The Bible as a source of scientific knowledge

I first saw this posted on Facebook (with the name blurred out as it is here) and it was met with responses that contained words like “stupid,” “idiot,” and “Creatard.” I’m not terribly fond of that last one, but I understand the sentiment it’s trying to convey. But not a single commenter made an attempt to explain just why the person who made this absurd statement is an idiot, or why they’re stupid. Now, I don’t know anything about the person who wrote this. In fact, I don’t even know their name. I can’t honestly call this person stupid, but what I will do is hopefully explain why their argument(s) is/are stupid. My one hope is that somehow this post makes its way back to the person who made these arguments originally, because I am genuinely interested in seeing their response.

Let me begin my dissection of this post by stating that nobody ever has or ever will claim that something begins to exist or be true the moment it is “discovered” by science/scientists. I more than likely stumbled outside as a toddler and found myself in the green grass of my parents’ front lawn before a scientist had ever affirmed to me the existence of grass. This does not mean I waited for somebody with a Ph.D. to confirm grass was real before I could accept that it was. This also does not mean grass did not exist prior to my “discovery” of it.

Which takes me to your first example: snakes. More specifically, snakes with legs. Whether or not the Bible states that snakes actually have legs is really a matter of interpretation. The Bible speaks of a serpent in Genesis, who coerces Eve to take a bite of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God’s punishment for the serpent’s role in Eve’s betrayal of his trust, “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” Whether this means the serpent had legs prior to God’s curse is unknown, nor is it obvious whether or not this meant the serpent did not have legs after the curse. After all, even a human can crawl on its belly while having legs. It is uncomfortable to do so, especially for long periods of time; perhaps this is what makes it such a harsh punishment. Or perhaps the bit about eating dust is the actual punishment. Either way, the nature of the serpent both before and after God’s punishment is ambiguous.

That being said, you specifically mentioned snakes. I can assure you, and I will do so publicly, that snakes do not have legs. They have not ever had legs and they will not ever have legs.* Throughout the course of evolution, any creature that had legs in the long line of a snake’s ancestry was, assuredly, not a snake. Even if it were so, like I pointed out in my opening statements, a scientist would not have to “discover” a snake in order for a snake to exist.

So let’s move on to your next argument, which is the Bible describing a spherical earth at a time when science allegedly told us the earth was flat. This would be relevant if it were true. It would suggest the Bible really was written or inspired by the words of somebody who not only knew more than modern scientists, but knew truths that were contrary to what science told us at the time. The fact of the matter is, however, that the Bible never once tells us the earth is a sphere. We hear talk of the earth’s “four corners,” actually, which suggests the earth is either a two-dimensional quadrilateral or a triangular pyramid. Incidentally, Pythagoras hypothesized a spherical earth as early as the sixth century BCE, long before the Old Testament was written (and even longer before the NT).

Oh, but you spoke of a “round” earth, and not a spherical earth. If that’s the case, I think you may actually be right in that the Bible suggests, at one point, that the earth is round (I couldn’t tell you which chapter/verse, but that would contradict everything it says about corners). That would be worth investing thought into, since Pythagoras’s spherical-earth hypothesis was not yet widely accepted, except that the common belief was exactly the same: that the earth was round. Flat, but round. More precisely, that the earth was disc-shaped. So the Bible has, yet again, taught us nothing we didn’t “know” already. In fact, at best we could only say it propagated the [false] belief people already held.

Your third example is that the Bible explained to us the nature of the ocean — specifically its currents and its topography — “way before the first submarine.” I think it’s important to note, first, that a submarine is not required to study the floor of the ocean. It certainly makes it easier (and yes, it is required once you get to the deeper parts), but for all intents and purposes let’s just agree that I could walk off the shore and into the ocean, swim twenty feet out, and tell you what I see below me without the use of a submarine. Likewise, I could describe the currents to you. The Bible does not, ever once, explain gravity and the moon’s role in the ocean’s tides. That would be an argument worth posing since it took “science” quite a bit longer to explain that, despite what right-wing talk show hosts on Fox News may tell you.

Second, I’ve read the Bible but admittedly I’m not sure what part you’re referring to when you say it tells us of valleys under the sea and describes how oceanic currents work. If you’re talking about the fantastical Noah’s Ark story, these are observations anybody in a boat could make.

I found your fourth example particularly interesting because I can use “toddler Dave” as an example yet again. My parents taught me constellations when I was young. I could look up to the sky and recognize Orion (though, admittedly, Orion’s Belt was far easier to point out) and Ursa Major. Looking up at the night sky and recognizing shapes made by the stars does not require the use of a telescope, just like a submarine isn’t required to study the ocean’s topography. That said, I’m curious to know which Bible verses speak in great detail of the constellations, and how looking at shapes in the sky pertains to science. Science doesn’t tell us anything about constellations, because they are irrelevant. Science instead focuses on the makeups of stars, their distances from one another, how they interact cosmologically, and what their relevance is. Whether or not a cluster of stars as viewed by the naked eye from earth vaguely resembles mythical people and animals is of no concern whatsoever to legitimate scientists.

Show me the Bible verse that describes the gases that make up stars and explains what happens when a star goes supernova, and then you’ll have my interest.

Your fifth example is dinosaurs. Again, I encourage you to tell me the exact Bible passages that discuss dinosaurs without using words that could possibly refer to other mythological beasts — such as behemoths — that people of that day and age actually believed in, but which never actually existed. You also spoke of archaeological discoveries, as though to differentiate between some random nomad digging up what appears to be a large skull in the desert and thinking it might have belonged to one of those mythological beasts they believed in long ago, and a certified archaeologist digging up a skull which they can study and determine once belonged to an actual dinosaur that we actually know actually existed.

To reiterate, anybody can stumble upon a large, old bone and say “Aha, something big used to be alive!”

I’ll respond to your sixth example briefly: nephilim have never, not ever, not even once, been “discovered” or determined to have once existed. Any skeletons of legitimate “giants” (as in, significantly larger than what we know modern and ancient humans and other apes could have grown to) that have been discovered have been proven to be hoaxes. I’m surprised you bothered to include this as an argument, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

Finally, you’re restating what we all already know is stated in Genesis: that human life, as we know it, began with God’s creation of one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve). So far, we understand each other. Next you said we have, through the practice of anthropology, traced humankind’s origins back to “skulls in Africa.” The way you phrased it is confusing; I’m not sure if you meant we’ve traced our origins back to TWO skulls in Africa — which is blatantly wrong, so I won’t bother rebutting it — or simply back to, again, “skulls in Africa.” Hoping you meant the latter, this means nothing. Long before human-like skulls were discovered in Africa we had theorized that humans evolved from other human-like species. Based on the current geography of much of the world’s apes and monkeys, we theorized humans most likely first evolved in Africa. This is why we even searched in Africa in the first place! We already knew we evolved and it wasn’t based on anything the Bible tells us (especially since the Bible states that we were created, which we know is not true). Your last argument, just like your other six, is invalid and irrelevent.

Now, absolutely none of what I have just said disproves any gods, nor does it claim to, nor have I even made an attempt to; I’m simply rebutting the arguments which try to claim the Bible is a legitimate source of scientific knowledge and countering any arguments which state scientists are/were somehow wrong or “behind the times” at the time the Bible (especially the Old Testament, to which the original post primarily points) was first penned. Anybody is welcome to tell me where anything I’ve said here is wrong, but I politely ask to keep all discourse on-topic; that is, related directly either to the original post referenced or my response to it. Thank you.

*A Redditor brought to my attention a story of a snake with a single leg discovered in China in 2009. After researching it a bit I’ve yet to determine whether that particular story is a hoax or not (or whether it has simply been misinterpreted as something it is not), but it led me to feel the need to amend my claim that snakes do not have, will not have, nor ever have had legs. Snake embryos, in fact, have legs which are then absorbed by the body before hatching. This is an example of a vestigial limb, carried on in the genes of snakes from their non-snake-but-snakelike reptilian ancestors. In rare cases, the snake will retain its legs or feet after birth, but since this is a mutation (specifically, it is known as atavism) I will simply amend my statement to say that snakes do not have legs, except in rare mutation-related situations.

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The Christ Buffer


I was recently asking my peers how to go about procuring a free copy of the Bible. While ultimately it was a Google search that answered my questions (if there is a god, its name is Google), I did receive an awful lot of advice. Unfortunately a lot of the advice had nothing to do with the question, and was more answers to questions I didn’t ask, such as “How should I go about reading the Bible?”, “What is the best way to interpret the Bible?”, or “What other holy books should I read?”

Incidentally, I had by that time already read most of the Bible. I was raised Catholic after all and if I didn’t read something directly out of the Good Book itself (the ‘G’ is capitalized because it works as a title, but hardly as an appropriate descriptor) then I probably read it out of a tract, heard it in one of my weekly youth classes or at church, or saw it in one of my illustrated, dumbed-down children’s versions of the Bible. In any case, I did not need the answers to any of those questions. In due time I will study other religious texts but for now I just needed a hard copy of the Bible for referential purposes. Something I could earmark, highlight, and write on. As I said, I eventually found a website (via Google) offering to send a free Bible to anybody.

But that’s all beside the point.

Among all the unasked-for suggestions was one that really stood out to me: “Start with the New Testament.”

Why? The Christian Bible contains two major parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Strangely enough, the Old Testament comes first. The New Testament is sort of a sequel. Why would I want to read the second book first? That’d be like watching episodes four through six of Star Wars before episodes one through three. Okay, bad example. It’d be like watching season two of Lost without having watched season one (for the record, I never got past the sixth episode). Anyway, the point is that it would just be silly to read the New Testament before reading the Old. The New Testament is based on the Old; it depends on it. Without the Old Testament, there would be no New Testament.

The Old Testament begins with the phrase “In the beginning.” The New Testament begins with a boring old genealogy. Nothing grabs my attention quite like a family tree. Oh, except maybe the creation of the freaking world, a massive flood, a dude getting eaten by a whale, and plenty of fire and brimstone. So there’s that.

But then it hit me. Seriously, why would somebody recommend the New Testament first? Brainwashing. If you want somebody to believe your god is worthy of being worshiped, you’ll want them to skip all the gruesome bits about him committing genocide, torturing animals, condoning slavery, slaughtering entire families just to test a single man’s faith, having children mauled by bears, and dashing babies against rocks and go right to the part about Jesus healing lepers and turning the other cheek. Plain and simple, it’s brainwashing. Then by the time you get around to reading about your god’s brutality, you will have already been infected by the disease called Christianity and nothing will sway you. That’s how you do it, folks. Grab somebody’s attention with the good stuff and when they hear about the bad stuff they’re more likely to shrug it off.

Brainwashing. Jesus is the buffer that makes the treachery seem less treacherous.

“But those are Old Testament laws!”

I will often challenge my Christian peers with some of the following laws put forth in the Bible:

  • If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head. (Leviticus 20:9)
  • If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 22:20-21)
  • If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
  • If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property. (Exodus 21:20-21)
  • Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. (Leviticus 19:19)
  • When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. (Leviticus 15:19)
  • For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. (Exodus 35:2)

…and so on, and so forth. I then ask of them which of these laws have they broken? Why is it okay that they have not yet been put to death for their violation of Biblical laws? Why do these things apparently no longer matter to their god?

Every answer is exactly the same: those are Jewish laws of the Old Testament. Those laws were put forth by Moses. And then something about Jesus dying and those Old Testament laws not being of relevance any longer.

A couple things come to my mind at that point. First, the law forbidding homosexuality is a so-called Old Testament law (Leviticus 20:13 which, for the record, not only says homosexuality is an abomonation, but that anybody committing such a treacherous act should be put to death immediately) which Christians just love to quote when attempting to pry their religious beliefs into politics. That and, y’know, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21). That old thing which the “New Testament Christians” place as the foundations of their morality. As a sidenote, Jesus later references the “commandments” (Matthew 19:17-19), but only six of them. He omits the first three, which are all about loving God, and then sort of combines the last two so as to say simply to treat your neighbor as yourself. The “golden rule,” so to speak. The important thing here, though, is that even Jesus himself was saying to follow those Old Testament laws.

So are the Old Testament laws still relevant? You say no, but Jesus says yes.

The second thing that comes to mind is Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” God does not change his mind. Whether they’re laws put forth in the Old Testament or the New, he does not change his mind. Did you work last Sunday? Time to die.

Oh. Also, there’s this, which can be found in the New Testament.

Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. (I Peter 2:18)