Date: Sun Sep 07 2003 - 23:30:51 EDT
Is the bible truly reliable enough to defend with science?
Did a god inspire ancient writers with knowledge thousands of years ago?
If so, we ignore it at our peril. If not, it will be a treacherous guide,
leading us into dangerous error.
The Bible stories (and religions in general) are a mishmash of history,
morality, theology and claims about the world of nature. Time and
distance have made the historical claims irrelevant; do you know or care
what happened to the Amalekites? Their 'morality' is often depraved;
women are forced to marry their rapists (Deut. 22: 28, 29), and Jesus
ordered Christian men to hate their fathers, mothers, wives, children,
brothers and sisters (Luke 14: 26). The theology is curiously untestable;
miracles, we are told, were everyday occurrences thousands of years ago,
and lots of miracles are promised in the indefinite future, but are we
allowed to study such supernatural events, they remain mere myth and
But what about the natural world? Since the Renaissance four centuries
ago, the growth of science (knowledge based on physical evidence and
reason) has been explosive. This gives us a powerful tool to see whether
or not the ancient writers had access to knowledge unavailable except
through divine revelation. What a harvest of souls for Christ, if the
Bible had correctly predicted the existence of neutrons, the age of the
universe or the size and shape of the planetary orbits! But instead, we
find the biblical authors didn't know what they were talking about:
"Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and
shewith him all the kingdoms of the world" Matt. 4: 8. Can any Christian
name a mountain that would show all the kingdoms of the world at that
time, including the kingdom of Kadphises 1 of the Kushans (Afghanistan),
the kingdom of Kutakanna Tissa (Ceylon), and the kingdom of Kuang-wu- Ti
(China)? The writer of this passage assumed that the Earth is flat. Do
you believe it?
"I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth" Rev. 7: 1.
"The world also shall be stable, that it be not moved" 1 Chr. 16: 30. But
the world is not flat, four cornered and motionless; the Bible is wrong.
Belief that the Earth is a globe was a stock charge against heretics
prepared for burning. (1)
"And the stars of heaven fall unto the earth... And the heaven departed
as a scroll when it is rolled together: Rev. 6: 13, 14. It is not
surprising that ancient cultures thought that the stars were little lamps
hanging from an inverted dome overhead, but we now know that our Milky
Way galaxy alone contains a billion stars that are larger than the Earth,
spread throughout billions of cubic light-years of space. Galileo spent
the last nine years of his life under house arrest, and his student
Giordano Bruno was tortured to death, thanks to the Inquisition's efforts
to stop the spread of ideas we now know to be true.
"And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he
is unclean unto you" Lev. 11:6. Hares (rabbits) have a single stomach, so
they cannot make cud, and they don't have hoofs; they have feet which
divide into toes. The Bible also speaks of four-legged birds (Lev.
11:20), unicorns (Is. 34: 7) dragons (Is. 27: 1) and other mythological
"The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed... Which indeed
is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among
herbs, and becometh a tree" Matt. 13:31, 32. The mustard seed is not the
least of all seeds; many plants, such as the orchid, have smaller seeds.
How could the Christian god fail to know basic biology?
Fossil evidence, radioactive dating and the study of biology have shown
beyond all doubt that life on Earth has slowly changed over the course of
four billion years. And Darwin's theory of evolution explains how this
happened. Astronomers have also shown that the Universe is many billions
of years old, and we now understand how stars and planets formed in our
galaxy, and are still being formed as interstellar matter follows the
observed laws of nature. It would have been easy for divinely-inspired
writers to have outlined the formation of our Solar System and life on
Earth in a simple, comprehensible fashion. Instead the book of Genesis
makes the preposterous claim that the entire universe was created by
divine fiat in six days.
Science has given us no greater benefit than our control over many of the
loathsome diseases that have plagued humanity. We would expect that a
loving, all-knowing god would have left simple instructions on basic
sanitation and disease prevention that would have immeasurably eased our
suffering. Instead we are given the tedious genealogies of Numbers, the
pointless fantasies of Daniel and Ezekiel, and the meaningless lists of
ritually-clean and unclean animals of Leviticus. No hint is given of the
true cause of diseases. Instead, they are said to come from curses or
from various demons and evil spirits, to be cured by prayer (1 Kings 13:
6), faith (Luke 17: 19) or laying on of hands (Mark 16: 18). Many
Christians now claim that AIDS is God's punishment for homosexuals, which
should come as a surprise to lesbians, who are less likely to get AIDS
Medical advances have been actively opposed by the clergy, as
interference with the ways of a wrathful God. When Ethan Allen, the
Revolutionary War hero was inoculated against smallpox, he was threatened
with persecution for violating a local ordinance against it. (2) That
disease, which horribly disfigured and killed millions of people a year,
has now vanished from the face of the Earth thanks to modern medicine.
According to the World Health Organization, leprosy will be eliminated as
a public health problem in a few years, thanks to the drugs Clofazimine
and Rifampicin. (3) What miseries could have been avoided if Jesus had
done as much! Louis Pasteur and Florence Nightingale did more to benefit
humanity than all the ministers, priests, rabbis, prophets and messiahs
As science has advanced, religion has retreated. Our ignorant ancestors
of long ago thought that the gods were needed to make the Sun rise and
the rain fall, but science is making the gods unemployed. Those who say
that there is no conflict between science and religion ignore the many
false statements that religions make about the world around us. And if
religion can't be trusted as a guide to nature, it certainly can't be
trusted as a guide to the supernatural.
1) The Discoverers by Daniel J. Boorstin, pg. 107 (1983, Random House,
New York, NY)
2) A Sense of History compiled by American Heritage Press Inc., pg. 91
(1985, American Heritage Press Inc., New York NY)
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