Re: Peer review and ID

From: <>
Date: Mon Oct 24 2005 - 10:37:23 EDT

This is my first post as a new member, so let me know if any of this is out of
line, or if clicking "reply to all" is not the correct way to post into this thread.

George Murphy states it well. There is an absurdity in our preoccupation with
this. But it is an archetypal concern touching on the surface of increasingly
significant questions. E.g. how far are Christian scholars willing to go to
maintain concordance – or at least a non-contradictory relationship between
Biblical understanding and modern scientific sensibility? The pi question is
probably a “safe” place to gently play this argument out since it is such a
minor detail with no large theological ramifications. Other questions would
encroach in a more threatening way -- “Did the sun really ‘stop’ in the sky for
24 hours for Joshua?” This is a much more challenging whopper to the physicist
than the pi dilemma would be to the mathematician (which is easily answered
anyway – and Mr. Murphy answers well.) If we entertain this doubt of an
incredible miracle (the sun), then we are beginning to go down what many see as
the slippery slope thinking of increasingly larger sections of the Bible as
benevolent mythology. This threatens some Christians, and perhaps rightly so –
because taken to its logical extreme we would end up like Jefferson and the
deists (or the current Jesus Seminar folks) who stab right at the heart of the
whole enterprise by denying all miracles including the resurrection. But I
don’t think that those extremes necessarily invalidate the need to entertain
doubts regarding our western Biblical analysis with its scientific mindset. I
think a lot of what C.S. Lewis wrote on these issues (“Reflections on the
Psalms”) gives good insight in how the Bible as literature delivers truth.
Since literature (and not science) was Lewis’ area of expertise, he was,
perhaps, better equipped to see the Bible for what it is, than we with our
scientific eyes are. –When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a
nail (which applies to the literary scholar as much as the scientist -- but the
literary tool is probably the more appropriate one for Biblical exegesis). But
we certainly can't escape our own worldview and what it brings to our
understanding. I think Lewis recognized this as he didn't run from the
scientific questions, but applied his curiosity on this front as well with an
intriguing "outsider's" perspective.

--Merv Bitikofer

Quoting George Murphy <>:

> Pi = 3 to one significant figure.
> Anyone who's been on this list very long knows that I'm not a concordist &
> don't feel required to try to show that the scientific views of the biblical
> writers were in accord with our modern scientific picture of the world. The
> sky isn't a solid dome. Nevertheless, pi IS 3 to one significant figure &
> even the strictest inerrantist &/or concordist ought to be content with that.
> The only consistent alternative is to demand that the biblical writer not
> say that the circumference of the molten sea was 30 cubits, or 31.4 cubits,
> or even 31.4159 cubits but that it be expressed in terms of an infinite
> series for pi or something like that. And such a demand would be, I suggest,
> absurd - which shows the absurdity of the whole enterprise.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Jim Armstrong
> Cc:
> Sent: Monday, October 24, 2005 1:17 AM
> Subject: Re: Peer review and ID
> Y'know, all in all, I think we're asking a lot of these folks in their own
> time by expecting them to arrive at an approximation of pi that is much more
> accurate than 3.
> The string/rope/whatever model you suggest seems both plausible and likely
> in the absence of something like steel chariot tires.
> It is quite an achievement (and pretty exciting, I expect) to have
> discovered the constancy (and probably mystery) of that ratio, whatever it
> might be in detail.
> Having discovered it, there would likely also be a compelling desire to
> find this strangely constant ratio to be exactly 3 from their mystical
> perspective.
> In any case, their approximation of 3 is for them a good working
> approximation, no less valid than our 3.14 (or 3.14159, or whatever) for most
> practical purposes that do not involve the precision required of machinery
> (or tire-making). JimA
> gordon brown wrote:
> On Sat, 22 Oct 2005, D. F. Siemens, Jr. wrote:
> Gordon,
> You can produce a possible explanation for the ratio of the laver. But no
> lagomorph (hare, Strong's 768) or hyrax (coney, 8225) chews the cud
> (1625). The root of the last (1641) has a primary meaning of drag or drag
> away, and is specifically associated with bringing up the cud. The
> scriptures thus present the erroneous natural history of antiquity. The
> claim I have encountered that the hare ingesting some of its feces is cud
> chewing won't wash. The scriptures are not, contrary to a popular claim,
> scientifically inerrant. Consequently, I consider it wiser to recognize a
> crude estimate of pi, less exact when measures were a cubit, a span, a
> hand, a fingerbreadth, a pace--all connected to human movement or, in
> other cases, activity
> Dave
> .
> I don't expect the Bible to be written in such a way as to be inconsistent
> with the scientific understanding of its original readers, but I would
> expect people who had made measurements to realize that pi is definitely
> greater than three. I would guess that the measurement of the
> circumference of the laver would be made by putting a string around the
> cylinder (if it was a cylinder) and for the diameter by laying a rod
> across the top, thus including the protrusion there.
> Gordon Brown
> Department of Mathematics
> University of Colorado
> Boulder, CO 80309-0395
Received on Mon Oct 24 10:39:40 2005

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