Re: A Christian geologist on the Bible and Science

From: bivalve (bivalve@mail.davidson.alumlink.com)
Date: Sat Sep 28 2002 - 20:43:12 EDT

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    Although I sympathize with the intended point, this does a poor job
    on some counts. The interviewed creation scientist did no better, as
    the criticisms are accurate, but the choice and treatment of examples
    left much to be desired.

    >The point of this article is that when scriptures are taken
    >literally and they produce nonsense, then science should be given
    >preference.<

    "Given preference" is not the best wording, at least for positively
    impressing one who strongly favors emphasizing Biblical authority.
    Rather, science helps point us towards a non-literal interpretation.

    >The Heart versus the Brain <
    Only a handful of references (in the NIV) to heart refer to anything
    physical, so the case that a particular organ is in view in most
    references to the heart is somewhat weakened. However, as an
    application of YEC exegesis of Genesis 1 to other passages, this is
    probably not a bad caricature.

    >The lack of a modern scientific interpretation of the function of
    >the heart in the Bible occurs because in the time of Jesus, the
    >people considered the heart as the center of the body. All arteries
    >lead from the heart. It pulses with life. The brain was thought to
    >be some kind of organ that filtered the blood, but otherwise it was
    >relatively unimportant.
            The custom of offering blood and sacrifices to gods was
    common in many ancient cultures and supports the contention that
    ancient cultures considered the heart to be more important than the
    brain. The Israelites also continued this custom when they offered
    blood from animals that were sacrificed to Jahweh in the Temple in
    Jerusalem. In none of these ancient cultures was the brain
    sacrificed. <

    This part of the argument presumes that they knew about the
    circulation of the blood (arteries leading from the heart, the heart
    and blood especially connected). The Bible explains the ritual
    significance of blood by declaring that the life is in the blood, and
    it is a medical and veterinary fact that animals with circulatory
    systems can bleed to death.

    >The semen or sperm that came from the male was imagined to be a
    >fully-formed human being, only miniature in size. The male just
    >planted these tiny humans into the female. Therefore, it was a sin
    >for a male to spill his seed or semen on the ground, because he was
    >killing little human beings (Gen 38:8-10). <

    This attributes a late Medieval to Renaissance view to the Biblical
    authors. I believe others in Europe at the same time argued for a
    minimal role for the male, but the former view gets more press, being
    conducive to accusations of sexism. Gen. 38 identifies the sin as
    rejecting his family duty to provide offspring for the deceased
    brother, not as killing purported mini-men.

    >(John 2:24) The Greek word used in this passage to indicate to
    >"die," is used in all other places in the Bible to mean physical
    >death.<
    Not quite; it is used in phrases like "we die to sin". In addition,
    I Cor. 15 uses the same word in the same idea of a seed dying.

    One could argue that part of the seed does die, and Jesus and Paul
    were referring to this. However, this has nothing to do with the
    intent of their arguments, and thus supports the argument that
    scientific interpretation of this phrase is misinterpretation.

    >In all arguments made by the creation scientist for the three items
    >which were discussed above, he uses modern-day knowledge that the
    >mind is in the brain, when, in fact, if he were true to a literal
    >reading of the Bible, he would have to argue that this knowledge is
    >false. For example: "...why do thoughts arise in your heart..."
    >(Luke 24:38). <

    This gets at the heart (or mind?) of one of the major errors of
    creation scientists, namely their hypocrisy. This is a dangerous
    topic to berate, as the planks in one's own eye are seldom noticed,
    but I have been amazed at the thoroughness by which one hostile
    creation scientist committed every error that he accused me of.

    >I did not pose this question to the creation scientist because it
    >was my experience from a year's correspondence on geology and other
    >science topics that this question was unanswerable from a creation
    >science point of view. Like our modern knowledge of chemistry, the
    >biology of sex is not discussed in the Bible, and, therefore, the
    >Bible has no opinion on this subject from which the creation
    >scientist could argue or defend. <

    True, but this contradicts the above claim that the Bible supports an
    inaccurate opinion on the topic. Incidentally, developmental biology
    is a topic that one of the "Science proves the Koran" pamphlets that
    I read claimed support from. Inconveniently for their credibility,
    they provide the amazing quotes from the Koran which clearly
    demonstrate that the purportedly exact descriptions of developing
    embryos (demonstrating divine revelation) are so vague as to provide
    no informative detail and require no medical knowledge.

    >Thus, the creation scientist in the second response admits that the
    >Bible cannot be taken literally, and by doing so, he admits that in
    >this example, the Bible is not scientifically accurate.<

    Again, the wording could be improved. The response admits that every
    statement should not be taken literally, not that the Bible cannot be
    taken literally. Although figurative speech can be scientifically
    inaccurate, more generally the Bible is accurate but not precise
    (e.g., the round basin 30 cubits around and 10 across rather than
    31.41592653589793... around and 10 across).

    >Efforts by "creation scientists" to explain these concepts and to
    >make the Bible a perfect science textbook simply fail because the
    >creation scientists rely on modern science to support their
    >arguments rather than on evidence in the Bible. They conveniently
    >avoid using literal translations, where necessary, in order to make
    >the Bible fit our present scientific understanding. The absence of
    >scientific accuracy in some places in the Bible should not be
    >surprising because it was never written by trained scientists to
    >produce a science textbook.<

    Again, an important point, though the comments about accuracy versus
    precision apply.

    > Even if it were written by scientists, because science is
    >constantly producing new knowledge, it would be impossible for
    >biblical science-writers to anticipate all the changes that new
    >discoveries require. <

    It could be anticipated through divine revelation. However, there is
    no need for God to reveal things that we can find out for ourselves,
    especially when what we really need are the things we cannot find out
    ourselves. Furthermore, as such a divinely revealed science text
    would reflect complete knowledge, it would not match up with modern
    scientific knowledge in those areas where we are mistaken or
    ignorant, and so could still appear erroneous and unconvincing, if it
    were even comprehensible.

         Dr. David Campbell
         Old Seashells
         University of Alabama
         Biodiversity & Systematics
         Dept. Biological Sciences
         Box 870345
         Tuscaloosa, AL 35487 USA
         bivalve@mail.davidson.alumlink.com

    That is Uncle Joe, taken in the masonic regalia of a Grand Exalted
    Periwinkle of the Mystic Order of Whelks-P.G. Wodehouse, Romance at
    Droitgate Spa



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