Seven items appear below:
 
1 F Russo Excellent Arguments Vs The Best Case #65, 1999 March
2 K Straughen Biblical Pseudoscience #63, 1998 Nov.
3 Anonymous The Bible: Scientifically Accurate #64, 1999 Jan.
4 K Straughen Biblical Pseudoscience (Part 2) #66, 1999 May
5 Anonymous The Bible: Scientifically Accurate Part 2 #66, 1999 May
6 K Straughen Mustard Etc.– Reply To Anon. #67, 1999 July
7 Anonymous Reply To Straughen #68, 1999 Sep.

 

 
EXCELLENT ARGUMENTS VS THE BEST CASE

Frank Russo

(Investigator 65, 1999 March)


Mr Straughen is very perceptive and thorough and supplying some excellent arguments against the Bible.

However, "Anonymous" is establishing the best case for the inerrancy of the Bible (or as he puts it the "original Scriptures") I've ever come across. He is doing far better than any sect I've encountered.

Probably no Christian sect would even debate the Bible's inerrancy in a magazine open to skeptics. They collect donations, ask for money and build organizations but won't defend in open forum the book by which they justify this.

I'm keen to see how the debate will continue.
 



Biblical Pseudoscience

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 63, 1998 November)

Introduction

Fundamentalists/creationists often assert that there is no conflict between the Bible and science, presumably because Scripture was written under the guidance of an all-wise God, and therefore contains no errors:

"In dramatic contrast to primitive and mythological religious writings, the Bible is faithful to scientific evidence. The writers' observations about nature, man, and history are correct, and free from the ancient scientific inaccuracies and superstitions of their contemporaries. It is truly a wonder that the writers of Scripture did not make scientific mistakes in their observations about the world around them."
(D. Stewart: The Ten Wonders of the Bible, page 73).


So, is the Bible free from scientific errors? Unfortunately for believers the answer is no, and I shall now proceed to demonstrate this fact.
 
 

Botany

"Another parable he put before them saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."
(Matt.13:31-32).


This is certainly not a scientific description of mustard as there is not one correct statement in Jesus' parable, a fact openly admitted by some Biblical scholars:
 

"Much debate has raged over the literal implications of the parable, which make the common mustard unsuitable for the illustration, even though the Greek clearly refers to it. We know now that the orchid seed, not the mustard seed, is the smallest. The mustard does not grow to tree size, for it is an annual plant. Though fast-growing, it could not be suitable for nesting birds in the early spring."
(The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 3, page 476-477).

 

Cosmology

"Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done..." (Gen. 2:1-2).


According to the Bible, the Universe was brought into existence in six days. However, science has discovered that cosmic evolution encompasses a time-span of billions of years. Given that this is so, the Biblical time scale is woefully inadequate by scientific standards. As a matter of fact the Universe is probably 13-20 billion years old, rather than the paltry 6000 years as claimed by creationists.
 

Genetics

"Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods. He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the runnels, that is, the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted." (Gen. 30:37-39).


Jacob employs magic to achieve the desired result–he performs an act which automatically compels his flocks to produce young with similar markings to the rods that they bred in front of. However, we now know that the colour of a sheep's fleece is determined by the genes it inherits from its parents, and no amount of rods, peeled or otherwise, will effect the outcome. Once again, the Bible gives support to superstitious nonsense.
 

Gynaecology

"When a woman has a discharge of blood which is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening." (Lev.15 :19-21).


Apart from being an insult to women, this passage of Scripture is just plain nonsense. Menstruation is not a contagious disease, nor does it impart any physical or spiritual uncleanliness to the opposite sex. Moreover, the morality of a god who penalises women for a biological function which It created, must be called into question.
 

Mathematics

"Then he made the molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference." (1 Kings 7:23).


The problem with the above figure of 30 cubits is that it is wrong. This fact is easily demonstrated by using the following formula: circumference = 2 x pi x radius, where pi = 3.146 – the correct answer is 31.46 cubits. The same erroneous figure of 30 cubits is also given in 2 Chron. 4:2 which, needless to say, shows that the Bible is mathematically muddled.
 

Neuropathology  

"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water...and Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly." (Matt.17:15-18).


The Ancient Hebrews attributed epilepsy to demonic possession – the demon Shibta, for example, was thought to cause the disease in young children. In this respect they were no different to other prescientific cultures who attributed supernatural causes to this illness. However, we now know that epilepsy has entirely natural causes such as tumours, injury, or infection of the brain. In cases where there is no sign of these causes, the person is suffering from idiopathic epilepsy, which is caused by abnormal and uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. The Bible is clearly wrong when it claims that epilepsy is caused by demons.
 

Zoology

"Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, and the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean for you." (Deut.14:7)


The Bible is wrong on four counts:  

     
    Conclusion

    It is impossible to believe that the Bible is free from scientific errors when it claims that mustard has the smallest seeds and is a tree, that the Universe reached its present form in six days, that peeled rods can influence the colour of a sheep's fleece, makes basic errors in maths, claims that women are unclean during menstruation and that this impurity is contagious, that epilepsy is caused by demons, and that hares are ruminants.
     
     

    Bibliography

    Conrad, J. The Many Worlds of Man, Macmillan & Co., London,1964.
    Dummelow, J. R. (Ed). The One Volume Bible Commentary, Macmillan & Co., London, 1911.
    Gregerson, E. Sexual Practices, Book Club Associates, London, 1984.
    Harrison Matthews, L. The Life of Mammals, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, 1969.
    Mitton, S, (Ed). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Astronomy, Jonathan Cape Ltd., London, 1977.
    Stewart, D. The Ten Wonders of the Bible, Dart Press, Orange, California, 1990.
    Encyclopedia International, Grolier Inc., New York, 1972.
    Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version).
    The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible. Abingdon Press, New York, 1962.
     



     

    THE BIBLE: SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE
    REPLY TO "BIBLICAL PSEUDOSCIENCE" (INVESTIGATOR 63)

    Anonymous

    (Investigator 64, 1999 January)


    INTRODUCTION

    It's been shown in many Investigator articles that the Bible is more reliable than skeptics had believed. Therefore it's probable that Mr Straughen selected his latest batch of criticisms for their seeming decisiveness. Many of his points are made in Science vs. Religion (1990) by Tad S Clements.

    Let's see whether the Bible is defensible.
     

    BOTANY

    The New Combined Bible Dictionary and Concordance says:  

      MUSTARD, a well-known herb of Palestine, and is proverbial because of its small seeds. It sometimes grows to be ten or twelve feet high, and is classified as a tree (Matt. 13:31, 32; Mark 4:31, 32; Luke 13:19).


    Straughen criticized Jesus for calling the mustard seed "the smallest of seeds" and the resulting plant a "tree" in which birds makes nests. (Matthew 13:31-32) He pointed out that the orchid seeds are the smallest seeds.

    Note, however, that Jesus spoke about seeds which people sowed in their fields and which his listeners were familiar with. First-century Jews did not sow orchid seeds and harvest orchids!

    A difference between shrubs and trees – from the non-specialist's viewpoint – is that fully-grown trees are generally bigger than fully-grown shrubs. The mustard at 10 to 12 feet can be called a tree and is then big enough for bird nests.
     
     

    COSMOLOGY

    So-called "Scientific Creationists" defend the idea of a 6,000-year-old Universe. Others are more flexible.

    Genesis 1 described to ancient Jews how the world they observed around themselves originated. When comparing Genesis with science the Scientific Creationist approach is not the only way.

    In previous Investigator debate I reasoned that: "Genesis 1:1 is a summary of the account to follow." (Newman et al 1977)

    Genesis 1:1 says: "In the beginning God created the heavens (=sky) and the earth (=Land)." Verses 2 & 3 describe the world as already existing "in the beginning" but in a state of destruction – lifeless, windswept, dark and the land covered by the oceans.

    In other words the creation story of six days in Genesis chapter 1 is not a story of God creating the whole Universe from nothing but rather a story of God restoring this planet after some great catastrophe. The six days of creation describe what a hypothetical observer at land or sea level would have observed when "God created" and restored the land, light, life and sky on our world. (Investigator 54)

    This understanding of Genesis allows for life on Earth prior to some great catastrophe followed by the creation (as in Genesis 1) of living things along the same lines and plans as existed before. It's a scenario for "creation" that could allow for what is known – as distinct from theory and opinion – about biology, evolution, geology, paleontology, astronomy, etc.

    The Bible sets no date, such as 6,000 years, to the creation "days". The New Testament teaches that God is the ultimate creator of everything. Therefore long before the time of Genesis chapter 1 God, according to the Bible, would have created or started the Universe. Again the Bible gives no date for this.

    Another time I hope to supply evidence – even proof – for an intelligent start to the Universe.
     

    GENETICS

    Jacob put rods from poplar, almond and plane trees, with strips of bark peeled off, into the watering troughs of sheep and goats in his care.

    Seemingly the intention was that such prenatal influence would cause the adult animals to produce striped, speckled and spotted young.

    As far as is known the color of the newborn is not affected by the color of branches the adults look at while drinking or mating. Nor, as far as is known, does the wood soaked in water produce chemicals that effect fertility and so aid selective mating.

    Books commenting on this say things like, "It seems that Genesis 30 is an accurate record of Jacob's mistaken theory and foolish actions." (Coder & Howe 1966)

    Indeed, often the Bible does record peoples' wrong ideas. In Job 20:16 a man named Zophar attributed the poison of a snake to the tongue. But Job 42:7 suggests that Zophar was not always accurate. Other Bible verses attribute poison to the "bite", not to the tongue. (Proverbs 23:32; Numbers 21:6) The poison is located "under the lips". (Psalm 140:3)

    Jacob had already had years of experience at sheep breeding and the gestation period of sheep is only 22 weeks. Apparently Jacob used other means than peeled rods to guide mating, he distinguished the "stronger" and "feebler":  

      Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding Jacob laid the rods in the runnels before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there… (30:41-42)


    In the next chapter (31:10-12) Jacob attributes the breeding results to guidance from God.

    We should not entirely discount "epigenesis" – the environment of the parents influencing the inheritance of features in the offspring. (New Scientist 1998 November 28) It's uncertain, however, from the context of Genesis 30-31, as translated, what really went on and what the purpose of the partly peeled rods was. The account may assume information which ancient readers had but which we lack.
     

    GYNAECOLOGY  

      When a woman has a discharge of blood which is her regular discharge from her body, she shall be in her impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean. And whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. (Lev.15 :19-21).
       
    Straughen calls this passage an "insult to women" and claims it "penalises women".

    The Law of Moses listed 70 things as "clean" or "unclean" and a dozen different words denoted the idea. That constitutes a major study. Note, briefly, that Moses' Law was not discriminatory against women – for men too were "unclean" after sexual discharges. (Leviticus 15:1-7)

    Besides providing ceremonies of worship and atonement for sin the purposes of the Law of Moses included:

Scriptures for the third point, health and long life, include:
Deuteronomy 7:12-15; 28:15-21, 27-28, 58-62; 30:15-20

Regular bathing plus quarantine would assist the third purpose – health. Many women don't want sex during menstruation and the Law showed consideration for them. The Law in effect made marriage and sex part of worship thereby teaching self-control and respect for the reproductive functions.

Consider, furthermore, that bathing and keeping clean in semi-arid conditions without modern facilities and advantages would be a tedious process, easily avoided or given up. In the Middle Ages bathing by Europeans, even by those who wore silks and velvet, was infrequent – perhaps once a year or less. We now know that this would have contributed to illnesses, epidemics and the low life expectancy of perhaps 15 years.

In the Bible physical cleanliness symbolizes spiritual purity and righteousness. (Isaiah 1:16; Psalm 51:1-7) This would motivate people to physical cleanliness – and therefore improved health – despite the tediousness of doing this in a primitive environment. To assure bathing, by linking it via law to easily identifiable occasions such as menstruation and seminal emissions, meant bathing could not be avoided. This raised the living standard of men and women and was not an insult.

In 1897, when the link between germs, filth and disease became clear, founders of the domestic science movement said: "…obedience to sanitary laws should be ranked, as it was in the Mosaic Code, as a religious duty." (New Scientist 1998 May 30 pp. 48-49)
 

MATHEMATICS

The "molten sea" or large basin used in the Temple was "ten cubits from brim to brim" and "thirty cubits in circumference". (1 Kings 7:23; 2 Chronicles 4:2)

Critics say that pi equals 3.146 and therefore the circumference of the basin should be 31.46 [i.e. 3.146 x 10]. The Bible account seemingly implies pi is only 3.

Actually 3.146 would also be wrong if we require more decimal places. If we are working to one significant figure then the 30 cubits for the basin circumference is perfectly accurate since the alternatives of 20 and 40 would be way out!

Kramer (1951) says:

By the use of modern mathematical expressions for pi we can approximate it to any degree of precision, to hundreds, to thousands of decimal places… Twentieth-century engineers and other practical workers seldom require an excessively precise estimate of pi.


Consider also that the basin was probably bowl-shaped and therefore of smaller diameter and circumference nearer floor level. The diameter was measured across the top – from brim to brim says the Bible. But the circumference was measured lower down perhaps at the water level and was less than 31.46 cubits for that reason:

Under its brim were gourds [ornaments], for thirty cubits, compassing the sea round about; the gourds were in two rows cast with it when it was cast. (1 Kings 7:24; 2 Chronicles 4:3)


Clearly the 30 cubits are the circumference not around the brim but a little way from the top – sufficient distance from the top for two rows of ornamentation. And at that height the circumference was 30 cubits.
 
 

NEUROPATHOLOGY

Straughen explained that Jews attributed epilepsy to being possessed by the demon Shibta. He claimed Matthew 17:15-18 agrees with this, and concluded: "The Bible is clearly wrong when it claims that epilepsy is caused by demons."

Actually the Bible position is not that simple. Let's briefly survey healing in Mark's Gospel.

Jesus often cast out "unclean spirits" and "demons". (1:22-28, 39; 9:14-29)

Demon possession, however, is distinguished from sickness:

They brought him all who were sick or possessed with demons…and he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons… (1:32-34; 6:13)


In many cases of sickness no demons are mentioned – fever (1:29-31); leprosy (1:40-42); withered hand (3:1-5); blood flow (5:25-34); death (5:21-42); blindness (8:22-26; 10:46-52); direct injury or wounding. (14:47) Mark lacks examples of birth defects but John chapter 9 indicates these also do not denote demon possession.

In one case forgiveness cured a paralytic – 2:1-12. This could be an instance where neither demons nor injury caused the condition – but where it was psychosomatic/emotional.

A thorough discussion would consider more than Mark. However, enough is shown to suggest that a model of causes of sickness and loss of function, consistent with the Bible, includes five possible origins:  

1 Natural physical causes;
2 Accident/injury;
3 Demon possession;
4 Psychosomatic/emotional;
5 Pre-birth causes.


From psychiatry it's known that emotional factors can cause symptoms that simulate sicknesses, injuries and handicaps. Non-specialists, or even specialists when they are unsure of the cause, would refer to blindness or paralysis as "blindness" or "paralysis" whether the cause is physical or emotional.

The Bible writers do similarly when labeling a sickness – they go by the symptoms whether the alleged cause is demonic, physical or emotional.

In Matthew 17, as Mr Straughen noted, epilepsy is attributed to a demon. However, in the only other instance where the word is used (Matthew 4:23-24) we see epilepsy distinguished from demon possession. In Matthew 4 the sick are categorized into:

Whether the Devil and demons actually exist is discussed in Investigator No. 63. Aside from numerous religious books giving examples of demons being cast out, a more scientific work is Possession And Exorcism (T K Oestereich , 1974).
 

ZOOLOGY

Scores of references agree with Straughen that the Bible is wrong about the hare being a cud chewer. e.g.

Bishop Colenso says that he has a note from Professor Owen denying that the hare is a ruminant animal; therefore, says the Bishop, "Owen is right and Moses is wrong." (Nicholson – no date)

It was erroneously thought by the ancient Jews to have chewed the cud. (Peloubet & Adams 1925)
  

In 1939 British scientist E L Taylor discovered that rabbits/hares eat their own faecal pellets. In this way over half the food passes through the stomach twice.

Zoologist J Z Young explains:

However, the lagomorphs share with rodents the habit of passing food twice through the alimentary canal (caecotrophy). Dried faecal pellets are produced only during the day. At night soft pellets covered with mucous are formed in the caecum and are immediately taken from the anus by the lips. They are stored in the stomach and later mixed with further food taken. (1962)


The hare's stomach structure lacks the four compartments of animals classified as "ruminants" such as buffalo, deer, goats, cattle, etc. The camel is different too because its stomach is three-chambered. The rock badger (hyrax) – also said to chew the cud – has a two-chambered stomach. However, the Bible does not call the hare (or the camel or the hyrax) a "ruminant". The Bible is not attempting a zoological classification. It stresses the action or behavioral aspect by saying the hare "chews the cud".

20th-century research makes sense of the Bible claim by the discovery that much of the hare's food – as with ruminants – enters the stomach twice.

What about the alleged rabbit's "hoof"? Clements (1990) makes a similar criticism regarding the camel:

[In] Leviticus 11:4, you will find the claim that the camel doesn't have a divided hoof: "as the camel, because it cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you." Actually, camels only appear to have undivided hoofs, the appearance created by a flap of skin that obscures the division. The author of this passage in Leviticus could have benefited from a simple surgical procedure, or, presumably…God could have set him straight. (p. 202)


In the classification of mammals, camels are a sub-category of "even-toed ungulates" and ungulates are hoofed animals. (Young 1962 p. 740) Yet Young also says:

A specialized feature is the loss of the hoofs. They were present in the early camels but are replaced in modern forms by a nail and large pad. (p. 752)


Rather than speaking of a hoofed animal without hoofs (!) the Bible names three animals which: "chew the cud but does not part the hoof." They are the camel, hyrax and hare.

All three do not have hoofs. They do not "part the hoof" because they lack hoofs! In the hyrax and hare this is obvious. In the camel it's not obvious, but the Bible got it right.

Perhaps, then, God did: "set him [Moses] straight."

Concerning the hare, hyrax and camel being "unclean". In general, potential foods labeled "unclean" in the Bible are foods which were risky for humans to eat. Ancient Israel did not have modern government food controls and regulations. Cooking facilities were often inadequate. Therefore the Bible's simple food rules helped preserve health by reducing the incidence of infections.
 

References

Anonymous 1997 Circles, Pillars and Tents Part 2 Bible Teaching About Earth, Investigator Magazine, No. 54, pp. 44-49
Clements, T S 1990 Science vs. Religion, Prometheus Books, USA
Coder, S M & Howe, G F 1966 The Bible, Science and Creation, Victory Press, Britain, p. 54
Kramer, E E 1951 The Mainstream of Mathematics, A Fawcett Premier Book, USA, p. 51
Newman, R C and Eckelmann Jr., H J 1977 Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth, Baker Book House, USA, p. 68
Nicholson, W The Bible Explainer and Concordance, W Nicholson and Sons, Britain, pp. 303, 426
Oestereich, T K 1974 Possession And Exorcism, Causeway Books, USA
Peloubet, F N & Adams A D 1925 Peloubet's Bible Dictionary, Winston USA p. 238
The New Combined Bible Dictionary and Concordance, Paperback Edition, 1974, Baker Book House, USA ,p. 303
Young, J Z 1962 The Life of Vertebrates 2nd edition, Oxford USA p. 663
 



Biblical Pseudoscience
(Part 2 of 2 parts)

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 66, 1999 May)


Introduction.

I am unable to agree with aspects of A's article The Bible: Scientifically Accurate (Inv 64, page 14), a response to part 1 (Inv. 63, page 38) of the above.

Botany.

(1) The Bible states that Mustard seeds are "the smallest of all seeds." This is an all-inclusive statement. Matt. 13:31-32 does not say it is the smallest of all seeds used in Middle Eastern agriculture. If Scripture said "It is the smallest of all the seeds that a man took and sowed in his field," then I could partly agree with A.
(2) There is a clear difference between a shrub and a tree. To say that the words are interchangeable is like saying that a donkey can be called a horse.

Cosmology.

A's assertion that Genesis describes the restoration of the Earth rather than a six day creation is refuted by Gen. 1:14-19, part of which says "and God made the two great lights." If the celestial bodies existed at the time, then God would not have had to make them.

Genetics.

The Bible may contain "an accurate record of Jacob's mistaken theory and foolish actions." However, the authors of Scripture clearly indicate that the peeled rods caused the colour change – "the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted" (Gen. 30:39) – an impossible event to say the least.

Gynaecology.

Lev. 15:19-21 is an insult to women because it portrays them as a source of pollution. This is clearly an unnecessary burden on the woman as she would have to be isolated in order to safeguard others from her "impurity." A's comments about protecting women from unwanted sexual advances during menstruation is not supported by this passage of Scripture. Lev. 15:19-21 is aimed at protecting others from the alleged contaminating influences of blood.

Regular bathing is one practice essential for good health, however, when people believe that the touch of a menstruating woman can render them unclean, and that they must wash themselves as a result, then we can truly say that this is nonsense.

Mathematics.

If I said that 2 x 2 = 3, can my answer be considered correct if I say that I am "working to one significant figure" or that it is "perfectly accurate since the alternatives of 20 and 40 would be way out." I hardly think so. A's claim that the "circumference was measured lower down and was less than 31.46 cubits for that reason" is an attempt to score a goal by shifting the goal posts. The Bible indicates that the calculation was based on the measurement from brim to brim, and therefore the circumference referred to would be that of the brim.

Neuropathology. Matt. 17:15-18 states that the boy was an epileptic (as is indicated by his symptoms):

"The case in Mt. 17:15, Mk. 9:18, Lk. 9:38 is of genuine epileptic fits; the usual symptoms are graphically described. Like many epileptics, the patient bad been subject to the fits from childhood." (Dictionary of the Bible, page 599.)


In every passage mentioned above, a supernatural cause is attributed to epilepsy. The Bible was written in an age when demons and other evil spirits were thought to cause this illness, and it's only natural that Scripture reflects these erroneous beliefs.

Zoology.

There is a great deal of difference between chewing the cud and chewing faeces. For example, can you agree with the following:- "cows chew their faeces." It is impossible to say that this statement is an accurate description of rumination, just as it is impossible to say that when hares chew their faeces that they are chewing the cud. A's comments relating to food hazards can apply to any animal if it is not prepared properly. Particular animals can be considered unclean because they are diseased. The same can't be said of an entire species.
 

Conclusion.

The Bible is the product of a prescientific people, and the errors that the authors of Scripture made are due to the limited and inaccurate knowledge of their age. If the Bible were the product of an all-wise being, then it would have been written with an absolute clarity that transcends time and culture, thus eliminating misunderstandings concerning the meaning of its contents. The fact that apologists must resort to basically saying "That's what the Bible says, but that's not what it means" casts considerable doubt on its divine authorship.
 

Bibliography

Dictionary of the Bible Holy Bible T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1914.
Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version.)
 



 

THE BIBLE:  SCIENTIFICALLY ACCURATE PART 2

REPLY TO STRAUGHEN'S BIBLICAL PSEUDOSCIENCE 2

Anonymous

(Investigator 66, 1999 May)


Introduction

Mr. Straughen's Biblical Pseudoscience – a response to my article The Bible: Scientifically Accurate (Investigator 64) – has some misconceptions.
 

Botany

Matthew 13:31-32 says:

The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds …
In verse 32 – "it is the smallest of all seeds" – we need to remember the limitation from verse 31 "[of those seeds] which a man took and sowed in his field."

An explanatory note in The Companion Bible similarly says:  

Supply the ellipses from v. 31= "than all the seeds [that a man sows in his field]."


The RSV Bible translates the Greek lakanon as shrub. The word applied to herbs and vegetables. (Luke 11:42; Romans 14:2) Judged by size rather than full botanical description, and therefore using the figure of speech known as "metaphor", the mustard which is normally considered a herb/vegetable sometimes "becomes a tree." (13:32)

Jesus used the mustard seed and tree to illustrate that the "kingdom of heaven" – God's rule over people who nominally or sincerely accept him – would grow from the smallest seed into the "greatest shrub". In other words from one man, Jesus, into the largest religion. (Isaiah 9:7; Psalm 22:27) Centuries afterwards the prediction came true.
 

Cosmology

As explained in previous debate the Genesis creation story describes what hypothetical human observers at ground or sea level would have observed during creation. When the sun and moon appeared in the sky [on "day" 4] such observers would observe and say: "God [has] made the two great lights."

However, light shone already on the sea on "day" 1, and "day" and "night" existed at that stage. (Genesis 1:3) That light presumably was sunlight! (Psalm 136:1-9; Jeremiah 31:35; Genesis 15:17) Although sunlight lit Earth's surface on "day" 1 the sun itself was still screened off by atmospheric conditions until "day" 4.
 

Genetics

The words "the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted" do not imply causation. It depends on the purpose of the rods.

I previously gave four possible explanations for Jacob's animal breeding success. Another explanation, recently suggested to me, is that the different rods were used as signs. The animals were first separated by other criteria and then directed to troughs previously identified by different rods.

For example, I might plant peas and choose my varieties so that some plots of ground produce adults with wrinkled seeds and other plots produce adults with round seeds. To keep track of the different plots I erect on each plot signs with a W or an R. Plants with wrinkled seeds then appear in W-labelled plots and plants with round seeds then appear in R-labelled plots. However, it is not the plot-location or the W or the R which cause the results – because the results follow from my original selection process!

Jacob too had a selection process but its nature is unclear. With five possible explanations my previous conclusion remains valid:  

It's uncertain, however, from the context of Genesis 30-31, as translated what really went on and what the purpose of the partly peeled rods was. The account may assume information which ancient readers had but which we lack. (No. 64 p. 16)
 

Gynaecology

Here too my previous conclusion remains valid:

To assure bathing, by linking it via law to easily identifiable occasions such as menstruation and seminal emissions, meant bathing could not be avoided. This raised the living standard of men and women. (p. 17)


Mathematics

For 2 x 2 to be correct to one significant figure the only answer is 4.  In saying "3" Straughen is mistaken.

The molten sea or basin in the temple measured 10 cubits brim to brim. The circumference of 30 cubits was measured below the brim where the two rows of ornaments were – I quoted two verses in support. If "goal-post shifting" is involved then Mr Straughen has done the shifting!

The Bible is not trying to give us a value for pi. We're not even told whether the brim extended beyond the top of the basin (like the brim of a hat) and whether the 10 cubits measured the inner or outer edges of the brim.
 

Neuropathology

Mr Straughen has ignored my explanation given in Investigator No. 64. As explained, the Bible allows for at least five possible causes of sickness and loss of function – Natural causes, Accident/Injury, Demons, Psychosomatic/Emotional, Pre-birth causes.

The Bible also labels a sickness by:

"the symptoms whether the alleged cause is demonic, physical or emotional."
In Matthew 4:23-24 the Bible – by distinguishing "demoniacs" from "epileptics" – allows for some non-demonic causes of epilepsy.

The Bible is unclear whether demonic causes of epileptic symptoms would occur beyond the first century. This could be tested by investigating whether any Christians nowadays cure epilepsy by casting out demons.
 

Zoology

The Law of Moses calls hares "chewers of cud". The food would become "cud" after its first passage through the digestive tract when it is transferred directly from anus to mouth.

After its second passage it is not re-eaten but expelled as faeces. Stop a rabbit or hare from reaching its anus and so prevent the second eating and the animal will die within two weeks. It's as essential to life as cud chewing is to ruminants.

These facts, scientifically established in the 20th century, account for Moses' claim that hares "chew the cud." Rather than Moses being deceived by the mouth movements of hares – claimed in many reference works – we instead see a biological basis for his statement. Moses did not call hares "ruminants" – that would be a biological classification. Moses told – for the purpose of the dietary laws – what hares (and hyraxes) do; they chew cud.

Cud chewing in hares differs to cud chewing in ruminants. Camels – with three stomach compartments rather than the four of other ruminants – are different too. If we analyse amounts of cud chewed and the biochemistry then all cud chewing species would differ from each other! What they have in common, however, are two relevant features:

1 The process is essential for life;

2 The food goes through the digestive tract or a significant portion of it twice.

Critics who had called the Bible "erroneous" were themselves erroneous.
 

Conclusion

My previous reply to Mr Straughen commenced:

It's been shown in many Investigator articles that the Bible is more reliable than skeptics had believed.
Before adequate evidence and proof is in, many Bible statements initially appear wrong, dubious or unprovable. Nevertheless, over a period of centuries they're being proved right one after another. Mr Straughen can see this too.
 




 

Mustard Etc. - Reply To Anon.

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 67, 1999 July)


I am unable to agree with A's article The Bible: Scientifically Accurate, Part 2 (Inv. 66. p. 53.) To finalise the debate on this topic, I will make my reply brief.
 

Botany.

"Black mustard is an annual plant up to about 1 m tall." (p. 180 in: R.H.M. Langer & G.D. Hall, Agricultural Plants, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1982.) At this height mustard can't be considered a tree, or suitable for nesting birds. NOTE: white mustard is smaller than the black.
 

Cosmology.

The creation of light on the first day does not imply the existence of celestial bodies: "Light and darkness are regarded as two objects, each occupying a place of its own (Job 38:19.) Light is created on the first day, the luminaries on the fourth." (p. 4 in: J.R. Dummelou, ed, The One Volume Bible Commentary, Macmillan & Co, London, 1911.) Because the ancients considered light to be a substance, they conceived it existing independently.
 

Mathematics.

"The Babylonians and the early Hebrews were simply using the value 3 for the ratio between circumference and diameter, which wasn't even close." (p. 8 in: D. Blatner, The Joy of Õ, Penguin Books, London, 1998.) 1 Kings 7:23 says the measurement was 10 cubits from brim to brim, and gives the circumference as 30 cubits. This figure is due to 3 being assigned as the value for pi. The ornamental bands under the brim (A, B: Fig. 1) may have equalled the diameter.
 

Value Judgement.

One of the reasons I doubt the Bible is the Word of God is because it lacks perfect clarity. A. says this is a "value judgement," however, should we expect anything less than perfection from a supposedly perfect being?
 
 



 

REPLY TO STRAUGHEN (No. 67 p. 4)

Anonymous

(Investigator 68, 1999 September)

Botany

Mustard: "A thick stemmed plant, under good conditions often growing higher than a man can reach… The larger plants were the favorite haunts of the smaller birds." (The Zondervan Bible Dictionary 1967 p. 665)

In comparing the mustard – which grows from the smallest seed (of seeds that are sowed) and becomes a shrub the size of a tree – to the growth of God's rule (kingdom) on Earth, Jesus doubtless referred to the "larger plants" of mustard rather than the average size. (Matthew 13:31-32)
 

Cosmology

"And God made the two great lights … to rule over the day and to rule over the night, and to separate light from darkness." (Genesis 1:16-18)

The reference to the sun and moon as "lights" tells unambiguously that light comes from the sun and moon – Mr Straughen's unnamed "ancients" who thought differently notwithstanding.

The "light" of Genesis 1:3-5 did the same as the "lights" of 1:16-18 – "separate the light from the darkness" and cause Day and Night – and therefore that light too was sunlight. The sun is not mentioned in 1:3 because, as explained previously, the Creation story describes what a hypothetical observer at ground level or sea level would have seen during creation and at that stage in 1:3 the sun was not visible but its light was.
 

Maths

Mr Straughen's diagram is helpful. [Diagram here omitted] The diameter of the basin, ten cubits from "brim to brim", could mean from point "A" of the brim to the corresponding point on the opposite side. At point "C", however, the diameter might be 9.5 to 9.6 cubits. If the circumference is measured near "C" we can get a value as close to pi as measuring-tape permits.

However, the Bible does not say that it's giving a value for pi . The measurements, I suspect, were done deliberately at points giving a 3 to 1 ratio and not at points where pi results!
 

Value Judgement

Let Mr Straughen write a paragraph so "perfectly clear" that no one can ever ask questions about it. Even the simple "The cat sat on the mat" would not do because there are people who know neither cats nor mats. And people who do know about cats and mats could still debate questions of time, location, origins of, circumstances, color, texture, material, ownership, etc.

The Bible includes thousands of claims that originally were accepted, then seemed wrong as scientific research advanced and now, after more scientific research, are turning out correct after all!

Such a style precludes Straughen's "perfect clarity" yet suggests influence from a source of limitless knowledge and insight. It's a style humans probably could not duplicate with five-year-olds let alone in a book for all humanity across thousands of years.


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