Yet More on the Bible’s Confused Relationship with Science (2 of 2)

Bible scienceThis post wraps up our look at science in the Bible. It’s the conclusion of an analysis of Bible verses that contradict modern science (read part 1). Another recent post looked at Christian claims that the Bible actually anticipated modern science with correct statements about the world that were otherwise unknown during that time.

Let’s continue enumerating scientific errors in the Bible.

Cosmology and earth science

7. The moon creates light rather than reflecting it

God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night (Genesis 1:16).

The sun and moon are said to be greater and lesser versions of the same thing with no acknowledgement that one creates light while the other only reflects it. We see the confusion more clearly in this verse:

The moon shall not cause her light to shine (Isaiah 13:10).

No, the moon doesn’t make its own light.

8. The stars are teeny light sources

The Bible dismisses the stars by imagining their creation this way:

[God] also made the stars (Genesis 1:16).

That’s it. 100 billion galaxies each with 100 billion stars are only worth a single Hebrew word in the original (a more literal reading is “(and) the stars”).

We see the stars according to the Sumerian cosmological model here:

God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth (Gen. 1:17).

They’re dismissed as tiny when they’re imagined to fall to earth:

The stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind (Revelation 6:13).

9. The earth was flooded

The Bible tells us that the entire earth was flooded, but the fossil evidence disagrees (long-extinct dinosaurs and modern animals living in the same habitats aren’t fossilized in the same strata).

The geological evidence disagrees (the impact of the ocean is present in many stone layers, but a global flood isn’t).

The DNA evidence disagrees (clues to a DNA choke point about 4000 years ago should be obvious in all living land animals from their having descended from very few individuals).

More about Noah’s flood here and here.

Biology and health

10. Germs? What germs?

The Bible isn’t a reliable source of health information. When the Pharisees scold Jesus for not following Jewish hand washing rules, Jesus focuses on spiritual defilement and dismisses unsanitary defilement.

It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth (Matthew 15:11).

I’ll grant that washing your hands with soap (the simple recipe for which was not included in the Bible) doesn’t touch on spiritual purity, but physical health and basic hygienic precautions are not obvious and are worth a mention somewhere. How about telling us that boiling water minimizes disease? Or how to site latrines to safeguard the water supply?

A prior post reviewed apologists’ excitement about the Bible teaching ritual washing, but that can’t count for much when Jesus rejects it here.

According to the Bible, evil spirits cause disease. In the story of the exorcism of the Gerasene demoniac, what sounds like mental illness is actually caused by demons.

[Jesus] had been saying to [the sick man], “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” (Mark 5:8)

And physical infirmity can also be caused by demons:

There was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all (Luke 13:11).

Are some categories of illness caused by demon possession? That modern medicine finds no value in this hypothesis makes clear that they aren’t.

Jesus also thinks disease can be caused by sin:

You are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you. (John 5:14)

For more on the pre-scientific approach to disease given in the New Testament, see this post.

11. Animals’ offspring change based on what the mother was looking at during conception

Jacob made a deal with his father-in-law Laban to tend his flocks. All the white sheep and goats would remain Laban’s, but any spotted or black ones would be taken by Jacob as wages. The larger story of Jacob is full of tricks, and he employs one here to tip the balance in his favor.

Jacob took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. (Genesis 30:37–9)

This idea that what a woman sees during pregnancy can affect the baby continues as a myth today, but there is no science behind it.

12. Miscellaneous errors

The Bible betrays its uninformed roots when it says that a bat is a bird (Deuteronomy 14:11–18), insects have four feet (Leviticus 11:20–23), rabbits chew their cud (Lev. 11:6), camels have hooves (Lev. 11:4), and the mustard seed is the smallest seed on earth (Matt. 13:31-32). None of that is true.

Concluding thoughts

The problem with science for many Christians is that a belief built on science must change as the science changes. This won’t satisfy someone determined to create an unchanging worldview. The result is an unrealistic and childish relationship with science, embracing it when it appears to support the Christian conclusion and denigrating or ignoring it when it becomes a problem.

To illustrate the tension between religion and science, here’s what Pat Robertson observed about Christians in developing countries. They experience healing miracles far more often than Christians in the West, he says, not because they’re unscientific or ignorant or gullible but because they haven’t been corrupted by education and science.

Overseas, they’re simple, humble. You tell them God loves ’em, and they say, okay, he loves me, and you say God’ll do miracles, and they say, okay, we believe him. That’s what God’s looking for; that’s why they have miracles.

There’s no scientific skepticism in these model Christians with their childlike faith, though why that’s a plus, I don’t know. I wonder if Robertson wrestles with the irony that the technology in his worldwide CBN television network was built exclusively on the teachings of science, not God.

Science is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We don’t have the box top with the picture of the finished puzzle and we only have some of the pieces, so the puzzle is always incomplete. If a new piece won’t fit in, we have to decide if we’re misunderstanding the piece or if we were wrong about the rest of the puzzle. The Christian view is like having the box with a picture of God on the top and then imagining magic to morph every newly discovered piece so that it fits. “God did it” answers everything, but as an unfalsifiable hypothesis, it answers nothing (more here).

Let me close with a paraphrase of an idea from AronRa: When the answer is known, science knows it. But when science doesn’t know it, neither does religion.

 Since the Bible and the church are obviously mistaken
in telling us where we came from,
how can we trust them to tell us where we are going?
— Anonymous

Photo credit: Angel Visha, flickr, CC

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