:29, 30:6).
Last, but not least, one should note the hundreds of miracles contained within the Bible.
Perhaps more than anything else they prove the Book lacks scientific validity. Miracles, by definition, have supernatural causes, and science, by definition, doesn't work with the supernatural. In order to avoid an extended discussion as to the existence of miracles, I will simply say that nearly all reputable scientists deny their existence and feel all events have a natural, material cause. Believers in miracles can never produce a supernatural event when asked to do so. Challenges are invariably left unanswered.
Any book claiming a woman turned into a pillar of salt (Gen. 19:26), the sun went backward 10 degrees on the sundial (2 Kings 20:11), and quails came from the sea (Num. 11:31) is going to have great difficulty demonstrating its scientific precision to any reasonably scientific mind.
One can't help but recall the humorous instance in which an eight year old lad was asked by his mother what he had learned at Sunday school. "Well," he said, "our teacher told us about when God sent Moses behind enemy lines to rescue the Israelites from the Egyptians. When they came to the Red Sea, Moses called for engineers to build a pontoon bridge. After they had all crossed, they all looked back and saw the Egyptian tanks coming. Moses radioed headquarters on his walkie-talkie to send bombers to blow up the bridge and save the Israelites." "Bobby," exclaimed his mother, "is that really the way your teacher told you that story?" "Not exactly, Mom, but if I told it her way you'd never believe it."
Virtually every child has heard about the parting of the Red Sea, the whale swallowing Jonah, the stick turning into a snake, and Jesus' walking on water. In fact, many people begin their critical analysis of the Bible by doubting the authenticity of these stories. Logic, reason, and skepticism accompany a scientific mentality; not one of faith and uncritical belief.
In recent years the conflict between science and the Bible has become especially pronounced with respect to the struggle between evolution and Creationism. The battle has been, and is being, fought in many forms--e.g. the schools, libraries, and courts. Originally, scientific findings were denounced as blasphemous lies. But as science has expanded and the evidence has mounted, many apologists have adopted a more realistic stance. They have increasingly rewritten the Bible by either changing literal statements to figurative meanings or alleging, "What the Bible really meant was..."
For example, they assert the seven days of Creation weren't really days; they were eras or epochs. When the Bible describes miracles it doesn't mean to imply they exist. It is merely relating instances in which naive people were fooled by trickery and other mechanisms. With characteristic wisdom, Ingersoll took note of this slow evolutionary change: "The church disputed every step, denied every fact, resorted to every device that cunning could suggest or ingenuity execute, but the conflict could not be maintained. The Bible, so far as geology was concerned, was in danger of being driven from the earth. Beaten in the open field, the church began to equivocate, to evade, and to give new meanings to inspired words. Finally, falsehood having failed to harmonize the guesses of barbarians with the discoveries of genius, the leading churchmen suggested that the Bible was not written to teach astronomy, was not written to teach geology, and that it was not a scientific book,....(Ingersoll's Works, Vol. 11, p.220)." "In matters of fact, the Bible has ceased to be a regarded as a standard. Science has succeeded in breaking the chains of theology.
A few years ago, Science endeavored to show that it was not inconsistent with the Bible. The tables have been turned, now, Religion is endeavoring to prove that the Bible is not inconsistent with science. The standard has been changed." (Ibid. Vol. 2, p. 242). "In other words, the standard has been changed; the ancient is measured by the modern, where the literal statement in the Bible does not agree with modern discoveries, they do not change the discoveries, but give new meanings to the old account. We are not now endeavoring to reconcile science with the Bible, but to reconcile the Bible with science. (Ibid. Vol. 8, p. 151).
Only staunch fundamentalists continue trying to erase the handwriting on the wall. In the 5th chapter of Daniel, Belshazzar didn't try to erase the unpleasant handwriting on the wall. He listened and acted accordingly. One would think believers in the Bible would learn from his experience. In summary, the Bible is not inerrant with respect to science. Many statements reflect the era in which they were written and assertions to the contrary are weak at best.
More examples of bad Bible-Science
- Pi is 3.0? "And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did compass it about. (I Kings 7, 23)"
This would show that a diameter of ten cubits leads to a circumference of thirty cubits, yielding a value of 3.0 for the mathematical unit of Pi -- a value used in calculating everything from how to manufacture your coffee cup, to how to manage the pixels in your monitor, to the physics of the orbits of the satellites that give us the eye on the weather as well as tranfer data, etc. Well, the value is actually a transcendental number that starts 3.14159 . . .
- The Earth is flat
- And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH. Isaiah 11:12 (KJV)
- And after these things I saw four angels standing on FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree. Revelation 7:1 (KJV)
- That it might take hold of the ENDS OF THE EARTH, that the wicked might be shaken out of it? Job 38:13 13 (KJV)
- O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ENDS OF THE EARTH, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Jeremiah 16:19 (KJV)
- The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the ENDS OF ALL THE EARTH: Daniel 4:11 (KJV)
- Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; Matthew 4:8 (KJV)
- that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? Job 38:13 (NIV)
- Earth is the center of the solar system
- ...the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved. - 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10
- The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. - Ecclesiastes 1:5
Response to apologist arguments on bad Bible-Science
Theist fall right into the begging-the-question logical fallacy by defending against contradictions in the Bible and nowhere is this more obvious than in scientific arguments. The common theist response is that such statements were mere figures of speech and not to be taken literally, yet theists themselves pick-and-choose many of these "figures of speech" as being literal and true (from fundamentalists' belief in creation, talking snakes, and Noah's ark, to more moderate beliefs relating to Jesus as the "son of God", a Holy Spirit, and resurrection from the dead). You can't have it both ways. You can't claim that the referring to the Earth as flat or having "edges" is a figure of speech and not recognize that the church oppressed and condemned people such as Galileo for suggesting a reality that didn't exactly match the Bible's "figure of speech."
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